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Title: Old Europe's Suicide - or The Building of a Pyramid of Errors
Author: Thomson, Christopher Birdwood
Language: English
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OLD EUROPE’S SUICIDE


  “For History of Times representeth the magnitude of actions and
  the public faces and deportments of persons, and passeth over in
  silence the smaller passages and motions of ‘men and matters.’”

            --_Francis Bacon_



BRIGADIER-GENERAL CHRISTOPHER BIRDWOOD THOMSON


General Thomson comes of an English family of soldiers. He is about
forty-five years old, and has a career of active service behind him,
having served as subaltern four years in the Boer War, then having
passed the Staff-College, and subsequently having been employed by the
War Office in Balkan service.

At the very beginning of the Great War he was engaged in Staff work
at the French front, and in 1915 to 1917 was the British military
representative in the Balkans. In the Palestine campaign he saw active
service in the field until the occupation of Jerusalem.

When the Supreme War Council was convened at Versailles, Thomson was
recalled and was attached as British Military Representative in 1918
remaining until the conclusion of its peace negotiations. In 1919 he
retired with rank of Brigadier General--Royal Engineers.

He has now entered the field of politics as a member of the Labour
Party and is the selected candidate for Parliament, standing for
Central Bristol. He was a member of the Labour Party commission which
recently visited Ireland; and his services in the intensive campaign
work of the Labour Party in Great Britain have occupied the past year.

[Illustration: THE PYRAMID OF ERRORS]



    OLD EUROPE’S
    SUICIDE

    OR

    THE BUILDING OF A PYRAMID
    OF ERRORS

    An account of certain events in Europe during
    the Period 1912-1919

    By
    BRIGADIER-GENERAL
    CHRISTOPHER BIRDWOOD THOMSON

    [Illustration]

    NEW YORK
    THOMAS SELTZER
    1922



    Copyright, 1922, by
    THOMAS SELTZER, INC.


    _All Rights Reserved_



DEDICATION


    THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED TO ONE
    I HAVE ALWAYS CALLED

    “LA BELLE SAGESSE,”

    WHO GREATLY
    LOVES HER COUNTRY AND HER
    GARDEN BY

    THE “SLEEPING WATERS”.



PREFACE


This book is a retrospect covering the period 1912-1919. It begins with
the first Balkan War, and ends with the Peace Conference at Paris.
Many of the events described have been dealt with by other writers,
and the only justification for adding one more volume to an already
well-stocked library, is that the author was an eye-witness of all
that he relates and enjoyed peculiar opportunities for studying the
situation as a whole. To impressions derived from personal contact
with many of the principal actors in this world-drama has been added
the easy wisdom which comes after the event. With these qualifications
a conscientious effort has been made to arrange the subject matter in
proper sequence and to establish some connection between cause and
effect--not with a view to carping criticism, but rather to stress the
more obvious errors of the past and glean from them some guidance for
the future.

It would be a rash statement to say that a European conflagration was
the inevitable outcome of a little Balkan War, but metaphor will not
be strained by comparing that same little war to a spark in close
proximity to a heap of combustible material, a spark fanned in secret
by ambitious and unscrupulous men, while others stood by, and, either
from ignorance or indifference, did nothing to prevent an inevitable
and incalculable disaster. That, as the present writer sees it, is the
parable of the Balkan Wars. And so in the first part of this book,
which deals with the period 1912-1914, the selfish intrigues of the
Central Empires are contrasted with the equally vicious proceedings
of the Imperial Russian Government, with the ignorance and inertia
which characterized Great Britain’s Continental policy and with the
vacillations of the Latin States. In later chapters, comments are made
on the diplomatic negotiations with the neutral Balkan States in 1915
and 1916, on the conduct of the war and on the Treaty signed June 28,
1919, in the Palace at Versailles.

The title refers to the downfall of the Central Empires, which were the
last strongholds of the aristocratic traditions of Old Europe, both
from a social and a political point of view. It is submitted that these
Empires perished prematurely through the suicidal folly of their ruling
classes. Under wiser statesmanship, their autocratic governmental
system might have survived another century. Germany and Austria-Hungary
were prosperous States, and were assured of still greater prosperity if
events had pursued their normal course. But pride, ambition, impatience
and an overweening confidence in efficiency without idealism destroyed
their plans. They put their faith in Force, mere brutal Force, and
hoped to achieve more rapidly by conquest a commercial and political
predominance which, by waiting a few years, they could have acquired
without bloodshed. In the end, the military weapon they had forged
became the instrument of their own destruction. Too much was demanded
from the warlike German tribes; an industrial age had made war an
affair of workshops, and against them were arrayed all the resources of
Great Britain and America. Blind to these patent facts, a few reckless
militarists who held the reins of power goaded a docile people on to
desperate and unavailing efforts, long after all hope of victory had
vanished, and thus committed suicide as a despairing warrior does who
falls upon his sword.

The Prussian military system collapsed in the throes of revolution and
the rest of Europe breathed again. Materialism in its most efficient
form had failed, and to peoples bearing the intolerable burden
imposed by armaments came a new hope. Unfortunately, that hope was
vain. With the cessation of hostilities, the suicide of Old Europe
was not completely consummated. After the signing of the Armistice,
enlightened opinion, though undoubtedly disconcerted by the rapid march
of events, expected from the sudden downfall of the Central Empires a
swift transition from the old order to the new. The expectation was
not unreasonable that four years of wasteful, mad destruction would
be a lesson to mankind and, in a figurative sense, would form the
apex of a pyramid of errors--a pyramid rising from a broad base of
primitive emotions, through secret stages of artifice and intrigue,
and culminating in a point on which nothing could be built. A gloomy
monument, indeed, and useless--save as a habitation for the dead.

In an evil hour for civilization, the delegates who met to make the
Peace in Paris preferred the prospect of immediate gain to laying
the foundation of a new and better world. They, and the experts who
advised them, saw in the pyramid of errors a familiar structure, though
incomplete. Its completion demanded neither vision, nor courage, nor
originality of thought; precedent was their only guide in framing
Treaties which crowned the errors of the past and placed its topmost
block.

The chickens hatched at Versailles are now coming home to roost.
Democracy has been betrayed, our boasted civilization has been exposed
as a thin veneer overlaying the most savage instincts. Throughout
all Europe a state of moral anarchy prevails, hatred and a lust for
vengeance have usurped the place not only of charity and decent conduct
but also of statesmanship and common-sense. Peoples mistrust their
neighbours and their rulers, rich territories are unproductive for lack
of confidence and goodwill.

These ills are moral and only moral remedies will cure them. Force
_was_ required, and has done its work in successfully resisting
aggression by military states now humbled and dismembered. But Force is
a weapon with a double edge, and plays no part in human progress.

While this book endeavours to draw some lessons from the war and from
the even more disastrous peace, at the same time it pleads a cause.
That cause is Progress, and an appeal is made to all thinking men and
women to give their attention to these urgent international affairs,
which affect not only their prosperity, but their honour as citizens
of civilized States. The first step in this direction is to inform
ourselves. If, in the following pages, a little light is thrown on what
was before obscure, the writer will feel that his toil in the execution
of an unaccustomed task has been rewarded.

            C. W. THOMSON

  LONDON.
    December 6, 1921.



CONTENTS


                                                                    PAGE
  PREFACE                                                             xi

  CHAPTER

     I. A DAY ON THE DANUBE                                            1

    II. BELGRADE--OCTOBER, 1912: A VIEW FROM A WINDOW                 10

   III. THE BATTLE OF KUMANOVO                                        20

    IV. MACEDONIA--1912                                               35

     V. ALBANIA--1912-1913                                            49

    VI. THE SECOND BALKAN WAR AND THE TREATY OF BUCHAREST             59

   VII. TWO MEN WHO DIED                                              69

  VIII. “1914” PEACE AND WAR                                          74

    IX. THE NEUTRAL BALKAN STATES--1915                               84

     X. SLEEPING WATERS                                               99

    XI. THE DISASTER IN RUMANIA--1916                                108

   XII. THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND THE RUSSO-RUMANIAN
            OFFENSIVE--1917                                          127

  XIII. A MIDNIGHT MASS                                              143

   XIV. “WESTERNERS” AND “EASTERNERS”                                147

    XV. THE PEACE CONFERENCE AT PARIS--1919                          161

   XVI. LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING FORWARD                             177



OLD EUROPE’S SUICIDE



CHAPTER I

A DAY ON THE DANUBE


“When the snows melt there will be war in the Balkans,” had become an
habitual formula in the Foreign Offices of Europe during the first
decade of the twentieth century. Statesmen and diplomats found comfort
in this prophecy on their return from cures at different Continental
spas, because, the season being autumn, the snow had still to fall, and
would not melt for at least six months. This annual breathing space was
welcome after the anxieties of spring and summer; the inevitable war
could be discussed calmly and dispassionately, preparations for its
conduct could be made methodically, and brave words could be bandied
freely in autumn in the Balkans. Only an imminent danger inspires fear;
hope has no time limit, the most unimaginative person can hope for the
impossible twenty years ahead.

Without regard either for prophecies or the near approach of winter,
Bulgaria, Servia, Greece and Montenegro declared war on Turkey at
the beginning of October, 1912. The Balkan _Bloc_ had been formed,
and did not include Rumania, a land where plenty had need of peace;
King Charles was resolutely opposed to participation in the war, he
disdained a mere Balkan alliance as unworthy of the “Sentinel of the
Near East.”

Bukarest had, for the moment anyhow, lost interest; my work there
was completed, and a telegram from London instructed me to proceed to
Belgrade. The trains _via_ Budapest being overcrowded, I decided on the
Danube route, and left by the night train for Orsova, in company with
a number of journalists and business men from all parts of Rumania. We
reached the port of the Iron Gate before dawn, and found a Hungarian
steamer waiting; soon after daybreak we were heading up stream.

Behind us lay the Iron Gate, its gloom as yet unconquered by the
sunrise; on our left the mountains of North-Eastern Servia rose like
a rampart; on our right the foothills of the Carpathians terminated
abruptly at the river’s edge; in front the Danube shimmered with soft
and ever-changing lights; a stillness reigned which no one cared to
break, even the crew spoke low, like pious travellers before a shrine.
War’s alarms seemed infinitely distant from those glistening waters set
in an amphitheatre of hills.

“How can man, being happy, still keep his happy hour?” The pageant
of dawn and river and mountain faded as the sun rose higher; dim
outlines became hard and sharp; the Iron Gate, surmounted by eddying
wisps of mist, looked like a giant cauldron. The pass broadened with
our westward progress revealing the plain of Southern Hungary, low
hills replaced the mountains on the Servian bank. A bell rang as we
stopped at a small river port, it announced breakfast and reminded
us, incidentally, that stuffy smells are inseparable from human
activities, even on the Danube, and within sight of the blue mountains
of Transylvania.

My travelling companions were mainly British and French, with a
sprinkling of Austrians and Italians. To all of them the latest
development in the Balkan situation was of absorbing interest, and they
discussed it incessantly from every point of view. Their attitude, as
I learnt later, was typical, not one of them had failed to foresee
everything that had happened; in the case of the more mysterious
mannered, one had a vague impression that they had planned the whole
business, and were awaiting results like rival trainers of racehorses
on the eve of a great race. These citizens of the Great Powers were,
in their commerce with the Balkan peoples, a curious mixture of patron
and partisan. The right to patronize was, in their opinion, conferred
by the fact of belonging to a big country; the partisan spirit had
been developed after a short residence in the Peninsula. This spirit
was perhaps based on genuine good will and sincere sympathy, but it
certainly was not wholly disinterested. There was no reason why it
should have been. No man can, simultaneously, be a good citizen of two
countries; he will nearly always make money in one and spend it in the
other. Patriotism is made to cover a multitude of sins, and, where
money is being made, the acid test of political professions is their
effect on business.

Listening to the conversation on the steamer I was astonished by the
vivacity with which these self-appointed champions urged and disputed
the territorial claims of each Balkan State in turn. Remote historical
precedents were dragged in to justify the most extravagant extension
of territory, secret treaties were hinted at which would change the
nationality of millions of peasants, and whole campaigns were mapped
out with a knowledge of geography which, to any one fresh from official
circles in London, was amazing.

From breakfast on, the babel of voices continued, and it was curious
to note how the different nationalities grouped themselves. The
British were, almost to a man, pro-Bulgar, they wanted Bulgaria to
have the greater part of Macedonia and Thrace, some of them even
claimed Constantinople and Salonika for their protégés; they were on
the whole optimistic as to the success of the Allies. The French and
Italians urged the claims of Servia, Greece and Rumania in Macedonia;
in regard to Albania the French were in favour of dividing that country
between Servia and Greece, but this latter suggestion provoked vehement
protests from the Italians. The three Austrians hardly joined in the
discussion at all, one of them remarked that he agreed with the writer
of the leading article in the _Neue Freie Presse_ of a few days back,
who compared the Balkan Peninsula to a certain suburb of Berlin, where
there was one bank too many, and where, as a consequence, all banks
suffered. In the Balkan Peninsula, according to this writer, there was
one country too many, and a settled state of affairs was impossible
until one of them had been eliminated; he didn’t say which.

I asked whether a definite partition of the territory to be conquered
was not laid down in the Treaty of Alliance. No one knew or, at least,
no one cared to say. There seemed to be a general feeling that Treaties
didn’t matter. The journalists were in a seventh heaven of satisfaction
at the prospect of unlimited copy for several months to come; the
business men expected to increase their business if all went well. On
that Danube steamer the war of 1912 was popular, the future might be
uncertain, but it was full of pleasant possibilities.

I thought of London and remembered conversations there three weeks
before the declaration of war. The general opinion might have been
summarized as follows: The Bulgars were a hardy, frugal race, rather
like the Scotch, and, therefore, sympathetic; they were ruled over by a
king called Ferdinand, who was too clever to be quite respectable. As
for Servia, the British conscience had, of course, been deeply shocked
by the murder of the late King, and the Servian Government had been
stood in the diplomatic corner for some years, but the crime had been
more or less expiated by its dramatic elements and the fact that it
had taught everybody a little geography. King Nicholas of Montenegro
was a picturesque figure and had an amiable habit of distributing
decorations. In regard to Greece, there were dynastic reasons why we
should be well disposed towards the descendants of the men who fought
at Marathon, not to mention the presence in our midst of financial
magnates with unmistakably Greek names. Lastly, the Turks. In London,
in 1912, these people enjoyed considerable popularity; they were
considered the only gentlemen in the Balkans, the upper-class ones of
course. Admittedly Turkish administration was corrupt and the Turks
had a distressing habit of cutting down trees everywhere, but their
most serious defect was that they were a little sticky about affording
facilities for Western enterprise. This latter consideration was
considered really important. Matters would improve, it was thought,
after some changes had been made in the Consular Service.

The war had come at last. Few people in England knew its cause or its
objects; many thought and hoped the Turks would win. We had played the
part of stern moralists when a debauched and tyrannical youth received
summary justice at the hands of his outraged subjects, but we watched
lightheartedly the preparations for a struggle which would soak the
whole Balkan Peninsula in blood.

Night was falling as we passed under the walls of the old fortress of
Belgrade. During the last hour the conversation had taken a purely
business turn about coal concessions in the Ergene Valley[1] and a
French company which was being formed to exploit Uskub. Both localities
were in Turkish territory, but would change their nationality after the
war, if the Balkan Allies were the victors.

The steamer ran alongside the jetty; the journey was, for most of us,
at an end. Every one was in high spirits; the near prospect of dinner
in an hotel had produced a general feeling of optimism in regard to the
Near Eastern question. One felt it wouldn’t be the fault of any one
on our steamer if things went wrong. Our advice would always be given
gladly and ungrudgingly, and we would accept any responsibility except
that of putting into execution our own plans. We considered we were
playing quite an important part in the Balkan drama, but, belonging as
we did to big countries or Great Powers, once the fighting began we
were forced to stand aside.

Belgrade seemed half asleep already. The city is built on a ridge
overlooking the junction of the Save with the Danube. From the quay
a long line of white houses was visible, flanked at one end by the
Cathedral and a dark mass of trees, at the other by a large, ugly
building, behind which stands the Royal Palace. Lights were few and
far between, the aspect of the town was cold and inhospitable, it was
evidently no busy centre eager to swallow up travellers and take their
money. The Servian capital has nothing to offer to pleasure seekers,
and sightseers must be content with scenery. Across the river, half
a mile away, the lights of the Semlin cast a glare upon the sky, one
could even hear faintly the strains of a Hungarian military band.

Only three of my fellow travellers remained on the landing stage; they
were Austrians. Two of them were going to Semlin in the steamer, the
third was, like myself, waiting for his baggage to be disembarked. This
man and I were to see a good deal of each other during the months that
followed; he was the Austrian Military Attaché at Belgrade.

The steamer whistle gave the signal for departure and farewells
were exchanged. Just before stepping on board, one of the departing
Austrians said, “Well, Otto, when next we meet I suppose the Turks will
be here,” to which the military representative of the Dual Monarchy
replied, “The sooner the better.” He then got into his cab and drove
off to the house where, for three years, he had enjoyed all the
privileges due to his diplomatic functions.

I had spent the whole day with a crowd of talkative and communicative
men, but, as a rickety old cab took me up the hill towards the town,
I remembered more distinctly what the comparatively silent Austrians
had said than anything else that I had heard. These men seemed to mix
up private business and politics less than the others; they gave the
impression of thinking on big lines, of representing a policy of some
sort.

In October, 1912, many people still believed that the British
Government had a Balkan policy. The war had been foreseen for so
many years, its repercussion on Asia Minor and the whole Mohammedan
world could hardly fail to be considerable, while the risk of the
conflagration spreading, so as to involve all Europe, was universally
recognized. Under such circumstances, it seemed incredible that those
responsible for the maintenance of the British Empire would leave
anything to chance. Of course, we British had a policy, but personally
I hadn’t the faintest idea what it was, nor, for the moment, could I
think of any one who had.

At last the hotel was reached. A sleepy “concierge” showed me to my
room, a vast apartment whose outstanding feature was its painted
ceiling. This work of art was oval in shape and consisted of a vault
of almost inky blue spangled with stars, round which were cherubs and
angels in appropriately exiguous costumes. The subject was perhaps
meant to be a celestial choir, but the artist had somehow missed his
mark; the faces were neither angelic nor cherubic; they wore an air
of mystery not unmingled with self-satisfaction. The figures emerged
in stiff, conventional fashion from the edges of the ceiling into the
central blue, and, if it hadn’t been for their lack of dress and look
of conscious superiority, they might have been a collection of quite
ordinary men, gathered round an oval table stained with ink. One of the
cherubs bore a strong facial resemblance to a distinguished diplomat of
my acquaintance; he was whispering something in his neighbour’s ear,
and the latter seemed amused. The neighbour was a cherub, not an angel;
he had a queer, wizened face of somewhat Slavonic type.

I was tired out, but I did not sleep well. I had been thinking about
British policy in the Balkans before I fell asleep, and had strange
dreams which were almost nightmares. It was all the fault of the
ceiling; that cherub was so exactly like the diplomat and I dreamed
he was telling the other one a secret, this explained the whispering,
and that it was an important State secret, connected with my visit to
Belgrade.

Who knows? The artist who had painted that hideous ceiling may have
done so in a mood of irony. He may have chosen, as models for his
cherubs, some well-known personages engaged in propping up a crazy
structure known as “the balance of power in Europe.”



CHAPTER II

BELGRADE--OCTOBER, 1912

A VIEW FROM A WINDOW


Mobilization was nearly completed when I paid my first visit to the
Servian War Office, an unpretentious building situated half way down
a side street leading from the Royal Palace to the River Save. On
entering, I congratulated myself that, at last, I was to meet and speak
with a real Servian; hitherto I had met nearly every other nationality
in the legations, hotels, and other places frequented by visitors to
foreign capitals. At the time of my visit, the only society in Belgrade
consisted of foreign diplomats; the hotels were managed and staffed
by Austrians, Swiss and Italians; the roads were being paved by an
Austrian contractor, employing Austrian workmen and, according to
current gossip, the country was being ruled by the Russian Minister.

Now that hostilities were imminent, I presumed that the Servians would
be allowed to do their own fighting. This supposition proved to be
correct, the Great Powers had decided not to interfere in what was a
purely Balkan struggle, they intended to keep the ring and see fair
play.

So much I had already learned in Belgrade, from people in a position to
know and who seemed to know most things except the authentic Plan of
Campaign. Their resentment at not being given this was evident, and
when asked the reason, they would reply that they wanted to communicate
it to their respective governments and War Offices, in the strictest
confidence of course. The Servian General Staff had kept their secret
well, far too well for the cosmopolitan band who earned their living by
acquiring and circulating _strictly confidential information_. I did
not expect to solve the mystery myself, but the prospect of getting to
close quarters with its authors gave me some satisfaction. I had begun
to admire these men one never met, who didn’t seem to ask for advice,
though they often got it, and who were shouldering the responsibility
for Servia’s future action.

After being conducted to an upstairs room, I was asked to wait, Colonel
---- (then followed two names which I didn’t quite catch, but noted
mentally as beginning, respectively, with a “G” and a “P”) begged to
be excused for keeping me waiting, but would come as soon as he could;
an unexpected visitor had arrived whose business was urgent. This
information was imparted by a young staff officer, in excellent German,
his message given, he left me alone with some straight-backed chairs, a
table with a green baize cover, three pictures, and a large bow window
facing north.

The pictures were poor. One was a portrait of King Peter, whose
brilliant uniform recalled a play I had seen just before leaving
London. Another represented a battle between Servians and Turks,
dagger and axe were being used freely, the ground was strewn with
dead and wounded, horsemen were riding over foe and friend alike,
some at a dignified walk, others galloping madly, but all seemed
equally indifferent to the feelings of the men on the ground. The
meeting between Wellington and Blucher after Waterloo, as conceived
by a nineteenth-century artist, was child’s play compared to this
battlepiece. The third picture portrayed three horsemen in rich attire
riding abreast along a woodland glade followed by their retainers. The
scene was historical; it was the last ride of the centre horseman, a
former reigning prince, whose companions, and incidentally his kinsmen,
had assassinated him in that very glade.

These pictures were only too typical of Servia’s past history; they
explained the worn, anxious expression on the old King’s face and,
seen for the first time on the eve of yet another war, gave food for
reflection. Human nature seemed unchanging and unchangeable; history
was about to repeat itself in battles and murder, hatred and anger,
suffering and death. Modern weapons would replace the dagger and the ax
and the men on horseback would be provided with motor cars: these would
be the only differences.

It is usually better to ride than to walk. Philosophers, as a rule,
prefer the latter form of progression; perhaps that is why so few of
them have been kings and why cities so seldom “rest from their evils.”

My sole remaining distraction was the window. It commanded a wide view
over the Save and Danube valleys and looked straight down on the great
railway bridge which links Servia with Central Europe. At the far end
of the bridge a Hungarian sentry was clearly visible, and all along the
Save’s Hungarian bank were earthworks and searchlights. Away to the
right, and about a mile distant, were the barracks of Semlin; rumour
said they were full to overflowing.

Austria-Hungary was watching her small Southern neighbour mobilize and
taking a few precautionary measures, in order, no doubt, to be in a
better position to keep the ring.

Standing at the open window in that quiet room, I felt I was learning
more about Serbia’s real position than could possibly have been gleaned
from all the talk on the Danube steamer. Perhaps it was the instinct
of an islander, but, as I looked across the river, I had a feeling of
vague uneasiness, amounting almost to physical discomfort; an immensely
greater force was there, passive but watchful, and it was so near,
within easy range of field artillery.

I remembered being taken in my childhood to see the snakes fed at the
Zoo. Two monster reptiles lay motionless in a glass case. Some live
rabbits were inserted, and at once began to frisk lightheartedly round
their new quarters. Suddenly one of the reptiles raised its head; all
movement ceased for a brief moment; each rabbit crouched, paralysed by
terror; the dry, merciless eyes of the python travelled slowly round
the cage, his mate stirred expectantly, and then! The horrid, darting
jaws did their work--one by one those poor rabbits disappeared. I
recollected having been especially sorry for the last one. In Central
Europe, at least one python State lay north of the Danube, and to the
south were rabbit States, embarking on a ghastly frolic.

Bathed in bright October sunlight, the scene before me was both varied
and splendid. The town lay immediately below, beyond it the river and
vast spaces framed by mountains, some of them so distant that their
presence was suspected rather than perceived. The line of junction
between the Save and Danube was clearly defined, the white waters of
the former confounding themselves reluctantly with the Danube’s steely
blue. Both rivers seemed to tell a story; the Save told of mountains,
of turbulent, oppressed peoples and their hopes and fears; the Danube
of plains and rich cities, of old Europe’s last triumph over Islam, of
heroes and conquerors, its broad stream carried the echoes of Ulm and
Ratisbon, Vienna and Buda Pesth.

Here, at Belgrade, the great river seemed to have found a new task--the
task of dividing an ancient empire with immemorial traditions from new
States and young peoples, who still retained a bitter memory of the
Turkish yoke. Here began a divided allegiance, an unnatural schism
between the river’s banks. It was as though the Save had brought down
trouble from the mountains; the white line of foam which marked the
meeting of the waters was a symbol, a symbol of eternal discord between
the past and present.

The door opened and a short, thick-set man in the uniform of a Colonel
of the Servian General Staff entered the room; he spoke in German, but
with some difficulty, and excused himself for having kept me waiting.
Then followed the usual commonplaces, in which he expressed his
admiration for the British character and our free institutions, while
I assured him of the deep interest taken by all classes at home in the
future prosperity and development of Servia.

I asked about the mobilization, and he answered that it had astonished
even the most optimistic: 98 per cent. of the reservists had joined
the colours, many of them bringing carts and bullocks as free-will
offerings. The declaration of war had been received with boundless
enthusiasm by the peasants, and volunteers were flocking in from
every part of the kingdom. The field army was well equipped. The
question of transport had presented many difficulties, but had been
solved by ruthlessly cutting down every human requirement to the
absolute minimum; this was possible, he explained, because the Servian
peasant soldiers could live on very little, but I would see for
myself before long. Ammunition? For the first time he hesitated. Yes,
there was enough for a short campaign, if the strictest economy were
exercised--for six months, perhaps; but it was difficult to estimate
expenditure as, except for the Manchurian war, there were no data to go
on. I suggested that stocks could be renewed. He flushed a little and
replied that most of Servia’s arms and ammunition came from Austria.

Unconsciously, on my part anyhow, we had moved to the window, and while
the Colonel was talking I noticed the almost uncanny frequency with
which his eyes sought the far bank of the Save. Such restless eyes they
were, light grey in colour. One could imagine them blazing with anger,
but occasionally one caught a hunted look, as though they had known
fear. Colonel G---- P----, like most Servian officers, was of peasant
origin. The King himself was the grandson of a swineherd. There had
been a time in Servia when every man, who could, had transferred his
family and household goods to what is now called Montenegro, so great
had been their terror of the Turks. The poorer peasants had remained
and had borne the tyrant’s yoke; their descendants, of either sex,
retained the furtive, quailing glance of ancestors who had lived in
dread. Even the little children had this look of atavistic fear.

The grey eyes softened when he spoke of the peasants, their simplicity,
their endurance, and their faith in ultimate victory; his one idea
seemed to be to give a fair chance to these peasant soldiers; to avoid
political complications at home and abroad and, above all, to get the
ammunition up to the front line.

I looked instinctively across the river; the key of the whole situation
was there. He must have guessed my thoughts, for the conversation
turned at once to more general questions. The Colonel was convinced
that the Great Powers would not interfere; their neutrality might even
be benevolent. He had just received from the Austrian Military Attaché
(the visitor who had kept me waiting) most satisfactory assurances in
regard to the supply of ammunition. Belgrade would be entirely denuded
of troops, as also the whole northern frontier. This had been rendered
possible by the assurance that there was no danger of interference
from the North; a Servian force would occupy the Sanjak of Novi Bazar!
He noted my surprise, and added quickly, “With the full knowledge of
the Austro-Hungarian Government.” The main army would advance on Uskub
(he gave the town its Servian name of Skoplje). On its left would be a
mixed Serbo-Bulgar army, and on its right the Third Servian Army under
one of their best generals. All the three armies would converge on
Uskub, near which there would probably be the first big battle. Uskub
was the first objective. He insisted that it was a genuine Servian
town. The Emperor Dushan had held his Court there in the great days of
old Servia. Further south, lay Monastir and Salonika, the real prizes,
of these he did not speak, and I refrained from putting inconvenient
questions, I had learned so much already.

A chance reference to Servia’s economic and industrial situation
provoked an almost passionate outburst from this hitherto
self-contained man. Servia needed a port, it was her only means of
gaining economic independence. Hitherto, Austria had held Servia by
the throat, but with an outlet to the sea his country could work out
its own salvation. He reeled off some astounding statistics in regard
to the population of the eastern Adriatic seaboard between Trieste
and Montenegro. I ventured to suggest that Austria would not lightly
relax her hold on such valuable possessions--as Cattaro, for example.
He assented, but repeated with vehemence, “Servia’s first economic
objective must be an Adriatic port,” Durazzo or San Giovanni di Medua
would do--to begin with. When I enquired how it was proposed to deal
with the Albanians, an ugly, cruel look crept into his face as he
hissed out a German slang expression for extermination. The Albanians
were, in his opinion, nothing more nor less than thieves and murderers
for whom there was no place in the Peninsula.

I was beginning to understand. The war about to commence was only
the first phase; success would give to Servia sufficient territory
and economic independence to enable her to prepare for a greater and
inevitable struggle with Austria-Hungary. The pitfalls were many. No
one realized the difficulties more fully than the man standing with me
at that window, who was even anxious to expose them in his eagerness
to gain a little sympathy. He knew that wise and wary statesmanship
would be required in handling the Bulgarian question. The hot-heads
at home would have to be restrained. At all costs peace with Bulgaria
would have to be maintained, and this would be difficult. Servia had
her megalomaniacs who were impatient and heedless of prudent counsels,
whose aspirations in regard to national aggrandizement were boundless,
who wanted to do everything at once and brooked no delay.

Almost two hours had passed, and it was nearly noon when I rose to
say farewell. While expressing my best wishes for Servia’s success in
this first phase of her great adventure, I remarked that, presumably,
Belgrade would cease to be the capital after Uskub had been taken
and the Albanian coastline reached--a more central and less exposed
position seemed desirable for the Royal residence and seat of
Government. His answer was emphatic--Belgrade must always remain the
capital, the Save was not the northern frontier of old Servia; all
that--and he waved his hand towards the north--was Servian territory
right up to and beyond Karlovci, which, at one time, had been in the
diocese of a Servian bishop.

When I left the Servian War Office that day I had forgotten all about
rabbits and pythons; those dauby pictures portrayed the past, the
future was the only thing that mattered. A passionate drama would
shortly enact itself under the eyes of a cynical, unbelieving Europe;
in that drama Servia would play a leading part and, if Colonel G----
P---- was typical of his countrymen, the final act would find another
setting than the Balkans. From an open window this man had looked out
upon a spacious and inspiring scene, had caught its message, and, no
more a mere official speaking a foreign tongue, had found the rugged
eloquence of a true soldier-statesman. He might have been a Servian
Cromwell; such men are dangerous to their oppressors.

An irresistible craving for quiet and solitude had overcome me. I drove
to a place on the outskirts of Belgrade close to the Danube’s bank, and
walked down to the river’s edge across flat, waterlogged meadows. At
this point, the troubled Save had found peace in the greater stream,
a mighty volume of water slid smoothly past the sedges, whispering
mysteriously; sometimes the whisper swelled, and weed and wave, stirred
by a passing breeze, filled the surrounding space with sighing sounds.



CHAPTER III

THE BATTLE OF KUMANOVO


Although the Balkan _bloc_ of 1912 was formed by men whose motives
were as various as their interests and personalities, it was based
on a correct appreciation of the general situation. It offered a
prospect of relieving the intolerable tension which prevailed in the
Balkan Peninsula at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, an Empire whose
natural frontier was in Turkish Thrace,[2] and whose administration
in South-Eastern Europe had been both wasteful and tyrannical. A
continuance of Turkish sovereignty in Macedonia and Albania had become
an anachronism. Justice, however wild, demanded the expulsion of the
Turks, and all who knew the history of the Balkans approved the action
of the Allied States.

Not only did the creation of this _bloc_ bid fair to provide a solution
of purely Balkan questions; while it lasted it could not fail to have
a stabilizing influence in the “Balance of Power” in Europe. From a
military point of view, the combined forces in Bulgaria, Servia and
Greece were a far from negligible factor; they would have served both
as a buffer between Slav and Teuton and as a deterrent to the ambitions
of Pan-Germans and Pan-Slavs alike. From this combination of the Balkan
States the Western European Powers had everything to gain.

