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To Number Our Days 


So teach us to number our days, 
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 

Psalm 90:12 

Charles Scribnefs Sons 




The Ashes of Klaas 3 

I In Holland Stands a House 7 

II Frisian Interlude 55 

III In the New World 83 

IV Soldier of the King 125 

V The First Time I Saw Paris 157 

VI Short Stand in Dixieland 223 

VII Going To and Fro in the Earth 249 

VIII Shadow of Coming Events 301 

IX I Saw the Triumph of Evil 325 

X Last Days in France 367 

XI Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 387 

List of Illustrations 

facing page 54 

Paternal grandfather 



The author as a soldier in the Canadian Army, World War I 

facing page 55 

At home in St.-Germain-en-Laye, outside of Paris, 1929 

facing page 86 
Andre Gide 
Henri Barbusse 
Romain Rolland 
Hendrik van Loon 

facing page 87 



facing page 310 
Pierre Laval 
Count Ciano 
Joseph Goebbels 

facing page 311 

Eduard Daladier, speaking; and left, seated, Edouard Herriot, in 1937 

Mr. and Mrs. L6on Blum, 1936 

x List of Illustrations 

facing page 342 
Leonhard Ragaz 
Nicolai A. Berdiaiev 
Reuben Brainin 
Chaim Weizmann 

facing page 343 

The author, second from left, with Gloria Holden, Lionel Barrymore, Mrs. 

Max Band and her husband, the painter, in Hollywood. The man on the 

extreme left is unidentified. 

Mr. and Mrs. van Paassen at home, 1958 

To Number Our Days 

The Ashes of Klaas 

And rr came to pass in the tenth year of the reign of King Philip that a 
new wave of persecution broke over the Netherlands. In every town and 
village the clouds of smoke of the autos-da-f6 hung over the market places 
like a pall of doom. On a mere whispered word of denunciation, men. and 
women were dragged from their houses in the dead of night and led before 
the infamous Blood Tribunal. If a burgher was found guilty of heresy, all 
his goods, movable and immovable, were confiscated and he himself 
sentenced to be burnt at the stake. 

And the informers received one third of the victim's property, and the 
King, though far away in his palace of the Escurial, inherited the rest. 

Now it so happened that among the thousands of Hollanders and 
Flemings caught in the Blood Tribunal's dragnet was a humble charcoal 
burner by the name of Klaas who lived with his wife Soetkin and their 
twelve year old son Tyl, in a back street of the town of Damme in West 
Flanders. He was a man of open countenance and blue eyes wearing a 
trim pointed beard, ash-blond in color. Of frank speech and the jovial 
disposition of character often portrayed in the pictures of Jan Steen, Klaas 
talked a good deal, but he laughed still more. Once a day he drank beer 
in a tavern on the Grand' Place where he astonished bystanders with a 
display of inordinate physical strength by lifting a full barrel above his 
head. But he was not a heretic. His misadventures stemmed from the 
circumstance that he had lately come into some money through a legacy 
from an uncle who died in a faraway country. 

An envious neighbor carried word to Johannes Titelman, the Grand 
Inquisitor, that the said Klaas kept a roll of gold ducats concealed in or 
about his cottage. Also that he had uttered blasphemy concerning the 
sacred oils employed by the Church in the administration of extreme 

4 To Number Our Days 

Thereupon the civic guards came to Klaas' dwelling, clamped irons 
around the charcoal burner's legs and led him before the Blood Tribunal. 
Then said the Grand Inquisitor with a disarming smile: "I pray thee, Klaas, 
tell me what may be thine opinion of oiir And Klaas, unsuspecting the 
trap, smiled back and replied: "Of oil, Most Reverend Father, I would 
say that it is a necessary, if not indispensable ingredient in the preparation 
of salad But it's also useful in another way in that one may con- 
veniently grease one's boots therewith. ..." And he laughed out loud. 

Upon hearing these words the Grand Inquisitor rose and, turning to 
his clerks and assistants, exclaimed: "What further need is there to ques- 
tion this man? He has freely confessed his blasphemies. ... Ye have heard 
how he cast vile aspersions on our sacred religion. . . . Methinks, he 
deserves the death penalty. Accordingly, I turn him over to the secular 
arm for further questioning and punishment. ..." 

Then the bailiffs seized Klaas and bound him to the rack or pain bench, 
the pynbank, as they say in the Flemish tongue. And they tortured him 
by holding burning candles to the soles of his feet and under his armpits. 
Yet, however fierce the torment, the man made no outcry, not even when 
red-hot pincers were applied to his flesh and his tongue was pierced for 
uttering ungodliness. 

But he did not disclose the hiding place of the gold coins. 

And for once the King did not inherit. 

And Klaas was burnt by slow fire in the square of Damme before the 
portals of Our Lady's church in the presence of a vast throng while the 
bells pealed a salute to the incoming month of May, the month of Mary, 
full of grace. 

And when darkness descended, Soetldn took her son Tyl by the hand 
and walked to the place of execution. She spoke to the sentinel who was 
posted where still hung the charred corpse of her husband: "Messire 
Sergeant, as a son of Flanders, have compassion on this man's widow and 
orphan, and suffer us to pray for the repose of his dear soul." 

And the sergeant replied: "Pray if you will, but make sure to depart 
before dawn lest I be found transgressing the law which forbids granting 
favors to the relatives of a heretic." 

And Soetldn thanked the guard and knelt down and wept bitterly. 
After a time she rose to her feet and approached the body and touched 

The Ashes of Klaas 5 

it. And with a knife she scraped some ashes from the region of her dead 
man's heart. And she caught the ashes in her hands and carried them home. 

Then she made a sachet of two pieces of silk of equal size, one piece 
scarlet in color, the other black. And she sewed them together with needle 
and thread, and, after placing the ashes inside, hung the sachet by a cord 
around her son's neck. 

Then said Soetkin to Tyl: "My son, the red is for the innocent blood 

shed in our land, and the black is the token of our mourning I place 

these ashes on your heart and the hearts of all those who come after you in 
these Netherlands as long as our race endures. And whenever an injustice 
is committed in any place whatsoever in the whole wide world, these ashes 
will warn you and your sons by stirring and beating upon your breasts. 
And upon feeling the ashes knock, you will open your hearts and go to the 
aid of those who are oppressed. And you will stand by those who are 
reviled and persecuted for conscience's sake. And you will fight their 
battle for those who cannot defend themselves because of their chains 
or dungeons. Nor will you count the cost to yourselves even if your life 
be imperiled. . . . 

"Will you, Tyl my son," asked she, "answer the call of the ashes of 
Klaas, your father?" 

And the son answered his mother and said: "I will it!" 

And the widow embraced the orphan and the sun rose. 


In Holland Stands a House 

If i begin by delving a little in the past, it is because like Baudelaire I 
can truthfully say that I carry more memories in my head than if my youth 
had lasted a thousand years. And their number and variety are still 
growing. In a quiet hour of reflection they rush to the surface from a 
seemingly inexhaustible wellspring deep down. On the other hand, con- 
cerning the immediate past the power of memory is unquestionably less 
vivid. Nowadays I need to read a book twice or three times before 
inwardly digesting its meaning and contents whereas formerly its signifi- 
cance and even its physical arrangement in chapters, pages and paragraphs 
remained fixed with almost photographic accuracy in my mind after one 
reading. I do not mean that emotions cannot still be stirred by what I read 
in books, or that I remain uninfluenced by events transpiring in my 
immediate surroundings or in the world at large. At the same time I 
readily grant that thinking of the unfrightening past is often preferable to 
inquiring into our awful human condition in the present. 

Sitting on the rock of St. Helena, Napoleon sighed: "Quelroman que ma 
viel" In comparison mine is but a slender tale that is told before flying 
away. For the greater part of my life I have lived in a world that was a 
house of mourning. I have lived in two generations, perhaps three, which 
were nourished by the thought of revenge: Get ready for the next round, 
next time we shall conquerl But if I have learned anything from life it is 
this, that the promise of victory constitutes a false value. Force is no 
argument for the spirit and the externals of success are no criterion of 
value for the soul. 

In the course of a life which begins to be somewhat long, there has been 
much weaving of destiny, many strange encounters, some shaking ordeals 
and grave disillusionments aiid also some serious mistakes. Still I have no 
regrets. Physically I have always liked to live by the waterside, in places 


8 To Number Our Days 

from which ships may be seen to sail away. I still like stormy weather and, 
if possible at all, I prefer to stand on the bridge with the captain. But 
wherever I lingered, this also must be said, I have never felt myself a 
stranger anywhere on earth. I have always felt myself surrounded by 
friendly voices rising from all the centuries and all the races and all the 
camps. Like Jean Christophe, I have tried to know man and still love him 
and this not by reason of any authoritarian religious command, but be- 
cause I recognized myself in all of them, sometimes almost pathetically 
comical, sometimes downright stupid, but also great as a god on the 
mountaintops of thought. All my experiences are begot in the ventricule 
of memory, "nourished in the womb of pia mater and delivered upon the 
mellowing of occasion. . . . " 

Why should recollections of the past take precedence in volume and 
vividness in most of us? This is so, I think, because in a child's mind, 
unruffled and placid as it may appear on the surface, there is nevertheless 
present the turmoil of a race. An infant's mind is a world in gestation. 
All the passions, instincts, fixations, yes, even the hopes and aspirations 
of former generations, lie in mazy motion intermingled. Carl Gustav 
Jung speaks of the archetypes amongst the brain cells. These, I take it, 
are the master cells, who, by their primacy, give direction to and stimulate 
the evolution of the mind. They are our oldest impressions hidden beneath 
the dark waters of our consciousness, the roots, as it were, of the mental 
flowers. They, or their content, control the transmission of hereditary 
characteristics and set the tone for whatever is to follow. 

My feeling is that when we, as the saying goes, speak our mind, we do 
not speak alone. The archetypes also have their word to say. Our fathers 
speak with us and through us. Our mind is a composite entity, a collection 
of impressions in which ancestral elements and our own are blended and 
merged beyond the possibility of disentanglement. 

In the course of his famous and only journey to Italy, Goethe remarked 
that the sight of the monuments of antiquity was as familiar to him as if 
he had seen them a thousand times before. He astonished his secretary 
Eckermann and other travel companions with his intimate knowledge 
of the architectural details of the ruined temples he explored. He told his 
friends, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, that he expected 
to see the sights of Italy a thousand times again. Can it be said that the 
great German saw things in Italy which his fathers had seen, objects 
and vistas whose shape and outline were transmitted through the master 

In Holland Stands a House 9 

cells into his own brain and there by some unexplained process re- 

I have often wondered how it was that on my first visit to London I 
walked the immense distance from the Custom House at Victoria Docks 
to Threadneedle Street in the heart of the City, and, with unerring ac- 
curacy and without once asking directions, steered a party of Dutch im- 
migrants into the Church of the Austin Friars where a religious service in 
their language was in progress. 

"Here it is," I told the travelers, pointing to a narrow archway leading 
into a court. "At the end of this court you will find the church you are 
looking for!" 

I had never been in London, nor had I ever seen a street map or plan 
of the city. But it is only in London's oldest quarters, I must specify, that 
I can find my way undirected. In neighborhoods built up in the last 
hundred years or so, I am as helpless as the next stranger. My father was 
never in London, nor my grandfather, but my great-grandfather was. 
Relatives have told me that old family portraits reveal, not merely a few 
superficial facial similarities between my great-grandfather and myself, 
but that we resemble each other like two drops of water. 

I discovered early enough in life that in addition to this alleged outer 
resemblance, we shared at least one queer inner twist. Like my great- 
grandfather Amos I cannot suffer fools gladly or carry on a debate with 
specimen of their ilk without being seized by a fit of unreasonable fury 
which when it has passed brings the tears of contrition to my eyes. Though 
easygoing and cordial in ordinary ways of life, old Amos more than once 
resorted to regrettable acts of physical violence. Once, so the story ran 
in the family, he got into a dispute with a brother clergyman on some 
theological question or other. His visitor was heard to say: "If I was 
forced to make a choice I would rather be Judas than Cain." 

"You hypocrite," Amos called back, choking with indignation, "you are 
both Cain and Judas Iscariot!" With this he seized his visitor by the scruff 
of the neck and pitched him into the street. . . . 

I saw my great-grandfather Amos but once in my life. This happened 
when my parents took me and the whole family on a three-hour train 
journey to the province of Zealand where he resided. The occasion was 
the one hundredth anniversary of his birth. What we saw was a tall rather 
thin man, very straight, a full six feet in height. He wore a white ring 
beard but no mustache, an arrangement then considered somewhat of a 

10 To Number Our Days 

mark of evangelical piety. He greeted us in the doorway of his house, 
fixed everyone in turn with an intent stare of his small blue eyes and then 
walked back into the dining room thumping a hawthorn stick on the floor. 

While his housekeeper, a woman in her fifties, who still dressed in the 
old-fashioned Zealand regional costume, lace cap, voluminous skirts, a 
bodice of rose-colored linen and a large silver brooch, set about laying 
the table for us, the old man excused himself by saying that our arrival 
had interrupted his own noonday meal and that he wished to continue in 
order to keep to schedule. 

He sat at a small table close by the chimney. In view of all of us he 
ate two slices of black bread, heavily buttered and laid with fat Gouda 
cheese, and drank a glass of whey. The whey he topped off with a jigger 
of Geneva. When he reached for the decanter to refill his glass, the 
housekeeper snatched the bottle from his hand: "You have had your 
ration for this noonP 

"Not so, not so," he retorted a little testily. "Ah, yes, it's true," he relented 
an instant later, "I remember now, I did have two gins, but the last glass 
I didn't taste. My mind wasn't on itl" 

"Have it your own way," she said, handing him back the decanter, 
"after all this is your birthday. But please, bear in mind that it isn't water 
you're drinking." 

He chuckled and helped himself to another slice of cheese. Evidently, 
they hadn't heard of blood cholesterol in those days. Then he bravely 
emptied the small tumbler and lit his long-stemmed clay pipe. 

"Doesn't it burn?" we asked. 

"Doesn't what burn?" he came back. 

"This combination of gin, tobacco and cheese." 

"Yes," he replied, "it does a little, but it should burn, you know!" 

While puffing away and sending up blue rings of smoke, he began to 
talk of family affairs and gradually switched to financial matters: taxes, 
stocks and bonds and the like. In the end he was prevailed upon to tell 
something of his experiences as an importer-exporter. 

Originally, Amos began, he served as a minister of religion in the village 
of Rilland-Bath situated on the north bank of the Scheldt at a point where 
that river leaves Belgium and enters the Netherlands. In Rilland he fell 
in love with and married one Christina Jacoba Laurusse, the only child 
of a well-to-do shipowner. Christina bore him seven daughters and five 
sons. The daughters were given Old Testament names: Sarah, Miriam, 

In Holland Stands a House 11 

Deborah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah and Hannah, while the boys were called 
after personages figuring in the New Testament, my grandfather Pieter 
being the youngest. 

When Christina's father died, the Reverend Amos gave up theology and 
devoted himself to administering the shipping business. He or rather his 
wife owned a fleet of tugboats plying between Antwerp and the mouth 
of the Scheldt pushing, pulling and piloting ocean liners in and out. 

"That was the time," Amos explained, "now fifty-five years ago, when 
I changed from domine* to commodore." 

The bulk of the old man's considerable fortune, however, did not derive 
exclusively from the tugboats. It had in fact quite another source. When 
those girls with the lovely biblical names grew into their teens, they ac- 
companied their father once a month on a trip to Antwerp. On such 
occasions they traveled on one of the tugs with the commodore himself 
on the bridge. As soon as the boat was moored at the Schippers Quay in 
Antwerp, Amos pulled the signal cord and set off a series of frantic 
whistle blasts. 

Then father and daughters went ashore, strolled around for a while 
in the city of Rubens, sometimes went to market and sometimes visited 
a museum, and then took a room in a small hotel by the riverside. Pretty 
soon there would be a knock on the door and two nuns carried in a large 
bundle of Flemish lace. The nuns, of course, had been apprised of Amos' 
presence in Antwerp by the whistle blasts. The Misses Sarah, Miriam, 
Deborah, et cetera, undressed, wrapped the lace in long strips around 
their bodies, and then dressed again. The two sisters from the Ursulines' 
convent received payment for the lace, and the biblical procession 
with Amos in the lead wended its way back to the tugboat where all 
had dinner in the galley before starting the homeward journey to 

"Just before casting off," said Amos with a twinkle in his eye, "I blew 
seven long blasts on the whistle to notify the Mother Superior of the 
convent that everything had passed off well as usual." 

"Why seven?" someone wanted to know. 

"One for each of the seven deadly sins! ... I kept up the lace trade 
for seventeen years, though with diminishing returns, as one after the 
other of my daughters got married." 

"How much did you make on the deal? ..." 

*Domin6 is the title carried by ministers of the Protestant religion in the Netherlands. 

12 To Number Our Days 

"I sold the Belgian lace in the Dutch market at 200 per cent profit, and 
in the English market at 300 per cent " 

"How did you get the stuff across to England?" 

"By tugboat of course!" 

"By tugboat across the North Sea?" 

"Why not? I made the trip twice a year. ..." 

"Were you never caught?" 

"Caught by whom?" 

'The customs officers!" 

"Oh, those people? I simply kept out of their way, that's all!..." 

When he finished speaking, the hundred year old Amos tried to refill his 
pipe, but did not succeed. His eyelids fluttered, his head fell gently on 
his breast, he slumped in his armchair, and in a few moments was fast 

Though my childhood was one of radiant happiness, I must say that 
there was one incident of a less pleasant nature which left a deep impres- 
sion and even caused for some years an impairment of speech. It happened 
when I cannot have been older than four, for my youngest brother wasn't 
born yet. One evening I was awakened by a fearsome noise, terrifying 
shrieks and howls, loud banging on the door and tapping on the 
street windows. There was nobody home save my brother Thomas who 
slept in the same bed with me. The maid's room was so far away from 
the street front that she probably heard nothing of the disturbance. At 
any rate, she didn't put. in an appearance. When the noise became un- 
bearable Thomas and I got up and went downstairs. What we saw and 
heard nailed us to the floor with fright. 

There, right before our eyes, on the stoop of the house, was a whole 
crowd of boys and girls, dressed up in masquerade costumes. They wore 
masks and headgear of a weird and horrifying aspect. Two or three had 
on the lugubrious robes and the enormous black hats with which hearse 
drivers and funeral mutes adorned themselves while on duty. Some 
masks showed a human skull. One person wearing a tall cardboard hat 
had stuffed his clothes with pillows so that he resembled a gnome with 
a colossal hunchback. Still another individual was made up to look like 
the devil. His false hooked nose and protruding chin seemed to form a 
beak like that of some evil bird of prey. He had horns on his head and 
a wicked, blood-red, two-pronged tongue which he moved slowly up 
and down against the windowpanes as if he were licking them. 

In Holland Stands a House 13 

Even so, the devil did not scare me half as much as the boy or girl— 
you couldn't tell them apart because of their disguise— who carried and 
played the rommelpot. The word says what it is: a rumbling pot, a large 
empty round tin can over the top of which a pig's bladder is stretched 
tight. By inserting a stick in the middle of the securely fastened bladder 
and moving the stick up and down, an indescribably sinister noise is pro- 
duced. The shapes in front of the window howled, stamped and yelled: 

We are the mummers from mummerland, 

Ho, h&, hi, 

Hand us a stiver and we'll pass you by. 

This happened late in the evening of Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi gras, 
which is generally celebrated with carnivals, feasting and merrymaking 
in preparation for the great Lenten fast. Thomas and I stared the 
mummers right in the face and did not budge an inch. I need hardly 
say that this was not by reason of any superior courage on our part. We 
were virtually paralyzed by fear. 

Nothing extraordinary occurred till two or three days later when I 
ran up such a fever that the family doctor was summoned. Dr. Mendoza 
diagnosed the case correctly: the fever was brought on by shock, and 
the shock was caused by fear. I readily admitted that I had been 
frightened out of my wits by the procession of mummers a few days 

"In view of the fact," the physician remarked, "that the boy has never 
seen such a masquerade before, there must have been something else, 
some prior incident to cause so much of a shock. Who frightened him?" 

It was then revealed that the maid sometimes scared us if we didn't 
go to sleep fast enough to suit her by saying: "If you won't go to sleep 
the spooks and ghosts will get you!" Once or twice she had gone to the 
extent of draping a white sheet over her head and stealing on tiptoe into 
the room where we slept. She moved one finger up and down under the 
sheet in a sort of warning gesture. It was enough to scare you stiff. 

Psychologists know all about fear that produces fear, but the psychol- 
ogist is an ultramodern phenomenon; there weren't many of them around 
half a century ago. Dr. Mendoza told my mother about St. Francis of 
Sales who said that all fears shake each others' hands. Fear sets up a 
chain reaction and ends up with a sickening, deadly fear to be afraid. 
I had been made afraid of ghosts and spooks. 

14 To Number Our Days 

The fever left me with a slight defect in speech, my lips trembled 
when I tried to speak rapidly, and I stuttered. Not till the age of twelve 
or thirteen was I cured of the stutter and at the same time of my fear of 
ghosts by a do or die remedy proposed by my uncle Kees, the landscape 
painter and church organist 

'Til give you ten guilders/' he said, "if you will go alone to the cemetery 
tonight, walk right to the spot where the graves of suicides and unidenti- 
fied drowned persons are located, and place a piece of bread on a 

"But that cemetery is full of dread," I objected. "Everybody says so. 
Besides, it's a quarter hour's walk outside the town walls. It's raining cats 
and dogs. It is the most eerie place on earth." 

"So you are still afraid of ghosts!" 

"I am not afraid of ghosts. I am afraid of the big grisly cross that 
stands in the middle of the Catholic cemetery, the cross with the bleeding 
Christ on it!" 

"Will you take the ten guilders or not?" 

"I will!" 

"Then walk right up to the cross, look up at the face and slowly and 
distinctly without stuttering recite the twenty-third Psalm: The Lord is 
my shepherd. . . . Even when I pass through the valley of the shadow 
of death ... I shall not fear ....'" 

