Difference between revisions of "XVI DARK DAYS FOR THE ALLIES"
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<br><br>WALTER H. PAGE.</BLOCKQUOTE>
<br><br>WALTER H. PAGE.</BLOCKQUOTE>
Revision as of 18:35, 17 January 2009
To Edward M. House
June 30, 1915.
MY DEAR HOUSE:
There's a distinct wave of depression here---perhaps I'd better say a period of setbacks has come. So far as we can find out only the Germans are doing anything in the war on land. The position in France is essentially the same as it was in November, only the Germans are much more strongly entrenched. Their great plenty of machine guns enables them to use fewer men and to kill more than the Allies. The Russians also lack ammunition and are yielding more and more territory. The Allies ---so you hear now---will do well if they get their little army away from the Dardanelles before the German Turks eat 'em alive, and no Balkan state comes in to help the Allies. Italy makes progress---slowly, of course, over almost impassable mountains---etc., etc. Most of this doleful recital I think is true; and I find more and more men here who have lost hope of seeing an end of the war in less than two or three years, and more and more who fear that the Germans will never be forced out of Belgium. And the era of the giant aeroplane seems about to come---a machine that can carry several tons and several men and go great distances---two engines, two propellers, and the like. It isn't at all impossible, I am told, that these machines may be the things that will at last end the war---possibly, but I doubt it.
At any rate, it is true that a great wave of discouragement is come. All these events and more seem to prove to my mind the rather dismal failure the Liberal Government made---a failure really to grasp the problem. It was a dead failure. Of course they are waking up now, when they are faced with a certain dread lest many soldiers prefer frankly to die rather than spend another winter in practically the same trenches. You hear rumours, too, of great impending military scandals---God knows whether there be any truth in them or not.
In a word, while no Englishman gives up or will ever give up---that's all rot---the job he has in hand is not going well. He's got to spit on his hands and buckle up his belt two holes tighter yet. And I haven't seen a man for a month who dares hope for an end of the fight within any time that he can foresee.
I had a talk to-day with the Russian Ambassador.(<A NAME="n129"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#129">129</A>) He wished to know how matters stood between the United States and Great Britain. I said to him: "I'll give you a task if you have leisure. Set to and help me hurry up your distinguished Ally in dealing with our shipping troubles."
The old man laughed---that seemed a huge joke to him; he threw up his hands and exclaimed---"My God! He is slow about his own business---has always been slow ---can't be anything else."
After more such banter, the nigger in his wood-pile poked his head out: "Is there any danger," he asked. "that munitions may be stopped?"
The Germans have been preparing northern France for German occupation. No French are left there, of course, except women and children and old men. They must be fed or starved or deported. The Germans put them on trains---a whole village at a time---and run them to the Swiss frontier. Of course the Swiss pass them on into France. The French have their own and---the Germans will have northern France without any French population, if this process goes on long enough.
The mere bang! bang! frightful era of the war is passed.
The Germans are settling down to permanent business with their great organizing machine. Of course they talk about the freedom of the seas and such mush-mush; of course they'd like to have Paris and rob it of enough money to pay what the war has cost them, and London, too. But what they really want for keeps is seacoast---Belgium and as much of the French coast as they can win. That's really what they are out gunning for. Of course, somehow at some time they mean to get Holland, too, and Denmark, if they really need it. Then they'll have a very respectable seacoast---the thing that they chiefly lack now.
More and more people are getting their nerves knocked out. I went to a big hospital on Sunday, twenty-five miles out of London. They showed me an enormous, muscular Tommy sitting by himself in a chair under the trees. He had had a slight wound which quickly got well. But his speech was gone. That came back, too, later. But then he wouldn't talk and he'd insist on going off by himself. He's just knocked out---you can't find out just how much gumption he has left. That's what the war did for him: it stupefied him. Well, it's stupefied lots of folks who have never seen a trench. That's what's happened. Of all the men who started in with the game, I verily believe that Lloyd George is holding up best. He organized British finance. Now he's organizing British industry.
