Part 1 out of 3
E-text prepared by A. Langley
WITH THE ALLIES
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
I have not seen the letter addressed by President Wilson to the
American people calling upon them to preserve toward this war the
mental attitude of neutrals. But I have seen the war. And I feel sure
had President Wilson seen my war he would not have written his
This is not a war against Germans, as we know Germans in America,
where they are among our sanest, most industrious, and most
responsible fellow countrymen. It is a war, as Winston Churchill has
pointed out, against the military aristocracy of Germany, men who are
six hundred years behind the times; who, to preserve their class
against democracy, have perverted to the uses of warfare, to the
destruction of life, every invention of modern times. These men are
military mad. To our ideal of representative government their own
idea is as far opposed as is martial law to the free speech of our town
One returning from the war is astonished to find how little of the true
horror of it crosses the ocean. That this is so is due partly to the strict
censorship that suppresses the details of the war, and partly to the
fact that the mind is not accustomed to consider misery on a scale so
gigantic. The loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, the wrecking of
cities, and the laying waste of half of Europe cannot be brought home
to people who learn of it only through newspapers and moving
pictures and by sticking pins in a map. Were they nearer to it, near
enough to see the women and children fleeing from the shells and to
smell the dead on the battle-fields, there would be no talk of
Such lack of understanding our remoteness from the actual seat of
war explains. But on the part of many Americans one finds another
attitude of mind which is more difficult to explain. It is the cupidity
that in the misfortunes of others sees only a chance for profit. In
an offer made to its readers a prominent American magazine
best expresses this attitude. It promises prizes for the essays
on "What the war means to me."
To the American women Miss Ida M. Tar-bell writes: "This is her time
to learn what her own country's industries can do, and to rally with all
her influence to their support, urging them to make the things she
wants, and pledging them her allegiance."
This appeal is used in a periodical with a circulation of over a million,
as an advertisement for silk hose. I do not agree with Miss Tarbell
that this is the time to rally to the support of home industries. I do not
agree with the advertiser that when in Belgium several million women
and children are homeless, starving, and naked that that is the time
to buy his silk hose. To urge that charity begins at home is to repeat
one of the most selfish axioms ever uttered, and in this war to urge
civilized, thinking people to remain neutral is equally selfish.
Were the conflict in Europe a fair fight, the duty of every American
would be to keep on the side-lines and preserve an open mind. But it
is not a fair fight. To devastate a country you have sworn to protect,
to drop bombs upon unfortified cities, to lay sunken mines, to levy
blackmail by threatening hostages with death, to destroy cathedrals is
not to fight fair.
That is the way Germany is fighting. She is defying the rules of war
and the rules of humanity. And if public opinion is to help in
preventing further outrages, and in hastening this unspeakable
conflict to an end, it should be directed against the one who offends.
If we are convinced that one opponent is fighting honestly and that
his adversary is striking below the belt, then for us to maintain a
neutral attitude of mind is unworthy and the attitude of a coward.
When a mad dog runs amuck in a village it is the duty of every farmer
to get his gun and destroy it, not to lock himself indoors and toward
the dog and the men who face him preserve a neutral mind.
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS.
NEW YORK, Dec. 1st, 1914.
I. The Germans In Brussels
II. "To Be Treated As A Spy"
III. The Burning Of Louvain
IV. Paris In War Time
V. The Battle Of Soissons
VI. The Bombardment Of Rheims
VII. The Spirit Of The English
VIII. Our Diplomats In The War Zone
IX. "Under Fire"
X. The Waste Of War
XI. The War Correspondents
The Germans In Brussels
When, on August 4, the Lusitania, with lights doused and air-ports
sealed, slipped out of New York harbor the crime of the century was
only a few days old. And for three days those on board the Lusitania
of the march of the great events were ignorant. Whether or no
between England and Germany the struggle for the supremacy of the
sea had begun we could not learn.
But when, on the third day, we came on deck the news was written
against the sky. Swinging from the funnels, sailors were painting out
the scarlet-and-black colors of the Cunard line and substituting a
mouse-like gray. Overnight we had passed into the hands of the
admiralty, and the Lusitania had emerged a cruiser. That to possible
German war-ships she might not disclose her position, she sent no
wireless messages. But she could receive them; and at breakfast in
the ship's newspaper appeared those she had overnight snatched
from the air. Among them, without a scare-head, in the most modest
of type, we read: "England and Germany have declared war." Seldom
has news so momentous been conveyed so simply or, by the
Englishmen on board, more calmly accepted. For any exhibition they
gave of excitement or concern, the news the radio brought them
might have been the result of a by-election.
Later in the morning they gave us another exhibition of that
repression of feeling, of that disdain of hysteria, that is a national
characteristic, and is what Mr. Kipling meant when he wrote: "But oh,
beware my country, when my country grows polite!"
Word came that in the North Sea the English war-ships had
destroyed the German fleet. To celebrate this battle which, were the
news authentic, would rank with Trafalgar and might mean the end of
the war, one of the ship's officers exploded a detonating bomb.
Nothing else exploded. Whatever feelings of satisfaction our English
cousins experienced they concealed.
Under like circumstances, on an American ship, we would have tied
down the siren, sung the doxology, and broken everything on the bar.
As it was, the Americans instinctively flocked to the smoking-room
and drank to the British navy. While this ceremony was going
forward, from the promenade-deck we heard tumultuous shouts and
cheers. We believed that, relieved of our presence, our English
friends had given way to rejoicings. But when we went on deck we
found them deeply engaged in cricket. The cheers we had heard
were over the retirement of a batsman who had just been given out,
leg before wicket.
When we reached London we found no idle boasting, no vainglorious
jingoism. The war that Germany had forced upon them the English
accepted with a grim determination to see it through and, while they
were about it, to make it final. They were going ahead with no false
illusions. Fully did every one appreciate the enormous task, the
personal loss that lay before him. But each, in his or her way, went
into the fight determined to do his duty. There was no dismay, no
hysteria, no "mafficking."
The secrecy maintained by the press and the people regarding
anything concerning the war, the knowledge of which might
embarrass the War Office, was one of the most admirable and
remarkable conspiracies of silence that modern times have known.
Officers of the same regiment even with each other would not discuss
the orders they had received. In no single newspaper, with no matter
how lurid a past record for sensationalism, was there a line to suggest
that a British army had landed in France and that Great Britain was at
war. Sooner than embarrass those who were conducting the fight, the
individual English man and woman in silence suffered the most cruel
anxiety of mind. Of that, on my return to London from Brussels, I was
given an illustration. I had written to The Daily Chronicle telling where
in Belgium I had seen a wrecked British airship, and beside it the
grave of the aviator. I gave the information in order that the family of
the dead officer might find the grave and bring the body home. The
morning the letter was published an elderly gentleman, a retired
officer of the navy, called at my rooms. His son, he said, was an
aviator, and for a month of him no word had come. His mother was
distressed. Could I describe the air-ship I had seen?
I was not keen to play the messenger of ill tidings, so I tried to gain
"What make of aeroplane does your son drive?" I asked.
As though preparing for a blow, the old gentleman drew himself up,
and looked me steadily in the eyes.
"A Bleriot monoplane," he said.
I was as relieved as though his boy were one of my own kinsmen.
"The air-ship I saw," I told him, "was an Avro biplane!"
Of the two I appeared much the more pleased.
The retired officer bowed.
"I thank you," he said. "It will be good news for his mother."
"But why didn't you go to the War Office?" I asked.
He reproved me firmly.
"They have asked us not to question them," he said, "and when they
are working for all I have no right to embarrass them with my personal
As the chance of obtaining credentials with the British army appeared
doubtful, I did not remain in London, but at once crossed to Belgium.
Before the Germans came, Brussels was an imitation Paris--
especially along the inner boulevards she was Paris at her best. And
her great parks, her lakes gay with pleasure-boats or choked with lily-
pads, her haunted forests, where your taxicab would startle the wild
deer, are the most beautiful I have ever seen in any city in the world.
As, in the days of the Second Empire, Louis Napoleon bedecked
Paris, so Leopold decorated Brussels. In her honor and to his own
glory he gave her new parks, filled in her moats along her ancient
fortifications, laid out boulevards shaded with trees, erected arches,
monuments, museums. That these jewels he hung upon her neck
were wrung from the slaves of the Congo does not make them the
less beautiful. And before the Germans came the life of the people of
Brussels was in keeping with the elegance, beauty, and joyousness
of their surroundings.
At the Palace Hotel, which is the clearing-house for the social life of
Brussels, we found everybody taking his ease at a little iron table on
the sidewalk. It was night, but the city was as light as noonday--
brilliant, elated, full of movement and color. For Liege was still held by
the Belgians, and they believed that all along the line they were
holding back the German army. It was no wonder they were jubilant.
They had a right to be proud. They had been making history. In order
to give them time to mobilize, the Allies had asked them for two days
to delay the German invader. They had held him back for fifteen. As
David went against Goliath, they had repulsed the German. And as
yet there had been no reprisals, no destruction of cities, no murdering
of non-combatants; war still was something glad and glorious.
The signs of it were the Boy Scouts, everywhere helping every one,
carrying messages, guiding strangers, directing traffic; and Red
Cross nurses and aviators from England, smart Belgian officers
exclaiming bitterly over the delay in sending them forward, and
private automobiles upon the enamelled sides of which the transport
officer with a piece of chalk had scratched, "For His Majesty," and
piled the silk cushions high with ammunition. From table to table
young girls passed jangling tiny tin milk-cans. They were supplicants,
begging money for the wounded. There were so many of them and
so often they made their rounds that, to protect you from themselves,
if you subscribed a lump sum, you were exempt and were given a
badge to prove you were immune.
Except for these signs of the times you would not have known
Belgium was at war. The spirit of the people was undaunted. Into their
daily lives the conflict had penetrated only like a burst of martial
music. Rather than depressing, it inspired them. Wherever you
ventured, you found them undismayed. And in those weeks during
which events moved so swiftly that now they seem months in the
past, we were as free as in our own "home town" to go where we
For the war correspondent those were the happy days! Like every
one else, from the proudest nobleman to the boy in wooden shoes,
we were given a laissez-passer, which gave us permission to go
anywhere; this with a passport was our only credential. Proper
credentials to accompany the army in the field had been formerly
refused me by the war officers of England, France, and Belgium. So
in Brussels each morning I chartered an automobile and without
credentials joined the first army that happened to be passing.
Sometimes you stumbled upon an escarmouche, sometimes you fled
from one, sometimes you drew blank. Over our early coffee we would
study the morning papers and, as in the glad days of racing at home,
from them try to dope out the winners. If we followed La Derniere
Heure we would go to Namur; L'Etoile was strong for Tirlemont.