In the autumn of 1912 an oligarchy of schemers and mediocrities held
the reins of power in Constantinople. Their position was precarious,
their inexperience great; to a large extent they were dependent on the
goodwill of the Great Powers, from whom they sought advice. The advice
given, though inspired by very different motives, had the same effect:
it increased the self-satisfaction of the “Young Turks” and gave them a
sense of security which was wholly unjustified by the circumstances of
the case.

Great Britain and France posed as indulgent friends of the new régime
in Constantinople, whose liberal professions seemed to announce a moral
convalescence. Loans were to be the solvent of all difficulties. Under
their quickening influence regeneration and reform would blossom in
a desert air, while interests and ideals would march hand in hand.
The policy of the French and British Governments was, in essence, the
maintenance of the _status quo_. Both counselled moderation in all
things, with the possible exception of concessions to certain financial
groups. The “Young Turks” listened dutifully, as people do who are
looking for a loan.

Austro-Hungarian policy aimed at fomenting disorder in Macedonia and
Albania, with the object of justifying intervention and eventually
annexation. These two Turkish provinces were to share the fate of
Bosnia and Herzegovina. Their acquisition would complete the economic
encirclement of Servia and reduce that country to the position of a
vassal State. Behind Austro-Hungary stood Germany, whose communications
with Asia Minor needed a buttress in the Balkans. The final object of
the Central Empires was the disintegration of Turkey in Europe. In
the autumn of 1912, however, the Turkish plums were not yet ripe for
plucking; a few more years of misrule were required. In the meantime,
the Austro-Hungarian and German Governments encouraged, secretly,
the process known as “Ottomanization” in Macedonia and Albania, with
all its attendant ills. The Young Turks listened gladly; such advice
appealed to their natural and traditional instincts.

At this period the vision of Italian statesmen hardly extended beyond
the Eastern Adriatic seaboard. Moreover, Italy was a member of the
Triple Alliance and held a merely watching brief in and around
Constantinople.

Alone among the Great Powers, Russia was in close touch with the Balkan
situation. For some years Russian diplomats and military agents had
possessed preponderating influence in all the Balkan capitals; they had
appreciated the scope and intensity of the smouldering passions which,
however transitorily, were to force into concerted action the Bulgars,
Serbs and Greeks; they alone had estimated correctly the military
efficiency of the armies of the Balkan States and, almost alone, they
knew the contents of the Secret Treaty, signed in February, 1912, which
brought into existence the Balkan _bloc_. Russian policy was definitely
anti-Turk: it aimed at the fulfilment of the testament of Peter the
Great, at the expulsion of the Turks from Europe, at the establishment
of Russian sovereignty over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. It is an
old saying that diplomatists are paid to lie abroad for the benefit of
their countries; successive Russian ambassadors at Constantinople plied
the Sublime Porte with soothing words; all was for the best in the best
of all possible Turkeys, while plots matured and hostile armaments were
perfected. The Young Turks listened somewhat fearfully; it seemed too
good to be true, but still they listened and believed.

False counsel reacting on inertia had an inevitable result; the
declaration of war found the Ottoman Empire utterly unprepared. The
mobilization of the Balkan armies was completed with unexpected
rapidity and was followed by a simultaneous invasion of Turkey in
Europe by Bulgarian, Greek and Servian forces. The Bulgars crossed
the frontier of Thrace, without encountering serious opposition,
and advanced towards the line Adrianople-Kirk-Kilise; the Greeks
entered Southern Macedonia, where the Turkish garrisons were weak and
scattered; the Serbs invaded the Vilayet of Kossovo and joined hands
with the Montenegrins in the Sanjak of Novibazar. At every point the
Balkan armies had penetrated into Turkish territory. In Constantinople
confusion reigned supreme; disasters were exaggerated, sinister rumours
passed from lip to lip, even the shrine dedicated to the “Divine
Wisdom”[3] was not considered safe.

The Russian Government looked on complacently--its plans were taking
shape. In London and Paris curiosity was more in evidence than any
emotion which might have been dictated by knowledge or foresight. In
Vienna and Berlin the news was received with anger and astonishment;
better things had been expected from King Ferdinand of Bulgaria. The
stubborn fact remained, however, and called for immediate action. A
German military mission had for some years directed the training of the
Turkish army; the time had now come for that mission to direct Turkish
strategy. Events had moved too quickly for the cynical, realistic
policy of the Central Empires, but they could be turned to good
account if, at the outset of the campaign, the Serbs were crushed. And
so, while yielding ground in Thrace and Southern Macedonia, the Turks
massed troops at Uskub, and made their plans for an offensive battle
against the Serbs advancing southward into Kossovo.

My lot had been cast with the Serbian forces and, by great good
fortune, I was able to join the First Army as it poured through
the defiles of the Kara Dagh into the region called “Old Servia.”
At Belgrade the talk had been of a war of liberation from economic
thraldom, of a conflict between the Crescent and the Cross; with the
armies it was otherwise. No thought of policy or secret treaties, or
even of religion, confused the minds of Servia’s peasant soldiers; they
marched like men called to fulfil their country’s destiny, singing
the story of their race, making the mountains echo with their martial
songs. There was no need to understand their language to catch the
meaning of these singers; they sang of sorrow and tribulation, of
centuries of helplessness in oppression, but the note of defiance
was never absent; defeat was admitted but never despair. Something
unconquerable was in their hearts, stirring their blood and nerving
every muscle--the spirit of revenge. Bacon, in his famous essay, says:
“The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is
no law to remedy.” The Serbs had five centuries of wrongs to avenge,
and the Great Powers had produced no law as a remedy, except the law of
force; by force these peasants, in their turn, meant to obtain “a kind
of wild justice.”

For them, the plains of Kossovo were sacred; there had been made
the last heroic stand against a cruel and implacable foe; there had
occurred the dreadful rout, whose few survivors told the tale, at
first in frightened whispers, then in songs--long, wailing songs, like
dirges. Songs are the chronicles of Slavonic races, they pass into the
nation’s ritual and permeate its life. Succeeding generations sang
these songs of Kossovo, and so the legend grew, and spread to all the
Balkan lands; each humble home, even in far Rumania, had heard of
Lazar, a Tsar who led his people and gave his life up for them on a
battlefield known as “the Field of Blackbirds.” When princes perish
thus, servility conspires with pity to make them martyrs. The dead Tsar
led his people still, and far more potently in death than life; his
legendary form, looming gigantic through the mists of time, beckoned
them, irresistibly, to blood-soaked fields, where, once again, the
Turks and Serbs would meet in mortal strife.

The First Servian Army, under the command of the Crown Prince
Alexander, had crossed the old Serbo-Turkish frontier near Vranje.
After two exhausting marches in enemy territory, the leading units,
emerging from the mountains, saw in front of them an undulating plain;
in the distance some minarets, surmounting a collection of whitewashed
houses, stood out against the sky. The Serbs were in sight of Kumanovo,
a town situated 15 miles north-east of Uskub, on the western fringe of
a vast stretch of pasture land bearing the local name of “Ovce Polje”
or “Sheepfield.” Running across the plain, from east to west, a line of
trenches was clearly visible; on the railway track from Salonica many
trains were standing, from which men descended and, after forming into
groups, moved outwards to the trenches. It required no special military
acumen to appreciate the fact that the Turks intended to make a stand
at Kumanovo. The battlefield was flanked on the west by a railway and
on the east by a small river, an affluent of the Vardar; to the north
lay mountains, to the south the plain extended as far as the eye could
reach.

Night was falling, in a hurricane of wind and rain, when the Servian
advanced guards reached the northern limit of the plain and began to
place their outposts. During the day there had been skirmishes with
hostile patrols; every one was soaked to the skin, and supplies were
a march behind. I must have seen several hundred infantry soldiers
take up their appointed positions in a cluster of stony kopjes, which
marked the extreme left of the Servian outpost line, and not a murmur
of complaint or grumbling reached my ears. Sometimes men passed who
muttered to themselves. I asked a Servian staff officer what they were
saying; he replied simply, “Their prayers.” And on this note began
their vigil.

All through the night the rain-sodden, wearied troops were arriving at
their bivouacs. The front taken up was unduly extended and, notably
on the extreme left, there were many gaps. The dawn revealed a scene
of desolation and considerable disorder. Soon after sunrise the Turks
attacked.

Throughout the first day of battle the Turks pursued offensive tactics,
attempting repeatedly to turn the Servian left. More than once the
situation on this flank became critical. Reinforcements arrived in
driblets and in an exhausted condition; they were at once absorbed in
the fighting line, without regard for any other consideration except
the saving of a local situation. Of higher leading there was little, it
was just a soldier’s battle--hard, brutal fighting, stubborn valour in
the front line, chaotic confusion behind.

Late in the evening I saw a small party of horsemen moving rapidly
from battalion to battalion immediately behind the front line. Riding
by himself, a little in advance of the others, was a young man with a
thin, sallow face, wearing _pince-nez_. He stopped frequently and spoke
with the officers and men. When he had passed on, they followed him
with their eyes and seemed to move more briskly about their business.
To these rough men from all parts of Servia this brief visit had a
special interest; the young man who rode alone and in front was the
Crown Prince Alexander, and most of them were seeing him for the first
time.

In more senses than one the Crown Prince was alone that day. His
exalted rank had conferred on him the command of an army; his extreme
youth made it hard for him to impose his will on a staff of military
experts. At the headquarters of the First Servian Army there was the
usual percentage of senior officers whose peace training had taken from
them any human or imaginative qualities they may ever have possessed;
who regarded war as a science, not a drama; men without elasticity of
mind, eternally seeking an analogy between their own situation, at any
given moment, and some vaguely similar situation in the career of their
favourite strategist (usually von Moltke). Since in war, at least,
analogies are never perfect, such men lack quick decision and, almost
invariably, they take the line of least resistance.

During the afternoon preceding the evening visit of the Crown Prince to
his troops, several influential and elderly officers had been advising
retreat; they had studied the map carefully, and in their opinion no
other course was left to the Commander of the First Army. All the text
books confirmed this view, and in these books were embodied the great
principles of strategy. They pointed out to Prince Alexander that he
owed it to himself and his country to retire, as soon as possible,
to a new position and fight again another day. They were absolutely
sincere and were convinced that, since the Serbian left was in process
of being turned, all the military experts would approve of what might,
euphemistically, be termed “a strategic retirement.”

Many great military reputations have been made by the skilful conduct
of a retreat and, according to their lights, the advocates of such
tactics on this occasion were not far wrong in their reasoning. Only
outsiders judge by results; military experts live in a charmed and
exclusive international circle, in which method is everything.

The Crown Prince had a great deal at stake. This battle marked a
turning point in his life, and with him lay the final decision. He
never hesitated. “Stand fast and counter-attack all along the line
at the earliest possible moment” was the order issued, and then this
descendant of a warrior swineherd mounted his horse and went to see
his soldiers. Bad strategy, perhaps, but understandable to the men who
were bearing the brunt of the battle on the “Sheepfield” of Northern
Macedonia.

At General Headquarters Colonel G---- P---- shared and interpreted the
Crown Prince’s views. He knew the almost superhuman powers of endurance
of the Servian peasants, and put his faith in them. King Peter upheld
his son’s decision; reinforcements and ammunition were sent to the 1st
Army, on whose prowess depended the future fate of Servia.

The second day of battle dawned fair, from early morning onwards the
Turkish assaults were launched in rapid succession, and without regard
for loss of life. It was evident that the Turks were making their
great effort in this theatre of operations. By skilful manipulation
of the Press the Bulgars had given the impression that every theatre,
except their own in Thrace, was secondary; they argued that the Turks
would be so terrified by the Bulgarian threat to Constantinople that
all available forces would be concentrated for the protection of
the Turkish capital, and that a purely defensive attitude would be
maintained in Macedonia. The facts were all against these suppositions.
The only theatre in which the Turks were acting offensively was
Macedonia; in Thrace, after being completely surprised by the Bulgarian
advance, they were in full retreat; in Northern Macedonia a plan,
dictated by the Central Empires, was being put into execution, and the
destruction of the 1st Servian Army was its objective.

From prisoners’ statements the Turks appeared to be certain of success,
a large force of cavalry under Ali Mechmet Pasha was being held in
reserve south of Kumanovo ready to take up the pursuit.

On the morning of the third day the Servian front was still unbroken.
During the preceding night reinforcements had arrived from the general
reserve, the gaps in the front line had been filled up, and the
heavy artillery moved into position. The Turkish offensive persisted
throughout the day, but late in the afternoon the Serbs made several
successful local counter-attacks. After dark an unusually large number
of priests visited the front line, the men crowded round them eagerly,
and listened to their words.

At daybreak, on the fourth day, a large force of Turks was seen moving
towards the Servian left flank; the Turkish commander was making a last
bid for victory. Advancing in close formation the attacking columns
suffered heavy losses from the fire of some batteries of howitzers. On
other parts of the front an ominous calm prevailed. Servian soldiers
were swarming in the ragged trenches which had been thrown up during
the course of the battle. Priests in their flowing black robes were
everywhere.

Suddenly, from the centre of the Servian line, a salvo of guns gave a
signal! It was the signal for the counter-attack.

Surely, never since Friedland has such a sight been seen.

As though by magic the space between the Turkish trenches and the
Servian front was seamed by lines of infantry dashing recklessly
forward with bayonets fixed. Their onrush was irresistible, the Turkish
front was not pierced--it was swept away.

Within one hour of that amazing charge the battle of Kumanovo was lost
and won. The Turkish General’s last hope must have disappeared when a
well-aimed refale from a group of Servian howitzers threw the massed
squadrons of Ali Mechmet Pasha into hopeless confusion. Hundreds of
riderless horses scoured the plain, and through them, ever pressing
forward, surged the grey lines of Servia’s indomitable infantry. The
Turks were not merely driven back, they were routed, a rabble of
unarmed men fled across the plain to Uskub and spread panic in the
town; no attempt was made to man the forts, a general _sauve qui peut_
took place; a well-equipped and numerous army melted away in headlong
flight.

By noon Uskub had ceased to be a Turkish town, its name was, once more,
Skoplje.

During the afternoon I came across some regiments, which had fought on
the extreme right, forming up about five miles north of the town. The
men grinned with pride and satisfaction as they showed the blood-stains
on their bayonets; they had come far for this, but knew no fatigue.
Though so fierce in battle and filled with blood-lust, they were
curiously gentle in their ways with the wounded of both sides and their
prisoners; one felt that one was with a lot of big, strong children who
would bear almost anything up to a certain point, but that beyond that
point it was most inadvisable to go.

All sorts of wild stories were being circulated. It was said that
a man, dressed in white and riding a white horse, had led the
charge--many had seen the apparition, and had recognized Czar Lazar.

A strange meeting took place that evening. The Consuls of the Great
Powers in Uskub had remained in the panic-stricken town. When the last
vestige of Turkish authority had left, they sallied forth in carriages
to meet the conquering host, bringing with them the keys of the town.
On reaching the Servian outpost line they were forced to alight, and,
after being blindfolded, to proceed on foot to the headquarters of
the Crown Prince, a distance of 1½ miles. The scene was not without
a certain irony. On the one hand, a young Balkan Prince, elated with
victory, surrounded by his Staff; on the other, the representatives
of Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy blindfolded, muddy and
dishevelled by a long tramp in goloshes through black, sticky mud. Fine
feathers make fine birds, national prestige has, after all, something
to do with gold lace.

The conqueror received these unexpected envoys graciously and accepted
the keys, but he slept that night among his soldiers on the ground
that they had won.

Few triumphs have found a more appropriate setting. To the south
the plain terminated in an arc of hills already dimmed by gathering
twilight; spanning the arc the River Vardar shone like a band of
silver; between the river and the hills lay Skoplje, the minarets
of its numerous mosques served as reminders of the conquered Turk;
commanding both the valley and the town a fortress stood, its old grey
walls had sheltered Dushan, the greatest of all the Servian Tsars.
These were the fruits of victory--and the tokens of revenge.

I rode back to our bivouac with the Russian Military Attaché, and
quoted to him the words of Goethe after Valmy; we were indeed entering
on a new world in the Balkans. My companion put his thoughts into
far more concrete form:[4] “C’est la liquidation de l’Autriche” was
his comment on the situation. The wish was father to the thought, a
frequent source of error in Russian calculations; Servia’s victory
was, undoubtedly, a discomfiture for the Ball Platz,[5] but the
final liquidation of Austria-Hungary was not yet accomplished. That
consummation was reserved for a later date, and for a more universal
tragedy.

Our road led across the battlefield. On every side were traces of the
struggle, corpses of men, dead and dying horses. Near the railway we
found a Turkish gun team of which five of the horses had been killed
or wounded by a shell, the sixth horse, a big solemn-looking grey, was
standing uninjured by his fallen comrades, an image of dumb distress. A
Servian soldier, charged with the collection of loose horses, appeared
upon the scene, and, after putting the wounded animals out of their
pain, turned to the grey, which had been standing quietly watching
the man at work. Obviously, the next step was departure, but here
a difficulty arose. The solitary survivor of the gun team was loth
to leave, and the look in his honest, wistful eyes was infinitely
pathetic. A colloquy ensued between the representative of the Russian
Empire and the Servian peasant. Both were Slavs, and, in consequence,
horse lovers; both agreed that this horse deserved and desired death;
there and then an act of extravagance, almost impossible in any
other army, was perpetrated, and the gun team was reunited in some
equine Nirvana known only to Slavs and Arabs. “Another victim of the
war,” I remarked to my companion, as we continued on our road. He
evidently considered this observation as typical of my British lack
of imagination, and proceeded to recite a poem describing the fall of
snowflakes. Russians can witness human suffering with indifference, but
are curiously sentimental in regard to nature, animals and flowers;
nearly all Slavs possess a dangerous charm, the charm of men with
generous impulses uncontrolled by guiding principles; their speech is
splendid and inspiring, their actions uncertain, since they are ever at
the mercy of lurking passions and events.

Just before darkness fell a number of birds, coming from all
directions, settled upon the battlefield, they were black in colour;
round Kumanovo spread another “Field of Blackbirds.” But these
were not blackbirds in the ordinary sense; they were carrion crows
brought by some instinct from their lonely haunts to batten on man’s
handiwork littering that death-strewn plain. A raucous cawing made the
evening hideous; sometimes a cry, more harsh and guttural than the
rest, seemed to propound a question, an answering clamour followed,
approving, quarrelling; it might have been a parliament of birds,
summoned fortuitously, already passing laws to regulate this unexpected
intercourse. Gloating, but not yet satisfied, the stronger birds had
made themselves lawgivers, and meant to impose respect for property
upon their weaker brethren.

That night the Austrian Military Attaché left Servian Headquarters for
Vienna. His Russian colleague explained his sudden departure on the
ground that, according to the Austro-Hungarian program, the Turks ought
to have won. It may have been unwise for a small Balkan State to cross
the wishes of so great a Power; but neither doubts nor fears assailed
the Serbs that night; they had gained at Kumanovo the first pitched
battle of the war, and it had been a famous victory.



CHAPTER IV

MACEDONIA--1912


Macedonia is a tangle of mountains, whose higher levels are often bare
and rocky; the intervening valleys are fertile, and in some cases,
sufficiently extensive to be described as plains. These plains are
the granaries of Macedonia, and contain the larger towns like Skoplje
and Monastir, their population consists of peasants and farmers
representing all the Balkan races, mingled with these, and living by
their toil, are traders of almost every nationality. The scenery is
wild and picturesque by turns, good roads are few and far between, they
link the plains, which lie like oases in a wilderness of mountains,
spaces of white, brown, green or yellow, according to the season.

The victory of the Serbs at Kumanovo had been decisive, it had settled
the fate of Northern Macedonia. Similar success had attended the
operations in Northern Albania, where the Turks had abandoned their
positions and were falling back on Scutari, pursued by the 3rd Servian
Army advancing westward to the Adriatic. After a short delay at
Skoplje, devoted to the reorganization of the 1st and 2nd Armies, the
Serbs continued their offensive towards Southern Macedonia; the bulk of
their available forces, under the command of the Crown Prince, moved
south in the direction of Monastir, while a detachment of all arms
descended the Vardar Valley, its objective being Salonika.

These dispositions were dictated by sound strategy, which, for the
moment, and quite justifiably, overrode all political considerations.
The enemy’s Field Army in Macedonia had to be found and beaten; the
remnants of that army were rallying for the defence of a second Plevna,
covering the richest inland town in Macedonia, situated west of the
Vardar Valley, and joined with Salonika by a railway. At this period,
so far as I could judge, the Serbs were acting as loyal allies. The
fact that no Bulgars were participating in the operations could be
explained on administrative grounds.

I decided to remain with the Crown Prince’s reconstituted army, and
arrived at his headquarters in the middle of November; they were
established at Prilip, a prosperous little town situated at the
northern extremity of the plain of Monastir. Winter had already set in,
rain was falling on the plain and snow lay on the hills.

A lodging had been provided for me in a peasant’s house, whose spotless
cleanliness was most reassuring. In this small dwelling were crowded
the representatives of Great Britain, France, Russia and Italy, with a
Servian officer as guide and interpreter, the owner of the house was
absent with the armies, his wife both cooked and served our meals. I
asked the Servian officer of what race she was. He replied, “Oh, she is
a Bulgar, there are a few Bulgarian farmers in this district.”

At Servian Headquarters the situation was discussed with a frankness
which had been lacking while the Austro-Hungarian Military Attaché was
present. Every one agreed that the task before the Servian Army was one
of unusual difficulty. The Turkish forces were still numerous, they
disposed of excellent communications with Salonika, and the position
they occupied was of great natural strength. The Serbs, on the other
hand, were far from their base, the roads connecting Prilip with the
railway were almost impassable for heavy-wheeled vehicles, and the
train service with Servia was irregular and inefficient. Fortunately,
the inhabitants of Prilip had come to the rescue by supplying the
troops with 30,000 loaves of bread daily.

The spirit of the Servian soldiers was still excellent, they were
flushed with victory and confident of success; but they had slaked
their passion for revenge, their thoughts were with their families and
homes, to which they expected to return so soon as this next and last
battle should have been fought and won.

A change had taken place in the mood of the Russian Military Attaché;
he seemed pre-occupied, and had made himself unpopular at Servian
Headquarters by urging the inclusion of Bulgarian forces for the attack
on Monastir. This suggestion had first been made at Skoplje, and had
met with a flat refusal; it was renewed at Prilip when the inhabitants
agreed to supply the troops with bread. Incensed by a second refusal,
the Russian so far forgot his diplomatic self as to state in public
that such conduct on the part of the Serbs was idiotic, in view of
the fact that the great majority of the population of the town and
district were Bulgars. I asked him to which town he referred, “Monastir
or Prilip,” he replied, “both.” A sidelight was now being cast on the
contents of the “Secret Treaty,” already an inkling could be gained of
the troubles that were to come.

Two roads lead south from Prilip. One traverses the plain throughout
its length, the other skirts its eastern boundary, following the left
bank of the Cerna, a tributary of the Vardar. The Serbs advanced by
both these roads, the main body debouched upon the plain, while a
detachment took the river route, a metalled road built on swampy ground
between the Cerna and a range of lofty mountains. Snow had fallen
during the night preceding this advance, and when day broke billows of
mist obscured the Cerna’s course and blotted out the hills beyond. At
the southern limit of the plain a ridge, covered with new-fallen snow,
screened from our view the town of Monastir; this ridge was the Turkish
position, which faced almost due north with its right flank resting on
the Cerna; the river had overflowed its banks and caused a widespread
inundation. The left flank terminated in a cluster of foothills between
the northern end of Lake Prespa and Monastir; the nature of the country
and the absence of roads protected this flank from a turning movement.
For two days the Serbs wasted their energies in frontal attacks against
this carefully prepared position; each assault broke like a wave on
the barbed-wire entanglements which covered the Turkish trenches. For
the first time the Servian infantry had been checked, and a feeling
akin to dismay was spreading in their ranks; it seemed impossible
to scale that ridge, behind which nestled Monastir, invisible and
unattainable. Success now depended on the action of the detachment on
the Cerna road. Here, the Turks had committed a serious error, the
extensive inundations on their right flank had led them to believe
that it was inaccessible, and they allowed the Serbs to advance,
practically unopposed, along the river as far as Novak, a village on
the left bank, situated due east of Monastir, and connected with it
by a built-up chaussée. The error consisted in under-estimating the
qualities of the peasants and fishermen of Servia, men inured from
their youth to hardships and exposure, to whom few natural obstacles
are insurmountable. Another factor supervened--the factor of morale.
Over their comrades on the plain the troops of Novak had one great
advantage--they could see the town lying behind the snow-clad ridge.

War is a pilgrimage for simple soldiers, long days of marching, longer
nights of vigil; they know not where they go, nor why--until the day
of battle; if then they see the goal they fight with clearer purpose,
and knowledge born of vision casts out their doubts and fears. So it
was with the Serbs that day at Novak; they looked across a waste of
water and saw before them Monastir--the Mecca of their pilgrimage;
the sight inspired these humble pilgrims, they set their faces to the
west, entered the icy flood, crossed it unflinchingly, and by this bold
manœuvre snatched victory from defeat.

By the evening of the third day of battle the right flank of the
Turkish position had been turned, the Turks had abandoned their
positions north of Monastir, and had effected their retreat into the
mountains of Albania. Greek cavalry arrived at Florina (a town on the
Monastir-Salonika railway) during the course of the battle, but took
no part in the fighting. A Bulgarian column, descending the Struma
Valley, had already reached the Rupel Pass, where the mountains merge
into the coastal plain. For all practical purposes the Balkan Allies
were masters of Macedonia; Greek, Bulgarian and Servian forces were
converging on Salonika, whose fall was imminent.

On November 20, two days after the capture of Monastir, the 3rd Servian
Army, in co-operation with the Montenegrins, captured Alessio, and
thus gained access to the Adriatic seaboard. So far as Servia was
concerned little remained to be done, old Servia had been reconquered,
an outlet to the sea had been acquired. Servia, the State, had more
than gained her object; Servia, the Ally, the Member of the Balkan
League, was at the parting of the ways. Under the terms of the Secret
Treaty, Monastir passed into Bulgaria’s sphere of influence. This
Macedonian town, if held as one of the fruits of Servia’s victory, was
bound to become an apple of discord. Every thinking man in Servia knew
it, but knowledge is not always power.

The Prime Minister of Servia in 1912 was M. Pasitch, already a veteran
among Balkan statesmen, and a man of patriarchal mien. The enemies of
M. Pasitch said that his long, white beard had made his reputation as a
statesman; his friends deplored an accent which was not purely Servian,
he had been born at Pirot, on the Bulgarian frontier, where races,
languages and politics were apt to get somewhat mixed. To foreigners
M. Pasitch was a man of mystery, who spoke French badly, German rather
better, and dealt in platitudes. Yet, beyond doubt, he was one of
Servia’s great old men, with or without his beard. King Peter, weighed
down by age and suffering, had left to him the cares of State, and he
had borne the heat and burden of the day unruffled by abuse or calumny.
At times he was pathetic, as, for example, when he said that the worst
enemies of his country and himself were those he tried to rule. These
words conveyed a bitter truth. M. Pasitch was a Servian institution,
a Nestor in the Council, but, like most Balkan politicians, only
retained office by submission to forces independent of the Government.
The foreign policy of Servia was dictated by M. Hartwig, the Russian
Minister, and a diplomat of conspicuous ability; within certain limits
this arrangement worked well, however galling it may have been to
citizens of a sovereign State. Servia’s internal affairs were at the
mercy of factions and secret societies; of these the most influential
was a society known as the “Black Hand,” which included among its
members some of the ablest men in the country, whose patriotism was
beyond dispute, but who had all the vices of their virtues. The very
qualities which had made them fight so well fostered a spirit of
unreasonableness; they mistook moderation for lack of zeal and prudence
for timidity, in their eyes it was statesmanship to give free rein to
the unbridled appetites of ignorant, short-sighted men intoxicated by
success.

In an evil hour for Servia a combination of irresponsible forces
directed Servian policy in regard to Monastir. The attitude of the
Serbs was at least comprehensible, they could urge their sacrifices and
the rights of conquest, that of M. Hartwig was inexplicable. This man
knew the contents of the Secret Treaty, on which was based the Balkan
League, and by which Servia renounced her claims to Monastir. He could
not have ignored Bulgarian sentiment in Macedonia, nor the statistics
of the population; yet he--a chief creator of the Balkan Bloc, an
ardent Slav, a clever, gifted man, steeped in the politics of Central
Europe--connived at denunciation of the Secret Treaty within a few
months of its signature.

Interference by the Great Powers in Balkan affairs has always been
disastrous, because it has been selfish. M. Hartwig may have considered
the Serbs as little brothers, but he used them as an advanced guard of
Pan-Slavism without regard for their real interests or preparedness
for the task. Like the Russian Military Attaché, he thought that the
victories of Kumanovo and Monastir had brought about “la liquidation de
l’Autriche,” and that in future Russia alone would control the Balkan
situation. He was wrong, and his and Servia’s mistaken policy gave
Austria-Hungary her opportunity.

The reaction of policy in strategy soon became manifest. In spite of
the fact that a Turkish Army, led by Djavid Pasha (the best of Turkey’s
generals), was still in being, all active operations were suspended,
and the Serbian forces were distributed throughout the conquered
territory and became an army of occupation. Monastir, renamed Bitolja,
was held by a garrison consisting exclusively of Serbs, the civil
administration was taken over by Serbian officials.

Monastir had become a part of Serbia, and a very unhappy part at that.
The reasons were not far to seek--the population was not Servian,
78[6] per cent. of the inhabitants of the vilayet were Bulgars, and
of the rest only a small proportion were Serbs. Ruthless repression
of every institution or business which did not profess a Servian
origin only served to embitter popular feeling, and reveal the real
facts of the situation. Ignorance of the Servian language was counted
as a crime; publicans and other comparatively innocuous traders were
flogged for infringing decrees published in Servian which they could
not understand. Twelve lashes applied by an athletic gendarme are, no
doubt, a powerful incentive to learning foreign languages, but many
residents so mistrusted their linguistic talents that, rather than
face a second lesson, they left their homes, preferring the lot of
refugees to tyranny and persecution. Monastir was a town in torment,
lamentations resounded in the Consulates of all the Great Powers, the
publicans were not alone in regretting the departure of the backward
but tolerant Turk.

In the army of occupation, although discipline was strictly maintained,
a revulsion of feeling had taken place. The poor in every Balkan State
were suffering, as they always do, on them had fallen the burden of the
war, shorn of its bloody splendour. The misery in Macedonia sickened
the Servian peasants, they feared for their own homes, and deserted in
large numbers. Armies are not machines, they are dynamic bodies whose
health depends on action, kept stationary amid a strife of tongues they
melt away.

The Greeks had won the race for Salonika without much bloodshed, it was
said that the Turkish military governor had sold the town for 300,000
francs. The Bulgars arrived a few hours after the triumphal entry of
the Greek troops. They were received coldly, like unwelcome visitors.
The Serbs were greeted more cordially, but as guests rather than Allies.

At all Ægean ports the sea breezes compete unsuccessfully with
unsavoury odours, resulting from insanitary conditions, dried fish and
garlic; Salonika was no exception to the rule, but at the time of my
arrival the moral atmosphere was even more unwholesome. Greeks, Serbs
and Bulgars jostled each other in the narrow streets, proclaiming
by their presence the downfall of Turkish rule in Macedonia. Yet,
though success was sweet, its aftermath had turned to bitterness.
Something had been smashed, something they had all feared and hated;
and now they were face to face with one another, the broken pieces
in their hands, themselves a prey to envy, greed, and, worst of all,
uncertainty. The Balkan Allies were writhing in the net of an alliance
concluded secretly, its clauses were known only to a chosen few, who
dared not to tell the truth. Each nation had its version of the Treaty,
twisting the facts to suit its special interests. Brawls occurred daily
in the streets between the Allied soldiers, their leaders wrangled in
hotels. Many wealthy Turks had remained, they wore the look of men who,
if not over-honest, still hoped, when the thieves fell out, to come
into their own again.

Greece claimed Salonika on the ground of prior occupation; Bulgaria
demanded that the port and its hinterland should be under the same
administration, or, in other words, her own; Servia had no direct
interest in Salonika, but clung doggedly to Monastir, in spite of the
Treaty.

