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Title: It Might Have Happened To You - A Contemporary Portrait of Central and Eastern Europe
Author: Dawson, Coningsby
Language: English
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IT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU

A Contemporary Portrait Of Central And Eastern Europe

By Coningsby Dawson

New York: John Lane Company London: John Lane, The Bodley Head

1921

[Illustration: 0002]

[Illustration: 0008]



IT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU



CHAPTER I--IT MIGHT HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU

You may feel inclined to dispute the assertion. You may even consider
yourself insulted by the suggestion that it might have happened to you.
"It could never have happened to me," you may argue. But it could.

You had no control over the selection of your parents or the date and
place of your birth. The advantages which saved you from having it
happen to you were the merest accidents; they did not arise from your
own inherent merit. It was your good luck to be born in America. No
protest of yours could have prevented your being born in Central
Europe. So, had it not been for the fortune of your birth, it might have
happened to you.

But perhaps you think that though you had been born in Central Europe,
the horrors of injustice and famine, described in these pages, would not
have been shared by you. You would have risen above them; you would have
been too astute, too far-sighted, too resourceful to be entrapped by
them. Whoever else had gone under, you by your superior capacity for
industry would have dug yourself out on top.

You wouldn't. Industry, astuteness, farsightedness,
resourcefulness--none of these admirable qualities would have saved you.
You must disabuse your mind of the prejudice that the starving peoples
of the stricken countries are shiftless, unemployable, uncivilised,
or in any way inferior to yourself. To tell the truth you are probably
exactly the sort of person who, had you been born in Central Europe,
would have gone to the bottom first. You belong to the middle or upper
class. You are highly intelligent and specialised. You gain your living
with your brains and not with your hands. If society were disrupted and
temporarily bankrupt, so that the delicate mechanism of modern business
ceased to function, your way of earning your living would no longer
find a market. You would have to turn from working with your brains to
working with your hands. Everyone in your class would be doing the same;
there would not be enough manual labour to go round. You might have made
investments in the days of your prosperity; but in the face of national
insolvency your former thrift would not avail you. Your investments
would be so much worthless paper, totally unnegotiable. You might have
hoarded actual cash, the way the peasants do in their stockings.
Even this reserve would soon be exhausted since, by reason of the
depreciation in the currency, it would take a hundred times more money
to purchase any service or commodity than it used. In starving Central
Europe it is the doctors, professors, engineers, artists, musicians,
business men, lawyers--the intellectual wealth of the nations, who have
been the first to perish. The further they had dug themselves out of
the pit of crude manual labour, where all labour starts, the more
precipitous was their descent.

But perhaps you think that though these things might have happened to
you, you would not have deserved them--not in the sense that Central
Europe deserves them. Had you been an Austrian your moral fineness
would have revolted against your countrymen's war of opportunism and
aggression. Perhaps! But men act in crowds and the probabilities are
against you. All the enemy peoples with whom I have conversed, have
claimed as the ideals which urged them to fight precisely the same
ideals for which we sacrificed and ultimately triumphed--liberty,
justice, righteousness. Had their Governments not convinced them that
their inheritance of freedom was in danger, they would not have risked
their happiness in carnage. This at least is certain, whatever else is
in doubt: the ordinary, home-loving citizen, whatever his nationality,
only becomes a soldier and makes himself a target for shell-fire under
the compulsion of a lofty motive. It was the bad fortune of the citizens
of the Central Powers that their lofty motives were the offspring of
lies--lies retailed to them as truth by the criminals and casuists who
were their leaders. Had we been of their citizenship, should we have
been more alert to discern the falsehood?

That I should write in this spirit, pleading for our late enemies, may
cause a slight amazement in a public who have read my war-books. My
reason--I will not say my excuse:--is that I have visited our late
enemies' need and in the presence of human agony animosity dies. One
ceases to question how far their suffering is the outcome of their
folly; his sole desperation is to bind up their wounds--especially the
wounds of their children. When witnessing death and starvation on
the wholesale scale now prevailing in Europe, he forgets his austere
self-righteousness and substitutes mercy for justice. "It might have
happened to me," he says; "these women might have been my wife, my
mother, my sisters, and these children, save for the grace of God, might
have been my children."

One never believes that his own calamities are possible until they have
happened. He thinks of himself proudly, as an individual immune from the
contagion of adversity. It was so that the Russian aristocrats thought
of themselves. If in the summer of 1914 the stranger of _The Third Floor
Back_ had mysteriously appeared at the Imperial Court in Petrograd and
had announced, "Unless you have compassion and share with the outcast,
the day will come when there will not be a peasant in Russia as forlorn
as you," he would have been laughed ta scorn and sent into exile. Yet
that day has come. In Warsaw you may see the princesses, the generals,
the fops, the plutocrats, the law-givers of that resplendent Court,
clothed in rags, their feet in sodden boots, waiting their turn in
the breadline. After such a sight, no reversal of fortunes, however
far-fetched, seems impossible. It might happen to anybody. It might
happen to me or you. There is even a likelihood that it will happen
unless we learn to have compassion. Central Europe will not die
patiently of starvation indefinitely. Nations which civilisation has
condemned to starve to death have nothing to lose by giving way to
violence; they may have something to gain by it The more desperate their
need becomes, the more likely they are to risk the gamble. They would at
least get the satisfaction before they perished of making other nations,
which had been heedless of their misery, as outcast as themselves. There
lies the danger.

So, however fanciful it may seem to say in writing of Central Europe,
"It might have happened to you," there is a grim possibility about the
final statement, "It may happen yet."



CHAPTER II--THESE MY LITTLE ONES

Today I visited one of the strategic points where the battle against
hunger is being fought. It was a former barracks, now a soup-kitchen of
the American Relief Administration, situated in the poorest district
of Vienna, where meals are daily prepared for 8000 children. There are
340,000 undernourished children in Vienna--a total of 96 per cent, out
of the entire child-population. But these, whom I visited, were all
hand-picked and medically certified as being sufficiently near to
extinction to be admitted. Funds are too low to feed any save those who
are within measurable distance of dying.

The sight was a disgrace to civilization. The snow, which the bankrupt
Government has no money to clear away, had turned to slush. One's
well-shod feet were perishing. The road which approached the desolate
banquet-hall, was an oozy quagmire of icy mud. Within the building at
wooden tables sat an army of stunted pigmies, raggedly clad and famished
to a greenish pallor. They were the kind of pigmies to whom Christ would
have referred, had He been with me, as "These, my little ones." They
ranged in age all the way from the merest toddlers to the beginnings of
adolescence. No one would have guessed the adolescent part of it, for
there wasn't a child in the gathering who looked older than ten. They
didn't talk. They didn't laugh. They were terribly intent, for each had
a roll and a pannikin of cocoa over which it crouched with an animal
eagerness. And the stench from the starveling bodies was nauseating.

The people who attended to their needs were Austrians. There are less
than forty American officials in the whole of Europe to superintend
the workings of the Relief Administration. The food had been
provided one-third by American philanthropy, the other two-thirds by
Austrians--which is an answer to those thrifty economists who are so
afraid of pauperising Europe. This is the fixed rule of the American
Relief Administration's activities, that it contributes one-third of the
expense and does the organising, while the country assisted provides the
other two-thirds and the personnel of the workers. When the country is
able to function for itself, as is the case with Czecho-Slovakia, the
machinery remains but the Administration withdraws. Another useful
fact to remember is that one American dollar, at the current rate of
exchange, keeps one of these little skeletons alive for a month. And
yet another fact is that the whole of each dollar donated is expended on
food and nothing is deducted for organisation.

As I stood in that dingy hall and watched the overwhelming tragedy of
spoliated childhood, my memory went back three years. The last time I
had witnessed a misery so heart-breaking had been at Evian, where the
trains entered France from Switzerland, repatriating the little French
captives who had existed for three years behind the German lines. It had
seemed to me then that those corpselike, unsmiling victims of human
hate had represented the foulest vehemence of the crime of war. Yet here
today in Vienna, two years after our much prayed for peace, I have been
confronted by the same crime against childhood, being enacted with a yet
greater shamelessness, for the war is ended, four-fifths of the world
has an excess of food and there is no longer any excuse of military
necessity. Today our only possible excuse is hard-heartedness and
besotted selfishness.

Here today, to all intents and purposes, are the same little slaves of
famine and ill-usage that were to be seen passing through Evian three
years ago, the only difference is that their nationality has
changed. Those were French and these are Austrians. "Poetic justice!
Retribution!" someone may say. To such a man I would reply that the war
was not waged against children. The children of whatsoever nations we
fought never ceased to be our friends.

And these children whom I saw today, most of them were not born when the
war started. They had no voice in our animosities. They did not ask to
he brought into such a world. Many of them since their first breath,
have never known what it was to be warm and not to be hungry. To them
joy is a word utterly meaningless. They have always been too weak to
laugh or play. Two years after our madness has ended they are still
paying the price of the adult world's folly. We have returned home to
our comfortable firesides, but their tender bodies still shudder in the
trenches which an unwisdom, which was partly ours, dug for them.

I entered a shed where little feet were being measured for the Christmas
gift of boots which had arrived from America. What feet! How deformed
with cold, and swollen and blue! They lad never been anything else since
their owners could remember. There was nothing childish about them,
except that they were small. Some were wholly naked; some were wrapped
in rags; some were thrust into the recovered derelicts of splendid
adults like myself. My feet were like stones with trudging through the
melting snow, but I could look forward to a time when mine would be
warm. What about theirs, the feet of little children whose pain was
never ended--small feet that should have learned to dance?

On a bench sat a tiny boy, wizened and jaded as an old man. He was being
fitted. A little ragged girl who was no relation, but was acting mother
to him, told me his age. He was nine, but he was not as big as seven.
No, he wasn't being fed by the Americans--not yet. He wasn't famished
enough; there were other children who were worse. There wasn't enough
food to feed you unless you were very bad. Perhaps he would be bad
enough soon after Christmas.

I didn't dare to tell her that after Christmas, unless the conscience
of the happier world is aroused, there won't be any funds to feed her
little friend, no matter how bad he becomes.

After he had been fitted, I watched her ease the broken apologies for
boots back on to the swollen flesh. She was very tender. She knew how
much it hurt, for her own feet were no better. She had auburn hair,
which hung in ringlets, and kind gray eyes. She took his hand and helped
him off the bench. Away they trudged through the bitter cold and slush,
dreaming of Christmas when for once their feet will be protected. My
eyes followed them. My eyes followed them so much that that afternoon
I did a round of the homes from which these children come. I wanted to
find out about the parents--whether this condition of affairs is their
fault, due to uncurable shiftlessness. I procured my list from the
Society of Friends, who are doing a fine work in house to house
visitation. From the homes which I visited, I select two examples which
vividly illustrate the child need not only of Vienna, but of the whole
of Central Europe.

The first home belonged to a man named Klier. He had a wife and three
children, the youngest of which was two and a half and the oldest
fourteen. Before the war he had been a silversmith and comfortably
settled. Today in Austria there is no work for silversmiths and will
not be for many years to come. He had served in the army on the Italian
front--he still wore his uniform--had been captured and had been a
prisoner. During his absence, his wife had had to commence selling the
furniture piece by piece to keep the home going. On his return he could
not get employment. By the time I saw him every solitary possession
which he had had, had gone except two single beds and a pile of rags for
coverings. One of those beds he rented to a lodger, the other his wife,
self and children slept in by turns through the night, trying to keep
themselves warm. Despite this abject poverty, the floor was speckless
and had been recently scrubbed. A little gray-faced tot in a solitary
garment--a crimson velvet frock donated by the Red Cross--stood
stoically by, while her father talked to me. He had at last got a job
on a paper, he said, which would bring him in 1600 crowns a month. 1600
crowns are a little over two dollars in American money, out of which he
had to pay his rent and lighting. How was it to be done? He shrugged his
shoulders hopelessly and spread his hands abroad. And again I asked a
question--did he hope that things would be better in the future? He
made no reply, but grabbed the child's hand more protectingly and stared
forlornly at the blank wall.

The second home belonged to a man named Lutowsky.

He had been a repairer of street-pavements; pavements are taking care
of themselves at present. His household consisted of a grandmother,
aged 71, a wife in consumption, due to starvation, and five consumptive
children. In painting the picture which I have to paint, I feel ashamed
at having pried on such a depth of sorrow. The home consisted of two
rooms. In the first the grandmother was washing clothes. She explained
that she earned thirty crowns a day for it--less than five cents in
American money; but that after a day's work she was always laid up for
a week from exhaustion. Before the war she had been in receipt of
a pension of twenty-four crowns a month, which would be about five
dollars. Since the fall in money values her pension had been raised to
fifty crowns, which at present rates of exchange represented less than
eight cents a month. How did she exist on it?

In the inner room I found the rest of the family--the son, his wife and
the five children. The youngest child was over two years of age and was
still at the breast--there was nothing else on which to feed it. The
mother was scarcely clad above the waist. Her eyes were sunk deep in her
head and burnt with the fever of famine. About her neck a horrid rag was
knotted, for her throat was puffed with tubercular glands. She spoke in
a hoarse voice, panting with the effort. Her man stood stonily beside
her and made no comment. They had five children, yes. They were nearly
naked, as we could see. They were all consumptive and always starved. It
hadn't been like this always. Probably they would die soon--she supposed
that would be better. Had they any money? Yes, there was her man's
unemployment payment, which amounted to a cent and a half a day,
American money. The world didn't want them. She coughed. The children
commenced to sob, but the man still stared at us stolidly. There was no
furniture in the room, save again one bed with a few rags flung over.
it. The last of a candle guttered in a socket; when that went out, they
would be utterly in the dark. By its light, as I turned to go, I
noticed that yet another unwanted baby was expected. They had once been
self-respecting and happy. And this home was typical of the several
million homes in which the five million children of Europe are starving.

In the outer room, as I departed, the old Grannie was again busy at her
washing, earning those coveted thirty crowns which would exhaust her.
Over her head a motto was pinned against the wall--the only decoration
remaining from a former affluence. I asked my interpreter how it read
and he translated, "May the Christmas-man bring you good luck from near
and far."



CHAPTER III--A DAY OF REST AND GLADNESS

Today being Sunday, a day of rest and gladness when even prisoners do
not work, I visited the central gaol of Vienna. Permission is not often
granted; in order to obtain it, it was necessary to gain the consent of
the President of the Austrian Republic. My object in going was to see
for myself to what extent starvation is making criminals out of children
and so adding one more grim touch, by destroying characters as well as
bodies, to the monstrous sum of Europe's child tragedy.

Before the war the Viennese were among the most happy and law-abiding of
citizens. What famine can accomplish in the manufacture of criminals was
illustrated by what I saw on this visit.

It was a sunny day with a sky of intensest blue. The snow and slush of
Saturday had frozen over, so that the streets gleamed brilliantly in
white and steel-gray patches. About the Ring, which encirles the old
royal palace, crowds were promenading in the worn finery of pre-war
days. There was almost a breath of hope--an unwonted alertness.

We drew up before a frowning pile of buildings, the windows of which are
heavily grated, before whose entrances men with rifles stood on guard.
We were immediately conducted to the office of the prison-director; he
had something to say to us. He was a very humane man and most eager to
impress us with his humanity. He had sent for us to warn us that we were
about to encounter sights which would probably shock us. Since the war
the crime-wave had been on the increase in all countries--especially in
those which were most hungry. People seemed to be losing their faculty
for distinguishing between mine and thine. This was the case in Austria,
with the consequence that the supply of gaols could not cope with the
demand of the criminals. All the gaols were overcrowded. This one was.
Cells which had been built to hold one prisoner, now contained four;
those built to hold nine contained as many as thirty. Of course the
sanitary accommodations were insufficient. He did not want us to believe
that what we were about to see was typical of Austrian efficiency. We
should discover that only one prisoner out of four had a bed; that their
personal linen was changed only once a month and that the cells
were verminous. We should also discover that the greater part of the
prisoners had not been brought to trial--many of them had been awaiting
their trial three months. These lamentable conditions had produced
frequent riots, which had only been quelled by flooding the cells to
the depth of a yard. Still worse, children were displaying an increasing
tendency to theft. Of course, that might be due to starvation. In
pre-war days they had been dealt with in juvenile-court, but now all
children of fourteen and up had to be herded with adults. There were so
many of them. That was the trouble. Under the circumstances what else
could be done? He bade us good-bye with a courtly politeness. His last
words were a petition that we would not be shocked. But we were.

And who would not he? Two-thirds of the crimes which had brought these
three thousand unfortunates to this pass, fathers, mothers and children,
had been stealings incited by hunger. There was one ward of mothers who
had stolen to preserve their little ones and were again expecting to
become mothers. They were among the very few of the prisoners who were
segregated. They sat on the edge of cots in their grated cells, dismally
weeping, wondering no doubt what was happening to the children they had
left. Mary, refused admittance to the inn at Bethlehem, has stood in
men's minds as the acme of maternal tragedy; but her neglect does not
compare with the callous usage of these Viennese, captive mothers. And
yet, as the director had said, economic conditions being what they were,
what else could you do with them? You couldn't let them go on filching
merely because they were mothers.

Among the prisoners we found a great many ex-soldiers. There was one,
a strapping chap, who had had all the military decorations he had won
tatooed upon his breast. They were plain for everyone to behold as he
had only a shirt that was torn. Round his neck was tatooed the Iron
Cross and below it, in a long line, all the service medals, starting
with the 1914. When he marched away six years ago, how well would he
have fought could he have guessed that this would be his reward?