I did it. But the perspiration streamed down my face. The only "ghost" 
I saw was a white goat which somebody had put out to graze among the 
tombstones. The effort to pronounce the words of the psalm was a test of 
will power. I never stuttered again, though the vision of the mummers 
on that night in Lent returned for many years to come whenever I had 
a fever. . . . 

Thus I got rid of my fear of ghosts and spooks. But by the act of 
exorcism in the graveyard I was not liberated from the worst fear of all, 
the fear of the devil. Yet, if you came to think of it, it was the devil who 
stood as the prime source and mover at the head of all that long chain 
of fears that shake each others' hands. 

I could now laugh at stories about witches and werewolves and hands 
popping out of a grave to wag a bony finger at passers-by. But the devil 
was a different cup of tea entirely. He couldn't be banished by the mere 
recitation of a psalm or a verse from Holy Writ. Everybody believed in 
the devil's existence. Grown-up men, very grave and learned men, men 

In Holland Stands a House 1 5 

dressed in black robes, standing in the pulpits of the churches, spoke 
of the devil as a real person. In support of the devil's existence they cited 
the testimony of the Bible. You couldn't doubt the Bible for to doubt 
the Bible, any single word of it, was the worst sin of all. It was the sin 
against the light, the sin against the Holy Ghost, the only sin together 
with suicide for which there was no forgiveness. 

Again and again you were told during the period of religious instruc- 
tion in the parochial school that the devil went around like a roaring 
lion seeking whom he might devour. In the Dutch version of the Lord's 
Prayer, God is not asked to "deliver us from evil," but to deliver us from 
"the evil one." The devil was evil personified, the embodiment of evil. 

"What does he do then? In which way does the devil seek to get us 
into his clutches?" I used to ask my mother. 

"He is always very near," she said. "He stands behind us or whispers 
into our ears when he wants us to commit some wicked deed or nourish 
some evil thought. 

"The great trouble is," she went on, "that we seldom recognize the devil 
for what he is. He comes to us in all sorts of shapes and forms. He puts 

on disguises and sometimes even tries to make us believe that he is God 

He imitates, he mimics God. That is why the Bible calls the devil 'a liar 
from the beginning.' " 

And then I asked the question which Robinson Crusoe's servant, black 
man Friday, asked his master: "Why does God permit the devil to tempt 
us and lead us astray? Isn't that cruel? Doesn't God care? Doesn't God 
love us? Isn't He almighty? Could He put an end to the devil's wicked 
game if He wanted to? Why doesn't God kill the devil?" 

To these questions my mother had no answer but to say that men in 
general are so wicked as to require terrors to keep them in awe. She added 
that it was all a very deep mystery, and that trying to delve into the 
mystery might itself be sinful. "From one sin you fall into another," she 
said. "If you begin to doubt the existence of the devil, you may well 
end up by doubting the existence of God " 

When I take into consideration that for ages and ages the most learned 
theologians have sought in vain to excuse God for the existence of evil, 
I cannot blame my mother for not having the answer. It took me many 
years to realize that she came near hitting the nail on the head when she 
linked belief in the devil with belief in God. The problem of evil con- 
tinues to haunt all those who will not put up with going to sleep on the 

16 To Number Our Days 

soft pillow of mystery. The mystery persists as long as there are secrets 
which man has not been able to wrest from nature, from society or 
himself. . . . 

Hubert van Gogh, my native town's historian and cousin to the painter 
Vincent, affirmed that Gorcum was besieged at least a dozen times in the 
course of history. But neither van Gogh, nor anyone else, knew of any 
approaching enemy who was ever kept out by those fortifications bristling 
with old muzzle-loaders. Spaniards, Burgundians, French, Prussians, even 
the Cossacks in pursuit of the beaten Napoleon, each in turn had a try 
at breaching the walls. . . and each succeeded. Round cannon balls still 
embedded in the f agades of old houses testified to the fury of the struggles 
for the possession of the town. 

There was one individual in my youth who remembered or claimed to 
have witnessed both the entry of the Russian cavalry and the passage of 
Napoleon. The witness was a very old man of tender almost angelic 
countenance, Murk Mick by name. He once owned or commanded a 
fishing trawler. From this occupation he inherited the title of captain. 

In spite of the fact that he was tortured by arthritis, perhaps because 
of it, he walked as stiff and erect as a moving plank. Only his fingers were 
so atrociously knotted and twisted that he could not button his clothes. 
Many a time he stopped me in the street on a wintry day: "Jonkske, young 
one, will you do me a favor and fasten the buttons of my breeches?" 

In addition Mick was stone-deaf. On his daily outings he carried on a 
running monologue to which nobody paid any attention. The only way 
to make him talk of the sights he had seen was to stop him in his tracks 
by holding out one's right hand. He immediately grasped it: "Now you 
can say that you have shaken the hand that shook the hand of the 
great Napoleon. Isn't that something?" 

It wasn't only something, it was true. Napoleon frequently passed 
through our town which lies on the strategic highway which the Emperor 
constructed from Paris via Brussels to Amsterdam. What he was doing 
on those visits to our country concerned the affairs, both military and 
marital, of his brother Louis whom he had made King of Holland. Strange 
to say, Louis generally sided with the Dutch against his imperial brother 
in their quarrels over the number of Hollanders to be conscripted. 

"I need 50,000 of your subjects for my next campaign," the Emperor 
would demand. 

In Holland Stands a House 17 

"I will send you 10,000," his brother replied, "and not one more." 

In the thirty odd volumes of Napoleons correspondence occur several 
letters of the Emperor to his brother Louis. One of these letters complains: 
"What's coming over you, Louis? You are getting more Calvinistic than 

your Dutch subjects I learn that you never give a ball at the royal 

palace, that you frown on light music and eschew the company of 
beautiful women. You make Hortense live the life of a nun. . . . Your 
conversation, too, is contaminated with religious drivel. . . . Let there 
be an end to this disgusting, unroyal conduct. 

The Dutch rather liked Louis for his independent attitude in military 
affairs. But Napoleon quickly put a stop to his brothers obstructionism. 
He deposed Louis and annexed Holland to the French empire calling it 
le DSpartement des Bouches du Rhin. Holland was French land anyway, 
the Emperor argued with that fine logic that comes so natural to emperors. 
Hadn't its soil been formed by the alluvial deposits of two French rivers, 
the Rhine and the Meuse? 

"First annex the country," he ordered. "If anyone protests I can always 
get some damn fool philosopher to justify my action." 

To make things worse Louis was continually at odds with his wife, 
Hortense de Beauharnais, a daughter of Josephine by her first marriage. 
Napoleon made several trips to Holland ostensibly to make peace between 
Louis and Hortense. But he also loved the woman who was both his 
sister-in-law and his stepdaughter. Was there a child? Yes, there was: 
Napoleon III, who seized the throne of France in 1851 by a coup d'Stat 
and abdicated after the debacle at Sedan in 1870, was the made-in-Holland 
product of that strange liaison. 

When Captain Mick saw the Emperor of the French it was winter. 
A storm was raging on the Merwe. Huge pillars of ice shot up from the 
water, wheeled around with dizzying speed and then crashed into the 
dykes, breaking into millions of splinters. The dyke guards, reinforced by 
hundreds of townspeople, anxiously watched the awesome spectacle. 
But they were impotent to intervene. Can a moving tower of ice, four, 
five stories high be stopped by human hands? The dykes were in utmost 

At this moment Napoleons coach appeared on the scene. The Emperor 
got out and watched the agony of the dykes. 

"What are you standing around for?" he shouted angrily at the citizens. 
"Why don t you stop the icebergs?" 

18 To Number Our Days 

"How, Sire? How?" 

"Par I'artillerie, nom de Dieul The artillery! Get the cannons from the 
walls and fire into the river!" 

It took an hour or so to alert the garrison and bring up the guns. Three 
salvos sufficed to avert a breach in the dykes. 

"I was right there when it happened," old Captain Mick would add. 
"Napoleon shook hands with me and pulled my hair. Isn't that something?" 

When the time drew near for me to enter school, the question arose 
as to whether I should be enrolled in the public or neutral school, or in 
a parochial institution nm on Calvinist lines and principles. The matter 
gave rise to a dispute in the family. With my parents, my aunts and 
uncles and several ministers of religion taking part in the discussion, 
the arguments pro and con often degenerated into wrangling. There even 
were high words now and then. 

From the peculiar circumstance that in the end it was not my father 
but an uncle who took me by the hand one morning to lead me to "The 
School with the Bible," I knew that my mothers point of view had pre- 
vailed, as was, I may well add, invariably the case. 

"Neutral school, to be sure," I heard her protest from the bedroom where 
I was supposed to be asleep. "What you mean is a school without God and 
His word!" 

Be that as it may, the family quarrel delayed my entrance considerably; 
The school year had opened a month earlier so that my classmates had 
that much of a start on me. They showed the extent of their advance the 
moment I entered by singing as a sort of welcome to the belated newcomer 
one of the hymns they had learned by heart. The young teacher, Alida 
Nieuwenhuis, a creature endowed with a crown of golden hair, led the 
singing with one finger playing a small harmonium. 

Forgive me for quoting three lines from my classmates' hymn in their 
native tongue: 

De Heer zal U steeds gadeslaan, 

En waar g'U ook heen moogt spoeden, 

Voor eeuutig U behoeden. 

The Lord will never take His eyes off thee. 
And wheresoever thou mayest wander, 
Will watch and shepherd thee, 
In all eternity. 

In Holland Stands a House 19 

Overcome with emotion on hearing all those voices in unison, I burst 
into tears. This caused the teacher to stop the singing and dry my face 
with her handkerchief. She kissed me and gave me a seat on a front 
bench. Nonetheless, during that entire first morning I felt ill at ease. The 
other children laughed a good deal as they learned to read and pronounce 
the word koek* from the blackboard, but I could not join in their merri- 
ment; I had a lump in my throat. 

When I returned home for the noon recess, I cried again. To my 
mother's anxious inquiries, I could only shake my head and feel the tears 
starting to flow again. I could not explain. The words of the hymn about 
God's eyes being constantly upon me ran in my mind like a searing 
ripsaw, and not only then but for long years to follow. The views full 
of terror and despair with their cold vision of vengeance and condemna- 
tion which I heard expressed all around me in the Calvinist milieu where 
I grew up had made me, young as I was, terribly afraid of the super- 
policeman people called God. 

To my mother I could speak least of all, for she said to me one day: 
"I know all your thoughts. ... I can look right into your soul. . . . " These 
words brought on a sort of mental paralysis or an incipient revolt, I do 
not know which. They made me shun her presence. My tears that 
morning were drawn by a fear to show emotion. The attempt to repress 
emotion was my secret. I felt that my mother wanted me to divulge my 
secret, and also that she didn't really know what went on deep inside 
of me. I would have been hard put to it to explain in intelligent words 
to any living person what really troubled me. Of one thing I was certain, 
I felt that I had a right to have secrets. I realize now that in denying 
me this right, my mother, without the slightest tinge of malice on her part, 
denied me the right to freedom and self-determination. 

I would not for the world have anyone believe that we were enemies, 
even secret ones. She had many fine qualities. Secretly, perhaps un- 
consciously, she entertained a profound aversion to Calvinism's cold 
and rigid beliefs, so foreign to her nature. She was a born teacher, and 
a wonderful storyteller. When she told us stories from the Bible, for 
instance about Jesus walking on the waters of Lake Galilee or about the 
Saviour hanging on the cruel cross, my father, who did not share her 
evangelical zeal, often interrupted her: "You talk as if you were present 
and saw these things with your own eyes!" 

^Pronounce: cook-cake. 

20 To Number Our Days 

One particular view of hers on contemporary Christianity and the 
Church has never faded from my mind. She believed in the sects, all 
the sects: Quakers, Darbists, Mennonites, Plymouth Brethren, the Salva- 
tion Army, and later in life also the Swedenborgians. She held that God 
called these sects into being to act as correctives on the Church which, 
in her opinion, showed an almost ineradicable tendency to stray from 
the pure gospel of Christ. Historically I will say that she was quite right 
about the sects, for the sects reared in Holland made that country the 
freest and most tolerant in the world. This does not mean that she 
neglected the Church. She loved the Church with all her heart, and not 
only the Reformed Church, but the old unreformed Church as well. 

'We must never forget," she used to say, "that however far she has 
strayed from the truth, the Catholic Church is our mother, and we must 
never cease to pray for her repentance and welfare. ..." 

"Even," I asked, "when Catholic boys tell us that some day they are 
going to wash their hands in the blood of us kettersY 9 * 

"Exactly then," she would say, "exactly when they speak evil of us or 
treat us as though we were heathens!" 

At school classes opened with a prayer by Miss Alida followed by one 
stanza of a hymn, preferably a psalm of David, and the reading of a short 
portion from Holy Writ. Before the noon meal my mother also read from 
the Bible, and once more, in the evening, after supper. At Sunday school 
one was required to recite by heart one verse from either the Old or the 
New Testament. If one verse was said correctly, a tiny silver star was 
attached to a sort of report card. A gold star was the reward for repeating 
without fault two verses from the sacred texts. 

From the age of six I was permitted to attend the Sunday morning 
service in the "great church," so called in contradistinction to the "small 
church" of the dissenters, which will no doubt be recognized as the 
equivalent of the wee free kirk of the Scottish Puritans. At the age of 
ten I entered a catechism class held in the consistory hall on Mondays 
after school. This automatically stopped me from going to Sunday school, 
but it meant attendance at one additional church service on Sunday 
afternoon when the ministers did not preach from the Bible, but dis- 
coursed on a portion of the Heidelberg Catechism. 

*Ketter is Dutch for heretic. The word is derived from Cathar, the name of a sect in 
the south of France, whose members were exterminated in the crusade preached against 
them by Pope Innocent III in the 13th century. 

In Holland Stands a House 21 

In midweek on Thursday evening, the whole family, except my father, 
went to a so-called Bible reading given in the dissenters' chapel by a 
doctor of divinity, Jan van Andel, a very learned man, the author of many 
books on chiliasm and the millennium, the teachings concerning the 
second coming of Christ. 

r There was also a prayer meeting on Saturday evening to ask blessings 
upon the Lord's day to dawn in a few hours. From attendance at this 
conclave my brothers and I were excused, or rather, let me confess the 
truth: we were ignominiously expelled. There were no ministers present 
at the prayer meetings. The Elders ran the show. It was an interminable 
business of telling God, as if He did not know, who He was and what He 
had done in the past in delivering us, His "own Israel," from the Egyptian 
house of bondage and leading us into the Promised Land. 

One Elder, Willem Swaan, a wealthy retired grocer, seventy-nine years 
of age, could easily have won first prize if length of words had been 
the goal towards which the brethren pressed. There was, moreover, one 
particular phrase which Elder Swaan, to our infinite amusement, never 
failed to insert in his supplications. Somewhere along the line, we knew 
by experience, the bearded and tottering grocer would make bold to 
inform the Almighty that he, Willem Swaan, was an orphan from birth. 
In tense anticipation of hearing this item of vital statistics restated in 
his querulous, whining voice, my brothers and I stuffed our handkerchiefs 
in our mouths and waited. No sooner had Mr. Swaan finished saying: "And 
I, great, merciful and dear God, who am an orphan/' than we would 
chime in with unrecognizable muffled voices: "About time he's an orphan!" 
It never failed; the interruption stopped him dead. He did indeed try 
to pick up where he broke off. It was all in vain. He floundered and 
floundered to the perplexity of everyone present, but could not resume 
the thread of his thoughts. In his bewilderment and confusion he finally 
sat down sighing and shaking his head disconsolately. 

However, one day the foxy old boy caught us. There is no doubt in my 
mind but that he was tipped off. Swaan stopped praying just before reach- 
ing the key words, opened wide his eyes and looked around. Noticing our 
handkerchiefs, he signaled the beadle, a jackass of uncommon rudeness, 
who promptly seized us by the ears and expelled us— forever, as it turned 
out— from the prayer service. 

What we lost in formal piety at the prayer meeting, we gained in simple 

22 To Number Our Days 

joy in the street. Saturday night was the jolliest, merriest, most convivial 
time of the week. It was as if a good fairy queen had waved her magic 
wand over our town and loosened all the bonds and restrictions which 
conventional propriety and respectability ordinarily imposed. All dreari- 
ness, long-facedness and monotony vanished; good cheer, contentment 
and laughter reigned supreme. Everybody able to walk was out in the 
streets, everybody was in good humor and everybody was dressed in his 
or her Sunday best. People who scarcely noticed each other on ordinary 
days because of class, cast or religious differences, all at once recognized 
each other, fraternized and behaved in a civilized manner. Fundamentally, 
you could see it, differences were but a superficial veneer; under the skin 
we were all one people, whether under God or not. Boys and girls linked 
arms and walked up and down, down and up the principal narrow main 
streets, chatting, laughing and romping, youths and maidens, soldiers and 
civilians, rich and poor, Catholics, Jews and Protestants. Even the knights 
of the mournful countenance relaxed their sour mien for a few hours and 
actually seemed to enjoy life. Joy is more contagious than gloom, and 
shared joy is double joy. There was many a smile on faces that were 
usually as cold and tight-lipped as those in the pictures of the witch- 
hunters of old. . . . 

What miracle brought on the change in the general mood? Answer: 
Saturday was payday. And besides there was the light. The newly in- 
stalled gas street lamps burnt at double strength that evening. All the 
shop windows were brilliantly illuminated and the stores remained open 
till shortly before midnight. You moved from one display window to the 
next, gazing, admiring and sometimes gasping at the prices. Here a 
jewelry shop with gold and silver trinkets, brooches, bracelets and neck- 
laces. There a pastry baker s etalage, many of the wares indicated by their 
names in the French language, Sclairs, religieuses, tompouces, and one 
particular delicacy of unsurpassed delight known as gdteau de Moscovie. 

All the neat and pretty servant girls with freshly laundered and ironed 
white caps on their blonde hair, and wicker baskets on their arms, were 
going about from shop to shop, laying in supplies of meat, groceries and 
provisions for the Lord's day and the following week. The young lieuten- 
ants of the garrison strutted proudly as befitted defenders of the realm 
while holding their dames by the arm. Whenever a tavern door opened 
you heard the roar of an organ of Barbary or the wheeze of a mechanical 
piano, loud voices, singing and the musical tinkle of bottles and glasses. 

In Holland Stands a House 23 

In one short street, running off the main stem, stood a few stalls lit up 
by flaming ruddy torches. Here books, pamphlets and newspapers of a 
radical nature were on sale. I could never quite figure out why a police- 
man was posted at this spot. A policeman was appropriately stationed 
at the entrance to a certain other street where he tactfully questioned 
passers-by if they were aware of the nature of the amusements on tap in 
that particular neighborhood. This you could understand; it was a pater- 
nalistic civic government's measure to safeguard public morality. But why 
have a helmeted policeman armed with a broadsword stand watch over 
the hawkers of Voorwaarts, the journal of the socialists, and Opwaarts, 
the periodical of the Christian socialists? 

That spot in the glare of the red torchlights was our little town's Hyde 
Park corner. Anyone who felt like it could step up on a small platform 
and shoot off his mouth on any conceivable subject under the sun. Workers 
were the usual speakers, but occasionally an out-of-town lawyer or 
minister of religion would hold forth and collect a vast crowd of listeners. 
It was there that I heard for the first time from the lips of Barthelemy 
de Ligt, the renowned international scholar, that the Karl Marx phrase 
about religion being the opium of the people was not the social philoso- 
pher's own. Long before Marx, Frederick Denison Maurice, professor of 
theology at Oxford, and Charles Kingsley, he of Westward Ho and 
Hypatia, the two founders of the Christian socialist movement in Britain, 
had designated a certain kind of religion which preaches resignation with 
one's lot in this earthly vale of tears with reward abundant held out for 
the sweet by-and-by: "a horrible narcotic poisoning the souls of men." 

It happened, though not often on Saturday night, that the spirit of good 
cheer caught even the usually crotchety old carillonneur and warmed 
him to a point where he felt constrained to climb the two hundred steps 
to the belfry of Sint Jan s tower and ring out the most popular old and new 
songs. Several times my brothers and I accompanied the carillonneur to 
his perch in the bat-infested bell loft and saw him pounding away with 
leather gloves on the metal keyboard. 

Our town had one of the finest singing towers in the Netherlands, on a 
par with those of Malines, Bruges and Antwerp. She still has the carillon, 
though the Nazis once took out the bells for the purpose of melting them 
down for cannon. The bells were discovered standing on the deck of a 
flat-bottomed Rhine barge lying moored at the quay in Coblenz by an 
American army officer in 1945. When he had identified them, this unknown 

24 To Number Our Days 

benefactor of humanity ordered the bells shipped back to their rightful 
owners. Talk about a bell for Adano! Here were 47 bells all in one 

On Sunday night the town was plunged in darkness in accordance with 
the dictates of the old-time religion, which may have been "good enough 
for Paul and Silas," but certainly not good enough for me. Nine o'clock 
was curf ew hour for us on Sundays. Just when things got most interest- 
ing in the half-darkened streets and in the rural lanes we had to go 

Of Doctor van Andel, the minister of the dissenters, I must say some- 
thing more, not only because he was a friend of the family, but by reason 
of the fact that he was more than once extraordinarily kind to me in a 
difficult situation. 

A venerable patriarchal figure with a snow-white beard falling down 
his waist, dressed in black cloth, he kept his right hand clamped tightly 
to his body in the region of the liver. He was said to be in such pain that 
he could not stand up for long in the pulpit. He served as a curator or 
supervisor at the local gymnasium or Latin school. Knowing of my 
nervousness on days of examination, he never failed to come into the room 
where I was undergoing some test or other. Before seating himself on a 
chair nearby, he placed his hand on my head for an instant and whispered 
in my ear: "You do not mind if I rest a little, do you?" He then sat silently 
till the test was over. 

Upon hearing his whispered words the burden of my anxiety, which 
amounted to an almost morbid sensitivity, rolled off my shoulders. It 
seemed as if a calming, almost magic healing force emanated from the 
touch of his hand. All at once my mind cleared, my thoughts ranged 
themselves in proper order like soldiers on parade, and I wrote my paper 
without hesitation or interruption. 

