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Title: An Account of Our Arresting Experiences
Author: Evans, Conway
Language: English
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Privately Printed

[One Hundred Copies printed]

D. B. Updike, The Merrymount Press, Boston



We had been travelling for many weeks,--Lyra Nickerson, Katherine
Schermerhorn, and I,--and after a beautiful tour through Germany, we
arrived at Berlin on the evening of July 29, 1914. We had planned to
spend a few days there preparatory to embarking at Hamburg in the
Viktoria Luise for a northern cruise, and were looking forward to a
short stay in the splendid capital. When we had secured our rooms at
the Hotel Adlon, we found to our dismay that Kitty's box had not come
through from Dresden, our last stopping-place. I went downstairs and
interviewed the porter. He explained that, owing to the talk of war,
many people were leaving their summer quarters, so that traffic was
considerably congested. In this wise did the little cloud appear upon
our horizon.

The following morning (Thursday) we went sightseeing, and in the
afternoon--as Lyra was not feeling well--Kitty and I each went our own
way. At five o'clock we met in the hall of the Adlon, where we had
tea with her cousin, Mr. Gear, and his friend, Mr. Cluett. Later she
and I went to a superb concert at the Frederichshain and heard
Thornberg, the violinist.

On Friday morning a little German friend whom I had not seen for many
years came to visit me. I asked her if war were likely. She replied:
"Certainly not. All danger is now over." This was encouraging, for I
thought she knew what she was talking about.

In the afternoon we hired an automobile, and motored out to Potsdam.
Then when we were outside the old Palace we heard that the Kaiser's
"strong-for-peace" policy had been of no avail, that the Czar had
insulted his messenger, and that now war was inevitable. We ourselves,
chameleon-like, assumed the German colour. We believed what we were
told, and felt sorry for the man who was called upon unwillingly to
shed his nation's blood. On our way back to the hotel Kitty and I went
to see Mr. Schermerhorn's cousin, Miss Barber, and then we realized
the immediate gravity of the situation. She told us that now war
_must_ come, and she also told us that the Viktoria Luise would not
sail. With quickened pulses we drove back to the Adlon, where the
lounge was crowded with buzzing, excited people. Then we dressed, and
went to the "Admiral's Palast" to see the exquisite Ice Ballet. While
we were admiring the skating, and sympathizing with the fascinating
Pierrot whose heart was broken by the cruelty of the dainty jointed
Doll, we were able to forget grim reality--to forget that the bonds
that had held captive the great Fiend were being cut, and that he was
yawning after his long sleep, and stretching his cramped limbs.

The following morning Lyra realized the desirability of leaving Europe
and of raising funds. She ordered the car, and we went to the office
of the Holland American Line to try and secure the Imperial Suite, but
without avail: no passages were to be had. Then we drove to five
banks, and cashed a certain amount of her letter of credit at each
one. At the Dresdener Bank she was informed that the Czar might
capitulate even yet, and that in any case there would be three days of
peace. Thereupon our spirits rose, and we began to make wild schemes.
Even if Germany and Russia did go to war, why should we not tour in
the Ardennes? Belgium would be a nice quiet neutral country to remain
in, till we could secure passage to America.

In the afternoon we drove out to Schmockwitz and spent a placid time
on the Miggelsee, but when we returned to Berlin we found the Unter
der Linden seething with dense crowds of excited people and the whole
atmosphere charged with electricity. At dinner Mr. Gear came up to our
table. "You had better get out of this as soon as you can," he said.
"There is going to be trouble at once."

Sunday morning Kitty was awakened very early by a stormy altercation
in the room next to hers. She knocked on the wall, but no notice was
taken of her remonstrance. After we had had breakfast, Lyra went
downstairs and chartered an auto for 750 marks. The owner would not
promise to take us farther than Hannover, owing to the difficulty of
procuring petrol, and moreover both car and chauffeur were required in
a couple of days for military duty. We consulted a large map, and
decided to motor _via_ Hannover to Osnabrück, and then go on to the
frontier, wherever that might be.