Would we lose if we plunged on Wavre? Again, the favorite seemed
to be Louvain. On a straight tip from the legation the English
correspondents were going to motor to Diest. From a Belgian officer
we had been given inside information that the fight would be pulled off
at Gembloux. And, unencumbered by even a sandwich, and too wise
to carry a field-glass or a camera, each would depart upon his
separate errand, at night returning to a perfectly served dinner and a
luxurious bed. For the news-gatherers it was a game of chance. The
wisest veterans would cast their nets south and see only harvesters
in the fields, the amateurs would lose their way to the north and find
themselves facing an army corps or running a gauntlet of shell-fire. It
was like throwing a handful of coins on the table hoping that one
might rest upon the winning number. Over the map of Belgium we
threw ourselves. Some days we landed on the right color, on others
we saw no more than we would see at state manoeuvres. Judging by
his questions, the lay brother seems to think that the chief trouble of
the war correspondent is dodging bullets. It is not. It consists in trying
to bribe a station-master to carry you on a troop train, or in finding
forage for your horse. What wars I have seen have taken place in
spots isolated and inaccessible, far from the haunts of men. By day
you followed the fight and tried to find the censor, and at night you sat
on a cracker-box and by the light of a candle struggled to keep awake
and to write deathless prose. In Belgium it was not like that. The
automobile which Gerald Morgan, of the London Daily Telegraph, and
I shared was of surpassing beauty, speed, and comfort. It was as
long as a Plant freight-car and as yellow; and from it flapped in the
breeze more English, Belgian, French, and Russian flags than fly
from the roof of the New York Hippodrome. Whenever we sighted an
army we lashed the flags of its country to our headlights, and at sixty
miles an hour bore down upon it.
The army always first arrested us, and then, on learning our
nationality, asked if it were true that America had joined the Allies.
After I had punched his ribs a sufficient number of times Morgan
learned to reply without winking that it had. In those days the sun
shone continuously; the roads, except where we ran on the blocks
that made Belgium famous, were perfect; and overhead for miles
noble trees met and embraced. The country was smiling and
beautiful. In the fields the women (for the men were at the front) were
gathering the crops, the stacks of golden grain stretched from village
to village. The houses in these were white-washed and, the better to
advertise chocolates, liqueurs, and automobile tires, were painted a
cobalt blue; their roofs were of red tiles, and they sat in gardens of
purple cabbages or gaudy hollyhocks. In the orchards the pear-trees
were bent with fruit. We never lacked for food; always, when we lost
the trail and "checked," or burst a tire, there was an inn with fruit-trees
trained to lie flat against the wall, or to spread over arbors and
trellises. Beneath these, close by the roadside, we sat and drank red
wine, and devoured omelets and vast slabs of rye bread. At night we
raced back to the city, through twelve miles of parks, to enamelled
bathtubs, shaded electric light, and iced champagne; while before our
table passed all the night life of a great city. And for suffering these
hardships of war our papers paid us large sums.
On such a night as this, the night of August 18, strange folk in
wooden shoes and carrying bundles, and who looked like emigrants
from Ellis Island, appeared in front of the restaurant. Instantly they
were swallowed up in a crowd and the dinner-parties, napkins in
hand, flocked into the Place Rogier and increased the throng around
"The Germans!" those in the heart of the crowd called over their
shoulders. "The Germans are at Louvain!"
That afternoon I had conscientiously cabled my paper that there were
no Germans anywhere near Louvain. I had been west of Louvain,
and the particular column of the French army to which I had attached
myself certainly saw no Germans.
"They say," whispered those nearest the fugitives, "the German
shells are falling in Louvain. Ten houses are on fire!" Ten houses!
How monstrous it sounded! Ten houses of innocent country folk
destroyed. In those days such a catastrophe was unbelievable. We
"Refugees always talk like that," we said wisely. "The Germans would
not bombard an unfortified town. And, besides, there are no Germans
south of Liege."
The morning following in my room I heard from the Place Rogier the
warnings of many motor horns. At great speed innumerable
automobiles were approaching, all coming from the west through the
Boulevard du Regent, and without slackening speed passing
northeast toward Ghent, Bruges, and the coast. The number
increased and the warnings became insistent. At eight o'clock they
had sent out a sharp request for right of way; at nine in number they
had trebled, and the note of the sirens was raucous, harsh, and
peremptory. At ten no longer were there disconnected warnings, but
from the horns and sirens issued one long, continuous scream. It was
like the steady roar of a gale in the rigging, and it spoke in abject
panic. The voices of the cars racing past were like the voices of
human beings driven with fear. From the front of the hotel we
watched them. There were taxicabs, racing cars, limousines. They
were crowded with women and children of the rich, and of the nobility
and gentry from the great chateaux far to the west. Those who
occupied them were white-faced with the dust of the road, with
weariness and fear. In cars magnificently upholstered, padded, and
cushioned were piled trunks, hand-bags, dressing-cases. The women
had dressed at a moment's warning, as though at a cry of fire. Many
had travelled throughout the night, and in their arms the children,
snatched from the pillows, were sleeping.
But more appealing were the peasants. We walked out along the
inner boulevards to meet them, and found the side streets blocked
with their carts. Into these they had thrown mattresses, or bundles of
grain, and heaped upon them were families of three generations. Old
men in blue smocks, white-haired and bent, old women in caps, the
daughters dressed in their one best frock and hat, and clasping in
their hands all that was left to them, all that they could stuff into a
pillow-case or flour-sack. The tears rolled down their brown, tanned
faces. To the people of Brussels who crowded around them they
spoke in hushed, broken phrases. The terror of what they had
escaped or of what they had seen was upon them. They had
harnessed the plough-horse to the dray or market-wagon and to the
invaders had left everything. What, they asked, would befall the live
stock they had abandoned, the ducks on the pond, the cattle in the
field? Who would feed them and give them water? At the question the
tears would break out afresh. Heart-broken, weary, hungry, they
passed in an unending caravan. With them, all fleeing from the same
foe, all moving in one direction, were family carriages, the servants on
the box in disordered livery, as they had served dinner, or coatless,
but still in the striped waistcoats and silver buttons of grooms or
footmen, and bicyclers with bundles strapped to their shoulders, and
men and women stumbling on foot, carrying their children. Above it all
rose the breathless scream of the racing-cars, as they rocked and
skidded, with brakes grinding and mufflers open; with their own terror
creating and spreading terror.
Though eager in sympathy, the people of Brussels themselves were
undisturbed. Many still sat at the little iron tables and smiled pityingly
upon the strange figures of the peasants. They had had their trouble
for nothing, they said. It was a false alarm. There were no Germans
nearer than Liege. And, besides, should the Germans come, the civil
guard would meet them.
But, better informed than they, that morning the American minister,
Brand Whitlock, and the Marquis Villalobar, the Spanish minister, had
called upon the burgomaster and advised him not to defend the city.
As Whitlock pointed out, with the force at his command, which was
the citizen soldiery, he could delay the entrance of the Germans by
only an hour, and in that hour many innocent lives would be wasted
and monuments of great beauty, works of art that belong not alone to
Brussels but to the world, would be destroyed. Burgomaster Max,
who is a splendid and worthy representative of a long line of
burgomasters, placing his hand upon his heart, said: "Honor requires
To show that in the protection of the Belgian Government he had full
confidence, Mr. Whitlock had not as yet shown his colors. But that
morning when he left the Hotel de Ville he hung the American flag
over his legation and over that of the British. Those of us who had
elected to remain in Brussels moved our belongings to a hotel across
the street from the legation. Not taking any chances, for my own use I
reserved a green leather sofa in the legation itself.
Except that the cafes were empty of Belgian officers, and of English
correspondents, whom, had they remained, the Germans would have
arrested, there was not, up to late in the afternoon of the 19th of
August, in the life and conduct of the citizens any perceptible change.
They could not have shown a finer spirit. They did not know the city
would not be defended; and yet with before them on the morrow the
prospect of a battle which Burgomaster Max had announced would
be contested to the very heart of the city, as usual the cafes blazed
like open fire-places and the people sat at the little iron tables. Even
when, like great buzzards, two German aeroplanes sailed slowly
across Brussels, casting shadows of events to come, the people
regarded them only with curiosity. The next morning the shops were
open, the streets were crowded. But overnight the soldier-king had
sent word that Brussels must not oppose the invaders; and at the
gendarmerie the civil guard, reluctantly and protesting, some even in
tears, turned in their rifles and uniforms.
The change came at ten in the morning. It was as though a wand had
waved and from a fete-day on the Continent we had been wafted to
London on a rainy Sunday. The boulevards fell suddenly empty.
There was not a house that was not closely shuttered. Along the
route by which we now knew the Germans were advancing, it was as
though the plague stalked. That no one should fire from a window,
that to the conquerors no one should offer insult, Burgomaster Max
sent out as special constables men he trusted. Their badge of
authority was a walking-stick and a piece of paper fluttering from a
buttonhole. These, the police, and the servants and caretakers of the
houses that lined the boulevards alone were visible. At eleven
o'clock, unobserved but by this official audience, down the Boulevard
Waterloo came the advance-guard of the German army. It consisted
of three men, a captain and two privates on bicycles. Their rifles were
slung across their shoulders, they rode unwarily, with as little concern
as the members of a touring-club out for a holiday. Behind them, so
close upon each other that to cross from one sidewalk to the other
was not possible, came the Uhlans, infantry, and the guns. For two
hours I watched them, and then, bored with the monotony of it,
returned to the hotel. After an hour, from beneath my window, I still
could hear them; another hour and another went by. They still were
Boredom gave way to wonder. The thing fascinated you, against your
will, dragged you back to the sidewalk and held you there open-eyed.
No longer was it regiments of men marching, but something uncanny,
inhuman, a force of nature like a landslide, a tidal wave, or lava
sweeping down a mountain. It was not of this earth, but mysterious,
ghostlike. It carried all the mystery and menace of a fog rolling toward
you across the sea. The uniform aided this impression. In it each man
moved under a cloak of invisibility. Only after the most numerous and
severe tests at all distances, with all materials and combinations of
colors that give forth no color, could this gray have been discovered.
That it was selected to clothe and disguise the German when he
fights is typical of the General Staff, in striving for efficiency, to
leave nothing to chance, to neglect no detail.
After you have seen this service uniform under conditions entirely
opposite you are convinced that for the German soldier it is one of his
strongest weapons. Even the most expert marksman cannot hit a
target he cannot see. It is not the blue-gray of our Confederates, but
a green-gray. It is the gray of the hour just before daybreak, the gray
of unpolished steel, of mist among green trees.
I saw it first in the Grand Place in front of the Hotel de Ville. It was
impossible to tell if in that noble square there was a regiment or a
brigade. You saw only a fog that melted into the stones, blended with
the ancient house fronts, that shifted and drifted, but left you nothing
at which to point.
Later, as the army passed under the trees of the Botanical Park, it
merged and was lost against the green leaves. It is no exaggeration
to say that at a few hundred yards you can see the horses on which
the Uhlans ride but cannot see the men who ride them.
If I appear to overemphasize this disguising uniform it is because, of
all the details of the German outfit, it appealed to me as one of the
most remarkable. When I was near Namur with the rear-guard of the
French Dragoons and Cuirassiers, and they threw out pickets, we
could distinguish them against the yellow wheat or green corse at half
a mile, while these men passing in the street, when they have
reached the next crossing, become merged into the gray of the
paving-stones and the earth swallowed them. In comparison the
yellow khaki of our own American army is about as invisible as the
flag of Spain.