One matter in connection with Doctor van Andel's preaching I mention 
here because it has a pertinent bearing on events transpiring in another 
part of the world right now. When I was still a very small boy the Boer 
War raged in South Africa. No other historical event had so tremendously 
telling an effect on my mind as the Anglo-Boer War. The Boers were our 
kinsmen, our blood brothers. They spoke our language. They professed 
the Calvinist doctrine. Every day, in church and school, I heard prayers 
offered up in their behalf. The Boers had not started the quarrel with 

In Holland Stands a House 25 

Britain. In order to avoid strife they had made enormous sacrifices. When 
the region of the Cape, first settled by the Dutch, filled up with British 
immigrants and fortune hunters, the Boers, fearing to be outnumbered 
and with a resulting dissolution of their Calvinist way of life, trekked in 
a thousand oxen wagons across the Dragon Mountains and established 
two republics, Orange Free State and Transvaal, in the virgin and virtu- 
ally uninhabited regions north of the Orange and Vaal rivers. 

Again the British followed in steadily increasing numbers. With the 
discovery of gold and diamonds in the territory of the Transvaal republic, 
the influx became a wild stampede. The Boers sought to prevent the im- 
migrants from gaining a preponderance by instituting a law requiring 
five years* residence before full citizenship could be conferred on 
uitlanders. But now the British government intervened, and it came to war. 
A first British expeditionary force was decisively defeated at Majuba Hill 
in 1881. A provisional peace was patched up and a period of relative 
calm ensued. Then the second Boer War broke out. A new British army 
was dispatched with the avowed intention of annexing the two Dutch 

This was the war of 1899-1902. At first the Boers, riding in hastily 
assembled burgher commandos, inflicted serious losses on the British 
regulars. A highland division, known as the Black Watch, was shatter- 
ingly defeated at the Modder River. In fact, the Boer victories were so 
spectacular that the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, gave the British lion's 
tail a dirty twist by sending a telegram of congratulations to his "good 
friend" President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal. 

Wilhelm, however, soon betrayed his good friend in the most despicable 
way imaginable. In order to regain his grandmother Queen Victoria's 
good graces, he drew up a plan of campaign for the British army in South 
Africa and dispatched it secretly to the General Staff in London. The plan 
envisaged a roundup of all the Boer women and children and their con- 
finement in . . . concentration camps. The farmhouses were to be burnt, 
the cattle and crops destroyed and the land laid waste. This measure 
was intended to sever the Boer men in the field from their families, and 
deprive them of victuals and munitions, for their bullets were mostly cast 
at home. 

Thirty-seven thousand Dutch women and children, among them the 
grandmothers, mothers and sisters of men still living, perished in the 
British camps! 

26 To Number Our Days 

There are other things to weep over in Alan Paton's "beloved country" 
besides the nationalist party's apartheid policy! 

When Jan Smuts carried word to the British commander in chief, Lord 
Roberts, that the Boers, seeing the futility of further resistance, had 
decided to surrender, and the Peace of Vereeniging was concluded, Doctor 
van Andel preached a sermon on the burning of the thousands of Boer 
farmhouses and estates. For his text he used the words from the Book of 
Genesis describing Abraham's view of the burning cities of the plain, 
Sodom and Gomorrah: "And, lo, the smoke of the country went up as 
the smoke of a furnace." 

He spoke of the Peace of Vereeniging and told the congregation: "Do 

not think that the last battle has been fought This war will go on 

for the better part of this century. Our South African brothers will never 
submit, for they are of the same indomitable mettle as our fathers who 
did not quail before the dreaded Spanish infantry and the Inquisition in 
a war of eighty years' duration There are some here, in this congre- 
gation," he went on to predict, "who will yet see the Republic of South 
Africa restored and the flag of our fathers again floating over the veld 
down there " 

That sermon was preached on Sunday, June 1, 1902. 

The Republic of South Africa became a reality on May 31, 1961. 

In Gorcum the petty bourgeoisie, the middle class, was Calvinist of 
various shades. In line with the Calvinist way of life, we children and 
youths were not allowed to attend the theatrical performances given oc- 
casionally by actors from nearby Rotterdam or Amsterdam. We were 
forbidden to pass through streets or go into areas where stood the 
carousels, the cakewalk, the waffle booths and the circus during the annual 
fortnight of kermess. People had to shift for themselves if they wanted 
diversion. Accordingly, the "godless" (thus the liberals were called), the 
proletariat and the common soldiers, of whom there were generally from 
two to three thousand in the barracks, found their way, like water seeking 
its lowest level, to the myriad of taverns, saloons and beer cellars. 

In one street where there was a primitive dance hall, one official brothel 
and several free-lance institutions of that kind, my mother opened a 
small meetinghouse where she went on Sunday nights to preach the gospel 
to harlots, vagabonds, drunken fishers, soldiers and nondescript little old 

In Holland Stands a House 27 

women. For years she had prodded the churches to take an interest in 
these people who were usually referred to as the unchurched. When no 
support from the churches was forthcoming, she went it alone in 

As a rule she had a policeman at the door of the hall to keep order. 
Once I saw the policeman on the floor getting a pummeling from a band 
of young hoodlums. On the backdrop of the platform in the hall appeared 
a painting of the Crucified holding out His pierced hands, and the words: 
"This I did for youl What will you do for Me?" 

My mother preached and another lady played the harmonium, mostly 
songs by Moody and Sanky. She kept up this rescue work till she collapsed 
from fatigue, but not before the Salvation Army set up a post and took 
over from her. I don't know where so frail a person as my mother got the 
strength to stand up under all this hectic, nerve- wracking labor. The work 
was entirely voluntary; nobody paid her. Her only reward was the thought 
that she might have been instrumental in directing some boy or girl into 
the narrow path that leadeth unto life. 

My father would have nothing to do with "these antics of Christian 
endeavor." His aversion to the Christian doctrine rested upon what he 
called his "inability to swallow the story of salvation." As he did not want 
to spend his whole life in controversy, nor offend the sensibilities of others, 
he seldom spoke of the matter. Time and the advance of modern science, 
he felt, would in the end catch up with and dispel the New Testament's 
"childish oriental myths" which, as he saw the situation, were invented and 
handed down to us by the famous tentmaker of Tarsus, known as St. Paul. 

"Rationally," he once told me, "we are too far advanced to take the 
Christian doctrine seriously when it teaches that the Creator of millions 
of suns and stars selected our little world, a second- or third-rate planet, 
as the scene for staging the drama for which the New Testament writers 
furnished the script. 

"How can modern man accept as truth, as divinely revealed truth at 
that, the story that God caused a little child to be born unnaturally or 
supernaturally in a forlorn village in Asia Minor, and that this child— which 
was God Himself in disguise— had to be bloodily done to death in order 
to appease God's anger, and at the same time save the human race?" 

I had an awful time of it as a boy trying to disentangle the story of divine 
love from the vengeful character attributed to God by my orthodox 
teachers. My father and mother pulled in opposite directions. Successive 

28 To Number Our Days 

teachers did the same and the process hasn't ended yet. That wonderful 
equilibrium, to which some believers refer as the peace which passeth 
understanding, was never quite mine. It had too tame and saccharine 
a flavor. Religion was something more serious to me than going to sleep 
with a lollypop. 

Though my father strictly forbade us children to accompany my mother 
to her gospel hall, one creature which never failed to follow her at a 
discreet distance and wait for her outside was our affectionate and 
intelligent Sultan, a shaggy black-and-brown-haired mongrel. Sultan came 
to us a starving, whining puppy, picked up by my youngest brother Jozinus 
from a rain-soaked straw hut standing in a freshly plowed field a mile 
from town. He grew up with my brother, was his constant companion 
in daytime as well as at nights when he slept across the foot of his bed. 
In the end that dog chose not to be separated from his young master in 

Sultan had many friends and no personal enemies except two, the one 
human and the second canine like himself. Against both he nourished an 
enduring animosity. For his human foe he had selected the tambour- 
maitre, as we called the drum major who strutted in front of the military 
band when it headed the parade of the local garrison through the streets. 
The sight of this individual, a giant of a man, made to look still taller 
by the bearskin busby on his head, sent Sultan into tantrums of fury. 
Strange to say, he left the man strictly alone when he walked by himself. 
It seems to have been the multicolored and gilt-knobbed stick or staff 
the drum major carried aloft and swung around in rhythmic accompani- 
ment of the drums' beat which aroused Sultan s resentment. He went for 
the man as soon as he caught sight of him. Though not, I should add, 
in one or two wild leaps; he crouched up to him in the manner of a panther 
stalking its prey. 

When the tambour-maitre saw Sultan coming he immediately lowered 
his staff, an act which the drummers mistook for a signal to stop drum- 
ming, so that the whole parade was often thrown into confusion. 

The situation with his fellow dog, another mongrel, Bello by name, was 
quite different, more deadly and vicious, I would say. Their feud orig- 
inated inside the house of Bello's owner where Jozinus took Sultan one 
day. Bello's owner, a baker by trade, whose son was my brother's school- 
mate, left the dogs in the hall where they duly made acquaintance and 

In Holland Stands a House 29 

got on very well. . . for a time. All at once there was a fantastic racket, 
growling and howling and yelping. What had happened? Sultan, sniffing 
the odor of a nice fresh-roasted pork roll, got up on his hind legs and 
found what he looked for in a niche in the wall. Such niches in the thick 
stone walls of old houses were used as cooling-off places before the inven- 
tion of the icebox and the electric refrigerator. Sultan could reach the 
niche without difficulty; Bello, who was somewhat shorter in the legs, 
had never been able to manage. 

The two dogs fought like tigers. The baker, his wife and their children 
rushed into the hall and went after the battling champions with broom- 
sticks and anything else they could lay hands on. They belabored the 
dogs unmercifully. However, the baker made one mistake; he opened the 
door leading into the street. Sultan raced off as fast as his legs could 
carry him. But he brought the pork roast with him and ate it at leisure 
and with great gusto on my brother's bed. 

Just before reaching the street from the baker's house, Sultan, who was 
holding the roast clamped tightly between his teeth, and thus temporarily 
defenseless, had received such a nasty cut in his tail from Bello's fangs 
that he bore the mark of it for the rest of his life. This injury Sultan never 
forgave nor forgot. Whenever the two met, Sultan attacked Bello just as 
the most civilized nations do without any such formality as an ultimatum. 

When my youngest brother fell ill as the result of walking through a 
November evening haze and slipping into a cesspool on a farm where 
he visited, Sultan refused to eat and started to waste away. Before he was 
rescued Jozinus lay at the bottom of that hole for ten hours, his head 
scarcely raised above the level of cattle urine and soft lime. When brought 
home he vomited for a week and then lay still. He could not bear any 
food in his stomach. Our family physician summoned a specialist from 
the University of Leiden for a consultation. The professor examined the 
boy thoroughly, but left the house shaking his head. 

On the day following the funeral, Sultan was missing. In the midst of 
our grief nobody paid much attention to the dog's absence. A week later 
the gravedigger called at the house and I opened the door. "Sultan is 
dead," he said, taking off his cap. "He fell asleep in the cemetery on your 
brother's grave!" 

"Father," Martin Luther's boy once asked the reformer, "father, are 
there any little dogs in heaven?" 

30 To Number Our Days 

"Gewiss, most certainly," replied Luther. "Little dogs and big dogs and 
lambs and lions and deer, and they play together in meadows of gold." 
Sultan is there, I am sure of it. 

I also owe something to Sultan, and maybe I don't. One night, returning 
from a late errand, I took a short cut through a narrow unlighted street, 
a mere alley, where a popular hostel was located. The hostel, really a dive 
of the lowest sort, faced a high wall behind which rose the dark hulk of 
the gas reservoir. There were no pedestrians for the alley was a dead-end 
passage, which I had entered by climbing over the town ramparts at the 
end of it. 

As I passed the house I happened to glance in the direction of a lighted 
window. What I saw there made the goose flesh creep down my back: a 
soldier was holding a woman on his lap, and the woman was stark naked. 
Another soldier stood by the table helping himself from a crock of Bols' 
gin. All three were laughing at the top of their voices. When the woman 
rose, one of the soldiers danced playfully around the room with her. 
Suddenly she caught sight of me standing in the middle of the alley in the 
full glare of the light coming from the window. She picked up a glass from 
the table and waved it at me in a gesture of invitation. The soldiers, too, 
made beckoning motions. When I started to leave, the door of the hostelry 
opened and the two men stepped outside. 

"Come inside, kameraad" said one of the soldiers. "There are some 
damn fine girls here, and it wont cost you a centl" 

One of the men put his hands on my shoulders and the other seized 

my wrist. "Come along," they urged, "you might as well start now 

You'll never regret itl" 

The two began to drag me towards the door, but we never reached it. 
Suddenly, a lumbering black shape leaped from the semi-obscurity of the 
alley, and bit the soldier's hand. Though an artillerist, the man swore like 
a trooper. He reeled under the impact of the dog's assault. Both men ran 
back into the house and slammed the door. 

Sultan had appeared just in time. As I ran home, he raced ahead of 
me and stood on the doorstep barking joyfully and wagging his tail. No 
doubt he expected to get a pat on the head from my father for saving 
me from dire peril. But I did not say a word about my adventure in the 
alley, though I shivered as with the ague in my excitement. I had seen a 
nude woman and this had something to do with sex. Sex was never men- 
tioned in our home. 

In Holland Stands a House 31 

Why was sex never mentioned? Sex belonged to the realm of the night, 
and the night was the devil's part. In order to save us from the devil, we 
were to remain as long as possible in total ignorance of everything per- 
taining to the sexual act. The almost universal fairy tale which has the 
stork pick up babies somewhere and deposit them in their cribs did not 
work out very well with us, even when we were mere kindergarten mites. 
The reason was that we knew the stork and his ways too well. His nest 
was built on top of the tallest chimney in the community, that of the home 
for the aged. In summertime we saw the stork and his wife busy all day 
carrying frogs and eels to their nest to feed their young. But they never 
carried a baby. On moonlit nights you could see the male stork stand 
guard on one leg watching over the sleeping town. In November 
the storks left us and flew to Egypt to hibernate. Still, babies were 
born in wintertime, too. Who brought the babies during the cold 

When we grew old enough to ask questions, which was pretty early, 
my mother solved the problem for a time by hanging up two large colored 
lithographs on the wall opposite our beds. The lithographs represented 
angels carrying children in their arms. One angel with a very Dutch face, 
lovely blonde hair and the rosy cheeks of a milkmaid, smiled happily as 
she flew a blue-eyed boy down to earth. She was called the Angel of Life! 
The other, a rather foreign-looking mama, whose wings were not of such 
brightly polished silver as the first, carried another child. The second 
angel and child were going upward, to heaven. She was called the Angel 
of Death I New puzzle: how did my mother know that the second child 
wasn't being flown down to hell? She knew: "Of course, that child is going 
to heavenl It has been baptized!" 

I had to wait till I entered catechism class before I became vaguely 
aware of the ins and outs of the sexual situation. The second lesson of the 
Heidelberg Catechism informed me that my parents conceived me in sin; 
in other words, that they had engaged in that detestable filthiness which, 
according to St. Paul, was not to see the light of day. Nobody seems to 
have realized that this very thought produced a psychological upheaval 
almost too great for small boys to bear, that it poisoned many a life from 
the roots upward. For one thing, it led one to despise and be utterly 
ashamed of one's own father and mother, not to speak of the slimy thick- 
ness of unnatural vice into which our sexual ignorance plunged us. It 
multiplied our impure visions and nurtured the very depravity from 
which it was supposed to save us. . . . 

32 To Number Our Days 

Till this day in certain communities of the Netherlands the adherents 
of different denominations wear clothes of a particular cut and color to 
indicate their specific religious affiliation. For example, in the famous sea- 
side resort of Scheveningen, a suburb of The Hague, which has nowadays 
as many cabarets, night clubs and things of that kind as Ostende, Deau- 
ville or Cannes, the Catholic women still wear capes of light blue, the 
Reformed black, the Christian Reformed dark blue, and so on and so 
forth. In Amsterdam you once could tell that an orphan boy was of the 
Protestant faith by the red color of one sleeve of his black jacket and one 
leg of his trousers. These vogues are fast going out, but some instances 
remain, though even in the case of the last bitter-enders, I notice that the 
skirts are getting shorter and shorter. 

My brothers and I wore black; black blouses when still very young, 
later black suits with high vests buttoned right up to the chin. To our 
infinite disgust this somber puritanical apparel made us marked men, 
odd fish, peculiar people like the Amish in Pennsylvania or the Quakers 
before their liberalization. My mother's purpose in dressing us up that 
way, I imagine, was to convince the world that our hearts were empty 
of vain thoughts and mean desires. 

The late Thomas Sugrue once wrote a book or an article entitled: "It's 
Hell To Be a Catholic!" I don't know what it's like to be a Catholic, but 
I know only too well that it's triple hell for boys to be exhibited as 
samples of pure, innocent Calvinist sainthood. Still, I do not complain or 
plead for commiseration. We were not in the least unhappy; we learned 
to adapt ourselves to the color situation and we had fun like all other 
boys. In some ways it was perhaps an advantage to be dressed in the 
hue of night. 

Nobody in authority ever found out or suspected that my brother 
Thomas was easily the most accurate slingshot operator in the community. 
Proportionately speaking, he could and sometimes did demolish more 
street lights in one evening than the so-called youthful delinquents of 
modern times in a whole year. But it wasn't hooliganism or vandalism 
which drove him into these sudden fits of destructiveness. He put the 
street lamps out of commission by request of young lovers who wanted 
to be undisturbed in the out-of-the-way nooks and corners which they 
selected for their trysts. 

In wintertime when he fired from ambush after having concealed a 
small piece of stone or rock inside the snowballs, his favorite targets 

In Holland Stands a House 33 

were the high silk hats of the Protestant ministers and the stocking-clad 
calves below the knee breeches of the Roman priests. When no clergymen 
were about he tried his skill on the policemen's helmets. He liked to hear 
the sharp ping-pong-like click his loaded snowballs made on the coppers' 
metal headgear. I can say this now without endangering his security or 
giving him over to the belated vengeance of burgomasters or cops. The 
burgomasters and cops of those far-off days have all crossed to the 
further shore, and so, alas, has Thomas. 

Soon after Jozinus' death, his menagerie also vanished. It was almost 
like a miniature zoo. In the rear of the house, bordering on the living 
room, the kitchen and a stream of water, was an open space, a courtyard 
one might call it, where Jozinus kept his collection of animals, two of each 
species, like the beasts in Noah's ark. There were two goats in a small 
stable, something like a lean-to, two guinea pigs, a pair of rabbits, a 
rooster with seven hens, frogs without number and, with the frogs, 
salamanders and lizards kept in tanks, several cats, finches and two 
canaries who, for some mysterious reason, sang only when my brother 
draped a scarlet piece of cloth over the side of their cage. The finches 
drew their water up to the cage in tiny buckets. Presiding, or rather 
hovering, over this motley assortment in uncertain short flights was a large 
crow who answered to the name of Black Pete. He had only one leg and 
one of his wings also was injured. Pete flew around loose and often came 
into the house. On Sunday mornings he pecked on the windowpanes of 
the living room to notify us, just a few minutes before the bells started 
to ring, that it was time to go to church. How he knew that it was Sunday 
and the hour to make ready for services, neither I nor anyone else ever 
found out. In summertime he flew in through the open window and sat 
on my brother's head during dinner. However, when my mother began 
reading from the Bible, he screamed the three or four dirty words which, 
we suspected, his former owners had taught him and departed with a caw 
of disgust. 

One extremely wealthy citizen supported my mother in defraying the ex- 
penses involved in running her Sunday school and gospel hall. He paid for 
the furniture, for the light and heating and the rent. On St. Nicholas' day, 
which falls on December 6th, he provided the wherewithal for the distri- 
bution of gifts amongst the poorest children. Armand de Chaupertuis was 
this benefactor's name. A bachelor, he descended from a family of 

34 To Number Our Days 

Huguenots which settled in Holland following the revocation of the Edict 
of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685. Denied freedom of worship by their 
sovereign— a sentence of death was imposed on being caught listening 
to a Calvinist sermon in the woods or in some old ruined house— two 
hundred thousand or more Huguenots left France to take up residence 
in the Netherlands. They never returned to their homeland. 

Chaupertuis* ancestors built the French church in our town. Though 
the building was seldom used as a church in my day, it was still known 
as La Chapelle. It had a fine slender tower with a clock just below the 

For a number of years Armand de Chaupertuis served in the royal 
artillery attaining the rank of major when an incident occurred which 
changed him from a genial, affable gentleman-about-town into a somber 
recluse and eccentric. 

Major Chaupertuis had one hobby: he painted, and he painted very 
well. He lived in one of the finest mansions in the community. Here he 
entertained lavishly the ladies and gentlemen of his own military upper 
class, and frequently received visitors from abroad. Of his compositions 
two at least, to my knowledge, were purchased by Her Majesty. Others 
hung in the various museums in Holland's major cities. 

After he resigned from the army at the age of forty or so, he stopped 
painting, he stopped entertaining, and he stopped talking. It was as if the 
man had been struck dumb. Even with his servants, a woman and her 
husband who had been the major's orderly while in the service, he scarcely 
exchanged a word. He used to pass his best friends in the streets without 
noticing them. 

What made Major Chaupertuis change his way of life is one of the 
strangest stories I ever heard. It seems that Major Chaupertuis was 
heckled one day on the parade ground by a young recruit. The major had 
reprimanded the man on several occasions previously for talking in the 
ranks. It did no good. 

"This is a free country, isn't it?" the recruit asked insolently. "So let's 
have a little freedom of speech!" 

"Everything in its place, my boy," Chaupertuis replied. "But here you 
must keep silent. You re in the army now. It is I who give the word of 
command in this battalion." 

After several exchanges of this kind, the major became aware that the 
soldier was deliberately taunting him and trying to make him lose his 

In Holland Stands a House 35 

temper. He avoided the man as much as possible. He should have left 
him entirely to the tender mercies of the drill sergeants. Chaupertuis 
noticed, however, that other soldiers were catching the recruit's disci- 
plinary indifference and insolence. There was a lot of mumbling and 
snickering in the ranks as the major passed by. Even so, nothing special 
or startling would perhaps have happened were it not that the recruit 
one day gauded the major beyond the limits of human forbearance. 