When I had finished packing I rang for the porter to strap my trunk,
but he did not come. I continued ringing with much vigour, and finally
the nice little housemaid appeared on the scene and a flood of
volubility broke over me. The porter was busy. He could not come. All
Russians in the hotel were being arrested as criminals, for Russians
had fired on a frontier town and war was declared. The hotel had been
full of detectives for several days, and one "criminal" had had the
room next to our suite. This piece of information explained the noise
in No. 140. The occupant had evidently rebelled at being arrested so
early in the morning! When I passed his room his captors were waiting
for him, and he was calmly finishing off his toilette. The big lounge
of the hotel was like a hive of swarming bees, and poor Mr. Louis
Adlon looked simply worn out with worry; but he was so kind and
courteous! I shall never forget all the trouble he took for us.

We got off at about 12.30 in a magnificent Benz, driven by one of the
best-looking boys imaginable. The hand luggage was piled inside the
car, so I sat outside. It was a lovely morning, and we all felt duly
thrilled over our dramatic departure. The crowds were dense, and cars
stacked with luggage like ours were shooting off in every direction.
As on the previous day, the very air seemed charged with electricity,
but when we were once in the country, all seemed peaceful and calm,
and one asked one's self: "Why are we flying like this? What possible
danger can there be?"

There were just a few indications of the times--a troop of Lancers
clattered past us, and a body of Uhlans leading peasants' horses with
their labels attached. At Wannsee a car with the crown prince and
princess flashed past. On the bridge over the Havel, overlooking
Babelsburg, a tire burst, and we were delayed about half an hour. At
Potsdam we made a halt at the telegraph office; but the news there was
bad. No wires were being accepted for the "Ausland," and even local
ones were not likely to get through.

The first town of importance we arrived at was Brandenburg, which
stands on the Havel. Storks were flapping round in the meadows, and
the old stone statue in the main street stared down on us as we
flashed past, as if to ask: "Why this haste? From what are you
flying?" But we had but scant attention to give either to him or that
town, or to Plaue or Genthin. The blue sky clouded over, and by the
time the spires of Magdeburg appeared on the horizon, the rain was
coming down steadily. We had our first halt outside the city, for two
officials did not seem at all inclined to let us into the town where
formerly I had spent such merry days. However, our demon chauffeur was
able to produce papers certifying that he was returning to Berlin, and
we were allowed to proceed. We stopped awhile to buy some sailcloth,
as our trunks were getting woefully wet on the top of the car. Then
off we set once more, in pouring rain and a tearing wind, through flat
and uninteresting country. As there was nothing special to look at, I
could just sit still and enjoy the strange exhilaration of that wild
drive--the steady pulsation of the magnificent car, which like some
mythological monster ate up the long straight road, indifferent to the
shrieking opposing wind and lashing rain. On, on, till gradually the
furies grew weary, the gray gave place to gold, and the earth wore the
"washed" look of a beautiful water-colour. The road was grand, and so
open that there was no danger. The small towns took on a character all
their own of Old World charm, and Baedeker recorded the fact that
they were full of interest, but this had to be taken on trust.
Brunswick made its own special appeal, though we saw little but old
houses and the handsome façade of St. Catherine's. Onward we raced
till away in the distance we saw Hannover, like a many-masted ship
with its high chimneys and myriad lights. We kept up the pace, and at
9.15 pulled up in front of the Hotel Royal. I went in to know if the
wire I had sent from Potsdam engaging rooms and a fresh automobile had
arrived, but of course it had not. Then I returned to see about the
dismounting of the luggage, and the girls stayed with me. A few people
came to look on and became intensely interested. More joined, and we
were soon the centre of a crowd. We imagined in time of war even a
stray automobile must prove of account. We all laughed to find
ourselves of such importance. Then up came a charming boy officer, who
asked the chauffeur if he spoke German. "Ja wohl," was the laconic
reply. "Are you German?" "Ja wohl."

The certificates were produced, and the boy looked them over and
handed them back pleasantly. "Have you seen enough?" I inquired,
laughing. "Yes," he replied. "Excuse me;" and with a beautiful salute
he disappeared in the crowd. But another officer had joined the girls.
"Please come inside," he whispered, and when they were in the hall, he
asked them if they were enemies, to their great amusement.