In one cell for six men, into which twenty-six had been crowded, we
stumbled on a pathetic piece of vanity. The door was unlocked so quickly
that the prisoners were taken unaware. We discovered a man of sixty,
with what looked like a terrible wound across his mouth, all bandaged. I
turned away to speak to a stunted boy, who looked about fourteen, to ask
him why he was there. He had been arrested for housebreaking because
he was hungry. He wasn't fourteen; he was nearly twenty. When I glanced
back to the prisoner with the wounded mouth, I found myself face to face
with a replica of Hindenburg. The bandage which he had been wearing had
been hastily removed. It was a moustache-preserver, with elastics which
went behind his ears to keep the contraption in place. Out of all his
fallen fortunes, the vermin and the vice, he had salved this petty piece
of conceit to heal his wounded pride. And he had cause; he probably
possesses the most fiercely up-pointing moustaches in Austria.

Cell after cell was locked and unlocked, giving us instant glimpses
of hell. It was famine that had worked this evil; nine-tenths of these
people would have remained good but for that. The atmosphere was so
putrid that one's throat became sore. We lit cigarettes to conquer the
stench. Outside the sun was shining and the sky was dazzling.

This was the day of rest. What did they do with it? Nothing. They sat
dolefully in sullen, uncomplaining apathy, brooding and brooding. They
had no books, no way of entertaining themselves, save in rare cases
where the Society of Friends had visited them. The Society of Friends is
the only institution which does anything for the prisons of Austria. One
wondered what stories those walls could tell of what happened after
nightfall. It was in the darkness the warder informed us that vermin
were most voracious--they crept out. But other things besides vermin
creep out in the hours of darkness--evil thoughts, bred of idleness,
taking shape in evil acts. Of all this the boys and girls of fourteen
and over are witnesses and at last partakers. The sin which has put them
in gaol is not theirs, but society's--their hunger. Yet the price they
pay is that they leave those walls as moral degenerates. Civilization by
its callousness toward these children is running up a heavy score--a
score which will one day come up for settlement and which the world,
willingly or unwillingly, will have to join in paying. The bill will
consist of a leprous taint which will travel in men's bodies down the
ages; a legacy of disease and idiocy.

The memory of the horror stings one's eyes and gags one's throat with
its foulness. It stirs one's mind to an insanity of anger at the smug
complacency of the more fortunate world which contrives excuses for
withholding its help. What have these fathers and mothers done to be in
gaol?

Their children were dying; it was noble of them to steal. And the little
child prisoners, why should they be here? During most of their lives,
beginning with the war, they have known nothing but cold and privation.
They were taught by necessity to pilfer--which is scarcely a sufficient
reason for killing their souls. And please remember that this gaol in
Vienna is only a sample of the gaols of all the stricken countries.

The key turned in the lock and the narrow studded door was swung wide,
revealing a narrow cell of no more than the dimensions of a double bed.
It contained two occupants. One was a woman of the bestial type,
almost wholly animal. Her feet were bare, her hair hung matted upon her
forehead. Her features were swollen and debased. There was no infamy
of uncleanness and violence of which she was not capable. Probably
she, too, had her excuses. On the other side of the cell, smiling with
wistful expectancy, stood a pretty child. She had black curling hair, a
complexion of most delicate rose and coyly-lidded Irish eyes. She leant
against the wall, small-boned and frail, confidently surveying us. She
was nearly fifteen. This was her second term. She had already served a
previous sentence of eighteen months. What for? Stealing. Starvation.
No, we hadn't come to release her--only to gaze at her. But she had
thought we were Americans! Her eyes filled and her lip drooped. The
door swung to; it clanged pitilessly. She ran forward with a pleading
gesture; then the sight of her was shut out. Her hope was gone. We had
consigned her to her hell. And she might have been your daughter or
mine.



CHAPTER IV--THE SIGN OF THE FALLING HAMMER

There is an institution in Vienna known as the Dorotheum. It is the
Government pawnshop and ===has for its sign a falling hammer against a
sinking sun. More than two hundred years ago it was founded by the good
Emperor Joseph to protect his people against the rapacity of private
brokers. Formerly the rule was that if articles were not reclaimed
within the space of ten months, they would be passed under the hammer.
Today the respite for redemption has been cut down to three months; the
Government cannot take the risk of a declining currency over a longer
period.

This afternoon I visited the Dorotheum. It is a vast building,
constructed on the grand scale like a palace. Up and down its marble
stairway throng the more respectable part of the tragedy of Vienna;
pressing hard upon its heels come the vulture purchasers, for the most
part foreigners, intent on making bargains out of Austria's want. The
Dorotheum is a museum of domestic sacrifices. Here is the complete story
of a country gone bankrupt. There is no exchange in the world that is
so crowded. Never in its history did it do so thriving a trade. Early
in the morning the crowd begins to gather, each individual carrying a
shamefully concealed bundle; it does not disperse till the gates are
closed at night. The Dorotheum is patronised by all classes, from the
bank-clerk, raising a few crowns on an alarm clock, to the archduchess,
pledging her jewels. It is one of the last ports of call of the proudly
destitute.

Before I made my tour of inspection I was ushered into the presence of
the supervisor--a sad, thin man in a flapping black coat who had the
nervous cough of an undertaker. He explained that the season being
Christmas he was very busy. Trade was brisk; everyone in Vienna had
something to sell. This may strike you as quaint, but in Vienna nowadays
Christmas is celebrated by pawning and not by purchasing. Because of
this the supervisor asked to be excused from conducting me personally
over his mausoleum. He entrusted me to a gray, unshaven man who had the
appearance of a broken Count. He may have been a Count. An Admiral, who
was the hope of the Adriatic navy, is banging at a typewriter today.

This morning I shook the hand of a General, earning ten dollars a month,
who once made the Allies tremble by his prowess against the Russians.
You can never be quite sure of your companion in this fallen city of
tragic transformations.

The first room we entered was jammed to the ceiling with everything
from the cheapest electric fittings to the loot of palaces. I noticed a
complete set of Empire drawing-room furniture marked at the absurd price
of a thousand crowns--rather less than a dollar and a half. There were
rare rugs on the walls--the kind one would purchase at Sloane's for
anything above three thousand dollars; they were offered at from three
to sixty dollars. The sixty dollar one was a magnificent specimen. In
another room there was an art gallery, guarded by an ex-engineer of
European reputation, who now survives chiefly on tips. The pictures
which he guarded were all for sale and many of them the work of famous
modern painters. The cheapest I saw was a signed Russian landscape; it
would have cost me thirty cents. The dearest, frame and all, could have
been mine for six dollars. Art is not much in demand in Vienna.

But the more pathetic sight was not the luxuries of the rich, but
the necessities of the respectable middle-class, which had been left
unredeemed for three months and were now to be auctioned off. The price
on the tags represented one-third their value, which had been advanced
to their owners, plus a margin of interest on the Government's
outlay. Here were dresses, millinery, fur coats, gramophones, silver
wedding-presents, libraries and even cradles. There was nothing you can
think of that goes to make a home that some unfortunate had not pledged
and lost.

The Count touched my arm. Wouldn't I like to see how it was done? How
what was done? Why, the pledging.

I followed him out of the crowded room, where the foreigners were
selecting the bargains for which they intended to bid next day. We went
down a narrow, draughty stairway till we found ourselves in a kind of
railway station. All along one side was a tier of windows, with iron
railings leading up to them, and between the railings queues of tired
people. They all carried parcels, as if they were going on a journey,
but when they reached the windows they parted with their bundles--pushed
them through the slit, waited and went away stuffing wads of paper money
in their pockets.

This was the department where the jewelry was pawned. I was escorted
through a door into the room which lay behind the windows. Here in long
rows the valuers sat with scales before them, and magnifying glasses
screwed into their right eyes. As a package was pushed through the slit
across the counter they took it, undid it and examined its contents.
They tested the stones. They weighed the metal. Then they scribbled on
a slip of paper the sum of money the Government was prepared to advance.
The pledger never demurred at the amount offered. He presented the slip
at a neighboring window and the money was counted out.

Watching from the inside room, where the valuing was in process, I
could hardly see the pledgers' faces. It was their hands thrust with
a shameful furtiveness through the windows that told their story.
All kinds of hands! I remember one pair. They belonged to a man of
thirty--they were the supple hands of an artist. Behind the window I
could make out his firm, clean-shaven face. Beside him a young woman was
standing--probably his wife. My attention was attracted to her because,
when he pushed the jewelry across the counter, she made a regretful
gesture, as if she would draw it back. The valuer commenced coldly to
examine it. The parcel contained a woman's bracelet, a man's cuff-links,
a gold watch-chain and a wedding ring. It was the wedding ring that gave
me the meaning of her gesture. The valuer scribbled his offer. It was
for 2,400 crowns--about three dollars fifty. The offer was accepted and
the next comer's pair of hands were thrust tremblingly into sight.

Last of all I was taken to the auction-rooms, where the sales were in
progress. The Count warned me that at this time in the afternoon the
auctions were not interesting. It was too late. The expensive lots were
sold earlier. But despite his pessimisms, I was interested.

There was a long room, dimly lighted. Running up and down it in an oval,
was a pathway of tables. It formed a barrier like the enclosure of a
circus. Seated on the outside of it were the bidders, with faces avid as
gamblers'. At a high desk the auctioneer sat enthroned--he gets seventy
dollars a year for his trouble. In the space on the inside, which the
table surrounded, the goods being auctioned were piled. And what do you
think they were? Children's toys. Not new toys, but old favorites--dolls
and rocking-horses and tin soldiers, the pillage of the nurseries
of Vienna. They were the gifts which Santa Claus had left at little
bedsides in years when the world was kinder. Like the wedding ring, they
had to go. Bread was required.



CHAPTER V--ONCE IS ENOUGH

Once is enough," says Budapest. "We shall never go Bolshevist again."
When one listens to the stories of what happened while Hungary was under
the heel of Bela Kuhn, his only wonder is that once was not too much.
The first man to give me an inside picture was the correspondent of the
Manchester Guardian; his mother had been thrown out of a fourth storey
window by the pillaging rabble who visited her home. The second was
Hungary's greatest iron-master, who crouched with his wife and daughter
in an unlighted cupboard during the entire regime of terror. But though
Hungary is sincerely repentant and, as an actual fact, less likely
than Great Britain or America ever to go Bolshevist, the indiscreet
experiment of two years ago has created a prejudice. The need of Hungary
is as pressing as that of any Central European country, but a quite
insignificant amount of relief work is being done. There has been no
feeding of children since last August, when the funds allotted for that
purpose gave out. The American Relief Administration is planning to
renew its activities immediately; but the neutral countries, which have
carried on such fine work in other famished areas, have done next to
nothing for Hungary. Yet Hungary's claims are in many respects more
urgent. It has suffered from the war. It has suffered from the Peace
Treaty, which has given away to Roumania and Czecko-Slovakia its best
wheat-lands and all its important sources of fuel. It has suffered
from Bela Kuhn. Last of all and most recent, it has suffered from the
Roumanian invasion, which resulted not only in theft on a wholesale
scale, but also in the most senseless destruction. From all these causes
the country is filled with refugees and naturally the children are the
chief sufferers. There are two refugee universities in Budapest, which
have taken up their headquarters in old tobacco-factories. When I say
refugee universities, I mean literally seats of learning like Yale and
Harvard which have transplanted themselves entire, with professors and
students and now have no visible means of support.

There are over 40,000 people living in freight-cars in the railroad
yards in and around the city. They lack every means of sanitation.
Epidemics are continually springing up among them which threaten to
spread throughout the country. At the present moment measles and scarlet
fever are rife. There is no means of ventilating a freight-car, except
by letting in the cold, and no means of heating it, except by keeping
the doors shut and stifling. I visited the freight-car dwellers today
and was notified of their presence by a smell not unlike an open sewer.
Men, women, and children lay dying in those boxes, while the living
slept beside them. There was no attempt at decency. Decency is a weak
word. All sense of elementary cleanliness was forgotten. Here women bore
children in the publicity of their families and all the intimate details
of married life were witnessed by the most innocent and the youngest.
The freight-cars of Budapest are not a series of homes, but an itinerant
jungle. When the smell becomes too obnoxious in one spot, they are
hauled to another. The fate of their occupants is nobody's business;
they are left to die.

But these people form only a minute fraction of the sum total of misery.
There are upwards of a thousand factories in Budapest and only a hundred
of them are in partial operation. Why? The lack of coal. There are
no woods in Hungary; it is a land of tillage. Most of the mines were
apportioned among other nations. The fields are of little service for
food; the Roumanians carried off the seed which was being hoarded for
the sowing of the next harvest. The Government hands out ration-cards,
designating shops at which the recipients may apply. Queues form early
in the morning, but at the end of a long day's waiting the supplies are
exhausted. One queue is waiting for fuel, another for milk, another for
potatoes. The people who compose them are half-naked; their feet are
unshod; the snow is melting; the women carry babies. Can you realize the
tragedy at the mid of the day when these people return to their families
empty-handed?

Misery is best depicted in individual cases. I went to a maternity
hospital, where devoted Hungarian women are working without thought
of reward to save the lives of the unborn. They have no bed-linen, no
medicines, few instruments. The establishment could be run at a cost of
two hundred dollars a month--less than the cost of a woman's dress on
Fifth Avenue. If the next two hundred dollars are not forthcoming, in
the near future the wards will be closed. As it is they are so crowded
that a mother can only be cared for for ten days.

As an adjunct to the hospital they have a preventive department, into
which they gather the young girls who would become mothers if they were
allowed to run at large. It sounds incredible, but girls are so hungry
in Budapest that they will sell their souls to the first comer for
a hunk of bread. These girls are collected by the department I have
mentioned and are taught to make lace. When I was there today the thread
had given out and no more was obtainable. They make their lace for two
dollars for eleven yards; in America it would be worth at least two
dollars for one yard. As a mere business undertaking it would pay some
firm to send the thread from America and purchase the product.

I went to see the homes from which these girl-children came. There is a
section of Budapest called Tivoli--why I do not know. It consists of
old factories, now stripped and empty. In these buildings the utterly
forlorn have taken up their abode.

I wish instead of writing, I could cut down the distance that separates
me from America. Then I could bring you by automobile to see for
yourselves. A glance would be enough. You would not be able to rest till
these wrongs had been righted.

The roads which lead up to Tivoli are mud.

The place is avoided as a contagion. In many of the homes only one
member of the family is able to appear at a time--the rest are naked. If
they possess a bed, it has nothing but a mattress and the mattress has
been slit so that they may crawl in among its straw for covering. As
a rule the bed is the only piece of furniture; all the rest has either
been sold or broken up for fuel. Everything that will burn has vanished
from the landscape--palings, posts, everything. One pushes open a
door--not one door, but a thousand; the same sight meets the eyes.
There's a mother gaunt with famine, a bare room, an evil odour, a baby
thrust into the mattress, boys and girls in rags, almost naked, and a
few rotten potatoes lying jumbled on the floor. Of any other kind of
food there's not a sign. The moment you appear they start to crawl
towards you, hailing you as a deliverer. Any face that is new and
unexpected serves to spur their desperate hope. They weep and try to
kiss your hands, cringing indecently like animals.

Don't run away with the idea that these people are the scum of the
earth; before the war they were as respectable as you or I.

Take the case of Mrs. Richa. She lives in one room with seven children,
all of whom are tubercular. Yesterday the room had yet another occupant,
but I arrived too late to see him--this morning he died. He lay in one
corner, a little apart from the living and, seeing that he would not
usurp it long, he was allowed to have the mattress. This other occupant
was Private Richa, the husband of Mrs. Richa and the father of the seven
children. He had caught his disease in the winter campaigns against the
Russians--consumption. His youngest child--a baby not yet two--was stark
naked. The room was bare of everything. None of them had been fed for
two days. There was snow outside. When one considers the situation
placidly, Private Richa has done rather better than his family.

Or take the case of Mrs. Schwartz. She and her husband had been in a
prosperous way and had owned a thriving store. At that time they had had
four children. When Hungary was invaded, the Cossacks burnt the store
and cut her husband slowly to pieces before her eyes. The result of this
is that the youngest child is deaf, dumb and imbecile. In her flight
between the retreating and invading armies, two of her children died.
She arrived in Budapest like thousands of others, friendless and
penniless. Year by year, dragging out the agony, she has starved. When
we visited her she was on her last legs--she could scarcely rise.

These cases can be enumerated endlessly till the sheer weight of their
tragedy kills their drama. But the question is what are we going to do
about it? Are we going to let millions of human beings die like rats
in a hole? Are we going to let the children of Hungary perish? They at
least should be saved.



CHAPTER VI--IT IS NOT SAFE

Today I had an interview, lasting for an hour, with Admiral Horthy,
who is Governor of Hungary. It was he who snatched his country from
the throes of Bolshevism and established in the midst of disaster a
representative government. He is a patriot and man of the world in the
finest sense. He was wounded in the Great War and has lived through to
peace days without animosities. My object in seeing him was to obtain a
personal statement from him of how he proposed to reconstruct the fallen
destinies of Hungary.

I was met by a liaison officer whose wife is an American, resident in
New York, and was taken in a car of the American Relief to the palace
which sits above the Danube on the heights of Buda. The old magnificence
of palace etiquette is still kept up. We mounted the marble stairs,
encountering guards, with clanking swords, at every turn. The excursion
seemed more like fiction than reality--more like a page out of _The
Prisoner of Zenda_ through which one walked as a living character. At
the top of the staircase we were challenged by halbardiers, in medieval
uniforms not dissimilar from those of the Swiss Guards. In an ante-room
we were requested to remove our coats and to prepare for the interview.
After a wait of not more than five minutes, we were summoned. Passing
along a hall filled with priceless cloisonné, we came to a doorway
outside which a soldier, caparisoned as though to take part in Grand
Opera, was standing. Behind the door a seaman, as bluff and cheery as
any British Admiral was seated at a desk. His breast was a rainbow flash
of decorations. He rose with his hand outstretched as we entered; his
whole attitude one of ease and friendliness.