It's got hot in London---hotter than I've ever known it. It gets lonelier (more people going away) and sadder ---more wounded coming back and more visible sorrow. We seem to be settling down to something that is more or less like Paris---so far less, but it may become more and more like it. And the confident note of an earlier period is accompanied by a dull undertone of much less cheerfulness. The end is---in the lap of the gods.
W. H. P.
. <P ALIGN=CENTER>To Arthur W. Page
American Embassy, London,
July 25, 1915.
. . . Many men here are very active in their thought about the future relations of the United States and Great Britain. Will the war bring or leave them closer together? If the German machine be completely smashed (and it may not be completely smashed) the Japanese danger will remain. I do not know how to estimate that danger accurately. But there is such a danger. And, if the German wild beast ever come to life again, there's an eternal chance of trouble with it. For defensive purposes it may become of the very first importance that the whole English-speaking world should stand together---not in entangling alliance, but with a much clearer understanding than we have ever yet had. I'll indicate to you some of my cogitations on this subject by trying to repeat what I told Philip Kerr(<A NAME="n130"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#130">130</A>) a fortnight ago---one Sunday in the country. I can write this to you without seeming to parade my own opinions.---Kerr is one of "The Round Table," perhaps the best group of men here for the real study and free discussion of large political subjects. Their quarterly, The Round Table, is the best review, I dare say, in the world. Kerr is red hot for a close and perfect understanding between Great Britain and the United States. I told him that, since Great Britain had only about forty per cent. of the white English-speaking people and the United States had about sixty per cent., I hoped in his natural history that the tail didn't wag the dog. I went on:
"You now have the advantage of us in your aggregation of three centuries of accumulated wealth---the spoil of all the world---and in the talent that you have developed for conserving it and adding to it and in the institutions you have built up to perpetuate it---your merchant ships, your insurance, your world-wide banking, your mortgages on all new lands; but isn't this the only advantage you have? This advantage will pass. You are now shooting away millions and millions, and you will have a debt that is bound to burden industry. On our side, we have a more recently mixed race than yours; you've begun to inbreed. We have also (and therefore) more adaptability, a greater keenness of mind in our masses; we are Old-World men set free-free of classes and traditions and all that they connote. Your so-called democracy is far behind ours. Your aristocracy and your privileges necessarily bring a social and economic burden. Half your people look backward.
"Your leadership rests on your wealth and on the power that you've built on your wealth."
When he asked me how we were to come closer together----"closer together, with your old-time distrust of us and with your remoteness?"---I stopped him at "remoteness."
"That's the reason," I said. "Your idea of our 'remoteness.' 'Remoteness' from what? From you? Are you not betraying the only real difficulty of a closer sympathy by assuming that you are the centre of the world? When you bring yourself to think of the British Empire as a part of the American Union---mind you, I am not saying that you would be formally admitted---but when you are yourselves in close enough sympathy with us to wish to be admitted, the chief difficulty of a real union of thought will be gone. You recall Lord Rosebery's speech in which he pictured the capital of the British Empire being moved to Washington if the American Colonies had been retained under the Crown? Well, it was the Crown that was the trouble, and the capital of English-speaking folk has been so moved and you still remain 'remote.' Drop 'remote' from your vocabulary and your thought and we'll actually be closer together."
It's an enormous problem---just how to bring these countries closer together. Perhaps nothing can do it but some great common danger or some great common adventure. But this is one of the problems of your lifetime. England can't get itself clean loose from the continent nor from continental mediævalism; and with that we can have nothing to do. Men like Kerr think that somehow a great push toward democracy here will be given by the war. I don't quite see how. So far the aristocracy have made perhaps the best showing in defense of English liberty. They are paying the bills of the war; they have sent their sons; these sons have died like men; and their parents never whimper. It's a fine breed for such great uses as these. There was a fine incident in the House of Lords the other day, which gave the lie to the talk that one used to hear here about "degeneracy." Somebody made a perfectly innocent proposal to complete a list of peers and peers' sons who had fallen in the war---a thing that will, of course, be done, just as a similar list will be compiled of the House of Commons, of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. But one peer after another objected vigorously lest such a list appear immodest. "We are but doing our duty. Let the matter rest there."