"Here he comes, boys, the phony Rembrandt, the botcher and bungler," 
the recruit said loud enough for the major to hear as he passed in front 
of the ranks on a morning of inspection. 

"Silence in the ranksl" the major called out. 

"Christ," spoke up the recruit, ignoring Chaupertuis' admonition, "this 
guy thinks he can paint, but the women's faces in his pictures look like 
a pig's a — !" 

"Sergeant," said the major, turning to the N.C.O. walking behind, "take 
that man's name! Have him report to the orderly room " 

"You know my name a damn sight better than you know how to paint!" 
the recruit interjected disrespectfully. 

"What do you know about painting?" the major shot back in a sudden 
fit of anger. 

"I know enough to say that your paintings are the shoddiest, shabbiest 
things I've ever seen. You call yourself a naturalist, well, it's true, you are 
a naturalist, you paint with the natural color of s — !" 

"Shut up, you Jew!" 

"You dirty anti-Semite" called back the recruit, '111 report you to the 

For answering Major Chaupertuis walked up to the Jewish boy and 
struck him a blow in the face. But almost at the same time he said: 

"Oh, I am so sorry Will you forgive me? I lost my temper. Will you 

forgive me?" He addressed the whole company. There was no answer. 

The major immediately left the parade ground, walked home and took 
off his uniform. He wrote a letter to the Minister of War resigning his 
commission: "I am not worthy to wear Her Majesty's uniform any longer," 
and he gave the details of the incident on the barrack square. 

There seem to have been some attempts to patch up the quarrel. It was 
suggested that both men apologize and that the major be transferred to 
another garrison. But Chaupertuis would not hear of any such arrange- 
ment. The only thing he volunteered after resigning his rank was to re- 

36 To Number Our Days 

enlist as a private soldier. For this, however, he had passed the age limit, 
and his offer was refused. 

From that day onward Major Chaupertuis watched the bridge across 
the canal leading to the barracks and the parade ground. When the 
soldiers walked out in the afternoon after the day's exercises, the major 
was on the lookout. One day he caught sight of the recruit whom he had 
struck, and followed him. The man strolled along the main street, passed 
through the towngate and took the road to the village of Dalem. Near 
the church in Dalem, the major caught up with him. The soldier, fearing 
an act of revenge, was frightened. But Chaupertuis calmed his fears. 
They walked into the graveyard behind the church and sat down on a 
tombstone. The major took the Jewish boy's hand and asked forgiveness. 

"I could not have done a greater wrong than by insulting one of your 
race in this land which gave my ancestors asylum when they were per- 
secuted. I've not only hurt you to the quick, I have broken Holland's 
tradition of tolerance." 

The two men sat in the graveyard till long after dark. Then, the hour 
drawing near when taps is sounded, they walked together arm in arm 
through the gate and along the main street. They parted near the 

From that day the major's life changed. He seldom appeared in public. 
All the joy of life had gone out of him. He never wore the uniform 
again. He told uncle Kees that nothing in the whole world could atone 
for his act of violence. All his wealth he expended in good deeds of charity 
and philanthropy. This is how my mother happened to come in for a share 
of his bounty. 

Chaupertuis wouldn't leave town and take up residence elsewhere. "It 
is here in this place that I fell," he would say, "it is here that I must pay the 
price and show repentance." 

When I knew Major Chaupertuis he attended the service in the great 
church every Sunday morning. But he would never take a seat. He stood 
still and erect, a lone figure in the left transept away from the congrega- 
tion. This was the form of penance he imposed upon himself. 

Idleness, says an old proverb, is Satan's pillow, a hearth, a breeding 
ground for evil thoughts and actions. In order to wean me from hankering 
to join the devil on his pillow, my mother set me to work on the only 
afternoon when I was free from school. The task she thought up for me 

In Holland Stands a House 37 

was the distribution of a journal of about six or eight pages that went by 
the name of Peniel. The Hebrew word Peniel meaning literally "Face of 
God" occurs in that mysterious story in the Book of Genesis about the 
patriarch Jacob's struggle with a "man" by the side of the brook of 
Jabbok till the break of day. "And Jacob," says the Bible, "called the place 
Peniel, for, he said, I have seen God panim el panim, face to face." 

The periodical was published in the ancient university city of Utrecht 
situated about twenty-five miles to the north of Gorcum. Its editor, 
Dr. J. H. Gunning, a theologian of the evangelical school, devoted several 
pages a week to the Jewish question under the heading: "An attempt to 
fill the urgent need of spreading enlightenment amongst the unenlightened 
Jews." This high-faluting language was a mere cover up: Peniel was a 
missionary propaganda sheet pure and simple, though it also enjoyed a 
rather wide vogue amongst evangelically minded readers in our com- 

Although there was no salary attached to the distribution of this journal, 
my mother was convinced that if I undertook the work as a labor of love, 
God would most certainly reward me in his own good time for taking 
an interest in the fate and destiny of "his own people." This is the phrase 
"the ancient people of God" with which she and many others in Holland 
referred to the children of Israel. My father, of course, held a contrary 
opinion; he didn't think the Jews were any more God's own people, or a 
chosen race, than the Dutch or the French, not to speak of the British. 
He conceded that there was an aura of wonder about the Jews because 
they alone of all the peoples of antiquity had come through the thunder- 
storms of time. But this was not, he believed, the result of some divine 
predilection or favor. It was the Jewish people's sense of destiny and their 
own strong will to live which had preserved them. Like many Hollanders 
he was proud that a large number of Jews had found refuge in the 
Netherlands following their expulsion from Spain by the Inquisition in the 
year 1492. He was still more grateful to the sixteenth and seventeenth 
century Jews for having given our capital city of Amsterdam the byname 
of Eleutheropolis, the "city of freedom of conscience." He often pointed 
out to us that the dawn of the "Golden Age" in Dutch history, what Lord 
Acton calls "the later renaissance," when art, literature, industry and com- 
merce placed the Netherlands in the forefront of civilization, coincided 
with the settlement of thousands of Spanish Jews in our midst. Many of 
these were scholars, physicians, mathematicians, architects, goldsmiths 

38 To Number Our Days 

and pottery makers. The famous Delft faience, for instance, with its 
amazingly soft and delicate blue color, was the invention of Jewish 
refugees from Spain. 

Gorcum had about 300 Jews; half the local physicians were Jews, further 
many schoolteachers and lawyers, but also shopkeepers and paper and 
rag collectors, all humble people, hard-working, but full-fledged citizens 
and solid supporters of the public school system. At the head of the 
Jewish community stood a Jodenmeester, sl Jews' master, who, I suppose, 
was a rabbi. His namie was Isak Cappadoce; he taught Hebrew at the 
gymnasium and also ran an elementary Hebrew school, a cheder, for 
the Jewish children after school hours in het Joodse leerhuis, the Jewish 
house of learning, the synagogue. All the Gorcum Jews were orthodox 
and strict observers of the sabbath. On that day they dressed in black 
and the men wore high silk hats. As is well known the Dutch people 
are a little off the beam in the matter of cleanliness; they even wash the 
fagades of their houses, though one would think the frequent rains a 
sufficient cleanser. But some Christian houses standing on the way to the 
synagogue, on the route which the Jews had to take to their house of 
prayer, were not washed on the sabbath in deference to the sensibilities 
of Jewish passers-by. 

To the homes of these people I had to carry old Peniel in spite of my 
father's objections that the paper was an insult to the Jews. "Enlighten the 
unenlightened Jews," he'd snort. "What does Dr. Gunning think the Jews 
are; cannibals or Papuan head-hunters? ... No self-respecting Jew will 
read this Peniel trash and if you should get a knock on the head one of 
these days, please don't come to me for redress. . . . * 

"But we must tell them about the Lord Jesus," my mother would argue 
back. "This is our duty. The Lord commands us to preach the gospel to all 
creatures. ... In Christ has come a deeper, a fuller revelation of God. 
The Jews must share in this revelation. The Church can never be full, 
complete and healed from its divisions as the Body of Christ till the Jews 
come in." She also figured that the second coming of Christ would be pre- 
ceded by a return of the Jews to the land of their fathers; hence she 
sympathized with the Zionist idea. 

The bundle of Peniels from Utrecht arrived at the railway express 
office on Saturday morning. I had to wait till sundown before I could 
ring Jewish doorbells to present my wares. To my surprise I was not turned 
away anywhere. Every Jewish family bought a copy. In certain houses 

In Holland Stands a House 39 

I was kindly invited inside and given a cup of coffee and honey cake or 
some other delicacy. Such was the case especially at the home of my 
classmate David Dalmaden whose father was an umbrella merchant and 
who had more books than any other man in the community save our 
family physician, Dr. Baruch Mendoza and my uncle Kees. 

Though the price of a copy of Peniel was only ten cents, many Jews 
handed me a quarter or even a whole florin, bidding me to keep the 
change. I don't know whether any Jew actually read Peniel. One thing is 
certain: no Jew was ever converted to Christianity as a result of PenieTs 
proselytizing pap, certainly not in our community. 

However, the distribution of Peniel was not wholly a case of love's labor 
lost. It put some money in my pocket for the first time in my life. With 
the extras received from Jewish readers I bought and proudly paid for a 
set of dictionaries, rather heavy tomes, all in a similar binding and virtu- 
ally indestructible. I still have those books in my possession. 

After successfully peddling Peniel for one year, the publisher sent me 
as a premium a fine gilded clock. At the close of the second year I re- 
ceived a set of books, 25 blue paperbacks by Luise Muehlbach, dealing 
with the private history of the members of the Hohenzollern family: the 
Grand Elector, Frederick the Great, Queen Luise of Prussia whom 
Napoleon sought to seduce, Kaiser Wilhelm I and his Iron Chancellor 
Bismarck, in short the whole Prussian gang of world disturbers. Frederick 
the Great was the pidce de resistance in Madame Muehlbach's collection. 
I learned a good deal about him which the school history books glossed 
over or omitted altogether: the concerts he gave at Sans Souci with him- 
self playing the flute; his correspondence and friendship with Voltaire; 
his philosophical writings; his homosexualism; his father's tobacco college 
where the generals were compelled to smoke pipes while discussing plans 
of conquest and other military imbecilities. 

At the end of two years I quit my job as PenieTs distributor. My conver- 
sations with our family doctor were the direct cause of my resignation. 
Doctor Mendoza was the last customer to be served on Saturday night. 
His house bordered ours in the rear. The two gardens were separated 
by a narrow stream over which ran a small bridge connecting the two 
properties. In that stream I learned to swim and on its ice wore out my 
first set of skates. 

The doctor was the only Jew to discuss the contents of Peniel with me. 
To my utter bewilderment he told me one night that Jesus of Nazareth 

40 To Number Our Days 

presented no problem to the Jewish people. The Jews neither hated nor 
liked Him; they were absolutely indifferent to Him. The doctor did believe 
that the Nazarene was a historical person, but the stories in the New 
Testament about great multitudes following him, he called "obvious 
f ablations." Jesus passed almost unnoticed through the Palestine of His 
time. There is no mention of Him in any contemporary source. The 
miracles, said the doctor, attributed to Him are without exception 
childish fairy tales. When you read the New Testament attentively and 
see that there was a whole crop of resurrections at the time when Jesus 
expired on the cross— "the graves were opened; and many of the bodies 
of the saints which slept arose . . . and appeared unto man/— the story 
of His being seen alive after His death by a half -demented woman is 
without the least historical value. 

Dr. Mendoza did by no means blame Jesus for these extravagancies. 
"Had Jesus ever learned of the fantastic claims made on His behalf, He 
certainly would have been the first to repudiate them. 

"Your paper [meaning Peniel] may talk all it likes about the Jewishness 
of Jesus," said Dr. Mendoza. "The editor knows nothing at all on the 

subject. It's all wishful thinking and catechism and theology It is not 

history. The man who invented Jesus as the Christ, who raised Him to 
Christhood, was St. Paul, an apostate Jew, who was brought up in a 
city where a pagan mystery cult was in vogue. That cult of a dying and 
rising god he transferred to the person of Jesus of Nazareth about whom 
he knew absolutely nothing and had never seen. 

"As to the missionary endeavors with which you are associated, let me 
tell you frankly: I admire your zeal and believe in your integrity, but you 
are wasting your time. No Jew, let alone the Jewish people as a whole, 
is ever going to come into the Christian Church, at least not voluntarily 
or because they are convinced of the superiority of the Christian 
religion. ..." 

And then he told me a story which made so shattering an impression 
on me that all thoughts of Christian missionary endeavor amongst the 
Jews were for all time eradicated from my mind. He cited Shlomo Virga, 
a Jewish historian of the sixteenth century: "I have heard from old people 
who had themselves been amongst the Jews who were driven out of 
Spain, how on one of the exodus ships the pestilence known as the black 
death broke out. The ship's captain immediately put all the refugees 
ashore in an uninhabited place. Most of the wanderers died of starvation, 

In Holland Stands a House 41 

some decided to march on and seek a place to settle. Amongst these was 
a Jew, his wife and two sons. The woman succumbed to the hardships of 
the trek. The father carried his two boys in his arms till overcome with 
exhaustion he sank unconscious to the ground. When he regained con- 
sciousness it was full daylight, but his two sons had also died in the night. 
Turning to the East the bereaved father began his morning prayer with 
the words: 'Master of the Universe, You don't make it very easy for me 
to praise You. You almost make me lose my faith. Yet, so that everything 
be in the clear between us You should know one thing: I am a Jew and 
will remain a Jew. None of my afflictions, past, present or future, can turn 
me from You/ " 

"How dare Jews speak that way to God or about God?" I asked. "I 
don t remember any Christian saint or father of the Church talking to God 
in so familiar a tone. 

"The Jews dare talk that way to God because He is their God," said 
Dr. Mendoza. "They know Him through and through, for they made Him 
what He is as much as He made them what they are. Their relationship 
is a covenant. God dwells on the prayers of the righteous. That is, He 
exists by virtue of the faith men have in Him. If man loses faith— that 
is, if men act unjustly and only pay lip service— God goes out of existence 
and dies of inanition." 

Sometimes, even today, the sense of what it was like to live within a 
world so narrow and confined returns to me with a shock of recognition. 
In addition to the towns isolation, chiefly for lack of modern transporta- 
tion facilities, we, the pupils of a parochial school, were doubly barred 
against intruders by our esoteric religion. 

To start with, the profound differences of opinion on religious matters 
between my parents made our home a house divided against itself. That 
my parents never separated I attribute to the fact that, in spite of all 
their squabbles, they were never bored with each other. My mother, 
moreover, I suspect, nourished a secret hope that my father would return 
to the light and pick up where he had left off in his theological studies. 
Yet, though there was no real estrangement between them, the situation 
could hardly be said to have been conducive to the children's harmonious 
development. In my case the gymnasium made it worse. But the gym- 
nasium was not to blame. The stifling parochial atmosphere of the School 
with the Bible was the cause of the near-schizophrenic split that resulted. 

42 To Number Our Days 

When I entered the gymnasium it was as if I had suddenly been released 
from prison and thrown, quite unprepared, into a world as unfamiliar 
as the Arabian desert. At the gymnasium, a secular institution run on 
humanistic principles, nobody paid any particular attention to the Bible 
or things of a religious nature in general. During the first months I felt 
like a fish out of water and was very unhappy. The change had been too 

All at once I was confronted with wholly dissimilar, not to say con- 
tradictory standards of education. Ideals other than those held before me 
by my earlier teachers were not only alien to my spirit, but had, more or 
less subtly, sometimes forcibly, been impressed upon me as evil and 

At the gymnasium, where the emphasis lay on the Latin and Greek 
languages and the study of the civilizations of Hellas and Rome, their 
culture, literature, their mythology and systems of administration, the 
orthodox Christian faith was not considered of much consequence. For 
the greatest part the instructors adhered to the liberal party; that is to 
say, they were, as liberals go generally in Europe, sceptics, agnostics, 
humanists. Their company included men of great learning and tolerance. 
If it came very early to a clash with one of them, a certain Dr. Conrad 
Curtius, it was wholly my fault; I spoke out of turn. 

One day Curtius, in commenting on the death of Socrates, called atten- 
tion to the fearless, stoical manner in which the Greek philosopher met 
his end by calmly drinking the cup of hemlock. The instructor compared 
Socrates' attitude in the presence of death with the flight of the founder 
of Christianity and His hiding in the woods on Mount Olive. Curtius 
called Christ's "whining, blood-sweating, blubbering" attitude when con- 
fronted with the troop sent to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane 
"a contemptible exhibition of cowardice." 

I felt as if I had been slapped in the face. I blushed to the roots of my 
hair and bit my fingernails. No doubt I ought to have kept silent, but 
the words that rose to my lips slipped out before I could press them back: 
"I beg your pardon/' I said, "but the Lord Jesus was not a coward. He 
was the central figure in God's plan of redemption .... He went to His 
death voluntarily in order to conform to the will of God .... His blood 
was shed as a ransom for many . ..." I could have continued in this vein, 
for there was no lack of sacred texts and verses that came to mind. I 
was stopped short by Curtius: "Please, bear in mind that you are not 

In Holland Stands a House 43 

in a Sunday school here .... The Christian mythology does not figure 
in our curriculum." 

The other boys roared with laughter and I felt deeply humiliated. But 
I was determined to have the last word. "If," I said, "you call our re- 
ligion a mere mythology, why did you treat your comparison of the 
attitudes of Socrates and Jesus as historical fact?" 

"Leave the room," ordered the instructor. "What do you think you 
are anyway, a missionary?" 

For much less of an affront to the Christian faith, my mother, had she 
learned of it, would have withdrawn me from the Latin school. This was 
the last thing I wanted. I, therefore, made no mention at home of the clash 
with Curtius. I discussed it only with my mother's brother, uncle Kees. He 
and I thrashed out everything that came up, from religion to politics and 
war and peace and whatnot. Though not an orthodox believer himself, 
he respected the views and opinions of others and liked to listen to them. 

"Those remarks by Curtius," said Kees, "struck you like a bolt from the 
blue. And no wonder; you lived far too long under the tyranny of that 
parochial school. You have yet to learn that there exist different interpre- 
tations of the origins of Christianity than those given by the traditionalists. 
It is time you began reading Renan's Life of Jesus. Renan is very respectful 
of the Christian religion, but he looks for the kernel of historical truth 
under the layers of legend, myth, fairy tale, propaganda and apologetics 
with which successive generations of theologians have covered the man 
of Nazareth." 

And so I read Renan, and I was enchanted with him. But the novelty 
has so completely worn off that I cannot with the best will in the world 
summon up either the energy or a desire to disinter Maitre Renan. Kees 
called Renan's famous book "one of the lamps that never goes out." I soon 
tired of Renan and his "sweet little Jesus meek and mild" with "the eyes 
of a gazelle" and "blond locks" of a woman. How did he know what Jesus 
looked like when nobody else knew? . . . 

Fortunately, there was no lack of other subjects to discuss and argue 
over with Kees and my schoolmates who often gathered after the day's 
classes in his studio to smoke a pipe and drink a glass of beer. 

The names of my classmates who most frequently met in Kees* studio 
were Ary Brandt, David Dalmaden, Alfons Boogaert and Yetze Sissingha. 
Brandt was the son of a rural burgomaster, an attractive boy, loved to a 

44 To Number Our Days 

frenzy by all the girls in the community and feared by all the instructors 
at the gymnasium because of his unexpected questions and his still more 
startling responses. He might look as though he were merely showing off, 
yet behind that sparkling wit in him there was a genuine humility and a 
warm heart. He talked with enthusiasm and fire on almost any subject 
that came up, but his favorite topic was poetry. He knew whole stretches 
of Shakespeare, Milton and Victor Hugo by heart, not to mention the 
Dutch poets. He was the youngest and one of the most valued members 
of the rederykerskamer, the guild of rhetoric, over which my father pre- 
sided at its weekly session on Wednesday evening. 

Ary Brandt planned to become an actor, and called the theater the 
church of the future. He had not been brought up in the Christian way; 
his father, the village burgomaster, served as president of a society of free- 
thinkers, known as "The Dawn"; his mother died at his birth. Yet one day 
he discovered the Church as a spiritual treasure house and a source of the 
truth which he had previously ignored or denied. He studied theology in 
Leiden and became a minister of the Reformed Church. In his sermons he 
took so provocative and fearlessly critical a line on the infamous Nurem- 
berg laws which the Nazis introduced in Holland that he gained a repu- 
tation as a dangerous enemy of the Third Reich. His championship of the 
Jews made him a mouthpiece of the living Church, but it cost him his life. 

He was one of the Reformed pastors arrested as hostages by order of 
Arthur Seyss-Inquart, the Nazi governor general of the Netherlands in 
1943, and one of the last to be executed on the very eve of South Holland's 
liberation by the Canadian army. 

Dalmaden, the son of poor Jewish parents, became a physician. Our 
family doctor, Dr. Mendoza, paid for his tuition at the local gymnasium 
and later at the Amsterdam medical faculty. With his wife, children, father, 
mother and all his brothers and sisters, David Dalmaden was shipped to 
Poland in a cattle truck and there done to death by the brown marauders 
of humanity. 

The most pathetic victim of the Second World War, Alfons Boogaert, 
the most brilliant member of our class, became a Roman Catholic priest 
and missionary in the Solomon Islands. His father ran a butcher shop 
and had his clientele in the slummiest part of our town. The son never 
took part in any of our athletic games or sports for fear of ripping his 
trousers or wearing down his shoes in the rough and tumble of the play. 

In Holland Stands a House 45 

The Boogaert family belonged to "the decent poor" in the community; 
the shabby genteel, the most miserable class in society. 

After Alf ons left the gymnasium he studied at a seminary in Roeselare 
near Bruges in Flanders. According to a dispatch in Time magazine, he 
died a martyr's death when the Japanese invaded the island where he was 
stationed. For his own diversion, a Japanese colonel ordered Boogaert 
crucified, nailed to the door of the little mission church he had built. 

