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Title: The Drama Of Three Hundred & Sixty-Five Days - Scenes In The Great War
Author: Caine, Hall, Sir, 1853-1931
Language: English
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By Hall Caine







Mr. Maeterlinck has lately propounded the theory {*} that what we call
the war is neither more nor less than the visible expression of a vast
invisible conflict. The unseen forces of good and evil in the universe
are using man as a means of contention. On the result of the struggle
the destiny of humanity on this planet depends. Is the Angel to prevail?
Or is the Beast to prolong his malignant existence? The issue hangs on
Fate, which does not, however, deny the exercise of the will of man.
Mystical and even fantastic as the theory may seem to be, there is no
resisting its appeal. A glance back over the events of the past year
leaves us again and again without clue to cause and effect. It is
impossible to account for so many things that have happened. We cannot
always say, "We did this because of that," or "Our enemies did that
because of the other." Time after time we can find no reason why things
happened as they have--so unaccountable and so contradictory have they
seemed to be. The dark work wrought by Death during the past year has
been done in the blackness of a night in which none can read. Hence
some of us are forced to yield to Mr. Maeterlinck's theory, which is, I
think, the theory of the ancients--the theory on which the Greeks
built their plays--that invisible powers of good and evil, operating
in regions that are above and beyond man's control, are working out his
destiny in this monstrous drama of the war.

     * The Daily Chronicle.

And what a drama it has been already! We had witnessed only 365 days of
it down to August 4, 1915, corresponding at the utmost to perhaps three
of its tragic acts, but what scenes, what emotions! Mr. Lowell used
to say that to read Carlyle's book on the French Revolution was to
see history as by flashes of lightning. It is only as by flashes of
lightning that we can yet hope to see the world-drama of 1914-15.
Figures, groups, incidents, episodes, without the connecting links
of plots, and just as they have been thrown off by Time, the
master-producer--what a spectacle they make, what a medley of motives,
what a confused jumble of sincerities and hypocrisies, heroisms and
brutalities, villainies and virtues!

As happens in every drama, a great deal of the tragic mischief had
occurred before the curtain rose. Always before the passage of war over
the world there comes the far-off murmur of its approaching wings. Each
of us in this case had heard it, distinctly or indistinctly, according
to the accidents of personal experience. I think I myself heard it for
the first time dearly when in the closing year of King Edward's reign I
came to know (it is unnecessary to say how) what our Sovereign's feeling
had been about his last visit to Berlin. It can do no harm now to
say that it had been a feeling of intense anxiety. The visit seemed
necessary, even imperative, there-fore the King would not shirk his
duty. But for his country, as well as for himself, he had feared for his
reception in Germany, and on his arrival in Berlin, and during his drive
from the railway station with the Kaiser, he had watched and listened
to the demonstrations in the streets with an emotion which very nearly
amounted to dread.

The result had brought a certain relief. With the best of all possible
intentions, the newspapers in both capitals had reported that King
Edward's reception had been enthusiastic. It hadn't been that--at least,
it hadn't seemed to be that to the persons chiefly concerned. But it had
been just cordial enough not to be chilling, just warm enough to carry
things off, to drown that far-off murmur of war which was like the
approach of a mighty wind. Then, during the next days, there had been
the usual banqueting, with the customary toasting to the amity of the
two great nations, whose interests were so closely united by bonds of
peace! And then the return drive to the railway station, the clatter of
horsemen in shining armour, the adieux, the throbbing of the engine,
the starting of the train, and then.... "Thank God, it's over!" If the
invisible powers had really been struggling over the destiny of men, how
the evil half of them must have shrieked with delight that day as the
Kaiser rode back to Potsdam and our King returned to London!


Other whisperings there were of the storm that was so soon to burst on
the world. In the ominous silence there were rumours of a certain change
that was coming over the spirit of the Kaiser. For long years he had
been credited with a sincere love of peace, and a ceaseless desire
to restrain the forces about him that were making for war. Although
constantly occupied with the making of a big army, and inspiring it with
great ideals, he was thought to have as little desire for actual warfare
as his ancestor, Frederick William, had shown, while gathering up his
giant guardsmen and refusing to allow them to fight. Particularly it was
believed in Berlin (not altogether graciously) that his affection for,
and even fear of his grandmother, Queen Victoria, would compel him to
exhaust all efforts to preserve peace in the event of trouble with Great
Britain. But Victoria was dead, and King Edward might perhaps be smiled
at--behind his back--and then a younger generation was knocking at the
Kaiser's door in the person of his eldest son, who represented forces
which he might not long be able to hold in check. How would he act now?

Thousands of persons in this country had countless opportunities before
the war of forming an estimate of the Kaiser's character. I had only
one, and it was not of the best. For years the English traveller
abroad felt as if he were always following in the track of a grandiose
personality who was playing on the scene of the world as on a stage,
fond as an actor of dressing up in fine uniforms, of making pictures,
scenes, and impressions, and leaving his visible mark behind him--as in
the case of the huge gap in the thick walls of Jerusalem, torn down (it
was said with his consent) to let his equipage pass through.

In Rome I saw a man who was a true son of his ancestors. Never had
the laws of heredity better justified themselves. Frederick William,
Frederick the Great, William the First--the Hohenzollerns were all
there. The glittering eyes, the withered arm, the features that gave
signs of frightful periodical pain, the immense energy, the gigantic
egotism, the ravenous vanity, the fanaticism amounting to frenzy, the
dominating power, the dictatorial temper, the indifference to suffering
(whether his own or other people's), the overbearing suppression of
opposing opinions, the determination to control everybody's interest,
everybody's work--I thought all this was written in the Kaiser's
masterful face. Then came stories. One of my friends in Rome was an
American doctor who had been called to attend a lady of the Emperor's
household. "Well, doctor, what's she suffering from?" said the Kaiser.
The doctor told him. "Nothing of the kind--you're entirely wrong. She's
suffering from so and so," said the Majesty of Germany, stamping up and
down the room. At length the American doctor lost control. "Sir," he
said, "in my country we have a saying that one bad practitioner is worth
twenty good amateurs--you're the amateur." The doctor lived through
it. Frederick William would have dragged him to the window and tried to
fling him out of it. William II put his arm round the doctor's shoulder
and said, "I didn't mean to hurt you, old fellow. Let us sit down and

A soldier came with another story. After a sham fight conducted by the
Kaiser the generals of the German army had been summoned to say what
they thought of the Royal manoeuvres. All had formed an unfavourable
opinion, yet one after another, with some insincere compliment, had
wriggled out of the difficulty of candid criticism. But at length came
an officer, who said:

"Sir, if it had been real warfare to-day there wouldn't be enough wood
in Germany to make coffins for the men who would be dead."

The general lived through it, too--at first in a certain disfavour, but
afterwards in recovered honour.

Such was the Kaiser, who a year ago had to meet the mighty wind of War.
He was in Norway for his usual summer holiday in July 1914 when affairs
were reaching their crisis. Rumour has it that he was not satisfied
with the measure of the information that was reaching him, therefore
he returned to Berlin, somewhat to the discomfiture of his ministers,
intending, it is said, for various reasons (not necessarily
humanitarian) to stop or at least postpone the war. If so, he arrived
too late. He was told that matters had gone too far. They must go on
now. "Very well, if they must, they must," he is reported to have said.
And there is the familiar story that after he had signed his name on the
first of August to the document that plunged Europe into the conflict
that has since shaken it to its foundations, he flung down his pen and
cried, "You'll live to regret this, gentlemen."


And then the Crown Prince. In August of last year nine out of every ten
of us would have said that not the father, but the son, of the Royal
family of Germany had been the chief provocative cause of the war.
Subsequent events have lessened the weight of that opinion. But the
young man's known popularity among an active section of the officers of
the army; their subterranean schemes to set him off against his father;
a vague suspicion of the Kaiser's jealousy of his eldest son--all these
facts and shadows of facts give colour to the impression that not least
among the forces which led the Emperor on that fateful first of August
to declare war against Russia was the presence and the importunity of
the Crown Prince. What kind of man was it, then, whom the invisible
powers of evil were employing to precipitate this insensate struggle?

Hundreds of persons in England, France, Russia, and Italy must have met
the Crown Prince of Germany at more or less close quarters, and
formed their own estimates of his character. The barbed-wire fence of
protective ceremony which usually surrounds Royal personages, concealing
their little human foibles, was periodically broken down in the case
of the Heir-Apparent to the German Throne by his incursion every winter
into a small cosmopolitan community which repaired to the snows of the
Engadine for health or pleasure. In that stark environment I myself, in
common with many others, saw the descendant of the Fredericks every day,
for several weeks of several years, at a distance that called for no
intellectual field-glasses. And now I venture to say, for whatever it
may be worth, that the result was an entirely unfavourable impression.

I saw a young man without a particle of natural distinction, whether
physical, moral, or mental. The figure, long rather than tall; the
hatchet face, the selfish eyes, the meaningless mouth, the retreating
forehead, the vanishing chin, the energy that expressed itself merely in
restless movement, achieving little, and often aiming at nothing at all;
the uncultivated intellect, the narrow views of life and the world; the
morbid craving for change, for excitement of any sort; the indifference
to other people's feelings, the shockingly bad manners, the assumption
of a right to disregard and even to outrage the common conventions on
which social intercourse depends--all this was, so far as my observation
enabled me to judge, only too plainly apparent in the person of the
Crown Prince. 21

Outside the narrow group that gathered about him (a group hailing,
ironically enough, from the land of a great Republic) I cannot remember
to have heard in any winter one really warm word about him, one story of
an act of kindness, or even generous condescension, such as it is easy
for a royal personage to perform. On the contrary, I was constantly
hearing tales of silly fooleries, of overbearing behaviour, of
deliberate rudeness, such as irresistibly recalled, in spirit if not in
form, the conduct of the common barrator in the guise of a king, who, if
Macaulay's stories are to be credited, used to kick a lady in the open
streets and tell her to go home and mind her brats.


Only it was not Prussia we were living in, and it was not the year 1720,
so the air tingled occasionally with other tales of little salutary
lessons administered to our Royal upstart on his style of pursuing the
pleasures considered suitable to a Prince. One day it was told of him
that, having given a cup to be raced for on the Bob-run, he was wroth
to find on the notice-board of entries the names of a team of highly
respectable little Englishmen who are familiar on the racecourse; and,
taking out his pencil-case, he scored them off, saying, "My cup is for
gentlemen, not jockeys," whereupon a young English soldier standing by
had said: "We're not jockeys here, sir, and we're not princes; we are
only sportsmen."

I cannot vouch for that story, but I can certainly say that, after a
particularly flagrant and deliberate act of rudeness, imperilling the
safety of several persons in the village street, the Crown Prince of
Germany was told to his foolish face by an Englishman, who need not be
named, that he was a fool, and a damned fool, and deserved to be kicked
off the road.

And this is the mindless, but mischievous, person, the ridiculous
buccaneer, born out of his century, who was permitted to interfere
in the destinies of Europe; to help to determine the fate of tens of
millions of men on the battlefields, and the welfare of hundreds of
millions of women and children in their homes. What wild revel the
invisible powers of evil must have held in Berlin on that night of
August 1, 1914, after the Kaiser had thrown down his pen!


Then the Archduke Ferdinand of Austro-Hungary, whose assassination was
the ostensible cause of this devastating war--what kind of man was he?
Quite a different person from the Crown Prince, and yet, so far as I
could judge, just as little worthy of the appalling sacrifice of human
life which his death has occasioned. Not long before his tragic end I
spent a month under the same roof with him, and though the house was
only an hotel, it was situated in a remote place, and though I was not
in any sense of the Archduke's party, I walked and talked frequently
with most of the members of it, and so, with the added help of daily
observation, came to certain conclusions about the character of the
principal personage.

A middle-aged man, stiff-set, heavy-jawed, with a strong step, and a
short manner; obviously proud, reserved, silent, slightly imperious,
self-centred, self-opinionated, well-educated in the kind of knowledge
all such men must possess, but narrow in intellect, retrograde in
sympathy, a stickler for social conventions, an almost unyielding
upholder of royal rights, prerogatives, customs, and usages (although
by his own marriage he had violated one of the first of the laws of his
class, and by his unfailing fidelity to his wife continued to resist
it), superstitious rather than religious, an immense admirer of the
Kaiser, and a decidedly hostile critic of our own country--such was
the general impression made on one British observer by the Archduke

The man is dead; he took no part in the war, except unwittingly by the
act of dying, and therefore one could wish to speak of him with respect
and restraint. Otherwise it might be possible to justify this estimate
of his character by the narration of little incidents, and one such,
though trivial in itself, may perhaps bear description. The younger
guests of the hotel in the mountains had got up a fancy dress ball,
and among persons clad in all conceivable costumes, including those of
monks, cardinals, and even popes, a lady of demure manners, who did
not dance, had come downstairs in the habit of a nun. This aroused the
superstitious indignation of the Archduke, who demanded that the lady
should retire from the room instantly, or he would order his carriage
and leave the hotel at once.

Of course, the inevitable happened--the Archduke's will became law,
and the lady went upstairs in tears, while I and two or three others
(Catholics among us) thought and said, "Heaven help Europe when the time
comes for its destinies to depend largely on the judgment of a man whose
be-muddled intellect cannot distinguish between morality of the real
world and of an entirely fantastic and fictitious one."


That time, as we now know, never came, but a still more fatal time did
come--the cruel, ironical, and sinister time of July 28, 1914, when one
of the oldest, feeblest, and least capable of living men, the Emperor
of Austria, under the pretence of avenging the death of the
heir-presumptive to his throne, signed with his trembling hand, which
could scarcely hold the pen, the first of his many proclamations of
war, and so touched the button of the monstrous engine that set Europe

The Archduke Ferdinand was foully done to death in discharging a
patriotic duty, but to think that the penalty imposed on the world for
the assassination of a man of his calibre and capacity for usefulness
(or yet for the violation of the principles of public safety,
thereby involved) has been the murdering of millions of men of many
nationalities, the destruction of an entire kingdom, the burning of
historic cities, the impoverishment of the rich and the starvation of
the poor, the outraging of women and the slaughter of children, is also
to think that for the past 365 days the destinies of humanity have
been controlled by demons, who must be shrieking with laughter at the
stupidities of mankind.

Thank God, we are not required to think anything quite so foolish,
although we can not escape from a conclusion almost equally degrading.
Victor Hugo used to say that only kings desired war, and that with the
celebration of the United States of Europe we should see the beginning
of the golden age of Peace. But the events of the tremendous days from
July 28 to August 4,1914, show us with humiliating distinctness that
though Kaisers, Emperors, Crown Princes, and Archdukes may be the
accidental instruments of invisible powers in plunging humanity into
seas of blood, a war is no sooner declared by any of them, however
feeble or fatuous, than all the nations concerned make it their own.
That was what happened in Central Europe the moment Austria declared
war on Serbia, and the history of man on this planet has no record of
anything more pitiful than the spectacle of Germany--"sincere, calm,
deep-thinking Germany," as Carlyle called her, whose triumph in 1870 was
"the hopefullest fact" of his time--stifling her conscience in order to
justify her participation in the conflict.


