The Netherlands. There were few tears shed when we steamed out of Frankfort two days ago on our way to home and freedom. It was wonderful to feel that we might talk above a whisper in the railway-carriage; amazing that we had not to scrutinize carefully every corner to be sure no spies lurked there, and most delightful of all to know that we had got beyond the reach of the Demon of the Burg-Strasse. Egotistically enough we went over in retrospect our anxieties, disappointments and miseries. Should we ever get rid of that evil shadow, we wondered, which had darkened so cruelly two weary months of our lives! Continue reading
Fifty women and children go. We sleep in Frankfort, and cross from Flushing to Folkestone. Oh! that terrible mined sea, and the “untersuchung” of the Frontier. I tremble for this Diary, all letters I have destroyed.
Terrible news! A telegram was posted up in the town this morning, saying that three English “Panzerkreuzers” had been sunk by one German submarine. Of course the church bells pealed, and the flags came out, and the children sang “Nun danket alle Gott,” because 950 brave Englishmen had gone under. We are much depressed, and our depression is aggravated by the want of occupation here. We dare not sketch for fear of being “verhaftet” (arrested). It is no good writing because every scrap of paper will be taken from us on the frontier; nobody I know plays bridge, and so I read and walk all day long. Continue reading
If we may believe such good news we are to be released from this irksome life, and set at liberty next Saturday. Our joy is much damped, however, by hearing that none of the men are to be allowed to leave, and, of course, their wives stay with them. Mr. Ives has made a special journey to Berlin on behalf of our poor men, but the authorities are obdurate.
People say that the loss of life in this terrible war is beyond belief as far as the Germans are concerned. To hide this the Emperor requests that no one shall wear mourning for the dead until the war is over. Also, no complete catalogues of casualties are issued, only lists for each kingdom, or duchy, so that the bulk of the people have no idea of the waste of life. The wounded being so numerous, the doctors now have little time to attend to them on the spot, and therefore they are put into trains and sent off to “Lazaretts” sometimes before even their wounds are washed. A Belgian lady who had a special police permit to go to Frankfort, returned this afternoon in a train full of wounded soldiers. One of these was put into her carriage. He had been badly shot in the arm; his sleeve was soaked with blood, and that had coagulated; his wound had never been washed, and French earth was still on his boots, and yet he had been sent in this condition from Rheims to Giessen!
Our passports are now in the hands of the military authorities at Frankfort, and Mr. Ives, the American Vice-Consul, is doing all in his power to get us leave to go. The Superintendent of the Inhalatorium is most kind and sympathetic. She inquired why I had not been there for three days, and when I told her “Gar kein Geld” (no money) was the cause, she cried with real feeling, “Schrecklich!” (terrible). Any thing to do with money or the want of it appeals to the Teutonic mind, although the Germans sneer at us for being a nation of shopkeepers. There are two words we hope never to hear again, “Kultur” and “Unser.” “Unser Deutschland,” “Unser Kaiser,” “Unser Kultur.” How weary and trite are these! What an extraordinary mixture the Germans are, brave, conceited, sentimental, prosaic, patriotic, and yet no people so soon lose their national characteristics, and become citizens of another country as Germans. Many of their intellectual poses are absolutely morbid. They adore Ibsen as a playwright and despise Goldsmith and Sheridan; they worship Gauguin, and the school of Impressionists, and have little appreciation nowadays for pre-Raphaelitism. They are intensely and truly musical, and it is amazing, taking into consideration their extraordinary lack of humour, that they should be such accomplished students of Shakespeare, but of real wit or humour the German possesses not an atom. Take, for instance, the modern novels of Suderman, of Rudolph Herzog, of Rudolph Stratz, of Bernard Kellerman, of Paul Heyse, and you will find intense seriousness, tragedy, pathos, masterly drawing of character, and absolutely no fun from cover to cover. As for the “Fliegende Blätter,” the German “Punch,” it is the sickliest imitation of humour possible to conceive. Foremost in science, the German is yet a neophyte in the graces and arts of life. What cooking! what clothes!