His first act was to beckon us to a group of chairs and to offer us
cigarettes. This was the man on whom at no far distant date the peace
of Europe may depend. Admiral Horthy is a cleanshaven, square-faced man,
with resolute eyes and the nose of a hawk. The kind of man who inspires
trust and whom men cannot fail to like immensely.

My first question was how he accounted for Hungary's present forlorn
condition. His answer was forthright--the Peace Treaty. The old
Hungary was an economic entity, complete in itself. It had coal-mines,
wheatfields, factories, and was a seagoing nation. Today it has no
outlet to the sea, no mines and no money with which to buy the coal to
operate its factories. It is like a body in which the arteries have been
cut so that the blood cannot circulate. Even its wheatfields have been
handed over in part as a bribe to other nations. This would not matter
so much if the wheat-lands were under cultivation. But they are not. The
wheat-lands apportioned to Roumania were divided among peasants who had
not the capital to work them. They were compelled by their Government
to accept them under the threat that, if they refused, they would be
conscripted into the army. As a consequence, when the world is crying
for food, large areas of Hungarian tillage in Roumanians hands are lying
idle. They are like the engines and rolling-stock taken in reparation
from the enemy, which may be seen in Roumania, Belgium and France
rusting on the rails. The old Hungary consisted of a conglomeration of
races mutually inter-dependent. Labour travelled from point to point
at recognised seasons along recognised routes. At the harvest Roumanian
peasants had for centuries come to Hungary to lend a hand. They tried to
do the same this year, but were turned back at the frontier by their own
soldiery with a loss of three hundred lives.

"What is the remedy?" I asked.

The Admiral leant forward, gazing at me keenly. "Patience," he said. "In
the world, constituted as it is today, injustice cannot triumph. Least
of all economic injustice. My job at the moment is to sit on the lid and
prevent men who do not know that it will hurt, from ramming their heads
against a wall." He made a soothing gesture with his hands, "Keep quiet
and wait, I say."

"But while they wait your people are starving," I suggested.

"Yes." He shuddered as though in some spiritual way he had known the
agony of starvation. "Yes, they are starving; but it will not be for
ever. After the war there was a great lethargy. The nations who had won
only thought of themselves. Now they are beginning to think on broader
lines--this drive to save our children that you are having in America is
proof of that. Next you will begin to enquire into causes and then you
will revise the hurried misinformation of the Peace Conference. If you
don't, there is always Bolshevism."

"Bolshevism!" I exclaimed. "Do you mean that Hungary would go Bolshevist
again?"

"Never," his face clenched like the fingers of a hand. "But if the
spring drive of the Russians succeeds, Poland will be overwhelmed. If
that happens, many States of Central Europe will go Bolshevist; Hungary
will be the only State you will be able to trust. Poor Hungary, whom you
have shorn of her possessions, she will be your bridge-head against the
tide of anarchy. We shall get our chance to prove then that we are your
friends."

"But is there no other way of righting Hungary's wrongs save through
violence?" I asked.

"Yes." He spoke seriously. "Through justice. We are a proud people.
We don't want charity. We want an opportunity to work. But our hands
are----" He broke off and pressed his hands together as if they were
manacled. "How can we work without coal? Our factories are closed. Our
people are starving. It is not safe to let people starve too long."

I went away from my interview with Hungary's strong man with those words
ringing in my ears, "_It is not safe to let people starve too long_". On
returning to the American Relief Station I heard an uproar of piercing
wailing. There was a crowd about the door where the candidates for
relief enter. My liaison officer, by virtue of his uniform, elbowed a
way for me to the front. On the cold stone floor a man in a cassock was
kneeling. He held a crucifix. In a secret, murmuring flow of words he
was praying. Before him lay a human wax-work, who was newly dead; he
had collapsed when help was within handstretch. He was a young man,
certainly less than thirty, bleached with under-nourishment. He was
neatly clad in clothes which were thread-bare; he might have been
a shop-keeper or a clerk. The priest continued to pray--the wailing
dwindled into the distance down the corridor as a woman was led away. At
last a door closed behind her and there was nothing but the silence of
the crowd and the murmur of the praying. I glanced at the peering faces,
and I knew that it was true, what the strong man of Hungary had said. It
is not safe to let a nation starve too long.



CHAPTER VII--CHRISTMAS EVE IN VIENNA

This year Santa Claus made a mistake about Vienna; he forgot to come or
else he had grown tired of paying visits to a people who are so unhappy.
In Vienna they speak of 1920 as the sixth year of the war--they mean the
war against hunger. They can afford no more Christmases till the Peace
with Hunger has been settled. Some of us who had seen the toys taken
from the children being auctioned for bread at the Dorotheum, suspected
that this would be the case--Santa Claus would be too busy in England
and America to find time to visit the stockings of Vienna; so we
conspired to commit the fraud of impersonation. We each stumped up a
certain sum with which to purchase flour, bacon, cocoa, rice, sugar and
tinned milk. We obtained the addresses from the Society of Friends
of twenty-five of the most desperate families. The American Relief
Administration lent us a car. As soon as night had fallen we set off on
our rounds; we were warned that if we started too late, we should find
all the homes in darkness; the means of illumination are expensive.
People go to bed as soon as it becomes dark and save the money that
candles would have cost.

We were a curiously constituted party--an amalgam of the new friendship
which can alone bring happiness to the world. Our chauffeur, as
delighted at the undertaking as anyone, was a German. Our pillar of
strength was Dr. John, an Austrian, who had been lamed in the front-line
as a combatant by one of the Allies' shells. The rest of us were British
and Americans. Three years ago we were all soldiers, thirsting for each
other's blood; and here, on this Christmas Eve of 1920, we were crowded
together in the same automobile, bound on the one errand. It was
wonderful. We thought our way back to that No Man's Land of animosity;
it was amazing that we should have hated so much.

We jolted our way between snow-banks, through dim-lit streets, to the
poorest quarter of the city. But even here there was a look of tidiness,
for Vienna has no slums. The absence of slums in a sense enhances the
tragedy of the situation. These people, who are now on their last legs,
were formerly thrifty and self-respecting. They did not merit such a
fate. Vienna was a clean city and its municipal government was ahead
of the times in the attention that it paid to housing conditions. So it
happens that today in well-treed streets, flanked by model dwellings of
artistic design, you are deceived unless you look behind the doors; for
these people are not incorrigible slovens who parade their griefs
and trade upon your pity. They are the unfortunates of a world-wide
calamity, who creep into back rooms and prefer to die quietly. What I
propose to do is what we did this Christmas Eve--push open a few of the
doors and let you see what lies hidden. There is one point which in
all fairness it is necessary to emphasize. In none of the cases which I
propose to quote was the poverty due to shiftlessness. It was invariably
due to one of two causes: the debased value of the currency or the
inability to obtain work. The desire to work was always present. If you
ask what is the solution, so that neither Vienna nor any other city
may again pass through such a travesty of Christmas, I would reply the
combined statesmanly effort on the part of more prosperous nations to
stabilise Austrian economic conditions.

Between a row of tall houses we drew up against a snow-pile. Dr. John
was the first to limp out of the car and to secure the bag of flour.
Of all our gifts the flour was the most unpleasant to carry; it covered
one's clothes with a film of white. There was a rivalry at each new
stopping-place as to who should perform the task which was least
pleasant. Dr. John showed a surprising agility in getting to the flour.
If anyone outstripped him, he begged to be allowed to carry it. The
reason he gave was that he could do so little for his people and that he
alone was an Austrian.

We passed through a dark passage and rapped on a door. It was opened by
a scantily clad woman, wasted with consumption. She had five children
ranging from six months to fourteen years and a husband who was
prematurely white. The room in which they lived was the size of a
cupboard and almost entirely filled by a bed, lacking in coverings,
and a cradle. The children sat about on the floor in rags. As you
might imagine, there was nothing to betray that it was the night before
Christmas. Upon enquiry we discovered that the man was a tile-layer and,
since all building has been discontinued, is permanently out of work.
And yet the astounding thing about these people was their courtesy and
courage. They wished us the season's greetings and mustered smiles.
The children were led forward to shake our hands. When we produced our
presents, they were shaken by a tremor. One feared they were going to
cry. I turned my back in shame at the smallness of the gift and bent
over the cradle. Even the baby, when I stroked her cheek, pulled her
fingers out of her mouth and gurgled. But the worst shame was yet to
come, when we were taking our departure, after we had said good-bye. The
father had followed us out into the darkness. I could scarcely see his
face. Suddenly he stooped and I knew that he had kissed my hand. The man
had been a soldier. Three years ago, had we met, we should have felt it
our duty to kill each other. That he should have shown so much emotion
made his need vivid. To be kissed by a starving man does not increase
one's self-respect.

At the next house at which we halted, we felt convinced there must
be some mistake. It had wrought-iron gates and an imposing courtyard.
Playing Santa Claus is well enough, but if one left a bag of flour on
John D. Rockefeller, the gift might be resented. We checked up the
address which the Society of Friends had provided (it was printed in
full) as we held the paper beneath the glare of the automobile-lamps.
Dr. John set us an example in courage; collaring the bag of flour, he
went first. We climbed a well-lighted staircase, passing other occupants
of the dwelling who stared at us mystified. They manifestly belonged to
the upper class and could not fathom the purpose of our errand. Again
we rapped on a door. A pretty woman of about twenty-five, answered our
summons. Dr. John, looking like a miller by this time, tactfully made
the explanations. We had brought something for the children. The Society
of Friends had told us that milk would be acceptable and we had added a
few other things to our present.

There was no mistake. We had come to the right house. The apartment,
beyond the hall, was stripped bare. Everything had gone to the
Dorotheum--the national pawn-shop--to purchase bread. Her husband was
a Government official; the salary he was now getting was four times as
large as in pre-war times, but the purchasing power of a crown was a
hundred and thirty times less. It was impossible to sustain life on it.
They were still occupying their old house because a law had been passed
restraining landlords from increasing their pre-war rents. But even at
that they would soon have to get out. And then where could they go, with
the whole of Vienna under-housed? To the streets, perhaps.

She still maintained her sense of pride. She was terribly grateful, but
terribly afraid some of her neighbours might have seen us. Then she did
a thing superbly eloquent. She had asked our nationalities. "American,
British and Austrian," we told her, "and there's a German in the
car downstairs." Her eyes flooded. She tried to gather all our hands
together and clasp them to her breast. "The seventh Christmas of the
war!" she said. "And you come here together to help me as friends.
Almost you make me believe that the war is ended."

We tiptoed out, moving noiselessly, while she closed the door furtively
behind us. We shared her dread lest any act of ours should have betrayed
her secret and the neighbours should have guessed.

After several calls we found ourselves again in a poorer district. It
was getting late. There were no lights in the windows. We were a little
hesitant about ringing more bells. The proper time for Father Christmas
to arrive is when people are in bed; but in a city of suspicions and
sudden arrests to be roused out of sleep by a group of strange men is
more likely to cause alarm than pleasure. We threw in some extra cans of
milk as compensation and chanced it.

Our ring was answered after an interval by a cheerful little woman
with a wooden leg. She had seven children and was reckoned a widow; her
husband had gone missing in the war. Each child had to be wakened and
introduced to us in turn. They stood in a line, blinking shyly and
rubbing their drowsy eyes. They had evidently been picked up off the
floor, for in the inner room there was only a single bed which, as
usual, had as its only covering a mattress. The clothes of the entire
seven children would not have decently warmed one child. And yet,
despite their leanness and rags they seemed to breathe their mother's
optimism. We asked her how she managed to exist. She smiled bravely,
tapping with her wooden leg. She worked when she could--yes, at washing.
There was her man's pension, and then we must not forget the good God
who had sent us.

We glanced round the unfurnished room. It was cold as the street
outside, but scrubbed and speckless. There was no doubt that she was
good, but one was puzzled to discover why she was so persuaded that God
had been good to her. Then she let the secret out--or at least part of
it. God was daily feeding three of her seven children at the American
Relief Station. She seemed to have the idea that God had a lot in
common with the Stars and Stripes. As we turned to go, my eye caught an
embroidered motto on the wall, which read, "My kitchen is clean and my
food well-cooked; otherwise I would not be here." So she, too, like the
Government official's wife, had her upholding pride. Poverty had failed
to down her.

After this we lost our way for a time in a district where more knifings
happen than in any other in Vienna. At last we found ourselves in a
dank, unlighted room where people rose from the floor like shadows.
It was tenanted in all by four adults and five children. One of the
children was seriously ill. They hadn't been to see a doctor and didn't
know what was the matter with her. She was a pretty, fair little girl
and her body was shaken with fever. No, they had no food. That was
nothing new. One of the men was a gardener; before gardens grew green
it would be easy to die. The other man had been four years a prisoner in
Siberia. He had walked most the way back to Vienna. The walking hadn't
improved his health. He wondered why he had been so anxious to get back.
He was rotting here; he could have rotted with equal ease out there. In
the darkness they flapped their rags and coughed. When we produced our
food, the men showed no enthusiasm. It was the women, hideously angular,
who stooped over our hands and blessed us in the name of their children.
We had done them no service with our Christmas presents; we had only
prolonged their agony by a few days' respite. They made us feel that.
Individuals could do nothing. It was nations who must act and act
quickly if victims of this order were not to perish.

The last visit we paid was in all senses the happiest, for we, came
face to face with triumphant youth. The single room was in the dreariest
tenement we had entered. The snow lay in a melting quagmire outside.
It was the nearest approach to a slum I have encountered in Vienna.
The walls were peeling with damp and the woodwork was mouldy. We had to
climb a flight and then cross along the front of the house by a rickety
balcony. Pushing open a window we stumbled on a pathetic sight--six
little boys and girls curled up asleep on the bare boards with their
flesh showing through their rags. On a bed a handsome man was sitting,
strumming softly on a guitar. He was evidently of gipsy origin; his
hair was jet black, his moustaches were fiercely curled and his face was
marble white. He stared at us doubtfully with his smouldering eyes
while the Doctor explained our intrusion. Then he rose with an air of
courtliness and made us welcome. There was a wild haughtiness about
the man--a native aristocracy--which made us forget his poverty. He had
seven children? Yes. We counted the little bodies strewn about and could
reckon only six. He smiled. That was easily explained. The seventh was
a girl of eighteen; she would be back presently. And his wife, we asked,
where was she? His wife had died last May. She was out with a sack
on her shoulder, picking over the old ash-heaps which have not been
disturbed for twenty years. She was searching with other women as
desperate as herself to find fuel. Not being an expert miner, the ashes
had slipped back and buried her. She was smothered before they could dig
her out. Since then his daughter, whom he hoped we should meet, had been
their mother. For himself, he was a musician and sang in cafés, when
people were so good as to listen.

At this point the sound of rushing feet disturbed us. A little girl, who
certainly did not look eighteen, butted her way into the midst of us. It
was plain that at first she had thought we were the police and was out
to fight the lot of us. On finding that our intentions were kind, she
fell to laughing. Her merriment was contagious and in strange contrast
to her father's tragic attitudes. Her little brothers and sisters woke
up and smiled at her. One could see that in her presence they felt safe.

She began to explain between smiles and gulps how happy we had made her.
All day she had been puzzling what to get for the children. She had no
money. Tomorrow would be Christmas. Not to give anything would not
be right. And now, when she had begun to despair----. She dragged her
ragged family to their feet and pushed them up one by one to kiss our
hands. "You shall have a Christmas now," she kept telling them; "a real
Christmas. One of the finest."

And it took so little to make this great happiness--such a meagre,
unworthy sacrifice. One less present in each of your stockings would
have brought the same gladness to every starveling in Vienna.



CHAPTER VIII--A HOSPITAL IN BUDA

Accounts of the starving children are likely to create the impression
that the countries in which they starve are callous. The case is quite
the opposite. Hungary, for instance, used to lead the world in its
legislation for child-conservation. If the parent failed, the State
automatically became the parent. If an unprotected woman were about to
become a mother, the State undertook a man's responsibilities, both for
the woman and the life unborn. The way in which the law operated was
peculiarly humane. There were no barrack-like asylums for the care
of these unfortunates. They were placed in the homes of peasants and
visited at regular intervals by inspectors whose business it was to see
that they were being treated kindly. The mother was not separated from
her illegitimate child; they were placed together in surroundings where
their position would become normal. Since the war this system has broken
down; but as far as is possible it is still maintained. One needs to
disabuse his mind of the prejudice against peoples who are starving,
that they are starving because of their own intolerance. One finds
instances of spiritual generosity which go far beyond the capacity of
the Anglo-Saxon mind.

In Buda there is a mosque, which has stood there for centuries. It marks
the tomb of the Mohammedan who brought the first rose to Europe. Because
the beauty of his gift has made life more fragrant, religious bigotry,
has kept aloof from his sleeping-place. There has never been a day since
he was buried there that the call to prayer has not sounded from the
minaret, proclaiming the greatness of Allah above the roofs of a city
which serves a rival god. What does it matter, say the citizens of Buda,
if it helps the soul of the giver of our first rose to rest? A people so
poetically magnanimous are not likely to be wilfully cruel to children.

I visited the Foundling hospital in Budapest where parentless children
are first adopted by the State. It is more like a palace than a
hospital--an imposing series of buildings covering several acres; but it
is only imposing from the outside. It is over-crowded and under-staffed.
The war, with its retreats and invasions, has filled the land with
tuberculosis and rickets. Five hundred are cared for in the cots;
thirteen thousand have to be lodged elsewhere. The nurses are in patched
clothing and rags. The doctors are worn and pale as ghosts. I saw many
of the attendants trudging through the snow without stockings. The wards
smell like menageries. They have no soap, no linen, no anything. And
this is the institution which once led the world in child-conservation!