"We have tried in vain to localize the just vengeance of our Austrian
neighbour for an abominable royal murder," said the Germans, knowing
well that the royal murder was nothing but a shameless pretext for an
opportunity to test their strength against the French, and give law to
the rest of Europe.

"Let us pass over your territory in order to attack our enemy in the
West, and we promise to respect your independence and to recompense you
for any loss you may possibly sustain," said Germany to Belgium, without
a thought of the monstrous crime of treachery which she was asking
Belgium to commit against France.

"Stand aside in a benevolent neutrality, and we undertake not to take
any of the possessions of France in Europe," said Germany to Great
Britain, without allowing herself to be troubled by so much as a
qualm about the iniquity of asking us to trade with her in the French
colonies. And when we rejected Germany's infamous proposals, and called
on her to say if she meant to respect the independence of Belgium, whose
integrity we had mutually pledged ourselves to protect, her Chancellor
stamped and fumed at our representative, and said, "Good God, man, do
you mean to say that your country will go to war for a scrap of paper?"


Nor did the theologians, publicists, and authors of Germany show a more
sensitive conscience than her statesmen. One of the theologians was
Adolf Harnack, professor of Church History in Berlin and intimate
acquaintance of the Kaiser. Not long before the war he published a
book entitled "What is Christianity?" which began with the words, "John
Stuart Mill used to say humanity could not be too often reminded that
there was once a man named Socrates. That is true, but still more
important it is to remind mankind that a man of the name of Jesus Christ
once lived among them." On this text the Book proceeded to enforce the
practical application of Christ's teaching to the modern world, and
particularly to propound his doctrine of the wickedness and futility
of violence, which led the author to the conclusion that it was "not
necessary for justice to use force in order to remain justice."

Somewhat later Professor Harnack came to this country to attend, if I
remember rightly, a World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh, and the
memory of him which abides in our northern capital is that of a high
priest and prophet of the new golden age that was dawning on the
world--the age of universal brotherhood and peace. But no sooner had
war come within the zone of Germany than this man signed (if he did
not write) a manifesto of German theologians which told "evangelical
Christians abroad" that the German "sword was bright and keen," that
Germany was taking up arms to establish the justice of her cause and
that ever through the storm and horror of the coming conflict the German
people, with a calm conscience, would kneel and pray: "Hallowed be Thy
name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."


One of the writers who performed the same kind of moral somersault was
Gerhart Hauptmann, author of a Socialist drama called "The Weavers,"
and, rumour says, protégé (what frightful irony!) of the Crown Prince,
Hauptmann knew well (none better) that a vast proportion of the human
family live perpetually on the borderland of want, and that of all who
suffer by war the poor suffer most. Yet he wrote (and a degenerate son
of the great Norwegian liberator, Bjôrnsen, published) a letter, in
which, after telling the poor of his people that "heaven alone knew"
why their enemies were assailing them, he called on them (in effect) to
avenge unnameable atrocities, which he alleged, without a particle of
proof, had been committed on innocent Germans living abroad, and then
said, in allusion to Mr. Maeterlinck, "I can assure him that, although
'barbarous Germans,' we shall never be so cowardly as to massacre or
martyr the Belgian women and children." This was written in August 1914,
at the very hour, as the world now knows, when the German soldiers in
Liège were shooting, bayoneting, and burning alive old men and little
children, raping nuns in their convents and young girls in the open
streets. But the invisible powers of evil have no mercy on their
instruments after they have worked their will, and Time has turned them
into objects of contempt.

Nor were the German people themselves, any more than their
master-spirits and spokesmen, spared the shame of their duplicity
in those early days of August 1914. A large group of them, including
commercial and professional men, drew up a long address to the neutral
countries, in which they said that down to the eleventh hour they had
"never dreamt of war," never thought of depriving other nations of light
and air or of thrusting anybody from his place. And yet the ink of their
protest was not yet dry when they gave themselves the lie by showing
that down to the last detail of preparation they had everything ready
for the forthcoming struggle.

Englishmen who were in Berlin and Cologne on July 81, and August 1
(before any of the nations had declared war on Germany), could see what
was happening, though no telegrams or newspapers had yet made known the
news. A tingling atmosphere of joyous expectation in the streets; the
cafés and beer-gardens crowded with civilians in soldiers' uniforms;
orchestras striking up patriotic anthems; excited groups singing
"Deutschland über Alles," or rising to their feet and jingling glasses;
then the lights put out, and a general rush made for the railway
stations--everybody equipped, and knowing his duty and his destination.


It was the old historic story of German duplicity, and the nations of
Europe had no excuse for being surprised. When the Prussian Monarchy
was first bestowed on the relatively humble family of the Höhenzollerns,
they found their territory for the most part sterile, the soil round
Berlin and about Potsdam--the favourite residence of the Margraves--a
sandy desert that could scarcely be made to yield a crop of rye or oats,
so they set themselves to enlarge and enrich it by help of an army
out of all proportion to the size and importance of their States. The
results were inevitable. When war becomes the trade of a separate class
it is natural that they should wish to pursue it at the first favourable
opportunity of conquest. That opportunity came to Prussia when Charles
VI died and the Archduchess Maria Theresa succeeded to her father by
virtue of a law (the Pragmatic Sanction), to which all the Powers
of Europe had subscribed. Frederick had subscribed to it. But,
nevertheless, in the name of Prussia, without any proper excuse or even
decent pretext, he took possession of Silesia, thereby robbing the ally
whom he had bound himself to defend, and committing the same great crime
of violating his pledged word, which Germany has now committed against

But there was one difference between the outrages of 1740 and 1914.
The great barrator made no hypocritical pretence of desiring peace.
"Ambition, interest, the desire of making people talk about me carried
the day, and I decided for war," he said. It was reserved for
Harnack and Hauptmann, not to speak of the Kaiser, to cant about the
responsibilities of "Kul-tur" (that harlot of the German dictionary,
debased by all ignoble uses), about the hastening of the kingdom of
heaven, and about the German sword being sanctified by God. But the old
German Adam remained, and when, two days before the declaration of war
with France, the German soldiers were flying to the Belgian frontier
there was no thought of the Archduke Ferdinand or of the doddering
old man on the Austrian throne, whose paternal heart had been sorely
wounded. Germany was out to rob France of her colonies--to rob her, and
the Germans knew it.

"A few centuries may have to run their course," said their own poet
Goethe (who surely knew the German soul), "before it can be said of the
German people, 'It is a long time since they were barbarians.'"

Such, then, were some of the events in the great drama of the war
which took place in Germany before the rising of the curtain. Not a
theologian, a philosopher, an historian, or a poet to recall the past of
his country, to warn it not to repeat the crime of a century and a half
before, which had stained its name for ever before the tribunals of man
and God; not a statesman to remind a generation that was too young to
remember 1870 of the miseries and horrors of war, for (alas for the
welfare of the world!) the one great German voice that could have done
so with searching and scorching eloquence (the voice of Bebel) had only
just been silenced by the grave. And so it came to pass that Germany, in
the last days of July 1914, presented the pitiful spectacle of a great
nation being lured on to its moral death-agony amid canting appeals to
the Almighty, and wild outbursts of popular joy.


Meantime what had been happening among ourselves? The far-off murmur of
the approaching wind had been heard by all of us, but as none can hope
to describe the effect on the whole Empire, perhaps each may be allowed
to indicate the character of the warning as it came to his own ears. It
was at Naples, not long after the event, that I heard how the late King
had felt about his last visit to Berlin. I was then on my way home
from Egypt, where I had spent some days at Mena, while Lord Roberts was
staying there on his way back from the Soudan. He seemed restless and
anxious. On two successive mornings I sat with him for a long hour in
the shade of the terraces which overlook the Pyramids discussing the
"German danger." After the great soldier had left for Cairo he wrote
asking me to regard our conversations as confidential; and down to this
moment I have always done so, but I see no harm now (quite the reverse
of harm) in repeating the substance of what he said so many years ago on
a matter of such infinite momentousness.

"Do you really attach importance to this scare of a German invasion?" I

"I'm afraid I do," said Lord Roberts.

"You think an enemy army could be landed on our shores?"

"As things are now, yes, I think it could."

"Do you think you could land an army on the East Coast of England and
march on to London?"

"Yes, I do."

"In a thick fog, of course?" "Without a fog," said Lord Roberts. After
that he described in detail the measures we ought to take to make such
an attack impossible and I hasten to add that, so far as I can see and
know, the precautionary measures he recommended have all been taken
since the outbreak of the war.


By that time I had, in common with the majority of my countrymen who
travelled much abroad, been compelled to recognize the ever-increasing
hostility of the German and British peoples whenever they encountered
each other on the highways of the world--their constant cross-purposes
on steamships, in railway trains, hotels, casinos, post and telegraph
offices--making social intercourse difficult and friendship impossible.
The overbearing manners of many German travellers, their aggressive and
domineering selfishness, which always demanded the best seats, the best
rooms, and the first attention, was year by year becoming more and more
intolerable to the British spirit. It cannot be said that we acquiesced.
Indeed, it must be admitted that our country-people usually met the
German claims to be the supermen of Europe with rather unnecessary
self-assertion. If an unmannerly German pushed before us at the counter
of a booking-office we pushed him back; if he shouted over our shoulders
at a telegraph office we told him to hold his tongue; and if, in
stiflingly hot weather, he insisted (as he often did) on shutting up
again and again the window of a railway carriage after we had opened it
for a breath of air, we sometimes drove our elbow through the glass for
final answer--as I saw an English barrister do one choking day on the
journey between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

These were only the straws that told how the wind blew, but they were
disquieting symptoms nevertheless to such of us as felt, with Professor
Harnack and his colleagues at the Edinburgh Conference, that by blood,
history, and faith the German and British peoples were brothers (ugly
as it sounds to say so now), each more closely bound to the other in the
world-task of civilization than with almost any other nation.

"If we are brothers we'll fight all the more fiercely for that fact," we
thought, "and, God help us, we'll fight soon."


I was staying in a neutral country at an hotel much frequented by the
German governing classes when an English newspaper proprietor, after
a visit to Berlin, published in his most popular journal a map of a
portion of Northern Europe in order to show at sight his view of the
extent of the forthcoming German aggression. The paper was lying open
between a group of gentlemen whose names have since become prominent
in relation to the war when I stepped up to the table. The men were
obviously angry, although laughing immoderately. "Look at that," said
one of them, pointing to the map and running his finger down the coast
of Holland and Belgium and France to Calais. "_He_ knows, doesn't he?"

And then, after a general burst of derisive laughter, came a bitter
attack on British journalism ("The scaremongering of that paper is
doing more than anything in the world to make war between Germany and
England"), a still fiercer and more bitter assault on our Lords of the
Admiralty, who had lately proposed a year's truce in the building of
battleships ("Tell your Mr. Churchill to mind his own business, and
we'll mind ours"), and, finally, a passionate protest that Germany's
object in increasing her navy was not to enlarge her empire, but
merely to keep the seas open to her trade. "Why," said one of the men,
"nine-tenths of my own business is with London, and if England could
shut up our ships I should be a ruined man in a month." "Quite so," said
another, "and so far as German people go that's the beginning and end of
the whole matter."


We believed it. I am compelled to count myself among the number of my
countrymen who through many years believed that story--that the accident
of Germany's disadvantageous geographical position, not her desire to
break British supremacy on the sea, made it necessary for her to enlarge
her navy. I did my best to believe it when I had to sail through the
Kiel Canal in a steamer from Lubeck to Copenhagen, which was forced to
shoulder her way through an ever-increasing swarm of German battleships.
I did my best to believe it when I had to sail under the threatening
fortresses of Heligoland which stood anchored out at the mouth of the
Bight like a mastiff at the end of his chain snarling at the sea. I did
my best to believe it when I had to travel to Cologne by night, and the
darkened railway carriages were lit up by fierce flashes from gigantic
furnaces which were making mountains of munitions for the evil day when
frail man would have to face the murderous slaughter of machine-guns.
I did my best to believe it even in Berlin when German friends of the
scholastic classes accounted for their tolerance of conscription and
of the tyranny of clanking soldiery in the streets, the cafés, and the
hotels on the ground of disciplinary usefulness rather than military

And then there was the human charm of some German homes to soothe
away suspicion--the scholar's quiet house (beyond the clattering
parade-ground at Potsdam) where we clinked glasses and drank "to all
good friends in England," and the sweet simplicity of the little town in
Westphalia, with its green fields and its sweetly-flowing river, where
the nightingale sang all night long, and where, in the midst of musical
societies, Goethe Societies and Shakespeare Societies, it was so
difficult to think of Germany as a nation dreaming only of world-power
and dominion. Even yet it strikes a chill to the heart to recall those
German homes as scenes of prolonged duplicity, I prefer not to do
so. But all the same I see now that the wings of war were already
approaching them, and that the German people heard their far-off murmur
long before ourselves--heard it and told us nothing, perhaps much less
and worse than nothing.


Into such an unpromising atmosphere of national hostility the war came
down on us, in July 1914, like a thunderbolt. In spite of grave warnings
few or none in this country were at that moment giving a thought to it.
On the contrary, we were thinking of all manner of immeasurably smaller
things, for Great Britain, although governing more than one-fifth of the
habitable globe, has an extraordinary capacity for becoming absorbed in
the affairs of its two little islands. It was so in the autumn of 1914,
when we thought Home Rule and Land Reform covered all our horizon,
although a thunder-cloud that was to silence these big little guns had
already gathered in the sky.

Perhaps it was not altogether our fault if secret diplomacy had too
long concealed from us the storm that was so soon to break. That kind
of surprise must never come to us again. Many and obvious may be the
dangers of allowing the public to participate in delicate and difficult
negotiations between nations, but if democracy has any rights surely the
chief of them is to know step by step by what means its representatives
are controlling its destiny. We did not hear what was happening in the
Cabinets of Europe, under that miserable disguise of the Archduke's
assassination, until the closing days of July. Consequently, we reeled
under the danger that threatened us, and were not at first capable of
comprehending the cause and the measure of it.

"What is this wretched conspiracy in Serbia to us, and why in God's name
should we have to fight about it?" we thought. Or perhaps, "We've always
been told that treaties between nations are safeguards of peace, but
here, heaven help us, they are dragging us into war."

So general was this sentiment of revolt during the last tragic days that
it is commonly understood to have extended to the Cabinet. Six members
are said to have opposed war. One of them, a philosopher and historian
of high distinction, could not see his way with his colleagues, and
retired from their company. Another, who came from the working-classes,
is understood to have resigned from thought of the sufferings which
any war, however justifiable, must inevitably inflict upon the poor. A
third, a lawyer in a position of the utmost authority, is believed
to have had grave misgivings about our legal right to call Germany to
account. And I have heard that a fourth, who had been prominent as a
pacifist in the days of an earlier conflict, had written a letter to a
colleague as late as the evening of August 1, saying that a war declared
merely on grounds of problematical self-interest would create such an
outcry in Great Britain as had never been heard here before--leaving us
a derided and, therefore, easily-vanquished people.