The Greek and Bulgarian Governments then in power were anxious to
reach a settlement, but neither Government dared abate its claims;
public opinion in both Greece and Bulgaria was supposed to be against
concessions, because some organs of the Press had said it was so.
A curious illusion this, though prevalent in every country. In the
Balkans many important papers were subsidized with foreign money, yet
still were believed to voice the views of peasants who could neither
read nor write.

Colonel G---- P----, while discussing the possibility of obtaining
ammunition from the Western Powers through Salonika, had suggested
that the port should be internationalized. This was, of course, the
only practical solution of the problem; but coming from a Serb it
would have had more weight if it had been accompanied by a promise
to surrender Monastir. Unfortunately, no such surrender, either
immediate or prospective, was within the sphere of practical politics.
M. Gueshoff, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, went so far as to offer
to leave the town and a part of Macedonia to the Serbs until the
Servian aspirations in other directions should have been gratified. An
agreement to this effect was reached during a private meeting with M.
Pasitch, but it came to naught; neither Prime Minister could control
the sinister forces which worked like a poisonous leaven in their
countries, and were rapidly wrecking the Balkan “Bloc.”

By the middle of December, 1912, it had become evident that no peaceful
settlement of the Macedonian question was possible if the Balkan States
were left to their own devices. Collective intervention by the Great
Powers was precluded by the attitude of at least three among them, who
were deliberately exploiting the rivalry of the Balkan Allies, and
hoped to fish in troubled waters.

In the Bay of Salonika a British warship lay at anchor, a symbol of
the Armada whose tentacles were on every sea, but a symbol and nothing
more. To the men on shore, some of whom were looking at the sea for
the first time, this ship was an object of respect and curiosity; they
had heard of Great Britain’s habitual gesture when Abdul Hamid became
obstreperous, and they may have wondered whether Salonika was not
regarded in the same light as Besika Bay;[7] it may even have occurred
to some of them that perhaps the British Government had a policy in
the Ægean, where a new situation had arisen, requiring prompt attention
from the Mistress of the Seas.

It was then, as it is now, my firm conviction that if, at this critical
period, the British and French Governments had sent a Note insisting
on Salonika being made an international port, and that if the Note had
been supported by the dispatch to Salonika of a squadron of warships,
Greece and Bulgaria would have complied. The rulers of the Balkan
States would have welcomed such a method of escape from the dilemma
in which they found themselves; they knew, none better, how devoid of
a comprehensive Macedonian policy they were, how the swift advance
of the armies had outstripped their calculations, and what would be
the consequences if they failed to reach agreement. The Note would
have indicated the course to pursue; the display of force would have
justified compliance in the eyes of their own peoples. Objections to
this course of action might have been raised by the Central Powers, but
they could hardly have made it a _casus belli_, the pretext would have
been too flimsy; further, while the Balkan _Bloc_ was still in being a
prudent policy was imposed. On the other hand, the Russian Government,
partly owing to the advocacy of M. Hartwig, and partly from anxiety in
regard to the Bulgarian advance towards Constantinople, had become the
partisan of Servia, and was not directly interested in Salonika.

No such step was taken, and a great opportunity was lost. The action
of each of the Great Powers was characteristic--the British Government
suggested a conference of Balkan representatives in London; French
agents, working in the interest of Schneider, secured orders from the
Servian Government for guns and ammunition; Italy sent Servia a warning
about the Adriatic; Austria-Hungary began a partial mobilization. If
further proof had been needed, this mobilization should have convinced
the most purblind observers of Austria-Hungary’s underlying motives;
the veriest tyro in geography must have known that Salonika was more
accessible to the fleets than to the armies of the Great Powers; a
display of force in Bosnia and Herzegovina could not effect appeasement
at Salonika, it could only terrorize the Montenegrins and the Serbs,
and at the same time encourage the Turks still left in Europe to
prolong their resistance. Nor did Austro-Hungarian policy overlook the
possibilities presented by Bulgaria; the Bulgars, so far, had gained
little by the war, the Greeks were at Salonika, and the Serbs at
Monastir; they, the Bulgars, had not yet captured Adrianople, and their
hearts were filled with bitterness and resentment. After all, they had
some cause to grumble, and some excuse for listening to the tempter.

The belligerent States accepted the invitation to confer in London.
While the delegates conferred, wearied soldiers, immobilized by frost
and snow, burrowed in holes like hibernating animals.

I returned to Belgrade for Christmas, 1912. The town was full to
overflowing, and, as usual, foreigners, posing as Balkan experts, did
all the talking. The Serbs themselves were feeling the pinch of war,
hunger and cold had brought typhus in their train; the angel of death
was claiming many victims still.

Walking back from dinner with a journalist who enjoyed a European
reputation, I got what my companion called “a peep behind the scenes.”
It was a most unedifying spectacle, and as remote from reality as the
moon, which, sailing high in heaven, lit up that winter night.

In all that concerned the Balkans the Great Powers were in truth _les
Grandes Impuissances_.[8] Blinded by ignorance, greed and prejudice,
they were laying the foundations of a pyramid, whose blocks would be
errors piled on errors through seven succeeding years. The Great Powers
were the master-builders, and the Balkan States their pupils. Apt
pupils these, ready to learn and accustomed to obey. The lessons given
and received were base, unworthy and a negation of all moral sense.

To any one who knew and faced the facts the situation had the elements
of a Greek tragedy. The Balkan experts had played the part of a
Bacchanalian chorus and created a suitable atmosphere. The first act
was completed, its stage a little known, romantic land, to many a land
of promise. One wondered whether the cast was yet complete, and what
new players might be added. Ruthlessly, logically and inevitably the
climax would be reached. But where and how? No one could then foresee.



CHAPTER V

ALBANIA--1912-1913


After the victory at Kumanovo, as already mentioned, the 3rd Servian
Army marched westwards into Albania. The northern part of this Turkish
province had a special value in Servian eyes. It included the so-called
Adriatic ports--Durazzo and San Giovanni di Medua.

Colonel G---- P---- had given me some idea of the hatred felt by
his countrymen for Albanians generally. The misgivings aroused at
Belgrade by his reference to this subject were more than confirmed by
the conduct of the Albanian campaign. No detailed narrative of these
operations has been obtained, but the fragmentary reports received,
both from neutrals and belligerents, left no doubt as to the atrocities
which accompanied and stained indelibly the heroism and endurance of
the Servian soldiers. Whole villages were wiped out, old men, women
and children were either slaughtered in their homes or driven forth to
die of cold and famine, the countryside was wasted, an orgy of wanton
destruction was permitted, if not encouraged, by the Servian Staff.
As the army penetrated more deeply into the mountains, fresh horrors
were added; winter set in, the passes became blocked with ice and snow,
men and animals fell from slippery tracks into abysses, disease and
insanity were rife, a line of corpses marked the passage of the army.
Numbers dwindled rapidly; only the strongest survived; stragglers were
left to die in awful solitudes. The Albanian peasants, aided by the
Turks, defended their mountains step by step; bands of them hovered
round the line of march, seeking a chance for grim reprisals. Quarter
was neither asked nor given; men fought like barbarians with a veneer
of science, which made their actions doubly hideous. Episodes described
by competent and impartial observers leave an impression as painful as
it is confusing; nothing more terrible has taken place in any part of
the world, or in the whole history of war.

Servian activities in Albania provoked a protest on the part of two of
the Great Powers, but not on humanitarian grounds. From both Vienna and
Rome there came a note of warning: “Ne touchez pas l’Adriatique”[9] was
the purport of the message. The attitude of the Austro-Hungarian and
Italian Governments was frankly interested; it was that of a big dog
who sees a terrier gnawing a bone within tempting reach of its (the
big dog’s) kennel. This prohibition was not to be lightly disregarded,
but the Government at Belgrade showed unexpected firmness. Strong
in their faith in Russia and in M. Hartwig, the Serbs continued to
advance. After a month of ceaseless struggle against Turks, Albanians,
the elements and nature, this vanguard of Pan-Slavism in the Balkans
came within sight of the forbidden coast, between Alessio and Durazzo.
The soldiers raised a shout of exultation. Behind them lay a barrier
of mountains, impassable in winter; before them was the sea, to reach
whose shores they had endured and risked so much. Some troopers
galloped quickly to the beach and spurred their famished horses into
the sparkling water, and when they found it was not fit to drink they
murmured helplessly. The men of Servia proper, unlike their kinsmen of
Dalmatia, had not the habit of the sea; for them it still remained a
mystery, pregnant with disillusionment both present and to come.

The Turks had withdrawn the bulk of their forces to Scutari and the
Serbs occupied Alessio without encountering serious opposition. This
ancient town is situated at the junction of the new road from the
coast at San Giovanni di Medua with the main road connecting Durazzo
and Scutari. It formed, in consequence, an admirable base for future
operations. For the time being, however, the 3rd Servian Army was
incapable of further efforts; the troops were exhausted, supplies and
ammunition were scarce, boots for the men and shoes for the horses
were alike lacking, and, until sea communications with Servia through
Salonika could be established, a continuance of the offensive was
impossible. Unfortunately, the confusion which reigned at Salonika
prevented the immediate despatch of supplies and reinforcements to San
Giovanni di Medua; the army was immobilized by force of circumstances
and degenerated into an army of occupation, holding a strip of
territory between the mountains and the sea.

The invasion of Albania had been undertaken prematurely and in a
spirit of exaggerated optimism; impatience and want of foresight had
rendered fruitless an achievement which, however marred by atrocities,
was a splendid feat of arms. Servia’s position in Albania became more
precarious with every day that passed in inactivity. The key of the
situation was Scutari. While that fortress remained in Turkish hands,
conquest was incomplete, and at any moment one or more of the Great
Powers might intervene; already there were indications that the Dual
Monarchy[10] was losing patience and fretting against a policy which
kept the ring.

Alessio is noted as the burial place of Scanderbeg, an Albanian
chieftain and son of a Servian princess. During the 15th century he
had waged war against the Turks for over twenty years; his name was a
household word in Servia, as that of one who had fought a common foe.
Time had wrought many changes since those days. The narrow streets
around the hero’s tomb were thronged by an invading host of Serbs, with
devastation in their track, their hands imbrued with Albanian peasants’
blood. An evil genius seemed to possess the Servian leaders. The war,
no more a war of liberation, had loosed their basest passions; success
had made them cruel, vindictive and tyrannical, the very faults for
which they blamed the Turks.

As Bacon says: “Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes;
and adversity is not without comforts and hopes.” While Servia groaned
beneath the Turkish yoke, cycles of songs had fortified her faith and
poetized defeat. Only a “Hymn of Hate” could chronicle this victory--a
fierce lament, resounding through a land of desolation, echoing a
people’s cries of woe.

Winter passed without any active protest on the part of the Great
Powers in regard to the presence of Servian troops in Northern Albania.
In the early part of February, the Young Turks, under the leadership
of Enver Pasha, broke off the peace negotiations in London, and
hostilities recommenced in Thrace and Albania. Macedonia was clear of
Turks and, from a purely Servian point of view, the only remaining
military operation was the capture of Scutari. The troops on the spot
were unequal to the task, and the Servian Government decided on the
despatch of reinforcements, by sea, to San Giovanni di Medua. Time
pressed. The Serbs had learned at the London Conference that a _fait
accompli_[11] was a better basis for bargaining with their Allies and
the Great Powers than the most righteous cause; they feared that, at
an early date, a second armistice might be imposed upon them, and they
were determined to, if possible, attend the next conference as masters
of Scutari and the adjacent coast.

The organization of the expeditionary force was completed rapidly
and efficiently, and by the end of February the Servian troops were
concentrated at Salonika. Unfortunately for the Serbs, they were
dependent on their Greek allies for overseas transport and a naval
escort. The intentions of the Greek Government may have been excellent,
but their administrative services left much to be desired. It was not
until March 17 that the fleet of transports steamed out of Salonika
harbour; at least 14 days had been wasted in vexatious, and in some
cases unnecessary, delays.

The ships were overcrowded to an extent which would hardly have been
justified if the voyage had been made in time of peace, when it would
have lasted only four or five days; in time of war, and more especially
in view of the recent activity of the Turkish cruiser _Hamidieh_, a
prolongation of the voyage should have been allowed for and suitable
arrangements made; they were not, and once again the soldiers had to
suffer for the optimism of the Headquarters Staff. In point of fact,
the _Hamidieh_ was never within 1,000 miles of the Adriatic, but
its name inspired dread, and the transports dared not move without
an escort of Greek warships. At the last moment these were not
forthcoming, owing to the occurrence of a naval display at the Piræus,
on the occasion of the funeral of King George of Greece, who had been
assassinated a few days earlier in the streets of Salonika. Twelve
precious days were spent between the Ægean and the Gulf of Corinth.
The convoy reached the Ionian Sea and anchored off San Giovanni di
Medua after a journey lasting 17 days. So long a voyage in crowded,
insanitary transports had its inevitable result; typhus had broken out
among the troops, many men were buried at sea, the horses and oxen
suffered terribly; some had been embarked a fortnight before we left
Salonika. Without firing a shot the Servian Expeditionary Force had
lost much of its fighting value, mainly through the muddling of the
military and naval staffs. War is at all times wasteful. When Allied
States share in an enterprise officials speak in many tongues, their
jealousies are national as well as personal, the waste is augmented out
of all proportion to the results achieved.

As we approached our moorings at San Giovanni di Medua, I was standing
on the bridge of the flagship with Colonel G---- P----. After looking
through his field glasses at the coastline for some minutes, he turned
to me with the laconic remark, “Dasz ist ein groszes nichts.”[12] No
better description could have been made in words.

Lying before us was a bay sheltered from the north by a low headland,
below which could be seen a sandy beach with two jetties; to the east
of the beach was the mouth of the River Drin; from here the coastline
ran in a southerly direction and was fringed by mangroves. The only
human habitations in sight were two houses on the headland, and in the
distance, about six miles away, Alessio. Stranded on the beach were
two Greek steamers, victim of the _Hamidieh_. San Giovanni di Medua
was not a port, it was an open roadstead, affording no shelter from a
south-west wind.

The reinforcements sent by sea brought the total number of Servian
combatants in Albania up to 23,000 of all arms, with a good proportion
of artillery. At this stage of the war, and taking into consideration
the jealousies which divided the Turkish commanders, a force of such
size and composition had Scutari at its mercy. One determined assault
would have brought about the fall of the fortress. For reasons which
have never been explained, the Servian General, who directed also the
operations of the Montenegrin Army, continually postponed the day for
the assault. This procrastination was destined to have disastrous
consequences.

Nearly three weeks had passed since the landing when, one evening at
dinner time, I was informed that the general assault would take place
at dawn on the following day. The infantry and guns were already in
their advanced positions, and every one was confident of success.
Towards the end of the meal a Servian Staff Officer entered with a
message for Colonel G---- P----, who, after reading it, leaned across
me and addressed the General. Both men seemed agitated, and left the
tent together. A few minutes later I was asked to join them. A curious
document was put before me. It was signed by a British admiral, who
described himself as the commander of an international squadron of
warships, anchored at the time of writing off San Giovanni di Medua.
There was nothing ambiguous about this document. It was a formal order
to the Servian General to withdraw his forces from the neighbourhood of
Scutari and bring them back to the coast; no diplomatic verbiage was
employed and no explanations were given.

The first effect of this amazing communication on the two Servian
officers was stupefaction, which soon gave way to strong resentment.
They, not unnaturally, considered such treatment as an affront to the
sovereignty of their country and a flagrant breach of neutrality.
They found some consolation, however, in the fact that a British
admiral had signed. It gave them a sense of security, so they said.
Everywhere in the Balkans one found this sentiment towards the British.
It touched the heart and flattered pride of race; one tried to forget
the ignorance and detachment of the British Government, to justify
this simple trust and to be worthy of it. The signature was not very
legible, but the name was already sufficiently well known for me to
recognize it as Cecil Burney.

No steps were taken to countermand the assault, which would undoubtedly
have taken place had not a telegram from Belgrade arrived at midnight
containing full instructions as to the future conduct of the Servian
forces in Albania. The withdrawal of all troops to the sea-coast
whence they had come was to be absolute and immediate; advanced posts
were to be withdrawn under cover of darkness, to minimize the risk
of rearguard actions with the enemy. On arrival at San Giovanni di
Medua, preparations were to be made at once to re-embark the troops on
specially provided transports, already on their way from Salonika.

The Serbs marched back to the coast bursting with anger and despair.
All their hardships and sufferings had been endured in vain. Coming
down the valley towards the beach they saw before them a great array
of warships, flying the flags of six Great Powers, and learned another
bitter lesson. The sea was not for them--not yet at least. A swift
reaction followed. The force that daunted them was force afloat, on
land they held themselves invincible, and asked for nothing better than
to return to Macedonia, to conquests nearer to their hearts and homes;
to mountains and inland plains where water was not salt; where men and
animals were not cooped up in stifling holds, and did not have their
stomachs turned by the uneasy movements of the sea.

They thought they had been tricked, and from this mood a frame of mind
emerged which brooked no compromise at Monastir. The “Black Hand”
society got many new adherents from the Servian Army in Albania during
these fateful days. Made bitter by helplessness and disappointment,
the belief spread among the men that that society alone stood up for
Servia’s rights, and so they joined the ranks of the enemies of peace.

Colonel G---- P---- looked grey and haggard; this termination of an
enterprise of which he had been the principal organizer was a set-back
in his career, but to all personal considerations he was indifferent.
The causes of this sudden display of energy on the part of the Great
Powers did, however, give him food for anxious reflection. He saw the
handiwork of Austria-Hungary, and said bitterly: “Albania is a small
country, but it contains three races and four religions. There is only
one way of maintaining peace here, and that is by dividing this country
between Servia and Greece. At the beginning it would be hard, but no
harder for the Albanians than when they were under the Turks, from whom
we have liberated them. Austria wants an autonomous Albania, though
she knows it is an absurdity, because she does not want peace in the
Balkans, except on her own terms. Great Britain and France are helping
Austria--God knows why! What do your people know about Albania?” He
pointed to the warships in the bay and added: “Today is the first
birthday of autonomous Albania; it is a bad day for all the Balkan
States.”

I thought of that suburb in Berlin where there was one bank too
many, and then of a Conference of Ambassadors in London, called to
resolve the Albanian riddle. Burian[13] would be there as well as
Mensdorff.[14] Austria would speak with no uncertain voice. If the
British Government had a policy in Albania, it was surely an Austrian
policy. A division of Albania between Servia and Greece was the logical
outcome of the Balkan War of 1912; it might have been effected under
the control of the Great Powers and guarantees could have been exacted
for the protection of the different nationalities. For harder questions
have been dealt with on these lines, since the expulsion of the Serbs
from the Albanian coast.



CHAPTER VI

THE SECOND BALKAN WAR AND THE TREATY OF BUCHAREST


In April, 1913, representatives of the Balkan States were summoned,
for the second time, to Great Britain, and once again the negotiations
threatened to drag on interminably. They were cut short, however, by
Sir Edward Grey, who had lost patience with the procrastinating methods
of the delegates, and a treaty was signed, known as the “Peace of
London.”

So ended the first Balkan War. Turkey lost all her territory in Europe
except Turkish Thrace, which served as a hinterland to Constantinople;
Bulgaria acquired Adrianople and Dede Agatch as her share of the spoil;
the Greeks retained Salonika and Cavalla; the Serbs still occupied
Monastir; Albania was declared an autonomous kingdom, whose frontiers
were to be delimited under the direction of an Ambassadors’ Conference
in London, while an International Commission assisted the local
Government, pending the appointment of a King.

The Peace Treaty registered the defeat of Turkey; it did little more,
and was merely a rough and ready attempt to reconcile the conflicting
aims and aspirations of the victors. Rumania added fresh complications
by demanding compensation from Bulgaria for having played a neutral
part during a Balkan War. Another conference of Ambassadors was
assembled in Petrograd to arbitrate upon this point.

The Bulgarian delegate in London had been M. Daneff, a rude,
overbearing Macedonian who incensed and irritated all those with whom
he came in contact. The selection of this man for so delicate a mission
was, to say the least, unfortunate. To many it appeared suspicious
that M. Daneff should have been sent, when M. Gueshoff, the Prime
Minister, and a man of reasonable and moderate views, could have gone
in his place; it looked as if King Ferdinand of Bulgaria had already
become entangled in the meshes of Austro-Hungarian diplomacy, whose
object was the disruption of the Balkan League. M. Daneff rejected
the overtures and proposals of Greeks, Serbs, Rumanians and Turks
with equal contempt. As a result, Bulgaria became more and more
isolated. Potential enemies surrounded her on every side, but, blinded
by arrogance and false counsel, she disdained the alliance of any
neighbouring State.

At the end of June, the storm broke. The signature of peace had enabled
the Bulgarian Government to concentrate troops in Eastern Macedonia,
in close proximity to the Servian army of occupation. The soldiers of
the two armies fraternized with one another and, to all appearances,
the Bulgars had the friendliest intentions. The first act of war took
place before dawn on June 30 when, without warning, the Servian outpost
line was attacked and driven in by a numerically superior force of
Bulgars. The Serbs recovered themselves speedily, reinforcements were
hurried to the front attacked, and a counter-attack was made which
drove the Bulgars in confusion from the field. Servian successes had an
immediate effect on the Government at Sofia. The treacherous offensive
of June 30 was repudiated and ascribed to the personal initiative of
General Savoff, one of Bulgaria’s most notorious “men of action” and
a favourite of the King. The repudiation came too late. All the other
Balkan States combined against Bulgaria, and within three months of the
signing of peace in London, Greeks and Serbs were fighting their late
ally in Macedonia, while Turks and Rumanians invaded her territory from
the east and north.

The Bulgars soon found themselves in a desperate plight; no amount
of stubborn valour at Carevoselo[15] could protect Sofia against
the Rumanians or save Adrianople from the Turks. By the end of July
the Bulgarian Government was forced to sue for an armistice to save
the country from utter ruin. The day of reckoning had come for an
inexcusable and odious crime.

In the first week of August, the delegates of the Balkan States
assembled at Bucharest to negotiate yet another peace. Their task was
not an easy one. Public opinion in Servia and Greece was exultant
and clamouring for vengeance; in Turkey, Enver Pasha, the saviour of
Adrianople, was at the zenith of his fame. From elements such as these
a judicial frame of mind was not to be expected; they were blinded by
hatred, pent up through decades of jealousy and fear. Enver cherished
ambitious dreams, counted on German help, and knew no scruples. The
majority of the Greeks and Serbs aimed at reducing Bulgaria to a state
of impotence. Had it been possible, they would have exterminated the
entire race.

A few courageous voices were raised in protest against a too brutal
application of the principle that every country has the government it
deserves; they declared it a crime to visit the sins of the rulers on
their hapless subjects; they claimed that the Bulgarian people, as
distinct from their rulers, had been punished enough already; that
Bulgaria had been bled white and had made many sacrifices in a common
cause; that she had lost much of her power for evil, and might, if
properly handled, lose the will; they pleaded that justice should be
tempered with common sense, if not with mercy, and urged that the folly
of exasperating millions of virile peasants, and thereby driving them
into closer union with the Central Empires, against all their racial
instincts, should be foreseen and checked.

The men who dared to speak with the voice of reason were called
pro-Bulgars in Greece and Servia; they went to Bucharest, hoping to
find a more objective spirit.

Many factors combined to make the Rumanian capital the most suitable
meeting-place for the Balkan delegates on this momentous occasion.
Rumania had struck the decisive blow without bloodshed; her army was
intact and her treasury was not depleted; her territorial claims
were inconsiderable and had been submitted to the Great Powers for
arbitration; lastly, in her King, Rumania possessed a personage
peculiarly fitted to mould and direct, dispassionately, the proceedings
of the Conference.

King Charles was a man advanced in years who had served his adopted
country both faithfully and well. The Rumanian people felt for him
gratitude and respect. At this period they would have followed loyally
in any course he chose to take. As head of the elder and Catholic
branch of the Hohenzollern family, the King of Rumania was in close
touch with the courts of the Central Empires and with King Constantine
of Greece.

In short, fate had conferred on this Hohenzollern prince unrivalled
authority in his own country, access to powerful channels of
persuasion, and in relation to the other Balkan States, forces
sufficient to impose his will. He could, had he willed, have been
arbiter of the Balkans and might have changed the course of history. In
the event, he preferred to stand aside.

History is full of such “might have beens.” Time is a kind of fourth
dimension affecting every human action. King Charles’s opportunity
occurred when he was old and tired. Made over-cautious by his knowledge
of the play of external forces on the Balkan situation, he feared a
general conflagration, which might consume his life’s work at a stroke.
And so he left ill alone, and hoped to end his days in peace.

Probably the best known of King Charles’s ministers in 1912 was M. Take
Jonescu, whose tireless energy in the cultivation of relationships
and souvenirs in foreign capitals had earned for him the title of
“the Great European.” This title was not undeserved, though applied
ironically in nine cases out of ten. M. Take Jonescu had acquired the
habit of generalizing from Rumanian affairs so as to make them embrace
the whole of the old world and the new; this had enlarged his horizon
and given him a vision which at times was startlingly prophetic.
He recognized more clearly than any of his countrymen the rôle of
Rumania at the Conference and what could and should be done. The
restless, versatile man of the people was fascinated by the splendid
possibilities of a bold and imaginative Rumanian policy. Not so his
colleagues of the Conservative Party; they opposed inertia to ideas,
and behind them stood the King. M. Take Jonescu had a lawyer’s training
and was no champion of lost causes. This cause was lost indeed while
King Charles was on the throne; only a cataclysm could have saved
it--a “Cascade des Trônes.”[16] The Rumanian statesman foresaw, and in
his vaguely anarchic fashion wished for this consummation, about which
he was to write a few years later, but the lawyer threw up his brief
and devoted his undoubted talents to bargaining and the conclusion of a
Treaty which King Charles himself described as a “drum-head truce.” In
the Near East, men have a passion for subtle and tortuous negotiations,
which are comprehended in the phrase “un marchandage Balkanique,”[17]
which end in compromises, effect no settlement, and serve to postpone
the evil day.

The Austro-Hungarian representative in Bucharest must have heaved a
sigh of relief when it became clear that Rumania’s participation in the
Conference would be restricted to land-grabbing in the Dobruja.[18]
Silistria and a district from which one of the best Bulgarian infantry
regiments drew its recruits were claimed, and eventually annexed, by
Rumania. No great extent of territory this, but enough to hurt.

The French and British press, skimming lightly on the surface of the
Conference, dealt with personalities in preference to principles. M.
Venizelos was their favourite delegate, and held that position to the
end. Success in any walk of life is profitable; success in rebellion
is the shortest road to fame. M. Venizelos had begun his career as
a Cretan rebel. In 1913 he shared with King Constantine the honours
of two victorious campaigns in Macedonia, and was credited with the
resurrection of the old Hellenic spirit. At Bucharest this remarkable
man was in a difficult position; his sole rival in the affections of
the Greek people was his sovereign, to whom he owed the allegiance of a
subject and with whom his personal relations were far from cordial. The
considered judgments of M. Venizelos favoured concessions to Bulgaria
in regard to Cavalla and its hinterland; to any such suggestions
the King replied with a categorical refusal. Fearful of forfeiting
popularity by any act which would diminish the aggrandizements of
Greece, M. Venizelos was perpetually balancing between his conception
of Balkan statesmanship and concern for his own reputation. Eventually,
the latter gained the day. Cavalla was retained by Greece and another
bone of contention was created between Greeks and Bulgars. The presence
of Servian and Turkish delegates at Bucharest was purely formal.
Like the daughters of the horse-leech, their cry was--give; to have
given them more than what they had already taken would have brought
on another war, and no one was prepared for that. Servia’s retention
of Monastir was sanctioned, the Turks remained at Adrianople. The
Bulgars, crestfallen and daunted for a time, retained a part of Thrace,
including Dede Agatch and Porto Lagos; they were alone and friendless;
the sympathies of Russia, the one-time liberator, had been estranged.
They turned their eyes, reluctantly, towards the Central Empires and
nursed a fell revenge.

In due course, the Treaty of Bucharest was signed by the contracting
parties. It has never been officially recognized by the Great Powers,
yet by many it is accepted as a basis for future readjustments in
the Balkan Peninsula. Fallacies are of rapid growth, they none the
less die hard. The negotiations had been, in fact, a diplomatic duel
between Russia and Austria-Hungary, the first clash between two mighty
movements--the “Drang nach Osten”[19] and Pan-Slavism. Austria-Hungary
had won. The new frontiers were a triumph for her diplomacy.
Servia, though victorious, was enclosed as in a net; on the East an
irreconcilable Bulgaria; on the West, Albania torn by internal discord,
and fast becoming an outpost of the Central Empires; on the South
Greece, where German influence was daily gaining ground. Killed by its
authors, the Balkan “Bloc” was dead. A new element had been introduced
into the balance of power in Europe. Servia and Bulgaria were doubtful
States no longer, they were in opposite camps, and, when the lassitude
caused by two cruel wars had passed, they could be set at each other’s
throats again to fight for interests not their own.

Great Britain had held aloof from the proceedings of the Conference.
Our Minister in Bucharest had received instructions to take neither
part nor lot in the negotiations; if called upon for an opinion he was
to endorse that of his Russian colleague. If the British Government
had any Balkan policy at all it was, apparently, a Russian policy, a
vicarious partnership, an acquiescence in the pernicious doctrine that
two wrongs may make a right.

A gaping wound had been made in Europe’s side, the surgeons had met
together at Bucharest, and fearing to probe had sewn it up with clumsy
stitches. Wounds are not healed by surgery such as this, not only do
they open up again, their poison spreads, attains some vital organ,
and causes death. Good surgery needs knowledge, foresight, courage,
the power and will to act. The men, who from ignorance or inertia
neglected and dallied with the Balkan problem, were scarcely less
guilty than the criminals who, of set purpose, made a peace which sowed
the seeds of war.

During the summer of 1913 a spell of intense heat occurred in the
fertile plains of the Danube valley. In every village dirt and
insanitary conditions encouraged flies, winged insects swarmed by night
and day, revelling in filth and carrying disease. The Rumanian peasants
who had marched into Bulgaria had been attacked by a more deadly enemy
than the Bulgarian hosts--the cholera microbe pursued them to their
homes; the malady assumed an epidemic form and raged at first unchecked.

To some it seemed an act of retribution for an unrighteous peace, a
manifestation of stern justice, dubbed divine, although its victims
were the innocent and weak. The rich escaped by fleeing to hill
stations or the sea, the poor, perforce, remained and died by hundreds,
their families were decimated, their fields were left untilled, a
blight had fallen on this pleasant land.

In her hour of trial Rumania discovered an unexpected source of
strength and consolation. Calamity had called, and from her castle in
the mountains an English Princess came, leaving the fragrant coolness
of the woods for stifling heat and misery in myriad shape, down in the
sun-scorched plain. In every cholera camp her white-clad form was seen
moving from tent to tent, bringing the tonic of her beauty, restoring
hope, dealing out pity with a lavish hand. To humble folk weighed
down by suffering, it was as though an angel passed, and memories
cluster still around those days, weaving a web of gratitude and loving
kindness, a web to outward seeming, frail and unsubstantial, but
unbreakable, surviving all the shocks of war, binding the people to
their Queen.

I returned to London through Sofia and Belgrade. After the festivities
of Bucharest the aspect of both these Capitals was sad indeed. Victor
and vanquished alike were reaping the aftermath of war; bedraggled
soldiers thronged the streets, no longer saviours, not even heroes,
merely idle citizens, useless until demobilized.

From Belgrade my duties called me to Vienna. As the train crossed
the railway bridge to Semlin, I saw again the guns and searchlights
on the Save’s Hungarian bank. Austria-Hungary had not yet decided on
her course of action, but she was ready. The Balkan Allies of 1912,
like rabbits unconscious of the presence of hungry pythons, had had
their frolic. Now, they had paused for breath and had time to think.
No longer Allies, they were helpless. Victims, not wholly innocent,
they would crouch and wait; already it seemed as if a Python-State had
stirred.



CHAPTER VII

TWO MEN WHO DIED


I. FIRST MAN. A SIMPLE SOLDIER

Near Krivolak, in the Vardar Valley, a road strikes westward, joining
the railway with the plains lying beyond a wall of mountains. At first,
it winds in tortuous fashion, following a streamlet’s rocky bed, and,
ever rising, leads to a tableland where other roads are met, and
signposts point the way to Monastir.