I was so busy with the luggage that I did not notice their departure.
The real truth had not yet dawned upon me. The trunks were hoisted off
the car to the ground, and the gay decoration of the hotel labels
attracted considerable attention. People thronged round, and
deciphered the various names. I have never seen such curiosity.
Finally the last suitcase was carried in. The landlord came forward,
washing his hands with invisible soap. "Quite an experience for you. I
apologize, but you see the crowd thought you were Russians." We all
laughed. The mystery was solved. After all it was quite thrilling to
be taken for Russians, and lent a flavour to the day.

We had dinner, and then for a few minutes we stayed in the hall
discussing plans. A little man in uniform came in brandishing a
bulletin. "We have taken a Russian harbour," he cried excitedly. "The
place is in flames." An involuntary shudder went through me. The
Russians were England's allies. Was this the first letter of the awful
alphabet Europe was to be called on to spell? Was this the first of
the mighty German conquests?

I looked up, remembering that I was in Germany. Two very blue eyes
were fixed upon me. At the moment I wondered if any _arrière pensée_
lay behind that intense look, but the little man seemed quite
friendly, and then our party broke up and we were soon all sound
asleep, forgetful of the fact that we were in a country at war with
its neighbours.

The following morning (August 3) we got up early, as a car from the
Adler Garage had been ordered at 9.30, but it did not come. The
employees of the hotel were cool in their behaviour. The concierge, of
whom one usually expects servility, proved surly, the waiter calmly
insolent. The delay seemed interminable, so Kitty and I sat down and
wrote letters, but we found it was of no use to post them, as none
were going out of the country; so we put them in our handbags. Then
Lyra and I went off in a taxi to the garage to inquire for the car,
and found it just ready. As the luggage was being stacked on, two
American girls came to ask us how we were going to get out of the
country. Lyra offered to take them with us, but they refused because
they had not packed up!

At last we were off once more--thankful to be moving, and for some
time we were able to enjoy the pretty pastoral scenery, and the
charming little houses with black timbering set in their red brick.
Our new car was a poor substitute for the Benz,--which had returned to
Berlin for war duty,--and our handsome boy had given place to a
stolid son of the soil with one green and one blue eye, a kindly soul,
who radiated confidence. Outside Schloss Lippe he stopped to shift one
of the trunks. Up sauntered an official and asked for his papers,
which he produced. Then once more we headed in the direction of

"_Halt._" A cordon of soldiers with bayonets across the road put an
end to all appreciation of scenery. The "Halt" was very decisive, as
well it might be on such an occasion, and we were surrounded by
boys--fair-haired, smiling boys, with whom we laughed and talked as
much as our limited vocabularies permitted. The chauffeur's pass was
produced, and proved satisfactory. If all "Halts" were going to be
such friendly affairs, we felt we were in for a merry day. We waived
adieus to our youthful soldiers, but within a few hundred yards came
another "Halt," and then another, and another. The fifth time we
realized hand-waving and friendly salutations were not going to get
us very far. Our trunks were to be examined. Our friendly chauffeur
pleaded for us, but he was squashed. "This is war time. Examination
must be made and no risks taken."

"Yes, but these are children. They only want to get out of the

Now, when a woman has said good-by to the popular age of thirty-five,
she thinks kindly of a man who includes her amongst the "children," so
never shall I forget the chauffeur with bi-coloured eyes! The young
man with normal vision would take no risks, and we soon all joined in
the game. We pressed our keys upon the soldiers, and not only invited
them to climb upon the top of the landaulette, but climbed up
ourselves, and obeyed all behests. The first deadly thing to come to
light in my trunk was a Canadian bark workbox. "Open it." The contents
was critically examined. Then various perilous packets were found:
Soap--Soap--and again, Soap!

The sun was hot, and so were we, but the investigation went on very
thoroughly. At last it was over, but we were told that we had to go
to the Kontrol office--whatever that might be. A chinless juvenile got
into the car with us as escort, but he was so weighed down with the
sense of his own importance that he was not very interesting. At the
Kontrol office we were all marched into a little room. It had a bed,
and on a washstand was a basin filled with clean water. We were so
dirty after unstrapping and strapping trunks that we asked if we might
wash our hands. Two kindly soldiers ministered to us and got us clean
towels, and listened sympathetically to the story of our examination.
Then in came the adjutant, and no one could have been nicer or more
courteous. We explained that we were trying to get to Holland, as we
wished to sail to America, and that our one desire was to get out of
Germany as quickly as we could. He smiled, and then he went away, and
wrote out a little paper and signed it. It was to the effect that we
had been examined, and that all was satisfactory. Never have three
women been more grateful for a little piece of paper, and when we
said good-by to our benefactor, our gratitude was very real.