But chance plays the largest part in the drama of life, and accident
often confounds the plans of men. Not feeling entirely sure of his
letter the pacifist Minister put it in his pocket when he dressed
that night to go out to dinner. And when he sat down at table he found
himself seated next to the able, earnest, and passionately patriotic
Minister for Belgium. Perhaps he was urging some objections to British
intervention, when his neighbour said: "But what about Belgium? You have
promised to protect her, and if you don't do so she will be destroyed."

That raised visions of the work of the little nations; memories of
their immense contributions to human progress from the days of Israel
downwards; thoughts of the vast loss to liberty, to morality, to
religion, and to all the other fruits of the unfettered soul that
would come to the world from the over-riding of the weak peoples by
the strong. The result was swift and sure--the letter in the Minister's
pocket never reached the important person to whom it was addressed.

Only God knows whether this period, however short, of indecision among
our people, and particularly among our responsible statesmen, with the
consequent delay in dispatching a determined warning to Germany ("Hands
off Belgium,") contributed to the making of the war. But it is at least
an evidence of our desire for peace, and a sufficient assurance that
if unseen powers were working on our side also, they were the powers of
good. Yet so strangely do the invisible forces confound the plans of men
that the crowning proof of this came two days later--on August 8, in
the Commons--when our Foreign Minister defined the British position, and
practically declared for war.

It is not idle rumour that the Government went down to the House that
day expecting to be resisted. The sequel was a startling surprise. Sir
Edward Grey's speech was far from a great oration. It gave the effect of
being unprepared as to form, so loosely did the vehicle hang together,
the sentences sometimes coming with strange inexactitude for the tongue
of one whose written word in dispatches has a clarity and precision that
have never been excelled. But it had the supreme qualities of manifest
sincerity and transparent honesty, and it derived its overwhelming
effect from one transcendent characteristic of which the speaker himself
may have been quite unconscious. It spoke to the British Empire as to a
British gentleman. "You can't stand by and do nothing while the friend
by your side is being beaten to his knees. You can't let a mischievous
and unprincipled buccaneer tread into the dust the neighbour whom he has
joined with you in swearing to protect?" There was no resisting that
Our own interest might leave us cold; we might even be sceptical of our
danger. But we were put on our honour, and every man in the House with
the instincts of a gentleman was swept away by that appeal as by a


Then came our Prime Minister's passionate, fiery, yet dignified and even
exalted denunciation of the proposal of Germany that we should trade
with her in our neutrality by committing treachery to France and
Belgium--("To accept your infamous offer would be to cover the glorious
name of England with undying shame"); then the announcement of the
ultimatum sent by Great Britain to Germany demanding an assurance that
the neutrality of Belgium should be respected; and finally that speech
of John Redmond's, which, spoken on the very top of the crisis that had
threatened to bring a fratricidal war into Ireland, has been, perhaps,
the most thrilling and dramatic utterance yet produced by the war. "I
tell the Government they may take every British soldier out of Ireland
to meet the enemy of the Empire. Ireland's sons will take care of
Ireland. The Catholics of the South will stand shoulder to shoulder
with their Protestant fellow-countrymen of the North to fight the common

It was another appeal to the gentlemen in the British nation, and in
one moment it swept the bitter waters of the Home Rule crisis out of
all sight and memory. I have heard a Cabinet Minister say that, as he
listened to Redmond's speech, he was surprised at the silence with which
it was received. "Why isn't the House cheering?" he had asked himself.
But all at once he had felt his eyes swimming and his throat tightening,
and then he had understood.


Our nation knew everything now, and had made her choice, yet the twelve
hours' interval between noon and midnight of August 4 were perhaps the
gravest moments in her modern history. I am tempted, not without some
misgivings, but with the confidence of a good intention, to trespass so
far on personal information as to lift the curtain on a private scene in
the tremendous tragic drama.

The place is a room in the Prime Minister's house in Downing Street. The
Prime Minister himself and three of the principal members of his Cabinet
are waiting there for the reply to the ultimatum which they sent to
Germany at noon. The time for the reply expires at midnight. It is
approaching eleven o'clock. In spite of her "infamous proposal," the
Ministers cannot even yet allow themselves to believe that Germany will
break her pledged word.

She would be so palpably in the wrong. It is late and she has not yet
replied, but she will do so--she must. There is more than an hour left,
and even at the last moment the telephone bell may ring and then the
reply of Germany, as handed to the British Ambassador in Berlin, will
have reached London.

It is a calm autumn evening, and the windows are open to St. James's
Park, which lies dark and silent as far as to Buckingham Palace in the
distance. The streets of London round about the official residence are
busy enough and quivering with excitement. We British people do not go
in solid masses surging and singing down our Corso, or light candles
along the line of our boulevards. But nevertheless all hearts are
beating high--in our theatres, our railway stations, our railway trains,
our shops, and our houses. Everybody is thinking, "By twelve o'clock
to-night Germany has got to say whether or not she is a perjurer and a

Meanwhile, in the silent room overlooking the park time passes slowly.
In spite of the righteousness of our cause, it is an awful thing to
plunge a great empire into war. The miseries and horrors of warfare
rise before the eyes of the Ministers, and the sense of personal
responsibility becomes almost insupportable. Could anything be more
awful than to have to ask oneself some day in the future, awakening in
the middle of the night perhaps, after rivers of blood have been shed,
"Did I do right after all?" The reply to the ultimatum has not even yet
arrived, and the absence of a reply is equivalent to a declaration of


Suddenly one of the little company remembers something which everybody
has hitherto forgotten--the difference of an hour between the time in
London and the time in Berlin. Midnight by mid-European time would be
eleven o'clock in London. Germany would naturally understand the demand
for a reply by midnight to mean midnight in the country of dispatch.
Therefore at eleven o'clock by London time the period for the reply will
expire. It is now approaching eleven.

As the clock ticks out the remaining minutes the tension becomes
terrible. Talk slackens. There are long pauses. The whole burden of the
frightful issues involved for Great Britain, France, Belgium, Russia,
Germany--for Europe, for the world, for civilization, for religion
itself, seems to be gathered up in these last few moments. If war comes
now it will be the most frightful tragedy the world has ever witnessed.
Twenty millions of dead perhaps, and civil life crippled for a hundred
years. Which is it to be, peace or war? Terrible to think that as they
sit there the electric wires may be flashing the awful tidings, like a
flying angel of life or death, through the dark air all over Europe.

The four men are waiting for the bell of the telephone to ring. It does
not ring, and the fingers of the clock are moving. The world seems to
be on tiptoe, listening for a thunderstroke of Fate. The Ministers at
length sit silent, rigid, almost petrified, looking fixedly at floor
or ceiling. Then through the awful stillness of the room and the park
outside comes the deep boom of "Big Ben." Boom, boom, boom! No one moves
until the last of the eleven strokes has gone reverberating through the
night. Then comes a voice, heavy with emotion, yet firm with resolve,
"It's war."

When the clock struck again (at midnight) Great Britain had been at war
for an hour without knowing it.

If I have done wrong in lifting the curtain on this private scene, I
ask forgiveness for the sake of the purpose I put it to--that of showing
that it was not in haste, not in anger, but with an awful sense of
responsibility to Great Britain and to humanity that our responsible
Ministers drew the sword of our country.


If Mr. Maeterlinck's theory is sound, that this war is the visible
reflection of a vast, invisible conflict, what a gigantic battle of
the unseen forces of good and evil must have been raging throughout the
universe when Europe rose on the morning of August 5, 1914! Think what
had happened. While the light was dawning, the sun was rising, and the
birds were singing over Europe, the greater nations were preparing to
turn a thousand square miles of it into a gigantic slaughter-house.
After forty years of unbroken peace, in which civilization, as
represented by law, science, surgery, medicine, art, music, literature,
and above all religion, in their ancient and central home, had been
striving to lift up man to the place he is entitled to in the scheme of
creation, war had suddenly stepped in to drag him back to the condition
of the barbarian. From this day onward he was to live in holes in the
ground, to be necessarily unclean, inevitably verminous, and liable
to loathsome diseases. Although hitherto law-abiding, and perhaps even
pious, with an ever-developing sense of the value and sanctity of human
life, he was henceforward to take joy in the destruction of thousands
of his fellow-creatures by devilish machines of death, and not to shrink
from an opportunity of thrusting his bayonet down the throat of his
enemy. He was to set fire to churches, to throw images of Christ into
the road, and, showing no mercy to old men and women and children,
to destroy all and spare none. And why? Ostensibly because one quite
commonplace Austrian gentleman had been foully murdered, but really
because a vain and ambitious and rapidly increasing nation, living on
an arid and insufficient soil, had come to consider themselves the
master-spirits of humanity, and therefore entitled to possess the earth,
or at least give law to all other nations.

"We are doing wrong, but it is necessary to do wrong, and we shall make
amends as soon as our military necessities have been served."


What a mockery! What a waste! What a hideous reversion! What a
confession of blank failure on the part of civilization, including
morality and religion! But, happily, the invisible powers of evil had
not got it all their own way, even on that morning of August 5. Out of
the very shadow of battle great things were already being born among the
children of men, and chief among them were the spirits of sacrifice and
brotherhood. Even the cruel loss of nearly all that makes human
life worth living--cleanliness and purity and exemption from foul
disease--could be borne for the defence of truth and freedom. And then
it was worth a world of suffering to realize the first-fruits of that
golden age of brotherhood among all the nations of the earth (except
those of our enemy) which has been the peace-dream of humanity for
countless centuries.

We in Great Britain have no reason to be ashamed of how our country
answered the call. A few years before the outbreak of war I talked
about conscription with a British admiral in the cabin of his flagship.
"There's not the slightest necessity for it in this country," said the
admiral. The moment war was declared the whole nation would rise to it.
A great thrill would pass over our people from end to end of the land,
and we should have millions flocking to the colours.

The old sailor proved to be a true prophet. None of us can ever forget
the spontaneous response in August 1914 to the cry, "Your King and
country need you." To such as, like myself, are on the shadowed side of
the hill of life, and therefore too old for service, it was a profoundly
moving thing to see how swiftly our immense voluntary army sprang (as by
a miracle) out of the earth, to look at the long lines of young soldiers
passing with their regular step through the streets of London, to think
of the situations given up, of the young wives and little children
living at home on shortened means, and of the risk taken of life being
lost just when it is most precious and most sweet.

What was the motive power that impelled the young manhood of Great
Britain to this tremendous sacrifice? The thought of our country's
danger? The danger to France? The danger to Belgium? The fact that a man
named Palmerston had pledged his solemn word for them long years before
they were born, or even the mothers who bore them were born, that they
would go to their deaths rather than allow a great crime to be committed
or England's oath be broken? I don't know. I do not believe anybody
knows. But I am not ashamed of my tears when I remember it all, and sure
I am that in those first critical days of the war the invisible powers
of justice must have been fighting on our side.


Perhaps the first of the flashes as of lightning by which we have seen
the drama of the past 365 days is that which shows us the part played by
the British Navy. What a part it has been! Do we even yet recognize
its importance? Have our faithful and loyal Allies a full sense of its
tremendous effect on the fortunes of the campaign? On Sunday, August 2,
two days before the dispatch of Great Britain's ultimatum to Germany,
we saw thousands of our naval reserve flying off by special boats and
trains to their ships on our east and south coasts. On Monday, August 8,
the British Navy had taken possession of the North Sea.

It was a legitimate act of peace, yet never in this world was there a
more complete, if bloodless, victory. The great German North Sea fleet,
which (according to a calculation) had been constructed at a cost of
£300,000,000 sterling, to keep open the seas of the world to German
trade; the fleet which had, in our British view, been built with the
sole purpose of menacing British shores, was shut up in one day within
the narrow limits of its own waters!

In the light of what has happened since it is not too much to say that
if the British Fleet had taken up its cue only forty-eight hours later
the north coast of France would have been bombarded, every town on our
east coast from Aberdeen to Dover would have been destroyed, and Lord
Roberts's prophecy of German invasion would have been fulfilled. But,
thank God, the watchdogs of the British Navy were there to prevent that
swift surprise. They are there (or elsewhere) still, silently riding the
grey waters in all seasons and all weathers, waiting and watching and
biding their time, and meanwhile (in spite of the occasional marauding
of submarines, the offal of fighting craft) keeping the oceans free to
all ships except those of our enemies. And now, when we hear it said, as
we sometimes do, that Great Britain holds only thirty-five miles of land
on the battle-front in Flanders, let us lift our heads and answer, "Yes,
but she holds thirty-five thousand miles of sea."


One of the earliest, and perhaps one of the most inspiring, of the
flashes as of lightning whereby we saw the drama of the war was that
which revealed the part played by Belgium. Has history any record of
greater heroism and greater suffering? Such courage for the right! Such
strength of soul against overwhelming odds and the criminal suddenness
of surprise! Although the world has been told by Germany's spokesmen,
including Herr Ballin, Prince von Bülow, and even Professor Harnack
(all "honourable men," and the last of them a churchman), that down to a
few days before the outbreak of hostilities "not one human being" among
them had "dreamt of war," it is the fact that within a few hours of the
dispatch of Germany's ultimatum, to Belgium, before the ink of it could
yet be dry and while the period of England's ultimatum in defence of
Belgian integrity was still unexpired, the German legions were attacking

It was a cowardly and contemptible assault, but what a resistance it
met with! A little peace-loving, industrial nation, infinitely small and
almost utterly untrained, compared with the giant in arms assailing
it, having no injury to avenge, no commerce to capture, no territory
to annex, desiring only to be left alone in the exercise of its
independence, stood up for six days against the invading horde, and
hurled it back.

But war is a crude and clumsy instrument for the defence of the right,
and after a flash of Belgium's unexampled bravery we were compelled
to witness many flashes of her terrible sufferings. Liège fell before
overwhelming numbers, then Namur, Ter-monde, Brussels, Louvain, and,
last of all, Antwerp. What a spectacle of horror! The harvests of
Belgium trodden into the earth, her beautiful cities and ancient
villages given up to the flames, her historic monuments, that had
been associated with the learning and piety of centuries, razed to the
ground; and, above everything in its pathos and pain, the multitudes
of her people, old men, old women, young girls, and little children
in wooden shoes, after the unnameable atrocities of a brutalized,
infuriated, and licentious soldiery, flying before their faces as before
a plague!


But there were flashes of almost divine light in the black darkness
of Belgium's tragedy, and perhaps the brightest of them surrounded the
person of her King. What King Albert did in those dark days of August
1914, to keep the soul of his nation alive in the midst of the immense
sorrow of her utter overthrow his nation alone can fully know. But we
who are not Belgians were thrilled again and again by the inspired tones
of a great Spirit speaking to his subjects with that authority, dignity,
and courage which alone among free nations are sufficient to unite the
people to the Throne.