The Vardar Valley is a rift of gentle beauty in a wild, inhospitable
land, the mother of many tributaries coming from east and west. It
broadens on its journey to the sea, the plains adjoin and almost touch
each other, like glowing pearls strung on a silver thread. One of these
plains lies north of Krivolak, and here the valley of the winding
stream and road sinks like a lovely child into its mother’s lap. The
war had made it a Gehenna, where wagons creaked and jolted, and the
once silent spaces echoed with moans of pain.

In the main valley, close to the railway station, some tents were
grouped around a mast, and from the mast there waved a Red Cross flag.
During the hours of darkness a lamp replaced the flag; both served as
guide and landmark to the countryside, inviting all who needed help to
this outpost of humanity.

Here were received convoys of sick and wounded, some to regain their
health and strength, others to join their comrades in the graveyard
which grew in size with each succeeding day. They arrived in a
lamentable condition, bruised by rough travel in springless wagons,
their wounds neglected, and too often gangrened. From them one learned
how long the way had seemed, how from afar their eager, straining eyes
had sought the fluttering flag or the red lamp, which marked the bourne
where respite would be found after long days and nights of misery.

Amid the scores of human wrecks littering the Red Cross camp one man
attracted my especial notice--a young Servian soldier. He lay at full
length on a stretcher, and sometimes raised himself to a half-sitting
posture, but soon fell back again exhausted by the effort. Both
his legs had been shattered by shrapnel below the knees, a blanket
concealed them mercifully, he did not know the worst. The surgeon
whispered that it was a hopeless case, gangrene was far advanced, the
long, well-coupled legs were doomed, only by amputation could his life
be saved.

He thanked me for some cigarettes and smiled a boyish smile, showing a
row of splendid teeth. His uniform was caked with mud and hung in rags,
the muscles rippled on his arms and chest, which, though unwashed, were
clean, nature had kept them so.

The war had been a great event for him, he quite ignored its tragic
side, and talked of battles and a charge, of how he’d killed a Turk,
and then he added: “In a few months I will be well again and fit to
fight the Austrians.” His home was in the Drina highlands, he had grown
up under the shadow of the northern neighbours, and learned to hate
them with his mother’s milk. Yet still he kept his sunny temperament,
the priests who preached race hatred had not destroyed his soul.

Our conversation had a sudden ending. Two orderlies came to take the
stretcher and bear it to a tent, the movement made the blanket slip,
and once again the soldier raised himself instinctively--saw what was
waiting for the surgeon’s knife, a mangled mass of splintered bones,
torn tendons, rotting flesh, and fell back dead.

Perhaps it was better thus. A kindly providence had done what no man
dared to do. That lithe and sinewy form, without its legs, might have
contained a bitter heart, and added yet another drop to hatred’s
overflowing cup.


II. SECOND MAN. A PEASANT

In the Balkan Peninsula, monasteries are more than places of refuge for
people with monastic minds, they minister to a wider public, and are
at once hostels and shrines, centres of food supply and travellers’
gossip, where merchants market, while monks pray and sing. Their pious
founders have left a saintly work behind them, theirs is an incense
burnt in the furnace of affliction, mounting to heaven on waves of
gratitude.

The Monastery of St. Joachim stands in a quiet valley, a mile or more
from the main road which links Bulgarian Kjustendil with Turkish Uskub,
or in Servian Skoplje. Down this main road the tide of war had swept,
leaving a trail of empty granaries, of violated homes, and frightened,
wailing children. The people bore these trials patiently, there was
naught else to do, but when despair had overcome their hope, they one
and all, Christians and infidels alike, sought consolation at the
monastery set amid dark green trees. Thither there flocked a hungry,
homeless crowd, seeking first food and shelter, then repose, and
finding all in the great caravanserai, left standing by the tolerant
Turks.

One evening, during the first Balkan War, a Servian officer and I
arrived on horseback at the monastery gate. Close by there rose a
spring covered with slabs of stone, the water tricking through an iron
pipe into a rough-hewn trough. We paused to let our horses drink, and
saw, lying upon the ground, a man, or what was left of one. His form
was rigid, motionless, only the eyes moved, bright, black, beady eyes,
which flitted restlessly from face to face, then turned towards the
setting sun and stared, undazzled, at the flaming pageant, only to
leave it soon, and throw quick glances here and there at objects nearer
and more human.

His story was soon told. He was a Bulgarian soldier, struck by a
Turkish bullet near the spine and paralysed. Some peasants had found
him in a field, and, filled with pity, had brought him to where he lay,
so that, at least, he should not die alone.

A woman had brought a pillow for his head, a monk knelt at his other
side repeating words that solace dying men.

And then he spoke. The voice, though weak, rang clear; in a hushed
silence, it gave the final message of a man whose earthly course was
run.

Neither the woman nor the priest had touched the peasant’s heart. His
thoughts were far away, but not with wife or children, nor did the
welfare of his soul trouble his dying moments. He had a farm in the
Maritza valley, not far from Philippopolis, there he had spent his
life, and lavished all his love and care. To him that strip of land was
very dear, and, dying, he remembered it, to give some last instructions
for the next autumn sowing.



CHAPTER VIII

“1914” PEACE AND WAR


In the early spring of 1914 a revolution broke out in Southern Albania.
The Christian Epirotes, renouncing allegiance to the Prince of Wied
(the sovereign appointed by the Great Powers), had set up a provisional
and independent Government at Argyrocastron, a mountain village about
twenty miles north-east of Santi Quaranta. This port lies within easy
distance of Corfu, and, by a stroke of fortune, I was able to land
there, in spite of the fact that it was held by the insurgents. After a
short stay at Argyrocastron I went to Athens, where I was received by
both King Constantine and M. Venizelos.

The former regarded the revolution from a strictly military point of
view. He said he had decided to take disciplinary measures against
officers and men of the Greek Army who aided or abetted the Epirotes,
and seemed to think that the only duty of Greek soldiers was to their
King, to whom they owed so much. As, apparently, he was without any
detailed information on the subject, I did not tell him that numerous
Greek soldiers, wearing uniform, were already with the insurgent
bands. The King was at this time the most popular man in Greece, and
the consciousness of this had become an obsession. He had won his
popularity by two campaigns, and was meditating a third, against
Turkey, so soon as his army and his fleet would be reorganized and
re-equipped. Prussian military methods were to be followed, as far as
possible, in spite of the fact that a French Military Mission had been
charged with the training of the troops. King Constantine talked like
a young officer who had recently emerged from a staff college; coming
from the ruler of a country his conversation left an impression of
irresponsibility, one felt he was a dangerous, though well-meaning man.

M. Venizelos was moved, almost to tears, on hearing of the pitiable
condition of the Greek refugees from Central Albania, but explained
his utter helplessness to relieve their lot. Albania was under the
protection of the Great Powers, and he feared that any practical
sympathy for revolutionaries, within the frontiers made sacrosanct by
the Ambassadors’ Conference, might entail serious consequences for
himself and Greece. He inquired after M. Zografos, the head of the
Provisional Government, and one of his most bitter political opponents.
The latter had referred to M. Venizelos in unflattering terms,
describing him as both incompetent and unprincipled, but, although it
was evident that no love was lost between the two men, the man in power
disdained vituperation.

M. Venizelos spoke with real feeling about the religious side of the
revolution and the sincerity of the peasants in all that concerned
their faith. He seemed amused at the idea of M. Zografos being
associated with three Archbishops in the Provisional Government. I
asked the reason. He confined himself to saying that M. Zografos was
very rich. I replied that, from what I had seen at Argyrocastron,
at least one of the Archbishops accepted with patriotic resignation
this disqualification for the Kingdom of Heaven on the part of his
political chief, and that he had even seemed to enjoy some excellent
dinners prepared by the rich man’s cook.

The Prelates in question were, in point of fact, the real leaders of
the revolution. Between them they combined all the qualities needed by
their peculiar environment. Archbishop Basileus was a worldly-minded
old gentleman who, beneath a venerable exterior, concealed political
ability of no mean order. Of the other two--one was a meek and learned
monk, possessed of great authority among the local clergy; the third,
Germanos by name, was a striking and interesting personality. Young,
handsome, ascetic, gifted with fiery eloquence, and as religious as his
flock, he supplied a moral impulse which redeemed much that was trivial
in the conduct of the revolution; his premature death from consumption
was a real loss to Epirus and its already hopeless cause.

M. Venizelos said little about general Balkan matters, he appeared
tired and dispirited, and it was evident that the Greek Government
was not going to get itself into trouble over the Epirotes, in spite
of their pure Greek origin. These unfortunate people constituted the
wealthiest and most civilized element in the population of Albania,
they had an indisputable right to a large share in the Government of
that country. This they had not got, and, with the full knowledge
of the Great Powers, they had been left, politically, to the tender
mercies of men saturated with Turkish traditions, under the nominal
Kingship of a conceited and ignorant German Prince.

I reached Belgrade early in April, 1914. The city had resumed its
normal aspect. The General Staff were talking and planning war, the
general public was more interested in the working of the Commercial
Convention with Greece. In political and diplomatic circles vague
references were made to certain concessions to Bulgaria in the Vardar
Valley. These latter appeared to me to be so inadequate as to be hardly
worth discussing, and yet, as matters stood, the Serbs refused to
offer more. This attitude, however unfortunate, was more reasonable
in 1914 than at any previous period. In the absence of direct railway
communication between Greece and Servia, the Commercial Convention
would lose half its point, since the only railway line available passed
by the Vardar Valley through the heart of the “Contested Zone.” No
practicable trace for another line existed, except a tortuous route
impinging on Albania.

Ethnical and geographical conditions had conspired to make Macedonia a
“Debatable Land,” the creation of an independent Albania had added fuel
to the flames of discord, it had not only shortened the Serbo-Greek
frontier and prevented all communication by sea, but, by thwarting
Servian and Greek aspirations in that direction, had engendered in both
countries an uncompromising state of mind. Bulgaria’s claims remained
unaltered, they had become crystallized by defeat and disappointment;
amid the shifting sands of Balkan politics they stood out like a rock.

The Great Powers had sacrificed the interests of Greece and Servia
directly, and those of Bulgaria indirectly, on the altar of an
Autonomous Albania. Ingenuous people claimed that this course had been
dictated by high-minded motives, by a benevolent, if tardy, recognition
of the principles of self-government, whose application in other lands
could wait on this strange experiment. Naïveté is charming when not
contaminated with hypocrisy, but one swallow does not make a summer; a
single act, however specious, cannot efface a decade of intrigue.

An active economic policy in Macedonia had already been initiated by
the Austro-Hungarian Government. The first move was characteristic,
a share in the control of the Belgrade-Salonika Railway was claimed,
on the ground that a large part of the capital for its original
construction had been subscribed by citizens of the Dual Monarchy.
British newspapers dealt fully with the financial aspects of the
case, but refrained from criticizing a proposition which deprived a
sovereign independent State of the sole control of a railway within
its frontiers. The Servian Government tried to float a loan with which
to buy out the foreign shareholders, but failed--high finance is
international and obdurate to the poor. _On ne prête qu’aux riches_.[20]

I stayed in Vienna for a few days on my way to London. Here, it was
generally recognized that, in regard to Servia, a dangerous situation
was developing, which could not be neglected. Many serious people
frankly expressed the hope that some incident would occur which would
provide a pretext for taking military action against the Serbs. No
one wanted war, but every one felt that an end had to be put to “an
intolerable state of affairs”; the time for conciliatory measures had
passed, the Southern-Slav movement was assuming menacing proportions,
and would wreck the Austro-Hungarian Empire, if steps were not promptly
taken to nip it in the bud.

Such were the opinions expressed, in private circles, by men and women
who did not know with what skill and ingenuity the net had been spread
for Servia. In official circles confidence was the prevailing note;
the lessons of the last two wars had been forgotten in the Austrian
War Office, where the efficiency of the Servian Army was, as usual,
under-estimated. Diplomats professed to have no faith in the sincerity
of Russia’s intentions when posing as the champion of the Southern
Slavs; such a policy struck them as being too unselfish for the
Government of the Czar.

Cynics are bad psychologists; to them Russia has always been an enigma
and a source of error. M. Hartwig expressed the Pan-Slav point of view:
Servia was part of Russia, the Serbs were “little brothers,” destined
once more to reach the Adriatic, to bar the highway to Salonika, to
fight again, if need arose, in Slavdom’s sacred cause.

The Serbs themselves wanted independence, complete and definite; they
hoped to gain it with the help of Russia, and then to found an Empire
of their own. That Empire could be created only at the expense of
Austria-Hungary, Germany’s ally, mate of a monster Python State which
soon would raise its head.

Though outwardly at peace, Servia and Bulgaria were arming with
feverish haste, preparing to take their places in Europe’s opposing
camps. The pyramid was rising, taking shape; issues were narrowing,
effect was succeeding cause; the disintegration of the Balkan _bloc_
had left the Slavs and Teutons face to face, the arena was cleared for
a titanic struggle, those who knew anything of Europe foretold the
coming storm.

Austria-Hungary had not long to wait for the desired pretext. The
assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand was a sufficiently
sensational incident to satisfy the most exacting. The Dual Monarchy
took the fatal step, and sent an ultimatum which was its own death
warrant.

Civilization stood aghast and feigned a moral indignation which
was far from being sincere. Austria-Hungary, in thus using a weak
and neighbouring race, was acting in strict conformity with moral
standards which the Great Powers themselves had set. Junkers in
Germany, Cosmopolitan financiers in Paris, Reactionaries in England,
and the Czar’s ministers in Russia had acted, or were prepared to
act in precisely similar fashion, each in their separate sphere. In
the eyes of these men, national sentiment was the appanage of Great
Powers, the day of small States had passed. They had admitted the
independence of Albania from motives of expediency, and at the instance
of Austria-Hungary, the very State which now they should have judged.

The relations between the different European States were those which
exist between the denizens of a jungle--no moral laws restrained them,
the weak were the natural victims of the strong. The peoples were
sometimes passive, at others artificially excited, but always helpless
and inarticulate, driven like cattle in a herd. The “Jingo” Press in
every Christian land glorified might as right, eminent soldiers told a
respectful public that militarism alone could save the Commonwealth,
and that without its wholesome discipline the nations would decay;
science collaborated in the race of armaments, which had become a
source of riches and a patriotic cult.

The murder at Sarajevo gave Austria-Hungary an opening, she pressed her
advantage like a bully bent on the destruction of a weak antagonist.
Not only had the weak to go to the wall, and go there with every
circumstance of humiliation, a still more signal ignominy was needed
to mollify the wounded pride of men like Tisza;[21] who insisted that
Belgrade should be occupied, and that Servian peasants should, once
more, endure the horrors of an alien yoke. Only by such means could
an Archduke be avenged and jungle law maintained. Blinded by passion,
Austria-Hungary had forgotten that there were other carnivori in the
jungle whose interests were involved.

The Junkers, capitalists, journalists and soldiers, who had led
Europe to the verge of the abyss, now realized what lay before
them,--something incalculable, immense and elemental. Self-interest
was forgotten for a moment, even _their_ callous minds recoiled.
These men had spent their lives talking of European War, and making
costly preparations for it, but at its near approach they flinched.
In Petrograd a supreme effort was made to avert the cataclysm, it was
cynical enough and revealed the morality of the “Balance of Power” in
Europe in a brief but pregnant phrase[22]--“_Lâchez l’Autriche et nous
lâcherons les Français_” was the message to the German Government. It
came too late; public opinion in Russia was dangerously excited, and
behind the Russian people stood another Power which also was suffering
from “an intolerable state of affairs.” For nearly fifty years the
French had lived beneath a sword of Damocles wielded with German
arrogance; they supported with difficulty the “Three Years’ Service”
system, and had lent much money to the Russians. The French Government
seized its opportunity, France made the Servian Cause her own.

Three crowned heads symbolized the might and power of Central
Europe--one, senile, embittered, selfish, surrounded by a mediaeval
Court; another, pompous, vain, ambitious, a war-lord, the apex of
a social pyramid which recognized no law but force; the third, an
autocrat whose will was law to millions, a man both weak and obstinate,
whose character was a riddle to those who knew him best. Men such as
these could not prevent the conflagration; considering their influence
and position one wondered why it had not come before.

When war became inevitable, the British Empire was utterly unprepared
in both a mental and material sense; many educated people of the upper
classes were amazed at each other’s ignorance of geography; the man in
the street awoke from his wonted lethargy, and studied geography, as
well as ethics, in the pages of the _Daily Mail_.

On August 10, 1914, a troop train passed through Woking Station bound
for Southampton Harbour. The men were typical “Tommies” of the old
Army, and were in the highest possible spirits. One of them, more
curious-minded than the rest, shouted to a be-spectacled civilian on
the platform, “’Ow far is it from ’ere to Servia, guv’nor?” The train
was in motion, and time did not admit of a satisfactory reply.

After all, at that time, it did not matter where or how far away an
unknown land like Servia might be; all the best strategists were agreed
that Servia’s future destiny would be settled by a great battle in
the West. Poor Servia, it would take more than that to save her from
invasion; for the moment, anyhow, Heaven was too high, and her Allies
were too far.

A little over twelve months later, British and French troops were being
disembarked at Salonika and hurried thence to reinforce the already
beaten and retreating Serbs. I’ve wondered sometimes whether the
lighthearted boy, who tried to learn geography at Woking Station, was
of their number.

He may have struggled up the Vardar Valley and penetrated narrow
gorges, where the railway, for want of space, follows the ancient road.
He may have seen the mountains of Old Servia and caught an echo from
their frowning heights: “Too late, too late, ye cannot enter now.”



CHAPTER IX

THE NEUTRAL BALKAN STATES--1915


My duties recalled me to the Balkan Peninsula in the early spring of
1915. None too soon, the Allied Governments had turned their attention
to Near Eastern problems and had decided to dispatch an Expeditionary
Force to retrieve their damaged prestige in the East. The main
objectives were the Dardanelles and Constantinople, respectively the
gateway and the pivot of the Ottoman Empire and points of inestimable
strategic value for the future conduct of a world-wide war. Imperial
policy, in its widest and truest sense, dictated this course of action
and, as was natural and logical, the Allied Power which had most at
stake supplied the initiative and took the lead.

Great Britain, in its dual capacity of guardian of the sea-routes
of the world and the greatest Mohammedan Power, has seldom been in
a more critical position. Germany and Turkey acting in combination
could approach the Suez Canal through Asia Minor, the Red Sea through
Arabia and the Persian Gulf through Mesopotamia. Enemy successes in
these three directions could hardly fail to have an adverse influence
on Mohammedan opinion and, under such conditions, India itself would
not be safe. The foundations of the British Empire were endangered,
threatened by forces both open and insidious; a British policy, framed
by men who understood their business, was the only Allied policy which
could properly meet the case. The British statesmen then in office
faced this grave situation with steady eyes, and reached a conclusion
which, at the time, was widely criticized, but, to their credit, they
persisted in it.

The fiat went forth from Downing Street, and on the experts of
Whitehall devolved the task of evolving a strategy in harmony with
policy.

Experts, of any kind, are good servants but bad masters; they are prone
to pessimism when called to work outside their special spheres, and
are, as a rule, indifferent prophets; like the Spaniards, they often
seem wiser than they are. Expert and official opinion on both sides
of Whitehall was opposed to the expedition to the Dardanelles. The
North Sea drew the Navy like a magnet, there it was felt the decisive
battle would be fought, and the desire of islanders was natural to
make security doubly sure. Mr. Winston Churchill devoted all the
resources of his forceful and energetic personality to Eastern Naval
preparations, he had both courage and imagination, and brushed aside
the protests of officials within his jurisdiction, but these were
not the only obstacles--sometimes he must have wondered whether a
chasm had not replaced the thoroughfare which separates the Admiralty
from the War Office. In the latter building, an old machine, under
new and inexperienced direction, was creaking uneasily, barely able
to stand the strain caused by the war in France. To the War Office
staff, it seemed as if Pelion had been piled on Ossa, when they were
asked to co-operate with the Navy in a distant expedition, whose
scope and nature brought into strong relief their mental and material
unpreparedness. Refuge was sought in procrastination, difficulties
were exaggerated, the many human cogs of a complex machine groaned in
the throes of a new and unwelcome effort.

In enterprises of this nature, risks must be taken, a circumspect and
timid strategy misses the mark. In this particular instance, time was
the essence of the problem; a single Division, at the psychological
moment, was worth nine arriving late; a military force of 20,000 men,
acting in close support of the Allied Navies, could have achieved
success where a host a few weeks later, even if ably led, might fail.
The stakes were enormous, the obstacles, both naval and military,
formidable but not insuperable. A calm appreciation of the situation
should have convinced the most doubting spirits that Constantinople
could be taken by a well-timed and vigorous stroke. At this period
Turkey was isolated, her forces were disorganized and short of
ammunition, the Germans were unable to send either reinforcements or
war material to this theatre, except in driblets. The position of Enver
Pasha was precarious, his enemies were numerous and active, they had
viewed with profound misgivings the rapid growth of German influence,
and were ready for a change. Constantinople was ripe for revolution;
the wheel had turned full circle, the Allies, by the irony of fate,
could count on assistance from reactionary elements, converted by
mistrust of Germany into potential supporters of our cause. The neutral
Balkan States were waiting and, in their hearts, longing for Allied
intervention, it meant the solution of many complicated problems, and
they preferred even unpleasant certitude to doubt.

A turning point in history had been reached; statesmen had ordained
the expedition and left its execution to amphibious experts; prompt,
energetic action based on careful plans was needed, action combining
force on land and sea. A watching world was wracked with expectation,
something portentous was about to happen, the Small States held their
breath. In Whitehall, an official mountain trembled slightly, and forth
there crept a tardy, unready mouse.

While troops were being crowded pell-mell into transports and hurried
to Gallipoli, the Foreign Office in London and Paris took up the
question of the neutral Balkan States. A suggestion that reinforcements
should be sent to Servia had gained support in certain Allied quarters
and, since the only available port of disembarkation was Salonika,
for this, if for no other reason, friendly relations with the Greeks
were sought. Under the cloak of the commercial convention with Servia,
ammunition was already passing freely up the Vardar Valley, and it
was hoped that the precedent thus established might be extended so as
to cover a still more benevolent neutrality, and allow of the passage
of French and British troops. Greece was the only Balkan State which
depended for its existence on sea communications, she was completely
at the mercy of the Allies, and no amount of German intrigue, in court
and military circles, could twist the logic of hard facts. Neither
King Constantine nor his advisers were prepared to accept formally a
technical violation of Greek neutrality, they would have been helpless,
however, if the Allies had insisted. To a layman, the diplomatic
situation seemed to be typical of those described in a certain class
of novel, in which suave but firm diplomacy, supported by overwhelming
force, meets every protest with a soothing phrase and lends an air of
elegance to the most sordid bargain. When people or States are weak,
the path of consent descends by hesitating stages from “No” through
“Perhaps” to “Yes.”

The Allies did not negotiate upon these lines. They invited the
Greeks to send practically the whole of their army to reinforce the
Serbs; in return, they undertook to protect Greek communications with
Salonika, by occupying the “_non_-contested” zone in Macedonia with
Allied troops. In all my travels in the Balkan peninsula, I had never
come across a region to which the description “non-contested” could
be applied with any accuracy; in London and Paris it was visualized
by a miracle of self-deception, and acted like a charm. Here was the
solution of the Balkan question, an Allied force, immobilized in this
mysterious zone, would hold the Bulgarians in check, encourage the
Serbs and reassure the Greeks; Rumania would see what efforts we were
making and hurry to our aid; the Turks, trembling for Adrianople, would
make a separate peace.

For the moment the Greek Government was unable to entertain the
proposed arrangement; King Constantine and the Greek General Staff
rejected the suggested plan of operations and put forward another of
their own, which envisaged a second campaign against Turkey and opened
up alluring prospects further East. Temporarily, the negotiations
failed to secure either the co-operation of the Greek Army or a more
benevolent neutrality on the part of Greece. The political situation in
Athens became more and more confused. Allied diplomacy paid assiduous
court to M. Venizelos and, thereby, excited the jealousy and mistrust
of the King. Telegrams from an Imperial War Lord addressed to “Tino”
flattered the monarch’s vanity as a strategist, he laughed, with some
reason, at our tactics, and grew convinced we could not win the war.

Sofia presented a very different aspect from Athens. In the Bulgarian
capital there was little bustle in the streets, political excitement
was not apparent, the inhabitants went about their business quietly
and, in the case of most of them, that business was military in its
nature. Bulgaria, though unwilling to commit herself permanently, still
nursed her wrongs; to obtain redress for these was the object of the
entire people, and no neutral State was better prepared for war.

The alliance of Bulgaria was on the market, obtainable by either set
of belligerents at a price; that price was the territory in Thrace
and Macedonia, of which Bulgaria considered she had been wrongfully
deprived by the Treaty of Bucharest. If the Allies could have satisfied
the Bulgarian Government on this point, the Bulgarian Army would have
been employed with the same soulless ferocity against the Turks as, in
the end, it displayed against the Serbs.

The situation was clearly defined, and the rôle of diplomacy limited
to the manipulation of cross-currents of popular feeling and personal
sympathies, which, in Bulgaria as in every other State, divided
opinion among several political camps. Unfortunately for the Allies,
neither the British nor the French representative in Sofia had the
requisite qualifications for making verbiage about a “non-contested”
zone pass for a definite policy in the Balkans. The British Minister
was--rightly or wrongly--credited with Servian sympathies, the French
Minister was not a “persona grata” with King Ferdinand, whose favour
was all-important in a diplomatic sense. There does not appear to have
been any reason for the retention of either of these officials in their
posts, except the habitual unwillingness of government departments to
disturb routine. The difficulty of finding substitutes did not arise
in either case. Our Foreign Office had at its disposal a brilliant
young diplomatist, with a unique experience of Balkan capitals,
who could have rendered more useful services as Minister in Sofia
than as Counsellor of Embassy in Washington; a well-selected French
aristocrat would have received a cordial welcome from a Prince of the
Orleans family, who himself controlled Bulgaria’s foreign policy, and
whose “spiritual home” was France. The foregoing were some of the
imponderable factors in Bulgaria; in 1914 they could have been turned
to good account, in 1915 it was perhaps too late.

In time of war, a diplomatic duel is like a game of cards in which
victories are trumps; no amount of diplomatic skill can convert defeat
into success. During the spring and summer of 1915, our Diplomats in
the Balkans fought an unequal fight. The conviction that a stalemate
existed on the front in France and Flanders was daily gaining ground,
public attention was concentrated on the Dardanelles, and here the
operations were followed with an interest as critical as it was
intelligent. During the war against Turkey, the topographical features
in this theatre had been closely studied by the Bulgarian General
Staff, when a portion of the Bulgarian Army had penetrated into
Turkish Thrace as far as the lines of Bulair. To these men our tactics
became daily more incomprehensible. At first, the assaults on the
Western extremity of the Gallipoli Peninsula were taken to be feints,
intended to cover a landing in the neighbourhood of Enos, but, when
it was realized that these were the major operations, when thousands
of lives were sacrificed for the capture of a few bare and waterless
cliffs, their bewilderment became intensified, and into all their minds
there crept a doubt. General Fitcheff, the Chief of Staff and a man
whose English sympathies were widely known, ran considerable risks
by giving his expert advice in regard to a landing on the coast near
Enos; he was no arm-chair critic but a practical soldier with recent
and personal experience of battlefields in Thrace. His views were
identical with those of the King of Greece and, indeed, of the vast
majority of soldiers in the Balkans. They were rejected or ignored; a
pseudo-omniscient optimism pervaded Allied counsels and acted like a
blight.

Our friends in Bulgaria contemplated the useless slaughter at Gallipoli
with horror and dismay, waverers turned to German agents, who took
full advantage of every change of mood. An influx of German officers
and officials began about this time; they had access to all Government
departments, and assumed control of part of the Bulgarian railway
system; as one result of their activities Constantinople received
supplies of ammunition, whose Bulgarian origin was suspected if not
known.

The journey from Sofia to Bucharest lasts less than twenty-four hours,
its one noteworthy feature is the abrupt transition from a Slavonic
to a Latin race. The Bulgars are reserved and taciturn, strangers are
treated coldly, they are not wanted unless they come on business whose
utility can be proved. I left Sofia impressed by the efficiency and
self-confidence of the people, but chilled by their morose and almost
sullen ways. On crossing the Danube a new world was entered, where
hearts were warm and life was gay and easy, where every one talked
cleverly and much, and where, perhaps, words counted more than deeds.

In the spring of 1915 Bucharest was a diplomatic arena, in which all
the Great Powers were making prodigious efforts. Russia had ceased to
treat her southern neighbour as a revolted colony; the Central Empires
had developed a sudden sympathy for Rumania’s national aspirations,
more especially in the direction of Bessarabia; Great Britain had made
a loan of £5,000,000, on little or no security, and, as a further
proof of disinterested friendship, was buying a large proportion of
the output of the oilfields, regardless of the impossibility of either
using or exporting this more than ever precious product. A golden age
had dawned, business men were doing a roaring trade, cereals were being
bought at fancy prices and, looming ahead, were brighter prospects
still.

I looked for the warlike preparations of which the War Office in London
had so confidently spoken. Of officers there appeared to be no dearth,
the streets and cafés were crowded with brilliant uniforms, whose
wearers sauntered slowly to and fro, bestowing glances on the softer
sex which were returned in kind. To seek the favour of the fair has at
all times been a martial occupation. A wise man once remarked: “I know
not how, but martial men are given to love,” and added some comments on
perils, wine and pleasures which seemed to fit this case. But war is
not made with officers alone, men are required, men of the people, who
have no decorative functions in the piping times of peace. These were
lacking, they were neither on the streets nor in the barracks, they
were in their homes, producing wealth and not yet bearing arms.

Rumania was not prepared for war; no reservists had been mobilized,
training depots were at normal strength, there was a shortage of
horses for the Cavalry and Field Artillery, the Heavy Artillery was
deficient both in quality and quantity, the aviation equipment was out
of date, last but not least, the reserve stocks of ammunition had been
depleted, and the Rumanian arsenals lacked the plant needed for their
replenishment and the maintenance of an army in the field.

A policy which co-ordinated diplomacy and strategy would have carefully
weighed the “pros” and “cons” of an alliance with Rumania. The mere
presence of an army in a certain geographical position means little,
unless that army is an organization ready to act, containing within
itself the means whereby its action can be sustained. Rumania was a
granary of corn, a reservoir of oil, both valuable commodities, though
more so to our enemies than ourselves, but, from a military point
of view, the co-operation of this land of plenty involved a heavy
charge. To meet this charge, not only had guns and ammunition to be
sent, the Rumanian Army was short of everything, including boots and
clothes. Supply alone, though at this period difficult enough, did not
completely solve the problem, delivery required communications capable
of transporting at least 300 tons a day. No such communications existed
between Rumania and the Western Powers. Imports could reach Bucharest
or Jassy only through Servia or Russia, the railways in both countries
were inefficient and congested, to send ammunition by these routes, in
time of war, was to pass it through a sieve. The prophecy, made in May,
1915, that the then existing communications could not deliver more
than a seventh of Rumania’s requirements was well within the mark.

In short, in the spring and summer of 1915, the alliance of Rumania
would have been for the Western Powers a doubtful advantage and a heavy
responsibility. The first of these considerations might, at least, have
restrained the French Minister at Bucharest from demanding Rumanian
intervention with a vehemence which too frequently degenerated into
insult; it was fully appreciated by the Grand Duke Nicholas who, in his
quality of Russian Generalissimo, described as “une folie furieuse”
what the French Diplomat thought would turn the scale in favour of the
Allied cause. The second consideration should have appealed to the
British Government, the representatives of a people who look before
they leap. British statesmanship had inspired the Near Eastern policy
of the Allies, and had chosen as first objectives Constantinople and
the Dardanelles. Impartial historians will justify this choice; here
lay the key of the whole Balkan situation, here were the lever and
the fulcrum with which to actuate the Neutral States. Once masters of
Constantinople and its waterways, the Allies would have found Rumania
willing, when ready with their help, to co-operate in a concerted plan.
Her army, based on the Black Sea and the Danube, would have become
dynamic, a source of strength, instead of weakness, to an inert and
passive Russian front; Bulgaria, reduced to impotence, would either
have kept a strict neutrality or, breaking unnatural bonds, have
returned to the Russian fold; the Greeks, with their eyes on Smyrna,
could not have held aloof.

During the early months of 1915, diplomatic activity in Athens and
Sofia might have achieved results, it might, conceivably, have secured
the co-operation of the Greeks and Bulgars in our operations at the
Dardanelles; at Bucharest the position was wholly different. To urge
Rumanian intervention at this period was foolish and immoral, it
demanded an immense sacrifice from the Rumanian people which could not
help the Allies and might do their cause incalculable harm.