We were soon spinning along again, but ugly indications of warfare
began to be visible. Outside Minden we saw quantities of cannon being
mounted, and then suddenly we came upon a motor in a ditch. Children
were playing round it, and a man was keeping guard under a tree. Our
chauffeur stopped to find out what had happened. The car had belonged
to a Russian. He had tried to escape when told to "Halt," and had been
shot. Truly the grim game had begun in this peaceful-looking land.

Time after time we were stopped by orders of soldiers, and we got
almost used to the imperative "Halt." But we had nothing to fear with
our magic _passe-partout_. A few words of parleying, and then came the
usual concession: "You may go on further." No one would say exactly
where "further" meant, but surely we should get to the frontier. We
headed for Osnabrück, mistaking the road, however, at Lübeck, where
the horses were being collected, and that delayed us for some time.
The country now began to change in the magical way that countries do
change when they begin to merge into neighbouring ones. We began to
feel the Dutch element. Men, women, and children seemed to change,
too, and to become more and more stolid. Boots gave way to sabots, and
the little black and white cows began to wear the sacking jackets that
they do in Holland.

Before getting into Osnabrück we passed the railway station. The gates
were closed, and we stood still while a long, long train steamed
slowly by us--a train decorated with huge boughs of greenery--a train
packed with men--husbands, lovers--going to God knows what fate. They
were shouting and waving and cheering. That is now a week ago.

It was about six o'clock when we pulled up outside the hotel at
Osnabrück, so we had no time to waste over food. We had eaten nothing
all day, but now we were able to buy some bread and cheese to eat _en
route_. We were terribly dusty, and to save my own new coat, Kitty
kindly lent me an old one of hers. It was bright rose-colour, and made
me rather conspicuous as I took my turn on the little seat.

The first important place after Osnabrück was Rheine, and there, for
the first time in the day, I began to wonder how things were going to
turn out. Before we knew where we were, we were stopped by soldiers
and mobbed by a dense, excited crowd. Even the wonderful paper did not
have its usual effect. I was told I must proceed to headquarters
before we could continue our journey, so I got out of the car, but
when I saw the rabble which intended to accompany me, I told the two
soldiers who were my escort that I should prefer walking arm-in-arm
with them, and off we set, greatly to our own amusement and that of
the mob which followed at our heels, yelling, "Russian! Russian

When we reached the railway station I was taken before the superior
arbiter of our fate. He was a serious individual, and read the
precious document very carefully. Then came the usual fiat: "You may
go further."

Great disappointment of the following crowd--a disappointment
communicated to the unpleasant loafers who had continued to surge
round the automobile in my absence. One of them had climbed on to the
back and hit Lyra's hat twice, but she had been very calm, and kept
her temper. When our innocence was made known the excitement died
down, and we departed amidst cheers and waving handkerchiefs.

I shall never forget the next part of the drive. My appearance
produced the same effect everywhere. "Russian! Russian!" was on every
lip. One individual whispered to another, and small groups of people
knotted together and watched us out of sight. At one place a man
jumped on a bicycle and tore off--perhaps to give information. At
first I did not mind, but after a while the situation got on my
nerves. We swung past a man who was guarding a bridge. He wasn't a
real soldier, but he had a gun, and I _know_ he feels that he lost one
of the chances of his life in letting me go, for his look of suspicion
and hatred was unmistakable. Lyra kindly changed places with me,
though she was very tired, and it was a relief to get out of the
popular gaze.

The day was beginning to close in, but a brilliant sun shining through
heavy gray clouds lit up the world for a while like a watchful eye. We
knew we could not be very far from the frontier, and this was
confirmed by an official when we were stopped for the seventeenth
time. He was very friendly, and gave the chauffeur much well-meant
advice. "The actual frontier is at 'Kleine Brucke,'" he said, "but as
no motors may pass and it is getting late, the ladies had better stay
the night at Gronau and go on to Holland to-morrow." This sounded all
right, but we felt we wanted to get out of the country at all costs,
and that a cowshed in Holland was preferable to a grand hotel in
Germany. The magic pass had stood us in such good stead, there could
be no hitch now we had so nearly achieved our aim.