Thus they all perished, though Yetze Sissingha went down illumined 
with courage as the commander of a Dutch submarine which lay ready 
for launching in May, 1940, when the German army invaded Holland. 
Ordered to take the submarine on a trial run, he invited a party of German 
naval officers on board. Before starting on the trip, he informed his wife 
that he wouldn't be back. A few miles out in the North Sea, he scutded 
the sub, and thus like Samson at Gaza took the Philistines into death with 

Are those boys worth remembering? I think they are! They are always 
with me, anyway. They all liked Kees and Kees was a generous host. In 
his studio we could say what we liked, and said it. The only persons on 
whose account my uncle permitted no banter or lighthearted chatter were 
the members of the royal family. To him the House of Orange was above 
the law, almost sacrosanct. However, he didn't mince words when it came 
to criticizing the government, either national or local. Yet, he was not one 
of those mirror-image patriots for whom their own nation is always pecu- 
liarly in the wrong. In France, on the other hand, he saw something like 
a prototype of the undying fatherland which was above and beyond the 
land of his birth. Britain, on account of the Anglo-Boer War, was just 
about at the bottom of the ladder. He would get terribly excited about 
the oppression— that's the word he used— of the Irish people by successive 
British governments. The British record in Ireland was as barbarous in 
his opinion as that of the Russians in Poland. 

His cast of mind and temper, the values he held and lived by, were those 
of a cosmopolitan, but a fighting cosmopolitan. Some of the ministers of 
religion in our town put him down as an anarchist because of his venera- 
tion for Tolstoy, though not so much for Tolstoy the novelist as for Tolstoy 
the writer of "The Kingdom of God Is Within You" and "What Is 
Religion?" He thought and said it often enough that Tolstoy's religion, 
in contrast with the religion of our "petty churches, those ice-cold churches 

46 To Number Our Days 

with their frozen dogmas, spiritual torpor and smug self-satisfaction," 
was "as high as a palace, solemn as the starry night, wide and immense 
as the universe." 

When we asked him after one of his turns of duty as organist at the 
great church what kind of sermon he had heard, he would say: "Words 
and words again, empty phrases, double-talk, platitudes and sweet pious 
lullabies to rock human misery to sleep. ..." 

Kees had remained unmarried; he never got over the death of his child- 
hood sweetheart who succumbed at the age of eighteen to the ravages of 
tuberculosis. The girl's portrait hung in the unused living room in his 
house above the mantelpiece beneath a sort of votive lamp in the shape 
of a small ornamental lantern. As the blinds were always drawn, and the 
slip covers on the chairs and sofa, as well as the wallpaper, were of a dark 
green pattern, the room seemed pervaded with the drearisome atmosphere 
of an undertaker's chapel. 

A man of middle height, Kees' soft dark eyes darted flashes of lightning 
when he grew angry or indignant. With his brown mustache and goatee 
and somewhat swarthy complexion, he could have been, and sometimes 
was, taken for a foreigner in that country by the dykes where fair skins 
predominate. His and my mother's family had settled in Gorcum about 
a hundred years before. They were Waldensian refugees form Torre 
Pellice in the Italo-French border region who got tired of the persecu- 
tions to which they and their Church were subjected for seven long 

An outlandish style in clothes further heightened my uncle's unconven- 
tional, not to say alien, appearance. His buttonless black cloak, really an 
immense flowing cape, reached nearly to his knees. He wore it like a 
Roman toga, the top fold covering his mouth and half his face to protect 
himself, as he said, and as all superstition-ridden Southerners say, against 
the cold moist air, especially at eventide. Like his flambard, a soft flapping 
black hat, the cloak was a Paris importation. This unusual sartorial 
accouterment served him as a reminder of the happiest years of his life 
which he spent in the city on the Seine. 

With bated breath we listened to my uncle's descriptions or watched 
his mimicking of the mannerisms and eccentricities of the masters, 
mistresses and lesser gods of the French stage and letters. "I was a 
neophyte," said Kees, "watching the great and near-great come and go. 

In Holland Stands a House 47 

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, who quaffed absinthe till he went insane, 
habitually boasted, not as you might expect, of his famous lithographs, 

but that he was the best swimmer in France One of my companions 

was Joris Karel Huysmans, the writer, whose family hailed from the 
Dutch city of Breda. Huysmans was a versatile fellow who worked in 
some government department. After years of struggle he reaped an 
immense success with his book on the miraculous cures at Lourdes .... 
Twice a year he walked on a pilgrimage from Paris to the Cathedral of 
Chartres. Each time he came back, his mind had taken on a more mystical 
and magical turn. He began to see visions and hear voices. Towards the 
end he joined the Catholic Church because an angel, he claimed to have 
met in the crypt of Chartres' Cathedral, advised conversion as a cure for 
cancer of the mouth " 

From Kees we learned of Emile Zola's inability to pronounce the letter 
"r," a speech defect in so voluble a talker that threw the company at the 
Caf6 Montmartre into uncontrollable fits of hilarity. Auguste Rodin 
accused Zola of obscenity and pornography. "Some day," Rodin warned 
the author, 'you will be taken off the pot and have your nose rubbed into 
what you deposit there." Who'd have thought that Alphonse Daudet was 
so much of a prude that he refused to discuss Victor Hugo because he 
suspected the Olympian of sleeping with his servant girls while in exile 
on the isle of Guernsey. 

"Did you ever see Renan?" we asked. 

"Just once, but I wish I hadn't .... The moment he walked into the 
caf6 everybody rose. He had been to the theater, perhaps for the last time 
in his life. I was aghast at his appearance .... The mark of death was 
upon him .... His breath came in quick, painful gasps. He walked with 
difficulty, leaning heavily on a stick. His body and legs were swollen out 
of all proportion by the dropsy. His face was disfigured by a hideous 
rash. He wasn't a pretty sight 

"And Sarah Bernhardt, did you see her?" 

"From a great distance, yes, from the last seat in the topmost gallery 
of the Porte Saint-Martin theater. She was playing Cleopatra the night 
I saw her. Her voice, la voix dor de Sarah, and her emotional acting, 
held that large audience spellbound. There was such fire and passion in 
that woman that she seemed almost superhuman, divine or demonic, I 
do not know which. She seemed to me the incarnation of the Orient, a 
magnificent odalisque from The Thousand and One Nights . . . " 

48 To Number Our Days 

"A Greek goddess!" Yetze suggested eagerly. 

"No, not Greek. Everything about that woman was Jewish, her eyes, 
her undulating gait, her drawl over the syllables; a woman of languor 
and sensuousness, of fierce passions and the tenderest smile .... With 
hundreds of others I waited at the stage door to see her at close range. 
She was smoking a cigarette when she came out and I noticed she was 

loaded with jewels, rings with precious stones on all her fingers It 

was the smoking habit which killed her in the end. She smoked one 
cigarette after the other, all day long 

Of one of Kees* Parisian demigods, I myself retain a vivid personal 
impression: I mean of Georges Clemenceau, the "Tiger of France." During 
the most agonizing months of the First World War when France, with 
two million killed, was bleeding to death, and Clemenceau, as prime 
minister, just in the nick of time, snatched victory from defeat by his 
ruthless iron will power, I often thought back to what Kees told us of 
the role the Tiger played in Parisian society two decades before. 

Clemenceau then had a reputation as one of the biggest lady-killers. "He 
was easily the best-dressed man in the capital," said Kees, "an elegant 
dandy with dark wavy hair. All the women were in love with this Casanova 
with the Mongolian slit eyes and jutting cheekbones. Whenever he visited 
the Comedie Frangaise or the Od6on, and ostentatiously took his seat in a 
box near the stage, the women in the audience would leap to their feet in 
one spontaneous gesture of admiration and give him a standing ovation. 

"Still, I dont think it was pure admiration they felt for the little radical 
politician he was then," Kees would add. "The women were actuated by a 
peculiarly feminine trait of bloodthirstiness and sadism. For when he ap- 
peared at the theater, Clemenceau, as like as not, had just come back from 
fighting a duel in the Pare des Princes. The boulevard press kept the 
Parisians closely informed about his love affairs. When he took his seat in 
the theater it was taken as a signal that he had once more successfully 
disposed of a rival in love. ..." 

Though still walking around and barking out his sarcastic bitter com- 
ments on men and events, Clemenceau was a dying man when I saw him 
on April 16, 1926, at number 8 Rue Franklin where he had his town resi- 
dence. Nobody, it was said in newspaper circles, ever got an interview 
from the Tiger. But when Louis Weitzenkorn, the feature editor of the 
New York WorlcFs Sunday edition, insisted, in view of Clemenceau s de- 

In Holland Stands a House 49 

dining health, that I get an article from him by hook or by crook on the 
saddest episode of his life, his defeat for the presidency of France, I took 
a desperate chance. . . . 

Tm sick," he growled and snapped at me as I was ushered into his 
study by the famous Albert Brabant, his chauffeur and butler. "I just 

recovered from an attack of uremia. . . . The next attack will finish me 

Are you glad? Some people arel . . . Have you ever been to Stamford, 
Connecticut? I was a teacher at Miss Aitkin's girls' school there. . . . The 
best three years of my life. . . . First I tried to practice medicine in New 
York, but couldn't make a go of it. . . . The medical board insisted that I 
start my studies from scratch. ... I would willingly go back to America 
if they would have me. But they won't. ..." 

"Why wouldn't they, Monsieur le President?* I'm sure you'd get a mar- 
velous reception " 

"Young man, I'm an atheist. Isn't that enough reason in America? . . . 
By the way, let me tell you once and for all: I give no interviews. . . . 
Never did in my life. ... If there is one creature I detest it is what you 
call the feature writer, the man who writes no matter what, no matter 
how ... for money. When I was a journalist I wrote my own opinions on 
men and events. I didn't go around fraudulently picking other people's 
brains. ... I was a damn fool in many respects, I know, but a garbage 
collector, that: jamaisl ..." 

"That's just it, Monsieur le President, our opinions don't matter very 
(much. It's your opinion that counts. . . . I'm sure all the world would still 
like to hear your view on the present situation with Germany falling down 
on her reparation payments. . . . Why weren't there some clauses with 
teeth inserted in the peace treaty?" 

"Why not? You ask me: why not? Sacrebleul What a question! Figure 
it out for yourself. . . . What could I do? At the Versailles peace conference 
I sat between Jesus Christ and Napoleon Bonaparte.** I couldn't get a 
word in edgeways .... Lloyd George, the imbecile, thought the Boche a 
decent fellow. . . . Your Woodrow Wilson imagined he was doing God 
a favor in dealing gently with a defeated enemy. . . . What kind of a God 
is it anyway who needs the help of a man like Woodrow Wilson? . . . For 
my part I held and still hold that there are forty million Germans too many 
in this world. . . . They should be disposed of quietly. ... It still could be 

♦President, that is, of the Council of Ministers. 
**Thomas Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George. 

50 To Number Our Days 

done and the quicker the better. . . . The Boche is born standing to atten- 
tion. ... I am absolutely certain that he'll march again the moment he 
hears the whip crack " 

"A second world war?" 

A second war, that's certain! And a third, too, if we let theml They 
think of nothing but revenge. . . . That's the essence of their mentality: 
revanchisme. . . . But I shouldn't talk so much. I just came back from the 
grave I still feel like a ghost 

"The papers say that it is a miracle that I came through. As usual, the 

papers don't know what they are talking about The truth is that I was 

as good as dead. In fact I was dead. ... I was in coma for twelve days. 
When I came out of coma the other day, I remembered that I had been 
right up to the gate of heaven. The reason you see me here tonight is that 
I couldn't get into the place. ... I asked a little angel at the entrance to 

let me in She was a pretty appetizing dish, midinette type, you know 

the kind 

" 'Citoyen? she objected in shocked embarrassment, you can't get into 
heaven unless you first confess your sins. . . . ' So I said: 'Do me a favor, 
mignonne, go in there and find me a priest. For the pleasure of being in 
your company I'll do anything that's reasonable and even unreason- 

"Ma foiy she stayed away a hell of a long time and came back all 

abashed She hadn't been able to find a single priest. . . . There you 

have the explanation of my resurrection: No priests in heaven Are you 

surprised? . . . I'm notl ..." 

Almost as far back as I can remember Kees took me along on his paint- 
ing and sketching trips during the summer vacation. At first we merely 
wandered about in the immediate vicinity of Gorcum; later we went 
further south crossing the great rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt and the 
borders into Belgium. On two or three occasions, my schoolmates, 
Dalmaden, Brandt and Sissingha accompanied us and then our joy was 
complete. Then we lived those heavenly days that can never die because 
they awakened our sense of wonder and the feeling that all things belong 
together, man and sky, land and sea. 

Those Flanders' fields soon to be drenched in blood were then still 
full of charm, a lovely country, growing lovelier the deeper we penetrated; 

In Holland Stands a House 51 

in the cities stately old mansions and guild halls, museums and cathedrals, 
outside the most wonderful gardens in the world and those "meadows 
of astounding green" so frequently mentioned by Maurice Maeterlinck, 
one of that country's greatest sons. We spent the nights at rural hostelries, 
in rooms so clean, adorned with curtains so dainty and smelling so fresh 
as if the beekeepers had perfumed them with the aroma of honey. We 
were up with the break of day and, looking out, saw how beautiful were 
the surroundings of our inns: hedges of elms and wild roses, noble limes 
and groves of chestnuts, fields full of clover with the wine-colored 
poppies running like a ribbon along the edge of ripening wheat fields. 

When I think back of those visits to Flanders, I know what Gogol 
meant when he wrote about his village in the Ukraine: "What rapture, 
what intoxication, what splendor can be found on one single summer day 
in Dikanka!" Dreamy, languid was the atmosphere, scented with the 
sweet smell of honeysuckle and new-mown hay. At noon the sun covered 
the world with a quivering gloss of gold and emerald. The warmth was 
of that beneficent brooding quality which one suspects to have been the 
essence of the creative spirit moving upon the face of the waters in the 
beginning of time. Above our heads, the immeasurable ocean of blue, 
blown up into a voluptuous cupola, looked down on the earth with pas- 
sionate friendliness. Towards twilight a scarcely perceptible breeze 
tempted the leaves and flowers to whisper of the mysterious nostalgia in 
their hearts. Sometimes when the moon rode high, Kees awakened us to 
come to the window and look into an orchard and see the rain-freshened 
cherries like a mass of blood-red rubies glistening amongst the dark 

Many times, just before sunset, the birds gave us a concert, a riot of 
song and melody, yet infinitely harmonious. So forceful and agitated and 
full of trills were their voices that it seemed inconceivable for such small 
lungs to produce so great a volume of sound. In a flash the music stopped 
and the silence of night descended. Then one nightingale, taking ad- 
vantage of the stillness, stole a march on his feathered friends by giving 
us a solo so rich and pure as to make us stand in hushed wonder. 

Every man, woman or child we met, as if incapable of holding down 
the elation and wonder in their hearts, had something to tell us. I recall 
one red-haired country priest calling out from a distance as we ap- 
proached: "On dirait que la terre palpite d'un amour b&atX* He swept 
off his shovel hat to the strangers, wiped his face and then shook hands all 

52 To Number Our Days 

around. "One would say that the earth throbs with blessed love. . . .Grow- 
ing weather, messires and friends, growing weatherl D you feel it? How 
rich will be the harvest in Flanders' landl OI . . . * 

In ancient Palestine, we are told, the Galileans were the most loquacious 
of the Jews. In the Netherlands it's the Flemings who carry off the palm in 
this respect. Whether they know you or not, they shake hands and seem 
to feel under obligation to pour out a flood of information on their per- 
sonal affairs, taking it for granted that, as a newly discovered member of 
the family, you will be interested to hear what aunts and uncles and 
nieces and nephews have lately been up to. When we entered some coun- 
try tavern or other for a glass of beer in the afternoon, a sudden silence 
would fall upon the assembled patrons. Surprise and shyness lasted but 
a minute. Soon there would be friendly nods in our direction. The least 
gesture of acknowledgment on our part brought three, four, five men to 
our table. When they discovered that we spoke their language, their satis- 
faction knew no bounds. We had to tell them everything, for the curiosity 
of these external chatterboxes is as inexhaustible as their joy of life. 

On Sundays after Mass, we discovered, the Flemings go traveling, pre- 
ferably by train. The Yperites go to Langemarck and those of Langemarck 
go to Ypres, and so on all over the country the excursions get under way. 
What makes a train ride on a hot Sunday afternoon so enjoyable? To see 
the sights? To sit packed tight like herrings on the hard seats in a third- 
class train compartment? All this discomfort was merely preludial. What 
they looked forward to was the moment when the train from Ypres would 
pass the train from Langemarck and the two would halt for a few moments 
at opposite platforms at some jerkwater station en route. Everybody hung 
from the compartment windows calling greetings, waving hats and hand- 
kerchiefs. If there was a short wait, the two trains discharged their 
passengers in a minute and an impromptu mass meeting got under way on 
the crowded platform. Whether anybody knew anybody else did not 
matter at all; it was so good to shake hands, to say a few words or laugh 
at each others' jokes, most of which, I am afraid, would not bear repetition 
in milady's drawing room. For the Flemings are people of frank speech; 
they never put a fig leaf before their mouths. . . . 

We were fortunate enough to strike Bruges one evening when a religious 
procession was passing through the Grand' Place. The gas light in the 
street lamps was dimmed and the square plunged into darkness. A huge 
crowd had assembled, but not a sound was heard save for the silvery tinkle 

In Holland Stands a House 53 

of the carillon playing an old Netherlands hymn dating from the sixteenth 
century war with Spain. Following the priests in full canonicals, and a 
bishop under a golden baldaquin, came the young women and girls of 
Bruges, walking with utmost reverence and piety. All wore a dress of 
peculiar cut and dark shade made rather low at the neck where the som- 
berness was relieved by a touch of color given by the gold and coral neck- 
laces. Each person in the procession carried a taper protected by a thin 
glass cover in the shape of a bowl to shield the flame against the breeze 
that blows from the North Sea at eventide. 

Because of the prevailing darkness and the somber hue of the girls' 
clothing, one saw virtually nothing of the processionists but their heads. 
Each head was covered with a cap of sheerest white lace; five hundred 
madonnas walking by silently. The scene was so breathtaking in its ethe- 
real purity that it might have served Dante for a description of a street in 
Paradise. Suddenly all the people in the square, accompanied or led by 
the carillon, burst into song, the bystanders as well as the priests and the 
women in the procession: "Dear Lady Maria, dear Mother of Flandersl" 

When the procession had passed the street lights came back. Then the 
booths became visible where the white-aproned bakers baked waffles, 
crullers and beignets. Through the square was wafted the savory smell of 
the dishes carried by the waiters and waitresses to the tables of the side- 
walk restaurants. 

"Here you'll find steaks and roasts, not too rare, not too fat, but tender 
as rose petals," an advertisement announced with the added information 
by the proprietor: "My name is Jerome, my wife's name Gretal" The poul- 
try to which Kees treated us that evening, it was either chicken or duck, 
swam in wine sauce. The sauce was mixed with spices, cloves and nutmeg, 
tiny fresh carrots, tender June peas, strips of ham and calf's liver, roosters' 
combs, sweetbreads, and other heavenly delicacies. 

While were were eating we scarcely noticed that another procession 
got under way in the Grand' Place though there was nothing official about 
this one. It was made up of a long chain of tightly interlaced pairs of lovers 
wending its way to 't Minnewater, the Lake of Love, those still waters 
where the swans glide under the bridges between the ivy-covered walls 
of medieval towers. 

By September we started on the homeward journey, sometimes passing 
through Ghent and Antwerp, sometimes through Brussels. In the town of 
Oude God, we witnessed an archery contest and in St. Niklaas a ham- 

54 To Number Our Days 

eating contest between two opposing teams who had both brought their 
brass band along. These contests were the preliminaries to the annual 
Kermesse Flamande than which there is nothing more gaily hilarious. Un- 
fortunately, we could not stay to watch one of these kermesses since they 
commence in the latter part of September when school was waiting. 

The weather, too, became chilly and the morning mists hid the world 
behind a luminous white veil. With the first rays of daylight we heard the 
thrushes, hummingbirds and finches sing their magnificats as they flew 
from the fog banks above the ditches by the roadside. Straight into the sky 
"the bravely singing larks" winged their way to the golden door of the 
many mansions. . . . 

One year we walked the last part of the homeward journey in the com- 
pany of a group of Flemish peasants going to Holland to seek work on 
some dyke-building project. One of the peasants, a strong, yellow-haired 
customer, was so sad at the prospect of leaving Flanders that he was cry- 

"You love your native land that much?" Kees asked him. 

"Yes," replied the man, "the thought of leaving Flanders breaks my 
heart. . . . But I give myself courage by pinching my own behind now and 
then and saying: 'Dear behind of mine, you may be glad that you belong 
to a man who will some day carry you back to Flanders again!' " 


1. Grandfather, the Reverend 
Pieter van Paassen 


2. Father Adriaan 

3. Mother Antonia 

4. The author as a soldier in the Cana- 
dian Army, World War I 

5. Pierre van Paassen in the garden in St.-Germain-en-Laye, outside of Paris, 1929 


Frisian Interlude 

In the summer of 1911 1 was suddenly withdrawn from Gorcum's Latin 
school and taken to Franeker, a town located in Frisia or Friesland, the 
kingdom's northernmost province. The reason for my departure was my 
father s financial situation. It had never been very flourishing, but about 
that time it took such a disastrous dip that he doubted his ability to con- 
tinue paying my tuition fees. When notified of the sorry turn of events, my 
grandfather, who was a pastor in Franeker, took the first train he could 
catch. He refused to entertain the idea of my giving up the study of the 
classical languages since this would mean an interruption in my initial 
preparations for the ministry. After a day or so of discussion and argument 
he took me with him on the understanding that he would personally tutor 
me during the ensuing year. 

