Again rumours of our going, but even though release will be most welcome, we all dread the journey. Terrible tales come to us of the treatment meted out to foreigners crossing the frontier. Many English were turned out of Wiesbaden and sent here. At F—— they had their luggage searched, and the ladies of the party were stripped to the skin by women who even combed their hair to see if by any ingenuity they had concealed plans and drawings in the puffs and coils, two soldiers with fixed bayonets mounting guard meanwhile outside. No doubt we shall remember this journey to the end of our lives, but what can you expect from a people whose Prophet Nietzsche says, “What is more harmful than any vice? Pity for the weak and helpless—Christianity!”
“Gehen die Schottländer wirklich mit nackten Beinen in die Schlacht?” (Do the Highlanders really go into battle with naked legs?)
“Wie lange wird es ungefähr dauern, bis die Deutschen Paris eingenommen haben?” (How long will it be before the Germans have taken Paris?) and so on.
The Germans seem depressed, no flags, no bands, and although there is a notice posted up in the town to say that the Crown Prince has achieved another victory, there is evidently something unsatisfactory in the background to counterbalance this. I draw deductions from the “Frankfurter Zeitung,” which has a bitter article entitled “Torheiten” (Folly), and which speaks of the “Kindische Freudengeheul” (childish howls of joy) of the English and French Press, because “ein parr Kalonnen deutscher Soldaten ein Stuck weges zurückgezogen haben” (two columns of German soldiers had withdrawn a bit of the way back). Then the writer contrasts the boastful words (“prahlender wörte”) of England with the self-restraint and pious calm and virtuous behaviour of Germany. One has only to look at the postcards in the Park Strasse to see which of the combatants is boastful. England is drawn as ignominiously lying on the ground (when she isn’t running away) and Germany invariably is kicking or thrashing her.
People are less friendly than at first, though the bath attendants, people in the Inhalatorium, and doctors are most kind. I had tea at Müller’s with Miss H—— the other day. There were at least thirty empty chairs in the tea-room, but a German woman marched up to the chair on which I had laid my daily newspaper, and ordered me to take it off, as she must have my chair! She was stout and ugly, and had a way of doing her hair which, as a writer says, “alone would have proved impeccable virtue in the face of incriminating circumstantial evidence.” For all their “Kultur” Germans are gross, and to the last degree inartistic. Their “nouveau art” is repulsive; their dressing outrageously ugly, and their cooking atrocious. I have watched them here year after year tramping up and down the shady walks stolidly drinking, wearing garments of ingeniously devised ugliness and blind to “l’inutile beauté.” There is no variety of type nor individuality of person in either men or women. These worthy Hausfrauen have no grace of dainty frills, diaphanous lace or rustling petticoats. They are obviously and incontestably of the class described by a witty writer to whom “a lace petticoat is as much a badge of infamy as a cigarette on the stage.” The German proletariat cannot be susceptible to externals, else the universal sad-coloured skirt, the ill-fitting blouse and the ugly hat worn by his women-folk could not find favour in his eyes.
Life in Altheim has changed under war conditions. The Kur Haus is closed, there are no teas on the Terrace or promenadings to the strains of Grieg or Strauss, or theatrical performances. The German Kur-Gäste have left, and only the Russian, English and a few Belgian prisoners of war remain. Russians here are chiefly of a very low class. Most of the women go about bareheaded, and all are rough and unkempt and dirty-looking. I fancy some of them have suffered much privation, but happily their order of release has come. They will have to travel by Denmark, Sweden and across to Petrograd. The weather is autumnal, and they have only summer clothes, like us. We cannot help them, having so little money ourselves. I have had to borrow twice, and tried to sell my jewellery without success, but I have developed a latent and unsuspected talent for laundry work. The pretty summer shops in the Park Strasse are now closed, and the sound of beating mattresses is heard everywhere; the blinds of most of the villas are drawn down, and the families having no longer lodgers have descended to their winter quarters on the ground floor. Only a few einspänners are left, as both Kutschers and horses are gone to meet a “Heldentod” for their Fatherland.
One sees white-capped nurses and Red Cross Ambulance men and wounded and bandaged warriors everywhere. When recovered, the soldiers get three days leave to visit their families, and then return to the Front. Poor souls! Shops are chiefly tended by women nowadays, and the German Frau is not a capable shopkeeper like the French woman. A “Drogerie” here is presided over by the wife of the man who owns it, in his absence at the war. She is a gentle, rather pretty creature, but amazingly slow and stupid. If tooth-powder be asked for, she mounts a ladder, searches among a hundred bottles, shakes her head despairingly, and wonders where her “Mann” has put it. Outside her Küche and house, the German woman does not shine, but she is a faithful unselfish wife, and a good and affectionate mother. Mr. Ives thinks we shall certainly get away next week. I hope so! The weather is cold and rainy, and there is no fire-place in my room.