We were so engrossed with the vicinity of safety that not one of us
realized our chauffeur had forgotten to light up. All I remember is
that we seemed suddenly to swoop down on a crowd, the peremptory
"Halt!" rang out sharp and clear, and we came to a sudden standstill.
The car was besieged by officials of every kind, and we all felt the
genuine hostility in the air. A man in plain clothes was chief
spokesman. I handed him the Minden pass, confident of its efficacy,
and to our dismay, he put it in his pocket.

"We are only trying to get into Holland," I explained. "We have our
tickets here for passage in the Rotterdam." "Show them." The tickets
were produced and shared the same fate as the pass. "Get out of the
auto. The luggage is to be examined." We meekly obeyed. There was no
other course to pursue. Kitty clutched at her precious little vanity
bag, which had afforded so much amusement during the tour. A ponderous
policeman pounced upon it. "Please give me my little bag," wailed
Kitty. "Let me open it and show you the contents."

The man did not understand her words, but he did understand her
gesture as she stretched out her hands for the precious bag. He pushed
her back roughly. Did this dangerous woman think he was going to allow
her to throw a bomb in this her moment of despair? He rushed off into
the crowd, gave the infernal machine to some one else to hold, and we
saw it no more.

The luggage was all dismounted, and three wooden chairs were brought
for us to sit on while the examination took place. That scene will
always stand out in our minds with theatrical vividness. Flaring
electric lights lit up the road. There was a dense crowd of officials
and loafers, and beyond, blackness. One or two men came up and talked.

"We want to get into Holland. We want to get there to-night." "You
cannot. The frontier is closed." "But when can we go?" "When the war
is over." "That is incredible." "It is not incredible. You must stop
here. It is a nice place. If you wanted a large town, why did you not
stop in Berlin?" "Because we want to leave Germany. No one knows where
we are. Can we communicate with any one?" "All communication is

This was cheerful news, but we had no time in which to think it over.
Lyra's trunk had been opened, and the examination had begun. Several
young women had arrived on the scene, who proved excellent English
scholars and most accomplished searchers. It was an education to watch
their methods. Every garment was taken out, shaken, weighed in the
hand, and held up to the light, then flung down carelessly. Pretty
chiffons and fluffy dresses lay about on the dusty road; but no one
cared. It was a sorry performance, and an unworthy one. Letters and
papers were pounced on and read, and it was a revelation to realize
how the most innocent wires and cables could be construed into having
some subtle political significance. Finally the last garment was
removed, and the trunk itself subjected to severe critical

By this time it was very late, and the hearts of our captors melted a
little. We were told we might proceed (under arrest, of course) to the
hotel, and that the remainder of the luggage would be examined there

Once more we took our seats in the car, but the drive can hardly be
described as a triumphal progress. Soldiers walked in front, and
soldiers walked at the side, till we arrived at the Hotel of the
Angel--of all ironical names! Six women, including the searchers,
joined us, and were very pleasant and kindly while our hand luggage
was being examined sufficiently for us to get out some things for the
night. They had a beautiful time, reading all the letters that lay
scattered about in our belongings, and taking the keenest interest in
all our possessions. Poor souls! They certainly needed a little
diversion. One girl had said good-by to her fiancé that morning, and
another was a bride of twenty-four hours. She had married in haste to
take the name of the man she loved before he went off to the frontier!

We were allowed to choose our bedrooms, and Kitty and I elected to
share one big one. Then we were told that we must be undressed and
searched, so one by one we were taken off by two damsels, who were
soon able to declare that we were not concealing anything criminal
about us.

The big man whose pockets had swallowed up our pass and tickets again
appeared upon the scene, and proved to be the burgomaster of the town.
He interviewed Lyra in one room--questioning and cross-questioning--and
then he came to me. His suspicions seemed to be allaying, and his
attitude was almost paternal. Although we had no passports, we were
able to prove our identification very successfully--the girls by
papers and letters, and I luckily had in my possession my permit to
visit all the Italian galleries, with my photo pasted on to it. This
proved me to be Conway Evans, living in Florence; but while the
examination was going on, I wondered how long it would be before the
question of my nationality would crop up.