Owing to geographical conditions, the Central Empires were able to
offer Rumania more than merely contingent support in return for her
co-operation and alliance. Numerous railways cross the Carpathians and
by means of these the Rumanian army could have been promptly equipped
and efficiently maintained during a forward movement into Bessarabia, a
province described by German Diplomats as Rumania’s “promised land.”

Rumania lay between the upper and the nether millstones of belligerent
diplomacy, the mill was working at high pressure, but was not
grinding small. M. Bratiano, the Rumanian Prime Minister, was equally
uninfluenced by the promises of Germany, the blandishments of Russia,
the taunts of France, and the loans of Great Britain. He refused to
deviate from a policy of more or less impartial neutrality, and awaited
what he himself described as “le moment opportun.”[23]

Disgruntled allied diplomats and many of his countrymen reproached M.
Bratiano with lethargy and cowardice, in reality they owed him a debt
of gratitude; better than they he knew the unreadiness of the army and
the country for an adventurous policy, and, fortunately for Rumania
in 1915, he possessed sufficient sense and courage to reject their
amateurish plans. On the other hand, he had too sound a judgment to
be dazzled by proposals, however spacious, which held out prospects
of territorial conquest at the expense of Russia, although, as his
father’s son,[24] he suspected all Russians of treachery and guile.

Since the death of King Charles in November, 1914, M. Bratiano had
been the guiding force in Rumanian political life; he stood between
the extremists, who clamoured for intervention on the Allied side
without regard for consequences, and the Pro-germans, whose hatred and
mistrust of Russia had overcome the instincts of men of a Latin race;
his influence with King Ferdinand was undisputed, he used it to impose
a neutral attitude, both in the Council and at Court. This man had many
qualities of high statesmanship, he loved his country and had at least
one deep conviction--he was convinced that in the end the Allies would
win the war.

“Le moment opportun” of M. Bratiano was the moment when Rumania could
take up arms to fight on the Allies’ side, under conditions which
would confer a reasonable prospect of success; in his more expansive
moods he confessed to cherishing the hope, and even the belief, that
the Rumanian Army would deal the decisive blow. A proud thought this,
coming from a citizen of a little Neutral State during so great a war;
but Ion Bratiano was nothing if not proud.

Events were to put a heavy strain on the Prime Minister’s faith and
hope, times of trial and temptation lay ahead, when more garrulous
champions of the Entente were to give way to doubt. The withdrawal
from the Dardanelles, Bulgaria’s alliance with the Central Powers and
Servia’s subsequent rout were incidents charged with grave import to
Rumania, and destined to postpone indefinitely “le moment opportun.”
M. Bratiano never wavered, he waited patiently, by thus resisting the
impulses of interest and sentiment, he faithfully interpreted the
Rumanian people’s will.

1915 was a black year for the Allies, a period of diplomatic defeats
and military disasters. The officials and experts had had their
way; the policy, which had frightened them and of which they had
disapproved, had been reversed; Servia, the victim of predigested
plans, had been overrun, the succour so long demanded had been sent
three months too late; the Near East, save for some ragged remnants,
immobilized in Macedonia, had been denuded of troops and abandoned to
the enemy; the legend of British tenacity and perseverance had been
tried in a fiery furnace and had not survived the test.

Confusion, both mental and material, prevailed throughout the
British Empire; a vague uneasiness had entered every mind; a race of
hero-worshippers had vainly sought a hero and the market place was
strewn with broken idols. The war had introduced a new dimension, an
all pervading influence, a nightmare which haunted waking moments, a
great winding-sheet, a deluge submerging human thought.

During these days of evil omen, one reassurance was vouchsafed, one
thought consoled, lightening an atmosphere of gloom like a rainbow in a
lowering sky. The British people, though disillusioned and humiliated,
still kept the virtues of their race; in their hour of trial, they
rose above misfortune, and proved themselves worthy descendants of
the inspired adventurers whose heritage they held. Men to whom war
was odious developed into seasoned warriors, and women, who had never
worked before, gave up their lives to toil.

On battlefields, heroic valour was regarded as a commonplace, in
countless homes, self-sacrifice became a daily rite. In British
hearts, despair had found no place, theirs was a confidence born of
consciousness of strength, the strength which in Kinglake’s glowing
words is: “Other than that of mere riches, other than that of gross
numbers, strength carried by proud descent from one generation to
another, strength awaiting the trials that are to come.”



CHAPTER X

SLEEPING WATERS

    Oh Angel of the East one, one gold look
    Across the waters to this twilight nook,
    The far sad waters, Angel, to this nook!

              ROBT. BROWNING.


Before Rumania became a kingdom, and while Wallachia and Moldavia were
separate Principalities, under the suzerainty of Turkish Sultans, a
Russian Army occupied the land, the pretext for its presence being
the maintenance of law and order. The Russian Government appointed as
Pro-Consul a certain General Kissileff, who planted trees and laid out
roads and proved himself a wise administrator; the good he did survives
him, one of the roads he planned and built commemorates his name.

The Chaussée Kissileff, or for short _The_ Chaussée, is an avenue of
lime trees, which forms the first stage of Rumania’s “Great North
Road.” Four lines of trees border two side tracks and the Central
Chaussée. During the winter months, their spreading branches afford
protection from the wind and rain, in spring and summer, they fill the
air with fragrance and cast a grateful shade. This thoroughfare is
a boon to Bucharest, it is at once an artery and a lung. Here, when
Rumania was a neutral, courted State, beauty encountered valour, while
nursemaids, children, dogs and diplomats, of every breed and nation,
walked, toddled, gambolled, barked, or passed on scandal, according to
their nature and their age.

Beyond the race course the Chaussée bifurcates. One branch I have
already called Rumania’s “Great North Road,” it leads, as its name
implies, due north to the oilfields and the mountains; the other is
a humbler route, trending westward across a stretch of open country
towards a wooded, dim horizon. It I will name Rumania’s “Pilgrim’s Way.”

When I was a dweller in the plain, few houses, large or small, stood on
“The Pilgrim’s Way,” which, after dipping to a stream, curved to the
west and followed the northern bank, its bourne some feathery treetops,
its only guardians cohorts of unseen frogs, whose multitudinous voices
rose in chorus, ranging the diapason of croaking, guttural sounds. This
was no intermediate zone athwart the road to Hades, but the frontier
of a region known to some as “Sleeping Waters,” whose chief city was a
garden on the stream’s bank and beyond the distant trees.

The votaries of wealth and recreation followed the “Great North
Road,” seeking Ploesti’s oily treasures or villas and a casino at
Sinaia, where the gay world of Bucharest breathed mountain air in the
Carpathian foothills, and summer heat was tempered amid perennial pines.

“The Pilgrim’s Way” was less frequented, but the pilgrims, though not
numerous, were, not the less select. Among them were the Monarch and
his Queen, the Prime Minister, the representatives of several foreign
Powers, and men and women bearing names which rang like echoes of
Rumania’s history when Princes ruled the land.

If asked why they made their pilgrimage so often, the pilgrims would
have answered with a half-truth: “We seek serenity in a garden fair,
and shade and quiet after the city’s heat and noise”--they certainly
did not go to meet each other, nor did they, like Chaucer’s characters,
tell tales and gossip as they fared along the road--they went to the
same shrine, but went separately, they made their vows to the same
Deity, but they made them one by one.

Two landmarks lay beside the road, serving as measures of the Pilgrim’s
Progress, both were pathetic and symbolical--one was a broken bridge,
which was always being repaired in slow and dilatory fashion, the other
a mill, which never appeared to work.

Bratiano himself had built bridges in his youth, and, speaking both as
expert and Prime Minister, he declared one day that when the bridge
would be completely mended Rumania would forswear neutrality and
join the Allied Cause. A whimsical conceit indeed, but illustrative
of its author’s mood. When Italy, a Latin and a sister State, bound,
like Rumania, by a Treaty to both the Central Powers, had taken the
irrevocable step, work was resumed upon the bridge with greater energy;
but soon it languished, and blocks of rough-hewn stone encumbered the
wayside, mute symbols of the hesitation which was still torturing a
cautious statesman’s mind.

The mill stands at the western end of a broad reach of the same stream
which traverses the realm of frogs; the waters, held up by a dam, are
as still and motionless as a standing pond, and yet they once had
turned the mill wheel, although, no doubt, they had always seemed to
sleep. A village begins here where the waters broaden; three years
ago it was a straggling street of squalid houses, where peasants
dwelt in the intervals of laborious days. Rumanian peasants, at this
period, lived under laws which left them little liberty, and gave them
few delights. Their toil accumulated riches for their masters, the
hereditary owners of the soil, while they eked out a scanty livelihood,
and though in name free men, in fact they were half slaves.

Peasants when slaves are seldom rebels. Spartacus has won a place in
history by being the exception to the rule, a rule well known to men
who never read a book, but feel instinctively that they themselves
are helpless to redress their wrongs. Such is the bitter truth, and
those who should know better often presume on it, until their victims,
exasperated by neglect and insolence, lose for a while the habit of
forbearance, flame into sudden anger, indulge in fierce reprisals, and
when exhaustion follows relapse into dull despair. Wrongs unredressed
resemble pent-up waters, which seek an outlet, useful or wasteful as
the case may be, and finding none, in time they sweep away the stoutest
dam, causing widespread destruction by their dissipated force.

In 1907 a large number of Rumanian peasants had revolted. Order,
so-called, had been restored by employing other peasants, clothed in
uniforms, to shoot their fellow-sufferers down. The tragedy of violence
and repression was of but short duration; once more the peasants
resigned themselves to fate, once more their smouldering passions were
pent up by a dam of military force.

Bratiano, as leader of the Liberal Party, became Prime Minister at
the end of 1913; he realized more clearly than his predecessors that
Rumania’s peasant population was one of the country’s greatest assets,
and that, under the then existing conditions, this asset was not being
fully utilized. His Government was pledged to a scheme of agrarian
reform, and began its task with a characteristic act--money was needed,
but increased taxation meant loss of popularity, and so the Army vote
was drawn upon, and the equipment of the troops neglected. Like many
others, Bratiano had refused to believe that the German people would so
abase themselves before the Junkers as to permit the latter to provoke
a European war; he had been mistaken, he had erred by rating common
sense too high. When Germany’s criminal folly became an accomplished
fact, it found the Rumanian Army unprepared, and shattered Bratiano’s
plans. Rumania, though a neutral State, lived in the shadow of the
cataclysm, perpetually a prey to excursions and alarms; reforms in such
an atmosphere were impossible, the old abuses lingered, the middle
classes reaped a golden harvest, and further claims were made on the
patience of the poor.

Mad misdirection and abuse of human effort were disintegrating Central
Europe, and had paralysed progressive legislation in every neighbouring
State. During his frequent pilgrimages, a disappointed statesman had
time for sombre meditations, he may have seen a symbol of them in a
wide stretch of sleeping waters stagnating round a disused mill.

An avenue of elm trees leads westward from the mill, skirting the
water’s edge; it runs in a straight line on level ground, and so, a
pilgrim entering by the gate could see at the far end, although it was
a kilometre distant, a walnut tree against a white background. When
blazing sunlight beat down on the fields and swirls of dust choked
travellers on the road, this avenue was always cool and green and, like
a vast cathedral’s nave, soothed anxious, troubled spirits and rested
dazzled eyes. At all seasons of the year, an innumerable host of rooks
circled above the elms, and from a choir in the clouds bird-voices
pealed in deep-toned rapturous crescendos, lulling the memories of
petty strife and discord brought from the city in the plain.

Three years ago, a low two-storied building, in colour mainly white,
with wide verandahs embowered in creepers, stood out against the sky
beyond the walnut tree. The house faced south, on both sides and behind
it were open spaces flanked by greenhouses and walled gardens, through
which there ran an avenue of Italian poplars, linking the village with
a private chapel; in front, the “sleeping waters” spread out in their
full glory, a broad and placid surface fringed with willows, which
leaned away from the supporting banks as though they sought their own
reflection. Between the waters and the house a palace stood, empty but
not a ruin, a monumental relic of a bygone reign and period; standing
four square, crowned and protected by a roof of slate. Such buildings
can be seen in Venice and Ragusa, with fluted columns poised on
balustrades of rich and fanciful design, composing graceful loggias.

More than two centuries have passed since Bassarab Brancovan, a ruling
prince, first brought Italian craftsmen to Wallachia. The tokens of
these exiles’ art are numerous, but nowhere do they find such perfect
and complete expression as in this palace, built for the prince
himself, whose pale, brick walls, with fretted cornices and sculptured
Gothic windows, are mirrored in a glassy surface and framed by willow
trees.

Within the dwelling-house, the rooms looked larger than they were,
an optical illusion being produced by shadows on floor and ceiling
and corners obscured in gloom. The curtains hung upon the walls like
draperies, and chairs and tables were disposed in groups, with an
unerring instinct for achieving harmony between utility and taste.
Flowers were never absent from these rooms, and made the house a floral
temple, whose forecourt was alternately the greenhouse and the garden,
the former produced in January what the latter gave in June.

Such was the shrine--the presiding Deity was a lady still young in
years, but learned in history and the arts, beyond the compass of most
men. With her there lived her daughter and an English governess, a
peacock in the garden and a mouse-coloured Persian cat.

Here, men whose lives were darkened by suspicion found a rare
atmosphere, where mystery was physical, and did not hide the truth;
here, could be learned the story of a race from one whose memory was
saturated with traditions, who faced the future calmly, knowing its
perils, sustained by hope and faith; here could be heard the twin
voices of sanity and reason, expounding not what Rumania was supposed
to think, but what Rumania thought.

In Bucharest, a very different tone prevailed--sentimentality, not
wholly free from interest, combined with unscrupulous propaganda to
misrepresent the issues before the Rumanian people and the Government.
Even official representatives of the Allied Powers joined in the
conspiracy of deception. In the month of April, 1915, the French
Military Attaché announced, with all the authority conferred by his
position and access to secret sources of information, that the Germans
could not continue the war for more than two months from the date on
which he spoke, as their stocks of copper were exhausted; the argument
based on this astounding statement was that Rumania should intervene
at once, and lay hands on Transylvania before it would be too late. In
private life a man who tried to gain advancement by such methods would
be locked up for fraud.

In England and France the ignorance about Rumania, even in official
circles, was amazing; for knowledge ready substitutes were found in
prejudices and preconceived ideas. These ideas were based on reports
furnished by Secret Service agents of the most obvious description,
whose exemplars were the villains in the novels of Le Queux, and who
were regarded with amusement and contempt by people on the spot. The
information thus obtained consisted of echoes from the cafés and
excerpts from the gutter press. It was sensational enough, though
mischievous and misleading, and gave satisfaction to officials who
never faced realities, unless they suited their desires.

By certain circles at Bucharest, the foibles of the Allied Governments
were systematically exploited: politicians emerged from the shades of
opposition into a meretricious limelight; bankers and business men made
deals which opened up an El Dorado, and social grudges were revived
under the cloak of patriotic zeal. While Rumania remained a neutral
State, Bucharest was a city divided against itself. Two camps were
formed, a war of words was waged; slander and calumny were the weapons,
and were wielded by both men and women with venom and impunity.

To minds possessed and poisoned by this ignoble strife, the calm
serenity of “the sleeping waters” was anathema; the extremists and
their partisans viewed with suspicion a detachment which was as natural
as it was sincere. They could not understand, far less forgive, an
attitude of aloofness to their cliques and combinations; they were
enraged by such neglect, since, with some reason, they took it for
disdain. Thoughtless themselves, and caught up in a vortex of mental
confusion and unreason, they poured the vials of their jealousy and
hate upon a head as innocent as fair, because it dared to think.

       *       *       *       *       *

By a strange turn of fate, I meditate this fragment of past memories
down by the waters of Old Nile. Behind me rise the columns of a temple,
whose capitals portray the Lotus and Papyrus, signs of the River God.
Before me lies the tank, where the god lived three thousand years ago.
By the same path on which I stand were hurried shrieking victims, as
sacrifices to a crocodile, an animal so dangerous to river folk that
they worshipped it, and sought to propitiate the object of their fear
with their own flesh and blood.

Man’s nature has changed little since those days; his cruelty takes
more subtle forms, but is not a whit less harsh. His god is Mammon, and
his victims the poor and weak, or those who, by innate superiority,
are an unconscious menace and reproach. The sacrificial act does not
consist in killing--to Mammon, oblations must be made in such a way as
not to roughly kill the victims but first to spoil their lives.



CHAPTER XI

THE DISASTER IN RUMANIA--1916


During the early months of 1916, Bucharest had been comparatively
neglected by the Foreign Offices of the belligerent States. So far as
could be seen, the Central Empires had abandoned the hope of obtaining
Rumanian co-operation against Russia. Count Czernin[25] had expressed
himself openly to that effect, and his German colleague, though more
discreet, in all probability shared his views. The French and Italian
Ministers were a prey to exasperation and suspicions; to them it seemed
outrageous that a little Latin State should refuse to act on French
advice or to follow Italy’s example; their prejudices warped their
judgment, they lost their sense of dignity, and sank to the level of
mere partisans. Such men could not influence the coldly logical mind
of Bratiano, who treated them with scorn. The British and Russian
Ministers were the buttresses of allied diplomacy in Bucharest. Both
stood for so much; one was the spokesman of a people whose good faith
and love of fair play were still unquestioned, the other was the envoy
of the only Allied Power in direct contact with Rumania, a Power whose
past conduct had justified mistrust but whose size inspired fear.
Through no fault of their own, these two men were unable to exert their
proper influence; neither of them had definite instructions from his
Government, and both had learned, from past experience, that under
such conditions it was better to “wait and see.” To any dispassionate
observer on the spot, this meant--to wait on events and see disaster
come.

The perils of premature intervention, both for the Allies and the
Rumanian people, were only too obvious. While Rumania’s sole link with
the Western Powers was a precarious line of communications through
Russia, her neutrality was preferable to her alliance; the former
was no doubt unsatisfactory, but the latter exposed a reservoir of
food supplies and petrol to invasion from the south and west. Even
if properly equipped and efficiently maintained, the Rumanian Army
would have had no easy task; in the absence of these conditions it was
madness to go to war.

In Paris, the irritation was profound. The French Government had
assumed control of the negotiations with the neutral Balkan States, and
was mastered by an impatience born of intolerance and fear. This frame
of mind had been induced by a total misconception of the real facts
of the case. There was no danger that the Rumanian people, however
tempted, would join the Central Powers. Bratiano surveyed the European
situation through the same telescope as the Allies. He saw their final
triumph clearly, but knew it was not so close as they imagined. His
vision, perhaps, had magnified the distance by looking through the
larger end, but, unlike them, he knew the complexity of the problem to
be dealt with in the East; they viewed it merely as an adjunct to the
slaughter in the West.

The Quai d’Orsay was quite incapable of appreciating the Rumanian
point of view; its self-appointed task was “to bring Rumania in.”
Persuasion, on moral and sentimental grounds, had been unavailing.
Some details of the Italian Treaty had leaked out, and had revealed
a marked absence of the principles of self-sacrifice and abnegation,
in the cause of liberty, on the part of a greater Latin State. It was
clear that Rumania, like Italy, would have to get her price; much would
depend, however, on the way that price was paid.

Rumania claimed Transylvania, together with Bukovina and the Banat,[26]
as her share of the spoil, in the event of Allied victory; she was
eager to fight for these Austro-Hungarian provinces, if given a
fighting chance. Unfortunately for the Allies, no amount of eloquence
could improve the communications through the Russian Empire, and a
second attempt to force the Dardanelles was excluded from their plans.
Arguments based on the presence of Allied troops at Salonika, with
which it was suggested the Rumanian Army might co-operate, were without
effect, and the statement in this connection that the shortest way to
Budapest was via Sofia was regarded as more picturesque than true. The
Rumanian Government had no desire to make war on the south bank of
the Danube, where nothing was to be gained, and the Rumanian General
Staff knew, from experience, the difficulties of a Danube crossing if
seriously opposed. An operation of this nature would have absorbed a
large proportion of the Rumanian forces, leaving an insufficient number
to hold the frontier in the Carpathians, which was longer than the
Allied front in France, while the distance from its nearest point to
Bucharest was less than 100 miles.

The foregoing were some of the obstacles to Rumanian intervention.
To overcome them by fair means demanded considerable efforts from
the Allies as part of a concerted plan. No such plan existed; France
could offer nothing except promises of ammunition, Great Britain could
provide ships and money, Russia alone could give support and, if the
need arose, apply pressure to this neutral State.

The case of Greece was simpler. There, reluctance could be dealt with
and “unnatural” behaviour punished. The Piræus could be reached by sea,
whereas Rumania was land-locked to the Allies. The Russian Empire was
the neighbour and the only highway, and Germany was near.

“All is fair in love and war.” The Allies had passed through the stage
of courtship with Rumania; their blandishments and arguments had
yielded no results. Cajolery of agents behind the back of Bratiano had
also been tried and failed. Now they declared war on her neutrality,
and, through the force of circumstances, let Russia take the lead.

The British Government had, as usual, no policy in the Balkans, and
was amenable to French advice. A series of diplomatic rebuffs at
Athens had confirmed our Foreign Office in its traditional attitude of
disinterestedness, and the general feeling was that Rumania, in common
honesty, should intervene, because she had accepted loans. Some people
think that British gold can purchase anything, including a little
country’s soul. The War Office Staff was absorbed by the operations
in France and Flanders, to the exclusion of all other theatres in
a world-wide war. To the strategists of Whitehall the military
participation of Rumania was just another “side-show,” which they
accepted with some reserves and treated as the lighter side of the war;
they were prepared to endorse any plan which did not involve the use
of British soldiers, and left their own selves free to duplicate the
work of Army Staffs and other exponents of “Grand Tactics” already on
the Western front. Ignorance and indifference made these officers the
echoes of Frenchmen who posed as experts; the protests of Englishmen
who pointed out that the Rumanian Army was, figuratively, “in the air,”
were brushed aside as technical objections, which would have carried
weight in the “main theatre,” but were pretexts, in a “side-show,”
for inaction and delay. These military “Panglosses” had chosen to
forget their own shortsightedness and mismanagement at Gallipoli, the
fate of Servia contained no lesson for them, they urged Rumania to do
what they themselves would not have done, and stilled the voice of
conscience with the hope that all would be for the best in the best of
all possible alliances, if not at once at any rate in the end. What
that end would be or when it would occur, the official mind could not
foresee. It foresaw nothing except a chance of self-advancement, and
that it promptly seized.

In Petrograd there had never been great enthusiasm in regard to
Rumanian intervention. Russian military opinion, as expressed by the
Grand Duke Nicholas in 1915, had been opposed to an extension of the
Eastern front by the Rumanian Army, whose unpreparedness was well known
to the Russian Staff. This reasoning had at the time been eminently
sound, and the fact that in the intervening period Bulgaria had joined
forces with the Central Powers only increased its cogency. Another
factor supervened: the men who ruled Russia at this period had not
forgotten Plevna.[27] Great Powers dislike being under obligations to
little neighbouring States, and are apt to be bad debtors when it comes
to paying debts. Though not over-burdened with scruples, the Russian
Government realized that, on this occasion, a contract entered into
with Rumania might have to be fulfilled. The Pan-Slavist elements in
Petrograd objected to any aggrandizement of the southern neighbour, and
thought Rumania’s price too high; in their eyes, postponement of final
victory was preferable to having, for the second time, so exacting a
partner in success. Hitherto, Russia had worked to keep Rumania out,
while France and Great Britain tried to bring her in.

The Russian character is a strange amalgam; some of its moods are noble
and poetic, others are fierce and ruthless as those of a wild beast.
When the Allies had used persuasion with Rumania, Russia had stood
aside, but when a different note was sounded, when growing irritation
and impatience decided the Government in Paris to force Rumania’s hand,
a ready and willing instrument was found in the Government of the Czar.
Here was a policy which gave full scope to strength and cunning; Great
Britain and France might preach morality and justice, Russia would act
with violence and guile.

From the beginning of June onwards, a veil of secrecy shrouded the
negotiations of the Allies as to the plan of action in Rumania. The
“High Contracting Parties” might well have quoted the hero[28] of a
double murder when he said, “Not easily have we three come to this.”
Though they were only planning murder, it was essential for that
plan’s success to protect it from all criticism until it had done its
work.

Early in July the first overt move was made. It took the form of a
message from Russian General Headquarters, and was sent by General
Alexieff, the Chief of Staff of all the Russian armies, who, of
course, acted in his Imperial master’s name. The general tenor of
this communication was to the effect that a favourable opportunity
had presented itself for Rumania’s intervention, which, if not seized
without delay, might pass irrevocably, since her assistance would
no longer be required and she would not even be permitted to make a
triumphal entry into Transylvania; the concluding words were, “Now
or never.” A statement, a taunt, and a threat made up the Russian
ultimatum, for it was nothing else, and, as was only fitting, it was
communicated by the Russian Military Attaché to the Rumanian Chief
of Staff and to the Prime Minister in his dual capacity of Minister
for War. Within a few days, the British and French Military Attachés
received instructions from their respective War Offices to endorse
the communication made verbally by their Russian colleague. So far,
apparently, the Allied Ministers in Bucharest had had no instructions
in the matter, and two of them, at least, continued to “wait and see.”

After the first shock of disgust, Bratiano was inclined to pay no
attention to proceedings so irregular, as to suggest ignorance of
international usages on the part of certain officers, although they
were Chiefs of Staff. He may have been right about their ignorance, but
the second move must have dispelled any doubts as to their pertinacity
and intentions. It emanated from Paris and from a distinguished
military authority. General Joffre instructed the French Military
Attaché to inform the Rumanian War Office that the Central Empires
_could_ not send more than ten divisions to operate against Rumania;
five of these would be German and five Austro-Hungarian divisions. The
latter were described as being of inferior class. No reference was
made to Bulgarian or Turkish forces, an omission which justified the
inference that those already on the southern frontier could not be
reinforced. The British and Russian Attachés were instructed to confirm
this estimate. The Italian Attaché had standing orders from his War
Office, under all and any circumstances, to agree with the other three.

General Joffre was much respected in Rumania. His opinion on military
matters could not fail to impress a civilian, and that opinion had
been uttered in no uncertain voice. For the first time, Bratiano
wavered. The Rumanian Army consisted of sixteen divisions, of which ten
were fairly well equipped. If Joffre’s estimate of enemy forces were
correct, the invasion of Transylvania could be undertaken with fair
chances of success. Agents reported that Germany was weakening and that
Austro-Hungary was verging on collapse; there might be some truth in
the Russian General’s statement, and perhaps “le moment opportun” had
come.

The Prime Minister was the son of a great Rumanian patriot and
wished to follow in his father’s steps; the father had united two
Principalities in a kingdom, the son had set himself the task of
extending that kingdom beyond the western mountains, and aspired to
be the architect of the Greater Rumania of his father’s prophetic
dreams. Fear of not winning makes men gamble, and this anticipatory
fear pervaded Bratiano’s mind; he in whom courage went with pride now
quailed before prospective self-reproach.

Allied diplomacy was quick to perceive the effect of the first two
moves; these had been, respectively, a threat and an assurance, the
third was a promise: before Rumania intervened, General Sarrail’s[29]
army would make an offensive on a scale large enough to prevent the
dispatch of enemy reinforcements from the Salonika front to the
Dobrudja or the Danube. The strength of the enemy forces in Northern
Bulgaria was variously estimated, but the Rumanian General Staff was
informed that _their_ figures were exaggerated and an emphatic denial
was given as to the presence of Turkish troops. The Allied Intelligence
Service overlooked the fact that Rumania still had her representatives
in Sofia, and among them at least one officer who had both eyes and
ears.

About this time the Bulgarian Government made overtures to the Rumanian
Prime Minister in regard to a separate peace. How far these overtures
were sincere it would be hard to say. Their purpose was to use Rumania
as an intermediary; their effect was to remove the last misgivings
from Bratiano’s mind. He attached no great importance to the Salonika
offensive, except so far as it might strengthen Bulgaria’s desire for
peace.

By the end of July the negotiations for Rumanian intervention were
far advanced. In these, Russia played the leading part; proposals and
counter-proposals passed continually between Russian Headquarters
and the Rumanian War Office, while in Petrograd acquiescence was, at
last, obtained for the full payment of Rumania’s price. On August
16 a Treaty and Military Convention were signed by Bratiano and
the representatives of the four leading Allied States. The Treaty
guaranteed to Rumania, in the event of the Allies being victorious,
all the territory she claimed in Austria-Hungary, including the whole
of the region called the Banat at the confluence of the Danube and the
Theiss. In the Military Convention, the Allies promised, among other
things:

An offensive on the Salonika front, to begin ten days before Rumania’s
first act of war;

A Russian offensive in the Carpathians during Rumania’s mobilization;

The dispatch of Russian forces to the Dobruja, consisting of two
infantry divisions and one cavalry division;

Supplies of ammunition delivered in Rumania at the rate of 300 tons per
day.

Rumania, on her side, undertook to declare war against and attack
_Austria-Hungary_ with all her land and sea forces, at latest, ten days
after the commencement of the Allied offensive on the Salonika front.
The declaration of war was to be made on the first day of mobilization,
when it was agreed the Rumanian frontier troops would attack the
Austro-Hungarian position in the Carpathian passes. The only reference
to any enemy State other than Austria-Hungary concerned Bulgaria; it
was indirect, since it applied to the Russian forces to be sent to the
Dobruja, and laid down that these would co-operate with the Rumanians
against the Bulgars, although the Treaty of Alliance did not, as
regards the latter people, envisage a state of war. In this connection
there had been a difference of opinion between the French and Russians;
the former still hankered after an invasion of Bulgaria, the latter
insisted that Rumania’s main effort should be made in Transylvania.
The Russian point of view had prevailed, owing to the fact that the
Rumanian General Staff refused to undertake any operations against
Bulgaria without reinforcements of at least 150,000 Russian troops.
General Alexieff declared he could not spare this number, and was
reluctant to spare even three divisions for the protection of Rumania
beyond a certain line. That line, as events soon proved, was not in
the Southern Carpathians nor on the Danube; it was the shortest line
between his own left flank and the coast of the Black Sea.

During the night of August 27-28, the first act of war took place;
Rumanian troops stormed and captured the enemy position in the
Carpathians along the whole length of frontier, and on the following
day war was declared formally against Austria-Hungary. The news was
flashed throughout the world and was considered a triumph for the
Allies. The wildest stories circulated; the Rumanian Army was described
as well-equipped and numerous, a host unwearied by the strain of war
and capable of marching through the mountains as far as Budapest. In
Paris, joy bordered on hysteria, self-satisfaction knew no limits, and
the men who had planned this master-stroke were the heroes of the hour.
London and Petrograd were less excited; official appetites were whetted
but not yet satisfied; in the former, Rumanian intervention was still
regarded as a “side-show”; in the latter, some schemers saw the curtain
rising on a new drama in the East. The mass of people in the Allied
States knew nothing about the situation, but, like the “Tommies” in the
trenches, they cheered the long-awaited tidings that Rumania had come
in.

Germany at once made common cause with Austria-Hungary. The German
Minister[30] in Bucharest left the Rumanian capital, under escort,
disgruntled if not surprised. Events had moved too quickly for this
diplomat. The inevitable had happened. He had all along foreseen it;
his annoyance was due to the fact that it had come too soon. He left
behind him tell-tale proofs of the baseness to which his country
could descend in order to win a war; if his departure had not been
so hurried, the means for poisoning a city’s water would either have
been taken with him or put to fearful use. As the train in which he
travelled was crossing the River Sereth,[31] he said to the officer of
the escort, “Here is the future frontier between Austria-Hungary and
Russia.” He may have been merely speculating, as any cynic might, or,
on the other hand, he may have had an inkling of Russia’s secret plans.
This river marked the shortest line between the Russian left in the
Carpathians and the coast of the Black Sea. North of it lay Moldavia,
a pastoral land and poor; south of it lay Wallachia, teeming with corn
and oil. Rumania was a pygmy State and had entered on a war of giants;
to both her greater neighbours it would not have been displeasing
if she were broken on the wheel. In Petrograd, it was rumoured that
certain members of the Government were inclined for a separate peace,
and it was common knowledge that the Central Empires stood in desperate
need of Wallachia’s resources. To an intelligent German diplomat, these
were the elements of a deal.