Do not think that these conditions are due to carelessness; they are
caused by the national bankruptcy. Hungary's exchequer has been
pillaged by both Bolshevists and Roumanians. In the money that is left
a depreciation has taken place which would be equalled in American
currency if the spending value of the dollar were to become less than
that of one cent. Moreover, very many medical requirements have
become absolutely unobtainable. Commodities so common as soap, powder,
vaseline, linen are not to be purchased. The children born in the
hospital are wrapped in paper. Even paper is so scarce that it has to be
washed. After it has been washed it cracks. Its edges become sharp as a
razor. There is not a baby in that hospital whose tender little body is
not covered with cuts and sores. Yet what can the nurses do? Babies have
to be clad. There is nothing but paper.

I wish the people who read this chapter could have accompanied me
through those wards. It was the Christmas season. The occupants of the
cots were little children; the mothers who bent over them, giving them
the last of their strength, were more outcast than Mary.

Because of the coal shortage, no ward in the hospital was properly
heated. I was wearing a coat and had to keep it on. In the little railed
beds, the babies shivered against the bars on bare mattresses. They wore
nothing but a single patched shirt, which left off at the legs for
the sake of economy. The impression they created was not even remotely
human; they looked like sick monkeys from the tropics who had not became
acclimatised. There were lines and lines of them, their bodies blue
with cold and criss-crossed with scars. Most of them could not shift
themselves; their heads were bumpy and their legs withered. The thing
that first struck me was their silence; they had finished all their
crying. The doctor informed me that the mortality among them is over
thirty per cent. Their ages were anything from the newly born to ten
years old. It seemed that into those buildings was crowded the child
misery of all the world.

I stopped to enquire who were their parents. They did not know. Their
fathers had been killed in the war and their mothers had died. Some of
them had been picked up in the streets where they had been abandoned by
parents who could drag no further.

I found myself in the maternity ward. The women were as naked as the
children. Of the old stock of gowns only a few were left, which had been
patched and darned till there remained scarcely anything of the original
fabric. Again, as in the case of the children, the mattresses were bare
of coverings. The napkins of the new-born babies were of paper, broken
and washed to shreds. And this was the hospital which for mercy once led
the world!

I was taken to the laundry to see how the paper was laundered. It so
happened that we arrived in time to catch a laundress using a brush to
one of the tattered maternity garments. The fury of the Director, who
escorted me, was extravagant. It knew no bounds. He shouted and thumped
and gesticulated. It was as though the woman had dared to scrub a
priceless piece of tapestry. I thought he would have struck her. Later
he apologised to me for his passion, "On our retention of that gown some
mother's life may depend."

It was the kind of clout with which no self-respecting housewife in
America would have deigned to mop her floor.



CHAPTER IX--AN ECONOMIC EXPERIMENT

They wouldn't need to starve if they would get to work." The retort
and the criticism which it implies are as shallow as they are selfish.
Central Europe wants to work. It is begging for the chance to work; but
it cannot work efficiently while it is under-nourished.

Here in Prague there is an American business man who has probed deeper
into the Czecho-Slovak economic situation than all the politicians. He
has found a way to feed the nation and to make a profit for himself.
He bases his calculations on the firm belief that a people, heretofore
industrious, still retains the habit; all they require to set them on
their feet is food. He is willing to provide the food and to risk his
capital on their bare word that they will play the game by him.

He has started his experiment with the miners of Carlsbad. The
Government food-ration allowed to working miners is precisely half what
it ought to be. He has offered to supply the other half of the ration,
bringing their allowance up to normal, on condition that the miners will
do their best to increase their output of coal by 20 per cent. They are
not to make this increase by working overtime, but by speeding up during
their ordinary working hours. The average of their present output is
calculated on the results of the past nine months. As repayment and
profit on his investment, he is given the option to purchase one-half of
the 20 per cent, increased output at the inland price, i.e., the price
that coal is selling for in Czechoslovakia. He makes his profit
by exporting. The question immediately arises, why could not
Czecho-Slovakia do the exporting and make the profit herself? The answer
is that the partitioning of Austro-Hungary by the Peace Treaty and
the consequent establishing of new frontiers has bred such a deep
international distrust that the new nations are reluctant to let their
freight-cars pass out of their own territory for fear they should never
recover them. At the border merchandise is unloaded and re-shipped,
which adds considerably to the expense of transportation. Major S.,
being an American, has a superior reputation for integrity and His word
is accepted when he promises that cars carrying his shipments out of
Czechoslovakia will be returned.

The scheme is much more far-reaching than at first sight it appears. It
embraces not only the feeding of the men, but also of their families.
His share of the coal he intends to sell to Austria, just across the
border, where the scarcity of every kind of fuel is causing a crisis.
When he has done this, many Austrian factories which have been standing
idle will be able to re-open. So, by feeding the Carlsbad miners, he is
re-employing the Austrian working-man.

He was warned when he first discussed his plans, that they would be
rejected by Government and miners alike. On the contrary they have been
eagerly accepted by both Government and miners; but most eagerly by the
miners. The miners all over Czecho-Slovakia are clamouring to be given
the same opportunity. If it pays an individual to indulge in this kind
of commercial enterprise, it would equally pay the Allies. For, while
this is no philanthropy, it attains the ends of philanthropy and has the
added advantage that it is economically constructive. To state the
case cynically, the politicians of the Allies can play the part of
Good Samaritans and find themselves in pocket. The experiment which has
started with the miners of Carlsbad can be extended to cover almost all
branches of industry. But the value of the experiment and its eager
acceptance proves that it is not unwillingness, but inability due to
undernourishment, that prevents Central Europe from getting to work.

In Czecho-Slovakia, as in Hungary and Austria, the commercial stagnation
which has produced every kind, of shortage, is chiefly to be traced to
the establishing of new frontiers. When the Peace Treaty repartitioned
Europe, it took apart a watch which was going, and failed to put it
together. All the cogs and wheels are still here, but they lie scattered
about and consequently there is no movement. An example of this
disorganization is near at hand. The peasants of a certain district
of what is now Czecho-Slovakia, were accustomed to gain their bread by
felling trees in the winter and floating them down the rivers in the
summer to Hungary. In Hungary they sold their logs and stayed to help
with the harvest. Then they returned to their homes in the mountains to
eke out a livelihood for the next nine months with the money they had
thus earned. Now that Ruthenia has become Czecho-Slovak and a frontier
has been established, they are no longer allowed to pass freely into
Hungary; consequently they starve.

The trees in their forests as of old stand ready for the cutting. The
peasants are more anxious than ever to make their traditional excursion.
But someone in Paris scrawled on a map with a blue pencil, so the trees
are not felled and the peasants starve. Conditions are so bad in these
primitive villages that the children would not have lived the year out
had not the American Relief Administration made their rescue one of its
special objects.

Here again, as with the miners, the starvation is not caused by
unwillingness to work, but by the volcanic upheavals of war, followed
by a political redistribution which has destroyed economic stability and
criss-crossed Central Europe with hostile tariff walls in places where
the flow of trade was once traditional and amiable. Whether these
countries will be able to function efficiently after they have adapted
themselves to their new boundaries is a question which only time can
prove. For the moment, as though one had dammed torrents within new
confines, diverting them from their ancient courses, there is a seething
swirl of unrest, then an over-flowing and then stagnation.

All the railroads run towards Vienna, which was the great middleman
city for the old empire. Hungary sent grain. Bohemia sent coal. They did
their trading there and exchanged their products for commodities which
they could not produce themselves. Today Vienna is isolated in a small
patch of scrubby country which is the new Austria. The new Austria has
no natural resources on which to maintain its population. The only way
its people can hope to gain a living is by being again, what they once
were, Central Europe's middlemen. But their currency is so debased that
its purchasing value is almost gone. No one who had anything of
actual value would go to Vienna to exchange it for their unreal money.
Nevertheless, the railroads still converge there; there has been no time
to change them. For all the purpose they serve they might as well run
out into the Sahara desert. The political map, as re-arranged by the
Peace, has built walls across most of the old travel-routes; it has
given ancient hostilities a new means of venting their animosities, has
destroyed confidence and dislocated the entire system of transport.
This is without doubt the fundamental answer to the question, "Why does
Central Europe starve?" The fault is not one of sulkiness or laziness
on the part of the people who do the starving. They are not starving
in order to spite the Allies or because they derive a patriotic ecstasy
from starvation. They want to work and they prefer employment to
charity. They claim the right to work; but if their work is to be of
any value to the world, we must first restore to them their vitality,
by nourishing their famished bodies, and then stabilise their economic
conditions so that the marketing of the results of their industry may be
assured.



CHAPTER X--BABUSCHKA

Prague is one of the more important of the jumping off points for
Bolshevist propaganda in Europe; it is at the same time a rendezvous for
exiled Russians of moderate views, who are conspiring to overthrow the
Red regime the moment the hour seems propitious. These exiled Russians
all belong to the Intelligencia--the cultured middle-class. They are
university students, professors, doctors, engineers--the people of
brains and small means who do the sane thinking for whatever nation.
They are a class which is being rapidly exterminated in all the stricken
countries. In Russia they have been smashed into oblivion with clubs and
rifles; in Central Europe they are dying more respectably, because more
privately, of famine. Here, in Prague, for instance, poorly as a working
man is paid, his wages are higher than a school-teacher's.

A fund for their partial rescue has been placed in the hands of the
American Relief Administration by the will of Mr. Harkness. I saw what
it was accomplishing for the first time in Vienna, when I lunched with
the professors of the University, many of whom are world-famous in their
various departments of research. The terrible problem that they have to
face is explained at once when it is stated that the highest salary paid
to a professor, if exchanged into American currency, would be worth at
most one hundred dollars a year. That is the highest; the bulk of the
salaries are much less. Before the war, when a crown had the spending
value of twenty-two cents, they could live comfortably and with the
necessary ease of mind. Today, when the crown has shrunk to the value of
one-sixth of a cent, they find themselves in penury.

The Harkness Fund is providing the professors of Vienna with one meal a
day, to which the professors themselves contribute one twenty-fourth. I
watched them come in to lunch and the ravenous way in which they ate. I
tried to bring the significance of the scene home to myself by shifting
the stage-setting to Harvard or Oxford. They were men of the highest
intellectual type and of an achievement which speaks for itself. The
science and learning of both America and Great Britain are already the
wiser for their devotion. Today we are saving thousands of lives by the
past results of their medical discoveries. Most emphatically they are
the kind of men who, were they to perish, it would be impossible
to replace. And here they were cold, ill-nourished, shabby, bending
voraciously over a rough plenty as though they were outcasts from the
gutter. As the lunch progressed one noticed that, despite their hunger,
they were restraining their appetites. The bread by their plates
remained untouched. To the bread they added various morsels, till by the
end of the meal a little pile had grown up. Before each left, he drew
out a piece of paper and surreptitiously made a bundle of the pile,
which he slipped into his pocket, glancing this way and that to see
whether he was observed. Then he hurried out to where a wife and
children were counting the seconds till his coming.

The next time I saw the Harkness Fund at work was here in Prague. The
American Relief Administration had taken a hall and provided a Christmas
entertainment at which food-packages were to be distributed to the
exiled Russian Intelligencia. When we arrived the hall was jammed. There
were girl university students, with their hair cropped like the women in
the Battalion of Death. They were clad for the most part in old dresses
which had been collected by the Red Cross in America. There were
tottering middle-aged professors, the counterpart of those whom I had
seen in Vienna. There were soldiers of Denikin's and Kolchak's armies in
the loose Russian military blouse. Most of these were students who are
pursuing their studies at Prague University and living of necessity
in human pigsties. And then there were mothers, dragged to pieces by
adversity, carrying babies, with still more babies clinging to their
skirts. Yet, despite their poverty, the gathering had an ecstatic,
valiant look. One glanced from one white face to the next--at the
gray-white sea they made when massed together. The spirit which lay
behind those faces was not broken. Pinched, neglected, emaciated,
misunderstood--yes; but it still stood erect to greet the future. It
believed in the future. It hoped. Moving through the throng like a
blessing, came a little bowed old woman. Her eyes were dim. She had to
lean on a tall young soldier's arm to support herself. Over her
cropped gray head she wore a gray piece of cloth, folded in a triangle.
"Babus-chka! Babuschka!" the whisper went round. It grew into something
like a shout. There was no surging, no jostling. The people went forward
one by one to greet her. She placed her old gnarled hands on their
shoulders, drawing their heads down, so that she could kiss them.
Babus-chka--the little grandmother! They were all grandsons and
granddaughters to her. She might have been a saint--but she was
too human. She preferred to be what she has always been, the little
grandmother of exiled Russia.

Next day I went to see where the Intelligencia of Russia are living.
They are housed in a damp, unheated barracks. I opened endless doors;
there were rows and rows of spavined, unrestful beds. Czecho-Slovakia is
not pleased at their presence; they are unwelcome guests. But, if their
hope comes true, they are the brains of the new and better Russia which
will give a lasting peace to the world. Because they believe their
hope will come true, they train their brains relentlessly, studying,
studying, studying. It does not matter that they are not wanted. They
will be wanted. Meanwhile they starve and attend the University and
learn.

And then I went to see Babuschka, who has kept this lamp of ardent
idealism burning. She made me her grandson the moment I entered,
brushing aside my stiffly proffered hand, putting her arms round my
shoulders and dragging down my face to hers. After that things were
easier; her all-embracing love had caught me in its web.

Why did they send her to Siberia? She is seventy-seven now and more than
half her years have been spent in exile. After having achieved her goal,
she has again been made an exile. This time by the Red Terror. You know
who she is, for she has been several times to Great Britain and America.
She is Catherina Breshkoffskaja, better known as the Grandmother of the
Russian Revolution, and beloved by her countrymen as Babuschka.

For two solid hours she spoke to me about Russia, telling me how good
and simple the Russian peasants were. "The Red Terror will be over by
spring," she said; "the peasants will not stand it longer. I know. We go
into Russia secretly, constantly; we see for ourselves. We are educating
the people at the risk of our lives, taking literature to them and
preaching our program. When our hour comes, we shall establish freedom
and give the land to the man who works it. I am seventy-seven, but I
shall live to see the end of Bolshevism and the beginning of a happier
world." Her eyes became clear as a girl's; she clutched my hands. "Tell
America and England to be patient with us. Make them believe that we are
good like themselves. The Russian people are little children--they are
not bad. They are growing up. Tell them we want their affection, so that
we may grow up to be clean and valiant."

The door opened; a man entered with a rush of footsteps. He knelt beside
her, kissing her hands in reverence. He was going on a journey. When he
goes on a journey, especially in an eastwardly direction, he is never
certain whether he will return. Lest the blank wall and the firing-squad
should wait for him, he had come to receive her blessing. Babuschka took
his yearning face, kissing his eyes, his cheeks, his mouth. Across his
shoulder she gazed at me and nodded. "It is Kerensky, the knight-errant
of Russia, who wants nothing for himself."



CHAPTER XI--THE SOUL OF POLAND

Poland is commencing the New Year with her face towards peace and the
hope in her heart that she may never have to fight again. For her the
war has lasted two years longer than for any other country. During
the past six years she has had to fight on five separate fronts. Her
devastated area is greater than that of France. She has cities which
have been captured and occupied seven separate times since 1914 by the
armies of seven separate nations. She is sick of war. She has elected
a peasant for her prime minister--a man who belongs to the class which
gains nothing but sorrow from bloodshed. All that Poland asks from the
New Year is the quiet in which to convalesce from her wounds, so that
she may gather strength to construct her nationhood along the lines of
states-manly righteousness. As the clocks above Warsaw struck the hour
of midnight, the prayer in every heart was, "God give us peace with the
New Year."

How badly she requires peace and how bitterly she stands in need of the
world's mercy, no one can conceive who has not been here. She is a land
of widows, cripples and orphans. She has two millions of under-nourished
children, of whom only one million are being cared for. She has a
million refugees within her borders. Her mark, which was originally
worth twenty-five cents, has sunk to an exchange value of one-sixth of a
cent. The barbed wire entanglements come up to the very gates of Warsaw.
The threat of a Bolshevist invasion in the spring is like a brutal hand,
clapped against her lips, silencing laughter. It compels her, against
her will, to keep her army mobilised; if she disbanded, she would make
invasion certain. Every man she keeps under arms loses her a little
of the world's sympathy. She knows that, but she does not dare to
be unprotected. She is a nation in rags. Until the American Relief
Administration came, she was a nation of funerals.

And yet none of her misfortunes have quenched her unconquerable valor.
In Cracow stands the famous church of St. Mary's. Centuries ago it was
a watch-tower against the invading Tartar; a soldier was kept constantly
stationed there to give warning on a trumpet of the first approach of
danger. In the fourteenth century, while rousing the city to its peril,
the trumpeter was struck in the throat by an enemy's arrow. His call
faltered, rallied and sank. Then, with his dying breath, he sounded a
last blast, which broke off short. The broken call saved the city. Ever
since, to commemorate his faithfulness, there has never been an hour,
day or night, when his broken trumpet-call, ending abruptly in an abyss
of silence, has not been sounded from the tower. The man symbolises the
soul of Poland--the soul of a dying trumpeter who blows a last blast of
warning above the sleeping roofs of civilization.