For once I traveled in grand style through the whole length of the coun- 
try in a first-class railway compartment with red plush cushions. In the 
steamer on the Zuyder Sea we had a private cabin. The two hours it took 
for the crossing I spent on deck. There I saw the first American I ever laid 
eyes on. The man was pointed out to me by a deck steward: "Look sharp 
now, there is a fellow with a gold tooth in his mouth. ... He comes from 

I looked in amazement at the transatlantic phenomenon, though in 
truth I must say that there wasn't much to look at. The man hung over the 
railing in the throes of a violent attack of seasickness. I went to notify my 
grandfather of my discovery and he immediately left the cabin to ac- 
company me on deck. After he looked over the green-faced stranger with 
his eyes rolling in his head, he called on the steward to bring the sick 
American a cup of hot bouillon. "First thing to do," he told the waiter, "is 
to weigh down this gentleman's stomach." The Yankee gratefully accepted 
the prof erred mug of beef extract and soon recovered sufficiently to inform 


56 To Number Our Days 

us that during his entire voyage on the broad Atlantic in a raging storm, 
he had not experienced the slightest discomfort, while on this small inland 
sea he thought that his last hour had struck. "How come?" he asked my 
grandfather. "How come?" 

The domine explained that the shallowness of the Zuyder Sea in com- 
parison with the oceans depth, and the choppiness of the weather, which 
caused the steamer to dip and plunge by fits and starts, lay perhaps at the 
bottom of the stranger s physical distress. "Perhaps," he answered. "Per- 

I listened avidly to their conversation, for it was the first time I heard 
English spoken outside a classroom. As was almost inevitable, the two 
men's talk before long turned to the subject of religion. I don t remember 
what particular phrase brought it on, but all at once the stranger and my 
grandfather were shaking hands and nodding their heads and calling each 
other "brother." I also learned that in his younger years my grandfather 
had received a call to a newly founded pulpit in the city of Pella in the 
state of Iowa. Had he accepted, I dare not speculate as to where I would 
have come in. . . . 

Franeker, the town where I took up residence, once boasted a univer- 
sity. Ren6 Descartes, the philosopher, who coined the phrase cogito ergo 
sum, "I think, therefore I exist," was one of its professors. In Franeker 
were also several renowned publishing houses where many of the most 
radical pamphlets and tracts, which prepared the way for the French 
Revolution, were printed and then smuggled into France. Franeker's 
collegians held so many demonstrations against the French usurpation of 
the Netherlands, that "the tyrant," as they called Napoleon, ordered them 
drafted into the imperial army and closed the university. 

At the parsonage I lodged in the domin&s study, a long low-ceilinged, 
rather narrow room in the rear on the first floor with one window at the 
end looking down into a small square or court with lime trees planted en 
carri. On the opposite side of the walled-in square stood the church where 
my grandfather ministered. It was through this court that he walked on 
Sunday mornings garbed in his black gown, preceded by six frock-coated 
Elders who all bore typical Frisian names: Bergema, Popta, Botha, Pet- 
tinga, Jellema and Havinga. 

The solemn procession entered the church through "tie narrow gate," 
which was actually so called. The main entrance lay on another street. 

Frisian Interlude 57 

But you could also see a part of the church's interior through an oblong 
window, a mere slit in the wall, located on the second floor of the par- 
sonage. Though he seldom climbed the stairs to his study on the first floor, 
the domine went up and down the two staircases to his lookout post at 
least half a dozen times each Sunday morning before the service. He was 
nervous, he said. He counted the number of worshipers and five minutes 
later returned to verify his earlier calculations. 

I slept in the study, though not in an ordinary bed. At the other end of 
the room, opposite the window, was a built-in closet, known as a bedstede. 
You opened the two small doors at about the height of a man's shoulders, 
took out a small ladder of the kind one uses to climb into the upper berth 
of a Pullman sleeping car, and dived in. I say "dive," for there was no 
mattress, only an enormous soft feather tick. Above your head, at the end 
of a cord fastened to the bedstede's ceiling, hung a horseshoe-shaped con- 
traption of mahogany. By seizing hold of this thing you could pull yourself 
up from the depths of the feather bed into a sitting position. On the farther 
side of the deep closet ran a shelf with a place for a candlestick, an alarm 
clock and a certain household utensil known in French as un pot de 

The dominS drew up a schedule of studies for the entire year and then 
left me strictly to my own devices. "If you really have a passion for study," 
he remarked, "you'll do it without prompting. If you have not, even the 
best teacher cannot be of much avail." 

He did his own writing and reading at a roll-top desk in the living room 
downstairs where a stove burnt virtually the whole year around. But 
the good man never sat really comfortable on his swivel chair. He merely 
managed to hang on, perilously perched on its uttermost edge. The 
largest part of the seat was taken up by Castor, an ancient, toothless 
fox terrier, who growled every time my grandfather stirred. 

When not lying in the back of the dominS's chair, Castor busied himself 
rubbing his body against the rungs, for he suffered from a perpetual 
"dry itch." This infirmity involved me in a great deal of extra work. My 
grandfather sent me to the local homeophatic pharmacy to fetch a bottle 
of tincture of arnica, a greenish liquid which, under his direction, I 
poured into a saucer. By dipping my fingertips into the tincture and rub- 
bing it on Castor's back twice a day, a new coat of hair was supposed to 
sprout from the old dog's back. The result was the very opposite. He 

58 To Number Our Days 

lost more and more hair till the veterinarian one day, to my infinite re- 
lief, pronounced him incurable. 

In my grandparents' bedroom, also located on the ground floor, stood 
two enormous fourposters with green curtains hanging from the canopies. 
Towards evening, my grandmother Adriana (Yana for short), with the 
assistance of a Frisian girl, Frouke, laid a wood fire in the bedroom in 
order, as she never failed to explain, to draw the moisture out. In my 
room was neither stove nor fireplace. I sought to make up for this de- 
ficiency by wrapping myself in a voluminous velvet pulpit gown, which 
I found hanging in a closet, the abandoned property of one of my 
grandfathers predecessors. My overcoat lay on my lap and I covered 
my head with a blanket. This left my feet and nose still freezing on days 
and nights when the wind stood from the north and shook the house to 
its very foundations. 

The other two members of the household, both females, were Lena and 
the aforementioned Frouke. Lena spoke only Frisian, no Dutch. She 
was a dour-faced, powerful, broad-hipped though good-natured woman 
with a lace cap on her head. Widowed within a year after her marriage, 
she had come to the parsonage at the age of twenty-five and had re- 
mained ever since, forty odd years in all. She referred to my father, his 
brothers and sisters as "our children," but made no bones about it that 
my father was the most troublesome from a kitchen superintendant's 
point of view. Her own son, an only child, served as a cashier at the 
local postal savings bank. Without fail he and his wife and children 
visited Lena on Sundays to partake of the noon hour dinner and stayed 
till evening when they, like all of us, drank hot chocolate with wafers 
of Lena's own confection. 

Lena commanded universal respect as a cook. In France she would 
easily have been a cordon bleu, though she had never followed any classes 
in cooking. Her pears braised in red currant juice with some sugar and 
a dash of cinnamon which she served with the roast or beefsteak were 
literally out of this world. On Sundays she often made chocolate soufH6 
with a vanilla sauce for dessert. I think she put a few drops of liqueur, 
kirsch or Cointreau, in the sauce to give it a special flavor. 

When my grandfather finished dinner prepared by Lena he used to 
say: "I don't expect to eat a better meal in heaven .... God bless the 

Frisian Interlude 59 

And then the bread she bakedl Its golden brown crust you could hear 
crickle and crackle as the Emperor Marcus Aurelius says he liked to 
hear it sixteen hundred years before. The first loaf of the weekly batch 
came to the breakfast table on Saturday mornings when Lena rose at 
an ungodly hour to bake. 

I often watched her knead on Friday night and place the huge bowl 
containing the dough behind the cookstove, which burnt all night on that 
occasion. Not the slightest draft of air was permitted to blow into the 
kitchen lest the dough catch cold and fail to rise. There was something 
of a ritualistic flavor about Lena's preparations. Bread was something 
sacred to her; not a single crust was ever to be wasted or thrown away. 
She performed the task of kneading with reverence, solemnly and de- 
liberately. While slapping and rolling the dough with her bare arms she 

muttered all sorts of incantations, both pagan and Christian "Do 

good to them that eat thee," she would address the dough. "Make them 
strong, wise, uprjucht [Frisian for upright]. Do what thou art expected 
to do .... In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy 
Ghost " 

"And no 'amen/ Lena?" 

"Oh, no, you will say 'amen* if you are a good boy, pleasel" 

Frouke was of a different nature. She was an outright pagan, but a 
lovely one. On the day when I arrived at the parsonage, it was she who 
opened the door. She threw her arms around my grandfather's neck 
and kissed him as if she hadn't seen him for ages. Divining the girl's 
intention, my grandmother quickly stepped between us, so that Frouke 
could not reach me and I missed the best part of her welcome. 

For the occasion of our reception she had woven a blue ribbon through 
her long tresses and on her head wore a crown of flowers from the fields. 
In fact she had placed fresh-cut flowers all through the house, on the 
tables, on the window sills, in the hallway, everywhere. Even old Lena 
had some corn flowers and poppies stuck in her lace cap. 

Frouke's big blue eyes flew with wonderment from my collar to my 
shoes and back again and then laughed so wholeheartedly that everyone 
was carried away by her merriment. 

She was just eighteen years of age when I arrived. She was not in the 
least prudish and knew everything. We understood each other at once. 
Very tall, she had orange-colored hair, perfect even teeth, and a skin 
glowing with health and beauty. She had duly followed the courses in 

60 To Number Our Days 

my grandfathers catechism class, but the domine confirmed her as a 
member of the Church without bothering to give her the usual examina- 

"There is no use plaguing this dear child with these intricate theo- 
logical questions/' he said. "She doesn't understand them, and never 
will! ... In that girl is the joy of life which is the possession of the 
pure in heart .... Nothing should be added!" 

Frouke was not really a servant girl. The Frisian people do not like 
the expression and its connotations. She was an equal among equals, 
what they call a Haustochter in Switzerland, a daughter of the house. 
Her parents were burghers than which there is no higher title amongst 
a people who call themselves "the Free Frisians." She was in the parson- 
age as an apprentice to Lena; in other words, she was learning to cook. 

Once a week, on Saturday night, I had a bath, though not in a bath- 
room. I don't think there was at that time a bathroom in any of the 
private houses. There was a public bathhouse and there may have been 
a bathroom in the hospital, but in that institution a bath was still referred 
to as hydro-therapy. 

In preparation for my bath, a large wooden tub, which hung suspended 
close to the ceiling when not in use, was lowered by a pulley to the kitchen 
floor and filled with hot water by Lena. 

"Get undressed and get in, the water is right," she would order me as 
once she ordered my father and his brothers and sisters. 

The soft soap I used, green in color and lye its chief ingredient, was a 
gluey paste. If one particle of it got into your eyes, it stung and smarted 
as if someone had dropped in a cup of vitriol. 

Lena scrubbed my back with a brush so hard that it would probably 
kill today's perfumed poodles if ever these beasties were subjected to such 
inhuman treatment. I howled like a soul in distress. "Shut up! Do you want 
to waken the whole neighborhood?" Lena rebuked me. At the same time, 
without any warning, she would smack me on the head with the wooden 
side of the brush. 

The soap may have been green, but your body was not after a scrubbing 
of that kind. Nor were you that delicate roseate pink which Zola so tanta- 
lizfngly describes in Nanette. You were red, violently red, as if a layer of 
skin had been peeled off. 

"Give it to him, Lena! Scrub him till he yells!" Frouke would call from 

Frisian Interlude 61 

the passage which ran from the kitchen to the rooms where the two wo- 
men were lodged. "Do you need any help?" 

"You stay out of here," Lena returned, "at least till he gets his shirt on!" 

"But I want to see him without his shirt," Frouke called back. 

"I can tell you what he looks like," Lena shouted. "He looks like a 
skinned pig. But clean, my dear, oh, he is as clean as a whistlel" With that 
Lena heaved me bodily from the tub, and I weighed 170 pounds, just as 
I do today. 

At the approach of winter my grandmother reinforced the covers on my 
feather bed with a remarkable invention of her own. She stuffed a worn- 
out floor rug into a red-flowered linen sack and called it the eiderdown. 
With the aid of Frouke and myself, she hoisted this monstrosity into the 
bedstede and placed it on top of the covers. It was absolutely useless; no 
warmth whatever, just dead weight! 

Passive support of this smothering quilt would have been about the only 
physical exercise I engaged in were it not for the rubbing of Castor's back 
and a daily promenade with the dominS on the town's old defense works. 
Once upon a time, I presume, these bolwerken* as they were called kept 
out Scots, Picts, Vikings and other such bandit races. Now they were 
transformed into a sort of elevated tree-lined parkway. When you walked 
on the bolwerken, you looked down on one side into the town of Franeker. 
On the other side ran a ship canal that circled the entire community. 
Everyone of consequence in Franeker strolled on the bolwerken in the 
afternoon. What happened there at nights I can only imagine, for I was 
not permitted to leave the house after dark. 

I soon became aware that the Frisian young ladies, after nodding their 
heads in greeting to the dominS, did a lot of giggling behind our backs. 

"Why do they snicker so much?" I asked my grandfather. 

"They notice that you are a stranger," he replied. "But well fix this 
quickly; you must learn the Frisian language." 

"Don't they understand Dutch?" 

"Of course they do. That's the language they learn at school. It's the 
language of instruction here as everywhere else in the Netherlands. But 
among themselves the Frisian people prefer to speak their own language. 
As soon as you have acquired a few expressions, you may as well go out 
and walk by yourself. You won't need me. You'll soon be talking with the 

*The English word is bulwark. Unable to pronounce the word bulwark, the French, 
as is their wont, gave it an exotic allure by calling it boulevard. 

62 To Number Our Days 

girls and you'll find that they are better teachers than any book or any 
amount of lessons in Frisian grammar that I can give. ... By the way," 
he added, "you can start learning Frisian right away by attending church 
on Sunday evenings when I preach in Frisian. . . . " 

Thus another subject was added to my already overloaded curriculum. 
But I have no regrets. It was fully worth the trouble. 

On both sides of the domin&s study behind thick red baize curtains ran 
long rows of bookshelves. On the bottom shelves, like so many rocks of 
Gibraltar, stood the ponderous tomes of the no less ponderous Fathers of 
the Church, Calvin's Institutes, Luther's Sermons and Table Talk, Augus- 
tine's City of God and his Confessions, diverse encyclopedias, dictionaries 
and theological works, and one biblical Concordance of such enormous 
size and weight as would have taxed the strength of a Samson to shift 

St. Augustine's Confessions is unquestionably one of the greatest books 
of all times; everything is in it, though the author, I found, is rather hard 
to follow at certain points as, for instance, where he debates the question 
whether women retain their sex after the resurrection. In another in- 
teresting passage the learned and sainted Bishop of Hippo tells of having 
seen— seen, with his own eyes, he -says— certain living creatures who re- 
sembled man in every respect but one. These freaks, which, I trust, have 
happily become extinct, had only one eye, and this one eye was not 
Cyclopslike fixed in the middle of their foreheads, but in the middle of 
their breasts. 

Other books followed from the opposite side of the room: Victor Hugo's 
novels, poems and speeches; Brantome's volumes of court gossip; Jean 
Jacques Rousseau's works; Chateaubriand's Memoirs from Beyond the 
Grave. There was a whole section devoted to books dealing with the Ox- 
ford movement in which John Henry Newman, Keble and Pusey were the 
aniiiiating spirits. I must have read Newman's story of his conversion to 
the Catholic Church a dozen times, and still read it occasionally as one of 
the most moving and noble battles of conscience ever waged. 

By contrast I read Carlyle who contemptuously dismissed Newman's 
philosophy as "the product of the brains of a rabbit." Carlyle's French Rev- 
olution can never be praised enough. With his seven volumes on Freder- 
ick the Great it's a different matter; I found them a monstrous monument 
of boredom and triviality, a sorry attempt to curry favor with Goethe, a 
bootlicking job if ever there was one. But then when Carlyle wrote his 

Frisian Interlude 63 

Frederick, the old "moral desperado," for so Matthew Arnold called him, 
had grown bitter, reactionary, anti-Semitic and perhaps schizophrenic. 

My favorite historian was Michelet. He was carried away to a point 
of exaltation by his love for France and his admiration of the French 
character. Michelet not merely wrote history; he plunged into it and fought 
its battles all over again. To Michelet the French people was the hero of 
world history. France's proclamation of freedom, equality and brotherhood 
was written and sealed with her own blood. . . . 

Naturally, I read Tolstoy from the great novels War and Peace and 
Anna Karenina to the pamphlets with their serious call. Though the sage 
of Yasnaya Polyana had died the year before there was still a feeling 
current in Europe, even in an out-of-the-way small Frisian town like Fran- 
eker, that with Tolstoy's physical disappearance all mankind had suffered 
a grievous loss. 

One of my most cherished memories is that afternoon, a week or ten 
days after Tolstoy's death, when the common people of my home town, 
the workers and clog-wearing proletariat, honored Tolstoy's memory with 
a procession and a mass meeting on the football field. Though we knew 
that we would be heavily punished for staying away from school and walk- 
ing behind the trade-union band with anarchists, socialists, avant-gardists, 
proletarian poets and other social raggamuffins, the poorest of the poor, 
my schoolmate Ary Brandt and I followed the procession with the band 
playing: "The Flowers of the Forest," and, on the rain-soaked field (every 
church and hall having been refused), Dit is ons heilig ideaal, "This then 
is our sacred ideal " 

My grandfather said: "Tolstoy is the last of the prophets. If his fate is 
to be that of all the prophets before him, that is, if no heed is paid to his 
warnings, the human race will, perhaps in our time yet, stand face to face 
with the prospect of total destruction, self-inflicted destruction." 

This was hard to understand for a seventeen year old boy, and I cer- 
tainly do not pretend that I understood the meaning of Tolstoy's message 
at that time. I heard my grandfather and his colleagues and friends argue 
the point whether Tolstoy was a Christian at all and not merely, as the 
more orthodox called him, a "Jesuanist" for his rejection of Christ's divinity. 
To some the Russian author appeared an anarchist and an abominable 
heretic. Yet I could not, however much I searched, detect the least trace 
of antireligious or even anti-Christian sentiment in him. He thought more 
of the Sermon on the Mount, and especially the text about not resisting 

64 To Number Our Days 

evil as the pith and marrow of Jesus' teaching, than all our divines put 

We were on the whole but imperfectly informed about the circumstance 
which caused Tolstoy, at the height of his glory as the greatest novelist of 
the time, to throw away all he had gained by way of fame, reputation 
and wealth. 

The sharpness of Tolstoy's powers of observation made this great re- 
ligious socialist regard nothing as more damnable than the factual inequal- 
ity in which men live. Because he recognized that it is, generally speaking, 
the riches of the few which empoverish and degrade the vast majority of 
men (and countries), the responsibility weighed so heavily on his con- 
science, as the owner of a landed estate, that his position became impos- 
sible and he fled from it. 

Nowadays it is almost customary to say that Tolstoy has become 
antiquated, that his passion for nonviolence does not belong and does 
not fit in our time. Still it was through the power of nonresistance to evil 
that Gandhi changed the destiny of his people in India. It was in Gandhi 
that Tolstoy's heart triumphed over the world. And as to being antiquated, 
how is it that Tolstoy's books, also those on the Kingdom of God, are 
published and read in the millions in Russia? 

Two of the books in the library dealt with conditions in the Congo 
when that country, before becoming a Belgian colony, was still the 
privately owned domain of King Leopold II. The stories about the Congo 
made my blood alternately boil with indignation and freeze with horror. 
First came Arthur Conan Doyle's Atrocities in the Congo, and then Mark 
Twain's satire entitled King Leopold Talks with Himself. 

Conan Doyle wrote his Congo book immediately after exonerating the 
South African Boers of inhumanity in their treatment of British prisoners 
of war. What he said about the Congo stunned the civilized world into 
speechless horror. He wrote that he saw thousands of men and women 
with a hand or foot cut off in penalty for not bringing in enough rubber 
from the forests. Heaps of skulls and skeletons lay outside the deserted 
Congolese villages, the survivors having fled into the brush where they 
perished by the tens of thousands for lack of food. 

He related how hard-drinking white soldiers, rubber dealers and slave 
drivers, just to pass the time of day, sat around on camp chairs watching 
and laughing as batches of black men were tied to the trees. Dynamite 

Frisian Interlude 65 

caps with fuses attached were inserted into their rectums and exploded. 
Black women had the dynamite sticks inserted elsewhere! . . . And this 
was going on day after day, month after month. 

Here is one of Mark Twain's observations: "If the innocent Congo 
blood spilt by King Leopold was put in pails and the pails were 
placed side by side, there would be a row of blood-filled pails 2000 miles 

long. . . r 

In the light of that inhuman episode of colonial history, we may well 
marvel at the relative mildness of the upheaval which followed the double- 
cross of 1960 when, by a cynical flaunting of solemn covenants, the rich 
Katanga province with its rubber plantations, copper, uranium and 
diamond mines, was allowed, and most likely urged, to secede from the 
rest of the country shortly after the Congo gained its independence. The 
Union Miniere, a Belgo-Franco-American holding company for a dozen 
big business enterprises became the real owner of Katanga. By taking 
Katanga out of the Congolese confederacy, the other provinces were 
reduced to stagnation and poverty. They revolted and threatened to de- 
stroy all the Union Miniere's properties if Katanga wasn't brought back 
into the Congolese union. 

Rather than looking for, and, of course, finding plenty of evidence of 
Russian interference, our correspondents and newscasters, who roamed 
the Congo in all directions, would have found it much easier to get the 
facts straight and in proportion had they taken the trouble to consult a 
few of the Congolese grandmothers. 

In Franeker's parsonage nobody was permitted into the living room on 
Thursdays. On that day the dominS was not to be disturbed: he prepared 
his sermon or sermons for the following Sunday. In the morning he wrote 
them out by hand, in the afternoon he memorized them, and paced 
up and down, reciting out loud what he had written. Before he started 
his pacing exercise Yana entered the room to turn up the edges of her 
"good rug" lest my grandfather's marching feet wear out the carpet. This 
is known in German as Teppich fressen, chewing the carpet to pieces. 
Adolf Hitler was said to be a Teppichfresser. This doesn't mean that he lay 
on the floor biting and chewing the rug. The Fuehrer marched up and 
down the room just as my grandfather did, though meditating on quite 
different subjects, I dare say. 