"Where is your husband?" "Florence, Italy." "Where do your father and
mother live?" "Lausanne, Switzerland." "Where is your son?" "With my
father and mother." "Where were you born?" "Georgetown, Demerara,
South America."

I have always loved my colonial birthplace and suffered gladly the
epithet of "Mudhead," but I don't suppose I ever experienced the same
relief from it as when I realized that the worthy burgomaster's
geography did not locate it amongst the British possessions, and that
he was willing to swallow me whole as an American if I could deny my
Russian nationality!

We were certainly very kindly treated. A supper of eggs and milk was
prepared for us. While we were eating, the German girls sat with us
and we got quite friendly. Bit by bit little things pieced themselves
together like the pattern of a jig-saw puzzle. Our arrival at Gronau
was no unforeseen event. We had been expected,--waited for,--and the
fifteen men who had stood across the road to bar our progress had
their fifteen guns ready to shoot if our stop had not been
_instanter_. Information had been sent from Hannover that we were
suspects. Who sent it we are never likely to know--the obsequious
hotel proprietor, the owner of the blue eyes, the smiling boy officer,
or the insolent waiter. No matter, we were suspects, and the worst
conclusions were drawn when we arrived in a car without lights, and
when I emerged into the flaring ring of light in a rose-red coat--a
Russian colour, pregnant with criminality!! Had we realized our true
position when that sudden halt was made, how frightened we should have
been! As it was, it never occurred to us that we were in actual

At about one in the morning we went to bed, and dropped asleep from
sheer fatigue. At about four Kitty and I woke up and discussed the
situation dispassionately. We got out of our beds and looked out of
the windows. Rain was falling in sheets, and the world seemed a cold,
cheerless, uninviting place. The soldiers guarding us paced up and
down, up and down, in the wet. Vitality is low at 4 a.m., and we were
as dejected as any two mortals could be.

Stay at Gronau--remain in this God-forsaken place till the European
conflagration burnt itself out, cut off from every soul we cared about
and unable to communicate--impossible! Having arrived at this logical
conclusion, we returned to our beds and went to sleep. At eight
o'clock the examiners returned to the charge. We went into a long room
with a raised dais. There were long tables ranged down it, covered
with stained cardboard mounts for beer-glasses. Cigar ashes were in
saucers, cigar ends on the floor. The smell of stale beer permeated
the atmosphere. It was an engaging _mise en scène_.

Kitty and I were greeted by the head of police, two sergeants (one of
them the bucolic hero of the vanity bag), and one of the girl
searchers. The wearisome process began afresh. By the time the turn of
my trunk came, the men were clearly bored. I had quantities of
papers,--notes, MSS., sketches for lectures, extracts, charts,--papers
which would have caused wild interest the evening before, but
excitement was on the wane. By eleven o'clock everything had been seen
thoroughly. The chief of police beamed upon us kindly. "It has to be
done," he explained.

Later the burgomaster reappeared, more paternal than ever, and most
kindly disposed. He was really sorry for all we had gone through, and
promised he would do all in his power to get us over the border, and
he certainly kept his word. Out of his pockets came all our
confiscated belongings, and from some safe hiding-place was produced
the fatal vanity bag!

At about one o'clock we went off again in the car, escorted by a now
friendly policeman and one of the searchers. We were armed with a most
reassuring pass, signed by the burgomaster himself, but when we
arrived at the frontier and confidently handed it to the official
there, he shook his head. "Impossible! Impossible!" he said. With a
sudden rush our spirits sank to zero. This was the "most unkindest cut
of all," but out of the darkness came light. We were at
cross-purposes, and the man thought we wished to motor across the
little bridge connecting Germany and Holland. We assured him we had no
such desire, that I would take a trolley car to Einschede, charter a
Dutch automobile to take us to Amsterdam, and return to the frontier
to collect the girls and the luggage. Then came the hoped-for
permission, and we all jumped out of the car. There was the little
bridge--Kleine Brucke--and beyond Holland, the promised land. A few
formalities, a few good-bys, a few planks traversed, and we were safe
in a country that was neutral for the nonce: Holland, the
stepping-stone to America.

_S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam
      A week later_

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