In a time like this the aristocracy proves its worth. In fact, all aristocracies grew chiefly out of wars, and perhaps they are better for wars than a real democracy. Here, you see, you run into one of those contradictions in life and history which make the world so hard to change. . . .
You know there are some reasons why peace, whenever it may come, will bring problems as bad as the problems of the war itself. I can think of no worse task than the long conferences of the Allies with their conflicting interests and ambitions. Then must come their conferences with the enemy. Then there are sure to be other conferences to try to make peace secure. And, of course, many are going to be dissatisfied and disappointed, and perhaps out of these disappointments other wars may come. The world will not take up its knitting and sit quietly by the fire for many a year to come. . . .
W. H. P.
One happiness came to Mr. and Mrs. Page in the midst of all these war alarums. On August 4, 1915, their only daughter, Katharine, was married to Mr. Charles G. Loring, of Boston, Massachusetts. The occasion gave the King an opportunity of showing the high regard in which Page and his family were held. It had been planned that the wedding should take place in Westminster Abbey, but the King very courteously offered Miss Page the Royal chapel in St. James's Palace. This was a distinguished compliment, as it was the first time that any marriage, in which both bride and bridegroom were foreigners, had ever been celebrated in this building, which for centuries has been the scene of royal weddings. The special place which his daughter had always held in the Ambassador's affections is apparent in the many letters that now followed her to her new home in the United States. The unique use Page made of the initials of his daughter's name was characteristic.
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To Mrs. Charles G. Loring
London, September 1, 1915.
MY DEAR K. A. P-TAIN:
Here's a joke on your mother and Frank: We three (and Smith) went up to Broadway in the car, to stay there a little while and then to go on into Wales, etc. The hotel is an old curiosity shop; you sit on Elizabethan chairs by a Queen Anne table, on a drunken floor, and look at the pewter platters on the wall or do your best to look at them, for the ancient windows admit hardly any light. "Oh! lovely," cries Frank; and then he and your mother make out in the half-darkness a perfectly wonderful copper mug on the mantelpiece; and you go out and come in the ramshackle door (stooping every time) after you've felt all about for the rusty old iron latch, and then you step down two steps (or fall), presently to step up two more. Well, for dinner we had six kinds of meat and two meat pies and potatoes and currants! My dinner was a potato. I'm old and infirm and I have many ailments, but I'm not so bad off as to be able to live on a potato a day. And since we were having a vacation, I didn't see the point. So I came home where I have seven courses for dinner, all good; and Mrs. Leggett took my place in the car. That carnivorous company went on. They've got to eat six kinds of meat and two meat pies and---currants! I haven't. Your mother calls me up on the phone every morning---me, who am living here in luxury, seven courses at every dinner---and asks anxiously, "And how are you, dear?" I answer: "Prime, and how are you?" We are all enjoying ourselves, you see, and I don't have to eat six kinds of meat and two meat pies and---currants! They do; and may Heaven save 'em and get 'em home safe!
Fig. 15. Col. Edward M. House. From a painting by P. A. Laszlo
Fig. 16. The Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry Asquith, Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1908-1916
It's lovely in London now---fine, shining days and showers at night and Ranelagh beautiful, and few people here; but I don't deny its loneliness---somewhat. Yet sleep is good, and easy and long. I have neither an ocean voyage nor six kinds of meat and two meat pies and currants. I congratulate myself and write to you and mother.
You'll land to-morrow or next day---good; I congratulate you. Salute the good land for me and present my respectful compliments to vegetables that have taste and fruit that is not sour---to the sunshine, in fact, and to everything that ripens and sweetens in its glow.
And you're now (when this reaches you) fixing up your home---your own home, dear Kitty. Bless your dear life, you left a home here---wasn't it a good and nice one?---left it very lonely for the man who has loved you twenty-four years and been made happy by your presence. But he'll love you twenty-five more and on and on---always. So you haven't lost that---nor can you. And it's very fit and right that you should build your own nest; that adds another happy home, you see. And I'm very sure it will be very happy always. Whatever I can do to make it so, now or ever, you have only to say. But your mother took your photograph with her and got it out of the bag and put it on the bureau as soon as she went to her room---a photograph taken when you were a little girl.