Major-General von Jarotsky, the German military governor of
Brussels, had assured Burgomaster Max that the German army
would not occupy the city but would pass through it. He told the truth.
For three days and three nights it passed. In six campaigns I have
followed other armies, but, excepting not even our own, the
Japanese, or the British, I have not seen one so thoroughly equipped.
I am not speaking of the fighting qualities of any army, only of the
equipment and organization. The German army moved into Brussels
as smoothly and as compactly as an Empire State express. There
were no halts, no open places, no stragglers. For the gray
automobiles and the gray motorcycles bearing messengers one side
of the street always was kept clear; and so compact was the column,
so rigid the vigilance of the file-closers, that at the rate of forty miles
an hour a car could race the length of the column and need not for a
single horse or man once swerve from its course.
All through the night, like the tumult of a river when it races between
the cliffs of a canyon, in my sleep I could hear the steady roar of the
passing army. And when early in the morning I went to the window
the chain of steel was still unbroken. It was like the torrent that swept
down the Connemaugh Valley and destroyed Johnstown. As a
correspondent I have seen all the great armies and the military
processions at the coronations in Russia, England, and Spain, and
our own inaugural parades down Pennsylvania Avenue, but those
armies and processions were made up of men. This was a machine,
endless, tireless, with the delicate organization of a watch and the
brute power of a steam roller. And for three days and three nights
through Brussels it roared and rumbled, a cataract of molten lead.
The infantry marched singing, with their iron-shod boots beating out
the time. They sang "Fatherland, My Fatherland." Between each line
of song they took three steps. At times two thousand men were
singing together in absolute rhythm and beat. It was like the blows
from giant pile-drivers. When the melody gave way the silence was
broken only by the stamp of iron-shod boots, and then again the song
rose. When the singing ceased the bands played marches. They
were followed by the rumble of the howitzers, the creaking of wheels
and of chains clanking against the cobblestones, and the sharp, bell-
like voices of the bugles.
More Uhlans followed, the hoofs of their magnificent horses ringing
like thousands of steel hammers breaking stones in a road; and after
them the giant siege-guns rumbling, growling, the mitrailleuse with
drag-chains ringing, the field-pieces with creaking axles, complaining
brakes, the grinding of the steel-rimmed wheels against the stones
echoing and re-echoing from the house front. When at night for an
instant the machine halted, the silence awoke you, as at sea you
wake when the screw stops.
For three days and three nights the column of gray, with hundreds of
thousands of bayonets and hundreds of thousands of lances, with
gray transport wagons, gray ammunition carts, gray ambulances,
gray cannon, like a river of steel, cut Brussels in two.
For three weeks the men had been on the march, and there was not
a single straggler, not a strap out of place, not a pennant missing.
Along the route, without for a minute halting the machine, the post-
office carts fell out of the column, and as the men marched mounted
postmen collected post-cards and delivered letters. Also, as they
marched, the cooks prepared soup, coffee, and tea, walking beside
their stoves on wheels, tending the fires, distributing the smoking
food. Seated in the motor-trucks cobblers mended boots and broken
harness; farriers on tiny anvils beat out horseshoes. No officer
followed a wrong turning, no officer asked his way. He followed the
map strapped to his side and on which for his guidance in red ink his
route was marked. At night he read this map by the light of an electric
torch buckled to his chest.
To perfect this monstrous engine, with its pontoon bridges, its
wireless, its hospitals, its aeroplanes that in rigid alignment sailed
before it, its field telephones that, as it advanced, strung wires over
which for miles the vanguard talked to the rear, all modern inventions
had been prostituted. To feed it millions of men had been called from
homes, offices, and workshops; to guide it, for years the minds of the
high-born, with whom it is a religion and a disease, had been solely
It is, perhaps, the most efficient organization of modern times; and its
purpose only is death. Those who cast it loose upon Europe are
military-mad. And they are only a very small part of the German
people. But to preserve their class they have in their own image
created this terrible engine of destruction. For the present it is their
servant. But, "though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind
exceeding small." And, like Frankenstein's monster, this monster, to
which they gave life, may turn and rend them.
"To Be Treated As A Spy"
This story is a personal experience, but is told in spite of that fact and
because it illustrates a side of war that is unfamiliar. It is unfamiliar
for the reason that it is seamy and uninviting. With bayonet charges,
bugle-calls, and aviators it has nothing in common.
Espionage is that kind of warfare of which, even when it succeeds, no
country boasts. It is military service an officer may not refuse, but
which few seek. Its reward is prompt promotion, and its punishment,
in war time, is swift and without honor. This story is intended to show
how an army in the field must be on its guard against even a
supposed spy and how it treats him.
The war offices of France and Russia would not permit an American
correspondent to accompany their armies; the English granted that
privilege to but one correspondent, and that gentleman already had
been chosen. So I was without credentials. To oblige Mr. Brand
Whitlock, our minister to Belgium, the government there was willing to
give me credentials, but on the day I was to receive them the
government moved to Antwerp. Then the Germans entered Brussels,
and, as no one could foresee that Belgium would heroically continue
fighting, on the chance the Germans would besiege Paris, I planned
to go to that city. To be bombarded you do not need credentials.
For three days a steel-gray column of Germans had been sweeping
through Brussels, and to meet them, from the direction of Vincennes
and Lille, the English and French had crossed the border. It was
falsely reported that already the English had reached Hal, a town only
eleven miles from Brussels, that the night before there had been a
fight at Hal, and that close behind the English were the French.
With Gerald Morgan, of the London Daily Telegraph, with whom I had
been in other wars, I planned to drive to Hal and from there on foot
continue, if possible, into the arms of the French or English. We both
were without credentials, but, once with the Allies, we believed we
would not need them. It was the Germans we doubted. To satisfy
them we had only a passport and a laissez-passer issued by General
von Jarotsky, the new German military governor of Brussels, and his
chief of staff, Lieutenant Geyer. Mine stated that I represented the
Wheeler Syndicate of American newspapers, the London Daily
Chronicle, and Scribner's Magazine, and that I could pass German
military lines in Brussels and her environs. Morgan had a pass of the
same sort. The question to be determined was: What were "environs"
and how far do they extend? How far in safety would the word carry
On August 23 we set forth from Brussels in a taxicab to find out. At
Hal, where we intended to abandon the cab and continue on foot, we
found out. We were arrested by a smart and most intelligent-looking
officer, who rode up to the side of the taxi and pointed an automatic at
us. We were innocently seated in a public cab, in a street crowded
with civilians and the passing column of soldiers, and why any one
should think he needed a gun only the German mind can explain.
Later, I found that all German officers introduced themselves and
made requests gun in hand. Whether it was because from every one
they believed themselves in danger or because they simply did not
know any better, I still am unable to decide. With no other army have
I seen an officer threaten with a pistol an unarmed civilian. Were an
American or English officer to act in such a fashion he might escape
looking like a fool, he certainly would feel like one. The four soldiers
the officer told off to guard us climbed with alacrity into our cab and
drove with us until the street grew too narrow both for their regiment
and our taxi, when they chose the regiment and disappeared. We
paid off the cabman and followed them. To reach the front there was
no other way, and the very openness with which we trailed along
beside their army, very much like small boys following a circus
procession, seemed to us to show how innocent was our intent. The
column stretched for fifty miles. Where it was going we did not know,
but, we argued, if it kept on going and we kept on with it, eventually
we must stumble upon a battle. The story that at Hal there had been
a fight was evidently untrue; and the manner in which the column was
advancing showed it was not expecting one. At noon it halted at
Brierges, and Morgan decided Brierges was out of bounds and that
the limits of our "environs" had been reached.
"If we go any farther," he argued, "the next officer who reads our
papers will order us back to Brussels under arrest, and we will lose
our laissez-passer. Along this road there is no chance of seeing
anything. I prefer to keep my pass and use it in 'environs' where there
is fighting." So he returned to Brussels. I thought he was most wise,
and I wanted to return with him. But I did not want to go back only
because I knew it was the right thing to do, but to be ordered back so
that I could explain to my newspapers that I returned because
Colonel This or General That sent me back. It was a form of vanity for
which I was properly punished. That Morgan was right was
demonstrated as soon as he left me. I was seated against a tree by
the side of the road eating a sandwich, an occupation which seems
almost idyllic in its innocence but which could not deceive the
Germans. In me they saw the hated Spion, and from behind me,
across a ploughed field, four of them, each with an automatic, made
me prisoner. One of them, who was an enthusiast, pushed his gun
deep into my stomach. With the sandwich still in my hand, I held up
my arms high and asked who spoke English. It turned out that the
enthusiast spoke that language, and I suggested he did not need so
many guns and that he could find my papers in my inside pocket.
With four automatics rubbing against my ribs, I would not have
lowered my arms for all the papers in the Bank of England. They took
me to a cafe, where their colonel had just finished lunch and was in a
most genial humor. First he gave the enthusiast a drink as a reward
for arresting me, and then, impartially, gave me one for being
arrested. He wrote on my passport that I could go to Enghien, which
was two miles distant. That pass enabled me to proceed unmolested
for nearly two hundred yards. I was then again arrested and taken
before another group of officers. This time they searched my
knapsack and wanted to requisition my maps, but one of them
pointed out they were only automobile maps and, as compared to
their own, of no value. They permitted me to proceed to Enghien. I
went to Enghien, intending to spend the night and on the morning
continue. I could not see why I might not be able to go on indefinitely.
As yet no one who had held me up had suggested I should turn back,
and as long as I was willing to be arrested it seemed as though I
might accompany the German army even to the gates of Paris. But
my reception in Enghien should have warned me to get back to
Brussels. The Germans, thinking I was an English spy, scowled at
me; and the Belgians, thinking the same thing, winked at me; and the
landlord of the only hotel said I was "suspect" and would not give me
a bed. But I sought out the burgomaster, a most charming man
named Delano, and he wrote out a pass permitting me to sleep one
night in Enghien.
"You really do not need this," he said; "as an American you are free
to stay here as long as you wish." Then he, too, winked.
"But I am an American," I protested.
"But certainly," he said gravely, and again he winked. It was then I
should have started back to Brussels. Instead, I sat on a moss-
covered, arched stone bridge that binds the town together, and until
night fell watched the gray tidal waves rush up and across it,
stamping, tripping, stumbling, beating the broad, clean stones with
thousands of iron heels, steel hoofs, steel chains, and steel-rimmed
wheels. You hated it, and yet could not keep away. The Belgians of
Enghien hated it, and they could not keep away. Like a great river in
flood, bearing with it destruction and death, you feared and loathed it,
and yet it fascinated you and pulled you to the brink. All through the
night, as already for three nights and three days at Brussels, I had
heard it; it rumbled and growled, rushing forward without pause or
breath, with inhuman, pitiless persistence. At daybreak I sat on the
edge of the bed and wondered whether to go on or turn back. I still
wanted some one in authority, higher than myself, to order me back.