66 To Number Our Days 

Driven to distraction by the sound of the monotonous rhythmic thump 
of her husband's shoes on the bare boards which could be heard all 
through that silent house, my grandmother went out on Thursday after- 
noons, thus affording Frouke and myself an opportunity to get a little 
better acquainted. One of my stratagems was to get her to pose for a 
drawing of the human form divine, on the false pretense that I knew 
how. . . . 

I read by the light of a kerosene lamp. Does anyone today remember 
the kerosene lamp; how you had to trim the wick every few hours with 
a pair of scissors in order to prevent the lamp from smoking and the glass 
chimney turning as black as night? 

When I came downstairs in the morning to wash my face and hands, 
I did so in the kitchen sink, the water in the earthenware jug in the 
dressing room upstairs having frozen to a solid block of ice. 

"You ve again read too long last night," my grandmother would say. 
How could she tell? My eyes and nostrils were filled with soot from 
the lamp's smoke. 

One day I made a discovery in the library which gave me a first inkling 
of my grandfather's way of looking at life and society. Behind a row of 
books I found a certificate written on parchment stating that he had once 
been a member of a club or society known as "The Friends of the Human 
Race." When I showed him the document, he burst out laughing, but 
added quickly: "Put it back where you found it and don't let grandmother 
see it, for she doesn't trust the Friends of the Human Race." 

'Then, who are they?" 

"They are no more," he replied, "but once they were a fraternity at the 
university. . . . They called themselves after the Baron Anacharsis Cloots, 
who was known as L'Orateur du Genre Humain, The Orator [in defense] 
of the Human Race.' Although of Dutch origin, Cloots was a member of 
the French National Convention. He had made his way to France that 
he might live for freedom. In pursuit of freedom he lost his head under 
the guillotine. He was a martyr to idealism." 

Far from being regarded as a youthful deviation, my grandfather's 
adherence to the Friends of the Human Race rendered him suspect of 
radicalism and republican ideas to the end of his life. The congregations 
thought it strange that he, like the Roman Catholic priests in Holland, 
though for a widely different reason, refused to have the national anthem 

Frisian Interlude 67 

sung in church. Nor would he recite the prescribed prayers for the mem- 
bers of the royal family, "although," as he often said, "they need them 

Anything with a nationalistic flavor did not belong in the service. The 
Church was universal, ecumenical; nationalism was a mangy beast that 
had no place in the house of God, the Father of all mankind. Repub- 
licanism, he held, with reference to Geneva and the United States of 
America, was the form of government best suited to a people professing 
the Protestant religion. He always spoke of America with pride, calling 
it "the empire of Calvin." 

"If ever you were to visit America," I asked, "which site or locality 
would you most want to see? Would it be New York with its skyscrapers, 
its elevated and underground railways, its colossal bridges. . . or the Grand 
Canyon or Niagara Falls?" 

"If I visited America," he replied, "I would most of all want to see the 
graves of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. I think that cemetery is one of the 
most sacred spots on earth. It should be a place of pilgrimage for 
Protestants from all over the world, just like Calvin's Geneva or Luther's 
Wittenberg. I think that in Plymouth I would perhaps feel something 
which the earliest settlers in the New World felt when they breathed their 
first breath of freedom; free at last from the yoke of the Old World and 
the old churches. ... To live according to their own faith in freedom, what 
a glorious experience it must have been! ... I am too old now, but if 
ever you cross the Atlantic," he continued, "always bear in mind that 
America's freedom and grandeur are the outcome of a great religious 
movement. ... It is in America that the Reformation really came into its 
own. I have an almost religious veneration for America. ..." 

He was a man of the people, or, more exactly, he lived all his life 
amongst farmers, fishers and small-time merchants, but he was also a 
graduate of a renowned university. 

"Once," he said, "in the first year of my ministry, I preached a sermon 
on the end of the world. The horrors of the Franco-Prussian War seemed 
to me an indication of the fulfillment of prophecy concerning earthquakes, 
upheavals, wars and rumors of war foreshadowing the end. . . . Do you 
know what happened? 

"Some of the wealthiest members of my congregation, as a precautionary 
measure, withdrew their gold from the bank. The Elders were very angry 

68 To Number Our Days 

with me. 'Say what you like in the pulpit/ they told me, *but don t interfere 
with business/ * 

"So you stopped talking of the wrath to come?" 

"Yes, I apologized to the local consistory, but added that my mistake 
was pardonable inasmuch as the holy apostles themselves made precisely 
the same miscalculation in connection with the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. 
They, too, predicted that the end of the world would come in their own 
time. ... I never again tried to scare people with threats of doom or 
persuade them to live the good life by conditional promises of long life 
and material prosperity. That kind of preaching makes no sense, anyway. 
Experience proves that it is not the good who are rewarded. It's more 
often the other way around. . . . " 

His parishioners heaved a sigh of relief, he said, when he left off 
scaring them with the last judgment. They began to send him baskets of 
apples, pears, plums and other produce from their farms and orchards. 
In November, which is precisely called "Slaughter Month" in the Dutch 
language, he could count on at least half a dozen fine smoked hams 
safely hung in the attic, and sausages without end. 

"Did you surrender your principles/' I asked, "or change your opinions?" 

"I did neither," he replied. "I discovered as you will discover some day 
that in these old Germanic countries, the people remain distant and aloof 
from the dogmas of Christianity. Oh, they are good people, no doubt! 
They are the best people on earth. They make virtually no profession of 
religious beliefs, but at heart they are deeply religious. They cannot tell 
you just what they believe, they cannot formulate their beliefs. But they 
do believe, for they have hope, faith and courage. There's an inner light 
in them. They look for a new day, and none of them doubts that a new 
man is coming on the scene, a loftier race. . . . The overwhelming majority 
of the Frisians vote socialist, like the Danes, their kinsmen a little further 
north. . . . There are also some intensely Calvinist congregations, though 
not many. . . . 

"There is a very low incidence of crime in Frisia," he went on. "Alcoholic 
consumption is lower per capita than anywhere else in the world. Their 
educational system is on par with that of the Scandinavian countries, that 
is to say, the best. But deep down in their hearts they don't know what 
to do with the Christian dogma. There is a secret, unavowed aloofness, 
aversion, I would almost say, to the mysticism and orientalism of 
Christianity. ..." 

Frisian Interlude 69 

'Would they sooner have their old gods Hengist and Horsa back?" I 
asked him with a laugh. 

"Of course not! But this is no laughing matter. Here in Frisia, more than 
anywhere else in the Germanic world, there is an awareness that the 
introduction of Christianity brought about a split, a fatal split in the 
European spirit. The imposition by the sword— wasn't Charlemagne who 
forced baptism on them called the Slaughterer of the Saxons?— the forcible 
imposition of a primitive, untenable system of metaphysics made a 
harmonious development of the Western spirit impossible. The imposition 
of an alien religion has prevented Europe from developing its own 
conscience. Europe is afflicted with a split conscience. It's an incurable 
wound. Christianity in its present form doesn't fit in here " 

"Then what's the use of preaching the Christian doctrine?" I asked. 
"Why don't you close the church? What do you need Jesus for?" 

"Don't talk so flippantly," he rebuked me as a note of sadness crept 
in his voice. "You mustn't say such things. Never must you say such things. 
Never forget what Jesus means to millions: hope of earth and joy of 

heaven There is no other figure in world history like the carpenter 

of Nazareth to have made men go out of themselves and beyond them- 
selves I am aware, of course, that you are reading the books of 

historical criticism upstairs. I won't keep you away from them. After all, 

you must learn to make up your own mind It is quite well possible 

that as a result of the work of the historical critics Jesus will ultimately 

drop out of history altogether But the spirit of Christ will remain with 

us till the end of time even if it be under another name and other 

symbols As for me personally," he said with tears in his eyes, "if the 

Lord Jesus were to ask me what He once asked Peter: Xovest thou me?* 

I would answer like Peter: TLord, thou knowest all things Thou 

knowest that I love thee ' " 

After a long pause he went on: "In my preaching I shun all dogmatic 
assertions. I merely try to penetrate the people's minds with ideas of 
justice, charity, freedom and beauty. This they understand. This appeals 
to their natural inclinations. Didn't I say that they are a good people? On 
the whole they are of a rectitude of mind and morals that should be an 

example to the rest of Europe " Some years ago, before World War II, 

I went over the yellowed, handwritten sermons by my grandfather, and 
found that he had indeed dwelt on those four points— justice, charity, 
freedom and beauty— with admirable clarity. His bundles of sermons were 

70 To Number Our Days 

piously preserved in the family till the year 1944 when they were de- 
stroyed. One of the Germans' V-bombs misfired and exploded in the town 
of Zutphen above the parsonage of my uncle Cornelis who escaped as 
by miracle and is still living at this writing, though he lost his mind as a 
result of the tortures suffered during two years in the concentration camp 
of Dachau. 

In the evening the doming played checkers with Yana. She beat him 
without fail. He suspected her of cheating, and looked at her with a 
questioning sideway glance when she won. The game was played in their 
bedroom on a table standing right in front of the fireplace where the 
logs crackled and sent up bursts of ruddy flame. The room was as hot 
as an oven. It was the most comical scene in the world to see them 
deeply immersed in a game at the moment when a chance late caller 
rang the doorbell. They both jumped to their feet, and Castor barked for 
all he was worth in his croaking, worn-out voice. 

"Frouke, oh, Frouke, help!" my grandmother would sing out into the 
hall. "Frouke, quick, remove the checkerboard, and put it under the bed!" 

They didn't want the late caller, whoever he or she might be, to see 
them absorbed in so "worldly" an occupation as playing a game of 
checkers. Frouke, of course, did as she was asked, and left the room to 
open the front door. A moment later she re-entered announcing the 
visitors name. "Shall I let him in here?" she would ask. "Yes, everything 

seems safe " my grandmother would say. She or her husband had 

quickly placed some edifying book on the table giving the impression that 
one of the two had been reading out loud to the other. 

One evening there were three visitors, all three respectable citizens 
who stayed a long time. I came down to see if I could get a glass of hot 
milk for the temperature in the bookroom must have been near zero. 
Frouke was just carrying in a tray with a bottle of rum, sugar, glasses 
and a kettle of hot water. She was serving punch. The three gentlemen 
and my grandfather drank two large tumblers before saying a word. This 
was an almost ritualistic procedure: "No talk till the ship is loaded." Then 
after a lot of hemming and hawing, one of the visitors came to the point. 

"Well," asked my grandfather, "what seems to be the trouble?" 

"No trouble, no trouble at all, doming the man reassured. "But we 
thought we had better consult you on a matter of civic importance." 

"Of civic importance? Good heavens, what can it be?" 

Frisian Interlude 71 

"Well, some people in town are a little worried about the goings-on on 
the bolwerken at nights . . . the boys and girls, you understand. . . ." 

"On a night like this? Who would venture out in ice-cold weather like 

"Oh, but they do, dominS, they dol The weather makes no difference 
to the young ones " 

"Love is strong, isn't it?" 

"It's stronger than death, dominSF 

"But why come to me? Hadn't you better see the burgomaster or the 

"Well, we thought we'd better see you first. The right-wing dissenters, 
you see, are talking of hiring a midnight missionary to keep an eye on the 
boys and girls." 

"What do you say: a midnight missionary?" 

"Yes, so they are called. They have midnight missionaries in the big 

"They get beaten up," said my grandfather. "I read of their exploits 
in the out-of-town papers. It's outright provocation to send a snooper 
like that into every little corner of the parks. Where is a poor boy going 
to take his girl for a little quiet tSte-d-tSte? Are we to banish 

"Pieter," interrupted my grandmother, utterly scandalized at her 
husband's words, "how can you talk that way? Is that an attitude to take 
for a minister of religion?" 

"Yana," he came back, "I wish you would get me some more hot water 
and sugar. I like plenty of sugar in my rum toddy." 

When Yana left the room, he told his visitors: "Gentlemen, I don't 
think it's as grave as you think. We all were young once. I know what 
goes on. You know what goes on. It has been going on since the year one, 
and even before. The boys are good practical Frisians, aren't they? Have 
you ever heard of a good Frisian buying a cat in the bag? ..." 

But there was my grandmother back already. And the glasses were 
filled once more. The visitors drank two more tumblers. 

"It's a beastly cold night," said my grandfather, "people should keep 
warm as best they can. Shouldn't they?" 

"We see what you mean, domin6" put in one of the visitors. "By the 
way, this is excellent rum." 
"The very best," my grandfather agreed. 

72 To Number Our Days 

"So, no midnight missionaries, eh?" asked another man who had been 
silent till then. 

"Only think what an evil reputation this town would get if it were 
to import one of those human bloodhounds. I shudder when I think of 
the violence that may result, not to speak of the broken hearts and the 
frustration. What a sad prospect! God forbid!" 

The men nodded their heads, emptied their glasses and went their 
way rejoicing. 

"Those old hypocrites came only to drink domin&s rum," remarked 
Frouke to me after she let the visitors out. "What do they know what 
happens on the bolwerken, anyway?" 

"Do you know what goes on, Frouke?" 

"Sure, I do!" 

"What then?" 

"Nothing really, not on the bolwerken at least!" 

"Where is the best place?" 

"In the meadows beyond the canal. That's where the haystacks stand 
and the fairies dance, though not in wintertime. They dance in the moon- 
light on warm evenings. Wait till next summer and 111 take you there 
one night " 

But that promise was never fulfilled. When the next summer came 
around I was far, far away 

It must have been around that time of heavy frost that we had a burglar. 
Not in the house, but in the courtyard. I heard a noise just after I had 
crawled under the aforementioned rug sack. I got up and looked out of 
the window, but could see nothing. I knew that there was a heap of fire- 
wood piled against the church wall. I could hear the logs falling and 

I went downstairs. My grandfather heard me coming down. "What's 
up?" he called out. 

"I think someone is carrying off your firewood." 

"Let's go and investigate. Hand me my overcoat. ..." 

He took a lantern from the kitchen cupboard and then walked into the 
court. A man was just crawling over the wall. 

"Do you know him?" I asked. 

"Sure, I know him," he came back. "I recognized him by his bulging 

"Mynheer van Zandt," my grandfather called out, "please don't take 

Frisian Interlude 73 

all the wood! Leave some for me. If you will call in the morning, you 
can have all the wood you want. Im having a fresh load delivered at 
nine o'clock." 

We could hear some logs falling on the other side of the wall and then 
swift footsteps crunching in the snow. 

"What about your Frisian rectitude now?" I asked. 

"Van Zandt is not a Frisian," replied my grandfather. He's a Hollander 
like yourself! . . ." 

For his preaching turns in other towns and communities, the dominS 
was allowed the use of a two-wheeled carriage known as a tilbury. I 
do not recall whether he owned this vehicle or not. It stood in a stable 
on a back street night and day at his disposal for instantaneous use. The 
tilbury carried a collapsible leather hood and a leather shield or curtain 
in front of the single seat to protect the travelers against the inclemencies 
of the weather. Koba, the dappled mare, also wore a blanket when it 
rained or snowed. In summer a pair of cotton covers went over her ears, 
in winter a set of woolen protectors. They were knitted by my grandmother 
in the shape of a pointed pair of socks with a red tassel at the top. As long 
as I lived in Franeker I acted as coachman. Rain or shine, off we were on 
those Sunday afternoons when he had to preach outside. 

Thus we visited Leeuwarden, the Frisian capital, the port of Harlingen, 
the cities of Sneek and Bolsward and villages lying in a circumference 
of about fifteen miles. The first thing that struck me was the bodily 
height of the average Frisian who, as statistics show, is from two to 
three inches taller than the common run of Hollander or Fleming. Pliny, 
the historian, who visited the country before the dawn of the Christian 
era and shivered in the boreal blasts of a Frisian winter, found the in- 
habitants "a handsome and powerful race." He was particularly intrigued 
by the platinum color of their hair. 

The Roman legions did not conquer the Frisians, nor, for that matter, 
the Batavians, as the inhabitants of Holland were then known. Julius 
Caesar, the "bald-headed adulterer," concluded a treaty of friendship 
with the clans inhabiting the Low Countries. The tribesmen were the 
most trusted of the Roman soldiers; they served in the imperial bodyguard. 

Some historians have advanced the opinion— whether seriously or not, 
I do not know— that a legion drawn from the Low Countries was stationed 
in Palestine during the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. If true, the 
question as to who really crucified Christ should be examined again. That 

74 To 'Number Our Days 

none of our legionnaires ever wrote home about the harrowing event on 
Calvary's hill must be attributed, I think, rather to their general state of 
illiteracy than to lack of interest. . . . 

Still, what a pityl If one of those boys had been able to write just 
one word to his sweetheart of what he had seen in Jerusalem, we might 
have at least one authentic reference to the drama on Golgotha. . . . 

All around us in the Frisian rural regions we heard a language spoken 
which of all continental languages is nearest akin to English. An old 
Frisian saying: 

"Bread, butter, and green cheese 
Is good English and good Friese. . ." 

gives a startling indication of the close kinship of Anglo-Saxon and the 
Nether-Saxon tongue spoken by the Frisians. 

One item in Leeuwarden's art museum, which we visited several times, 
has become an object of dispute with Russia since the Kremlin museum 
began to exhibit an enormous wooden bowl of which it is claimed that 
Peter the Great filled it to the brim with vodka and emptied it in one 
gulp in the presence of his astonished ambassadors on New Year's day. 

The Russians boast that Peter s bowl represents the biggest Schlock 
of strong drink ever taken by any human being. In challenging this 
claim the Frisians, without any intention to start a cold war, point to a 
silver cup in the Leeuwarden Museum which is nearly twice the size 
of Czar Peter's wooden bowl. The Frisian cup has a quaint lingua franca 
inscription dating from the fifteenth century on its side: 

Ic, Yonker Sissingha I, Baronet Sissingha 

Dronk deze henza Drank this cup 

In eene stenza In one gulp (stanza) 

Door myn kraga Through my collar (throat) 

In myn maga. Into my stomach. 

Evidently, the next move is up to Nikita Khrushchev! 

One Sunday we drove to the village of Wieuwerd which shares with 
the city of Bordeaux in France the distinction that the bodies of the 

Frisian Interlude 75 

dead do not moulder or disintegrate. The soil in the local cemetery, and 
under the church where a number of tombs are located, is intersected 
by veins of crude arsenic, a powerful preservative. Even the features of 
men and women laid to rest ages ago remain recognizable, though the 
parchmentlike skin stretches itself tightly around the bony structure of 
the cheeks and skull. 

Wieuwerd, however, has a far more intimate claim on our interest. From 
this sleepy village went forth one of the parent streams of American 
civilization. The Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, visited here, but re- 
turned to England when the mission upon which he came failed to bring 
results. William Penn, the leader of the Quakers, had better luck. Penn 
came to Wieuwerd in the spring of 1667 accompanied by George Fox, 
Robert Barclay, John Robinson and George Keith. Their object was "to 
find tolerance, to nourish their faith, and to borrow some of the seed 
ideas which found congenial soil in America." They also, and this was 
their chief aim in visiting Wieuwerd, persuaded a colony of sectarians, 
known as Labadists, to emigrate to Pennsylvania. 

Who were the Labadists? They were followers of a French divine, 
Jean de Labadie. Amongst them were the daughters of "the richest Frisian 
of the time," the Lord of Sommelsdyk. On the death of their father these 
girls donated their medieval castle, the Thetinga State at Wieuwerd, and 
its extensive farmholds and grazing grounds, to the sect for the purpose 
of establishing a religious settlement modeled on the life and primitive 
communistic practices of the earliest Christian church in Jerusalem. 

One of the best known Labadists was Anna Maria van Schuurman, who 
is called "the wonder of the age." Besides being a woman of great beauty, 
she was also an astonishing linguist, speaking and writing fluently in 
Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac, Turkish, Coptic and Chaldean. Her 
writings have been carefully preserved including the manuscript of her 
famous Latin book Eucleria, meaning "The Choice of the Good Part." 
This book served the Labadists as a manual of devotion as long as they 
remained in Frisia and for a considerable time after their migration to 

Two hundred of the Labadists accepted Penn's invitation and were 
settled by him on farms in and around Bohemia Manor which was later 
incorporated in part in the territory of the state of Delaware. Holding all 
property in common, the ideal of the Labadists was to make of the human 
race one united family striving for a devout and holy life. That they did 

76 To Number Our Days 

not succeed we may easily verify by taking just half a glance around. 
In America they gradually merged with Quakers and Mennonites and 
other such pietistical bodies. 

With their kinsmen and fellow Labadists remaining behind in Frisia 
the American sectarians communicated regularly. Even during the Ameri- 
can Revolutionary War, couriers went to and fro between the colony of 
Bohemia Manor and the Frisian mother institution. The result was that 
our first Fourth of July, the day of the signing of the Declaration of 
Independence, was just as enthusiastically celebrated in Frisia as it was 
in Philadelphia, Boston or New York. 

Two months before the event, word had come from America that the 
Founding Fathers were about to draw up and pass a resolution affirming 
the independence of the thirteen colonies. Without waiting for confirma- 
tion, the Frisians laid plans to mark the occasion with a "day of national 
rejoicing." When the Fourth of July dawned, the Stars and Stripes floated 
from the towers and city hall of the capital city of Leeuwarden. In 
Franeker, thirteen American flags waved from the university buildings. 
The students went around in procession to celebrate the American 
colonies' severance of the British connection. An enormous banner of 
black velvet moved at the head of the collegians' demonstration. On it 
with gold letters appeared the Latin inscription: 

Plus valet una dies quae libera dicitur acta 
Quae mali sub domini miUe jugo! 

One day spent in freedom is worth more 

Than a thousand centuries under the yoke of a master! 

The masonic lodges held solemn sessions to honor the new republic 
across the Atlantic. In the capital city the burghers' club, Liberty and Zeal, 
did more than indulge in the hilarity of a Fourth of July. They made the 
occasion permanent. They struck a gold medal commemorating the rec- 
ognition of the independence of the American Republic by the Frisian 
commonwealth. In each of Frisia's eleven cities the civic guard paraded 
in gala uniform with white plumes on their black top hats. Fireworks 
were set off in the evening. The carillons pealed Crueger's great hymn: 
"Now thank we all our God " 

Frisian Interlude 77 

"It was," says a contemporary writer, "as if the Frisian people celebrated 
their own independence. 