Nothing new in the situation, but we rejoice to see grave faces and groups looking solemn in the streets, and talking in subdued voices, and thank God! we hear no bell-ringing! Everything cheering we read in the “Corriere della Sera” is denied in the “Frankfurter Zeitung” or given as a production of the “Lügen Fabrik” (manufactory of lies).
A rumour has reached us that the Crown Prince has been captured, and that the enemy is retreating. No official confirmation has come to hand however; but the flags are down at last, and the jangling of bells has ceased, and we have not heard “Deutschland über Alles” for twenty-four hours, “Gott sei Dank”! Prince Joachim is wounded, and he has sent a telegram worded after the manner of his dear Papa, thanking God who in His goodness permitted him to be wounded for his beloved Fatherland. I wonder what Frederick the Great would have thought of these boastful warriors. We English are looked upon with horror as the brutal barbarians who use dum dum bullets, and Sir Edward Grey’s dignified disclaimer is reported under the polite heading “Grey leugnet” (Grey lies).
Unaccountably the forward march seems to have been checked, although we don’t know why. Maubeuge has fallen, and of course the usual bell-ringing and bunting and singing has celebrated the victory. We cannot understand what our troops are doing. There is no mention of them in the German papers, only columns of sneers and abuse of England.
Wonder of wonders! no bell-ringing to-day, nor processions of singing youngsters, so we hope there is a lull in the “Sieges.”
Miss H—— went last week to have her hair washed, and during the process her hair-dresser remarked casually to her, “We shall be in Paris in a day or two, and in London in another week, and when we have conquered England as well as France you will all have to learn to speak German.” This shows the amazing conceit and arrogance of the people. Poor, ignorant things, they are quite hoodwinked by their rulers—and even look forward to seeing their Kaiser “Emperor of Europe”! One day we read that a bag has been made of 30,000 Russians, the next that the number was understated, and that it is 70,000. As for Belgians and French, every day 10,000 men and guns ad lib. are captured, and the poor silly people believe it all. Villas and streets are still beflagged, and by this time we know every patriotic song in the “Vaterlandslieder” book by heart. One tries to be plucky, but our hearts are very sad just now.
Paris seems doomed, and apparently the French have abandoned hope too, since Poincaré and his Cabinet have gone to Bordeaux. The German Press call him a “Feiger” (Coward).
No church now! Even that taken from us! The American Vice-Consul has been here, and still thinks that we may get away in a fortnight. We are sick with hoping and being disappointed. The German Press full of the most virulent abuse of England, “treacherous,” “hypocritical,” “lying,” “cowardly,” “boastful,” there is no bad name they don’t call her! Russia and France and Belgium get no lashings of scorn and fury and hatred such as England does! At last the account of Sir Edward Goschen’s interviews with Von Jagow and Bethmann Hollweg has appeared in the German papers. I had read it all in the “Corriere della Sera” long ago. They talk of stopping Italian papers in Germany since they are pro-English (in German, “lying”).
Most of my English friends here went to the German church to-day. The Pfarrer pointed out to his congregation how clearly God had favoured their cause, how victory had followed victory, the virtuous, religious people triumphing over the wicked, ungodly nations. Then he spoke of the day so near when Germany should annihilate the “Macht von England,” and teach her when crushed and humbled “die Wahrheit,” Religion and Morality! Humph!
The “Times” of the 5th August has turned up in Altheim. It has gone the round of our little community until such a worn, creased remnant reached me, that I had much ado to keep it together until I could master its contents. One felt a second Rip Van Winkle, awaking after a long sleep, our world being so confined here. At last I have discovered how to get money from England. One writes to the American Embassy in Berlin, and encloses a telegram (with postal order for the same) to one’s banker in London, instructing him to pay the sum of money wanted to the American Embassy in London, to be forwarded through their kind offices to the Embassy in Berlin. The telegram to be written on a sheet of foolscap paper, with the full name and address of the sender, and the name also of the nearest American Consul. No letters can be sent through this channel.
Despair! The American Ambassador at Berlin has telegraphed that we English are not to leave! The Russians are going, but our treatment is retaliatory, because they say England is detaining German women, and Russia lets them go. To make all worse Fraulein S——, tired of keeping me so long for nothing, has given me notice to quit at the moment when for three days I have had no greater fortune than 2d. in my pocket. Where I am to go, or who will take me in without money I can’t imagine! The American Ambassador in Berlin and Mr. Ives, the American Vice-Consul at Frankfort, are working untiringly and most kindly for us. We do not complain of actual harsh treatment, although to be turned adrift in the world without money by one whose tenant I had been for five years is hardly kind. However, war is war undoubtedly. Mr. Ives is from the Southern States, Mr. H——, his Chief, from the Northern. The Scotch chauffeur has been released after a week in prison. He looks pale and dispirited, “a sadder,” and no doubt “a wiser man.”