So, at six, riding for a fall, to find that one, I went, as I thought,
along the road to Soignes. The gray tidal wave was still roaring past.
It was pressing forward with greater speed, but in nothing else did
it differ from the tidal wave that had swept through Brussels.
There was a group of officers seated by the road, and as I passed I
wished them good morning and they said good morning in return. I
had gone a hundred feet when one of them galloped after me and
asked to look at my papers. With relief I gave them to him. I was sure
now I would be told to return to Brussels. I calculated if at Hal I had
luck in finding a taxicab, by lunch time I should be in the Palace Hotel.
"I think," said the officer, "you had better see our general. He is ahead
I thought he meant a few hundred yards ahead, and to be ordered
back by a general seemed more convincing than to be returned by a
mere captain. So I started to walk on beside the mounted officers.
This, as it seemed to presume equality with them, scandalized them
greatly, and I was ordered into the ranks. But the one who had
arrested me thought I was entitled to a higher rating and placed me
with the color-guard, who objected to my presence so violently that a
long discussion followed, which ended with my being ranked below a
second lieutenant and above a sergeant. Between one of each of
these I was definitely placed, and for five hours I remained definitely
placed. We advanced with a rush that showed me I had surprised a
surprise movement. The fact was of interest not because I had
discovered one of their secrets, but because to keep up with the
column I was forced for five hours to move at what was a steady trot.
It was not so fast as the running step of the Italian bersagliere, but as
fast as our "double-quick." The men did not bend the knees, but,
keeping the legs straight, shot them forward with a quick, sliding
movement, like men skating or skiing. The toe of one boot seemed
always tripping on the heel of the other. As the road was paved with
roughly hewn blocks of Belgian granite this kind of going was very
strenuous, and had I not been in good shape I could not have kept
up. As it was, at the end of the five hours I had lost fifteen pounds,
which did not help me, as during the same time the knapsack had
taken on a hundred. For two days the men in the ranks had been
rushed forward at this unnatural gait and were moving like
automatons. Many of them fell by the wayside, but they were not
permitted to lie there. Instead of summoning the ambulance, they
were lifted to their feet and flung back into the ranks. Many of them
were moving in their sleep, in that partly comatose state in which you
have seen men during the last hours of a six days' walking match.
Their rules, so the sergeant said, were to halt every hour and then for
ten minutes rest. But that rule is probably only for route marching.
On account of the speed with which the surprise movement was
made our halts were more frequent, and so exhausted were the men
that when these "thank you, ma'ams" arrived, instead of standing at
ease and adjusting their accoutrements, as though they had been
struck with a club they dropped to the stones. Some in an instant
were asleep. I do not mean that some sat down; I mean that the
whole column lay flat in the road. The officers also, those that were
not mounted, would tumble on the grass or into the wheat-field and lie
on their backs, their arms flung out like dead men. To the fact that
they were lying on their field-glasses, holsters, swords, and water-
bottles they appeared indifferent. At the rate the column moved it
would have covered thirty miles each day. It was these forced
marches that later brought Von Kluck's army to the right wing of the
Allies before the army of the crown prince was prepared to attack,
and which at Sezanne led to his repulse and to the failure of his
advance upon Paris.
While we were pushing forward we passed a wrecked British air-ship,
around which were gathered a group of staff-officers. My papers were
given to one of them, but our column did not halt and I was not
allowed to speak. A few minutes later they passed in their
automobiles on their way to the front; and my papers went with them.
Already I was miles beyond the environs, and with each step away
from Brussels my pass was becoming less of a safeguard than a
menace. For it showed what restrictions General Jarotsky had placed
on my movements, and my presence so far out of bounds proved I
had disregarded them. But still I did not suppose that in returning to
Brussels there would be any difficulty. I was chiefly concerned with
the thought that the length of the return march was rapidly increasing
and with the fact that one of my shoes, a faithful friend in other
campaigns, had turned traitor and was cutting my foot in half. I had
started with the column at seven o'clock, and at noon an automobile,
with flags flying and the black eagle of the staff enamelled on the
door, came speeding back from the front. In it was a very blond and
distinguished-looking officer of high rank and many decorations. He
used a single eye-glass, and his politeness and his English were
faultless. He invited me to accompany him to the general staff.
That was the first intimation I had that I was in danger. I saw they
were giving me far too much attention. I began instantly to work to set
myself free, and there was not a minute for the next twenty-four hours
that I was not working. Before I stepped into the car I had decided
upon my line of defence. I would pretend to be entirely unconscious
that I had in any way laid myself open to suspicion; that I had erred
through pure stupidity and that I was where I was solely because I
was a damn fool. I began to act like a damn fool. Effusively I
expressed my regret at putting the General Staff to inconvenience.
"It was really too stupid of me," I said. "I cannot forgive myself. I
should not have come so far without asking Jarotsky for proper
papers. I am extremely sorry I have given you this trouble. I would like
to see the general and assure him I will return at once to Brussels." I
ignored the fact that I was being taken to the general at the rate of
sixty miles an hour. The blond officer smiled uneasily and with his
single glass studied the sky. When we reached the staff he escaped
from me with the alacrity of one released from a disagreeable and
humiliating duty. The staff were at luncheon, seated in their luxurious
motor-cars or on the grass by the side of the road. On the other side
of the road the column of dust-covered gray ghosts were being
rushed past us. The staff, in dress uniforms, flowing cloaks, and
gloves, belonged to a different race. They knew that. Among
themselves they were like priests breathing incense. Whenever one
of them spoke to another they saluted, their heels clicked, their
bodies bent at the belt line.
One of them came to where, in the middle of the road, I was stranded
and trying not to feel as lonely as I looked. He was much younger
than myself and dark and handsome. His face was smooth-shaven,
his figure tall, lithe, and alert. He wore a uniform of light blue and
silver that clung to him and high boots of patent leather. His waist was
like a girl's, and, as though to show how supple he was, he kept
continually bowing and shrugging his shoulders and in elegant protest
gesticulating with his gloved hands. He should have been a moving-
picture actor. He reminded me of Anthony Hope's fascinating but
wicked Rupert of Hentzau. He certainly was wicked, and I got to hate
him as I never imagined it possible to hate anybody. He had been
told off to dispose of my case, and he delighted in it. He enjoyed it as
a cat enjoys playing with a mouse. As actors say, he saw himself in
the part. He "ate" it.
"You are an English officer out of uniform," he began. "You have
been taken inside our lines." He pointed his forefinger at my stomach
and wiggled his thumb. "And you know what that means!"
I saw playing the damn fool with him would be waste of time.
"I followed your army," I told him, "because it's my business to follow
armies and because yours is the best-looking army I ever saw." He
made me one of his mocking bows.
"We thank you," he said, grinning. "But you have seen too much."
"I haven't seen anything," I said, "that everybody in Brussels hasn't
seen for three days."
He shook his head reproachfully and with a gesture signified the
group of officers.
"You have seen enough in this road," he said, "to justify us in
shooting you now."
The sense of drama told him it was a good exit line, and he returned
to the group of officers. I now saw what had happened. At Enghien I
had taken the wrong road. I remembered that, to confuse the
Germans, the names on the sign-post at the edge of the town had
been painted out, and that instead of taking the road to Soignes I was
on the road to Ath. What I had seen, therefore, was an army corps
making a turning movement intended to catch the English on their
right and double them up upon their centre. The success of this
manoeuvre depended upon the speed with which it was executed and
upon its being a complete surprise. As later in the day I learned, the
Germans thought I was an English officer who had followed them
from Brussels and who was trying to slip past them and warn his
countrymen. What Rupert of Hentzau meant by what I had seen on
the road was that, having seen the Count de Schwerin, who
commanded the Seventh Division, on the road to Ath, I must
necessarily know that the army corps to which he was attached had
separated from the main army of Von Kluck, and that, in going so far
south at such speed, it was bent upon an attack on the English flank.
All of which at the time I did not know and did not want to know. All I
wanted was to prove I was not an English officer, but an American
correspondent who by accident had stumbled upon their secret. To
convince them of that, strangely enough, was difficult.
When Rupert of Hentzau returned the other officers were with him,
and, fortunately for me, they spoke or understood English. For the
rest of the day what followed was like a legal argument. It was as
cold-blooded as a game of bridge. Rupert of Hentzau wanted an
English spy shot for his supper; just as he might have desired a
grilled bone. He showed no personal animus, and, I must say for him,
that he conducted the case for the prosecution without heat or anger.
He mocked me, grilled and taunted me, but he was always
As Whitman said, "I want Becker," so Rupert said, "Fe, fo, fi, fum, I
want the blood of an Englishman." He was determined to get it. I was
even more interested that he should not. The points he made against
me were that my German pass was signed neither by General
Jarotsky nor by Lieutenant Geyer, but only stamped, and that any
rubber stamp could be forged; that my American passport had not
been issued at Washington, but in London, where an Englishman
might have imposed upon our embassy; and that in the photograph
pasted on the passport I was wearing the uniform of a British officer. I
explained that the photograph was taken eight years ago, and that
the uniform was one I had seen on the west coast of Africa, worn by
the West African Field Force. Because it was unlike any known
military uniform, and as cool and comfortable as a golf jacket, I had
had it copied. But since that time it had been adopted by the English
Brigade of Guards and the Territorials. I knew it sounded like fiction;
but it was quite true.
Rupert of Hentzau smiled delightedly.
"Do you expect us to believe that?" he protested.
"Listen," I said. "If you could invent an explanation for that uniform as
quickly as I told you that one, standing in a road with eight officers
trying to shoot you, you would be the greatest general in Germany."
That made the others laugh; and Rupert retorted: "Very well, then, we
will concede that the entire British army has changed its uniform to
suit your photograph. But if you are not an officer, why, in the
photograph, are you wearing war ribbons?"
I said the war ribbons were in my favor, and I pointed out that no
officer of any one country could have been in the different campaigns
for which the ribbons were issued.
"They prove," I argued, "that I am a correspondent, for only a
correspondent could have been in wars in which his own country was
I thought I had scored; but Rupert instantly turned my own witness
"Or a military attache," he said. At that they all smiled and nodded
He followed this up by saying, accusingly, that the hat and clothes I
was then wearing were English. The clothes were English, but I knew
he did not know that, and was only guessing; and there were no
marks on them. About my hat I was not certain. It was a felt Alpine
hat, and whether I had bought it in London or New York I could not
remember. Whether it was evidence for or against I could not be
sure. So I took it off and began to fan myself with it, hoping to get a
look at the name of the maker. But with the eyes of the young
prosecuting attorney fixed upon me, I did not dare take a chance.
Then, to aid me, a German aeroplane passed overhead, and
those who were giving me the third degree looked up. I stopped
fanning myself and cast a swift glance inside the hat. To my intense
satisfaction I read, stamped on the leather lining: "Knox, New York."
I put the hat back on my head and a few minutes later pulled it off and
said: "Now, for instance, my hat. If I were an Englishman would I
cross the ocean to New York to buy a hat?"