Hodson(<A NAME="n131"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#131">131</A>) came up to see me to-day and with tears of gratitude in his voice told me of the present that you and Chud had made him. He is very genuinely pleased. As for the rest, life goes on as usual.
I laugh as I think of all your new aunts and cousins looking you over and wondering if you'll fit, and then saying to one another as they go to bed: "She is lovely---isn't she? " I could tell 'em a thing or two if I had a whack at 'em.
And you'll soon have all your pretty things in place in your pretty home, and a lot more that I haven't seen. I'll see 'em all before many years---and you, too! Tell me, did Chud get you a dinner book? Keep your record of things: you'll enjoy it in later years. And you'll have a nice time this autumn---your new kinsfolk, your new friends and old and Boston and Cambridge. If you run across Mr. Mifflin, William Roscoe Thayer, James Ford Rhodes, President Eliot---these are my particular old friends whose names occur at the moment.
My love to you and Chud too,
W. H. P.
The task of being " German Ambassador to Great Britain" was evidently not without its irritations.
<P ALIGN=CENTER>To Arthur W. Page
September 15, 1915.
Yesterday was my German day. When the boy came up to my room, I told him I had some official calls to make.
"Therefore get out my oldest and worst suit." He looked much confused; and when I got up both my worst and best suits were laid out. Evidently he thought he must have misunderstood me. I asked your mother if she was ready to go down to breakfast. "Yes."---" Well, then I'll leave you." She grunted something and when we both got down she asked: "What did you say to me upstairs?" I replied: "I regard the incident as closed." She looked a sort of pitying look at me and a minute or two later asked: "What on earth is the matter with you? Can't you hear at all?" I replied: "No. Therefore let's talk." She gave it up, but looked at me again to make sure I was all there.
I stopped at the barber shop, badly needing a shave. The barber got his brush and razor ready. I said: "Cut my hair." He didn't talk for a few minutes, evidently engaged in deep thought.
When I got to my office, a case was brought to me of a runaway American who was caught trying to send news to Germany. "Very good," said I, "now let it be made evident that it shall appear therefore that his innocence having been duly established he shall be shot."
"That since it must be evident that his guilt is genuine therefore see that he be acquitted and then shot."
Laughlin and Bell and Stabler were seen in an earnest conference in the next room for nearly half an hour.
Shoecraft brought me a letter. "This is the most courteous complaint about the French passport bureau we have yet had. I thought you'd like to see this lady's letter. She says she knows you."
"Do not answer it, then."
He went off and conferred with the others.
Hodson spoke of the dog he sold to Frank. "Yes," said I, "since he was a very nice dog, therefore he was worthless."
And he went off after looking back at me in a queer way.
The day went on in that fashion. When I came out to go to lunch, the stairs down led upward and I found myself, therefore, stepping out of the roof on to the sidewalk ---the house upside down. Smith looked puzzled. "Home, sir?"
"No. Go the other way." After he had driven two or three blocks, I told him to turn again and go the other way---home!
Your mother said almost as soon as I got into the door ----"What was the matter with you this morning?"
"Oh, nothing. You forget that I am the German Ambassador."
Now this whole narrative is a lie. Nothing in it occurred. If it were otherwise it wouldn't be German.
W. H. P.
. <P ALIGN=CENTER>To Mrs. Charles G. Loring
London, 6 Grosvenor Square.
Sunday, September 19, 1915.
MY DEAR KITTY:
You never had a finer autumnal day in the land of the free than this day has been in this old kingdom---fresh and fair; and so your mother said to herself and me: "Let's go out to the Laughlins' to lunch," and we went. There never was a prettier drive. We found out among other things that you pleased Mrs. Laughlin very much by your letter. Her garden changes every week or so, and it never was lovelier than it is now.---Then we came back home and dined alone. Well, since we can't have you and Chud and Frank, I don't care if we do dine alone sometimes for some time to come. Your mother's monstrous good company, and sometimes three is a crowd. And now is a good time to be alone. London never was so dull or deserted since I've known it, nor ever so depressed. The military (land) operations are not cheerful; the hospitals are all full; I see more wounded soldiers by far than at any previous time; the Zeppelins came somewhere to this island every night for a week---one of them, on the night of the big raid, was visible from our square for fifteen or twenty minutes---in general it is a dull and depressing time. I have thought that since you were determined to run off with a young fellow, you chose a pretty good time to go away. I'm afraid there'll be no more of what we call "fun" in this town as long as we stay here.