Poland will surely die in her watch-tower unless the sleeping world whom
she protects, awakes and comes to her rescue. She is dying gamely, with
her back to the wall. She does not whine--she does not slacken in her
effort. The smallest children make themselves sharers in her sacrifice.
If you go to the American soup-kitchens you will find tiny mites of
six and seven shivering in queues to secure the rations. They are there
because they are the only members of the family young enough to be
spared. If you question them, you will find that they have left still
younger babies locked up in the squalid rooms that they call home. To
prove their assertion they show you the key that they carry round their
necks. From dawn to dark the elder children and parents are out at work.

A little girl of eight came to the officials of the Relief
Administration the other day with a pathetic request. She came by
herself and explained that the idea was entirely her own. She wanted to
be sent to America. But had she relations in America? No. Then had she
no one whom she loved in Poland? Yes--her father and mother. But would
she want to leave them? At that question she began to cry. It would hurt
her very much to leave them; but she was so young. There was no other
way to help; she could only eat and there was so little food. If she
went away, there would be more for someone else.

This magnanimity of devotion, touches every class--especially the women.
There is an order in Poland known as the Gray Samaritans. They are Y.
W. C. A. girls of Polish blood, recruited in America, and are among the
most gallant helpers that the American Relief Administration possesses.
Their business is to go into the most remote villages, many of which lie
far away from railroads. The story of the privations of their travels
would fill volumes. In these villages they establish feeding-stations,
train the peasants in their management and then pass on to the next
point where the need is greatest.

Another order of purely Polish origin is The Women's Battalion of Death.
They started in Lemberg, in a crisis of invasion, when not a single
man was left. The last man, if he may be so called, had been a hoy
of fourteen, who had been shot by the enemy as he was searching for
protection for the women. In their dilemma the women armed themselves.
The movement spread; and so the Battalion of Death became a permanency.

On New Year's Eve I went to visit them; they were housed in a damp
building across the Vistula, which had formerly been used as a prison
for captured Russian soldiers. Its passages had a mildewed smell; they
were stone-paved and dark as a dungeon. A door opened. We felt our way
across a vaulted cellar crowded with gray-blanketed, unlovely beds.
Another door opened. The sound of fresh, young voices rushed to meet
us and the tinkling of a worn piano. In a bare, chill room the
girl-soldiers of Poland were gathered. It was their New Year's festival.
I think the first thing we noticed was the merriment of their eyes and
the roundness of their close cropped heads. It would have been easy to
have mistaken them for boys in their dingy khaki. A Christmas tree stood
in the corner robbed of all its presents. They had been dancing as we
entered and were halted, still in couples, gazing towards us shyly.
They looked children. In a land less sorely pressed, they would have had
their hair in pigtails and have been romping in school. Certainly
they were not a sight to inspire terror. The youngest was fifteen--the
average age eighteen to twenty. You would never have imagined that they
were a Battalion of Death. Then you talked with them and understood.

There was one girl who was a sample of the rest. She was pretty, despite
her shaven head; her complexion was high and her eyes frank. She was
the kind of a girl who ought to have had her suitors. Yes, she had seen
fighting; it was in the trenches at Vilna. They had held on too long
after the retreat had commenced. The first thing they knew, the Bolos
were upon them. They came firing as they advanced and her companions
were falling. At the last moment, to save herself, she had shammed death
and hidden herself beneath the corpses. Then followed the story of her
escape, told casually, as though it were the sort of thing that might
happen to any girl. She was just nineteen and of gentle birth. When
the fighting was at its height, there had been girls of title in her
battalion; it had been recruited from all ranks, the same as the men's.
Now that the ordeal was over for the moment, the girls who remained were
mostly peasants. Why did she remain? I asked many of them that question
before the evening was ended. The answer which they gave me was always
the same, though phrased in different words, "To help Poland."

They didn't mind how they were employed, so long as they helped. They
didn't care how much they suffered, so long as they helped. They were
guarding stores of food at present because they were more honest than
the men. But they would work in soup-kitchens, anywhere, at anything. If
the war sprang up again, they would fight.

They were mere kiddies, most of them, laughing and irrepressible. They
wanted to be free to live, to possess lovers, to be mothers, to have
children. But, like the trumpeter of Cracow, they would not desert their
post while their warning might save the sleeping world.

At the State Reception at the Winter Palace, I gained a further glimpse
into the heart of Polish heroism. I was speaking to Prince Sapieha,
the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He pointed to the fireplace of the
Reception Room. "It was standing there," he said, "that Tsar Alexander
II gave the death blow to our hopes. We had heard that he was generous
and we had believed that he would free us and give us justice. There in
front of the fireplace he met our patriots who had come to plead with
him. Before they commenced, 'Point de reveries'--no dreams, he said.
That has been our answer through all the ages, whenever we have
complained to our oppressors. They have told us, 'No dreams;' but we
have gone on dreaming till at last our dreams have come true. We dreamed
the seemingly impossible; and we have dreamt ourselves into freedom."



CHAPTER XII--ONE CHILD'S STORY

Some weeks ago a haggard man limped into the headquarters office of
the American Relief in Warsaw. He had come to seek assistance for his
daughter. She had just escaped from Kharkov, where she had been held a
prisoner by the Bolshevists for many months. Her health was broken
with hardship; if something were not done for her, she would die.
Unfortunately he could not offer money; but whatever was done for her
he would consider a debt, which one day he would repay. By profession he
was an engineer. The Georgian Government owed him the equivalent of
over three hundred thousand dollars. He had only that day recovered his
daughter and learnt of her condition. While she was being taken prisoner
at Kiev and carried a thousand miles into the interior, he had been
cut off in the Caucasus by another Bolshevist offensive. She had been
escaping while he also had been escaping, and neither had known of the
other's predicament. From places as far apart as continents, after life
and death adventures, they had both reached Warsaw on the same day and
had arrived at the house of a relative within a few hours of each other.
He was almost as spent as she was. From being rich he was penniless. She
was the apple of his eye; she was only fourteen and in danger of dying.
There was no one to whom he could turn in his distress. So he had
bethought himself of the Americans.

Upon investigation his story proved correct. His daughter, Wanda
Marchzcloska, was in the last stages of exhaustion. The American
Children's Relief took her in hand, feeding her first of all on milk,
a luxury in Poland, till at last she was brought back to strength. Her
story is worth recording, as illustrating what relief work is doing and
the kind of sufferings which children are called on to endure in this
outpost of civilization. This is how she told it.

She was in Kiev with her mother when the Bolshevists stormed the city
last May. In the confusion she got separated, her mother escaping while
she was taken prisoner. With ten other Polish girls and eighteen boys,
she was herded by rail and road to Kharkov, a town very far in the
interior. On arrival there, after many miseries, they were lined up in
the square and sentenced to be shot. On the instant that the sentence
had been pronounced it was carried out. When the firing stopped, only
she and another girl remained. A consultation took place; it was decided
that she, on account of her youth, should be spared. The soldiers
pleaded for her. But the other girl--------.

The other girl had had a sister who now lay dead across her feet, killed
by the first volley. When she understood that she also had to die, she
commenced to weep bitterly. Wanda Marchzcloska placed her arms about
her, whispering, "Remember, you are Polish." The tears were dried.
Standing up bravely, her hair loose about her shoulders, she met death
with a smile. And so Wanda, aged fourteen, was left.

Throughout the summer her life was a living hell. She was made the
drudge of the prison. She was worked to a shadow. She was given little
to eat and scarcely any rest. She received many blows; her companions
were brutalised men and women who had lost every instinct of mercy. It
was hot within those walls, she told me--like a furnace. Very often she
wished that the soldiers had not pleaded for her; she wanted to be dead.
But the phrase she had uttered to the girl who was to be shot, lingered
in her memory, "Remember, you are Polish." She repeated it beneath her
breath when the blows were hard to bear, "Remember, you are Polish."
Among all the foulness of people and surroundings, she kept her soul
clean by remembering that she was different: she was Polish.

By August she had served her punishment and was released. Her one
thought was to get back to her parents. She set out for Kiev. More than
a thousand miles lay between herself and her goal. How she accomplished
the journey even she cannot tell. The nights were very dark, she says;
they caused her to fear greatly. She hid in woods. She slept on the
bare ground. She lived on roots. Sometimes she thought that those dead
children who had been shot in the square, accompanied her. By luck and
cunning she made the last part of her journey to Kiev by rail. When she
got there it was to find that the city was still in Bolshevist hands.
She had no passports; if she had had them, they would not have served
her. But how to get across the frontier into Poland?

She took to the woods again, this fourteen year old girl, with her
body that was a bag of hones, tattooed with scars and bruises. Growing
feebler and feebler she struggled on. The last hundred miles were the
hardest. But she urged herself forward by repeating, "Remember, you are
Polish."

She does not know at what point she crossed the frontier, or how, or
when. There are gaps in her memory and visions of blank fields across
which moves a scarecrow figure; it must have been her own, she
supposes. After that she forgets everything, till her father's arms were
about her, and she was realising that he was as woe-begone as herself.

That is one child's story. It could be multiplied by thousands. Her life
was saved by the random generosity of some chance giver in America.
I wish he could have seen her today, grateful and demure as she stood
before me. I think he would have slipped his hand again into his pocket
and before he counted his loose bills would have whispered, "Remember,
you are American."



CHAPTER XIII--THE CASE OF MARKI

Why does Poland starve? The question needs answering. In our secret
hearts we people who have plenty, are inclined to suspect that the
nations who suffer are purchasing their hunger with idleness. I do
not pretend that the situation at Marki answers all the question, But
certainly the reasons for the hunger there apply to very many towns
which once were hives of industry.

Marki lies six miles to the east of Warsaw in the direct path of a
Russian advance. The country through which one approaches it is still
marred by defenses and barbed wire entanglements, hastily prepared last
summer to hold up the Bolshevist attack. Before the war it was a Polish
Boumeville or Port Sunlight--a successful experiment in housing workmen
in healthy surroundings. The village centred about a woollen mill, which
supported three thousand employees. The employees had homes in model
dwellings, rented to them at a moderate figure. They were provided with
an up-to-date school, a hospital, bath-houses, etc., and were in an
exceptional state of contentment. When the great strike occurred in 1905
and 1906, they refused to leave their work and only joined at length
under threats and at the revolver's point. The owners of the mill were
originally British, though circumstances have made it wise for them to
become Polish citizens. They were residents of Marki and one of them,
with whom I spoke today, still retains his Lancashire dialect. Since
1884 the mill had been manufacturing yarn, until in 1914 it had attained
a weekly output of one hundred thousand pounds. It traded under the
name of E. Briggs Brothers and Company. Then came the war, the general
dislocation and the end of prosperity.

Marki was in Russian Poland. In 1916 it was captured by the Germans. The
mill became a prison-camp for interned Russian soldiers and industry was
at a standstill. Obviously, when there was a crying need for woollens,
it was bad economy to allow this intricate mass of valuable machinery to
stand idle. A German manufacturer was sent down, with a view to setting
it going. His plans were almost completed, when the Roh Stoff Abteilung
got wind of what was happening. The Roh Stoff Abteilung was a company
organized for the systematic looting of captured territories. It paid
the German Government a lump sum for its privileges and an additional
percentage on its profits. It dispatched an agent to Marki to make
a report on the opportunities, with the result that the compatriot
manufacturer was ousted and the wrecking of the machinery commenced.

Today one of the partners, Mr. Charles Whitehead, took me over what
was left after the Roh Stoff Abteilung had completed its work. All the
boilers, motors, piping, belting, brass and copper parts have been torn
out. Even the cork that insulated the roofs has been removed. The bulk
of the machinery still stands, but until the stolen parts have been put
back the whole is rendered useless. To replace these parts is no easy
task when six hundred Polish marks are only worth a dollar and most of
civilized Europe is in disrepair. The damage done was so senseless.
The rewards gained from the sale of the jumbled loot were so
disproportionately small as compared with the expense of its
replacement. And so the model village of Marki is a model no longer. The
houses are bare of furniture; the furniture has been sold for food.
The inhabitants are in rags; they shiver and clutch themselves in a
desperate endeavour to withstand the wintry chill. They have neither
shoes nor stockings. They die like flies in their model dwellings.
Because of one ruthless act, three thousand willing workers are idle and
all the women and children who are dependent on them starve. I do not
quote this instance to make the Germans appear sinners above all
men. Ruthlessness goes hand in hand with war. You may find the same
wilfulness of destruction on all the five fronts on which Poland
has been attacked. Cattle, which could not be carried off, have been
butchered. Houses have been burned. Pictures, art-treasures and things
irreplaceable have been smashed to atoms.

But to get back to Marki, how have these three thousand ex-employees
and their dependents managed to survive until now? All of them have
not survived; the youngest, oldest and weakest have perished. Of the
remainder some are in the army. Some have moved away. Others go to work
in Warsaw; they have to leave Marki at five in the morning to tramp the
six miles to the city and do not get back till nine at night. The women
have discovered an illegal method of eking out a livelihood. Flour is
Government controlled; it is forbidden to bake it and traffic in it as
bread. But the regulated price of flour is so low that the farmer often
prefers to feed the wheat to his cattle. By walking fifteen miles into
the country, the women of Marki, are often able to strike a bargain with
a peasant. They bring their treasure home, convert it into bread, walk
another, six miles in the opposite direction and hawk it in Warsaw. The
police are on the outlook for such petty criminals. Some of them get
caught, their merchandise is confiscated and they are sent to prison.
From being honest women they become gaol-birds.

As a model-village you could scarcely imagine any sight more hopeless
than the Marki of today. The stillness of death is in the streets. The
chimneys are breathless. The people are lean, famine-fevered shadows.
There is no laughter. No stir. Funerals are too common to cause
excitement. While the machinery rots in the mill, men's souls rot in
their bodies. From a place which was once throbbing with energy the
incentive to endeavour has seeped away. There is no possibility to work;
and if there were, there is not the strength to undertake it.

And yet there is one building which shelters a gleam of hope--the
school-house in which the American Relief has established its children's
feeding station. It was Mr. Whitehead, part-owner of the pillaged
mill, who led me to it. "If you have any ability," he said, "to make
conditions known, I wish you would tell the world what Marki owes to
America. Six hundred children died of hunger in our village the year
before the Americans came. Whatever happens to us older fellows, they
have saved our rising generation. I am getting the money to patch up my
machinery; if I live long enough, I shall have all of it running again.
But shall I be able ito patch up the machinery of human bodies? My
people are no more capable of working than my machinery is of running at
present. Their strength has been looted. They must be repaired, just the
same as the machinery in my mill."

And what I saw on a small scale in Marki is true of the whole of Poland.



CHAPTER XIV--AN IMPERIAL BREAD-LINE

If you can imagine the House of Lords standing in the bread-line, you
will be able to picture the sight that I saw today. I suppose nothing
like it has been seen since the French Revolution--no reversal of social
fortunes half so tragic and poignantly dramatic. It was an object
lesson to anyone who believes that aristocracy is anything more than
environment.

What I really saw was the Imperial Russian Court in miniature. The lady
who introduced me was the wife of the Tsar's High Chamberlain, Madame
Lubinoff. Her husband, at the commencement of the war, was Civil
Governor of Warsaw. Her home was a palace, which is now occupied by
Poland's peasant Prime Minister. Today her husband is her secretary at
the soup-kitchen which she conducts for the Russian Red Cross; her
home is as humble as an artisan's; the people to whom she ministers are
princes and princesses in burst out boots and tatters.

I had been told of the wonderful work which Madame Lubinoff has done for
her exiled compatriots. I had also been told that her work was soon to
be abandoned; that she had sold almost the last of her jewels and that
the funds with which the Russian Red Cross at Paris had provided her had
given out.

We departed in search of her soup-kitchen at about twelve o'clock--the
worst hour you can choose if you wish to get quickly from point to point
in Warsaw, for midday is consecrated to funerals. There are so many
of them that they form almost a continuous procession. They are of all
kinds, from the two-horse hearse, attended by mourning-carriages, to the
lonely man and woman, plodding hopelessly through the mud, carrying a
little child's coffin between them. In spite of delays we arrived at
last at a gateway, leading off a narrow street in one of the least
prosperous quarters of the city. The squalid courtyard beyond the
gateway was crowded with wolfish men and women. They were a strange
collection, brow-beaten and famished. The women wore shawls over their
heads; they looked typical slum-dwellers. Many of the men were in
tattered uniforms; all of them were unshaven and cringing as pedlars. We
had to force our way up the narrow stairs to Madame Lubinoff's office,
into which we were ushered by a grave-faced servant who turned out to
be her husband. The Bolshevists arrested him in Petrograd and imprisoned
him for ten months in the dreaded fortress of St. Peter and St.
Paul--which goes far to account for his crushed demeanour. It was his
wife who rescued him, by risking her own life and bribing his gaolers,
which has nothing to do with the present story.

Madame Lubinoff is a gay and beautiful woman, who hovers always between
tears and laughter. The tears are real, but the laughter is forced. One
marvels at the courage of her tremendous acting. It all started, this
work that she is conducting, she told us, with the sale of a ring. When
she discovered how many lives one ring could save, she sold more.
She had been luckier than most of her Russian friends who, when the
Bolshevist regime set in, had lost everything; whereas she, inasmuch
as Warsaw was Polish, had managed to preserve many of her personal
belongings, though of course her Russian estates were confiscated. The
present building in which she has established her soup-kitchen had been
a Russian Church. She gained permission from the priest to use it by
means of flattery; she kissed his hand, which is an honour paid only to
a bishop. She laughed. For the money with which to run it she sold her
jewels and kept on selling them, till the Russian Red Cross in Paris got
to hear about her. For a time they helped with contributions, but last
October they notified her that they could help no longer. Then the
American Relief had come to the rescue with a donation from the fund
left by Mr. Harkness to be expended on the Intelligencia of Europe. And
now that was exhausted. What was she going to do next? Ah, that was the
question! If she did not do something the seven thousand men, women
and children whom she was feeding would play leading rôles in the daily
funerals. She laughed and blinked the tears out of her eyes. They did
things better in the French Revolution; the guillotine was so very much
quicker. Perhaps we would like her to show us round.