The details of the campaign in Rumania will form the subject of a
detailed history and, in so far as the conduct of the Rumanian
peasants was concerned, will furnish a record of heroism and endurance
unsurpassed in any theatre of war. From the very outset the Rumanian
General Staff was confronted with the impossible task of undertaking
simultaneously an offensive in a mountainous country and holding two
lengthy frontiers converging in a narrow salient. In most essential
respects the Allies broke their promises, as set forth in the
Convention they had signed. Ten days after the first invasion of
Transylvania, General Sarrail announced that the preparations for his
offensive were “pursuing their normal course,” an offensive which
should have started some twenty days before. The Russians remained
inactive in the Carpathians and, so far from anticipating the forward
movement of the Rumanian Army, failed to co-operate when it had been
made. The supplies of ammunition, so confidently promised, arrived in
driblets; the average quantity received was 80 tons per day.

To the surprise of both Bratiano and the Government in Petrograd,
Bulgaria acted with her Allies. Up to the last moment the Prime
Minister had believed in the sincerity of the peace overtures, and
most Russian officers were convinced that their mere presence in the
Dobruja would have a pacifying effect. In the event, Bulgarian forces
attacked (without a declaration of war) the Rumanian bridgeheads on
the south bank of the Danube and invaded the Dobruja, where they were
reinforced by Turks. A situation had arisen which had not been foreseen
in the Military Convention. The southern frontier was now seriously
threatened, and the Russian detachment was not strong enough, in
co-operation with six weak Rumanian divisions, to hold it throughout
its length.

General Joffre’s estimate of the enemy forces which could be brought
against Rumania, so far from being approximately exact, was eventually
exceeded more than threefold. Fresh troops were continually launched
against the wearied Rumanian soldiers, who, from sheer fatigue, at last
became demoralized. Retreats followed in quick succession on the first
brilliant advance in Transylvania; the Rumanians were forced to abandon
all their conquests, since, at every point of contact, they were
outnumbered and outgunned. Paris and London were not sparing in advice,
but of that Rumania had no need. She needed guns and men; Russia alone
could give them and, for the moment, Russia would not give. A storm of
criticism now arose. The men who had forced Rumania’s hand perceived
that disaster was impending, they sought an explanation for it, and
blamed the Rumanian troops.

War, it is claimed, discovers many virtues. It does not create them but
it does provide an opportunity for their exploitation by men who do not
fight on battlefields. To these latter, war is Jack Horner’s pie; they
pull out all the plums complacently, and sit in safe but not secluded
corners, clinging like limpets to official rank. They mask with mystery
their mediocrity and take the line of least resistance. Success in life
has taught them that responsibility, especially when moral, is one of
the things to shirk. They never are to blame when failure issues from
their plans; that is the fault of other men, who are simple enough to
fight.

While such men retain their present influence, the peoples must prepare
for war. No League of Nations will control them; they will control the
League.

On November 24, a detachment of German troops crossed the Danube 56
miles south-west of Bucharest, under cover of a thick fog. The end
had come. Bucharest was doomed; enemy forces were converging on the
capital from three directions; they were already in possession of the
rich corn lands of Wallachia, and were threatening the oilfields both
from the north and west. The Rumanian General Staff made a last appeal
for Russian reinforcements and some were sent, but their movements
were so slow and their co-operation so half-hearted, that even Russian
representatives at Rumanian Headquarters joined in indignant protests.

As early as September, General Alexieff had advised a retirement to the
Sereth, although he must have realized that such an operation involved
abandoning, without a struggle, the two main objectives of the Central
Empires, viz., the resources of Wallachia and access to the Danube
ports between Galatz and the Iron Gate. If this man was honest, he was
incompetent; no other explanation can be given of such fatal obstinacy
and pride. His advice had not been taken, so he left Wallachia
unsupported and flooded Moldavia with Russian Army Corps. These troops
lived on the country-side like locusts and drained it of supplies, but
they did not make the offensive so long promised, that was indefinitely
postponed.

Despondency and alarm pervaded Bucharest. The civilian elements did
not fear the Germans, but they dreaded the Turks and Bulgars, whose
atrocities in the Dobruja had appalled the stoutest hearts. The seat of
Government had been transferred to Jassy, a few officials had remained,
but their loyalty was more than doubtful to what appeared a losing
cause. The population of the city was like a flock of sheep without
its shepherd and wandered aimlessly about, seeking for information
and encouragement which no honest man could give. Orders had been
posted broadcast, instructing the inhabitants to stay quietly in their
homes. So far, the poorer people had obeyed and watched, with patient
if puzzled resignation, the departure of the rich and privileged in
motor cars and trains. South of the town a battle was in progress, and
bulletins from Presan[32] spoke of a great success; the simple were
hoping for a victory, which would save their hearths and homes.

Throughout the war, a flag had waved over the Royal Palace, and, though
the King and Queen had left, during these first days of Rumania’s
agony, it had remained unfurled, for the palace was a hospital and
under Royal care. To anxious watchers in the street, this flag was a
comfort and a sign; it proved the presence of some occupants, who,
if danger threatened, would surely be removed. One morning, early in
December, the people walking past the palace saw that the flag had gone.

The army in the south had been defeated and was in full retreat.
Hundreds of wounded men and stragglers confirmed the rumours of
disaster; they were its human symbols, their broken and dejected mien
banished all optimistic doubts.

An exodus ensued; an exodus as unpremeditated as it was unreasoning.
The fugitives did not consider why they fled, nor whither they would
go: they were unnerved by months of strain and almost daily bombing:
an uncontrollable impulse forced them to leave the stricken town.
A motley crowd, on foot and horseback, in every sort of vehicle, in
every stage of misery and despair, streamed past the lime trees of the
Chaussée Kisileff and surged up the Great North Road.

The season was far advanced. Out of the north-east came an eager wind
and snow began to fall, large flakes fell softly but persistently
from a surcharged, leaden sky, and lay upon the country-side like
a widespreading shroud; a shroud for many little children, their
innocence had not availed to save them; cunning and selfishness are
better safeguards than youth and innocence in time of war.

I caught up what might be called the rearguard of this lamentable
procession two miles to the south of a little Wallachian town, which
lay close to the frontier of Moldavia and General Alexieff’s shortest
line. Motor cars, country carts and wagons stood four abreast across
the road in a long column stretching northwards, whose immobility
impeded further progress, however slow; the gathering darkness and
exhaustion had set a period to this tragic flight.

On foot, I reached the Headquarters of Count Keller, the commander of
a Russian Cavalry Corps; the General had just finished dinner when I
entered, and, perhaps for this reason, his outlook on the situation was
less gloomy than otherwise it might have been. Count Keller was not
devoid of human feeling, the welter of suffering outside his lodging
would have touched a heart of stone; but, as a soldier, he was filled
with indignation against the Rumanian Government, for having permitted
thousands of civilians to use the only highway in this region, and
thereby to block, for two whole days, the forward movement of his
corps. The obvious retort was that his presence there was useless: he
had arrived two months too late.

On the following day, the refugees from Wallachia crossed the Sereth
into Moldavia, and found security behind a screen composed of Russian
troops. About half a million Russian soldiers had arrived in the
Northern Principality and more were yet to come. Wild, uncouth
Cossacks swarmed in every village, their first thoughts plunder and
the satisfaction of gross appetites; some tried to sell their splendid
horses for alcohol in any form.

The first act of the Rumanian tragedy was drawing to its close. A
little Latin country had yielded to bribes and threats and had entered,
under Russian auspices, into a European war. Now it lay crushed and
broken, the victim of two invasions: one, by the enemy in the south;
the other, by Russians in the north.

The Western Powers were lavish in their sympathy; they had little else
to give and were the helpless witnesses of the evil they had done. In
France, a restless, ignorant optimism had conceived a selfish plan;
Great Britain had endorsed it, and Russia, in the name of Allied
interests, had pursued a traditional Russian policy, which had been
both sinister and obscure.

“He that builds a fair house upon an ill seat, committeth himself
to prison.” In 1912, the Great Powers, of those days, had laid the
foundations of their policy in the Balkans. Ignorance, inertia,
selfishness and greed had characterized their statecraft: an ill seat
this on which to build, but one well fitted for a pyramid of errors.
That pyramid was rising fast and one more block had just been added, an
error as tragic as the rest. Though no fair house, it was to hold its
master builders like a prison; for one among them,--Tsarist Russia, it
was destined to fulfil its proper function--the function of a tomb.



CHAPTER XII

THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION AND THE RUSSO-RUMANIAN OFFENSIVE--1917


By the middle of January, 1917, the front in Rumania had become
stabilized on what was, in point of fact, General Alexieff’s shortest
line. This line had its right near Dorna Vatra[33] (the Russian left
before Rumania intervened) and traversed the Carpathian foothills until
it reached the Sereth Valley, north-east of the town of Focsani; thence
it followed the left bank of the river to its junction with the Danube
close to Galatz. East of this latter place the front was vague and
variable, the swampy region round the Danube’s mouth being a veritable
“No Man’s Land.”

Nearly a million Russian soldiers had, by this time, been sent into
Moldavia; they were organized in thirteen cavalry divisions and a
dozen army corps. The Rumanian Army had been reduced by losses and
disorganization to six weak divisions; these held a sector of the front
about twenty miles in length.

Winter weather and mutual exhaustion precluded the immediate
continuation of hostilities, and the opposing armies faced each other
under conditions of discomfort which could hardly have been worse.

During this period of comparative calm, it was possible to appreciate
the situation both from an Allied and an enemy point of view.

The Allies had, undoubtedly, lost prestige. Great Britain had forfeited
the confidence which had been our most precious asset in the earlier
stages of the war; the British Government was regarded by Rumanians as
the tool of French and Russian diplomacy, and our warmest partisans
found little comfort in benevolent intentions which were never
translated into deeds. The French burked criticism, to some extent,
by an immense display of energy. Hundreds of officers and men were
incorporated in the Rumanian Army, who by their spirit and example did
much to raise the morale of the troops. The Russians, to a greater
degree than ever, inspired distrust and fear. The Germanophiles in
Rumania had always been Russophobes; during this period they gained
many new adherents, both in the army and the business class.

Allied prestige, and more especially that of Great Britain, could have
been restored by a decisive success in a direction which would have
enabled Rumania to recommence hostilities, in the spring or summer,
independently of Russia. That direction was obviously Constantinople,
the key of the Near East; no other remedy for Rumania’s plight was
either practicable or just.

The loss of Wallachia had deprived Rumania of four-fifths of her food
supplies, almost all her petrol and her principal railway centres.
Moldavia had to support, in addition to the normal population,
thousands of refugees from Wallachia and, to a great extent, the
Russian forces. So defective were the road and railway communications,
that the supply services functioned only with the greatest difficulty
while the troops remained at rest. To attempt to even utilize this
region as an advanced base for offensive operations was to invite
defeat. Operations on a large scale for the recovery of Wallachia could
only have been carried out by using the Danube as a supplementary line
of communication; to do so, it was essential for the Allies to be
undisputed masters of the Black Sea, and this involved a reinforcement
of the Russian Fleet. While the Dardanelles remained in enemy hands,
the Black Sea was as much German and Turkish as it was Russian; naval
engagements were of rare occurrence and invariably indecisive.

Speculation was busy at Rumanian Headquarters as to the invaders’
future course of action. If further conquests were envisaged, their
position on the Danube conferred on them the power of turning the
left flank of the Sereth line by the occupation of Galatz, against
which place their communications by rail and river would have made
possible the rapid concentration of numerically superior forces. Once
in possession of Galatz, the invasion of Bessarabia could have been
undertaken, since the establishment of an Allied front on the line of
the River Pruth[34] would have been forestalled.

The Central Empires, however, made no serious effort to capture Galatz;
they appeared to be content with Braila and complete control of the
Danube Valley between that port and the Iron Gate. From a strategical
point of view their position was good. An immense force of Russians
was immobilized in Moldavia and held there by the threat to Odessa;
this force could only be freed for offensive operations by a complete
reversal of Allied policy in the Near East, a contingency not likely
to occur. In the meantime, the stocks of corn in Wallachia were being
transferred to Germany and restorative measures were being taken in
the oilfields, where the machinery and plant had been destroyed in
wholesale fashion during the retreat.

Famine was approaching in Moldavia and typhus was raging in the towns
and countryside, when the Allies convened a conference at Petrograd to
determine their future plans.

General Gourko had replaced General Alexieff as Chief of the Russian
Staff, owing to the illness of the latter. At the outset of the
Conference, Russia’s principal military delegate submitted an
appreciation of the military situation which, in so far as it concerned
Rumania, either displayed an inexcusable ignorance of the facts or
was intentionally false. He described new railway lines in Bessarabia
as approaching completion, whose construction could not be commenced
before the spring was far enough advanced to melt the ice and snow;
on such premises as these he based a plan of operations, which even
_Russian_ Generals on the spot described as suicide. The other Allied
representatives listened with grateful ears; for them, a Russo-Rumanian
offensive in the spring had many great advantages--it would relieve
the pressure on the Western front and help Cadorna on the Carso. They
argued that if the General Staff in Petrograd thought this offensive
could be made, it was the best solution of the problem, and all that
remained for them to do was to arrange for liberal supplies of war
material and guns.

It is difficult to believe that the Government of the Czar, had it
survived, would have permitted this offensive to take place; a few
ambitious Generals may have been in favour of it, but the rulers of
Russia had realized that autocracies which made war on the Central
Empires, were undermining the last barrier against the advancing flood
of democratic sentiment, and were, in fact, cutting their own throats.
Both at the Imperial Court and in Government circles, German influence
was gaining ground, and the Russian people as a whole were profoundly
pessimistic. Germany was considered irresistible, officers of high rank
admitted that if Mackensen invaded Bessarabia, salvation could be found
only in retreat. They talked of a retirement to the Volga even, and the
Rumanians listened with dismay.

In all human probability, the proposals for an offensive made to the
Conference at Petrograd were intended to deceive the Western Allies,
and to gain time for the final liquidation of Rumania. Already the
Russian Government controlled Rumania’s supplies of ammunition,[35]
and, by an adroit interpretation of Articles VIII and IX[36] of the
Military Convention, the Rumanian Army had, for all practical purposes,
been brought under the Russian High Command. The next step was to
assume control of the Rumanian civil administration. On the pretext
that the confusion and congestion on the Moldavian railway system would
preclude offensive operations, the Russian General Staff suggested a
wholesale evacuation of Rumanian elements from Moldavia into Russian
territory. This evacuation was to include the Government, the civil
population, and all military units not actually on the front. Apart
from its total impracticability with the communications available, the
object of this suggestion was sufficiently clear--it was the conversion
of Moldavia into a Russian colony. When that had been accomplished,
a separate peace could be concluded between Russia and the Central
Empires, and the prophecy of Baron von der Büsche[37] would have been
amply verified.

During the proceedings of the Conference there had been much talk of
revolution, but few of the Allied representatives believed in it.
Society in Petrograd scoffed at the idea of a political upheaval, it
was held to be impossible while the lower classes were so prosperous
and comparatively well fed. At the end of February the Conference broke
up, the British, French and Italian delegates left by the Murmansk
route, convinced that, at last, the Russian “steam roller” was going to
advance.

A few days later the Revolution began. The soldiers joined the
people. Their motives for so doing were natural and logical, they
should have been a lesson to those who were next to try to rule in
Russia, if vanity and false ideas had not conspired to make Kerensky
the puppet of occidental plans. Many senior generals supported the
Revolution. _Their_ motives were variously ascribed to patriotism and
ambition--when generals and soldiers act alike a distinction must be
drawn.

Western democracies gave an enthusiastic reception to the new order in
Russia--so much so that our Ambassador in Petrograd, of all men the
most innocent and above suspicion, was accused of complicity in the
revolutionary plot. Liberals spoke of the awakening of Russia, and
they were absolutely right. It was, indeed, an awakening of oppressed,
exploited people, and was thorough, abrupt and rude. Officials in
Paris and London were not without misgivings, but they perceived some
advantages in the situation--a central soviet at Petrograd, or even
a Republic, ruled by idealists, would be a more docile instrument
than the Government of the Czar. Superficially, they were right. This
shortsighted view was justified by events during the first four months
of confusion and excitement. Fundamentally, they were wrong. They had
misjudged the Revolution, and had not recognized that lassitude and
exasperation pervaded the Russian armies, and that men in this frame of
mind were better left alone.

The fate of Rumania had trembled in the balance when left to the
tender mercies of the men who ruled in Russia under the old régime.
The Revolution had brought a chance of respite, and admitted a ray of
hope. Great Britain and France could have helped the Rumanian people
by using their influence to insist on strict adherence to the terms
of the Military Convention. If this had been done, and if patience
and foresight had been exercised, the natural desire of the Army and
the Government, to take an active part in the reconquest of their
territory, might have been gratified on sane strategic lines. The
Rumanian Army might have been reorganized and re-equipped, and then
could have played a useful part in a concerted Allied plan.

This was not to be. The Allied plan was fixed and immutable. Though
everything had changed in Russia, this plan was the direct outcome of
Gourko’s fantasies: it consisted in a gigantic offensive operation,
without adequate communications and with ill-equipped armies, on
more than one hundred miles of front. The Rumanian forces were to be
wedged between two Russian armies and thus deprived of the power
of independent movement, while their rôle was limited to that of an
insignificant fraction of an incoherent mass. Ignorance and optimism
ruled the Allied Councils; they were to be as fatal to Rumanian
interests as Russian guile and greed.

I returned to Jassy from Petrograd towards the middle of March. The
Russian forces in Moldavia had caught the revolutionary infection;
their Commander-in-Chief, a Russian prince, had found prudence to be
the better part of valour and assisted at committee meetings wearing
a red cockade. Revolution softens the manners and customs of even the
most violent natures. Officers, who a few months before had kicked
their soldiers in the streets for not saluting, now, when they got a
rare salute, returned it with gratitude.

The Rumanian peasants remained faithful to their King and Government.
They had suffered much, but their pride of race and native sense
prevented them from flattering the hated intruders by imitating Russian
methods for the redress of wrongs. In Jassy, some Socialists who had
been arrested were liberated by their friends: these may have included
some Rumanians, but their number was not considerable and their
activities were not a source of danger to the commonwealth, which was
threatened only from outside.

On the front an extraordinary situation had arisen. Fraternization
between the opposing armies was general and unrestrained, except on the
Rumanian sector. The Russian soldiers were in regular correspondence
with their Austrian and German adversaries, by means of post-boxes
placed between the lines and verbal intercourse. Men, whose respective
Governments were still at war, fished in the waters of the Sereth.
“Angling is somewhat like poetry, men are to be born so.” No doubt
these anglers thought, with Isaac Walton, that they were brothers of
the angle. Barbed wire was put to peaceful uses, entanglements were
used as drying lines and were covered with fluttering shirts. The
revolution had accomplished something; it had given some very dirty
soldiers the time to wash their clothes.

A unique opportunity for propaganda had presented itself. The Germans
utilized it to circulate letters inviting the Russian and Rumanian
soldiers to desert their “real enemies”--France and England. These
appeals had no effect. The Russians received them philosophically; they
had, already, got a sort of peace and, in the front-line trenches, a
sufficiency of food. The Rumanians had other reasons for rejecting such
advice. Peace with invaders had no meaning for them, their only friends
were France and England. The peasants realized instinctively that
Russia was a foe.

In their impatience for offensive action, the Allies failed to grasp
some essential features of the situation, which might have been turned
to good account. The Russian armies were in a state of convalescence
after the first fever of the revolution, the majority of the men were
inert, if not contented, and no longer indulged in deeds of violence;
they were still influenced by the revolutionary spirit, but not in
a rabid sense. They were a source of contagion to the enemy but,
relatively, harmless to themselves. Fraternalization on the Rumanian
front was more hurtful to the Central Empires than to the Allies.
The Austro-Hungarians were war-weary and demoralized; inactivity had
encouraged hopes of peace and, after close on three years of war,
such hopes die hard. Even the Germans were disaffected, their iron
discipline had grown more lax. During one of my visits to the Russian
trenches, a German private brought a message from his comrades,
advising the “Soldiers’ Committee” to cease passing convoys along a
certain road, because “our pigs of officers may make us shoot.”

Disintegrating forces were at work among the enemy troops; they were
the product of social and political conditions and, whatever might be
their later repercussion, from an immediate and practical point of
view, they were more powerful aids to victory for the Allies than any
offensive on this front. A premature Russo-Rumanian offensive, with
unwilling Russian soldiers, could have but one effect--its futility
was evident to the humblest combatants in the opposing ranks; it could
only serve to rally doubters and, thereby, postpone another revolution.
That revolution was inevitable: it might have been precipitated by an
intelligent adaptation of Allied policy to facts.

So far as could be seen, the Allies had no policy at this period.
Statesmen no longer ruled. The German system had been followed by
making the General Staffs omnipotent. To men obsessed by one single
facet of a many-sided problem, the Russian Revolution was an incident
without significance beyond its bearing on the Western Front; for
them the Russian armies were machines, whose functions had undergone
no change as the result of revolution. They regarded an offensive on
the Eastern Front as a subsidiary operation, which would relieve the
pressure in the West: that was the aim and object of their strategy,
and everything was subordinated to the achievement of that end.

With very few exceptions, the Russian Generals who had retained
commands, after the abdication of the Czar, favoured the Allied
plan; it appealed not only to their personal ambition but also to a
conviction, which they shared with many others, that further slaughter
would allay political unrest. The most influential member of the new
Russian Government was Kerensky, an idealist whose support for any
enterprise could be secured by flattering his vanity, which, as with
many democratic leaders, had assumed the proportions of disease. The
motives of this man were comparatively disinterested, but he was young
and inexperienced. He became the most ardent advocate of the offensive
plan and turned himself into a recruiting sergeant instead of directing
the affairs of State. Brains and calm judgment are seldom used in
war. It is much easier to enrol thousands of simple men to serve in
what the Russians called “Battalions of Death” than it is to find one
man possessed of sense. Kerensky raised many such battalions and, to
do him justice, he did not deceive the victims of his eloquence more
completely than himself.

In Rumania hope alternated with despair in regard to future operations;
the former was spasmodic and inspired by the French Military Mission,
the latter was bound to invade any reflective mind. Certain Rumanian
Generals were frankly optimistic in regard to the reconquest of
Wallachia, others professed to be so to gain the approval of the
French. With either of these two types discussion was impossible; it
would have been cruel to rob them of any source of consolation by
insisting on the truth.

General Ragosa, who commanded the 2nd Russian Army, expressed himself
emphatically against a renewal of offensive tactics by Russian troops,
before they had been equipped on the same scale as other armies. He
declared that Brusiloff’s much advertised offensives had been conducted
without due preparation or regard for loss of life, and that though
that general had gained much personal glory, he had broken the spirit
of his men. The attitude of the rank and file more than confirmed
this view; the revolutionary soldiers lacked neither patriotism nor
courage, but they had come to suspect and hate the blundering, ruthless
generals who held their lives so cheap. They knew that on the Western
Front slaughter was mitigated by mechanical devices, whereas they were
regarded as mere cannon fodder and of less value than their transport
mules. When French and British officers urged them to make further
sacrifices, they put a searching question: “Do your soldiers pull down
barbed wire entanglements with their bare hands?” Such questions were
disconcerting to fervent foreign propagandists, and did not stimulate
their curiosity to hear other unpleasant truths. In spite of the fact
that “Soldiers’ Committees” had been established in almost every
unit, and were largely, though not completely, representative, these
spokesmen of a mass of inarticulate opinion were neglected by the
partisans of immediate offensive action, who seemed to have forgotten
that the Russian Revolution had ever taken place.

Once again, the Western Powers were asking the armies on the Eastern
Front to do what their own armies would not have been allowed to do.
Their motives were selfish and their propaganda false: when ignorance
is wilful it becomes immoral, when combined with mediocrity of mind,
it fails to recognize the natural limitations of a situation and has a
boomerang effect. Wise men, however immoral they may be, know where to
stop; the stupid, when unrestrained by fear or scruples, push blindly
on and never seek enlightenment, they cause more suffering by their
folly than the most cruel tyrants by their vice.

At the beginning of July the offensive began; by some it was called the
“French” offensive, and the name was not inapt. It came as a surprise
to the enemy Army Commanders, who had not expected this solution of
a problem whose political aspects were causing them grave concern.
The Austro-Hungarian and German soldiers could still be counted on
to retaliate if attacked; this sudden onslaught put an end to the
fraternalization between the armies and could be dealt with easily by
even an inferior number of well-led and well-organized troops.

The history of these ill-fated operations is too well known to need
recapitulation. By the end of July the Russo-Rumanian offensive had
collapsed completely. The Russian forces were everywhere in retreat,
the Rumanians, after making a twelve-mile advance and fighting with
great gallantry and determination, were forced to withdraw to the line
from which they had started, owing to the retirement of the Russian
armies on both their flanks.

A total misconception of the internal situation in Russia had brought
about a military disaster of unprecedented magnitude. The Russian
armies had ceased to exist as fighting forces, the soldiers had flung
away their arms and offered no opposition to invasion, all Western
Russia was at the mercy of the Germans, who had only to advance.

With the disappearance of all military cohesion, the political
situation in Russia became desperate. The dumb driven herd had, in
the end, stampeded and put the herdsmen in a fearful quandary, from
which there was no escape. Millions of men had demobilized themselves
and roved about the country or poured into the towns; they had been
brutalized by three years of war and showed it by their deeds. Six
months before the Russian people had lost confidence in themselves.
With a new form of Government new hope had come, but now that hope was
dashed. Russian Democracy had been tried and failed. Kerensky and his
fellows had destroyed an evil system, but had put nothing but rhetoric
in its place. They had convinced themselves that they were Russia’s
saviours, and had not realized that revolutions which are caused by
war have but one object--a return to peace. They might have saved the
situation by a temporizing policy; far greater men have not disdained
inaction based on calculation, and Russia’s history had shown that in
her wide and distant spaces lay her most sure defence. Instead, the
leaders of the Revolution, having no Russian policy, had embarked on an
enterprise which every thinking Russian knew was foredoomed to failure;
thereby they had destroyed the trust of the people in their Western
Allies, who had become objects of resentment, for having urged the last
offensive without regard for ways and means.

To distracted soldiers, workmen and peasants in all parts of Russia,
the Bolshevist doctrine made a strong appeal; it promised not only
peace, but a form of self-government, and these leaderless, misgoverned
men snatched eagerly at the prospect. Lenine and Trotsky had long
perceived the real need of the Russian people, their international
theories effaced any sentiment of loyalty to the Allies, and, after
sweeping away the last vestiges of Kerensky’s Government, they asked
Germany for an armistice.

In Southern Moldavia, the Rumanians still held their ground, covering
the crossings of the Sereth. They were completely isolated--on one
side anarchy, on the other a ring of steel. The situation of this
dismembered country was tragic and appalling; in the words of the
Prophet Isaiah, Rumania was “as the small dust of the balance.” Her
fate was linked with that of Russia, she was small dust indeed,
compared to that ponderous mass.

The impatience of the Western Powers had exposed Rumania to the
machinations of a haughty, overbearing ally and an enemy in disguise.
From these the Revolution had delivered her, but only in the hour of
defeat and on the eve of irretrievable disaster. She was to drain the
cup of bitterness down to its very dregs, and, at the bidding of the
Bolshevists, to conclude a separate peace.

It has been said that the Bolshevists betrayed Rumania. This accusation
is unfounded and unjust. The Bolshevists were the outcome of a
pernicious system, for which the Revolution had found no remedy;
Rumania had undoubtedly been betrayed, but the betrayal was not
Lenine’s work. When he assumed control in Russia, Rumania’s plight was
hopeless, and, at least, he left her what she might have lost--the
status of an Independent State.

The Alliance had lost a limb which spread across two Continents and
bestrode the Eastern world. Its strength had been exaggerated, but
it had rendered priceless services at the outset of the war. At last
it had broken down from overwork, directed by men who had neither
understood its functions nor realized that it was something human,
though different from the rest. The Russian people had not changed with
a change of Government, but the same men were abused as traitors under
Lenine, who had been praised as patriots and heroes when subjects of
the Czar.

The amputation had been self-inflicted, and the limb was left to rot.



CHAPTER XIII

A MIDNIGHT MASS


On Easter Eve, it is the practice of the Orthodox Greek Church to hold
a Special Vigil, which terminates at midnight on Holy Saturday. In the
year 1917 this vigil had unusual significance for the Rumanian people,
who were passing through a time of tribulation, the words “Kyrie
Eleison”[38] were in every heart, and even the irreligious sought the
solace of Mother Church.

I had been with the Armies, and had returned to Jassy late on Easter
Saturday. My way had lain through almost deserted country, with here
and there a sparsely populated village, whose tolling church bells
called the peasants to their prayers.

The Moldavian capital was densely crowded. Since early in the evening,
a great concourse had been assembling in the Cathedral Square. At the
time of my arrival, thousands of patient waiting people stood there,
a sea of faces blanched in the moonlight, pinched by want and cold.
Many Russian soldiers were sharing in this outer vigil. Just before
midnight, after the King and Queen had entered the Cathedral, some of
them broke through the cordon of Rumanian troops and tried to force an
entrance. They also wished to worship in accordance with the ritual of
their church, but were held back and roughly handled. There was not
room for all who wished to enter in, and these were soldiers of the
Revolution wearing the red cockade. One of them, quite a boy in years,
fell prostrate and inarticulate on the steps, and was permitted to
remain.

The vigil ended shortly after midnight, and at its close the Archbishop
led a procession to the precincts, where massed bands played, rockets
soared high in Heaven, and true believers kissed each other, saying:
“Christ is risen.”

Once more we entered the Cathedral, and what I have called a Midnight
Mass or Liturgy was celebrated. The term may well be a misnomer. There
may not have been a mystical destruction, but there were prayers of
penitence and praise, of supplication and thanksgiving, and these we
are taught are the four ends of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Jassy Cathedral is not one of those vast Gothic structures, whose
symmetry and gorgeous decoration serve as memorials of the inspired
human efforts which graced a more religious age. It is a plain
unostentatious building of no great size. This night, however, it
appeared transformed; height, length and breadth assumed immense,
mysterious proportions--the chancel blazed with light, all other parts
of the interior of the building were wrapped in obscurity, side chapels
loomed like cavernous recesses, the nave was filled with flickering
shadows, its vault resembled a dark firmament above a tense expectant
multitude, a seemingly innumerable host, stretching far back in serried
lines and ever deepening gloom.

Rumanian soldiers predominated in the congregation, the radiance from
the altar was reflected on swart, fierce faces, and shone in countless
eyes. Queen Mary, surrounded by her ladies, stood near the centre of
the transept, a group of white-clad figures gleaming softly against the
grey background. The King and his second son occupied two thrones on
the south side of the chancel, facing them were the representatives of
seven Allied States.

At the commencement of the service the music was subdued, treble and
alto voices recited canticles and chanted antiphons. Sometimes a clear
soprano rang out alone. I could not understand the words, but one of
the melodies recalled an air by Handel, a touching declaration of faith
triumphant, a woman’s voice proclaiming that her Redeemer lives. Later,
the character of the music changed. From a gallery at the Cathedral’s
western end, a choir of men thundered out pæans of rejoicing, which
rose in shattering crescendos, and surged up to the altar in waves of
sonorous sound.

The climax of the ceremony was reached when the Archbishop left the
altar steps and knelt before the King. The old Primate’s work was done.
This learned monk and priest of God was a Rumanian citizen. As such, he
surrendered to his temporal sovereign the symbol of all Christendom,
and his own most sacred charge. King Ferdinand received it reverently,
and a Catholic Hohenzollern Prince stood as the Head of Church and
State holding a jewelled cross.

An unexpected movement followed. Most of the foreign diplomats and
soldiers pressed round the Royal throne, and paid homage to both
spiritual and temporal power by kissing first the crucifix and then the
Monarch’s hand.

This gesture was neither premeditated nor prompted by a spirit of
Erastianism. It was the act of men under the influence of deep
emotion. Something had touched their hearts; something, perhaps, which
brought back memories of boyhood, when belief was ready, and young
imaginations glowed, and youth was vowed to noble needs; something
which stirred feelings numbed by contact with worldliness and cruelty
on life’s rough way; something still fragrant and redolent of
innocence, which they had lost long since and found awhile.

To the peasant soldiers, the music, the incense and the vestments
combined to make a beatific vision, a light to those who walked in
darkness, and whose simple faith was strong and real. They believed
implicitly in the second advent of a man who had been, and would be
again--Wonderful, a Counsellor, a Good Shepherd, and a Prince of Peace.
They had known sorrow and defeat, the enemy was in their land, famine
and pestilence were ravaging their homes, but they were soldiers of the
Cross and undismayed. More battles would be fought, battles without the
pomp and circumstance of those in theatres less remote. The last heroic
stand at Marasesti[39] would be made by humble men, who, this night
throughout Moldavia, were met together for a festival of their Church,
not to sing songs of lamentation, but to cry Hallelujah and Hosanna, to
tell the joyful tidings--“Christ is risen.”