"A country which defends its liberties in the face of tyranny commands
the respect of all. Such a country does not perish." What King Albert
did for Belgium in the stand he made against German aggression is partly
known already, and will leave its record in history, but what he did
at the same time for kingship throughout the world, as well as in his
country, can only be realized by the few who are aware that almost
at the moment of the outbreak of war the Belgian Courts (much to the
unmerited humiliation of Belgium) were on the eve of such disclosures
in relation to the life and death of the King's predecessor as would
certainly have shaken the credit of monarchy for centuries.

Nobody who ever met the late King Leopold could have had any doubt that
he was a great man, if greatness can be separated from goodness and
measured solely by energy of intellect and character. I see him now as
I saw him in a garden of a house on the Riviera, the huge, unwieldy
creature, with the eyes of an eagle, the voice of a bull and the flat
tread of an elephant, and I recall the thought with which I came away:
"Thank God that man is only the King of a little country! If he had been
the sovereign of a great State he would have become the scourge of the

After King Leopold's death, accident brought me knowledge of astounding
facts of his last days which were shortly to be exposed in Court--of
the measure of his unnatural hatred of his children; of his schemes
to deprive them of their rightful inheritance; of his relations with
certain of his favourites and his death-bed marriage to one of them;
of the circumstances attending the surgical operation which immediately
preceded the extinction of his life; of the burning of endless documents
of doubtful credit during the night before the knife was used; of the
intrigues of women of questionable character over the dying man's body
to share the ill-got gold he had earned in the Congo, and finally of his
end, not in his palace, but in a little hidden chalet, alone save for
one scheming woman and one calculating priest. What a story it was,
whether true or false, or (as is most probable) partly true and partly
false, of shame, greed, lust, and life-long duplicity! And all this dark
tale was (one way or other) to be told in the cold light of open
Court, to the general discredit of monarchy, by showing the world how
contemptible may be some of the creatures who control the destinies of

But the war and King Albert's part in it saved Belgium from that
unmerited obloquy. The modest, retiring, studious, almost shy but heroic
young sovereign who, with his valiant little band, is fighting by the
side of our own king's soldiers, and the soldiers of the Republic of
France, has sustained the highest traditions of kingship. He may have
lost his country at the hands of a great Power, drunk with pride, but he
has won Immortality. He may have no more land left to him than his tent
is pitched upon, but his spiritual empire is as wide as the world. He
may be a king without a kingdom, but he still reigns over a kingdom of


The next flash as of lightning that revealed to us the progress of the
drama of the past 365 days came at the end of the first month of the war
with the terrible story of Mons. That touched us yet more closely than
the tragedy of Belgium, for it seemed at first to be our own tragedy.
Between the departure of an army and the first news of victory or defeat
there is always a time of exhausting suspense. At what moment our first
Expeditionary Force had left England no one quite knew, but after we
learned that it had landed in France we waited with anxious hearts and
listened with strained ears.

We heard the tramp of the gigantic German army, pouring through the
streets of Brussels, fully equipped down to its kitchens, its
smoking coffee-wagons, its corps of gravediggers, and, of course, its
cuirassiers in burnished helmets that were shining in the autumn sun.
The huge, interminable, apparently irresistible multitude! Regiment
after regiment, battalion after battalion, going on and on for hours,
and even days--the mighty legions of the nation that a few days before
had "never so much as dreamt" of war!

At last we had news of our men. Against overwhelming odds they had
fought like heroes--why shouldn't they, since they were Englishmen?--but
had been compelled to fall back at length, and were now retreating
rapidly, some reports said flying in confusion, broken and done. What?
Was it possible? Our army thrown back in disorder? Our first army, too,
the flower of the fighting men of the world? It was too monstrous, too

The news was cruelly, and even wickedly, exaggerated, but nevertheless
it did us good. He knows the British character very imperfectly who does
not see that the qualities in which it is unsurpassed among the races
of mankind are those with which it meets adversity and confronts the
darkest night. Within a few days of the report that our soldiers were
falling back from Mons, the old cry "Your King and country need you"
went through the land with a new thrill, and hundreds of thousands of
free men leapt to the relief of the flag.

There has been nothing like it in the history of any nation. And it is
hard to say which is the more moving manifestation of that moment in the
great drama of the war--the spontaneous response of the poor who sprang
forward to defend their country, though they had no more material
property in it than the right to as much of its soil as would make their
graves, or the splendid reply of the rich whose lands were an agelong
possession, and often the foundation of their titles and honours.


What startling surprises! We of the lower, the middle, or the
upper-middle classes had come to believe that too many of the young men
of our nobility had grown effeminate in idleness and selfish pleasure
indulged in on the borderland of a kind of aristocratic Bohemia, but,
behold! they were fighting and dying with the bravest. We had thought
too many of their young women (as thoughtless and capricious creatures
of fashion) had sacrificed the finest bloom of modest and courageous
womanhood in luxury and self-indulgence; but, lo! they were hurrying
to the battlefields as nurses, and there facing without flinching the
scenes of blood and horror, of foul sights and stenches, which make the
bravest man's heart turn sick.

Some of the scenes at home in those last days of August and early days
of September were yet more affecting. The first of our casualty lists
had been published, and they were terrible. They hit the old people
hardest, the old fathers and old mothers who had given all, and had
nothing left--not even a little child to live for. At the railway
stations, when fresh troops were leaving for the front, you saw sights
which searched the heart so much that you felt ashamed to look, feeling
they opened sanctuaries in which God's eye alone should see.

Old Lady So-and-So seeing her youngest son off to Flanders. She has lost
two of her sons in the war already, and Archie is the last of them. The
dear old darling! It is pitiful to see her in her deep black, struggling
to keep up before the boy. But when the train has left the platform and
she can no longer wave her handkerchief she breaks down utterly. "I've
seen the last of him," she says; "something tells me I've seen the last
of him. And now I've given everything I have to the country."

Ah! that's what you have all got to do, or be prepared to do, you brave
mothers of England, if you have to defeat a desperate enemy, who stoops
to any method, any crime.

Then old Lord Such-a-One at Victoria to meet the body of his only son
being brought back from the hospital at Boulogne. How proud he had been
of his boy! He could remember the day he captained for Eton at Lord's,
or perhaps rowed stroke--and won--for Cambridge. And now on the field
of Flanders.... He had seen it coming, though. He had thought of it when
the war broke out. "Ours is an old family," he had told himself, "four
hundred years old, and my son is the last of us. If I let him go to the
war my line may end, my family may stop... but then liberty must go on,
civilization must go on, and... England!"

Yes, it must be night before the British star will shine.


Perhaps the next great flash as of lightning whereby we saw the drama
of the past 365 days was that which revealed at its sublimest moment
the part played by France. In those evil days of July 1914, when German
diplomacy was carrying on the indecent pretence of quarrelling with
France about Austria's right to punish Serbia for the assassination of
the Archduke Ferdinand, there were Frenchmen still living who had vivid
memories of three bloody campaigns. Some could remember the Crimean War.
More could recall the Italian War of 1859, which brought the delirious
news of the victory of Magenta, and closed with Solferino, and the
triumphant march home through the Place de la Bastille, and down the Rue
de la Paix. And vast numbers were still alive who could remember 1870,
when the Emperor was defeated at Worth and conquered at Sedan; when
Paris was surrounded by a Prussian army, when the booming of cannon
could be heard on the boulevards; when tenderly nurtured women, who had
never thought to beg their bread, had been forced by the hunger of their
children to stand in long queues at the doors of the bakers' shops; when
the city was at length starved into submission, and the proud French
people, with their immemorial heritage of fame, were compelled to permit
the glittering Prussian helmets to go shining down their streets.

A new generation had been born to France since even the last of these
events, but was it with a light heart that she took up the gage which
Germany so haughtily threw down? Indeed, no! Never had France, the
bright, the brilliant, the cheerful-hearted, shown the world a graver

A few students across the Seine might shout "A Berlin! A Berlin!" just
as our boys in khaki chalked up the same address on their gun carriages.
Idlers in blouses along the quays might scream the "Marseillaise." Gangs
of ruffians in back streets might break the windows of the shops of
German tradespeople. Some bitter old campaigners might talk about
revenge. But when the drums beat for the French regiments to start away
for Alsace and the Belgian frontier, the heart of France was calm and

"This is a fight for the right, for France, and for the freedom of our


Then when the men had gone there came that anxious silence in which
every ear was strained to catch the first cry from the army. Would it
be victory or defeat? In the strength of her new-born spirit France was
ready for either fate. The streets of Paris were darkened; the theatres
were shut up; the cafés were ordered to close at nine o'clock; the sale
of absinthe was prohibited that Frenchmen might have every faculty alert
to meet their destiny; and the principal hotels were transformed into
hospitals for the wounded that would surely come.

They came. We were allowed to see their coming, and in those early days
of the war, before the Red Cross companies had got properly to work,
the return of the first of the fallen among the French soldiery made a
terrible spectacle. At suburban stations, generally in the middle of
the night, long lines of third-class railway carriages, as well as
rectangular, box-shaped cattle wagons, such as in conscript countries
are used for purposes of mobilization, would draw up out of the

Instantly hundreds of pale, wasted, generally bearded, and often wounded
faces would appear at the windows, crying out for coffee or chocolate.
Then the cattle wagons would be unbolted, and the great doors thrown
back, disclosing six or eight men in each, lying outstretched on straw,
with their limbs swathed in blood-stained bandages, and their eyes
glazed with pain. They were the brave fellows who, a few weeks before,
had gone to Flanders in the pride and prime of their strength. In some
cases they had lain like that for two whole days on their long way back
from the fighting line, with no one to give them meat or drink, with
nothing to see in the darkness of their moving tomb and nothing to hear,
except the grinding of the iron wheels beneath them, and the cries of
the comrades by their side.

"Mon Dieu! Que de souffrances! Qui l'aurait cru possible? O mon Dieu,
aie pitié de moi."


Still the soul of France did not fail her. It heard the second approach
of that monstrous Prussian horde, which, like a broad, irresistible
tide, sweeping across one half of Europe, came down, down, down
from Mons until the thunder of its guns could again be heard on the
boulevards. And then came the great miracle! Just as the sea itself can
rise no higher when it has reached the top of the flood, so the mighty
army of Germany had to stop its advance thirty kilomètres north of
Paris, and when it stirred again it had to go back. And back and back it
went before the armies of France, Britain, and Belgium, until it reached
a point at which it could dig itself into the earth and hide in a long
serpentine trench stretching from the Alps to the sea. Only then did
the spirit of France draw breath for a moment, and the next flash as of
lightning showed her offering thanks and making supplications before the
white statue of Jeanne d'Arc in the apse of the great cathedral of Notre
Dame, sacred to innumerable memories. On the Feast of St Michael 10,000
of the women of Paris were kneeling under the dark vault, and on the
broad space in front of the majestic façade, to call on the Maid of
Orleans to % intercede with the Virgin for victory. It was a great and
grandiose scene, recalling the days when faith was strong and purer.
Old and young, rich and poor, every woman with some soul that was dear
to her in that inferno at the front--the Motherhood of France was there
to pray to the Mother of all living to ask God for the triumph of the

"Jesus, hear our cry for our country! Justice for France, O God!"

And in the spirit of that prayer the soul of France still lives.


The next of the flashes as of lightning that revealed the drama of the
past 365 days came to us at Christmas. The war had then been going on
five months, showing us many strange and terrible sights, but nothing
stranger and more terrible than the changed aspect of warfare itself.
A battlefield had ceased to be a scene of pomp and of personal prowess,
with the charging of galloping cavalry, the clash of glittering arms,
and the advancing and retiring of vast numbers of soldiery. It was now a
broad and desolate waste, in which no human figure was anywhere visible
as far as the eye could reach--a monstrous scar on the face of the
globe, such as we see in volcanic countries, only differing in the
evidence of design that came of long, parallel lines of turned-up soil,
which were the trenches wherein hundreds of thousands of men lived
under the surface of the ground. Over this barren waste there was almost
perpetual smoke, and through the smoke a deafening cannonading, which
came of the hurling through the air of scythes of steel, called shells.
Sometimes the shells were burying themselves unbroken in the empty
earth, but too often they were scouring the trenches, where they were
bursting into jagged parts and sending up showers of horrible fragments
which had once been the limbs of living men.

Such was warfare by machinery as the world caught its first, full,
horrified sight of it between the beginning of August and the end of
December 1914. But even out of that maelstrom of horror there had been
glimpses of great things--great heroisms, great victories, and great
proofs of the power to endure. A rigid censorship, rightly designed to
keep back from the enemy the information that would endanger the lives
of our soldiers, was also keeping us in ignorance of many glorious
incidents of the war such as would have thrilled us up to our throbbing
throat. But some of them could not possibly be concealed, so we heard of
the gallant stand of the dauntless sons of our daughter Canada, and we
saw our great old warrior, Lord Roberts, going out to the front in his
eighty-third year to visit his beloved Indian troops, dying as was
most fit on the battlefield, within sound of the guns in the war he had
foretold, and then being brought home, borne through the crowded streets
of London and buried under the dome of St. Paul's, amid the homage of
his Bang and people.


Then, as the year deepened towards winter, the rains came, torrential
rains such as we thought we had never known the like of before. We
heard that the trenches were flooded, and that our soldiers were eating,
sleeping, and fighting ankle-deep (sometimes knee-deep) in water. At
night, on going to our white beds at home, we had remorseful visions of
those slimy red ruts in Flanders where our boys were lying out in the
drenching rain under the heavy darkness of the sky. It was hard to
believe that human strength could sustain itself against such cruel
conditions, and indeed it often failed.

Towards Christmas tens of thousands of our men had to be brought home
to our hospitals, many of them wounded, but not a few suffering from
maladies which made them unfit for military service. The accident of
being asked to distribute presents enabled me to see and talk
with hundreds of them. It was a sweet and exhilarating yet rather
nerve-racking experience. These young fellows, who had looked on death
in its most horrible aspects, having had it for their duty to kill as
many Germans as possible, and then to eat and sleep as if nothing had
occurred--had they been degraded, brutalized, lowered in the scale of
human creatures by their awful ordeal?

The sequel surprised me. The veil of mist with which a London winter
enshrouds the beginnings of night and day had only just risen when on
Christmas morning I reached the wounded soldiers' ward in the first of
the hospitals I visited. The sweet place was decked out with holly
and mistletoe. Forty or fifty men were lying there in their beds, some
bandaged about the head, a few about the face, more about the body,
arms, and legs. None of them seemed to be in serious pain, and nearly
all were cheerful, even bright, boyish, and almost childlike. What
stories they had to tell of the inferno they had come from! It was hell,
infernal hell. They would go back, of course, when they were better, and
had to do so, but if anybody said he _wanted_ to go back he was telling
a damn'd lie.