It was all like that. They would move away and whisper together, and
I would try to guess what questions they were preparing. I had to
arrange my defence without knowing in what way they would try to trip
me, and I had to think faster than I ever have thought before. I had no
more time to be scared, or to regret my past sins, than has a man in
a quicksand. So far as I could make out, they were divided in opinion
concerning me. Rupert of Hentzau, who was the adjutant or the chief
of staff, had only one simple thought, which was to shoot me. Others
considered me a damn fool; I could hear them laughing and saying:
"Er ist ein dummer Mensch." And others thought that whether I was a
fool or not, or an American or an Englishman, was not the question; I
had seen too much and should be put away. I felt if, instead of having
Rupert act as my interpreter, I could personally speak to the general I
might talk my way out of it, but Rupert assured me that to set me free
the Count de Schwerin lacked authority, and that my papers, which
were all against me, must be submitted to the general of the army
corps, and we would not reach him until midnight.
"And then!--" he would exclaim, and he would repeat his pantomime
of pointing his forefinger at my stomach and wiggling his thumb. He
was very popular with me.
Meanwhile they were taking me farther away from Brussels and the
"When you picked me up," I said, "I was inside the environs, but by
the time I reach 'the' general he will see only that I am fifty miles
beyond where I am permitted to be. And who is going to tell him it
was you brought me there? You won't!"
Rupert of Hentzau only smiled like the cat that has just swallowed the
He put me in another automobile and they whisked me off, always
going farther from Brussels, to Ath and then to Ligne, a little town five
miles south. Here they stopped at a house the staff occupied, and,
leading me to the second floor, put me in an empty room that
seemed built for their purpose. It had a stone floor and whitewashed
walls and a window so high that even when standing you could see
only the roof of another house and a weather-vane. They threw two
bundles of wheat on the floor and put a sentry at the door with orders
to keep it open. He was a wild man, and thought I was, and every
time I moved his automatic moved with me. It was as though he were
following me with a spotlight. My foot was badly cut across the instep
and I was altogether forlorn and disreputable. So, in order to look less
like a tramp when I met the general, I bound up the foot, and, always
with one eye on the sentry, and moving very slowly, shaved and put
on dry things. From the interest the sentry showed it seemed evident
he never had taken a bath himself, nor had seen any one else take
one, and he was not quite easy in his mind that he ought to allow it.
He seemed to consider it a kind of suicide. I kept on thinking out
plans, and when an officer appeared I had one to submit. I offered to
give the money I had with me to any one who would motor back to
Brussels and take a note to the American minister, Brand Whitlock.
My proposition was that if in five hours, or by seven o'clock, he did not
arrive in his automobile and assure them that what I said about
myself was true, they need not wait until midnight, but could shoot me
"If I am willing to take such a chance," I pointed out, "I must be a
friend of Mr. Whitlock. If he repudiates me, it will be evident I have
deceived you, and you will be perfectly justified in carrying out your
plan." I had a note to Whitlock already written. It was composed
entirely with the idea that they would read it, and it was much more
intimate than my very brief acquaintance with that gentleman justified.
But from what I have seen and heard of the ex-mayor of Toledo I felt
he would stand for it.
The note read:
"I am detained in a house with a garden where the railroad passes
through the village of Ligne. Please come quick, or send some one in
the legation automobile.
The officer to whom I gave this was Major Alfred Wurth, a reservist
from Bernburg, on the Saale River. I liked him from the first because
after we had exchanged a few words he exclaimed incredulously:
"What nonsense! Any one could tell by your accent that you are an
American." He explained that, when at the university, in the same
pension with him were three Americans.
"The staff are making a mistake," he said earnestly. "They will regret
I told him that I not only did not want them to regret it, but I did not
want them to make it, and I begged him to assure the staff that I was
an American. I suggested also that he tell them, if anything happened
to me there were other Americans who would at once declare war on
Germany. The number of these other Americans I overestimated by
about ninety millions, but it was no time to consider details.
He asked if the staff might read the letter to the American minister,
and, though I hated to deceive him, I pretended to consider this.
"I don't remember just what I wrote," I said, and, to make sure they
would read it, I tore open the envelope and pretended to reread the
"I will see what I can do," said Major Wurth; "meanwhile, do not be
discouraged. Maybe it will come out all right for you."
After he left me the Belgian gentleman who owned the house and his
cook brought me some food. She was the only member of his
household who had not deserted him, and together they were serving
the staff-officers, he acting as butler, waiter, and valet. The cock was
an old peasant woman with a ruffled white cap, and when she left, in
spite of the sentry, she patted me encouragingly on the shoulder. The
owner of the house was more discreet, and contented himself with
winking at me and whispering: "Ca va mal pour vous en bas!" As they
both knew what was being said of me downstairs, their visit did not
especially enliven me. Major Wurth returned and said the staff could
not spare any one to go to Brussels, but that my note had been
forwarded to "the" general. That was as much as I had hoped for. It
was intended only as a "stay of proceedings." But the manner of the
major was not reassuring. He kept telling me that he thought they
would set me free, but even as he spoke tears would come to his
eyes and roll slowly down his cheeks. It was most disconcerting. After
a while it grew dark and he brought me a candle and left me, taking
with him, much to my relief, the sentry and his automatic. This gave
me since my arrest my first moment alone, and, to find anything that
might further incriminate or help me, I used it in going rapidly through
my knapsack and pockets. My note-book was entirely favorable. In it
there was no word that any German could censor. My only other
paper was a letter, of which all day I had been conscious. It was one
of introduction from Colonel Theodore Roosevelt to President
Poincare, and whether the Germans would consider it a clean bill of
health or a death-warrant I could not make up my mind. Half a dozen
times I had been on the point of saying: "Here is a letter from the man
your Kaiser delighted to honor, the only civilian who ever reviewed
the German army, a former President of the United States."
But I could hear Rupert of Hentzau replying: "Yes, and it is
recommending you to our enemy, the President of France!"
I knew that Colonel Roosevelt would have written a letter to the
German Emperor as impartially as to M. Poincare, but I knew also
that Rupert of Hentzau would not believe that. So I decided to keep
the letter back until the last moment. If it was going to help me, it still
would be effective; if it went against me, I would be just as dead. I
began to think out other plans. Plans of escape were foolish. I could
have crawled out of the window to the rain gutter, but before I had
reached the rooftree I would have been shot. And bribing the sentry,
even were he willing to be insulted, would not have taken me farther
than the stairs, where there were other sentries. I was more safe
inside the house than out. They still had my passport and laissez-
passer, and without a pass one could not walk a hundred yards. As
the staff had but one plan, and no time in which to think of a better
one, the obligation to invent a substitute plan lay upon me. The plan I
thought out and which later I outlined to Major Wurth was this: Instead
of putting me away at midnight, they would give me a pass back to
Brussels. The pass would state that I was a suspected spy and that if
before midnight of the 26th of August I were found off the direct road
to Brussels, or if by that hour I had not reported to the military
governor of Brussels, any one could shoot me on sight. As I have
stated, without showing a pass no one could move a hundred yards,
and every time I showed my pass to a German it would tell him I was
a suspected spy, and if I were not making my way in the right
direction he had his orders. With such a pass I was as much a
prisoner as in the room at Ligne, and if I tried to evade its conditions I
was as good as dead. The advantages of my plan, as I urged them
upon Major Wurth, were that it prevented the General Staff from
shooting an innocent man, which would have greatly distressed them,
and were he not innocent would still enable them, after a reprieve of
two days, to shoot him. The distance to Brussels was about fifty
miles, which, as it was impossible for a civilian to hire a bicycle,
motor-car, or cart, I must cover on foot, making twenty-five miles a
day. Major Wurth heartily approved of my substitute plan, and added
that he thought if any motor-trucks or ambulances were returning
empty to Brussels, I should be permitted to ride in one of them. He
left me, and I never saw him again. It was then about eight o'clock,
and as the time passed and he did not return and midnight grew
nearer, I began to feel very lonely. Except for the Roosevelt letter, I
had played my last card.
As it grew later I persuaded myself they did not mean to act until
morning, and I stretched out on the straw and tried to sleep. At
midnight I was startled by the light of an electric torch. It was strapped
to the chest of an officer, who ordered me to get up and come with
him. He spoke only German, and he seemed very angry. The owner
of the house and the old cook had shown him to my room, but they
stood in the shadow without speaking. Nor, fearing I might
compromise them--for I could not see why, except for one purpose,
they were taking me out into the night--did I speak to them. We got
into another motor-car and in silence drove north from Ligne down a
country road to a great chateau that stood in a magnificent park.
Something had gone wrong with the lights of the chateau, and its hall
was lit only by candles that showed soldiers sleeping like dead men
on bundles of wheat and others leaping up and down the marble
stairs. They put me in a huge armchair of silk and gilt, with two of the
gray ghosts to guard me, and from the hall, when the doors of the
drawing-room opened, I could see a long table on which were
candles in silver candlesticks or set on plates, and many maps and
half-empty bottles of champagne. Around the table, standing or
seated, and leaning across the maps, were staff-officers in brilliant
uniforms. They were much older men and of higher rank than any I
had yet seen. They were eating, drinking, gesticulating. In spite of the
tumult, some, in utter weariness, were asleep. It was like a picture of
1870 by Detaille or De Neuville. Apparently, at last I had reached the
headquarters of the mysterious general. I had arrived at what, for a
suspected spy, was an inopportune moment. The Germans themselves
had been surprised, or somewhere south of us had met with a
reverse, and the air was vibrating with excitement and something
very like panic. Outside, at great speed and with sirens shrieking,
automobiles were arriving, and I could hear the officers shouting:
"Die Englischen kommen!"
To make their reports they flung themselves up the steps, the electric
torches, like bull's-eye lanterns, burning holes in the night. Seeing a
civilian under guard, they would stare and ask questions. Even when
they came close, owing to the light in my eyes, I could not see them.
Sometimes, in a half circle, there would be six or eight of the electric
torches blinding me, and from behind them voices barking at me with
strange, guttural noises. Much they said I could not understand,
much I did not want to understand, but they made it quite clear it was
no fit place for an Englishman.
When the door from the drawing-room opened and Rupert of
Hentzau appeared, I was almost glad to see him.
Whenever he spoke to me he always began or ended his sentence
with "Mr. Davis." He gave it an emphasis and meaning which was
intended to show that he knew it was not my name. I would not have
thought it possible to put so much insolence into two innocent words.
It was as though he said: "Mr. Davis, alias Jimmy Valentine." He
certainly would have made a great actor.
"Mr. Davis," he said, "you are free."
He did not look as disappointed as I knew he would feel if I were free,
so I waited for what was to follow.