Outside the door, doing clerking at a ricketty table, a grubby yet
distinguished man was sitting. She introduced him as Prince Ouhtomsky.
He shook our hands with a manner of extreme courtliness; when we were
out of earshot, she revealed his story. When Warsaw was a part of
Russian Poland he had been one of the richest men in the country. He
had belonged to the hereditary land-owning class, his grants having
been made directly to his family by the Tsar. He was now working for his
dinner and two dollars and a half a week. When she found him, he and his
princess had been living in a room which they shared with other people.
He had been trying to keep the wolf from the door by manufacturing
cigarettes. They were not good cigarettes--cigarette making was not
his profession. Besides, it was illegal in Poland; it was a Government
monopoly. So she had rescued him and given him the job of sealing;
envelopes. By allowing him to believe that he was earning his keep, she
prevented him from being too unhappy.

As we passed out through the crowd of be-shawled women, various of
them tried to attract Madame Lubinoff's attention. Some she embraced,
addressing them as "My dear Princess," "My dear Baroness," "My dear
Countess." Despite their sodden appearance, their display of etiquette
was magnificent and exacting. They drew themselves up with a flash of
haughtiness as though their Cinderella appearance of poverty were no
more than fancy-dress. One was reminded that they had once belonged to
the most polished caste of Europe. The effect was pitiful and fantastic.
Eight years ago it would have been madness to have proposed that they
could ever have sunk to this depth. We no longer wondered that Madame
Lubinoff wept while she laughed.

At the top of the stairs she pointed out a haggard fellow, attired in
what was left of a uniform. He had been one of the smartest officers
in the crack regiment of the Russian Guards. He had come to Warsaw a
beggar. She had been puzzled by a familiar resemblance. Then she had
remembered--she had been his partner, when things were in their heyday,
at an Imperial Ball.

As we crossed the courtyard to the dining-room we were accosted--at
every step we were accosted--by a bullet-headed old soldier who wore the
highest military decoration that the Tsar could bestow. It was pinned
against his greasy collar. He was General Rogovich. His request was
humble. He was hungry; he would like to split kindling in exchange for
food. "My General, it is very unfortunate," our hostess told him, "but
I have more than enough kindling split already." He kissed her hand,
submitting to her authority and yet, like an unwanted dog, he followed.

In a booth, at the entrance to the room where meals were served, the
most brilliant comedy actor of the old Petrograd was collecting tickets.
Inside wilted women of exalted nobility were pouring soup and piling
dishes for a pittance as waitresses.

The curious point was that they no longer looked noble; they looked
their part. The utensils were mostly make-shift; the cups were
condensed-milk cans, with ragged metal edges which had been presented
when empty by the American Relief Administration. At the tables sat a
large part of what Mr. Gorlof, the Russian attaché, calls "the spiritual
wealth of Russia." They were professors, musicians, actors, writers,
financiers, doctors, engineers--the kind of people whose brain value
never figures in a budget, but who constitute the realest asset of any
nation. These were the few who were left from the great mass who had
been tortured and shot.

At this point an old white-bearded man came up to us; he was General
Prigorowsky, who had been one of the most brilliant of strategists when
Russia was fighting on the side of the Allies. His face was intensely
sad and his eyes were deep with unfathomable melancholy. At sixty
years of age he was alone in the world, unloved, unprotected and almost
unloveable. He had no idea what had become of his wife or children. For
a time he and one son had been imprisoned together. Every day they had
been led out and told they would be shot. One day only his son had been
taken; after that he had remained alone in his cell. Having escaped,
here he was, penniless in a foreign land which would rather be without
him.

From the eating-room we were conducted to the kitchen. Again we were
invited to shake hands with students, army officers and princesses. I
had never realized that there were so many princesses in the world. In a
miserable outhouse four women, who were professors' wives and resembled
rag-pickers, huddled on a bench peeling beets into a basket.

We had climbed a stair and were pausing on a landing, when I happened
to look out of the window. Shambling aimlessly round a wood-pile in the
yard below was a forlorn little figure. He wore a dingy velvet hat--a
girl's--made like a tam-o'-shanter, a girl's coat which trailed about
his ankles, and hoots which were a mere pretence. Upon enquiry I was
informed that he was the Baron Hael Von Holdstein. His father had been
a millionaire. His mother was the daughter of a Lord Mayor of Petrograd
and was working in the soup-kitchen as a waitress. The little Baron,
having nowhere else to go, came with her in the early morning and waited
all day for her.

Beyond the door one heard the sound of sewing-machines revolving. We
were admitted by a woman who had been the wife of the Tsar's coachman.
Her husband had insisted on accompanying the Tsar into exile, so of
course she was a widow. In closely packed rows, resembling a sweat-shop,
women of all ages were stitching shirts. There were two princesses of
the same family. One was the Princess Meschersky, who had been wife
of the Consul General at Shanghai; the other was an orphan, a child
of fifteen, who had recently escaped via Finland. Most of them have no
homes and sleep beneath the machines where they work. In fact, Madame
Lubinoff told me, the wretched building is as crowded by night as by
day. Even the desk in her office is slept on.

"And now you have seen for yourselves," she laughed, "how all these
people are dependent on me. And they are not lazy. They have forgotten
that they were princes and have learnt to be cobblers, and carpenters,
and tailors. If I had the means to start workshops, I already have the
contracts. But I have not even the means to feed them. I simply dare not
tell them. I shall have to run away."

"And shall you run away?" we asked.

Her eyes became defiant. "Never."

"Then where are the funds to come from?"

She paused. "From God, perhaps. Yes, I think from God."



CHAPTER XV--POLAND'S COMMON MAN

This morning I had an interview with Witos, the Prime Minister of
Poland. If anyone suspects Poland of Imperialistic aims, Witos is the
answer and the direct negation. He is a Galician peasant, who had his
little farm near Cracow. He first began to be heard from as a protesting
voice against oppression, when Galicia was under Austrian domination.
As oppression multiplied his voice grew, always protesting in defence
of the under-dog. It was five years ago, after Russian Poland had been
occupied by Germany, that he became representative of the Polish nation
and leapt to the stature of a life-sized patriot. Today he is the
Abraham Lincoln of Poland, a man of the people whose integrity is
unpurchaseable. But his integrity without sanity would be worthless;
it is his shrewd common sense that is saving the situation. He has his
knife out for nobody except rogues and robbers. If he ever had class
hatred, he has forgotten it.

He chooses princes, Jews and common men as his advisors--people who were
formerly intolerant of each other. His democratic simplicity leavens the
lump. He values neither race, nor birth; the demands that he makes are
intrinsic merit and enthusiasm for humanity.

He resides in the magnificent palace which belonged to the Civil
Governor of Warsaw, when Warsaw was a part of Russian Poland. It was
formerly the home of Madame Lubinoff, whose sacrifices to save the
Russian refugees I have already described. A palace as the residence
of a peasant Premier seems to mar the picture of his altruism; the
unfavorable impression is corrected the moment you have seen the palace.

I don't know what they were doing with the lower part of it; it looked
as if they were ploughing up the tesselated pavements and getting ready
to plant potatoes. One rubbed shoulders with labourers and stumbled over
mounds of earth in an endeavour to find an entrance. There were no armed
guards. There were no military challenges--no gorgeous uniforms and
flashing bayonets. Of whatever Witos may be afraid--and every man
is afraid of something--it was evident that he has no dread of
assassination.

At last we pushed open a narrow door where a shabby porter relieved us
of our hats. When we asked for directions, he jerked his thumb casually,
indicating a marble staircase. Accepting his advice we found ourselves
in a lofty chamber, stripped of all decoration and furniture. There we
were met by a Government clerk, who ushered us into an empty ball-room
and requested us to wait.

It was a palace, yes; but lacking in splendour. Nothing but the husk
remained. In imagining the gay scenes that it had witnessed, the pomps
and pageants, the triumphs and envies, the vanished glitter of bombastic
lavishness, one experienced the kind of pity a faded beauty inspires
when her coquetry has been made dreadful by old age.

Would we come? The Government clerk was beckoning. As we followed him
across the naked expanse of dance-floor there was something intimidating
about those echoing vacancies. One thought of the women who had queened
it there--the flash of their eyes, luring adoration, the glide of their
dainty feet and the quick in-take of their breath. Where were they?
Waiting their turn at Madame Lubinoff's soup-kitchen, mouldering in
Bolshevist prisons or dead, which was happier.

In the smaller room which we entered a man, quite unremarkable at first
sight, was seated at a desk. He was the kind of man that you may see by
the thousand anywhere from Ellis Island to San Francisco. His face was
bony and lined from exposure. He was gone at the knees with overwork.
His hands were disfigured with manual labour. He wore the high leather
boots of a peasant. His suit was of a cheap shoddy material--tobacco
coloured, the kind that shrinks and wrinkles in the rain and sun. In all
outward aspects he was a common man--common in his voice, his gestures,
his attire. His shirt was rough with a turn down collar; he wore no
tie, so one saw the stud. He was the common man of Poland, guiding the
nation's destinies. One remembered Lincoln's saying, that God must have
loved the common people very much because He had made so many of them.

He left his desk and came towards us with a lagging step. With the
exactness of simplicity and a curious glance of wonder, he shook our
hands each in turn uncordially. Then he signed to us to seat ourselves
at a round table.

The conversation which ensued, if it can be called a conversation,
proceeded through an interpreter as Witos speaks only Polish. When he
understood the nature of my errand, he requested that I would ask him
questions, so I led off by asking him to assure me that Poland harboured
no plans for territorial aggression. His eyes narrowed; then he hid
them, looking down at the table and rapping with his knuckles. If I
would submit that question to him in writing, by tomorrow he would write
me back an answer. Then I asked him my next question. What was the most
constructive assistance that nations friendly to Poland could render?
Again he would like me to write my question and give him time to write
an answer in return.

His reply was the same to everything I asked. He was still the peasant
at heart, wise, kindly, fully conscious of his disadvantages and a
little distrustful of anyone who approached him professing benevolent
friendliness. He was clever enough to know the limitations of his
cleverness. He was cautious almost to the point of being unenterprising.
He was so natively shrewd, that he would rather appear stupid than run
the risk of being trapped. He would answer any question, yes. But he
refused to be jockeyed into answering in a moment. Interpreters are
unreliable and so are interviewers. When he spoke, he always spoke the
truth. A lie was a thing abhorrent to him. He had arrived at his present
position of trust not through brilliance, which is a comparatively
frequent talent; but through courageous honesty, which usually gets
murdered before it has the chance to utter itself.

So I promised to write him my questions. But upon reflection I believe
that that is unnecessary. What I wanted to obtain from him was an
assurance that Poland wants peace within her borders and is not
ambitious to grab territory. Witos answered me more emphatically by his
truthfulness and his shrewdness than if he had swamped me with arguments
and words. Such a man, so common; so honest, so representative of the
workers who suffer, will be the last to lead his nation into rash,
imperialistic adventures.



CHAPTER XVI--THE NIGHT OF THE THREE KINGS

It was January the sixth, the eve of the Festival of the Three Kings,
which is the day before the Russian Christmas, that we found ourselves
automobiling across the devastated stretch of country which lies between
Brest-Litovsk and the old Russo-German front-line. Our object in going
was to see how the peasants were living in the destroyed areas and what
was being done to save their starving children.

The mention of devastated areas conjures a picture of the kind of
destruction that happened in France. But in Poland the problem of
devastation is quite different. It is almost true to say that the
whole of Poland is devastated. In France the destruction was intensely
concentrated in a narrow belt of country where battles were fought.
In Poland, with its tremendous distances, the depth of devastation is
rarely less at any point than two hundred miles. If in the summer of
1920 a Polish soldier had started from Warsaw in the defence against the
Bolshevist invasion, had fought his way to Kiev, had fallen back in the
retreat to Warsaw and, after the Polish victory, had again advanced to
the present Polish front-line, he would have marched over a thousand
miles in the space of four months.

We set out on a misty morning to cover the hundred and fifty kilometres
which lie between the ruined city of Brest-Litovsk and the nearest town
of Kovel. The road runs straight as a pencilled line across the sullen
landscape. In all that stretch of country there is scarcely a sign
of cultivation. The fields have become a wilderness, the rivers have
overflowed and the whole is a barren swamp. The desolation was begun
in 1915 when the Russians retreated before the Germans, driving the
civilian population behind them, seizing the cattle and harrying with
fire and with dynamite. They destroyed all the post-houses, which made
communications possible, and blew up all the bridges. Then came
the German occupation and the establishment of the Russo-German
trench-systems forty kilometres to the east of Kovel. Whatever had been
overlooked by the retreating Russians was picked clean by the advancing
German armies. Until the Armistice this occupation lasted. When the
Poles regained their freedom, the peasants who had been refugees during
all this period, began to come back. They Had no sooner settled than the
Bolshevists' assaults commenced, sweeping clean across this same stretch
of tillage to the very gates of Warsaw.

As you travel the bleak road between Brest-Litovsk and Kovel, every
sight is eloquent of the misery that has been wrought. The route is
marked by grave-yards and solitary crosses. Some are merely scratched on
trees, the burial was so hurried. All surrounding is a brooding silence.
One comes to clusters of houses, crouched beneath the weight of sky.
Their roofs have collapsed; their walls are charred. Tenanting these
ruins are gaunt human beings who hurry out of sight like pariahs.
Sometimes we met them struggling along the road on purposeless journeys.
They wore no shoes; their feet were swathed in sodden rags. They had a
hunted look and gave us a wide berth as though they feared our cruelty.
Many of the travellers were children, with gray faces and hunted eyes.

At Kovel we picked up our guide. She was one of the Gray Samaritans--an
American citizen of Polish origin who hailed from Pittsburgh. Her name
was Christine Zduleczna; she has been working in the most appalling
parts of this unhappy country for nearly two years. The Gray Samaritans
are Polish-American girls, recruited by the Y. W. C. A. and at present
attached to the American Relief Administration. All of them can talk the
Polish language and most of them were old enough to remember the land
of their birth at the time when they emigrated. Because of their dual
nationality they are invaluable as a liaison between the need of the
country and the American authorities. Their self-effacement is a sight
to make more comfortable people blush. They practise the sacrifice of
saints and the fearlessness of soldiers.

Kovel is a wretched hovel of a town, unsanitary, permanently splashed
with mud, inhabited by Jews and White Russians. Nothing that Gorki
or Tolstoi has described is more accursed and Godforsaken. Dirty,
starveling shops, whose entire contents could be purchased for a dollar,
stare out on a street which is a continuous puddle full of hidden holes
and bumps. Droschkies, drawn by feeble ponies, move weakly through the
squalor. No one seems to have anything to do. Men in mangy fur-coats,
with sweeping beards and unspeakably filthy faces shuffle aimlessly
along the pavements. Soldiers step by more briskly, but with an
expression in their eyes of people who are condemned. It was here,
outside a dingy stable, facetiously named the Bellevue Hotel, that
we met Christine Zduleczna. She looked trim and confident in her
horizon-blue uniform--a triumph of courage over circumstance. Her spirit
was as unbowed and eager as her appearance, as we were soon to discover.
She was one of the girls who remained at their posts last summer,
evacuating peasants till the Bolshevists were almost within hailing
distance. There was one girl on the Lithuanian Front who outstayed
discretion and was captured.

Having taken Christine Zduleczna aboard, we ploughed our way out of the
mud of Kovel and travelled due east towards the Front The signs of war
were becoming more recent and frequent. Freight-cars in the railroad
yards flapped in ribbons, tom into shreds by shells. Engines lay on
their sides, as full of holes as pepper boxes. Carcases of animals
were strewn about. At one point there was a pile of bones, as high as
a house, picked clean of flesh. Then the rusty red of barbed wire
commenced and the dreary maze of abandoned trench-systems.

There was not a sign of human habitation, not a roof or a wall left
standing; and yet people lived there. How? In the timbered dug-outs
which the Germans had constructed; in old gun-emplacements; in
shell-holes. They lived like foxes, anywhere and anyhow by burrowing
underground. And what do they feed on? In many parts of the devastated
areas they are eating grass as though they were cattle. They boil it
into a kind of soup. Where they have no flour of any sort, they bake
bread out of a mixture of bark and acorns. But our Gray Samaritan
informed us that there was almost no ruined village that we had passed,
where an American Children's Relief Station had not been established.
She knew, for she had established them; that was her job. Whoever dies
in Poland, the children will be saved as long as America recognises
their necessity. But if America were to grow forgetful, most of them
would be dead before another summer. The cruelty of the situation is
that only the children can be fed; the parents, the grandparents and the
boys and girls above the age of fourteen have to take their chance.

The melancholy of dusk was settling over this old battlefield, where for
long years men had cursed and hated and butchered one another, when we
drew up at our first point of call in the trench-dwellers' colony of
Switniki.

Floundering in the mud and making a strong effort to keep our footing,
we crossed a trench and approached a hut constructed out of the debris
of the battlefield. Quarter sections of corrugated iron, 'which the
Germans had used for their gun-emplacements, had been riveted together,
and the sides and top had been covered with sod. The place was in
darkness when we knocked at the door. It was still in darkness when
we were allowed to enter. Then, very sparingly, the only candle
was lighted. It would be blown out the moment we departed. By its
illumination we saw an old man and woman--they looked old, but they may
not have been more than fifty. The woman's gray hair hung loose about
her face; she was kneeling in a praying position in her bed. Perhaps it
was the Three Kings she was expecting. This was the night when they were
supposed to come, riding out of the East to leave their presents at the
doors of the needy, just as twenty centuries ago they had tapped on the
door of a stable in Bethlehem and found the Christ-Child in his poverty,
asleep upon his mother's breast.