CHAPTER XIV

“WESTERNERS” AND “EASTERNERS”


For many years before the “Great World War,” the German Army had been
the most formidable fighting machine in existence. It had filled
professional soldiers in all countries with envy and admiration, as the
supreme expression of a warlike and disciplined race.

When the war began the Allied Armies were unprepared, and were
unable to withstand an offensive which was a triumph of scientific
organization and almost achieved complete success. The partial success
of this first German offensive had two important results: it carried
the war on the Western Front into French and Belgian territory, and
more than confirmed the worst fears of Allied military experts as to
the efficiency of the German Army.

After the Battle of the Marne, a mood of extravagant optimism
prevailed. One British general prophesied in September, 1914, that
by the end of March, 1915, the Russians would be on the Oder and the
French and British on the Rhine. With the advent of trench warfare on
the Western Front and the retreat of the Russians in East Prussia and
Poland, the outlook became less rosy, and the Allies settled down to
a form of war which was to last, with slight variations, until the
armistice.

Generally speaking, this form of war involved the subordination of
Policy to Grand Tactics. Policy had for its object the protection of
vital interests, more especially in the East, and aimed at securing
the co-operation of neutral States with a view to strengthening the
Alliance. Grand Tactics demanded the sacrifice of every consideration
to ensuring victory on the Western Front. The failure of the expedition
to the Dardanelles put statesmen, for a time at least, at the mercy
of professional soldiers, of whom the vast majority, both French and
British, were so-called “Westerners.”

The ideas of these men were simple. If pursued to their logical
conclusion they would have required the concentration of all Allied
forces (including Serbs and Russians) somewhere in France and Flanders.
The more rabid Westerners did desire this, as they honestly believed
that on their front there was no middle course between a decisive
victory and a crushing defeat. Others admitted a Russian, and later an
Italian Front with its appendage at Salonika, but, in their eyes, the
only object of these two fronts was to hold as many enemy troops as
possible and facilitate a victory in the West. That victory was to be
preceded by a war of attrition, which would culminate in a final battle
on classic lines--the infantry and artillery would make a gap through
which massed cavalry would pour.

The French Staff was characteristically optimistic, the British less
so. Many senior British officers had a profound respect for the German
Military System, it was to them the embodiment of excellence from every
point of view, and had to be imitated before it could be beaten.

In the autumn of 1915, the era of Allied counter-offensives began. The
slaughter on both sides was immense, but no appreciable results were
achieved. While these operations were being carried out, Bulgaria
joined the Central Empires, the greater part of Servia and Albania
was over-run, and, according to an official report on the operations
against the Dardanelles, “the flow of munitions and drafts fell away.”

Throughout the whole of 1916, the war of attrition was waged in deadly
earnest and exacted a ghastly toll. By the end of the year no decision
had been reached on the three main fronts, but the richest part of
Rumania had fallen into the hands of the enemy.

Public opinion in both France and Great Britain seemed to approve
the methods of the Westerners. The French naturally desired above
everything to drive the invaders out of France, and the British people
had become resigned to a war of workshops, which was lucrative to those
who stayed at home.

From a purely military point of view, the attitude of the Westerners
was comprehensible. The Western Front was close to the Allied bases of
supply, it had good communications, the climate was healthy, on this
front the Germans were encountered, and they formed the backbone of the
hostile combination. Undoubtedly a victory in the West was the ideal
way to win the war. No one disputed that, but at the end of 1916 that
victory was still remote. Germany’s position on the Western Front was
very strong, her army was homogeneous, her communications were superior
to ours, and her recent conquests in the East had mitigated the effects
of two years of blockade.

Since September, 1914, both sets of belligerents had made offensives,
but these had failed, though in each case an initial success had raised
the highest hopes. Stupendous preparations had been made, artillery
had been employed on an unprecedented scale, lives had been sacrificed
ruthlessly, but, invariably, the forward movement had been arrested,
had ebbed a little and immobility had ensued. Some law appeared to
operate in this most modern form of warfare. Killing without manœuvre
had become an exact science, but battles are not merely battues,
the armies must advance, and this they could not do--their mass
and the enormous assemblage of destructive appliances, necessary
for the preliminary process of annihilation, produced a congestion
which brought the best organized offensive to a standstill. In such
circumstances it seemed that final victory might be postponed for
months and even years.

In 1917. The Central Empires held the land routes of South-Eastern
Europe and Turkey was their vassal State, whereas the Allies disposed
of precarious sea communications, which linked them with no more
than the periphery of the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans at three
widely separated points. In these regions the populations were being
Germanized, inevitably and in spite of themselves. The Germans were
on the spot, they might be arrogant and unsympathetic, but they were
efficient, and suffering, unsophisticated people could justifiably
argue that these intruders were better as friends than enemies, and
that it paid to be on their side. To neglect this situation, until
we had won a victory in the West, exposed the Allies to the risk of
letting German influence become predominant throughout the Middle East.
For the British Empire such a state of affairs would have spelled
disaster; after untold sacrifices in the Allied cause, Great Britain
would have lost the war.

These weighty considerations had influenced certain British statesmen
ever since the intervention of Turkey on the side of the Central
Empires, but their plans had been frustrated by official inertia and
mismanagement. At last, a serious effort was made to restore our
prestige in the East by operations in the direction of Palestine and
in Mesopotamia. These operations were against the same enemy and were
carried out almost exclusively by British forces, but were independent
of each other and not part of a concerted plan. The British War Office
had undertaken the supply and maintenance of three “side-shows”
(including Salonika), but had neither the time nor the inclination to
prepare a scheme for the co-ordination of operations in the Eastern
theatres. Perhaps it was feared that such a scheme would involve the
dispatch of reinforcements.

The Eastern situation demanded, in the first place, statesmanship. A
military policy was needed which, while recognizing the preponderating
importance of securing the Western Front, would aim at bringing
pressure to bear on every part of the enemy combination; which would
not be content with local successes, but would attack Pan-Germanism,
the real menace to the British Empire, where its activities were
centred; which would strike at Germany through her Near Eastern allies,
complete the circle of blockade on land and retrieve the sources of
supply which had been taken from Rumania.

Military operations alone would not suffice; the co-operation of
the navy was essential to reduce the risks from submarines which
infested the Eastern Mediterranean. The shipping problem presented
many difficulties. These could be overcome only by Governmental
action based on policy. If dealt with by subordinate officials, the
distribution of available tonnage would follow the line of least
resistance in the form of short trips to France.

If the broad lines of an Eastern policy had been laid down and insisted
on by the Allied Governments, a plan could have been put into execution
which, while offensive operations were in progress in Mesopotamia,
Palestine and Macedonia, would have directed against the heart of the
Ottoman Empire a strategic reserve, concentrated with that objective
in view at one or more of the Eastern Mediterranean ports. The force
required would not have been considerable. The Turkish and Bulgarian
armies were held on three widely separated fronts, leaving weak and
scattered garrisons in Thrace for the protection of the Dardanelles.

The difficulties were many, but the stakes were big. The fall of
Constantinople would have revolutionized the Near Eastern situation. It
would have forced Turkey to make a separate peace, and would, thereby,
have freed a large proportion of our forces in Palestine and Macedonia
for employment in other theatres. It would have had an immediate effect
in Bulgaria, where the resentment against Germany, on account of the
partitioning of the Dobrudja, was bitter and widespread. It would have
opened up communications by sea with the Rumanian and Russian armies
in Moldavia, and made it possible to maintain and quicken the Southern
Russian front. An opportunity would have presented itself for settling
the Macedonian question on its merits, the Western Powers would have
been the arbiters, and their decisions would have been respected
as those of all-powerful allies or potential conquerors. A just
settlement of this question could not have failed to secure a separate
peace with Bulgaria.

Any Balkan settlement, which fulfilled our treaty and moral obligations
to Rumania and Servia respectively, involved the partial dismemberment
of Austria-Hungary. An invasion of the Eastern and South-Western
provinces of the Dual Monarchy was the natural corollary of an Eastern
military policy. This invasion could have been effected by national
armies advancing towards their ethnological frontiers. The Rumanians,
after the reconquest of Wallachia, could have operated in Transylvania
and along the Danube Valley towards the Banat. The Serbs in Bosnia and
Herzegovina towards the Dalmatian Coast. In all these provinces the
populations were awaiting with impatience the arrival of the Allies to
throw off the hated yoke of Austria-Hungary.

Operations of this nature would have had a repercussion in Croatia
and Bohemia, where the inhabitants were disaffected and ready to
revolt. Their attitude would have facilitated an extension of the
invasion in the direction of Trieste. The occupation of Trieste would
have completed the encirclement of German Austria and Germany. The
German Western front would have been turned strategically, policy
and strategy, working in harmony, could have undertaken the task of
isolating Prussia, the centre of militarism and the birthplace of
Pan-Germanism. Munich and Dresden are closer to Trieste than to any
point in France or Flanders.

Such, in brief outline, was an Eastern military policy which had
been submitted repeatedly since the early stages of the war. It was
first proposed as a complement to the operations on the Western and
Eastern fronts. With the intervention of Italy, the possibility of its
extension towards Croatia and Istria was perceived. At the beginning
of 1917 it did not involve the detachment of many additional divisions
from other theatres. The aggregate casualties in one of the big
offensives would have more than met requirements. This detachment could
have been justified on strategical grounds, since it would have forced
the enemy to conform to at least an equal extent. It was an attempt
to harmonize strategy with policy, and on the principle of _solvitur
ambulando_ to deal, during the progress of the war, with a mass of
vexed racial problems which, during an armistice or in time of peace,
are surrounded by intrigue.

The advocates of an Eastern policy were described as “Easterners,” a
term which was susceptible of various interpretations. It meant, at
best, a visionary, at worst, a traitor, according to the degree of
indignation aroused in “Westerners.”

Notwithstanding the failure of their previous efforts, the “Westerners”
still claimed in 1917 that a decisive victory could and would be won
on the Western front, if the Russo-Rumanian offensive came up to
expectations. They had organized the British nation for a special form
of war. Thanks to a highly developed Intelligence Department, they knew
exactly what they had to deal with. Hundreds of able-bodied officers
had worked with all the ardour of stamp collectors at identifying enemy
units, and had produced catalogues which in the judgment of archivists
were impeccable, though at the time of issue they may have been out of
date. The French Armies were commanded by the hero of Verdun,[40] and
were full of the offensive spirit. The Italians were holding their
own on the Carso and the Isonzo. The framework of the war was set, the
far-flung buckler of the Central Empires would be pierced, where they
were strongest, the Germans would be beaten by their own methods, and
at any cost.

Once more the “Westerners” had their way. Once more their hopes were
disappointed. At the end of 1917, in spite of local tactical successes,
the Western front remained unbroken, the Italians had retreated to
the line of the Piave, and the Eastern front had dissolved in the
throes of revolution. In Palestine and Mesopotamia, the Allies had
struck two heavy blows at Turkey, and the Ottoman Empire was drifting
into chaos. A direct blow at Constantinople would have encountered
slight opposition, it would have been welcomed by the masses of the
people as a deliverance. In Macedonia the Bulgars were showing signs
of disaffection, but here inaction, both military and diplomatic,
continued the stalemate. The alliance of America had saved the
financial situation, but no effective military support could be
expected from this quarter for many months to come.

Fortunately for the British Empire and for civilization, German policy
was also controlled by “Westerners.” These men were essentially
experts, past masters of technique, but indifferent exponents of the
military art when applied to a world-wide war. They had failed to
seize their opportunity in 1914, when Paris and the Channel Ports were
at their mercy. During 1915 and 1916, they had squandered lives and
ammunition in costly offensives on the Western front, when they might
have taken Petrograd. In 1917, they lacked the insight to perceive
that their conquests on the Eastern front more than compensated the
check to overweening aspirations in the West, which, owing to their
past mistakes, could not be gratified. If at the end of 1917 the German
Government had offered terms of peace, based on the evacuation of
France and Belgium and including the cession of Alsace and Lorraine,
and had during the winter months withdrawn their troops to the right
bank of the Meuse, the Allied Governments could hardly have refused.

In France the drain on man-power had been appalling. A continuance of
hostilities involving further losses would have aroused opposition in
influential circles, and would have been denounced as illogical and
quixotic, as a sacrifice of French interests on the altar of Great
Britain, when peace could be had on advantageous terms. The position
of the other Allies would have been difficult in the extreme. To
continue the war in the West, without France as a base, would have been
impossible. The only alternative would have been an intensification
of the blockade and the operations in the Eastern theatres. These
operations would no longer have been confined to Turks and Bulgars,
and new bases would have been required to mount them on a proper
scale; further, the non-existence of a comprehensive Eastern policy
would have been a cause of much delay. America had not declared war
against either Turkey or Bulgaria. The Italians had interests in the
East; but, under these altered circumstances, their position on the
Piave front would have been critical, and might have forced them to
make peace. The Allied peoples were war weary, peace talk would have
aroused their hopes, and have been more convincing than the arguments
of Imperialists.

By proposing peace, the German Government might have lost prestige,
but would have gained something more substantial--a secure position in
the East. Instead, at the beginning of 1918, everything was sacrificed
to a renewal of offensives on the Western front. The reinforcements
asked for by Bulgaria were not sent, and Turkey was abandoned to her
fate. Ominous mutterings from the working classes in Germany were
disregarded. By a rigorous application of the military system and by
promises of victory, a clique of ambitious generals kept the German
people well in hand.

If a frontal attack against a sector of an immense entrenched position
could lead to decisive results, the German offensive of March, 1918,
should have had the desired effect. It penetrated to within ten miles
of Amiens, a vital point on the Allied communications, and there, in
spite of the most prodigious efforts, it petered out. The ratio between
the front of attack and the depth of advance had exceeded all previous
records, but just as success seemed certain, human endurance reached
its limits, and proved once more its subjugation to an inhuman and
automatic law. The British front had not been broken, though it had
been badly bent.

Undeterred by this dreadful and unavailing slaughter, the German
leaders persisted in their efforts, and staked the destiny of their
country on one last gambler’s throw. Four offensives had been repulsed,
a fifth was now attempted with Paris as its goal. It was dictated by
political, and possibly dynastic, considerations, and was not executed
with customary German skill.

To close observers, it had for some time been apparent that German
strategy was weakening. There had been less coherence in the
operations, and symptoms of indecision on the part of the High
Command. Field-Marshal Foch was undoubtedly a better strategist than
any of his adversaries, and the war of movement, resulting from the
German offensives, gave him an opportunity which he was not slow to
seize. A series of hammer blows along the whole Western front deprived
Ludendorff of the initiative which he had hitherto possessed, and
forced the German armies to evacuate the salients in the direction of
Paris and Amiens.

Other and more fundamental factors, however, had already undermined
Germany’s powers of resistance. The discontent among the masses of
the German population had assumed menacing proportions; it affected
the troops on the lines of communication directly, and through them
the soldiers on the front. During the last offensives the number of
men who surrendered voluntarily had been above the average, and when
the retirement began, when all hopes of taking Paris in 1918 had
disappeared, when American soldiers had been encountered, proving the
failure of the submarine campaign, the spirit of the German Armies
changed. Certain units still fought well, but the majority of the
German soldiers became untrustworthy, though not yet mutinous. An
eye-witness relates that on their arrival at Château-Thierry, the
German officers were in the highest spirits, and the words “Nach
Paris”[41] were continually on their lips. The men, on the other
hand, seemed depressed and moody, but when the order was issued for
withdrawal, their demeanour brightened, they found a slogan full of
portents, the words were “Nach Berlin”[42] and were uttered with a
smile. This incident is authentic, it took place in July.

History was repeating itself, misgovernment by a selfish upper class
had produced in Germany the same conditions which had driven the
Russian people into revolution. In both countries a state of war had
accentuated pre-existent evils, by giving a freer rein to those who
exploit patriotism, courage and devotion for their personal ends.
Germany had outlasted Russia because, in her military system, she had
an almost perfect organization from an administrative point of view.
This system, by concentrating all the resources of the nation on a
single purpose and putting them at the disposal of a few resolute,
all-powerful men, had enabled the German people to make incredible
efforts. Had it been controlled by statesmen, total disruption might
have been averted; directed by infatuated and homicidal militarists,
its very excellence enabled it to hold the Empire in its grip until
disaster was complete.

From June, 1918, onwards, all hope of a German victory on the Western
Front had disappeared. Germany was seething with discontent, her
industrial life was paralised, the supply of munitions had seriously
decreased; yet Ludendorff persevered, he drove the armies with
remorseless energy, a kind of madness possessed him and his acolytes,
imposing desperate courses and blinding them to facts. Their whole
political existence was at stake, failure meant loss of place and
power, of all that made life sweet, so they conceived a sinister
design--if they failed “all else should go to ruin and become a prey.”

When the crash came, it came from within. For months, the German
armies on the front had been a facade screening a welter of misery and
starvation. The machine had functioned soullessly, causing the useless
massacre of thousands of soldiers, while women and children died by
tens of thousands in the midst of fictitious opulence. During these
last days, the rank and file fought without hope, for an Emperor who
was to save himself by flight, for leaders who treated them like pawns,
for the defence of hearths and homes where famine and disease were
rife. Long years of discipline had made these men automatons, they were
parts of a great projectile whose momentum was not yet exhausted, and
they had long ceased to reason why.

Unreasoning docility is held by some to be a civic virtue: that was
the German doctrine and the basis of their Military System, which,
though at its inception a defensive system, became an instrument of
conquest, pride and insolence, a menace to the world. The form of war
which Germany initiated and perfected has degraded war itself, it
has organized slaughter with mechanical devices, has made tanks of
more account than brains, and has crowned the triumph of matter over
mind. There was a redeeming glamour about war as made by Alexander and
Napoleon, today it is a hideous butchery, which can be directed by
comparatively mediocre men. It has ceased to be an art and has become
an occupation inextricably interwoven with a nation’s industrial life.

The downfall of the German Military System is a stern reminder of the
vicissitude of things, and has removed a brooding shadow which darkened
civilization. If calamitous experience serves as a guide to statesmen
in the future, its rehabilitation will be prevented--in any form,
however specious, in any land.



CHAPTER XV

THE PEACE CONFERENCE AT PARIS--1919

  “Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this
  world have the power and spirit of philosophy, and political
  greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures which
  pursue either at the expense of the other are compelled to stand
  aside--cities will never rest from their evils, no--nor the human
  race, as I believe.”--PLATO.


Four days before the official declaration of war on Germany by the
Government of the United States, President Wilson made a speech before
the American Congress which contained the following passage:[43] “We
shall fight ... for Democracy ... for the rights and liberties of small
nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free
peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the
world itself at last free.” A few months later the same spokesman of
a free people declared:[44] “They (men everywhere) insist ... that no
nation or people shall be robbed or punished because the irresponsible
rulers of a single country have themselves done deep and abominable
wrong.... The wrongs ... committed in this war ... cannot and _must_
not be righted by the commission of similar wrongs against Germany and
her allies.” Later still, when the victory of Democracy had become
certain, a forecast of the terms of peace was given by the same
authoritative voice:[45] “In four years of conflict the whole world has
been drawn in, and the common will of mankind has been substituted
for the particular purposes of individual States. The issues must now
be settled by no compromise or adjustment, but definitely and once for
all. There must be a full acceptance of the principle that the interest
of the weakest is as sacred as the interest of the strongest. That is
what we mean when we speak of a permanent peace.”

These and a number of similar utterances had produced a deep effect
throughout the world. The ruling classes in Europe professed to regard
them as merely propaganda, and not to be taken seriously, but they
could not escape the uneasy consciousness that their own methods in
the past were being arraigned before an unpleasantly public court of
justice. Moderate opinion in all countries was disposed to welcome
these bold statements of democratic principles as furnishing a
convenient bridge to a more advanced stage in political evolution,
views which would have been condemned as sentimental, and even
anarchic, in a humbler social reformer, on the lips of a President were
considered as a statesman’s recognition of the logic of hard facts. The
masses thought they were the “plain people,” for whom and to whom the
President had spoken, and in their hearts had risen a great hope.

When Mr. Wilson first arrived in Europe huge crowds acclaimed him, and,
making due allowance for the cynical, the curious and indifferent,
these crowds contained a far from insignificant proportion of ardent,
enthusiastic spirits, who welcomed him not as a President or a
politician, but as the bearer of a message, not as a Rabbi with a
doctrine made up of teachings in the synagogues, but as a latter-day
Messiah come to drive forth the money-changers and intriguers from
the temple of a righteous peace. Eager idealists believed that the
victory of democracy had set a period to the evils resulting from
autocratic forms of government, that with the termination of the war
the topmost block had been placed on a pyramid of errors, that a
real master-builder had appeared, who would lay the foundations of a
cleaner, better world. They saw in him the champion of decency and
morality, a doughty champion, strong in the backing of millions of free
people, who had seen liberty in danger, and had sent their men across
an ocean to fight for freedom in an older world in torment. They were
grateful and offered him their services, loyally and unreservedly,
asking but one thing--to be shown the way. History contains no parallel
to this movement. Savanarola and Rienzi had appealed to local, or at
most national feeling. Here was a man who stood for something universal
and inspiring, who was more than a heroic priest, more than the Tribune
of _a_ people, a man who, while enjoying personal security, could speak
and act for the welfare of _all_ peoples in the name of right. For
such causes, men in the past have suffered persecution and have been
faithful unto death.

No Peace Conference has ever undertaken a more stupendous task than
that which confronted the delegates of the Allied States in Paris in
January, 1919. Central Europe was seething with revolution and slowly
dying of starvation. Beyond lay Russia, unknown yet full of portents,
more terrible to many timorous souls than ever Germany had been. The
war had come to a sudden and unexpected end, and enemy territory had
not been invaded save at extremities which were not vital points. The
Central Empires and their Allies had collapsed from internal causes.
Germany and Austria could not, for the moment, oppose invasion, which
had lost all its terrors for distracted populations, who hoped that
French and British soldiers would, by their presence, maintain law
and order and ensure supplies of food. On the other hand, neither the
Serbs nor the Rumanians had had their territorial aspirations satisfied
during the progress of the war. Both races had followed the usual
Balkan custom by invading the territories they claimed during the
armistice; this method, when employed against Hungarians, involved the
use of force; it also embittered relations between themselves where,
as in the Banat, their claims clashed and overlapped. Further north,
the Czecho-Slovaks had proclaimed their independence, and Poland was
being resurrected; the frontiers of both these States were vague and
undefined, but their appetites were unlimited, and Teschen, with its
coalfields, was a pocket in dispute.

Not only had the Peace Conference to endeavour to prevent excessive and
premature encroachment on enemy territory by Allied States, it had also
to compose serious differences between the Western Powers in regard
to the Adriatic coast, Syria, and Asia Minor arising out of secret
treaties.

These considerations, though embarrassing for the representatives of
Great Britain, France and Italy, did not affect President Wilson to
the same extent; in fact they rather strengthened his position and
confirmed the expectation that he would be the real arbiter of the
Conference. His speeches had, in the opinion of innumerable men and
women, indicated the only solution of the world-problem. The “Fourteen
Points” had outlined, without inconvenient precision, a settlement of
international questions; he was the head of a State untrammelled by
secret treaties, the only State not on the verge of bankruptcy, a State
which could furnish both moral and material aid. When M. Albert Thomas
said that the choice lay between Wilson and Lenine, he may have been
guilty of exaggeration, but he expressed a feeling which was general
and real. Whether that feeling was justified, the future alone will
show.

In the Declaration of September 27, 1918, President Wilson stated: “All
who sit at the Peace table must be ready to pay the price, and the
price is impartial justice, no matter whose interest is crossed.” Later
on in the same Declaration he added: “the indispensable instrumentality
is a ‘League of Nations,’ but it cannot be formed now.” Five conditions
of peace were set forth; of these, the third laid down that there could
be no alliances or covenants within the League of Nations, and the
Declaration concluded with an appeal to the Allies: “I hope that the
leaders of the Allied Governments will speak as plainly as I have tried
to speak, and say whether my statement of the issues is in any degree
mistaken.”

The inference, drawn by the ordinary man after perusing this
Declaration, was that its author expected the Conference to deal with
each and every question on its merits, that the “League of Nations”
would eventually be the instrument employed in reaching the final
settlement, and that, following on the establishment of the League, all
previous alliances would cease to exist and future alliances would be
precluded. The questioning form of the concluding sentence suggested
doubts as to the attitude of the Associated Powers, but the presence of
the President at the peace table served as presumptive evidence that
those doubts had been set at rest.

A “League of Nations” was, undoubtedly, the ideal instrument for
achieving a just settlement of the many and varied questions which
confronted the Peace Conference, but a “League,” or “Society of
Nations” as defined by Lord Robert Cecil,[46] could not be created
before the conclusion of a Preliminary Peace with Germany and her
Allies, with, as its corollary, the inclusion of, at least, Germany,
Austria, and Hungary within the League. In the words of Lord Robert
Cecil, such a Society would be incomplete, and proportionately
ineffective, unless every civilized State joined it.

The formation of a full-fledged League required time. Further, in the
frame of mind which prevailed in all the Allied and Associated States,
a real “Society of Nations,” implying “friendly association” with
the enemy peoples, as distinguished from their late “irresponsible
Governments,” was impossible. An alternative did, however, exist--an
alternative for which a precedent could be found and which needed moral
leadership rather than cumbrous machinery for its application. This
alternative would have consisted of three processes: the conclusion
of a Preliminary Peace with Germany and her Allies, combined with
suspension of blockade; the admission to the Peace Conference of
delegates representing the different parts of the German Empire,
Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey; collaboration with these
delegates in the settlement of territorial readjustments in accordance
with the principles enunciated in President Wilson’s speeches and
the “Fourteen Points.” The Congress of Vienna had set the precedent
by admitting to its councils Talleyrand, the representative of a
conquered State which had changed its form of government in the
hour of defeat. The conclusion of a “Preliminary Peace” presented
no difficulty. Germany had reached the lowest pitch of weakness;
her military and naval forces had ceased to exist, her population
was dependent on the Allies for supplies of food, she was torn by
internal dissensions, and the Socialist and Democratic parties had
gained the upper hand. Bavaria was showing separatist tendencies,
and her example might be followed by other German States. The same
conditions prevailed in the other enemy countries to an even more
marked degree. In short, the Allies could have counted on acceptance
of any preliminary peace terms which they might have chosen to impose.
They could have ensured their fulfilment, not only by the maintenance
of military forces on provisional and temporary frontiers, but also by
the threat of a reimposition of an effective blockade. In an atmosphere
free from the blighting influences of an armistice, dispassionate
treatment of a mass of ethnical questions would have been possible.
An appeal could have been made to the common sense and interests of
the enemy peoples, through their statesmen and publicists, which
would have disarmed reaction, and which would have made it possible
to utilize the more enlightened elements in the key-States of Central
Europe for the attainment of a durable peace. A Peace Conference so
composed would have been the embryo of a true “Society of Nations,” a
fitting instrument for the practical application of theories not new
nor ill-considered, whose development had been retarded in peaceful,
prosperous times, and which now were imperatively demanded by
multitudes of suffering people weighed down by sorrow and distress.

Mr. Wilson does not seem to have considered any alternative to the
immediate formulation of a covenant of the “League of Nations.” He
left the all-important question of peace in abeyance, and devoted his
energies to the preparation of a document which would serve as an
outward and visible sign of personal success. Perhaps he was dismayed
by the opposition, in reactionary Allied circles, to moral theories
considered by officials to be impracticable and even dangerous, however
useful they might once have been for purposes of propaganda. He may
have been paralysed amid unaccustomed surroundings where he was not
the supreme authority. At any rate, he neglected to use a weapon whose
potency he, of all rulers, should have known--the weapon of publicity,
which was, as ever, at his service and would have rallied to the causes
he espoused the support and approval of sincere reformers in every
class. He worked in secret and secured adhesion to a draft of the
covenant of the “League of Nations,” whose colourless and non-committal
character betrayed official handiwork.

The man who had arrived in Paris as the bearer of a message whose
echoes had filled the world with hope, left France the bearer of a
“scrap of paper.” He returned to find his authority lessened. Before,
he had stood alone; he came back to take his place as one of the “Big
Four.” It is given to few men to act as well as to affirm.

Mr. Lloyd George was unable to help the President; his election
speeches had been the reverse of a moral exposition of the issues, and
the Parliamentary majority they had helped to create allowed no lapses
into Liberalism. More than a year had passed since the Prime Minister
of Great Britain had stated that the British people were not fighting
“a war of aggression against the German people ... or to destroy
Austria-Hungary, or to deprive Turkey of its capital or of the rich and
renowned lands of Asia Minor and Thrace which are predominantly Turkish
in race.” Teschen had not been heard of then, and the demands of Italy
and M. Venizelos were either forgotten or ignored. Mr. Lloyd George’s
native sense and insight would have avoided many pitfalls; the Bullit
revelations did no more than bare justice to his acumen in regard to
Russia, but he was terrorized by a section of the British Press, which
held him relentlessly to vote-catching pledges, however reckless or
extravagant.

The Prime Minister of the French Republic was pre-occupied with
revenging past humiliations, with retrieving the fortunes of his
country and making it secure. He did lip-service to the “League of
Nations,” but talked of it with sardonic humour, and did it infinite
harm. A dominating personality and a prodigious intellect enriched
by wide experience were lost to the cause of human progress. No rare
occurrence, when the possessors of these gifts are old.

With the progress of the Conference, M. Clemenceau’s influence became
stronger. He had made fewer public speeches than his colleagues, and
perhaps that simplified his task. “Certain it is that words, as a
Tartar’s bow, do shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and
mightily entangle and pervert the judgment.”

While precious months were being devoted to framing the draft covenant
of the League of Nations, Commissions appointed by the Peace Conference
had been busy preparing reports on multifarious points of detail. These
reports were the work of experts, and could not fail to influence the
final decisions of the Supreme Council; as a matter of fact, they were
followed textually in some of the weightiest decisions reached. The
men who prepared them were in no sense statesmen, they were trammelled
by official routine and exposed to all manner of outside influences.
The whole tone of life in Paris was inimical to an objective attitude.
Clamours for vengeance distorted the natural desire of honest men
in France and Belgium for security against future aggression by a
resuscitated Germany. The big industrial interests wanted to stifle
German trade and at the same time exact a huge indemnity; they
exploited the expectation of the working classes that, as a result
of victory, Allied industry would be given a fair start in future
competition with the enemy States.

In the absence of any higher guidance, either moral or informed,
statecraft was entirely lacking in the proceedings of the Conference,
yet the situation was such that, if adroitly handled, measures were
possible which would have contributed powerfully to the security of
France and Belgium, by attenuating and dissipating reactionary elements
in the German Empire. Advantage might have been taken of the distrust
inspired by Prussia in the other German States, to create autonomous
and neutral zones in the Palatinate and the territory formerly
comprised in the Hanseatic League, to assist Bavaria to shake off
Prussian hegemony, and become a component with German Austria of a new
Catholic State in South-Eastern Europe, where conflicting national aims
and unruly populations needed a counterweight.

No such measures were taken. The Conference was obsessed with details.
Every conceivable question was discussed before the one that was
most urgent--the conclusion of some form of peace which would let the
world resume its normal life. A state of affairs was protracted which
encouraged the greedy and unscrupulous, which checked any expression
of opinion by the “plain people” of President Wilson’s speeches, which
gave an opening to militarists, jingo journalists, and politicians,
whose ideas were those of German Junkers and who still believed in war.

Jungle law reasserted itself. In an allegoric sense, the Conference
was like a jungle through which a forest fire had passed, destroying
the scanty verdure it had once possessed, leaving bare, blackened
stumps too hard to burn. Some of the larger, fiercer beasts had been
expelled; a few remained, and they, too, had been changed. A solitary
eagle had descended from his distant eyrie and, like a parrot,
screeched incessantly. “Fiume, Fiume, Fiume”--a chuckle followed, it
said--“Fourteen Points” but this was an obvious aside. The performance
was disappointing; polished and well-turned phrases had been expected
from so great a bird. The lion’s majestic mien had altered somewhat,
his movements were uncertain; from time to time his eyes sought,
furtively, a pack of jackals, who should have hunted with him, but, of
late, they had grown insolent to their natural leader and reviled him
in a high-pitched, daily wail. An old and wounded tiger roamed about
the jungle; his strength, so far from being impaired, had become almost
leonine; sometimes the jackals joined his own obedient cubs, and then
he snarled contentedly while the lion roared with jealousy and rage.
The bear was absent; he had turned savage through much suffering, and
the wolves who prowled around the outskirts of the jungle prevented
him from entering; they howled with terror whenever he approached, and
wanted the lion and the tiger to help to kill this dangerous type of
bear. A yellow dragon moaned in the far distance, but was unheeded; he
was no more a peril and had little left for the other beasts to steal.
Jubilant and shrill, the crowing of a cock was heard above the babel of
the jungle, announcing, to all who cared to listen, the dawn of fifteen
years of liberty in the valley of the Saar.