"You are free," he said, "under certain conditions." The conditions
seemed to cheer him. He recited the conditions. They were those I
had outlined to Major Wurth. But I am sure Rupert of Hentzau did not
guess that. Apparently, he believed Major Wurth had thought of
them, and I did not undeceive him. For the substitute plan I was not
inclined to rob that officer of any credit. I felt then, and I feel now,
that but for him and his interceding for me I would have been left
in the road. Rupert of Hentzau gave me the pass. It said I must
return to Brussels by way of Ath, Enghien, Hal, and that I must report
to the military governor on the 26th or "be treated as a spy"--"so wird
er als Spion behandelt." The pass, literally translated, reads:
"The American reporter Davis must at once return to Brussels via
Ath, Enghien, Hal, and report to the government at the latest on
August 26th. If he is met on any other road, or after the 26th of
August, he will be handled as a spy. Automobiles returning to
Brussels, if they can unite it with their duty, can carry him."
"CHIEF OF GENERAL STAFF."
"VON GREGOR, Lieutenant-Colonel."
Fearing my military education was not sufficient to enable me to
appreciate this, for the last time Rupert stuck his forefinger in my
stomach and repeated cheerfully: "And you know what that means.
And you will start," he added, with a most charming smile, "in three
He was determined to have his grilled bone.
"At three in the morning!" I cried. "You might as well take me out and
shoot me now!"
"You will start in three hours," he repeated.
"A man wandering around at that hour," I protested, "wouldn't live five
minutes. It can't be done. You couldn't do it." He continued to grin. I
knew perfectly well the general had given no such order, and that it
was a cat-and-mouse act of Rupert's own invention, and he knew I
knew it. But he repeated: "You will start in three hours, Mr. Davis."
I said: "I am going to write about this, and I would like you to read
what I write. What is your name?"
He said: "I am the Baron von"--it sounded like "Hossfer"--and, in any
case, to that name, care of General de Schwerin of the Seventh
Division, I shall mail this book. I hope the Allies do not kill Rupert of
Hentzau before he reads it! After that! He would have made a great
They put me in the automobile and drove me back to Ligne and the
impromptu cell. But now it did not seem like a cell. Since I had last
occupied it my chances had so improved that returning to the candle
on the floor and the bundles of wheat was like coming home. Though
I did not believe Rupert had any authority to order me into the night at
the darkest hour of the twenty-four, I was taking no chances. My
nerve was not in a sufficiently robust state for me to disobey any
German. So, lest I should oversleep, until three o'clock I paced the
cell, and then, with all the terrors of a burglar, tiptoed down the stairs.
There was no light, and the house was wrapped in silence.
Earlier there had been everywhere sentries, and, not daring to
breathe, I waited for one of them to challenge, but, except for the
creaking of the stairs and of my ankle-bones, which seemed to
explode like firecrackers, there was not a sound. I was afraid, and
wished myself safely back in my cell, but I was more afraid of Rupert,
and I kept on feeling my way until I had reached the garden. There
some one spoke to me in French, and I found my host.
"The animals have gone," he said; "all of them. I will give you a bed
now, and when it is light you shall have breakfast." I told him my
orders were to leave his house at three.
"But it is murder!" he said. With these cheering words in my ears, I
thanked him, and he bid me bonne chance.
In my left hand I placed the pass, folded so that the red seal of the
General Staff would show, and a match-box. In the other hand I held
ready a couple of matches. Each time a sentry challenged I struck
the matches on the box and held them in front of the red seal. The
instant the matches flashed it was a hundred to one that the man
would shoot, but I could not speak German, and there was no other
way to make him understand. They were either too surprised or too
sleepy to fire, for each of them let me pass. But after I had made a
mark of myself three times I lost my nerve and sought cover behind a
haystack. I lay there until there was light enough to distinguish trees
and telegraph-poles, and then walked on to Ath. After that, when they
stopped me, if they could not read, the red seal satisfied them; if they
were officers and could read, they cursed me with strange, unclean
oaths, and ordered me, in the German equivalent, to beat it. It was a
delightful walk. I had had no sleep the night before and had eaten
nothing, and, though I had cut away most of my shoe, I could hardly
touch my foot to the road. Whenever in the villages I tried to bribe any
one to carry my knapsack or to give me food, the peasants ran from
me. They thought I was a German and talked Flemish, not French. I
was more afraid of them and their shotguns than of the Germans,
and I never entered a village unless German soldiers were entering
or leaving it. And the Germans gave me no reason to feel free from
care. Every time they read my pass they were inclined to try me all
over again, and twice searched my knapsack.
After that happened the second time I guessed my letter to the
President of France might prove a menace, and, tearing it into little
pieces, dropped it over a bridge, and with regret watched that
historical document from the ex-President of one republic to the
President of another float down the Sambre toward the sea. By noon
I decided I would not be able to make the distance. For twenty-four
hours I had been without sleep or food, and I had been put through
an unceasing third degree, and I was nearly out. Added to that, the
chance of my losing the road was excellent; and if I lost the road the
first German who read my pass was ordered by it to shoot me. So I
decided to give myself up to the occupants of the next German car
going toward Brussels and ask them to carry me there under arrest. I
waited until an automobile approached, and then stood in front of it
and held up my pass and pointed to the red seal. The car stopped,
and the soldiers in front and the officer in the rear seat gazed at me in
indignant amazement. The officer was a general, old and kindly
looking, and, by the grace of Heaven, as slow-witted as he was kind.
He spoke no English, and his French was as bad as mine, and in
consequence he had no idea of what I was saying except that I had
orders from the General Staff to proceed at once to Brussels. I made
a mystery of the pass, saying it was very confidential, but the red seal
satisfied him. He bade me courteously to take the seat at his side,
and with intense satisfaction I heard him command his orderly to get
down and fetch my knapsack. The general was going, he said, only
so far as Hal, but that far he would carry me. Hal was the last town
named in my pass, and from Brussels only eleven miles distant.
According to the schedule I had laid out for myself, I had not hoped to
reach it by walking until the next day, but at the rate the car had
approached I saw I would be there within two hours. My feelings
when I sank back upon the cushions of that car and stretched out my
weary legs and the wind whistled around us are too sacred for cold
print. It was a situation I would not have used in fiction. I was a
condemned spy, with the hand of every German properly against me,
and yet under the protection of a German general, and in luxurious
ease, I was escaping from them at forty miles an hour. I had but one
regret. I wanted Rupert of Hentzau to see me. At Hal my luck still
held. The steps of the Hotel de Ville were crowded with generals. I
thought never in the world could there be so many generals, so many
flowing cloaks and spiked helmets. I was afraid of them. I was afraid
that when my general abandoned me the others might not prove so
slow-witted or so kind. My general also seemed to regard them with
disfavor. He exclaimed impatiently. Apparently, to force his way
through them, to cool his heels in an anteroom, did not appeal. It was
long past his luncheon hour and the restaurant of the Palace Hotel
called him. He gave a sharp order to the chauffeur.
"I go on to Brussels," he said. "Desire you to accompany me?" I did
not know how to ask him in French not to make me laugh. I saw the
great Palace of Justice that towers above the city with the same
emotions that one beholds the Statue of Liberty, but not until we had
reached the inner boulevards did I feel safe. There I bade my friend a
grateful but hasty adieu, and in a taxicab, unwashed and unbrushed, I
drove straight to the American legation. To Mr. Whitlock I told this
story, and with one hand that gentleman reached for his hat and with
the other for his stick. In the automobile of the legation we raced to
the Hotel de Ville. There Mr. Whitlock, as the moving-picture people
say, "registered" indignation. Mr. Davis was present, he made it
understood, not as a ticket-of-leave man, and because he had been
ordered to report, but in spite of that fact. He was there as the friend
of the American minister, and the word "Spion" must be removed
from his papers.
And so, on the pass that Rupert gave me, below where he had
written that I was to be treated as a spy, they wrote I was "not at all,"
"gar nicht," to be treated as a spy, and that I was well known to the
American minister, and to that they affixed the official seal.
That ended it, leaving me with one valuable possession. It is this:
should any one suggest that I am a spy, or that I am not a friend of
Brand Whitlock, I have the testimony of the Imperial German
Government to the contrary.
The Burning Of Louvain
After the Germans occupied Brussels they closed the road to Aix-la-
Chapelle. A week later, to carry their wounded and prisoners, they
reopened it. But for eight days Brussels was isolated. The mail-trains
and the telegraph office were in the hands of the invaders. They
accepted our cables, censored them, and three days later told us, if
we still wished, we could forward them. But only from Holland. By this
they accomplished three things: they learned what we were writing
about them, for three days prevented any news from leaving the city,
and offered us an inducement to visit Holland, so getting rid of us.
The despatches of those diplomats who still remained in Brussels
were treated in the same manner. With the most cheerful
complacency the military authorities blue-pencilled their despatches
to their governments. When the diplomats learned of this, with their
code cables they sent open cables stating that their confidential
despatches were being censored and delayed. They still were
delayed. To get any message out of Brussels it was necessary to use
an automobile, and nearly every automobile had taken itself off to
Antwerp. If a motor-car appeared it was at once commandeered. This
was true also of horses and bicycles. All over Brussels you saw
delivery wagons, private carriages, market carts with the shafts empty
and the horse and harness gone. After three days a German soldier
who did not own a bicycle was poor indeed.
Requisitions were given for these machines, stating they would be
returned after the war, by which time they will be ready for the scrap-
heap. Any one on a bicycle outside the city was arrested, so the only
way to get messages through was by going on foot to Ostend or
Holland, or by an automobile for which the German authorities
had given a special pass. As no one knew when one of these
automobiles might start, we carried always with us our cables and
letters, and intrusted them to any stranger who was trying to run the
No one wished to carry our despatches, as he feared they might
contain something unfavorable to the Germans, which, if he were
arrested and the cables read, might bring him into greater trouble.
Money for himself was no inducement. But I found if I gave money for
the Red Cross no one would refuse it, or to carry the messages.
Three out of four times the stranger would be arrested and ordered
back to Brussels, and our despatches, with their news value
departed, would be returned.
An account of the Germans entering Brussels I sent by an English
boy named Dalton, who, after being turned back three times, got
through by night, and when he arrived in England his adventures
were published in all the London papers. They were so thrilling that
they made my story, for which he had taken the trip, extremely tame
Hugh Gibson, secretary of the American legation, was the first person
in an official position to visit Antwerp after the Belgian Government
moved to that city, and, even with his passes and flag flying from his
automobile, he reached Antwerp and returned to Brussels only after
many delays and adventures. Not knowing the Belgians were
advancing from the north, Gibson and his American flag were several
times under fire, and on the days he chose for his excursion his route
led him past burning towns and dead and wounded and between the
lines of both forces actively engaged.
He was carrying despatches from Brand Whitlock to Secretary Bryan.
During the night he rested at Antwerp the first Zeppelin air-ship to visit
that city passed over it, dropping one bomb at the end of the block in
which Gibson was sleeping. He was awakened by the explosion and
heard all of those that followed.
The next morning he was requested to accompany a committee
appointed by the Belgian Government to report upon the outrage,
and he visited a house that had been wrecked, and saw what was left
of the bodies of those killed. People who were in the streets when the
air-ship passed said it moved without any sound, as though the motor
had been shut off and it was being propelled by momentum.
One bomb fell so near the palace where the Belgian Queen was
sleeping as to destroy the glass in the windows and scar the walls.