Worse yet: in spite of the Coalition Government, and everybody's wish to get on smoothly and to do nothing but to push the war, since Parliament convened there's been a great row, which doesn't get less. The labour men give trouble; people blame the politicians: Lloyd George is saving the country, say some; Lloyd George ought to be hanged, say others. Down with Northcliffe! They seem likely to burn him at the stake---except those who contend that he has saved the nation. Some maintain that the cabinet is too big---twenty-two. More say that it has no leadership. If you favour conscription, you are a traitor: if you don't favour it, you are pro-German. It's the same sort of old quarrel they had before the war, only it is about more subjects. In fact, nobody seems very clearly to know what it's about. Meantime the Government is spending money at a rate that nobody ever dreamed of before. Three million pounds a day---some days five million. The Germans meantime are taking Russia; the Allies are not taking the Dardanelles; in France the old deadlock continues. Boston at its worst must be far more cheerful than this.
Affectionately and with my love to Chud,
W. H. P.
. <P ALIGN=CENTER>To the President
London, September 26, 1915.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT:
The suppression of facts about the military situation is more rigorous than ever since the military facts have become so discouraging. The volume of pretty well authenticated news that I used to hear privately has become sensibly diminished. Rumours that reach me by the back door, in all sorts of indirect ways, are not fewer, but fewer of them are credible. There is great confusion, great fear, very great depression---far greater, I think, than England has felt, certainly since the Napoleonic scare and probably since the threat of the Armada. Nobody, I think, supposes that England herself will be conquered: confidence in the navy is supreme. But the fear of a practical defeat of the Allies on the continent is become general. Russia may have to pay a huge indemnity, going far to reimburse Germany for the cost of the war; Belgium may be permanently held unless Germany receive an indemnity to evacuate, and her seaports may be held anyhow; the Germans may reach Constantinople before the Allies, and Germany may thus hold, when the war ends, an open way to the East; and France may have to pay a large sum to regain her northern territory now held by the Germans. These are not the convictions of men here, but they have distinctly become the fears; and many men's mind are beginning to adjust themselves to the possible end of the war, as a draw, with these results. Of course such an end would be a real German victory and---another war as soon as enough men grow up to fight it.
When the more cheerful part of public opinion, especially when any member of the Government, affects to laugh at these fears, the people say: "Well, make known the facts that you base your hope on. Precisely how many men have volunteered? Is the voluntary system a success or has it reached its limit? Precisely what is the situation in the Dardanelles? Are the allied armies strong enough to make a big drive to break through the German line in France? Have they big guns and ammunition enough? What are the facts about the chance in the Dardanelles? What have we done with reference to the Balkan States? " Thus an angry and ominous political situation is arising. The censorship on war news apparently becomes severer, and the general fear spreads and deepens. The air, of course, becomes heavily charged with such rumours as these: that if the Government continue its policy of secrecy, Lloyd George will resign, seeing no hope of a real victory: that, if he do resign, his resignation will disrupt the Government---cause a sort of earthquake; that the Government will probably fall and Lloyd George will be asked to form another one, since he is, as the public sees it, the most active and efficient man in political life; that, if all the Balkan States fail the Allies, Sir Edward Grey will be reckoned a failure and must resign; and you even now hear talk of Mr. Balfour's succeeding him.
It is impossible to say what basis there is for these and other such rumours, but they show the general very serious depression and dissatisfaction. Of that there is no doubt. Nor is there any doubt about grave differences in the Cabinet about conscription nor of grave fear in the public mind about the action of labour unions in hindering the utmost production of ammunition, nor of the increasing feeling that the Prime Minister doesn't lead the nation. Except Lloyd George and the Chancellor of the Exchequer(<A NAME="n132"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#132">132</A>) the Cabinet seems to suffer a sort of paralysis. Lord Kitchener's speech in the House of Lords, explaining the military situation, reads like a series of month-old bulletins and was a great disappointment. Mr. Asquith's corresponding speech in the House seemed to lack complete frankness. The nation feels that it is being kept in the dark, and all the military information that it gets is discouraging. Sir Edward Grey, as philosophic and enduring a man as I know, seems much more depressed than I have ever known him to be; Bryce is very very far from cheerful; Plunkett,(<A NAME="n133"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#133">133</A>) whom also you know, is in the dumps---it's hard to find a cheerful or a hopeful man.