We gazed round the little room. It was speckless. All the rooms which
we visited in this colony were. The people might be dying of starvation,
but they were determined to die cleanly. That is the difference between
your peasant and your city-dweller. One missed the abominable smells
which accompany destitution in Warsaw. These people had the native
gentleness of a race which has always been self-respecting, inventing
their own music and poetry, and owning their little plot of land. They
were not going to become disrespecting now.

Our host was a Pole--an exception to the community, most of whom were
White Russians. He told his story simply. Before the war he had owned
three acres, two cows and a team of horses. He had had a son who had
gone to America and had been in the habit of sending him money. When
the Russian armies were driven out of Poland by the Germans, he had been
forced to move back into Russia. His farm had been cut up into trenches,
as we could see for ourselves. After the Armistice he had returned
to find a rubbish-heap, full of foulness. He had set to work with the
little money he had to buy a horse and implements; then last summer
had come the Bolshevist invasion, eating up everything like a plague of
locusts. Now he had nothing. One could not fill in trenches and level a
land blown about by shells without implements, merely with one's naked
hands. And worst of all, during his long exile, he had lost touch with
his son in America. Probably the son thought him dead. If he could only
discover his son's address, everything might yet be well. So perhaps
it wasn't for the Three Kings that the old mother had been listening
so intently, when she had heard our footsteps in the mud and our sudden
tap. As I had expected, the moment we departed the candle was blown out.

We came to another hut. This time they were White Russians. Outside the
door the Soltys, or head-man of the village, joined us. Inside we found
a family of seven children and a mother who was a widow. Her husband had
died of typhus, but it was more true to call it starvation, she said.
Here they had no candles, so they lit shavings of wood. Again, in spite
of the poverty, everything was proudly speckless. An oven of baked
mud had been built in one corner and the top of it afforded two of the
children with a bed. And what pretty children they were, from the baby
to the eldest who was a girl of seventeen! The walls were decorated with
branches of spruce in case the Three Kings should come.

The story was the same as the last. They had been prosperous, owning
their little farm and earning extra in the summer by hiring themselves
to the big estates. Then the German invasion had driven them into exile
and on their return they had found the industry of centuries blotted
out. How did they live, we asked. The American kitchen took care of the
children. All the children in the village would have died the Soltys
said, if the Americans had not come to their rescue. In this particular
family the girl of seventeen and a son of fifteen were the main
supports. The boy was not present; he slept with the pony--their only
possession--to prevent its being stolen. The boy and girl travelled the
country in the spring and summer, hiring themselves and taking flour in
payment. Very often they were cheated by the farmers, who after weeks of
work would turn them adrift with nothing. And then, of course, there was
the trouble of bringing the flour back--a hundred miles sometimes,
from far outside the devastated areas--carrying it. They spoke
uncomplainingly, merely stating facts. The girl of seventeen, who took
these risks and journeys, kept smiling and nodding her confirmation. The
children peeped at us from behind the mud furnace like startled rabbits.

The last family that we visited had been rich by peasant standards. They
had owned forty acres, three teams of horses, six cows, many pigs and
geese and hens. All that they had found on their return from exile was
forty acres of polluted mud. The household consisted of a grandfather,
with a white beard and a shock of black curly hair. He had the eye of
a hawk and the face of an intellectual. There was his wife, the
grandmother, a lean woman with a humorous mouth and eyes which held you
at bay with a veiled defiance. There was their daughter, a widow, very
little and meek. And then there were her four children.

"You must not judge us as you see us now," the old man said. "You should
have seen us once with all our cattle. Should I live as I do, if I could
help it?"

The furnace threw out a ruddy glow. On the hot stones four little cakes
were baking, which the four little boys regarded with popping eyes.
"They are the cakes of the Three Kings," the grandmother explained;
"they are filled with poppy-seeds. I travelled a long way to get the
flour, and I worked and worked. And then I was afraid that I would be
robbed on the lonely roads before ever I got it back."

We asked them what they usually ate. Oh, anything and often nothing. Did
they ever bake any of this acorn bread? They wished they could, but they
hadn't any acorns.

And so through the night of the festival of the Three Kings we drove
back across the desolate battlefields. At Kovel we said good-bye to
Christine Zduleczna. We left her in her mouldy room, in the dingy den of
the Bellevue, which looks more like a thieves' kitchen than a hotel. She
parted with us with a cheery smile--she loved her people and her work.
If she had her choice, while the need was so great, she wouldn't be
anywhere else. But I, for one, felt a coward in leaving her alone to
carry such a burden.

We struck the bleak, interminable road which leads through Brest-Litovsk
to civilisation. Our lamps as we parted the wall of darkness, picked
out the crosses of silver birch, the black and white verst poles, the
graveyards and the humpy ruined houses. They revealed them to us one by
one, beckoning them out of oblivion, making each tragedy seem separate
and the more significant. It was bitterly cold. We huddled closer and
shivered in our rugs and furs. Sometimes we dozed in a nodding fashion.
But whenever we roused, like figures of grief on a frieze of blackness,
we saw the straggling forms of outcast travellers, their feet swathed
in rags, journeying in search of bread. Very often they were boys and
girls, above the age of fourteen whom so far the American Relief has not
had sufficient funds to rescue. They were journeying in quest of bread
on the night, when according to tradition, the Three Kings should have
been riding from the East to bring them help.



CHAPTER XVII--DOES POLAND WANT PEACE?

Does Poland want peace? It is a question which has to be answered
in the affirmative if either philanthropists or nations are going to
interest themselves in restoring Poland to a sound financial footing.
In order to obtain an authoritative answer, I approached Prince Sapieha,
the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. Rather to my amazement he
was not at all elusive, but gave me the most convincing Arguments for
Poland's peace desires that I have yet heard.

"The trouble with Poland," he said, "is that she lies between Russia and
Germany. That is not her fault; it is the way it happens. Our nation is
in a place where it is not wanted; but you may take it from me that we
are not going to get out. Germany has an over-population which increases
every year by leaps and bounds. It was her overpopulation that produced
the war; she wanted England's colonies and more European territory.
She simply had to have room to expand. The Allies have confiscated her
merchant marine, broken her military strength and taken away even the
colonies that she already had. But they have not taken away her enormous
birth-rate, so the problem of what to do with her surplus population is
more pressing than ever. Her only possible direction for expansion is
eastwards into Russia, which would probably be for Russia's benefit.
Unfortunately we stand in the way; anything that would destroy us is
to her advantage. It is not to her interest that we should have peace;
therefore she tries to lower our prestige and depress our exchange by
spreading the rumour that we have imperialistic ambitions. If she can
get Upper Silesia to believe this, the vote of the plebiscite will
go against us and she will acquire some of the richest coal-fields in
Europe.

"As regards Russia, the problem is historic rather than economic. Before
the partitioning of Poland much that is now Russian was Polish. Two
hundred years have gone by and today the racial claims are about equally
divided. We have acknowledged this fact at Riga, where peace with the
Bolshevists is nearly concluded. We have divided the debatable territory
into two halves as fairly as we know how. If the Bolshevists desire
peace, we shall give them no reason for altering their minds. And they
should mean it, if internal conditions count for anything, for they are
exhausted and their armies, though greater than ours in number, are far
inferior in fighting qualities. I can assure you with absolute sincerity
that we are losing no chance of arranging trade treaties and making all
the neighbours along our borders our friends. We hope and believe that
they are as sick of bloodshed as we are.

"But merely to remove the provocations that led to bloodshed will not
bring peace. Poland can have no peace till she has regained prosperity
and her people have ceased to starve. What I want to say to the world is
that there is no reason why we should starve; we have everything within
our frontiers that could make us a rich nation. Before the war Poland,
partitioned as she was, was self-supporting. And don't let anyone think
that we are starving because we like it. Seventy per cent, of our cattle
have been carried off by the Russian, German, Austrian and Bolshevist
invasions. The machinery in our factories has been demolished or looted.
Our agricultural implements have been stolen or destroyed. I think of
the Polish People as the landowner of a valuable estate without the
capital to work it. What does the landowner do? He keeps on pawning this
and that and, in sheer desperation, gambles with the results.

"No big financier will lend money to a gambler. But suppose the landowner
gives such proofs that he has ceased to gamble that the financier will
let him have a mortgage. He starts to work and buys implements; in a few
years his estate pays sufficiently to redeem the mortgage. It is clear
of debt and the landowner becomes happy.

"We had to fight to defend ourselves, still I can understand that we may
have been regarded as gamblers. We have had wars on five fronts. On four
of them we have peace already; the fifth peace is being concluded. We
are trying to prove in every way that our only desire is to get to work.
But it is physically impossible to accomplish that without outside help.

"There are four things that we require if life, liberty and the pursuit
of happiness are to be ours. First, we need the belief of the world
in our sincerity, when we say that we do want peace. Second, we need
credits of food-stuffs to regenerate our workers' debilitated bodies.
Third, we need food-stuffs in sufficient quantities to accomplish this
purpose. From the statesmanly point of view mere doles are of no good to
us. We need to have enough to eat for at least six months; after that
we shall be strong to produce for ourselves. After that you will hear no
more of Poland going Bolshevist. Bolshevism is the last hope of the
man with the empty stomach. And lastly, we need financial assistance to
repair our damaged machinery and to make our industries buzz. We want
experts to come to Poland to look over our investment opportunities. The
opportunities are here and our people are willing. We want to buzz and
to pull our weight in the world."

"Your Excellency," I said, "as regards Poland's desire for peace you
have convinced me. But do the Bolshevists intend to let you have peace,
despite their conferences at Riga? Everybody's talking of a drive in the
spring which is intended to wipe Poland off the map."

He stood for a minute silent. He seemed to be searching for a more
clenching argument, which had escaped his memory. Then he smiled gravely
and held out his hand. "I have an estate beyond Grodno," he said. "It
is directly in the line of a Bolshevist attack. Three separate invasions
have picked it bare. There's scarcely anything but the land left. At the
present moment I am rebuilding it, putting in implements and re-stocking
it with cattle. As a man in the know, a Minister of Foreign Affairs,
should I do that if I had the least doubt that our peace with Bolshevism
would prove lasting?"



CHAPTER XVIII--THE PROBLEM OF DANTZIG

Dantzig's problem is similar to the problems of the whole of Central
Europe; it arises out of the arbitrary creation of new frontiers. To sit
in Paris with a blue pencil and scrawl lines on a map was a simple task;
to have to dwell within those lines, despite their violation of economic
laws, and make a livelihood, has proved less easy. It is one thing to
declare Dantzig a free-port; it is another to persuade her neighbours
to use her. It is possible that in making Dantzig free, the Peace
Conference has only made her free to starve.

Here is the situation. Dantzig, as she is today, consists of seven
hundred and fifty square miles of territory, and a population of 350,000
souls. Her former industries were shipping, ship-building and the
manufacture of armaments. For the latter purposes, while the war was on,
the Germans imported thousands of workmen, many of whom still remain.
The manufacture of armaments is now forbidden. There is no demand for
ship-building. Ocean-going traffic is at a halt; the nations in whose
interests the free-port was constituted are either bankrupt or anxious
to develop their own harbours. Poland, who was expected to be her
largest employer, is too busy with the Bolshevists to be a producer;
hence she has nothing to ship. When she does begin to produce, it is
on the boards that she may avoid Dantzig. She acquired a distaste for
free-ports last summer when the Dantzig longshoremen refused to unload
her munitions. She is already flirting with two alternatives. Germany is
coaxing her to adopt Stettin as her outlet; she herself is inclined to
build docks of her own on the seaboard of the Polish Corridor.

Meanwhile Dantzig is idle. She has no industries to keep her going. Her
agriculture is too limited to support her population. Her neighbours
cannot send her food-stuffs; their own needs are too pressing. If times
were normal, Poland might be willing to feed her; but Poland herself is
only being kept alive by the relief brought in from America. When
the free-port was created, a clause was inserted in the Peace Treaty,
obliging Poland to act as Dantzig's larder. One of the demands was that
Poland should provide the free-port with five hundred tons of flour
weekly at a stipulated price. The price named was so insufficient that
the flour sent to Dantzig costs Poland twice as much, not reckoning the
unloading, as the price which Dantzig pays for it. All of it has to be
imported from America.

In 1914 the daily consumption of milk in Dantzig was 50,000 litres, most
of which was Polish. Today the maximum she is able to obtain is 10,000
litres and the minimum 4,000. As a consequence babies are the sufferers.
I visited ward after ward filled with tiny mites made hideous with
rickets. The hospital was so overcrowded and diminished in its resources
that it possessed no change of linen. While the rags are washed the
little patients go naked. What this means in the sanitary conditions
of a babies' hospital can be best imagined. You may see children of six
months who have not gained beyond their birth-weight.

In Vienna, where similar conditions prevail, I saw a four year old child
who weighed only nineteen pounds.

It is the children, always the children who are the victims, no matter
in which country you investigate. When we fought, we believed that it
was we who paid the price; but the bill of pain which we settled in the
trenches is as nothing to the account which is being rendered to the
younger generation. Of the Dantzig children below the age of fifteen who
have been medically examined, more than half are under-nourished and of
this half only a third are being cared for by the joint efforts of the
American Children's Relief and the Society of Friends. Here are the
exact figures. One quarter of the children examined is normal. One
quarter is badly under-nourished. And one half is sufficiently below the
standard to warrant extra feeding. An important fact of the situation is
that the majority of the starving children belong to the middle-classes.
During the war and until recently the workmen have received special
rations to induce them to labour. In addition to this their wages have
followed the rise in costs, whereas the salaries of clerks, officials
and professional people have been comparatively stationary. The
middle-classes are not unionized so they cannot attract attention to
their grievances by strikers' methods.

Dantzig's future is distinctly gloomy. Germany has her own Baltic ports
to encourage. Poland is her sole hope of prosperity and Poland is in
bitter want herself. Moreover, if Poland recovers, which may take years,
she may prefer to construct her own harbour--that is to say, if she does
not yield to the inducements held out by Stettin.

The muddle is economic and racial. But such a statement leads to no
solution. The fact remains that before she was commanded to be nobody's
property her harbours were thriving. Today, as far as one can see, all
that her freedom means is that her harbours are free to stand empty and
her children are at liberty to die of hunger. No doubt the gentleman
in Paris with the blue pencil had the handsomest of intentions, but he
collided head-on with economic forces which it was his business to have
apprehended. Whoever he was, he has made good his escape, while the
children, as usual, pay the penalty.



CHAPTER XIX--YOUNG GERMANY

The youth of Germany have established an invisible system of trenches
in every home, every school, every university. Though they may not know
it and would perhaps disown it, they are banded together to withstand
that same intolerance of autocracy which hurried lovers of freedom from
the ends of the earth that it might be crushed on the Western Front.

These new armies which are re-winning the old battle Have given
themselves a name; they call themselves the Freie Deutsche Jugend--the
Free Youth of Germany. Their ranks are made up of girls as well as boys.
In isolated instances they are organised, but for the most part they are
knights-errant. I asked a young man today how he had been elected to
the companionship. He looked troubled, not grasping my meaning. After
further explanation he smiled. He had elected himself. That was the way
it was done. One felt in his heart that he ought to be free. He talked
with some friends. Then he joined the movement.

The Free Youth of Germany range in age from mere children to University
students. They are against tyranny in every form, against meaningless
conventions, against conscription, against war, against inherited hates,
against all traditions and institutions which hamper and curtail their
self-expression and capacity for self-development. If you ask them to
formulate their doctrine, they grow vague. Each one answers in terms
of his or her personal idealism and disillusionment. They want to be
happy--that is what it amounts to and they have never been happy. They
are determined to be happy at all costs. The world of grown people has
proved itself cruel. They will have nothing to do with it. They refuse
to accept its authority. They will build society afresh. They make these
confessions with a haughtiness which is as ridiculous as it is pathetic.
Because you are older, they address you as an enemy. For fear you should
laugh, they over-emphasize and grow visionary and grandiloquent. From
time immemorial, they tell you, the youth of all countries has been
hectored and abused; they are going to harness the youth of every race
in a titanic effort to correct the injustice of human affairs.

Humanitarians at the duckling stage, a cynic might call them, and then
add as his verdict, "They'll grow out of that." God forbid that they
should; their attempt to break chains is the most hopeful sign in
Central Europe. Consider the experience of life they have had. Those
of them who are old enough can remember pre-war Germany, with its
harsh demands of unquestioning obedience. The military idea permeated
everything. Force was the argument that was most respected--force in the
home, the school, the university. A child was drilled from the cradle to
the grave. As with a private in the army, it was a crime to answer back.
His business was not to think, but to obey. Fear of punishment was the
spur of all his endeavours. He was gorged with knowledge that he might
prove efficient. Life was a battle, which called for efficiency rather
than kindness. A home was a miniature headquarters mess in which the
father was the general and the mother his adjutant.

Then came the assault upon civilisation, to which all these sacrifices
of liberty had been the preface. The children of Germany were still
further despoiled. Their formative years were embittered in an
atmosphere of harrowing uncertainties. Every day was irritable with
dreads and gray with unrelieved privations. There was never an hour from
which the knowledge of horror was absent. The Armistice for a moment
seemed to promise freedom, but the peace terms sentenced them to a
life-time of servitude. Can you wonder that they refuse to be associated
with the unwisdom of their elders? They have seized on the dream of a
new generosity. They believe that in the eyes of all youth there are
visions. They will appeal over the heads of adults to the youth of the
nations for friendship. "We children were never enemies," they say. "We
did not make the war. We were the victims of it. We were not consulted."
They insist, with impotent passion, that the fathers' sins shall not be
visited upon their generation. "We want to be young," they plead. "We
have never been young. We have only been little."