The bombs were large, containing smaller bombs of the size of
shrapnel. Like shrapnel, on impact they scattered bullets over a
radius of forty yards. One man, who from a window in the eighth story
of a hotel watched the air-ship pass, stated that before each bomb fell
he saw electric torches signal from the roofs, as though giving
directions as to where the bombs should strike.
After my arrest by the Germans, I found my usefulness in Brussels as
a correspondent was gone, and I returned to London, and from there
rejoined the Allies in Paris.
I left Brussels on August 27th with Gerald Morgan and Will Irwin, of
Collier's, on a train carrying English prisoners and German wounded.
In times of peace the trip to the German border lasts three hours, but
in making it we were twenty-six hours, and by order of the authorities
we were forbidden to leave the train.
Carriages with cushions naturally were reserved for the wounded, so
we slept on wooden benches and on the floor. It was not possible to
obtain food, and water was as scarce. At Graesbeek, ten miles from
Brussels, we first saw houses on fire. They continued with us to
Village after village had been completely wrecked. In his march to the
sea Sherman lived on the country. He did not destroy it, and as
against the burning of Columbia must be placed to the discredit of the
Germans the wiping out of an entire countryside.
For many miles we saw procession after procession of peasants
fleeing from one burning village, which had been their home, to other
villages, to find only blackened walls and smouldering ashes. In no
part of northern Europe is there a countryside fairer than that
between Aix-la-Chapelle and Brussels, but the Germans had made of
it a graveyard. It looked as though a cyclone had uprooted its houses,
gardens, and orchards and a prairie fire had followed.
At seven o'clock in the evening we arrived at what for six hundred
years had been the city of Louvain. The Germans were burning it,
and to hide their work kept us locked in the railroad carriages. But the
story was written against the sky, was told to us by German soldiers
incoherent with excesses; and we could read it in the faces of women
and children being led to concentration camps and of citizens on their
way to be shot.
The day before the Germans had sentenced Louvain to become a
wilderness, and with German system and love of thoroughness they
left Louvain an empty, blackened shell. The reason for this appeal to
the torch and the execution of non-combatants, as given to Mr.
Whitlock and myself on the morning I left Brussels by General von
Lutwitz, the military governor, was this: The day before, while the
German military commander of the troops in Louvain was at the Hotel
de Ville talking to the burgomaster, a son of the burgomaster, with an
automatic pistol, shot the chief of staff and German staff surgeons.
Lutwitz claimed this was the signal for the civil guard, in civilian
clothes on the roofs, to fire upon the German soldiers in the open
square below. He said also the Belgians had quick-firing guns,
brought from Antwerp. As for a week the Germans had occupied
Louvain and closely guarded all approaches, the story that there was
any gun-running is absurd.
"Fifty Germans were killed and wounded," said Lutwitz, "and for that
Louvain must be wiped out--so!" In pantomime with his fist he swept
the papers across his table.
"The Hotel de Ville," he added, "was a beautiful building; it is a pity it
must be destroyed."
Were he telling us his soldiers had destroyed a kitchen-garden, his
tone could not have expressed less regret.
Ten days before I had been in Louvain, when it was occupied by
Belgian troops and King Albert and his staff. The city dates from the
eleventh century, and the population was forty-two thousand. The
citizens were brewers, lace-makers, and manufacturers of ornaments
for churches. The university once was the most celebrated in
European cities and was the headquarters of the Jesuits.
In the Louvain College many priests now in America have been
educated, and ten days before, over the great yellow walls of the
college, I had seen hanging two American flags. I had found the city
clean, sleepy, and pretty, with narrow, twisting streets and smart
shops and cafes. Set in flower gardens were the houses, with red
roofs, green shutters, and white walls.
Over those that faced south had been trained pear-trees, their
branches, heavy with fruit, spread out against the walls like branches
of candelabra. The town hall was an example of Gothic architecture,
in detail and design more celebrated even than the town hall of
Bruges or Brussels. It was five hundred years old, and lately had
been repaired with taste and at great cost.
Opposite was the Church of St. Pierre, dating from the fifteenth
century, a very noble building, with many chapels filled with carvings
of the time of the Renaissance in wood, stone, and iron. In the
university were one hundred and fifty thousand volumes.
Near it was the bronze statue of Father Damien, priest of the leper
colony in the South Pacific, of whom Robert Louis Stevenson wrote.
On the night of the 27th these buildings were empty, exploded
cartridges. Statues, pictures, carvings, parchments, archives--all
these were gone.
No one defends the sniper. But because ignorant Mexicans, when
their city was invaded, fired upon our sailors, we did not destroy Vera
Cruz. Even had we bombarded Vera Cruz, money could have
restored that city. Money can never restore Louvain. Great architects
and artists, dead these six hundred years, made it beautiful, and their
handiwork belonged to the world. With torch and dynamite the
Germans turned those masterpieces into ashes, and all the Kaiser's
horses and all his men cannot bring them back again.
When our troop train reached Louvain, the entire heart of the city was
destroyed, and the fire had reached the Boulevard Tirlemont, which
faces the railroad station. The night was windless, and the sparks
rose in steady, leisurely pillars, falling back into the furnace from
which they sprang. In their work the soldiers were moving from the
heart of the city to the outskirts, street by street, from house to house.
In each building they began at the first floor and, when that was
burning steadily, passed to the one next. There were no exceptions--
whether it was a store, chapel, or private residence, it was destroyed.
The occupants had been warned to go, and in each deserted shop or
house the furniture was piled, the torch was stuck under it, and into
the air went the savings of years, souvenirs of children, of parents,
heirlooms that had passed from generation to generation.
The people had time only to fill a pillowcase and fly. Some were not
so fortunate, and by thousands, like flocks of sheep, they were
rounded up and marched through the night to concentration camps.
We were not allowed to speak to any citizen of Louvain, but the
Germans crowded the windows of the train, boastful, gloating, eager
In the two hours during which the train circled the burning city war
was before us in its most hateful aspect.
In other wars I have watched men on one hilltop, without haste,
without heat, fire at men on another hill, and in consequence on both
sides good men were wasted. But in those fights there were no
women or children, and the shells struck only vacant stretches of
veldt or uninhabited mountain sides.
At Louvain it was war upon the defenceless, war upon churches,
colleges, shops of milliners and lace-makers; war brought to the
bedside and the fireside; against women harvesting in the fields,
against children in wooden shoes at play in the streets.
At Louvain that night the Germans were like men after an orgy.
There were fifty English prisoners, erect and soldierly. In the ocean of
gray the little patch of khaki looked pitifully lonely, but they regarded
the men who had outnumbered but not defeated them with calm,
uncurious eyes. In one way I was glad to see them there. Later they
will bear witness. They will tell how the enemy makes a wilderness
and calls it war. It was a most weird picture. On the high ground rose
the broken spires of the Church of St. Pierre and the Hotel de Ville,
and descending like steps were row beneath row of houses, roofless,
with windows like blind eyes. The fire had reached the last row of
houses, those on the Boulevard de Jodigne. Some of these were
already cold, but others sent up steady, straight columns of flame. In
others at the third and fourth stories the window curtains still hung,
flowers still filled the window-boxes, while on the first floor the torch
had just passed and the flames were leaping. Fire had destroyed the
electric plant, but at times the flames made the station so light that
you could see the second-hand of your watch, and again all was
darkness, lit only by candles.
You could tell when an officer passed by the electric torch he carried
strapped to his chest. In the darkness the gray uniforms filled the
station with an army of ghosts. You distinguished men only when
pipes hanging from their teeth glowed red or their bayonets flashed.
Outside the station in the public square the people of Louvain passed
in an unending procession, women bareheaded, weeping, men
carrying the children asleep on their shoulders, all hemmed in by the
shadowy army of gray wolves. Once they were halted, and among
them were marched a line of men. These were on their way to be
shot. And, better to point the moral, an officer halted both processions
and, climbing to a cart, explained why the men were to die. He
warned others not to bring down upon themselves a like vengeance.
As those being led to spend the night in the fields looked across to
those marked for death they saw old friends, neighbors of long
standing, men of their own household. The officer bellowing at them
from the cart was illuminated by the headlights of an automobile. He
looked like an actor held in a spotlight on a darkened stage.
It was all like a scene upon the stage, unreal, inhuman. You felt it
could not be true. You felt that the curtain of fire, purring and crackling
and sending up hot sparks to meet the kind, calm stars, was only a
painted backdrop; that the reports of rifles from the dark ruins came
from blank cartridges, and that these trembling shopkeepers and
peasants ringed in bayonets would not in a few minutes really die, but
that they themselves and their homes would be restored to their
wives and children.
You felt it was only a nightmare, cruel and uncivilized. And then you
remembered that the German Emperor has told us what it is. It is his
Paris In War Time
Those who, when the Germans approached, fled from Paris,
described it as a city doomed, as a waste place, desolate as a
graveyard. Those who run away always are alarmists. They are on
the defensive. They must explain why they ran away.
Early in September Paris was like a summer hotel out of season. The
owners had temporarily closed it; the windows were barred, the
furniture and paintings draped in linen, a caretaker and a night-
watchman were in possession.
It is an old saying that all good Americans go to Paris when they die.
Most of them take no chances and prefer to visit it while they are alive.
Before this war, if the visitor was disappointed, it was the fault of
the visitor, not of Paris. She was all things to all men. To some she
offered triumphal arches, statues, paintings; to others by day racing,
and by night Maxims and the Rat Mort. Some loved her for the book-
stalls along the Seine and ateliers of the Latin Quarter; some for her
parks, forests, gardens, and boulevards; some because of the
Luxembourg; some only as a place where everybody was smiling,
happy, and polite, where they were never bored, where they were
always young, where the lights never went out and there was no early
call. Should they to-day revisit her they would find her grown grave
and decorous, and going to bed at sundown, but still smiling bravely,
You cannot wipe out Paris by removing two million people and closing
Cartier's and the Cafe de Paris. There still remains some hundred
miles of boulevards, the Seine and her bridges, the Arc de Triomphe,
with the sun setting behind it, and the Gardens of the Tuilleries. You
cannot send them to the store-house or wrap them in linen. And the
spirit of the people of Paris you cannot crush nor stampede.
Between Paris in peace and Paris to-day the most striking difference
is lack of population. Idle rich, the employees of the government, and
tourists of all countries are missing. They leave a great emptiness.
When you walk the streets you feel either that you are up very early,
before any one is awake, or that you are in a boom town from which
the boom has departed.
On almost every one of the noted shops "Ferme" is written, or it has
been turned over to the use of the Red Cross. Of the smaller shops
those that remain open are chiefly bakeshops and chemists, but no
man need go naked or hungry; in every block he will find at least one
place where he can be clothed and fed. But the theatres are all
closed. No one is in a mood to laugh, and certainly no one wishes to
consider anything more serious than the present crisis. So there are
no revues, operas, or comedies.