At the eleventh hour and when I seemed at the end of my resources, help came from a most unexpected quarter! I can never cease to be grateful for the goodness and kindness which relieved my distress. The Germans look downcast, the Russians jubilant. How paternal this Government is no one who has not lived in Germany can imagine. For instance, above the nearest pillar box I saw a notice written “Don’t forget address and stamps!”
A letter at last! but only one from the American Consul at Frankfort, saying that the Foreign Office wanted to know my whereabouts as several friends had inquired about me and my safety. I can’t imagine why, when America rescued her stranded citizens long ago, and sent them money to get home, we should be suffering like this. Nothing more about the phantom train! Our nerves are becoming wrought up, and we are developing unexpectedly irritable and argumentative natures. The weather is amazingly windy and horribly cold, one shivers in summer garments, and cannot afford to buy warmer things. A leading article in the “Frankfurter Zeitung” gives us a grain of comfort, since it is headed “Geduld und Zuversicht” (patience and confidence), and begins,
“In consequence of the victorious news of the first weeks, those remaining at home had become accustomed to constant victories, and the pause in the news of the battlefield of the West is a great trial of patience.” Long may that trial last! On the whole we ought to be thankful that we are in Hesse and not in Prussia. The Hessians are a simple, kindly people, pleasant, and good tempered. I have known Germany well for eighteen years. When first we travelled in the Fatherland I found each Duchy, or Kingdom, or Principality, devoted to its own particular Ruler, and little outside it mattered to its people. Nowadays there are no Hessians or Würtembergers, not even Saxons or Bavarians, but all are Germans, and for one photograph of the Grand Duke of Hesse and his Duchess you will see here one hundred of “Unser Kaiser” and “Unsere Kaiserin.” They have become Imperialists, and the ambitious spirit which animates them is shown by the act of a soldier at Liège who chalked up on a wall: “Kaiser Wilhelm the Second, Emperor of Europe.”
I have now 2d. left in the world, and have not taken my inhalation for two days, not being able to pay for it. The money I telegraphed for has not yet come, and life seems very difficult! I think of the old lines:
“‘Tis a very good world we live in, To lend, or to spend, or to give in; But to beg, or to borrow, or get a man’s own, ‘Tis the very worst world that ever was known.”
The B——s, who to our envy have received special passes to go to Denmark, got as far as Hamburg and then had their passports taken from them. The Chaplain and his wife disappeared one morning, and we learn that he obtained a special pass on the ground of being a clergyman. He was heard to utter something about the “Bishop of London,” and perhaps that was the talisman. Lady M—— tells me that they have arrived in Hamburg, we wonder what their fate will be!
A delightful story has just reached me from an Italian source. In the church of a Convent Hospital in France, one of the sisters was praying aloud with immense fervour, and when she came to the “Confiteor” she said: “C’est ma faute! c’est ma faute! c’est ma très grande faute,” whereupon uprose a Turco crying out: “Ah! non! ma Soeur! c’est la faute à Guilleaume!”
I hear that no men who have served in the Army or Navy are to be allowed to go with us. To-day’s “Frankfurter Zeitung” thinks that England must be at her last gasp, or she would not have “barbarians such as Indians, Japanese and Highlanders” fighting her battles for her! They also declare on “unimpeachable evidence” that India is in a state of revolt, and that the Japanese are to be despatched at once to quell the rebellion. Any misfortune to the British delights them.
The singular absence of humour of the Germans often amuses me. I think it was Palmerston who described Germany as “that land of damned Professors.” They are all so desperately in earnest, and their “Kultur” is so serious, that jokes and fun seem like blasphemy. My penury has again been relieved by Mr. S——’s kind loan of £1. Lady M—— came in to tell me that the American Vice-Consul had telegraphed to Mr. W—— the good news that we are all to go on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday next. I have heard this story so often that I am utterly sceptical. We conclude that things are going badly for the enemy, since there is no bell-ringing, and the flags have been taken in.