The Peace Treaties promulgated by the Conference at Paris are
impregnated with the atmosphere in which they were drawn up--an
atmosphere charged with suspicion and hatred, fear and greed; not
one of them is in the spirit of the League of Nations. The Treaty
with Germany, in particular, discloses the predominance of French
influence in Allied councils. An old French nobleman once remarked,
“Les Bourgeois sont terribles lors qu’ils ont eu peur.” The conditions
imposed on a democratized and utterly defeated Germany are terrible
indeed, but curiously ineffective; they are a timid attempt to modify
vindictiveness by a half-hearted application of President Wilson’s
ethical principles; they satisfy no one; this is their one redeeming
feature, since it shows that they might have been even more vindictive
and still more futile for the achievement of their purpose, which
was, presumably, a lasting peace. Militarists and reactionaries could
not conceive a state of peace which did not repose on force and the
military occupation of large tracts of German territory. They were
twenty years behind the time. They did not realize that armies in
democratic countries consist of human beings who observe and think,
who cannot be treated as machines, and bidden to subordinate their
reasoning faculties to the designs of a few selfish and ambitious men.
Liberal thinkers, on the other hand, were shocked at Treaties which
inflamed the hearts of seventy million German-speaking people with
hatred and a desire for revenge, which cemented German unity, which
aroused a widespread irredentism and gave an incentive to industrious,
efficient populations to devote their time and efforts to preparations
for a future war and not to the arts of peace. Such men were neither
visionaries nor sentimentalists, they were practical men of affairs,
who foresaw that security could not be attained by visiting the sins of
outworn mediaeval Governments on the heads of their innocent victims
throughout Central Europe; that by the employment of such methods the
“League of Nations” was turned into a farce; that exasperation would
foster and provoke recalcitrance; that Germany would be a magnet to
every dissatisfied State; that other leagues and combinations might
be formed, on which it would be impossible to enforce a limitation
of their armaments. They pointed out that the imposition of fabulous
indemnities was two-edged, that payment of nine-tenths of the sums
suggested would have to be made in manufactured goods or raw materials,
a mode of payment which, in the end, might be more profitable to those
that paid than to the peoples who received.

Inaugurated in an idealism which may have been exaggerated but was none
the less sincere, the Peace Conference has blighted the hope and faith
of “plain people” everywhere, and has consecrated cant. Respectability
has been enthroned amid circumstances of wealth and power; in its smug
and unctuous presence morality has found no place. The foundations of a
clearer, better world have not been laid; the apex has been placed on
a pyramid of errors, on which nothing can be built.

       *       *       *       *       *

Versailles was chosen as the setting for a historic ceremony--the
signature of the Peace Treaty with what was still the German Empire,
though the imperial throne was vacant and a workman presided at
the councils of an Imperial Government. The choice was not without
significance. Democracy had triumphed, and, in the hour of victory, had
followed the example of autocratic rulers when making peace with other
autocrats. It was therefore only fitting that this Peace Treaty, whose
terms are inspired by the spirit of the past, should be signed in a
palace of the Kings of France.

A palace on an artificial eminence, where once had been flat marshes
and wild forest land, built by a monarch to whom nothing was
impossible, and for the indulgence of whose whims no cost was deemed
excessive, either in money or in human lives. Viewed from the west on
misty autumn evenings, it seems an unearthly fabric; the exquisite
harmony of its line crowns and completes the surrounding landscape,
floating, as by enchantment, above the tree tops, as light in texture
as the clouds. A palace such as children dream of, when fairy stories
haunt their minds, peopling the world with princes young and valiant,
princesses beautiful and wayward, whose parents are virtuous Kings and
Queens and live in palaces like Versailles.

Below the terraces, a broad alley stretches westward and meets the
horizon at two poplars. Beyond these isolated trees an empty sky is
seen. The poplars stand like sentinels guarding the confines of a vast
enclosure, where art and nature have conspired to shut out the ugly
things in life. A French Abbé, whose cultured piety ensures him a
welcome in this world and admission to the next, said that the royalty
of France had passed between and beyond those poplars--into nothingness.

Amid a galaxy of statues of monarchs, statesmen, warriors, goddesses
and nymphs, only one piece of sculpture serves as a reminder that a
suffering world exists--the face of a woman of the people, graven in
bass-relief upon the central front. An old and tragic face, seamed with
deep wrinkles, sullen, inscrutable, one can imagine it hunched between
shoulders bowed by toil and shrunk by joyless motherhood. The eyes of
stone, to which a sculptor’s art has given life, are hard and menacing,
hopeless but not resigned; beneath their steadfast gaze has passed all
that was splendid in a bygone age, the greatest autocrats on earth and
women of quite a different sort.

    “Sceptre and crown have tumbled down
    And in the level dust been laid
    With the poor yokel’s scythe and spade.”[47]

There were many faces in France and other countries which wore this
same expression, even after the triumph of Democracy over the autocrats
of Central Europe. They were not to be seen, however, on the terraces
of the palace when the Treaty of Peace with Germany was signed in the
“Hall of Mirrors,” where men in black were met together on yet another
“Field of Blackbirds,” where, after months of bickering, the larger
birds were expounding to their weaker brethren the latest infamies of
Jungle Law. The well-dressed men and women who thronged those terraces
were something between the proud aristocrats who created the legend of
Versailles and the masses of the underworld who have survived them, and
yet they seemed further from the two extremes than the extremes were
from each other; they were not of the stuff of leaders and were too
prosperous to be led; their manner was almost timid to the soldiers on
duty at this ceremony, who, though men of the people, were disdainful
to civilians after four years of war. One felt that this was a class
which might, at no distant date, attempt to imitate some Roman Emperors
and pay Pretorian Guards. A catastrophic war had contained no lesson
for these people; for them, its culmination at Versailles was far more
a social than a political event; they took no interest in politics,
they wanted security for property and a Government of strong men who
would keep the masses well in hand. They were not real democrats,
and they cheered both long and loud, when the men, who between them
had betrayed Democracy, emerged from the stately palace to see the
fountains play.



CHAPTER XVI

LOOKING BACK AND FORWARD


Some one has said that evolution is a fact and progress a sentiment.
This definition casts a doubt on progress: it implies that progressive
thinkers are in the category of sentimentalists who do not deal in
facts.

If no alternative existed between looking back on the slow advance of
evolution and looking forward in a spirit of sentimental hope, the
present situation would be dark indeed; a pessimist might be inclined
to conclude that civilization had ceased to advance, that, on the
contrary, its movement was retrograde.

There is surely a middle course--a course not easy to pursue. It
consists in standing on the ground of fact, however miry, with heart
and head uplifted, and looking forward, with the determination not to
let mankind sink to the level of the beasts that perish, eager to reach
some higher ground.

       *       *       *       *       *

Looking back over the past seven years, a reflective mind is appalled
by their futility and waste, and yet an analysis of this period as a
whole reveals that quality of ruthless logic, of inevitable sequence,
to be found in some Greek tragedies, in which the naked truth in all
its horror is portrayed with supreme dramatic art.

Each phase of this blood-stained period discloses the same carnival of
mendacity and intrigue, the subordination of the public interest to
the designs of a few ambitious men, the exploitation of patriotism,
self-sacrifice, patience and valour by officials, whose inhuman outlook
and mediocrity of mind were screened by a mask of mystery. A piecemeal
study would be profitless. Military instruction might be gained from
oft-recurring slaughter, and hints on how to hoodwink peoples could
certainly be gathered from spasmodic intervals of peace. But these are
not the lessons the world seeks, they are precisely what it wishes to
forget. Rather, the effort must be made to trace the underlying impulse
in this tragic drama, which runs through it like a “leit-motif,” which
welds together processes so varying in their nature, and renders them
cumulative and inseparable, until they culminate in one unified and
comprehensive act.

In its broadest sense, that impulse had its source in a frame of mind,
in a false conception, expressed in outworn governmental systems left
uncontrolled and tolerated by the victims, who, though suffering,
dreaded change. This frame of mind was general throughout Europe;
it was not confined to the Central Empires, whose ruling classes,
by their superior efficiency, merely offered the supreme example
of autocratic Governments which aimed at world-dominion both in a
political and economic sense. To the junkers and business men in
Germany and Austria-Hungary, the war of liberation in the Balkans
in 1912 was an opportunity to be seized, with a lack of scruple as
cynical as it was frank, because they hoped to fish in troubled waters;
its perversion into an internecine struggle was considered clever
diplomacy. The Treaty of Bucharest in 1913 was regarded as a triumph of
statecraft, since it caused a readjustment of the “Balance of Power”
in favour of themselves. But the so-called democratic Western Powers
gave their tacit acquiescence to these nefarious proceedings; their
association with the Russian Empire, so far from being designed to
correct immorality and injustice, perpetuated all the evils of a system
based on interested motives and selfish fears. The family of nations
consisted of six Great Powers; Small States existed under sufferance
and were treated as poor relations. Their rights were nebulous and
sometimes inconvenient, not to be recognized until they could be
extorted. This happened sometimes. The “Balance of Power” was a net
with closely woven meshes. Even the strongest carnivori in the European
jungle required, at times, the assistance of a mouse.

Judged by its conduct of affairs in 1912 and the early part of 1913,
the British Government was without a Continental policy; at first,
it seemed to favour Austria-Hungary, the Albanian settlement and the
Treaty of Bucharest were a triumph for the “Ball-Platz,”[48] though
both these transactions were shortsighted and unjust. French policy
was paralysed by fear of Germany, and, owing to a mistaken choice of
representatives in almost all the Balkan capitals, the French Foreign
Office was curiously ill-informed. Italy was the ally of the Central
Powers and could not realize her own colonial aspirations without
their help. Russia, as ever, was the enigma, and Russian policy in
the Balkans, though ostensibly benevolent, aimed at the reduction of
Bulgaria and Servia to the position of vassal States. Rumania was also
an ally of the Central Powers. Dynastic and economic reasons made her
their client. She held aloof from purely Balkan questions, and posed as
the “Sentinel of the East.”

Under such conditions, it was idle to expect an objective and
reasonable, or even decent, handling of Balkan questions. Bulgaria was
sacrificed ruthlessly to opportunism and expediency. The most efficient
race on the south bank of the Danube was embittered and driven into
unnatural hostility to Russia. The Balkan _bloc_ was disrupted by
skilful manipulation of national feeling, which was in many cases
honest and sincere, and thus, the Central Empires were able to so
dispose the pawns on the European chessboard as to facilitate their
opening moves, if, from a continuance in their policy of expansion,
there should ensue a European War.

In due course, as was inevitable, the “Great War” came. During
the latter part of 1913 Great Britain had been inclined to favour
Russia’s Balkan policy. This suited France, and so the sides were set.
Throughout the war, the British Empire, save for a brief and disastrous
experiment at Gallipoli, continued to be without an Eastern policy. The
greatest Mohammedan Power in the world allowed itself to be swayed by
French and Russian counsels, and the heritage handed down and perfected
by Warren Hastings, Clive, and Canning was left to the mercy of
events. No Frenchman, however gifted, can grasp the scope and mission
of the British Empire; to the Pan-Slavs who directed Russia’s foreign
policy, our far-flung supremacy in the East was an object of envy and a
stumbling block.

Although the Balkan States, while they remained neutral, were courted
assiduously by the Allied Powers, they were still looked upon as pawns.
A policy which can only be described as unprincipled was pursued.
British prestige became the tool of French and Russian intrigue, and
Great Britain’s reputation for tenacity, justice and fair play was
jeopardized.

Rumania, once she became our ally, was treated as a dependency of
Russia, although the most superficial student of the past history of
these two States could have foreseen her fate. But she, like Servia
and Greece, was only a little country and counted as small dust in the
balance. She could be over-run and devastated, once she had played
her part; that was a little country’s lot. The frame of mind which,
subconsciously perhaps, possessed the French and British Governments
was not so unlike that of the actively vicious autocratic Empires;
they, too, relied on experts and officials, to whom Small States and
helpless peoples were negligible factors, who respected only force and
wealth, who viewed human affairs exclusively from those standpoints,
and, wrapped in a mantle of self-satisfaction, as ignorant of
psychology as of true statesmanship, could not perceive the portents of
the times.

It is possible that historians of the future will select three events
as the outstanding features of the “Great World War”: the participation
of the United States of America, the Russian Revolution, and the
collapse of the German Military System. The first of these was,
undoubtedly, an expression of idealism. Cynics may say that America
was influenced by self-interest, but they invariably judge humanity
by their own worldly standards. The “plain people” of America were
inspired by nobler sentiments; the measure of their sincerity in the
cause of liberty is their present disillusionment, caused by the
failure of democratic Governments to make a democratic peace. The
intervention of America undoubtedly ensured and accelerated the final
triumph of the Allies; but it did more than that, it solidarized
democracy for a brief period, and demonstrated the willingness of free
people to sacrifice their lives and money for an unworldly cause. It
was, to a great extent, an Anglo-Saxon movement, and opened up, till
then, undreamt of vistas; it was a light which, although a transient
gleam, lit up the way for the regeneration of the world.

The Russian Revolution was the outcome of misgovernment by a corrupt
bureaucracy, and the passionate desire of an exhausted, suffering
population for a return to peace. Misconceived by the rest of Europe
and misdirected by Kerensky, it degenerated into civil war; yet it did
prove that even the most down-trodden people possess the power and
instinct of self-liberation.

The collapse of the German Military System removed a formidable barrier
to human progress. Its efficiency, as an administrative and national
institution, had seemed to justify the glorification of the State
at the expense of individual freedom; a dangerous example had been
set which militarists in every land took as a model and a guide. Had
Germany been ruled by statesmen, this odious system might have gained a
further lease of life; by a fortunate fatality it became the instrument
of its own destruction, it was the sword on which Old Europe fell, its
very excellence caused that finely tempered blade to last until it
broke into a thousand pieces, thereby providing a conclusive revelation
of the futility of force.

Events so portentous should have influenced the minds of delegates
who were worthy of the name of statesmen, when they met to make the
Peace at Paris. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The same frame
of mind permeated the Conference as that which had existed before and
throughout the war. Small States and peoples everywhere were sacrificed
to the interests of the greater victorious Powers, whose spokesmen
were the representatives and members of a propertied and privileged
class. Two fears were ever present in their minds: Germany, the monster
python State, had committed suicide, and thus had brought them victory,
but this victory was so sudden and unexpected that they could hardly
understand its meaning. They imagined that following on it would come
a swift reaction, that the old system would revive; in fact, they half
hoped that it would, it conjured up less disturbing visions than this
revolt of a warlike, disciplined people, this abrupt transition from
the old order to the new. Even victory had lost its savour; it seemed
to them a source of danger that the most evil Government should fall,
and so they set to work to recreate the bogy of German militarism
with propaganda’s artful aid. The other bogy was the dread that a
communistic experiment might succeed in Russia. Rather than let that
happen, they were one and all prepared to wage another war.

Either from vanity or jealousy, the four heads of the Governments of
the Allied and Associated States appointed themselves as principal
delegates at the Conference, in spite of the fact that their presence
was essential in their respective countries, where a host of measures
dealing with social legislation were already long overdue. Further,
their incompetence and unsuitability for the task before them were
manifest, and yet, beyond their decisions, there could be no appeal.
Each of the Big Four had, at one time or another, reached place and
power as a tribune of the people, but when they met in Paris they had
undergone a change. Mr. Lloyd George had sold his soul for a mess of
pottage, in the shape of a Parliamentary majority secured by truckling
to reactionaries and the vulgar clamour of the Jingo Press. Mr.
Wilson failed to make good his eloquent professions as an apostle of
democracy; he succumbed to the atmosphere of Paris, and only succeeded
in irritating Italy without establishing the principles for which he
was supposed to stand. With two such men in charge of Anglo-Saxon
policy, the triumph of M. Clemenceau[49] was not left long in doubt.
He could count in advance on the support of capitalist elements in
Great Britain and the United States; and thus, the power and wealth
of the British Empire and America were used by an aged Frenchman as a
stick to beat helpless, starving peoples and to slake a Latin craving
for revenge. A shameful rôle, indeed, for a race which has never known
ultimate defeat and has always been magnanimous in the hour of victory.

Mr. Lloyd George and President Wilson took back to their respective
countries a settlement of European questions of which no sensible
English-speaking citizen could possibly approve. It was at best
a liquidation of the war and marked an intermediate phase. The
Austro-Hungarian Empire, as an administrative and economic unit,
has been destroyed, but no serious attempt was made to put anything
practical in its place; Eastern and Central Europe have been
Balkanized, and in the Balkans the evils of the Treaty of Bucharest
have been consummated; frontiers and disabilities have been imposed
upon the German people which have aroused a widespread irredentism and
cannot be maintained; the policy of intervention against the Soviet
Government in Russia has been immoral and inept, while the vacillation
in regard to Turkey cannot fail to have serious repercussion throughout
the whole Mohammedan world.

A state of moral anarchy has been created, both in the conquered and
victorious States. In France, sane opinion is unable to control the
activities of roving generals obsessed with the Napoleonic legend; in
the United States the general tendency is to leave Europe to its fate,
but disgust with European diplomatic methods has not prevented certain
forms of imitation; in Great Britain, irresponsible politicians have
brought discredit on our Parliamentary system, the House of Commons
does not represent the more serious elements in the country, labour is
restless and dissatisfied, and even moderate men are tempted to resort
to unconstitutional methods, to “direct action,” as the only means of
obtaining recognition for the workers’ reasonable demands.

The decisions of the Supreme Council of the Allies are without any
moral sanction, because, owing to its past acts, the moral sense of the
entire world is blunted. Despair and misery prevail throughout Central
and Eastern Europe; around and beyond the main centres of infection,
the poison is spreading to the world’s remotest parts; India and
Northern Africa are filled with vague but menacing unrest. When the
lassitude of war is passed, more serious developments must be expected:
D’Annunzio and Bermondt are but the forerunners of many similar
adventurers who, both in Europe and in Asia, will find followers and
funds.

Truly, Old Europe has committed suicide. The autocratic Empires have
perished by the sword; the Western States, under the rule of spurious
democrats, bid fair to perish by the Peace. Democracy has been betrayed
by its own ignorance and apathy, by misplaced confidence in mediocre
men, by failure to be democratic, by permitting politicians and
officials to usurp the people’s sovereign power.

A new danger is on the horizon. The men who scoffed at progress, who
at first derided the League of Nations, and to whose influence were
due the prolongation of the Armistice and the worst features of the
Treaties, are alarmed by the present situation. The official mind is
seeking for a remedy, and it now professes to have found it in the
“League of Nations,” to which it does lip-service, meaning to use it,
in the first place, as a buffer, and later as an instrument. These
men do not recognize that with the downfall of the autocratic Empires
materialism in its most efficient form has proved a failure; the fallen
fortunes of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia convey no warning to
them. They think that once again the public can be tricked. They have
made a German peace and are so blind to facts that, in spite of the
testimony of Ludendorff, they do not realize that victory was gained
by peoples, who were unconquerable because they thought their cause
was just. Theirs is the frame of mind of German “Junkers”; to them the
masses are like cattle to be driven in a herd; they will, if given
a free rein, once more subserve the interests of capitalists, and
Governments will be influenced by men who, having great possessions,
take counsel of selfish fears.

A League which includes Liberia and excludes Germany, Austria, Hungary
and Russia, and whose covenant is embodied in the Peace Treaties, makes
a bad start. The intention has been expressed of inviting Germany,
at some future date, to become a member of the League. Whether this
invitation will be accepted will depend on circumstances; in Europe’s
present state of instability the omens are far from favourable to
acceptance. A truly democratic Germany will be a tremendous force in
Europe, and may find in Russia, under a Soviet Government, an ally
more in sympathy with progress than either Great Britain or the Latin
Powers under reactionary governments. The Russians, once our allies,
regard the French and British with hatred and resentment, and these
same feelings animate all the nationalities on whom have been forced
insulting terms of Peace. Poland, Czecho-Slovakia, Yougo-Slavia and the
Greater Rumania are political experiments. These States contain men of
great ability, who may, in the abstract, accept the principles of the
League, but their position is neither safe nor easy; in no single case
can national aspirations obtain full satisfaction without impinging
on the territory of a neighbour, on each and every frontier fixed in
Paris there is a pocket in dispute. It is doubtful whether any of the
small Allied States can be considered trustworthy members of a League,
which, while preaching internationalism, has perverted nationalism into
a “will to power,” for which conditions of membership are defined by
conquerors, whose conduct hitherto has revealed an entire lack of an
international spirit, save in regard to international finance. So many
temptations to recalcitrance exist that, if Germany remains outside the
League, another combination might be formed, under German leadership,
and including Russia, Austria, Hungary, Greater Roumania and Bulgaria.
A combination untrammelled by self-denying ordinances, compact,
almost continuous, controlling the land routes of two continents. No
limitation of its armaments could be enforced on such a combination; it
would have access to Russia’s vast natural resources, and, if war came,
for the first time in history, a coalition of belligerent States would
be impervious to blockade by sea.

While the Treaties stand, and while the present frame of mind of
the Allied Governments continues, such is the situation into which
the world is drifting, and for which the Covenant of the League, as
drafted, provides no panacea. Even the leading members of that League
are dubious adherents to its moral implications; each of them makes
some reservation, not based on the principles of progress, but inspired
by a distorted sense of patriotism which, in its essence, is the
outcome and cult of private interests.

The League of Nations was unfortunate in its birthplace. Throughout
the Conference the frenzied merriment in Paris was characteristic
of the cosmopolitan class which has grown up in an industrial age.
These parasites on the wealth of nations possess neither the spirit
of _nobless oblige_ nor any sympathy with the masses, and yet they
influence affairs; they appear light and frivolous, as though they had
no interest in life beyond dancing and feasting on the ruins of Old
Europe, and deadening reflection with the discords of jazz bands; but
behind these puppets in the show are cold and calculating men, who use
“Society” and the atmosphere it creates to kill enthusiasm, to fetter
and sensualize weaker minds. After listening to the conversation at a
semi-official and fashionable gathering last June in Paris, a French
priest pronounced the opinion that only a second redemption could save
the world. This old man was always charitable in his judgments, he
had heard the confessions of many sinners, but he was roused to moral
indignation by the heartless cynicism of the talk around him; his
feelings as a Christian had been outraged, and, although the remark
was made simply and without affectation, it rang like the denunciation
of a prophet, the speaker’s kind eyes kindled and his small, frail
body seemed to grow in size. My mind went back to the Cathedral Church
at Jassy one Easter Eve. There, for a time, had reigned the proper
spirit; it had been fugitive, like all such moods. As Renan says: “_On
n’atteint l’idéal qu’un moment_.”[50]

If Europe is not to relapse into a race of armaments, world politics
must be controlled by forces less selfish and insidious. A more serious
element is required in public life, an element which will represent
the innumerable men and women who work with their hands and brains.
These are the people who desire peace, who find and seek no profit in
a state of war. They are neither revolutionaries nor faddists, they
are workers; they protest against the Treaties as a flagrant violation
of all principles of right, as an attempt to crush the spirit of the
conquered peoples, to visit the crimes of “irresponsible Governments”
on the heads of innocents; they denounce a policy in Russia which makes
the Russian people pariahs, and despise the men who, before peace had
been ratified with Germany, invited collaboration in the blockade of
Russia from the men they had called the Huns.

A great fact in evolution has occurred, and now mankind is at the
parting of the ways. Those who await a miracle or a hero to save them
from themselves are unworthy citizens and use an idle form of speech
when they talk of a new world. Old Europe’s suicide will culminate
in world-wide chaos, unless Democracy asserts itself and counsels of
wisdom and sanity prevail.

Time presses. The reaction of foreign policy on the internal affairs
of every State is becoming increasingly direct. Peace Treaties have
been signed, but slaughter and terrorism continue. In Central Europe,
great rivers, which are serene and splendid highways, are still defiled
with human blood, still serve as barriers and are charged with sighs.
The old discredited methods of “Secret Diplomacy” are being followed
and the destinies of peoples are still at the mercy of officials who
deal in bargains and transactions. In Great Britain and France, both in
the Press and Parliament, reactionary forces have got the upper hand.
As a consequence, trade is paralysed, and human misery exists on an
unprecedented scale.

While these conditions last, peace will be precarious. But the next
war will not be made by nations; it will be civil war, the misgoverned
will rise against their rulers and the foundations of our social fabric
will rock. The workers in all lands have realised, at last, that their
interests are the same, and that the greatest war in history was, from
their point of view, an internecine struggle. Only the purblind or the
reckless ignore this fact.

But, portentous as it is, this fact is the one redeeming feature of the
present situation, since it is the expression of a change of spirit,
and the first step towards more rational relationships between the
nations. Despair would be justified indeed if pride and prejudice and
greed permeated the masses as they do the classes, if the doctrines
preached by Jingo newspapers or the conversation in certain classes
of society were correct indices of the thoughts and ideals of our
generation.

Fortunately, this is not the case. Five years of war have been a
purifying blood-bath, they have taught innumerable men and women,
through suffering, to think.

A clamour of voices has arisen; their cry is “Forward” and is uttered
by millions of exasperated people, become articulate since the war.
From every quarter comes the tramp of hurrying feet, a mighty movement
is in progress. It cannot, like “sleeping waters,” be pent up, but its
purpose is not destructive. It seeks a useful outlet for a vast store
of human energy, a freer, wider life for manual workers, too long the
victims of exploitation, whose hearts and hands are needed to turn the
new world’s mill.

All lovers of freedom are in this movement; they are of every race
and creed and possess the true international spirit, whose aim is
progress. Not progress towards some impossible Utopia, where human
nature plays no part, but progress by ordered stages towards a more
reasonable social system, wherein the few will not exploit the many and
unscrupulous efficiency will be held in check; wherein idealism will
count a little and mankind, taught by adversity, will no longer wish
to be deceived; wherein “plain people,” however humble, will shake
off the shackles of apathy and indifference to moral issues, and claim
their birth-right.

       *       *       *       *       *

Egyptian monarchs built pyramids as tombs. Old Europe, during the
process of its suicide, built up a pyramid of errors which may well
serve, not only as the tomb of mediaeval systems, of false conceptions,
but also as a monument to remind succeeding generations of the errors
of the past.

A pyramid is a structure whose form is final, just bare, blank walls
converging to a point, and there it ends, offering a symbol of that
human pride which dares to set a limit to the progress of mankind.

Progress admits of no finality. Filled with the sentiment of progress
and standing on the ground of fact, humanity can look forward and ever
upward, and thus can rear a nobler edifice--a temple broad-based on
liberty and justice, whose columns are poised on sure foundations,
columns that soar and spring eternal, emblems of youth and hope.


THE END



FOOTNOTES


[1] The Ergene is a tributary of the Maritza and lies in Turkish Thrace.

[2] On the Enos-Midia line, thus leaving Constantinople in Turkish
hands with a small hinterland in Europe.

[3] Santa Sofia.

[4] “It is the liquidation of Austria.”

[5] Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office in Vienna.

[6] Turkish statistics: There is good reason to believe that these
figures were approximately correct; it is most improbable, in any case,
that the Turks would have exaggerated the number of Bulgars in this
vilayet.

[7] A bay in the Eastern Mediterranean Coast to which a British
squadron was sent whenever it was necessary to put pressure on the
Turks.

[8] “The Great Powerless.”

[9] “Don’t touch the Adriatic.”

[10] Austria-Hungary.

[11] “An accomplished fact.”

[12] That is a big nothing.

[13] Baron Burian, afterwards Count Burian, a prominent
Austro-Hungarian diplomat both before and during the war.

[14] Count Albert Mensdorff, Austro-Hungarian Ambassador in London for
15 years.

[15] A place close to and just outside the S.W. frontier of Bulgaria,
where the Bulgars resisted the combined attacks of the Servian and
Greek armies for 14 days.

[16] “A Cascade of Thrones.” The title of a series of articles
published by M. Take Jonescu in 1915.

[17] “Balkan haggling.”

[18] See map.

[19] “The Thrust to the East.”

[20] Loans are made only to the rich.

[21] Count Tisza, leader of the Hungarian Conservatives and ultimately
assassinated in Budapest by a Hungarian Socialist.

[22] Abandon Austria and we will abandon the French.

[23] The opportune moment.

[24] The father of M. Bratiano was the celebrated Rumanian patriot
who, in 1878, was tricked out of Bessarabia by Prince Gortchakoff, the
Russian Envoy, at the Treaty of Vienna.

[25] Count Czernin was at this period Austro-Hungarian Minister in
Bucharest; he succeeded Count Berchtold as Chancellor in the Dual
Monarchy after the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph.

[26] An Hungarian province at the confluence of the Danube and the
Theiss, N.E. of Belgrade.

[27] In the war of 1877 between Russia and Turkey, Rumania had come to
the rescue of Russia when the Russian army was held up by the Turks
under Osman Pasha at Plevna.

[28] The husband of Francesca da Rimini, who killed his wife and her
lover.

[29] The French General commanding the Allied Forces at Salonika.

[30] Baron von der Büsche; he became later Under-Secretary of State in
the Foreign Office at Berlin.

[31] The River Sereth divides Wallachia from Moldavia.

[32] Presan was one of Rumania’s ablest generals; he had commanded the
Northern Army at the commencement of hostilities, and was entrusted
with the direction of the operations for the defence of Bucharest.
After the retreat into Moldavia he became Chief of Staff to the King.

[33] Dorna Vatra is a town in the Carpathians on the S.W. frontier of
Bukovina.

[34] The River Pruth defines part of the frontier between Rumania and
Bessarabia and enters the Danube at Galatz.

[35] About 60 per cent. of the supplies of ammunition sent by the
Western Powers to Rumania were lost or stolen in transit through Russia.

[36] These Articles prescribed the position of the King of Rumania
as Commander-in-Chief of all forces in Rumanian territory. After the
retreat into Moldavia, advantage was taken of the somewhat inexplicit
character of these Articles and the preponderance of Russian troops to
place King Ferdinand under the orders of the Czar.

[37] The former German Minister to Bucharest.

[38] “Kyrie Eleison,” the Greek for “Lord have mercy on us,” described
by Cardinal Wiseman as “that cry for mercy which is to be found in
every liturgy of East and West.”

[39] Marasesti is a village in the Sereth Valley, where six Rumanian
divisions repelled repeated assaults by numerically superior German and
Austro-Hungarian forces under Field-Marshal Mackensen. The Rumanians
fought unsupported and caused 100,000 casualties in the enemy ranks.
They held their positions until the signature of peace at Bucharest.

[40] General Nivelles.

[41] To Paris.

[42] To Berlin.

[43] Speech of April 2nd, 1917.

[44] Message of December 4th, 1917.

[45] Declaration of September 27th, 1918.

[46] In a speech at Birmingham University on December 12, 1918, Lord
Robert Cecil said: “Our new ‘Society of Nations’ must not be a group,
however large and important. It is absolutely essential that the
‘League of Nations’ should be open to every nation which can be trusted
by its fellows to accept ‘ex animo,’ the principles and basis of such a
Society.”

[47] In the original--

    “Sceptre and crown _will_ tumble down,
    And in the level dust _be_ laid,” etc.

[48] The former Austro-Hungarian Foreign Office in Vienna.

[49] During the Conference, a well-known Pole, whose reputation for
shrewd observation is established, remarked: “Mr. Lloyd George has a
passion for popularity and is the most popular man in Paris, but the
‘Tiger’ is running the British Empire.”

[50] The ideal is reached for a moment only.



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Text uses both “Fraternalization” and “Fraternization”.

Page 133: “were” was missing in “Fundamentally, they were wrong”;
changed here.

Page 150: “battles are not merely battues” was printed that way, and
may have been intentional.

Page 175: “bass-relief” was printed that way.

Page 188: “nobless oblige” was printed that way.

Footnote 2, originally Footnote 1 on page 20: “Enos-Midia line” appeared
to have been misprinted as “Encs-Midia line”; changed here.

Footnote 18, originally Footnote 1 on page 63, refers to a map. The map
was included in the 1920 edition, printed in Great Britain, but not in
this 1922 edition, printed in the United States.





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