The secrecy of official life has become so great and successful that prophecy of political changes must be mere guess work. But, unless good news come from the Dardanelles in particular, I have a feeling that Asquith may resign---be forced out by the gradual pressure of public opinion; that Lloyd George will become Prime Minister, and that (probably) Sir Edward Grey may resign. Yet I cannot take the prevailing military discouragement at its face value. The last half million men and the last million pounds will decide the contest, and the Allies will have these. This very depression strengthens the nation's resolution to a degree that they for the moment forget. The blockade and the armies in the field will wear Germany down---not absolutely conquer her, but wear her down---probably in another year.
In the meantime our prestige (if that be the right word), in British judgment, is gone. As they regard it, we have permitted the Germans to kill our citizens, to carry on a world-wide underhand propaganda from our country (as well as in it), for which they have made no apology and no reparation but only vague assurances for the future now that their submarine fleet has been almost destroyed. They think that we are credulous to the point of simplicity to accept any assurances that Bernstorff may give---in a word, that the peace-at-any-price sentiment so dominates American opinion and the American Government that we will submit to any indignity or insult---that we will learn the Germans' real character when it is too late to save our honour or dignity. There is no doubt of the definiteness or depth of this opinion.
And I am afraid that this feeling will show itself in our future dealings with this government. The public opinion of the nation as well as the Government accepts their blockade as justified as well as necessary. They will not yield on that point, and they will regard our protests as really inspired by German influence---thus far at least: that the German propaganda has organized and encouraged the commercial objection in the United States, and that this propaganda and the peace-at-any-price sentiment demand a stiff controversy with England to offset the stiff controversy with Germany; and, after all, they ask, what does a stiff controversy with the United States amount to? I had no idea that English opinion could so quickly become practically indifferent as to what the United States thinks or does. And as nearly as I can make it out, there is not a general wish that we should go to war. The prevalent feeling is not a selfish wish for military help. In fact they think that, by the making of munitions, by the taking of loans, and by the sale of food we can help them more than by military and naval action.
Their feeling is based on their disappointment at our submitting to what they regard as German dallying with us and to German insults. They believe that, if we had sent Bernstorff home when his government made its unsatisfactory reply to our first Lusitania note, Germany would at once have "come down"; opportunist Balkan States would have come to the help of the Allies; Holland and perhaps the Scandinavian States would have got some consideration at Berlin for their losses by torpedoes; that more attention would have been paid by Turkey to our protest against the wholesale massacre of the Armenians; and that a better settlement with Japan about Pacific islands and Pacific influence would have been possible for the English at the end of the war. Since, they argue, nobody is now afraid of the United States, her moral influence is impaired at every capital; and I now frequently hear the opinion that, if the war lasts another year and the Germans get less and less use of the United States as a base of general propaganda in all neutral countries, especially all American countries, they are likely themselves to declare war on us as a mere defiance of the whole world and with the hope of stirring up internal trouble for our government by the activity of the Germans and the Irish in the United States, which may hinder munitions and food and loans to the Allies.
I need not remark that the English judgment of the Germans is hardly judicial. But they reply to this that every nation has to learn the real, incredible character of the Prussian by its own unhappy experience. France had so to learn it, and England, Russia, and Belgium; and we (the United States), they say, fail to profit in time by the experience of these. After the Germans have used us to the utmost in peace, they will force us into war---or even flatly declare war on us when they think they can thus cause more embarrassment to the Allies, and when they conclude that the time is come to make sure that no great nation shall emerge from the war with a clear commercial advantage over the others; and in the meantime they will prove to the world by playing with us that a democracy is necessarily pacific and hence (in their view) contemptible. I felt warranted the other day to remark to Lord Bryce on the unfairness of much of the English judgment of us (he is very sad and a good deal depressed). "Yes," he said, "I have despaired of one people's ever really understanding another even when the two are as closely related and as friendly as the Americans and the English."