One boy, scarcely out of his teens, with soft, womanly eyes, light hair,
and a face that made me sure he must be the living image of his mother,
had had a narrow escape. After being wounded he had been taken prisoner
to a farmhouse. Nobody there had done anything for him, and at length,
after many hours, watching his opportunity, he had crept into the
darkness and got back to the British trenches by crawling for nearly a
quarter of a mile on hands and knees.

Another young soldier, an Irishman, told me a brave story, such as might
have been allowed, I thought, to scratch and scrape its way through the
thorn hedge of the strictest censorship. It was a story of the great
days before the armies had dug themselves into the earth like rabbits.
Perhaps I had heard something about it? I had. Eight hundred of his
cavalry regiment had ridden full gallop into a solid block of the enemy,
making a way through them as wide as Sackville Street. At length the
Germans in front had dropped their rifles and held up their hands,
whereupon our men had ceased to slay. But, being unable to rein in their
frantic horses, they had been compelled to gallop on. Then, while their
backs were turned, the treacherous Huns had picked up their rifles and
fired on them from behind, killing many of our best men.

"And what did you do then?" I asked.

"Turned back and----"

"And what?"

"Took one man alive, sor."

"And the rest?"

"Left them there, sor."

"And how many of you got back?"

"Less than two hundred, sor."


Then Christmas in the trenches--we had glimpses of that, too. The people
who governed nations from their Parliament Houses might have doubts
about the peace-dream of the poets, the Utopia of universal brotherhood
which gleams somewhere ahead in the far future of humanity, but the
soldiers on the battlefields, even in the welter of blood and death had
somehow heard the call of it.

The appeal of the Pope for a truce to hostilities during the days
sacred to the Christian faith had fallen on deaf ears in the Cabinets of
Europe. In that zone of mutual deception which is another name for war,
neither of the belligerents could trust the other not to take an unfair
advantage of any respite from slaying that might be called in the name
of Christ, and, therefore, the armies must continue to fight. But
the men in the trenches had found for them-selves a better way. When
Christmas Eve came they began--German and British--to talk about
Christmas Eves which they had spent at home. Visions arose of crowded
streets, of shops decorated with holly and mistletoe, of churches with
little candle-lit Nativities, of Christmas-trees at home laden with
fairy lamps and presents, of children sitting up late to dance and laugh
and then hanging up their stockings before going to bed to dream of
Santa Claus, of church bells ringing for midnight mass, and, last of
all, of the "waits" by the old cross in the market-place in the midst of
the winter frost and snow.

Suddenly in one of the trenches some of the soldiers began to sing. They
sang a Christmas carol, "While shepherds watched their flocks by night."
The soldiers in the parallel trenches of the enemy heard it, knew what
it was, and joined in with another Christmas carol, sung in their own
language. In a little while both sides were singing, each in its turn,
listening and replying, all along the two dark gullies that stretched
across blood-stained Europe. Then Chinese lanterns were lit and stuck
up on the head of the trenches, and salutations were shouted across the
narrow ground between. "Merry Christmas to you, Fritz, old man!" "Same
to you, Tommy!" And then next morning, Christmas morning, in the grey
light of the late dawn, some daring soul, clambering over the trench
head, marched boldly up to the line of the enemy with the salutation
of the sacred day. In another moment everybody was up and out, shaking
hands, and posing for photographs, friend and foe, German and British.

After a while they became aware that the ground they were standing on
was like an unroofed charnel-house, littered over with the bodies of
their unburied dead. So they set themselves to cover up their comrades
in the earth, never asking which was British and which German, but
laying them all together in the everlasting brotherhood of death--that
English boy whose mother was waiting for him in England, and this German
lad whose young wife was weeping in his German home.

My God, why do men make wars?


But perhaps, as Zola says, it is only the soft-hearted philosophers who
are loud in their curses of war, and the truer wisdom was that of the
stoical ancients, who could look with indifference on the massacre of
millions. To keep manly, to remind ourselves that the generations come
and go, that after all people die, and that more die one year than
another--this should be the wise man's way of reconciling himself to the
inhumanities of war. It is horrible doctrine, but certainly nature seems
to speak with that voice, and hence the pang that came to us with the
next great flash as of lightning, which showed us the battle-front at
the beginning of the spring.

The long lines in the West had hardly changed so much as a single point
to north or south since October 1914. Yet what horrors of conflict
the intervening months had witnessed, bloody in their progress, though
barren in their results! The storms of the spring (which in much of
Northern Europe is only another name for a second winter) had gone
through it all. Our soldiers had suffered frightfully, and some of us at
home, awakening in the middle of stormy nights, had thought we heard the
booming of far-off guns under the thunder of the sky.

Three millions of men were dead by this time, and that belt of green
country, which many of us had crossed with light hearts a score of
times, was nothing now but a vast graveyard stretching from the foot of
the Swiss mountains to the margin of the North Sea. Here a charred and
blackened mass of stones, which had once been a group of houses; there a
cottage by the roadside, once sweet and pretty under its mantle of wild
roses, now hideous with a gaping hole torn in its walls, and its little
bed visible behind curtains that used to be white. And yet Nature was
going on the same as ever--hardly giving a hint that the Great Death had
passed that way. Our boys at the front wrote home that the leaves were
beginning to show on the trees, that the grass was growing again, and
that in the lulls of the cannonading they could hear the birds singing.


We found it heart-breaking. But it has been always so. I was in Naples
during the whole period of the last great eruption of Vesuvius, and,
looking through the gloom of the heavens, piled high with the whorls of
fire and smoke that were covering the Vesuvian valleys and villages
with a grey shroud, waist deep, of volcanic dust, I thought the face of
Nature in that sweet spot could never be the same again; but when I
went back to it a year later I could see no difference. I sailed south
through the Straits of Messina a few weeks before the earthquake, and,
returning north a few months later, I looked eagerly for the change
which I imagined must have been made by the frightful upheaval of the
earth that had killed hundreds of thousands, and shaken the soul of the
entire human family, but I could see no change at all, even through
the strongest field-glasses, until I came within sight of the waste
and wreckage of the little works of men. Yes, Nature goes her own way,
winter and summer, seedtime and harvest, healing her own wounds, but
taking no thought of ours.

Yet, cruel as Nature seemed to be at the beginning of the spring, it was
not so cruel as man. With the better weather our enemies began to devise
and put into operation new and more devilish methods of warfare. Perhaps
this was a result of their fear, for there is no cruelty so cruel as
the cruelty that comes of fear, and no inhumanity so inhuman. Having
expressed themselves as shocked by our alleged use of dum-dum bullets,
they were now ransacking their laboratory for gases that would burst
the lungs of our soldiers, and for inflammable oils that would set
them afire as if they were criminals tarred and feathered and tied to a
stake. Their battleships, built to fight craft of their own kind, or at
least fortresses capable of replying to their fire, were now sent out
to bombard innocent watering-places lying breast open to the sea. Their
air-craft, constructed for reconnaissances, were ordered to drop bombs
out of the clouds on to sleeping cities in the darkness of the night.
And their submarines, tolerated by international courts only as weapons
of attack on warships, were authorized to sink harmless merchantmen,
without any word of warning, or any effort to save life. Could
scientific knowledge under the direction of moral insanity go one step
farther? Flying in the highest sky, hiding behind the densest clouds,
stealing across the heavens in the dark hours, dropping fireballs on to
the silent earth, sneaking back in the dawn; and then sailing through
the womb of the great deep, rising like a serpent to spit death at
innocent ships, diving to avoid destruction and scudding away under
cover of the empty sea--what a spectacle of divine power at the service
of devilish passion! It was difficult to believe that our enemies had
not gone mad. They were no longer fighting like men, but like demons.


The crowning horror of Germany's barbarities came with the sinking of
the _Lusitania_.

Perhaps nothing less shocking could have made us see how much less
cruel Nature is at her worst than man in his madness may be. Three years
before the _Titanic_ had been sunk on a clear and quiet night, because
a great iceberg formed in the frozen north had floated silently down
to where, crossing the ship's course in mid-Atlantic, it struck her
the slanting blow that sent her to the bottom. Thus a great, blind,
irresistible force, operating without malice or design, had in that case
destroyed more than a thousand human lives. But when the _Lusitania_
was sunk in broad daylight, and nearly as many persons perished, it was
because our brother man, in the bitterness of his heart and the cruelty
of his fear, had been bent on committing wilful murder.

What is the present state of the soul of the person who perpetrated that

Can he excuse himself on the ground that he was obeying orders, or does
his conscience refuse to be chloroformed into silence by that hoary old
subterfuge? When he first saw the great ship sailing up in the sunshine,
its decks crowded with peaceful passengers, and he rose like a murderer
out of his hiding-place in the bowels of the sea, what were the feelings
with which he ordered the torpedo to be fired? When, having launched his
bolt, he sank and then rose again, and heard the drowning cries of his
victims struggling in the water, what were the emotions with which he
ran away? And when he returned to tell his story of the work he had
done, with what dignity of manhood did he hold up his head in the
company of Christian men? God knows--only God and one of his creatures.


For the credit of human nature we feel compelled, in sight of such
enormities, to go back to Mr. Maeterlinck's theory that invisible powers
of evil are using man for the execution of devilish designs. But if so,
they have had no mercy on their creatures. We read that when, in fear of
another flood, not trusting the promises of the Almighty, the children
of Noah began to build a Tower of Babel, the Lord sent a confusion of
tongues among them to bring their design to destruction. The excuses
the Germans have offered for their barbarities suggest a confusion of
intellect that can only lead to a like result. Has the world ever before
listened to such whirlwind logic?

When a German submarine has sunk a British merchantman and left her crew
to perish we have been told that she was performing a legitimate act of
war. But when a British merchantman has mounted a gun in order to defend
herself, she has been said to violate the law of nations. When British
battleships have blockaded German ports they have been trying to starve
sixty-five millions of German people. But when German submarines have
attempted to blockade British ports by drowning a thousand passengers
of many nations on a British liner, they have been executing a just
revenge. When a neutral nation in Europe has supplied foodstuffs
and materials of war to Germany, she has been doing an act of simple
humanity. But when the United States has supplied foodstuffs and
materials of war to Great Britain she has been breaking the laws of her
neutrality. When a brutal German officer has shot a British civilian in
a railway train he has committed a justifiable homicide and becomes a
proper person for promotion. But when a Belgian civilian has killed a
German soldier who violated his daughter before his eyes he has been
guilty of assassination and quite properly shot at sight. When Germany
has refused to honour her name to a "scrap of paper" she has been a holy
martyr obeying a law of necessity. But when England has honoured hers
she has been a holy humbug, whose hypocrisy deserved to be exposed.
Therefore God punish England! Above all, when God has crowned the arms
of Germany with success on the battlefield, his most Christian Majesty,
William the Pious, has always been with Him. Therefore God bless the

Surely confusion of intellect can go no further, and the German Tower of
Babel must soon fall.


But out of this failure of logic on the part of "deep-thinking Germany"
a danger came to us from nearer home than the battlefield. One of the
most vivid flashes as of lightning whereby we have seen the drama of
the past 365 days was that which, immediately after the sinking of the
_Lusitania_, showed us the full depths of the "alien peril." Before the
war we had had fifty thousand German-born persons living in our midst.
They had enjoyed the whole freedom of our commerce, the whole justice of
our law courts, and the whole protection of our police. Many of them had
married our British women, who had borne them British children. Most of
them had learned to speak our language, and some of us had learned to
understand their own. A few had become British subjects, and many had
been honoured by our King. Our music, literature, and art had become
theirs. Shakespeare had, in effect, become a German poet, and Wagner
a British composer. The barriers between our races had seemed to break
down, and even such of us as had small hope of a golden age of universal
brotherhood had begun to believe that marriage, mutual interest,
education, and environment were making us one with these strangers
within our gates.

Then came a startling awakening. We realized beyond possibility of doubt
that many thousands of our German aliens had been keeping up a dual
responsibility, and that the chief of their two duties had been duty
to their own country. We found beyond question that a settled system
of espionage was at work in Great Britain, under the direction of the
German authorities; that information which could only be of use in the
event of invasion had for many years been gathered up by some of the
people whom we had called our friends, and that day by day and hour
by hour, as the war went on, secrets valuable to our enemy had been
filtering through to Germany from influential places in this country.

What a shock to our sense of security, our pride, and even our
self-respect! The horror of the discovery reached its highest point at
the time of the sinking of the great liner, for then it was realized
that there could be no limit to the expression of German cruelty. It is
one of the effects of the spirit of cruelty to strike its victims with
moral blindness. If it were possible that the German conscience could
justify murder on the sea, why should it not justify it on land? Why
should not our German governesses burn down the houses in which our
children lay asleep? Why should not a German secretary attempt to
assassinate one of our public ministers? War was war, and whatever was
necessary was right.

"We are doing wrong, but it is necessary to do wrong, and necessity
knows no law."


About this time also we became conscious of a fierce, delirious,
intoxicating hate of our people which was developing in the hearts of
our enemies. Before the outbreaking of the war it had been Russia and
the Russians who had (by inherited antipathy from the founder of the
German Empire) been the chief objects of German hatred. Now it was
Britain and the British. Hymns of Hate (our enemies called it "sacred
hate") were composed, recited, and sung:

     French and Russian, they matter not,
     A blow for a blow, and a shot for a shot,
     We love them not, we hate them not,
     We love as one, we hate as one,
     We have one foe, and one alone--

England was not moved to retaliate in kind. We remembered what the
German Churchmen had said about our Teutonic brotherhood, and allowed
ourselves to believe that this was only the call of the blood in the
German race--the mad, bad blood of fratricidal hate, the most devilish
hate of all. We also reflected that it was a form of hatred not
unfamiliar in asylums for the insane, where it has always been equally
tragic and pitiful in its effects, and certain to recoil on the
sufferer's own head. But as no sane father of a family would make
free of his children's nursery the deranged relative who required the
protection and restraint of the padded room, we decided that there
was only one safe way with our aliens as a whole--to shut them up. God
forbid that any of us should say that all our German aliens were under
suspicion of criminal intentions. On the contrary, we know that some
of them are among the sincere friends of Great Britain, passionately
opposing Germany's objects in this war and loathing Germany's methods.
We know, too, that a few belong to that rare company whose sympathies
can rise even higher than nationality into the realm of "human empire."
We also know that countless persons, long resident in this country, and
deeply attached to the land of their adoption, have suffered unspeakable
hardships from the accident of German origin. It is painful to think
of some of the people who frequented our houses, whose houses we
frequented, whose wives and children are our kindred, being shut
up behind barbed wire in open encampments. But these are among the
inevitable cruelties of a war for which we are not responsible. In
putting the great body of our enemy aliens under control we did no more
than our plain duty to the soldiers who were fighting for us at the
front. What will happen to them (and us) when the war is over, and they
come out of their prisons, none can say. It seems as if the world can
never be the same place as before--the devil has played too hard a game
with it.