The thing you missed perhaps most were the children in the Avenue
des Champs Elysees. For generations over that part of the public
garden the children have held sway. They knew it belonged to them,
and into the gravel walks drove their tin spades with the same sense
of ownership as at Deauville they dig up the shore. Their straw hats
and bare legs, their Normandy nurses, with enormous head-dresses,
blue for a boy and pink for a girl, were, of the sights of Paris, one of
the most familiar. And when the children vanished they left a dreary
wilderness. You could look for a mile, from the Place de la Concorde
to the Arc de Triomphe, and not see a child. The stalls, where they
bought hoops and skipping-ropes, the flying wooden horses, Punch-
and-Judy shows, booths where with milk they refreshed themselves
and with bonbons made themselves ill, all were deserted and
The closing down of the majority of the shops and hotels was not due
to a desire on the part of those employed in them to avoid the
Germans, but to get at the Germans.
On shop after shop are signs reading: "The proprietor and staff are
with the colors," or "The personnel of this establishment is mobilized,"
or "Monsieur------informs his clients that he is with his regiment."
In the absence of men at the front, Frenchwomen, at all times
capable and excellent managers, have surpassed themselves. In my
hotel there were employed seven women and one man. In another
hotel I visited the entire staff was composed of women.
An American banker offered his twenty-two polo ponies to the
government. They were refused as not heavy enough. He did not
know that, and supposed he had lost them. Later he learned from the
wife of his trainer, a Frenchwoman, that those employed in his stables
at Versailles who had not gone to the front at the approach of the
Germans had fled, and that for three weeks his string of twenty-two
horses had been fed, groomed, and exercised by the trainer's wife
and her two little girls.
To an American it was very gratifying to hear the praise of the French
and English for the American ambulance at Neuilly. It is the outgrowth
of the American hospital, and at the start of this war was organized by
Mrs. Herrick, wife of our ambassador, and other ladies of the
American colony in Paris, and the American doctors. They took over
the Lycee Pasteur, an enormous school at Neuilly, that had just been
finished and never occupied, and converted it into what is a most
splendidly equipped hospital. In walking over the building you find it
hard to believe that it was intended for any other than its present use.
The operating rooms, kitchens, wards, rooms for operating by
Roentgen rays, and even a chapel have been installed.
The organization and system are of the highest order. Every one in it
is American. The doctors are the best in Paris. The nurses and
orderlies are both especially trained for the work and volunteers. The
spirit of helpfulness and unselfishness is everywhere apparent.
Certain members of the American colony, who never in their lives
thought of any one save themselves, and of how to escape boredom,
are toiling like chambermaids and hall porters, performing most
disagreeable tasks, not for a few hours a week, but unceasingly, day
after day. No task is too heavy for them or too squalid. They help all
alike--Germans, English, major-generals, and black Turcos.
There are three hundred patients. The staff of the hospital numbers
one hundred and fifty. It is composed of the best-known American
doctors in Paris and a few from New York. Among the volunteer
nurses and attendants are wives of bankers in Paris, American girls
who have married French titles, and girls who since the war came
have lost employment as teachers of languages, stenographers, and
governesses. The men are members of the Jockey Club, art
students, medical students, clerks, and boulevardiers. They are all
working together in most admirable harmony and under an
organization that in its efficiency far surpasses that of any other
hospital in Paris. Later it is going to split the American colony in twain.
If you did not work in the American ambulance you won't belong.
Attached to the hospital is a squadron of automobile ambulances, ten
of which were presented by the Ford Company and ten purchased.
Their chassis have been covered with khaki hoods and fitted to
carry two wounded men and attendants. On their runs they are
accompanied by automobiles with medical supplies, tires, and
gasolene. The ambulances scout at the rear of the battle line and
carry back those which the field-hospitals cannot handle.
One day I watched the orderlies who accompany these ambulances
handling about forty English wounded, transferring them from the
automobiles to the reception hall, and the smartness and intelligence
with which the members of each crew worked together was like that
of a champion polo team. The editor of a London paper, who was in
Paris investigating English hospital conditions, witnessed the same
performance, and told me that in handling the wounded it surpassed
in efficiency anything he had seen.
The Battle Of Soissons
The struggle for the possession of Soissons lasted two days. The
second day's battle, which I witnessed, ended with the city in the
possession of the French. It was part of the seven days' of
continuous fighting that began on September 6th at Meaux. Then the
German left wing, consisting of the army of General von Kluck, was at
Claye, within fifteen miles of Paris. But the French and English,
instead of meeting the advance with a defence, themselves attacked.
Steadily, at the rate of ten miles a day, they drove the Germans back
across the Aisne and the Marne, and so saved the city.
When this retrograde movement of the Germans began, those who
could not see the nature of the fighting believed that the German line
of communication, the one from Aix-la-Chapelle through Belgium, had
proved too long, and that the left wing was voluntarily withdrawing to
meet the new line of communication through Luxembourg. But the
fields of battle beyond Meaux, through which it was necessary to
pass to reach the fight at Sois-sons, showed no evidence of leisurely
withdrawal. On both sides there were evidences of the most
desperate fighting and of artillery fire that was wide-spread and
desolating. That of the Germans, intended to destroy the road from
Meaux and to cover their retreat, showed marksmanship so accurate
and execution so terrible as, while it lasted, to render pursuit
The battle-field stretched from the hills three miles north of Meaux for
four miles along the road and a mile to either side. The road is lined
with poplars three feet across and as high as a five-story building. For
the four miles the road was piled with branches of these trees. The
trees themselves were split as by lightning, or torn in half, as with your
hands you could tear apart a loaf of bread. Through some, solid shell
had passed, leaving clean holes. Others looked as though drunken
woodsmen with axes from roots to topmost branches had slashed
them in crazy fury. Some shells had broken the trunks in half as a
hurricane snaps a mast.
That no human being could survive such a bombardment were many
grewsome proofs. In one place for a mile the road was lined with
those wicker baskets in which the Germans carry their ammunition.
These were filled with shells, unexploded, and behind the trenches
were hundreds more of these baskets, some for the shells of the
siege-guns, as large as lobster-pots or umbrella-stands, and others,
each with three compartments, for shrapnel. In gutters along the road
and in the wheat-fields these brass shells flashed in the sunshine like
The four miles of countryside over which for four days both armies
had ploughed the earth with these shells was the picture of complete
desolation. The rout of the German army was marked by knapsacks,
uniforms, and accoutrements scattered over the fields on either hand
as far as you could see. Red Cross flags hanging from bushes
showed where there had been dressing stations. Under them were
blood-stains, bandages and clothing, and boots piled in heaps as
high as a man's chest, and the bodies of those German soldiers that
the first aid had failed to save.
After death the body is mercifully robbed of its human aspect. You are
spared the thought that what is lying in the trenches among the
shattered trees and in the wheat-fields staring up at the sky was once
a man. It appears to be only a bundle of clothes, a scarecrow that
has tumbled among the grain it once protected. But it gives a terrible
meaning to the word "missing." When you read in the reports from
the War Office that five thousand are "missing," you like to think of
them safely cared for in a hospital or dragging out the period of the
war as prisoners. But the real missing are the unidentified dead. In
time some peasant will bury them, but he will not understand the
purpose of the medal each wears around his neck. And so, with the
dead man will be buried his name and the number of his regiment. No
one will know where he fell or where he lies. Some one will always
hope that he will return. For, among the dead his name did not
appear. He was reported "missing."
The utter wastefulness of war was seldom more clearly shown.
Carcasses of horses lined the road. Some few of these had been
killed by shell-fire. Others, worn out and emaciated, and bearing the
brand of the German army, had been mercifully destroyed; but the
greater number of them were the farm horses of peasants, still
wearing their head-stalls or the harness of the plough. That they
might not aid the enemy as remounts, the Germans in their retreat
had shot them. I saw four and five together in the yards of stables,
the bullet-hole of an automatic in the head of each. Others lay beside
the market cart, others by the canal, where they had sought water.
Less pitiful, but still evidencing the wastefulness of war, were the
motor-trucks, and automobiles that in the flight had been abandoned.
For twenty miles these automobiles were scattered along the road.
There were so many one stopped counting them. Added to their loss
were two shattered German airships. One I saw twenty-six kilometres
outside of Meaux and one at Bouneville. As they fell they had buried
their motors deep in the soft earth and their wings were twisted
wrecks of silk and steel.
All the fields through which the army passed had become waste land.
Shells had re-ploughed them. Horses and men had camped in them.
The haystacks, gathered by the sweat of the brow and patiently set in
trim rows were trampled in the mud and scattered to the winds. All the
smaller villages through which I passed were empty of people, and
since the day before, when the Germans occupied them, none of the
inhabitants had returned. These villages were just as the Germans
had left them. The streets were piled with grain on which the soldiers
had slept, and on the sidewalks in front of the better class of houses
tables around which the officers had eaten still remained, the bottles
half empty, the food half eaten.
In a chateau beyond Neufchelles the doors and windows were open
and lace curtains were blowing in the breeze. From the garden you
could see paintings on the walls, books on the tables. Outside, on the
lawn, surrounded by old and charming gardens, apparently the
general and his staff had prepared to dine. The table was set for a
dozen, and on it were candles in silver sticks, many bottles of red and
white wine, champagne, liqueurs, and coffee-cups of the finest china.
From their banquet some alarm had summoned the officers. The
place was as they had left it, the coffee untasted, the candles burned
to the candlesticks, and red stains on the cloth where the burgundy
had spilled. In the bright sunlight, and surrounded by flowers, the
deserted table and the silent, stately chateau seemed like the
sleeping palace of the fairy-tale.
Though the humor of troops retreating is an ugly one, I saw no
outrages such as I saw in Belgium. Except in the villages of Neuf-
chelles and Varreddes, there was no sign of looting or wanton
destruction. But in those two villages the interior of every home and
shop was completely wrecked. In the other villages the destruction
was such as is permitted by the usages of war, such as the blowing
up of bridges, the burning of the railroad station, and the cutting of
Not until Bouneville, thirty kilometres beyond Meaux, did I catch up
with the Allies. There I met some English Tommies who were trying to
find their column. They had no knowledge of the French language, or
where they were, or where their regiment was, but were quite
confident of finding it, and were as cheerful as at manoeuvres.
Outside of Chaudun the road was blocked with tirailleurs, Algerians in
light-blue Zouave uniforms, and native Turcos from Morocco in khaki,
with khaki turbans. They shivered in the autumn sunshine, and were
wrapped in burnooses of black and white. They were making a
turning movement to attack the German right, and were being hurried
forward. They had just driven the German rear-guard out of Chaudun,
and said that the fighting was still going on at Soissons. But the only
sign I saw of it were two Turcos who had followed the Germans too
far. They lay sprawling in the road, and had so lately fallen that their
rifles still lay under them. Three miles farther I came upon the
advance line of the French army, and for the remainder of the day
watched a most remarkable artillery duel, which ended with Soissons
in the hands of the Allies.
Soissons is a pretty town of four thousand inhabitants. It is chiefly
known for its haricot beans, and since the Romans held it under
Caesar it has been besieged many times. Until to-day the Germans