You were kind enough to inquire about my health in your last note. If I could live up to the popular conception here of my labours and responsibilities and delicate duties (which is most flattering and greatly exaggerated), I should be only a walking shadow of a man. But I am most inappreciately well. I imagine that in some year to come, I may enjoy a vacation, but I could not enjoy it now. Besides since civilization has gone backward several centuries, I suppose I've gone back with it to a time when men knew no such thing as a vacation. (Let's forgive House for his kindly, mistaken solicitude.) The truth is, I often feel that I do not know myself---body or soul, boots or breeches. This experience is making us all here different from the men we were---but in just what respects it is hard to tell. We are not within hearing of the guns (except the guns that shoot at Zeppelins when they come); but the war crowds itself in on us sensibly more and more. There are more wounded soldiers on the streets and in the parks. More and more families one knows lose their sons, more and more women their husbands. Death is so common that it seems a little thing.
Four persons have come to my house to-day (Sunday) in the hope that I may find their missing kinsmen, and two more have appealed to me on the telephone and two more still have sent me notes. Since I began this letter, Mrs. Page insisted on my going out on the edge of the city to see an old friend of many years who has just lost both his sons and whose prospective son-in-law is at home wounded. The first thing he said was: "Tell me, what is America going to do?" As we drove back, we made a call on a household whose nephew is "missing."----"Can't you possibly help us hear definitely about him?"
This sort of thing all day every day must have some effect on any man. Then---yesterday morning gave promise of a calm, clear day. I never know what sensational experience awaits me around the next corner. Then there was put on my desk the first page of a reputable weekly paper which was filled with an open letter to me written by the editor and signed. After the usual description of my multitudinous and delicate duties, I was called on to insist that my government should protest against Zeppelin raids on London because a bomb might kill me! Humour doesn't bubble much now on this side the world, for the censor had forbidden the publication of this open letter lest it should possibly cause American-German trouble! Then the American correspondents came in to verify a report that a news agency is said to have had that I was deluged with threatening letters!---More widows, more mothers looking for lost sons! . . . Once in a while---far less often than if I lived in a sane and normal world---I get a few hours off and go to a lonely golf club. Alas I there is seldom anybody there but now and then a pair of girls, and now and then a pair of old fellows who have played golf for a century. Yet back in London in the War Office I hear they indulge in disrespectful hilarity at the poor game I play. Now how do they know? (You'd better look to your score with Grayson: the English have spies in America. A major-general in their spy-service department told Mrs. Page that they knew all about Archibald(<A NAME="n134"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#134">134</A>) before he got on the ship in New York.)
All this I send you not because it is of the slightest permanent importance (except the English judgment of us) but because it will prove, if you need proof, that the world is gone mad. Everything depends on fighting power and on nothing else. A victory will save the Government. Even distinctly hopeful military news will. And English depression will vanish with a turn of the military tide. If it had been Bernstorff instead of Dumba---that would have affected even the English judgment of us. Tyrrell(<A NAME="n135"></A><A HREF="Pagenotes.htm#135">135</A>) remarked to me---did I write you? "Think of the freaks of sheer, blind Luck; a man of considerable ability like Dumba caught for taking a risk that an idiot would have avoided, and a fool like Bernstorff escaping!" Then he added: "I hope Bernstorff will be left. No other human being could serve the English as well as he is serving them." So, you see, even in his depression the Englishman has some humour left---e. g., when that old sea dog Lord Fisher heard that Mr. Balfour was to become First Lord of the Admiralty, he cried out: "Damn it! he won't do: Arthur Balfour is too much of a gentleman." So John Bull is now, after all, rather pathetic---depressed as he has not been depressed for at least a hundred years. The nobility and the common man are doing their whole duty, dying on the Bosphorus or in France without a murmur, or facing an insurrection in India; but the labour union man and the commercial class are holding back and hindering a victory. And there is no great national leader.
WALTER H. PAGE.