And then Russia! Distance from the scene of action, the great length
of the line of operations and the vast area behind it have made it
difficult or impossible for us to see the drama of the Russian campaign
as we have seen that of France, Belgium, and our own Empire. But we have
seen something, and it has been enough to give the lie to certain of the
emphatic protestations with which Germany made war. We had heard it said
by the German Chancellor that the fact that Russia was mobilizing in
those last days of July 1914 made it impossible for Germany to ask
Austria to extend the time-limit imposed upon Serbia--a time-limit which
would have been indecent among civilized people if it had concerned
nothing more serious than the destruction of a kennel of dogs suspected
of rabies. But all the world knows now that Russian mobilization was a
process inevitably so slow that the German armies had flung themselves
upon Belgium twelve days before the Russian advance began.

Then we had heard it said by the German Churchmen that in taking
the side of Russia we, British and French people, leaders among the
enlightened races, were helping Muscovite barbarians to oppose the cause
of civilization. But since Louvain, Termonde, and Rheims, not to
speak of the unnameable iniquities of Liège, the world knows where
the barbaric spirit of Europe had its central home--in Berlin, not in
Petrograd; in the proud hearts of the German over-lords, not the meek
ones of the Russian peasantry.


The truth, as everybody knows who knows Russia, is that "barbarous," the
classic taunt of the German against Russia, is, of all words, the least
proper as a description of the Russian mind and character. I have
myself been only once in Russia, but it was on a long visit and under
conditions which were calculated, beyond anything that has happened
since down to to-day, to reveal to me the whole secret of the Russian
soul, In 1892, when the cholera had come sweeping up from the south, I
travelled for weeks that seemed like an eternity in the little towns
of Galicia and the cities beyond the Russian frontier. The Great Death
darkened my sky over many hundreds of miles of travel. I visited the
plague spots where men's lives were being mown down at the devastating
stride of 5000 deaths a week, and where men's hearts, the nerve,
courage, sanity, and humanity of men, were being sapped and quenched and
consumed by terror and panic and despair. I saw the Russian people under
the black shadow and in the malign presence of the Great Death, living
in the dark clouds of inquietude and dread and awe. And when my visit
came to an end I left Russia with the feeling that, relatively short
as my life among the Russian people had been, I knew them because I had
been with them when their very souls lay bare.

What, then, did I see? A barbaric people? No, a thousand times, no! I
saw an uneducated people; a neglected people; a people badly fed, badly
housed, and badly protected from the cruelties of a rigorous climate;
but not a people who had naturally one barbaric impulse, if by that we
mean the "will to life" which animates the savage man. And I now say,
with all the emphasis of which I am capable, that the last reproach that
can rightly be flung at the Russian people, even the least enlightened
of them, the Russian peasants, in the darkest reaches of their vast
country, is that they are barbarians. Deeds of cruelty and of barbarity
there may be among the Russians, as there are among all peoples, and the
dehumanizing conditions inevitable to warfare may perhaps increase the
number of them, but the outrages of Louvain, Termonde, Rheims and Liège
are morally and physically impossible to the Russian race.


The truth is, too, that there is not in the world a more religious
people than the Russian--a people more submissive to what they conceive
(not always wisely) to be the will of the Almighty, the governance of
the unseen forces. As opposed to the average German intellect, which for
the past fifty years has been struggling day and night to materialize
the spiritual, the Russian intellect seems to be always trying to
spiritualize the material. No one can doubt this who has seen the
Russian peasants on their pathetic pilgrimages to the Holy Land,
standing (among the lepers, uttering their clamorous lamentations)
before the gates of the Garden of Gethsemane, or trooping in dense
crowds down the steep steps to the underground Church of the Virgin. The
literature of Russia, too, reflects this trait of the Russian soul, and
not only in the works of Pushkin, Gogol, Tourgeneiff, Tolstoy,
Repin, Dostoyevsky, and Glinka, or yet in Kuprine, Gorki, Anoutchin,
Merejkowsky, and Baranovsky, but in those simpler and perhaps cruder
writings which speak directly to uneducated minds, the same striving
after the spiritual is everywhere to be seen. Books like Treitschke's,
Nietzsche's, and Bernhardi's would be impossible in Russia, not, heaven
knows, because of their "intellectual superiority," which is another
name for braggadocio, but because of their moral insensibility, their
glorification of the physical forces of the body of man, which the
Russian mind sets lower than the unseen powers of his soul.


So the flashes as of lightning that have shown us the part Russia has
played in the drama of the past 365 days have revealed a people acting
under something very like a religious impulse. We have seen the moujiks
being mobilized in remote parts of the vast country, and have found it a
moving picture. It is probable that the war had been going on for weeks
before they heard anything about it. Almost certainly they had no clear
idea of where the fighting was, or what it was about, the theatre of
the struggle being so far away and their ignorance of the world outside
their own little communities so profound and impenetrable. We may be
sure that when the echo of the great war did at length reach them it
was quite undisturbed by any foolish pretence associated with the
assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand (that lie could only be expected
to impose on the enlightened peoples of the West) and concerned itself
solely with the safety of Russia. The humblest Russian is proud of
Russia; proud that it is so big and powerful among the nations of the
world. He will gladly die rather than see it made less, so deep is his
devotion to the long-suffering giant whose blood is throbbing in his

Therefore when the call of war came to the moujiks in their far-off
homes, we saw them answering it as if it had been the call of their
faith. First a service in the village church; then a procession behind
the village pope to the village shrine ("Now go away and fight for
Russia, my children"), then the setting off for the distant railway
station, the mothers and young wives of the soldiers marching for miles
by their sides, carrying their rifles and haversacks along the wide
roads white with dust. What scenes of human pathos! For a long time the
officers are indulgent to irregularities--have they not just left their
own dear women behind them?--but at length the word of command rings
out, and everybody not connected with the army has to go back. Ah, those
partings! Still, God is good! And hadn't Masha promised to burn a candle
to the Virgin every day while her husband is away? Ivan will come back;
yes, of course Ivan will come back, and by that time baby will be born,
and then what joy, what lifelong happiness!


From some of the greater cities of Western Russia there came flashes
of similar scenes. The memory of that time of the cholera is closely
involved for me in the thought of these tragic days, and by the light of
what I saw in Kief, in Sosnowitz, in Lublin, in Cracow, in Warsaw, and
along the line of front in poor, stricken Poland, where, as I write, men
are being mown down like grass, I seem to see what took place there
at the beginning of August 1914, and is taking place now. I see the
churches crowded and the congregations trailing out through the open
porches into the churchyards around them. Old men and women who are too
lame to struggle their way through the throng are lying under the open
windows with their sticks and crutches stretched out beside them. Others
outside are on their knees, following the services as they proceed
within, clasping their hands, making the sign of the Cross, giving the
responses, and joining in the singing.

Inside the churches, where the women kneel on one side in their bright
cotton head-scarves and the soldiers on the other in their long, dark
coats, prayers are being said for Russia, that God will protect her and
her "little Father," the Tsar, and all his faithful children, making the
dark cloud that is on their horizon to pass them by unharmed. From porch
to chancel they bend forward with their faces as near to the floor as
their close crowding will permit. Then they sing. No one who has not
been to Russia has ever heard such singing--no, not even in Rome in the
Church of the Gesu as the clock strikes midnight on the last day of the
year. There is no organ, and if there is a choir its voices are lost
in the deep swell of the melancholy wail that rises from the people.
Perhaps the morning is a bright one, and the sun is shining in dusty
sheets of dancing light through the clerestory windows on to the altar
ablaze with gold, twinkling behind its yellow candles and the bowed
heads of the priests. When the service ends the soldiers form up
in lines and march out through the kneeling crowds within and the
overflowing congregations lying prone outside.

So do the Russians make war. Not generally to the beating of drums, or
yet the singing of their searching national anthem, and assuredly not
as bloodhounds hunting for prey, but in the spirit of a simple people,
often humble in their ignorance but always strong in their faith--in the
certainty that there is something else in God's world besides greed and
gold, something higher than "the will to power," something better for a
nation than to enlarge its empire, and that is to possess its soul.

And now in their hour of trial let us salute our brave Allies in the
East. Let us assure them of the sincerity of our alliance. We rejoice
in their victories. We count their triumphs as our own. When we hear
of their reverses our hearts are full. We feel that out of the storm of
battle a great new spirit has been born into Russia, awakening her
from a sleep of centuries. We feel, too, that a great new spirit of
brotherhood has been born into the world, uniting the scattered and
divided parts of it, and that there is no more moving manifestation of
the unity of mankind than the fact that the Russian and British peoples,
after long years of misunderstanding, are now fighting for the same
cause from opposite sides of Europe. May they soon meet and clasp hands!


And then Poland. Down to the end of the first year of war the part
played by Poland has been that of absolute martyr. Like the water-mill
in Zola's story she has first been disabled by the attack of her enemies
and then destroyed by the defence of her friends. Three times the armies
of the belligerents have rolled over her, and now that they are gone
she lies stricken afresh, even yet more fiercely, under the famine and
pestilence which have stalked in the wake of war.

No more pitiful and abject picture does the terrible conflict present.
Without part or lot in the European quarrel, with little to gain and
everything to lose by it, having no such right of choice as gave glory
to the martyrdom of Belgium, Poland has had nothing to do but to endure.

At the beginning of the war, when the battery of Gerrman hatred was
directed chiefly against Russia, the world was told that the measure of
her barbarity was to be seen in the condition to which the Polish people
had been reduced under Russian rule. But did the Harnacks, Hauptmanns,
Ballins and von Bülows who put forth this plea, count on our ignorance
of Galicia, in which the condition of the Poles is immeasurably more
wretched under the rule of their Ally, Austria?

In the fateful year 1892 I travelled much in Galicia, and saw something
of the effects of Austrian government. My impressions of both were
unfavorable. From points of natural wealth and beauty, Galicia is
perhaps, of all countries, the least favoured of God. Shut out from
the warm southern winds by the Carpathian mountains, and exposed to the
northern blasts that sweep down from the broad steppes of Russia, the
long and narrow stretch of Galician territory is probably the most
inhospitable region in the western world Flat and featureless; with
swampy and ague-stricken plains, unbroken by trees and hedges; with
roads like canals, dissecting dreary wastes, black in the south, where
the loam lies, light in the north where salt is found; with rivers
without banks fraying into pools and ponds and marshes; with soppy
fields in formal stripes like the patches of a patchwork quilt; with
villages of log-houses, each having its cemetery a little apart, and its
wooden crucifix like a gibbet at a space beyond--such is a great part of
Galicia, the Polish province of Austria.

But little as Nature has done to cheer the spirits of the Poles, who
live under Austrian rule, what man has done is less. It is nothing at
all, or worse than nothing.

Thickly-sown on the eastern frontier are many densely populated
manufacturing towns, ugly and squat, and giving the effect of standing
barefoot on the damp earth. As you walk through them they look like
interminable lines of featureless streets, full of those sweating,
screaming, squabbling masses of humanity that take away all your pride
in the dignity of man's estate. The prevailing colour is yellow, the
dominant odour is noxious, the thoroughfares are narrow, and often
unpaved. In the busier quarters the shops are sometimes spacious, but
more frequently they are mere slits in the monotonous façades. When
closed, as on Sunday, these slits give the appearance of a row of prison
cells. When open they present crude pictures on the inner faces of
their doors--pictures of boots, caps, trousers, stockings or corsets, a
typology which seems to be more necessary than words to inhabitants who
have not, as a whole, been taught to read.

And then the people themselves! Perhaps there is not in all the world
a more hopeless-looking race, with their lagging lower lips, their dull
grey eyes, their dosy, helpless, exanimate expression, suggesting that
the body is half asleep and the spirit no more than half awake. To see
them slouching along the streets, or sitting in stupefied groups at the
doors of brandy-shops, passing a single bottle from mouth to mouth, is
to realize how low humanity may fall in its own esteem under the rule
of an alien government. To watch them at prayer in their little Catholic
churches is to feel that they have been made to think of themselves as
the least of God's creatures, unworthy to come to His footstool--always
ready to kiss the earth, and never daring to lift their eyes to heaven,
having no right, and hardly any hope.

Such are the poorer and more degraded of the Poles in the Austrian
crownland of Galicia, which has lately been swept by war (along the
banks of the Vistula, the Dniester, and the Bug), and is now perishing
of hunger, and being devastated by disease. And when I ask myself what
has been the root-cause of a degradation so deep in a people who once
laboured for the humanities of the world and upheld the traditions of
Culture, I find only one answer--the suppression of nationality! In that
fact lies the moral of Galicia's martyrdom. Let Belgium's nationality
be suppressed as Germany is now trying to suppress it, and her condition
will soon be like that of Austrian Poland. You cannot expect to keep
the body of a nation alive while you are doing your best to destroy its


It is a fearful thing to murder, or attempt to murder, the soul of a
nation. The call that comes to a people's heart from the soil that gave
them birth is a spiritual force which no conquering empire should dare
to kill. How powerful it is, how mysterious, how unaccountable, and how
infinitely pathetic! The land of one's country may be so bleak, so bare,
so barren, that the stranger may think God can never have intended that
it should be trodden by the foot of man, yet it seems to us, who were
born to it, to be the fairest spot the sun shines upon. The songs of
one's country may be the simplest staves that ever shaped themselves
into music, yet they search our hearts as the loftiest compositions
never can. The language of one's country (even the dialect of one's
district) may be the crudest corruption that ever lived on human lips,
yet it lights up dark regions of our consciousness which the purest of
the classic tongues can never reach. Do we not all feel this, whatever
the qualities or defects of our native speech--every Scotsman, every
Irishman, every Welshman, nay, every Yorkshireman, every Lancashireman,
every Devonshireman, when he hears the word and the tone which belong to
his own people only? There are phrases in the Manx and the Anglo-Manx
of my own little race which I can never hear spoken without the sense
of something tingling and throbbing between my flesh and my skin. Why?
Because it is the home-speech of my own island, and whatever she is,
whatever fate may befall her, however she may treat me, she is my mother
and I am her son.

Such is the mighty and mysterious thing which we call a nation's
soul. Nobody can explain it, nobody can account for it, but woe to the
presumptuous empire which tries to wipe it out. It can never be wiped
out. Crushed and trodden on it may be, as Austria has crushed and
trodden on the soul of Austrian Poland, and as Germany has crushed and
trodden on the soul of Prussian Poland, when they have fallen so low
in the scale of civilized peoples as to flog Polish school children for
refusing to learn their catechism and say their prayers in a language
which they cannot understand. But to kill the soul of a nation is
impossible. The German Chancellor could not do that when he violated the
body of Belgium. And though Warsaw has fallen the fatuous Prince Leopold
of Bavaria, with his preposterous proclamations, cannot kill the soul of

At Cracow in 1892 I tried to buy for one of my children the little
Polish national cap, but after a vain search for it through many
shops (where I was generally suspected of being a spy for the Austrian
police), the cap was brought to me at night, in my private room,
by shopkeepers who had been afraid to sell it openly in the day.
At Wieliezhe, I, with some forty persons of various nationalities
(including the usual contingent of detectives), descended the immense
and marvellous salt-mine which is now used as a show place for
visitors. After passing, by the flare of torches, down long galleries
of underground workings, we were plunged into darkness by a rush of wind
over a subterranean river through which we had to shoulder our way on
a raft. Then suddenly, no face being visible in that black tunnel under
the earth, the Polish part of our company broke into a wild, fierce,
frenzied singing of their national anthem which, in those days, they
dare not sing on the surface and in the light: "Poland is not lost for
ever; she will live once more."