"Poor kiddies!" is one's first comment. But their demands are not to
be dismissed so cavalierly. The Free Youth have already commenced a
revolution--it is a revolution of ideas--ideas in the main which have
not become articulate. But these child enthusiasts will be men and women
soon. They will have to be heard. No one can foresee to what lengths
their yearning for freedom may carry them. It should be the business of
the Allies to show them sympathy and give them direction.

There are three points in their movement which deserve to be made
emphatic. The first is that they are absolutely correct in their
assertion that the children of the Allies were never at war with the
children of Germany. The second is that the Free Youth of Germany are
fighting for precisely the same ideals for which the Allies fought, and
are doing their fighting on German soil where it will be most effective.
The third is that they are showing a spirit of regeneration which, if
it is encouraged, will become the national spirit of tomorrow. For
the safety of the world, if for no less selfish reason, their movement
deserves the Allies' consideration. A part of their ideal has already
found expression in the new German Constitution, which was passed two
months after the signing of the Peace Treaty. The clause is number 148
and reads, "Our schools must educate our children not only in a spirit
of patriotism, but also in a spirit of international reconciliation." As
Dr. Simon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said when he pointed it
out to me, "That wasn't so bad as a beginning when only two months had
elapsed since our humiliation at Versailles."

All the American and British relief work done in Germany is being
concentrated on the youth. For the American Relief the Society of
Friends are the dispensers. The work starts constructively with the
unborn. Feeding stations have been established at which under-nourished
expectant mothers attend daily. The main reasons for their
undernourishment are the scarcity of work and, before that, the
blockade. One of them told me that her husband had had nothing to do for
six months. How did they live? On their unemployment pay. But hadn't
her husband been in the war and didn't he receive a pension? Yes. He had
been in the war for four years. But he received no pension, for, alas,
he had not been badly wounded.

At the present moment 600,000 children are being fed at American Relief
Stations, which the Friends are operating; but there are at least
400,000 more who ought to be included. Whether they are included depends
on what funds are forthcoming within the next few months.

The schemes for saving the youth of Germany are exceedingly thorough.
Starting with the unborn child, they finish with the student at the
University. By far the larger part of the funds for the student feeding
are contributed by Great Britain. They are administered by a personnel
made up of the British and American Society of Friends.

The thirst for learning since the close of the war has become abnormal.
Students attending the universities are one-third in excess of the
capacity. They are young men and women drawn from every class and welded
together by an almost painful enthusiasm for democracy. The sacrifices
which they make to gain an education sometimes reach the point of
martyrdom. One girl, who is by no means exceptional, attends her
lectures by day and scrubs floors as a charwoman by night. If it were
not for the one substantial meal in the twenty-four hours which the
Friends provide, she would collapse. It is to such people that the
American and British Friends are ministering. They realise that, if
there is ever to be peace between the sons and daughters of the nations
who fought, the peace must commence in the heart.

Very naturally while middle-aged Germany is caviling over reparations
and eluding engagements, the charitably disposed publics of the Allies
are unwilling to respond to appeals for help. Their old war hatreds
have no sooner shown signs of subsiding than some new cause is given
by Berlin for suspicion and offence. In spite of this, the point which
cannot be made too emphatic is that it is middle-aged Germany, the
contriver of the war, which is creating these offences. Young Germany is
no party to them. It is just that a distinction should be made between
the new and the old. The new is fighting our battle for us. In the
universities it is fighting the professors who insist on teaching
reactionary doctrines. The students being young, are sick and tired of
the glorification of the old, bad past. They insist on starting with
today and looking forward. If we desire it, we can have them for our
friends.

Not to desire it would be a crime which is unpardonable. We fought a
war which we said was to be the last; if through our lack of generous
response we fling the youth of Germany back into the arms of the
reactionaries, we are preparing a future war. Quite apart from decency
and humanity, it is statesmanly and economic to hold out hopes of
magnanimity. If we hoard foodstuffs today and insist on a policy of
revenge, we shall be expending tomorrow on shells a thousand times
the money we have saved. The rejected idealist is the least forgiving
antagonist and the Free Youth of Germany are a volcano of idealism. They
deserve our sympathy. They sincerely want to be our friends. They have
rejected their own elders and look to us for guidance. They are young
birds who have been wounded. They have never spread their wings. In
listening to their talk, all the time one has the picture of fledglings
trying to lift themselves from the ground. To destroy a bad world was
necessary; but to help build a good one is braver. As far as young
Germany is concerned, the hour is ripe for relenting. If we allow it to
escape us, it will not be ourselves, but our children who will have to
bear the consequences.



CHAPTER XX--NEITHER PEACE NOR WAR

The words are Trotsky's. They were his verdict on the humiliating Peace
which Russia was compelled to accept at the hands of Germany. You may
see them scrawled on the wall of the old Jesuit College at Brest-Litovsk
where the Peace was signed: "Neither Peace Nor War. Trotsky." If they
were true of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, they are equally true of the
Peace which has befallen Central Europe as the crowning achievement
of the war which was to end all wars. It is not stating matters too
strongly to say that up to date Peace had caused at least as much
misery as the four years' fury of embattled armies. But there is this
difference: the heavier portion of the present misery is being borne by
women and children.

As one who was a combatant, I think I know what urged the fighting-man
to his sacrifice. He considered his own welfare as of paltry consequence
if, by foregoing it, he could help to create a social order which would
be more righteous. He gladly took his chance of wounds and annihilation,
believing that his pain was the purchase-price of a future and enduring
happiness. A tour through contemporary Central Europe would leave him
sadly disillusionized. The victory, which his idealism made possible,
has been turned to a cruel use--a use which he never intended and for
which he would certainly never have agonised. Killing men in fight is
comparatively decent and an essential accompaniment of the technique of
war; butchering their families with slow starvation by the Peace that
comes after is revolting and savage.

And whose is the fault? Part of it belongs to the enemy nations
themselves who perpetrated the crime of war and, when they found that
they were losing, fought themselves to such a point of exhaustion that
they were left with no power of recuperation. Part of it belongs to
the internal race-hatreds which were only kept in check by the economic
interdependence of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. Part of it belongs
to a Peace of Idealism imposed upon peoples historically unprepared
for it and imposed at a time when they found themselves on the brink
of insolvency. The only chance that such a Peace had of achieving the
pacification that was intended, was by the Allies taking control
of Central Europe and constituting themselves sole arbiters of
administration until the newly created nations were sufficiently
balanced to function for themselves. But in the final analysis the fault
was yours and mine--we who are the plain people of the Allied Nations.

It is more fashionable to lay the blame on a group of elderly statesmen
who met in Paris to arrange the pacification. They were the leaders who
had piloted their nations to triumph--men of unstained integrity who,
having survived incredible anxieties, had the right to be more war-jaded
than any of their countrymen. They met at a time when the nerves of
both conquerors and defeated had reached the breaking-point. They had
no sooner assembled than the clamour arose, "Make haste. Make haste."
Overnight they were compelled to attempt solutions for race-problems
which had eluded astuter minds than theirs for centuries. They were
forced to decide the fates of nations whose language they could not
speak, whose lands they had not visited, whose geography was unfamiliar
to them and whose very histories they were not given time to study.
They were not permitted to consecrate to peace a hundredth part of
the industry that victory had required. As a consequence, in order to
abbreviate debates, they cleared the room of critics and carved up the
map of Europe behind closed doors. They were good men, animated by a
desire to help humanity. Civilisation was crumbling while they delayed.
The loud boom of threatened ruin thundered through their council-chamber
like the cracking of Arctic ice.

It was not their reparation clauses that did the damage. The reparation
clauses were just. The least you can ask of a boy who flings a stone is
that he shall replace the pane which he smashed. The damage was done
by clauses conceived in the finest spirit of altruism, but with no
practical knowledge of what was possible. You may pitch your ideals so
high that you render them useless. The weakness of the Peace Treaty
lay in the fact that its framers had to rely on books and hearsay
for information which, to be accurate, ought to have been obtained by
first-hand investigation. And they were not business men. They were
journalists, professors and oratorical inspirers; whereas their task
from first to last was a reorganizing of the world's big business.
When the doors were flung wide on their deliberations, they presented
humanity with exactly what we might have expected--a paper peace. It was
a noble performance for the time it had taken. It read beautifully, but
in practice large portions of it have proved wholly unworkable and have
produced an economic stagnation which is neither peace nor war. It
is fair to state, however, that whether because of or in spite of it,
Europe has shown a marked improvement in the last two years.

Recriminations are cowardly. The mistakes of the Peace Treaty were the
direct result of our culpable indifference. We displayed little interest
in what our pacifiers were doing. World-happenings no longer concerned
us. Few of us troubled to read the terms when they were published. We
had become provincial and were concentrating all our energies on our
personal futures. Things being as they were, it is probable that no
group of men, differently selected, could have done better. In the
spring of 1919 we were not ripe for peace. Most decidedly we were not
ripe for altruism. We were spendthrift philanthropists in dread of our
creditors. We were too panic-stricken to be considerate, too needy to
be magnanimous, too unfortunate to have pity on the unhappiness of the
peoples who had caused our embarrassment. If the elderly statesmen made
too much haste in Paris, it was we who urged them to hurry. The paper
peace was the common people's doing quite as much as it was theirs. By
the same token the starvation of five million children in Central Europe
is our doing. And the righting of the disaster which our indifference
made possible, should be ours.

What do the peoples whom our Peace has tortured, have to say about it?
Their criticism is summed up in one word--hypocrisy. They say that we
employed the language of the Beatitudes, while we cast lots for their
raiment. They say--though certainly they exaggerate--that they would
not have minded so much if we had been boldly ruthless; what they can't
forgive is our high-flown talk of democracy and justice at the very
moment when we were condemning them to generations of servitude. They
accuse us of having paid our debts out of their pockets in a manner
which had nothing to do with reparations. A case in point was the reward
that was allotted to Roumania for having come in on the side of the
Allies. The Russian Front was crumbling. For the Allies it was the
blackest hour. Something had to be done to create a diversion; if the
diversion had not been created, we might have been in the condition that
Central Europe is in today. Roumania offered to join us if, in the event
of victory, we would concede to her certain territories. As Admiral
Horthy, the Governor of what is left of Hungary, said to me, "Your
very lives were at stake. You would have promised Roumania the whole of
Hungary at that moment if she had asked for it. I, for one, would not
have blamed you. What I blame is not that you kept your promise after
you had won the war, but that you stole from us in the name of idealism,
disguising your theft with a lot of talk about self-determination. You
paid your debt by handing over Transylvania, which was Hungary's granary
and absolutely essential to our economic regeneration. We are a trunk of
a nation now, shorn of our arms and legs. We cannot rise from the ground
or stir. You have spared us our head, so we lie on our back and think,
and die by inches."

What is it that the Peace has really done to Europe? It has created
a dozen Alsace-Lorraines by taking away territory from one people and
bestowing it on another. It has manufactured new nations, with new
paper currencies, negligible reserves, experimental constitutions and no
previous experience to guide them in the restraints of self-government.
It has multiplied frontiers and spun a spider-web of tariff-walls. It
has fenced in the local hatreds which it was intended to abolish, so
that they grow savage like dogs perpetually chained. It has established
free-ports for the use of mixed populations who are too distrustful
to use them. It has entrusted to plebiscites the deciding of their own
fates, with the result that they have become hot-beds for the hostile
propaganda of rival claimants. It has so lopped and changed the
political landscape that railroads now converge on cities which have
ceased to serve their purpose. Vienna, the great pre-war middle-man
city of Central Europe, is a case in point. Today it stands isolated
and unself-supporting in the scrubby patch of tillage which is the new
Austria. Its currency is so unredeemable and varying in value that even
Austrians prefer to make their contracts in terms of a foreign currency
which is stable. Their neighbours refuse to accept it and hoard their
goods within their own borders. Their goods have a tangible value, which
the paper money of Austria has not. But the railroads still converge on
Vienna. The case is similar throughout partitioned Europe. Money is a
commodity in which to speculate; it is no longer a medium of barter.
When you cross the border from Czecho-Slovakia into Poland, you have to
pay your train-fare in French francs. Polish marks are refused, although
you are already on Polish soil. When nations show this distrust of their
own issue, they can scarcely expect other nations to accept it. At all
the frontiers you are searched by officials of the country from which
you are departing, to make sure that you are not carrying away too much
of their worthless currency. If you are, it is confiscated. The amount
that you are allowed to carry is utterly inadequate. It is impossible
to travel unless you are a person of sufficient standing to purchase
a letter of credit. As a consequence of these restrictions, trade
has ceased to circulate and raw materials, which would mean life if
trade-confidence were restored, lie hoarded in idle accumulations.

Which brings one to the question of transportation, which lies at the
heart of the mischief. So great is the bitterness occasioned by the
transfer of territories, with the multiplying of frontiers and hostile
tariff-walls, that every nation is at enmity with its neighbours and
determined at all costs not to co-operate. One irritating way in which
they show their venom is by refusing to return freight-cars which come
across their frontiers. Very naturally no freight-cars come across.
Goods which are being exported, are unloaded at the border and then
re-loaded into cars of the country through which they are to travel. The
belief in honesty has perished; the carving up of Europe is largely to
blame for it.

And what is the solution? The nations who have been most despoiled say,
"War." They have neither peace nor war at present; war would give them
the chance to snatch back some of the territory that has been filched
from them. The disaster of a neighbour might prove to be their
opportunity. If they missed their chance, they could not be worse off.
They are starving by inches. I never believed that it was possible
for so many people to be so hungry and still to go on living. After
a certain point of agony has been reached, when the majority of the
population possesses nothing, Bolshevism with all its brutal crudities
will be welcome. Bolshevism practises at least one principle of social
justice: in crises of destitution it sweeps aside property rights and
insists that the citizens who have shall share. Day by day, as the tide
of hunger rises, sane thinking is being overwhelmed. The goal towards
which Central Europe is driving is undoubtedly Bolshevism.

But there _is_ another solution, besides war and Bolshevism, which has
not yet been tested--peace. Not the "near" peace and the paper peace of
Paris; but the practical peace, tempered with magnanimity, which was
the peace we were promised when we fought, and the only peace that any
decent man intended.

As a preface to such a peace it is necessary to prevent people from
starving. The American Relief Administration is trying to keep pace
with the strides of famine. The British Save the Children Fund, is
concentrating on Austria. The American and British Society of Friends
are operating in Germany. Many of the neutral countries are doing
something. We are all doing something and none of us are doing enough.
For the moment all of us are trying to save children because, whoever
else was guilty, they at least were innocent of offence. The effort is
finely conceived and states-manly; children whose lives you have rescued
will always be your friends. It is one way of wiping out animosities.
Whatever happens to the League of Nations you are making sure of a
League of Grateful Children. But there is something cruel in leaving
their parents to die of hunger. None of us who has a surplus, whatever
his nationality, should be able to rest easy in his bed, till the
nations who starve have been nourished.

The first essential of peace is that Central Europe should be supplied
with food-stuffs. The second is that she should be allowed credits, so
that her currencies may be restored to an actual value, the third is
that her flow of transportation should be assured. The fourth is that
she should be compelled to break down her internal tariff-walls which
we, through our short-sightedness, enabled her to set up.

The answer to this is that no government will be prepared to allow
credits to a Central Europe which acts spitefully among its component
members and so adds daily to its own tribulations. But as regards the
spitefulness, if we condemn it too much, we become like Pontius Pilate
washing his hands. The spitefulness existed racially before the war and
helped to bring the war about; but we, the Allies, are responsible for
its most recent and intense development. Our Peace partitioned economic
entities, which had proved workable, and substituted in their place a
series of political experiments. These experiments, when imposed upon
social and financial conditions which were already shaky, instead of
restoring equilibrium, precipitated insolvency. It was as though in
trying to rescue a boat-load of shipwrecked mariners, we had collided
and, instead of accomplishing the good we had intended, had flung
them all into the water. Their instinct for self-preservation comes
uppermost. They drown one another as they struggle for a hold on the
upturned boat. It was our clumsiness that upset them, so we are
scarcely in a position to condemn. If we had wanted to impose our peace
experiments, there was only one safe way in which to do it. We should
have taken control of partitioned Europe and made ourselves responsible
for its new countries, till they were sufficiently stabilised to
function for themselves.

Their dire necessity has again given us this opportunity. They must
be fed and set to work; if not, the anarchy and distress which are now
confined within their borders, will spread like a disease throughout the
world. There is no time to lose. It is no longer a case of philanthropy;
it is a case of safeguarding our own social health. In return for
food-stuffs and credits we must make our conditions; the conditions are
that we must be allowed to take control of the entire internal economy
of our creditors. There should be no food-stuffs or credits for any
country which will not permit the Allies' Director to administer their
railroads. The Allies' Director should be in every case an American,
since America alone is above suspicion in Europe and has no political
axe to grind. The Director in each country would be absolute in the
matter of distribution and transport, and would see to it that out-going
freight-cars were not unloaded at his frontier and that freight-cars
which had entered his territory were returned.

Central Europe at the moment is insane with hunger. She is capable of
any folly. She is scarcely to be held accountable for her actions. If
she is not fed, revolution will spring up in every direction and no
one can say where it will end. Every month we delay brings the menace
nearer. The Atlantic Ocean will prove to be no barrier.

She wants the peace which we promised and have withheld. If we withhold
it much longer, she will be forced to accept the other alternative.
There are only two roads which she can travel; the road of peace or
of war. The road of war means Bolshevism. Our settlement at Paris has
decided nothing. She has neither peace nor war at present.

THE END





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