No, Poland is not lost for ever! She will live once more!


And Italy! Although it is only since May that Italy has stood by our
side on the battle-front, in an effort to avert from the world a new
military domination, we have known from the beginning that her heart was
with the Allies, and she was willing to stake all, when her time came,
for the same principles of humanity and freedom. A Roman friend tells me
that he heard an Italian statesman say, "Italy always meant war." We can
well believe it. We have believed it from the first. On one of the early
days of August, when a British regiment was passing through the streets
of London on its way to Charing Cross, it was noticed that an old man in
a red shirt and a peaked cap was marching with a proud step by the side
of our soldiers. He turned out to be a Garibaldian, who had been living
many years in Soho. Having dug up from his time-eaten trunk the simple
regimentals of the army of the Liberator, he had come out to walk with
our boys on the first stage of their journey to France. In the person
of that old soldier of liberty we saw and saluted Italy--Italy that had
known what it was to make her own sacrifices for the right, and was now
ready to show us her sympathy in this supreme crisis in our history.

But she had a trying, almost a tragic, time. For ten long months she lay
under the quivering wing of war, in danger of attack from our enemies,
and liable to misunderstanding among ourselves. She was party to a
Triple Alliance which, ironically enough, bound her (up to a point)
to her historic adversary, Austria, as well as to that Germany whose
emperors had again and again sent their legions south in vain efforts to
rule even the papacy from across the Rhine.

How that alliance came to be made, and remade, against the sympathies
and aspirations of a free people is one of the mysteries of diplomacy
which Italian history has yet to solve. Perhaps there was corruption;
perhaps there was nothing worse than honest blundering; perhaps the
frequent spectacular visits to Rome of the Kaiser William (who is almost
Oriental in his "sense of the theatre," and knows better, perhaps, than
any European sovereign since Napoleon how to apply it to real life)
played upon the eyes of the Italian race, always susceptible to
grandiose exhibitions of power and splendour. But we cannot forget the
old Austrian sore, and we remember what Antonelli is reported to have
said to Pius IX before the outbreak of the campaign of 1859: "Holy
Father, if the Italians do not go out to fight Austria, I believe, on my
honour, the nuns will do so."


The Triple Alliance was a secret document, but everybody knew that it
required Italy to join with Austria and Germany in the event of their
being compelled to engage in a defensive war. Therefore the first
question for Italy was whether the war declared by Austria against
Serbia and by Germany against Belgium, although apparently aggressive,
was in reality defensive. There was a further question for Italy--what
would happen to her if she decided against her Allies? She did decide
against them, thereby giving the lie direct to the Harnacks, Hauptmanns,
Ballins, and von Bülows who had been telling the neutral nations that
the war had been forced upon Germany. By all the laws of nations Germany
and Austria ought then, if they had honestly believed their own story,
to have declared war on Italy. They preferred to wheedle her, to try to
buy her, bribe her, corrupt her, body and soul.

They failed. After flooding the peninsula with lying literature,
directed chiefly against ourselves, Germany sent back to the Italian
capital its most astute statesman, who was married to a much-admired
Italian woman. It was all in vain. Italy knew her own mind and had made
reckoning with her own heart. She had begun with contempt for the nation
which could invade Serbia, under the pretence of avenging the murder
of the Archduke Ferdinand, and with loathing for the other nation which
could violate Belgium after it had sworn to protect her, and now she
went on to hatred and horror of the perpetrators of the outrages in
Liège, in Louvain, and in Rheims, that were scorching men's eyes in the
name of war.

Still, Italy, although separating herself from her former allies, was
not yet taking sides against them. Why? If their war was an aggressive
and unjustifiable one, why could not Italy say so at once with her sword
as well as her pen? There was a period of uncertainty, impatience, even
of misunderstanding among her own people. Whispers reached them that
their King had said (he never had) that he had given his "kingly word"
for it that if Italy could not fight with her former friends she should
not fight against them. This was a blow to Italian aspirations, for
Victor Emmanuel III is the best-beloved man in Italy, the father of his
people, whose heads would bow before his will even though their hearts
were torn.

Then came negotiations with Austria about the restoration of provinces
which had once belonged to Italy and were still inhabited by Italians.
It looked like paltering and peddling, like sale and barter. The people
were losing patience; they thought time was being wasted. Beyond the
Alps men were dying for liberty in a mighty struggle against the worst
tyranny that had ever threatened the world, yet Italy was doing nothing.

But the people did not know all. Even then their country was already
at war within the limits of her own frontier--silently in her tailors'
workshops, where uniforms were being sewn for the immense army she was
soon to call into the field, audibly in the forges of Milan and Terni,
where vast quantities of munitions were being hammered out for a long


Then, by one of the most vivid, if pathetic, of the flashes as of
lightning that have shown us the drama of the past 365 days, we saw the
actual war come to Italy. It came in a profoundly impressive form--the
dead body of young Bruno Garibaldi, grandson of the Liberator. Fighting
for France, Bruno had fallen in a gallant charge at the front, and his
brother, who was by his side, had carried his body out of the trenches
and brought it home. We who know Rome do not need to be told how it
was received there. We can see the dense mass of uncovered heads in the
Piazza delle Terme, stretching from the doors of the railway station to
the bronze fountain at the top of the Via Nazionale, and we can hear the
deep swell of the Garibaldian hymn, which comes like a challenge as
well as a moan from 50,000 throats. Not for the first time was a dead
Garibaldi being borne through the streets of Rome, and those of us who
remembered the earlier day knew well that with the body of this Italian
boy the war had entered Italy.

Then, at a crisis in Italy's internal government, our enemy, having
failed to buy, bribe, or corrupt Italy, began to threaten her. Out of
the delirium of his intoxicated conscience, which no longer shrank from
crime, he told Italy that if she dared to break her neutrality her
fate should be as the fate of Belgium. That frightened some of us for
a moment. We thought of Venice, of Florence, of Assisi, of Subiaco, of
Naples, and of Rome, and, remembering the methods by which Germany was
beating and bludgeoning her way through the war, our hearts trembled
and thrilled at a dreadful vision of the lovely and beloved Italian
land under the heel of a ruthless aggressor--of the destruction of the
history of Christendom as it had been written by great artists on canvas
and by great architects in stone through the long calendar of nearly two
thousand years. But we also thought of Savoy, of Palestro, of Cas-ale,
of Caprera, and of "Roma o morte," and told ourselves that, come what
might, victory or defeat, the children of Victor Emmanuel III would
never allow themselves to buy the ease and safety of their bodies by the
corruption and degradation of their souls.


That was the great and awful hour when Italy stood on the threshold
of her fate; but though Great Britain's heart was bleeding from the
sacrifices she had already made, and had still to make, and though
Italy's intervention meant so much to us, we did not feel that we had a
right to ask for it. And neither was it necessary that we should do so.
The treaty that bound Italy to England was not written on a scrap
of paper. It was in our blood, born of our devotion to humanity, to
justice, to liberty, and to the memory of our great men. Therefore,
with the world in arms about her, let Italy do what she thought best for
herself, and the bond between us would not be broken!

How the sequel has justified our faith! And when the great hour struck
at last, after ten months of suspense, and Italy--ready, fully equipped,
united--found the voice with which she proclaimed war, what a voice it
was! Eloquent voices she had had throughout, in her Press as well as in
her legislative chambers--Morelli's, Barzini's, Albertini's, Malagodi's,
not to speak of Sartorio's, Ferrero's, Annie Vivantes, and many
more--but it quickens my pulse to remember that it was the voice of a
poet which at the final moment was to speak for the Italian soul.

Friends newly arrived from Italy tell me that not even in Rome (where
one always feels as if one were living on the borderland of the old
world and the new, with thousands of years behind and thousands of years
in front) can anybody remember anything so moving as the substance and
the reception of Gabriele d'Annunzio's speech from the balcony of the
Hotel Regina. We can well imagine it. The spirit of Time itself could
have found no greater scene, no more thrilling moment. The broad highway
on the breast of the hill going up to the Porta Pinciana, faced by the
palace of the Queen Mother and flanked by the gardens of the Capuchin
monastery, with the Colosseum, the Capitol and the Forum almost visible
to the right--what a theatre to speak in!

There were 5000 persons below, all "Romans of Rome," and the Queen
Mother was on her balcony. But the orator was worthy of his audience,
and his theme. He had the past for his prologue, and the future for his
epilogue. Cæsar, Brutus, Cicero, the story of the old oppression from
which the world had freed itself after agelong tribulation, and then a
picture of the new tyranny that was sweeping down from across the Rhine.
What wonder if the warm-hearted Roman populace, to whom patriotism is
a religion, were carried away by an appeal which seemed to come to them
with the voice of Dante, Mazzini, Carducci, and Garibaldi from the very
earth beneath their feet!

So on May 20,1915, knowing well what the terrors of war were, and how
remote the prospects of early victory, Italy took her place in arms
by the side of the Allies. And now the heart of old Rome, so long
perturbed, is tranquil. With heroic confidence she relies on her brave
sons, led by her dauntless King, to justify her. And when she hears the
truculent boast of our enemy that after he has disposed of Russia, he
will destroy Italy as a power in Europe, she answers calmly, "Yes, when
the last Roman capable of bearing arms lies dead in Roman soil--perhaps
then, but not sooner."


And then the neutral countries--what is the part which they have played
in the drama of the past 365 days? I think I may fairly claim to have
had better opportunities than most people for studying one aspect of it,
its moral aspect, and therefore I trust I may be forgiven if I make
a personal reference. Seeing, in the earliest days of the war, that
Germany was doing her best to divert the eye of the world from the crime
she had committed in Belgium, and being convinced that Britain's hope
both now and in the future lay in keeping the world's eye fixed on
that outrage, I moved the proprietors of the _Daily Telegraph_ to the
publication of "King Albert's Book."

What that great book was it must be quite unnecessary to say, but it may
be permitted to the editor to claim that it constituted the first (as it
may well be the final) impeachment of the Kaiser before the bar of the
nations for a crime in Belgium as revolting as that of Frederick the
Great in Silesia and a thousandfold more fatal. After the publication
of "King Albert's Book," Germany knew that before the tribunal of the
civilized world she stood tried and condemned. But though representative
men and women in thirteen different countries united within the
covers of the historic volume to express their abhorrence of Germany's
iniquity, the whole weight of the world's condemnation could not be

From many of the neutral nations there came pathetic cries of inability
to join in the general protest. Famous men wrote that the neutrality of
their countries imposed upon them the duty and the penalty of silence.
"My brother is a member of our Government," wrote one illustrious man
of letters, "and if I am not to get him into trouble I must hold my
tongue." Another, whose German name, if it could be published, would
carry weight throughout the world, said: "I know where my sympathy lies,
and so do you, but I dare not speak, for I am a German-born subject, and
to tell what is in my mind would be treason to my country." This message
came from a remote place in Spain, the writer having been compelled
to fly from France, because his blood was German, while unable to take
refuge in Germany because his heart was French.


Perhaps the most tragic of these vistas of the sufferings of great souls
in neutral countries came from the United States. Profoundly affecting
were nearly all President Wilson's public utterances, even when, as
sometimes occurred, our sympathy could not follow them. And certainly
one of the most vivid of the flashes as of lightning, whereby we have
seen the war in its moral aspect, was that which showed us the United
States, at his proclamation, arresting for a whole day, on October 4,
1914, the immense and tumultuous activities of her vast continent in
order to intercede with the Almighty to vouchsafe healing peace to His
striving children.

It was a great and impressive spectacle. As I think of it I seem to feel
the quieting of the headlong thoroughfares of Chicago, the hushing of
the thud and drum of the overhead railways in New York, and then the
slow ringing of the bells in the square tower of that old Puritan Church
in Boston--all calm and peaceful now as a New England village on Sunday

But truth to tell we of the belligerent countries were not deeply moved
or comforted by America's prayers. We thought our cause was that of
humanity, and the sure way to establish it was by protest as well as
prayer. We did not ask or desire that America should take up arms by
our side. We did not wish to enlarge the area of the conflict that was
deluging Europe in blood. Confident in the justice of our cause, we
thought we knew that by the help of the Lord of Hosts, and by the
strength of His stretched-out arm, the forces of the Allies would be
sufficient for themselves. Neither did we wish to make a parade of our
wounds to excite America's pity. With all our souls we believed that for
every drop of innocent blood that was being shed outside the recognized
area of battle the Avenger of blood would yet exact an awful penalty.
But when humanity was being openly outraged, and conventions to which
America had set her seal were being flagrantly violated, we thought,
with Mr. Roosevelt, that it was the duty of the United States, as a
Christian country, to step in with the expression of her deep and just

America was long in doing that. But, thank God, she did it at last,
and for the courage and strength of the Notes which President Wilson
(speaking with a voice that is no unworthy echo of the great one that
spoke at Gettysburg) has lately sent to Germany on the sinking of the
_Lusitania_, and the outrage thereby committed on the laws of justice
and humanity, which are immutable, the whole civilized world (outside
the countries of our enemies) now salutes the United States in respect
and reverence.


Among the flashes as of lightning that revealed to us the drama of
the past 365 days, some of the most vivid were those that lit up the
condition at home towards the end of Spring. The war had been going on
ten months when it fell on our ears like a thunderclap that all was not
well with us in England. In the ominous unrest that followed there
was danger of serious division, with the risk of a breakdown in that
national unity without which there could be no true strength. The result
was a Coalition Government, uniting all the parties save one, followed
by an appeal to the patriotism of the people through their purse.

Never before had Great Britain witnessed such a response to her call.
The first Cabinet in England that aimed at coalition had broken down in
personal corruption, but the Cabinet now called into being was beyond
the suspicion of even party interest. The first appeal to the purse
of the British people had yielded one hundred and thirty millions in a
year, but the appeal now made yielded six hundred millions in a month.
It was almost as if Great Britain had ceased to be a nation and become a

Nor did the industries of the country, in spite of the lure of drink and
the temptation to strikes, fall behind the spirit of the people. At the
darkest moment of our inquietude the call of health took me for a tour
in a motor-car over fifteen hundred miles of England, and though my
journey lay through three or four of the least industrial and most
placid of our counties, I found evidences of effort on every hand, The
high roads were the track of marching armies of men in training; the
broad moors were armed camps; the little towns were recruiting stations
or depots for wagons of war; the land lay empty of workers with the hay
crop still standing for want of hands to cut it, and the villages seemed
to be deserted save by little children and the feeble, old men, who had
nothing left to do but to wait for death.

The voice of the great war had been heard everywhere. From the remote
hamlet of Clovelly the young men of the lifeboat crew had left for the
front, and if the call of the sea came now it would have to be answered
by sailors over sixty. In Barnstaple two large boardings on the face of
a public building recorded in golden letters the names of the townsmen
who had joined the colours. In every little shop window along the high
road to Bath there were portraits of the King, Kitchener, Jellicoe,
French, and Joffre, flanked sometimes by pictures of poor, burnt and
blackened Belgium.

On the edge of Dartmoor, in Drake's old town, Tavistock, I saw a
thrilling sight--thrilling yet simple and quite familiar. Eight hundred
men were leaving for France. In the cool of the evening they drew up
with their band, four square in the market-place under the grey walls of
the parish church, a thousand years old. The men of a regiment remaining
behind had come to see their comrades off, bringing their own band
with them. For a short half-hour the two bands played alternately,
"Tipperary," "Fall In," "We Don't want to Lose You," and all the other
homely but stirring ditties with which Tommy has cheered his soul. The
open windows round the square were full of faces, the balconies were
crowded, and some of the townspeople were perched on the housetops.
Suddenly the church clock struck eight, the hour for departure; a bugle
sounded; a loud voice gave the word of command like a shot out of a
musket; it was repeated by a score of other sharp voices running down
the line, and then the two bands, and the men, and all the people in
the windows, on the balconies and on the roofs (except such of us as had
choking throats) played and sang "For Auld Lang Syne." Was the spirit of
our mighty old Drake in his Tavistock town that day?

"Come on, gentlemen, there's time to finish the game, and beat the
Spaniards, too!"


One glimpse at the end of my little motor tour seemed to send a flash of
light through the drama of the past 365 days. It was of our young Prince
of Wales, home for a short holiday from the front. I had seen the King's
son only once before--at his investiture in Carnarvon Castle. How long
ago that seemed! In actual truth "no human creature dreamt of war" that
day, although the shadow of it was even then hanging over our heads.

Some of us who have witnessed most of the great pageants of the world
thought we had never seen the like of that spectacle--the grey old
ruins, roofless and partly clothed by lichen and moss, the vast
multitude of spectators, the brilliant sunshine, the booming of the
guns from the warships in the bay outside, the screaming of the seagulls
overhead, the massed Welsh choirs singing "Land of my Fathers," and,
above all, the boy of eighteen, beautiful as a fairy prince in his blue
costume, walking hand in hand between the King and Queen to be presented
to his people at the castle gate.

And now he was home for a little while from that blackened waste across
the sea, which had been trodden into desolation under the heel of a
ruthless aggressor and was still shrieking as with the screams of hell.
He had gone there willingly, eagerly, enthusiastically, doing the work
and sharing the risk of every other soldier of the King, and he would
go back, in another few days, although he had more to lose by going than
any other young man on the battle-front--a throne.

But if he lives to ascend it he will have his reward. England will not

When we hear people say that Great Britain is not yet awake to the fact
that she is at war I wonder where they keep their eyes. If I had been a
Rip Van Winkle, suddenly awakened after twenty years of sleep, or yet
an inhabitant of Mars dropped down on our part of this planet, I think
I should have known in any five minutes of any day since August 5, 1914,
that Great Britain was at war. Such a spirit has never breathed through
our Empire during my time, or yet through any other empire of which I
have any knowledge. Everybody, or almost everybody, doing something for
England, and few or none idle who are of military age except such as
have heavy burdens or secret disabilities into which I dare not pry.

It is not alone in Flanders or on the North Sea that our country's
battle is being fought, and when I think I hear the hammering on ten
thousand anvils in the forges of Woolwich, Newcastle, and Glasgow, and
the thud of picks in the coal and iron mines of Cardiff, Wigan, and
Cleator Moor, where hundreds of thousands of men are working long shifts
day and night, half-naked under the fierce heat of furnaces, sometimes
half choked by the escaping fumes of fire-damp, I tell myself it is
not for me, too old for active service and only able to use a pen, to
dishonour England, and her Empire, in the presence of her Allies, or
weaken her in the face of her enemies, by one word of complaint against
the young manhood of my country.


The latest and perhaps the most vivid of the flashes as of lightning
which have revealed the drama of the past 365 days has shown us the
part played by woman. What a part that has been! Nearly always in
the histories of the great world-wars of the past the sympathy of the
spectator has been more or less diverted from the unrecorded martyrdom
of the myriads of forgotten women who have lost sons and husbands by
the machinations of the few vain and selfish women who have governed
continents by playing upon the passions of men. Thank God, there has
been nothing of that kind in this case. On the contrary, woman's part
in this red year of the war has been one of purity, sacrifice, and
undivided glory.

Towards the end of it we saw a procession through the streets of London
of 30,000 women who had come out to ask for the right to serve the
State. I do not envy the man who, having eyes to see, a heart to feel,
and a mind to comprehend, was able to look on that sight unmoved. Every
class of woman was represented there, the gently-born, the educated, and
the tenderly-nurtured, as well as the humbly-born, the uneducated, and
the heavily-burdened, the woman with the delicate, spiritual face, as
well as the woman with the face hardened by toil. And they were marching
together, side by side, with all the barriers broken down. It was not
so much a procession of British women as a demonstration of British
womanhood, and it seemed to say, "We hate war as no man can ever hate
it, but it has been forced upon us all, so we, too, want to take our
share in it."


But long before July 17, 1915, woman's part in this war began. It began
on August 5, 1914, when the first hundred thousand of our voluntary army
sprang into being as by a miracle. The miracle (if I am asked to account
for it) had its origin in the word of woman. Without that word we should
have had no Kitchener's Army, for "on the decision of the women, above
everything else, lay the issues of the men's choice." {*}

     * The Times.

It needs little imagination to lift, as it were, the roofs off a hundred
homes, and see and hear what was going on there in those early days
of the war, after the clear call went out over England, "Your King and
Country need you."

In the little house of a City clerk, married only a year before, the
young wife is saying, "Yes, I think you ought to go, dear. It's rather
a pity, so soon after the boy was born... just as you were expecting
a rise, too, and we were going to move into that nice cottage in the
garden suburb. But, then, it will be all for the best, and you mustn't
think of me."

Or perhaps it is early morning in the flat of a young lawyer on the day
he has to leave for the front. He is dressed in his khaki, and his
wife, who is busying about his breakfast, is rising to a sublime but
heartbreaking cheerfulness for the last farewell. "Nearly time for you
to go, Robert, if you are to get to the barracks by six.... Betty? Oh,
no, pity to waken her. I'll kiss her for you when she awakes and say
daddy promised to bring her a dolly from France.... Crying? Of course
not I Why should I be crying?... Good-bye then I Good-bye!..."

Or perhaps it is evening in a great house in Belgravia, and Lady
Somebody is saying adieu to her son. How well she remembers the day
he was born! It was in May. The blossom was out on the lilacs in the
square, and all the windows were open. How happy she had been! He had
a long fever, too, when he was a child, and for three days Death had
hovered over their house. How she had prayed that the dread shadow would
pass away! It did, and now that her boy has grown to be a man he comes
to her in his officer's uniform to say,... Ah, these partings! They
are really the death-hours of their dear ones, and the women know it,
although, like Andromache, they go on "smiling through their tears."

With what brave and silent hearts they face the sequel too! The mother
of Sub-Lieutenant So-and-So receives letters from him nearly every other
week. Such cheerful little pencil scribblings! "Dearest Mother, I have a
jolly comfortable dug-out now--three planks and a truss of straw, and I
sleep on it like a top." Or, perhaps, "You see they have sent me back to
the Base after six weeks under fire, and now I have a real, _real_ room,
and a real, _real_ bed!" The dear old darling! She puts her precious
letters on the mantelpiece for everybody to see, and laughs over them
all day long. But when night comes, and she is winding the clock before
going upstairs, thinking of the boy who not so long ago used to sleep on
her knees.... "Ah, me!"

And then the final trial, the last tragic test--the women are equal to
that also. First, the letter in the large envelope from the War
Office: "Dear Madam, the Secretary of State regrets to inform you that
Lieutenant So-and-So is reported killed in action on... Lord Kitchener
begs to offer you..." And then, a little later, from the royal palace:
"The King and Queen send you their most sincere...." Oh, if she could
only go out to the place where they have laid... But then the Lord will
know where to find His Own!

Somebody in Paris said the other day, "No one will ever make our women
cry any, more--after the war." All the springs of their tears will be


It is brave in a man to face death on the battlefield, instantaneous
death, or, what is worse, death after long suffering, after lying
between trenches, perhaps, on the "no-man's ground" which neither friend
nor foe can reach, grasping the earth in agony, seeing the dark night
coming on, and then dying in the cold shiver of the dawn. Yes, it is
brave in a man to face death like that. But perhaps it is even braver in
a woman to face life, with three or four fatherless children to provide
for, on nothing but the charity of the State. Then battle is in the
blood of man, and the heroic part falls to him by right, but it is not
in the blood of woman, who shrinks from it and loathes it, and yet such
is her nature, the fine and subtle mystery of it, that she flies to
the scene of suffering with a bravery which far out-strips that of the

On the breasts that have borne tens of thousands of the sons who have
fallen in this war the Red Cross is now enshrined. It is the new scarlet
letter--the badge not of shame, but glory. And "through the rolling of
the drums" and the thundering of the guns a voice comes to us in this
year of service and sacrifice whose message no one can mistake. Woman,
who faces death every time she brings a man-child into the world,
must henceforth know what is to be done with him. It is her right, her
natural right, and the part she has taken in this war has proved it.


Such is the drama of the war as I have seen it. How far it has gone,
when it will close and the curtain fall on it none of us can say. With
five millions already dead, twice as many wounded, one kingdom in ruins,
another desolate from disease, the larger part of Europe under arms,
civil life paralysed, social existence overshadowed by a mourning
that enters into nearly every household; with a war still in progress
compared with which all other wars sink into insignificance; with
a public debt which Pitt, Fox, and Burke (who thought £240,000,000
frightful) would have considered certain to sink the ship of State; with
taxation such as our fathers never conceived possible--what will be our
condition when this hideous war comes to an end?

It is dangerous to prophesy, but, as far as we can judge, the least of
the results will be that we shall all be poorer; that great fortunes
will have diminished and vast enterprises disappeared; that what remains
of our savings will have a different value; that some of us who thought
we had earned our rest will have to go on working; that the industrial
classes will have a time of privation; and that (most touching of human
tragedies) the old and helpless and dependent among the very poor will
more than ever feel themselves to be in the way, filling the beds and
eating the bread of the children.

Yet none can say. It is one of the paradoxes of history that after
the longest and most exhausting wars the accumulation of the largest
national debts and the imposition of the heaviest taxations, nations
have rapidly become rich. Although 1817 was a time of extreme distress
in these islands, England prospered after the Napoleonic wars. Although
1871 was a time of fierce trial in Paris, yet France recovered herself
quickly after the war with Germany. And though the Civil War in America
left poverty in its immediate trail, the United States have since
amassed boundless wealth.

So do the nations, generation after generation, renew their strength
even after the most prolonged campaigns. But beyond the economic loss
there will in this case be the physical loss of ten millions, perhaps,
of the young manhood of Europe dead, and ten other millions permanently
disabled, with all the injury to the race thereby resulting; and beyond
the physical loss there will be the intellectual loss in the ruthless
destruction of those ancient monuments which had linked us with the
past; and beyond the intellectual loss there will be the moral loss in
the uprooting of that sympathy of nation with nation which had seemed to
unite us with the future. As a consequence of this war a great part of
Europe will be closed to some of us for the rest of our natural lives,
and the world will contain more than a hundred millions fewer of our
fellow-creatures in whose welfare we shall take joy.


But, thank God, there is another side to the picture, both for young and
old. If we are to be poorer we shall be more free. If we are to be weak
and faint from loss of blood we shall rest at night without dread of
that shadow of the sword which has darkened the sleep of humanity for
forty years. If the countries of our enemies are to be closed to some
of us in the future, the countries of our Allies will be more than ever
open; nay, they will be almost the same to us as our own. France will be
our France, Italy our Italy, Belgium our Belgium, and the next time I,
for one, sit by the stove in the log cabin of a Russian moujik on the
Steppes, I shall feel as if I were in the thatched cottage of one of my
own people in our little island in the Irish Sea. So does blood shed
in a common cause break down the barriers of race and language and bind
together the children of one Father. The dead of our Allies become our
dead, and our dead theirs. That Frenchman died to save my son; therefore
he is my brother, and France is my country. "One's country is the place
where they lie whom we loved."

Thus war, brutal, barbarous war, has its spiritual compensations, and
pray heaven the present one may prove to have more than any other. If it
does not, something will break in us after all we have gone through. Our
faith in the invisible powers to bring a good end out of all this welter
of blood and destruction has become a religion. It must not fail us if
our souls are to live.


"It is good to pray for peace, but it is better to pray for justice. It
is better to pray for liberty. It is better to pray for the triumph of
the right, for the victory of human freedom." {*}

     * New York Times.

Then let us pray for victory over our enemies, having no qualms, no
shame, and no remorse. We know that Christ pronounced a death sentence
on war, and that as soon as Christianity shall have established an
ascendancy war will cease. But if anybody tells us in the meantime that
by Christ's law we are to stand aside while a strong Power, which is in
the wrong, inflicts frightful cruelties upon a weak Power which is in
the right, let us answer that we simply don't believe it. If anybody
tells us that by Christ's law we are to permit ourselves to be trodden
upon and trampled out of being by an empire resting on violence, let
us answer that we simply don't believe it. If anybody tells us that by
Christ's law we are not to oppose the gigantic ambition of a "War
Lord" who claims Divine right to stalk over Europe in scenes of blood,
rapacity, and impurity, let us answer that we simply don't believe
it. If anybody tells us that Christ's words, "Resist not evil," were
intended to say that spiritual forces will of themselves overcome all
forms of war (including, as they needs must, crime, disease, and death)
let us answer that we simply don't believe it.

Such a clumsy and dangerous interpretation of Christ's doctrine would
put an end to government, to science, and to literature, and allow the
worst elements of human nature to rule the world. It would also put
Christianity on the scrap-heap--Christianity "with its benevolent
morality, its exquisite adaptation to the needs of human life, the
consolation it brings to the house of mourning and the light with which
it brightens the mystery of the grave." {*}


God forbid that the very least of us should say one word that would
prolong the horrors of this terrible war. But it is just because we hate
war that at the end of these 365 days we still think we must carry it
on. It is just because our hearts are bleeding from the sacrifices we
have made, and have still to make, that we feel they must be compelled
to bleed.

Let us, then, pray with all the fervour of our souls for Belgium, for
Poland, for Italy, for Russia, for France, but above all, for our own
beloved country, mother of nations, mother, too, of some of the bravest
and best yet born on to the earth, that as long as there remains one man
or woman of British blood above British soil this England and her Empire
may be ours--ours and our children's.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Drama Of Three Hundred & Sixty-Five Days - Scenes In The Great War" ***

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