Once again the Frisians struck a gold medal when John Adams, as the 
first American minister to the Netherlands, signed a treaty of commerce 
and navigation between the American and the Dutch republics on Oc- 
tober 7, 1782. At that time, when Frisia still enjoyed self-government in 
the former Dutch republic, John Adams came to Franeker and Leeuwarden 
to express the gratitude of the American people and their government for 
the support Frisia gave the colonists in their struggle for freedom. While 
other far more powerful nations in deference to British sensibilities re- 
frained from showing their sympathy for the American cause or had at 
best given it lip service, the Frisians never made a secret of their senti- 
ments. They actually considered themselves in a state of war with George 
III and would not trade with Britain as long as the struggle for inde- 
pendence lasted in America. 

The Frisians, I discovered, are not a very talkative people. I have never 
heard one of them or seen any of their history books boast of the fact that 
their nation was the only one in the world which spontaneously collected 
funds and treasure and sent these across the ocean to George Washington 
in defiance of the British blockade. Secretly, however, they still take 
great pride in that splendid show of solidarity and are overjoyed when 
you mention that you know about it. 

One of the most curious spectacles I witnessed in Frisia was that of the 
entire population of a given village or a town's quarter on the march. We 
met such processions time and again while driving in the tilbury. Men, 
women, youths, girls, Protestant, Catholic, freethinker, socialist and con- 
servative, all took part in these mass promenades where no mechanical 
devices of transportation such as bicycles or motorcars were tolerated. 

"What's the idea of all these people on the go?" I asked my grandfather. 

"It's part of the curriculum of the Folks-high-school," he said. "The 
Folks-high-school is an adult educational movement, an experiment in 
harmonious living. Teachers, farmers, laborers, clergymen, rich and poor, 
everybody sits on the school benches once more. One joins a 'High school 
for life' (such is its unofficial name) without being asked a certificate of 
previous schooling, and one leaves it without getting one. 

"Discussion and debate evenings are arranged. The way of life of 
other peoples and nations is explained by means of lantern slides, motion 
pictures, travelogues and lectures. Singing, wood carving, folk dancing, 

78 To Number Our Days 

listening to music and poetry are included with the intention to develop 
a feeling for style in one's own life. The most important subject in the 
curriculum is the art of living. When the inhabitants of a community go 
on the march they are learning literally to walk together/* 

Christmas week when nearly everybody in Franeker went skating or on 
vacation, my grandfather set aside for 'repetition/* That is, I had to 
undergo an oral examination. On the day when we dealt with the subject 
of history, the dominS asked me which countries, in my opinion, had been 
the most powerful agents of political progress in history. 

"England, France and America/' I answered. 

"Correct," he nodded his head, "but you should add that the Dutch 
preceded all three of them. . . . " 

"Impossible!" I said with an incredulous laugh. "Aren t you a little over- 

"Impossible, you say? Just listen to this." He picked up a book from the 
table. "I read you a passage," he said, "from a lecture by an international 
authority, a famous Roman Catholic scholar and professor of history at 
Cambridge University: 

"'The Dutch/ says Lord Acton, 'made their universities the seat of 
original learning and original thinking, and their towns were the center 
of the European press. The later (Dutch) Renaissance, which achieved 
by monuments of solid work what dilettantism had begun and interrupted 
in the Medicean age, was due to them and to the refuge they provided 
for persecuted scholars. 

" Their government, imperfect and awkward in its forms, became the 
most intelligent of the European governments. It gave the right of citizen- 
ship to revolutionary principles, and handed on the torch when the turn 

of England came It was by the Dutch that the great transition was 

made, that religious change became political change, that the Revolution 
evolved from the Reformation. . . . ' 

"What do you say to that? And this yet," he added: " The principle and 
practice of tolerance reached a height in Holland absolutely unknown any- 
where else in the world/ " 

"Obviously your professor goes too far," I observed. "How is it possible 
that the principle of tolerance stood so high in a country where the 
Calvinist religion predominates? Calvin certainly was not a tolerant 
person, nor, it seems, are his latter-day followers!" 

Frisian Interlude 79 

"You are quite right," he replied. "Only our tradition of tolerance does 
not stem from Calvin or Calvinism. It comes from Erasmus. 

"Erasmus is not only the educator of Holland, but of all Europe. I look 
upon the history of Europe," he went on, "as an ongoing struggle between 
the ideas and the school of Erasmus of Rotterdam and those of Machia- 
velli the Florentine. Fundamentally, the struggles of modern history are 
struggles between tolerance and fanaticism. 

"Erasmus said: 'We should not merely pray as has been done through- 
out the ages: From pestilence, hunger and war, good Lord, deliver us, and 
at the same time do nothing to abolish the conditions from which pesti- 
lence, famine and war ineluctibly issue. We should reform personal and 
social life in such a manner that these evils through the power of the 
human will, disappear forever. 

" 'Oh, God/ he exclaimed in 1524, oh, God, what a worldl Christendom 
is torn in twain. The [German] Emperor and the King [of France] want 
to destroy each other. Immortal God, why doesn't the Pope forbid war and 
prevent his children from cutting each others' throats?' " 

Wasn't he talking of conditions in 1963? 

Tolerance versus fanaticism! I do not know if this view of history was 
in any way new or original. But I found it an almost perfect guide in 
disentangling the myriad currents and crosscurrents, political, social and 
ideological which tear modern society apart. 

Tolerance! Not mere tolerationl 

In the word tolerance the emphasis lies on active, full-fledged consent, 
not a mere half-hearted permission or shoulder-shrugging resignation, or 
putting up temporarily with something which we only half like. 

Tolerance is of the very essence of freedom! 

Tolerance stands for complete equality and the citizen's absolute right, 
without experiencing intimidation or secret pressure, to give expression, 
orally and in writing, to his innermost convictions, however unorthodox 
they may be from an economic, religious or social point of view! . . . 

Shortly after noon on a Saturday in mid-February, Frouke received a 
letter from the town of Dokkum where her family lived, informing her 
that her father lay seriously ill. The news threw our entire household 
into consternation, for the girl, as I mentioned, was like a member of the 
family. Frouke wept, Lena wept, my grandmother clutched her head in a 
gesture of despair as she paced up and down the living room. 

80 To Number Our Days 

"You must go at once," the dominS told Frouke. "There is no time to 

'Today's train has left," the girl replied, "there's no train on Sunday 

I better get my skates and start immediately." 

To this mode of travel my grandfather would not agree. "There is too 
much snow on the ice," he shook his head. "Hut what about the tilbury? 
Do you think," he asked, turning in my direction, "that you could drive 
Frouke to Dokkum? I can't go myself, for I could not be back for the 
morrow's service. . . . Can you make it, d'you think?" 

"Ill do my best," I assured him. 

"Well, that's settled then," he said with finality. "You'll take my over- 
coat with the fur collar. Also take an extra blanket for Koba and a sack 
of oats. . . . You'll lodge the mare at Mr. Hobbema's livery stable in 

"Yes," chimed in my grandmother, "and you'll take some fortifying food 
for Frouke's father." 

All at once there was a scurrying to and fro in the kitchen, a bustle and 
animation as if a great emergency was upon us. My grandmother and 
Lena made up a hamper of sandwiches and a parcel containing a pro- 
digious fine old ham, a cheese, sausages, and apples and pears from the 
bins in the attic. Grandfather went out to get the horse and tilbury and 
presently returned saying: "I put the harness with the bells on Koba. The 
snow is so dense that people might not see you. With the bells on, I'm 
sure, they'll hear you coming." 

"Here," summoned my grandmother, "open your shirt! I want to sew 
this small sack of money on the inside of your underwear. There's ten 
guilders and seventy-five cents in it," she whispered. "Mind that you go 
sparingly with all that moneyl" 

And then— by the Lord Harry!— she made me go upstairs and bring 
down the impossible quilt from my bed. "You'll put this on your laps," 
she said ever hopefully. 'If anything will keep you warm, this is it!" 

At the same time my grandfather wrote a note to his colleague in Dok- 
kum, recommending the bearer, his grandson, for a night's hospitality at 
the parsonage. 

"Frouke, come along!" everybody called out. "The tilbury is at the door." 

And along she came. But it wasn't the same Frouke of half an hour 
before when she went to change her clothes. There wasn't a trace of tears 
left. She walked into the hall like a princess going to her coronation. Her 

Frisian Interlude 81 

gown was of a soft blue tint. She wore high-heeled shoes and over her 
shoulders an expensive strawberry-colored woolen shawl. On her head 
she carried the golden casque with the gold rosettes at the temples, and 
over it the transparent lace cap which is traditional with the Frisian 

Suddenly there was a fascination about our Frouke as about a fairy 
maiden. Even my grandmother stepped back astonished. "My goodness, 
Frouke," she gasped, "my goodnessl" 

But my grandfather, in whose glance I thought I detected the merest 
flicker of suspicion, took me aside to whisper in my ear: "As man to man, 
let me warn you: be on your guard! There's more here than meets the 
eye. . . 

Lena must have nourished similar apprehensions, but she, as usual, 
was rather more direct: "Drive straight on, you twol No nonsense nowl 
And no picnics in the snowl D'you hear?" 

After all this sage advice, we drove off, our heads just above the leather 
curtain in front of the tilbury seat. It snowed heavily and it was bitter 
cold. Soon the shawl was pulled over Frouke's head and she looked as 
bewitching as a nun in profound reflection. Her face was one to haunt a 
man's dreams. I have seen her portrait a hundred times in later years. 
That is, I have seen the paintings by Master Rubens of his wife, the lovely 
Helena Fourment, whom Frouke resembled like a twin sister. 

For a time she was silent and grave. Then she grew so communicative 
that I rapidly revised my opinion about the taciturnity of the Frisians. 
Frouke talked my head off. She even sang the Frisian national anthem 
for me: Frysk bloed, tjoch op, toil nou 'ris bruze en siede, "Now, seethe, 

noble Frisian blood, and leap like a storm through our veins " She took 

off her gloves to clap her hands in applause when she had finished. Her 
laughter came in cascades of silver and crystal. But she displayed no 
other coquetry than the very innocent delight which nature itself would 

The only trouble we had on that journey— it was really no trouble to 
me— came when Frouke kicked off her shoes because her feet got so cold. 
She drew up her knees and placed her feet in my lap with the urgent 
request to rub them. How can one rub a girl's feet and simultaneously 
hold the horse's reins? I really can't tell; I never tried to do two things 
at the same time. . . . 

I drove her back to the old parsonage in Franeker on the following 

82 To Number Our Days 

Monday. Her father's illness, as I suspected all along, did not amount to 
much. En route to Dokkum she hadn't been the least apprehensive about 
his condition. I saw the alleged sick man; he was sitting up and drinking 
black coffee with rum or perhaps just rum with a few drops of coffee 
to give the glass a deceptive coloring. 

There was a young physician in the house who could not keep his eyes 
off his patient's daughter. For this I could hardly blame him, but when 
he volunteered to drive her back to Franeker, my heart shrank as if it had 
been pierced by a pin of ice. Imagine my elation when Frouke firmly 
replied: "No thank you, doctor, I have my own man!" 

While waiting for her father to recover, I took the opportunity to look 
over Frouke's home town. Dokkum has an interesting history. In this town 
a crusade was preached in the thirteenth century and the men of Dokkum 
defeated an army of Saracens in the battle of Damietta in Egypt. Once 
upon a time it was also a Hanseatic city and still has a fine admiralty 
building, though the town is no longer situated on the sea. Where the 
great galleons lay moored along the quays in far-off days runs now a 
narrow canal navigable only by small craft. The North Sea is several 
miles distant. 

On the Sunday morning I attended Mass at the Roman Catholic church 
of Saint Boniface and drank a beaker of water from the holy well which 
sprang up on the site where the Apostle of the Germans was slain in 
a.d. 754. 


In the New World 

It may well be that a flood of loving recollection has intensified my 
memories of Holland, but at the time of our departure, even the wonderful 
prospect of travel and adventure did not begin to compensate for the 
secret nostalgia gnawing at my heart. There's nothing so true as the 
saying: Partir cest mourir un peu. I have felt the pangs of parting a dozen 
times in life, but in leaving the land of my birth it was as if I was being 
torn up by the roots; never a happy experience for any living creature. 
When I returned from my year in Franeker and my parents announced 
their decision to emigrate, I was so saddened by the thought never to see 
Frouke again that I fell into a state of mental depression where nothing 
seemed to matter any more. . . . 

For weeks on end my father spoke in glowing terms about South Africa 
as our future home. The Boogaard, Jansen and Verwoerd families from 
the nearby village of Ouderkerk, with whom he was acquainted, had 
moved to that country and done well. One of the Verwoerd boys, Hendrik, 
did so well that eventually he became prime minister of the Union of 
South Africa. The date for our departure was practically set when my 
father relapsed into his old calamitous inability to make up his mind. 
He suddenly switched his attention and hopes to Canada where the great 
railway companies, the Canadian Pacific and Grand Trunk, were said to 
offer free land to any farmer willing to settle in the Dominion s far western 

Everybody in the family sought to dissuade him. From far and wide 
came letters of protest. My uncle Kees was in despair, my grandfather 
furious, while my mother to whom South Africa, on account of the 
similarity in the spoken language had at first seemed less forbidding, 
now expressed extreme reluctance to leave the town where her youngest 
boy lay buried. It was all of no avail; every objection was brushed aside. 


84 To Number Our Days 

Canada, my father proclaimed, was a free and open country, and the sky 
the limit. While floating on that sea of optimism he overlooked one slight 
personal infelicity; he was so little of a farmer that he could scarcely 
distinguish plain grass from Brussels sprouts. 

My brother Thomas and I were packed off on a steamer of the Batavier 
Line plying between the Hook of Holland and London. Our ultimate 
destination was Toronto. In that city we were to wait for our parents' 
arrival when we would go together in search of a suitable farm. We never 
found that "suitable farm," nor any other, nor did we look for one. The 
moment my father set foot ashore in Canada six months after his sons' 
landing in Montreal, the raw reality dispelled all his back-to-the-soil 
illusions; he wanted forthwith to return to Holland. However, for this 
there was no money, and he remained in Toronto, a relatively happy man 
till his death in 1950 at the age of 85. My mother, on the other hand, who 
did not know any English when she set out on the one great journey of 
her life, wasn't a year in Toronto before she had a circle of friends around 
her to whom, as of old, she taught her own particular version of the 
gospel truths, but now in a new language. 

In Liverpool Thomas and I boarded the S.S. Teutonic, a White Star 
liner carrying some 2700 passengers, all British nationals save for a small 
party of Dutch immigrants, the last remaining inhabitants of a Brabant 
village who went to join their kinsmen already established in the new 
country. These immigrants were the men and women whom I directed 
to the Church of the Austin Friars on Threadneedle Street on our passage 
through and brief stay in London. The ocean voyage lasted thirteen days. 
We saw icebergs and whales and gathered in the salon with our British 
fellow passengers who taught us the (then) latest popular songs: "Oh, I 
do like to be beside the seaside"; "She's a lassie from Lancashire"; and 
"Has anybody here seen Kelly? Kay, ee, double el, why!" 

The food on the Teutonic had a distinctly disagreeable taste. Breakfast, 
lunch or dinner, it was always the same melancholy melange: tea with 
toast and fish, fish with tea and toast, and an occasional soft boiled egg, 
also of a sickening fishy flavor. The baked potatoes with the skin left on, 
we considered an insult to our national dignity, and did not touch at all. 
Fortunately, those Dutch farmers and their wives carried their own pro- 
visions. A very old lady called us to her cabin at nights and cut us a couple 
of slices from a round loaf of black bread as big as a millstone and laid 
a slice of cheese between. As she handed us one of her colossal sandwiches 

In the New World 85 

she would say: "May this help you on the way." To which we all returned 
a fervent: "AmenI" 

As long as we were in the company of our countrymen, Thomas and I 
did not worry in the least as to what might lie in store for us in the 
Dominion, though we had only a hundred dollars or so in our pockets to 
defray expenses till. . . Till when? Till what? I simply did not know. My 
grandfather's last words to me on the steamship quay were: "Cast all your 
burdens upon Him, He cares for youl" 

Thus it turned out, and not only on that occasion, but many times! 

On board the Teutonic going around amongst the passengers was an 
immigration chaplain, a Church of England clergyman. One day he asked 
Thomas and myself where we were going. 

"To Toronto," we replied. 

"What will be your address in that city?" 

"We have no address. We don't know a soul in the whole of Canada. ..." 

"In that case," he said, "I will give you an address." He tore a slip of 
paper from a pad. On it was written: "The Reverend J. E. Gibson, Rector, 
The Church of the Ascension, 110 Beverly Street, Toronto. 

It was to this address that we marched after getting off the train at 
Toronto's old Union Station. The door was opened by a young man who 
informed us that Mr. Gibson was away on a trip to Italy, but that he, 
Henri Roche, was taking care of the house in the rector's absence. He 
invited us inside and led us into the study. Pointing to his clerical collar, 
Mr. Roche explained he was preparing for the Anglican ministry at 
Wycliffe College. 

"I'm doing my homework," he said. Amongst his books and papers on 
the table lay a Greek New Testament, open at the third chapter of St. 
John's gospel. 

"Can you read this?" he asked with a smile. 

"Maybe I can," I said, 'let me try: Hootos gar egapesen ho theos ton 

kosmon Tor God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten 

son,' " and so forth. 

"Do you believe this?" asked Mr. Roche. 

"With all my heart," I said. 

He clapped his hands in delight. "You must come with me to Principal 

O'Meara of Wycliffe He is looking for young men willing to enter 

the ministry " 

I was not unwilling, but the more practical Thomas put on the brakes: 

86 To Number Our Days 

"The first thing for us is to get a job!" 

"That also can be fixed," Mr. Roche assured us. 

The next afternoon, a Sunday, he showed us around the city and drew 
our attention to various industrial plants where "Help Wanted" signs 
were posted. At the employment office of one of these factories, Christie, 
Brown & Company, biscuit manufacturers on Duke Street, we applied 
on the Monday morning, and were promptly hired as packers at a salary 
of $7 a week. The company's timekeeper, Charles Brett, took us upstairs 
in the first elevator I ever saw in my life and escorted us to the department 
where we were to work. One of the sleeves of his jacket was empty. 

"See," said Mr. Brett, "that's what the dirty goddamned Dutch did to 
me. ..." 

He volunteered the information that he had served in the British army 
during the Anglo-Boer War. "But we beat them!" he shouted. "And how! 
God, how we beat them! We killed and killed Dutchmen till we nearly 
dropped with exhaustion." 

"We're Dutch, too," Thomas interrupted, "and we're not goddamned 
and not dirty!" 

"None of your lip now!" cautioned Mr. Brett. . . . "You needn't tell me 
that you're Dutch. I could tell the moment I saw your snoots. Better 
behave yourselves, else out you go! I can't stand the sight of a 
Dutchman. ..." 

"It is to be very much regretted," said Thomas slowly, searching for 
the right word in the new language, "that you have an arm lost. If 
otherwise, I would knock your block gladly off I" 

Brett stopped in his tracks and looked around at my brother. 

"Good boy!" he said. "You've got guts! . . . It's true, I have only one 
arm, but I will ask a friend of mine to put on the gloves with you. Well 
soon see who is the better man, the English or the Dutch." 

"Any time!" said Thomas. 

That boxing bout, I am glad to say, never came off. Thomas and 
Charles became the best of friends. When the five o'clock whistle blew 
and we left the factory Henri Roche was waiting at the gate. 

"I have an appointment for you with Principal O'Meara at six. Let's 
change clothes quickly, and be on our way to Wycliffe College." 

Dr. O'Meara proved graciousness personified. He made me read some 
New Testament Greek and pushed a Latin book, the Chronicles by 
Cornelius Nepos, across the table for me to translate. 

6. Andre Gide 

7. Henri Barbusse 

9. Hendrik van Loon 

8. Romain Rolland 

10. Clemenceau, the Tiger of 
France, in his home 
in La Vendee 

11. Mussolini 

In the New World 87 

"Show me your diploma or your credits," he said. "I think you'll soon 
be with us here at Wycliffe." 

"I haven't the money for tuition," I objected. 

"The Lord will provide!" replied Dr. O'Meara. "He has led you thus 
far, and He will take care of the rest. See to it, Roche," the principal 
said to Henri as we were about to leave, "that he improves his English. 
Here," he turned to me, "take this Bible, it's the Authorized Version, still 
the supreme example of the power and majesty of the English language." 

"You'll soon change jobs," said Henri Roche when we came outside. 
"You'll join me at Eaton's department store and you'll learn to wait on 
table. It's hard work, but it's only four hours a day. That will leave you 
plenty of time to attend classes at Wycliffe. 

Then I bought myself a dark blue suit of clothes, and on the Sunday 
following, I accompanied him to an Anglican church on Toronto Island 
where, as a graduate student, he conducted the service. A month later, 
dressed in cassock and surplice, I was reading the lesson in that church 
for Henri. 

However, I did not enter Wycliffe. The Anglican service seemed too far 
removed from what I was used to at home. It appeared too liturgical, too 
ceremonial, too Romish. One day I had an interview with the chancellor 
of Victoria College, Dr. Edward W. Wallace, who informed me that the 
way into the Methodist ministry would be opened for me upon applica- 
tion and an examination as to my personal beliefs. 

Henri Roche objected vehemently. "John Wesley was an Anglican min- 
ister," he declared. "You can follow the ways of the people called Meth- 
odists as well in the Anglican communion as in their own chapels. . . . 
The Church of England is all-inclusive, the freest church in the world; 
there is room in it for high and low, evangelical, latitudinarian, modernist, 
Calvinist, even for Anglo-Catholics " 

"Still I don't think I belong in a church that cant make up its mind," 
I said, and Roche fell silent. 

But he never failed to wait for us at the factory gate at closing time, 
and take us to his parents' home where the argument started all over again. 
Roche's parents were staunch Anglicans, of Huguenot descent, I think. 
They strongly supported their son's animadversions in favor of the Church 
of England. Papa Roche had a novel argument; he was a top-degree 
Orangeman. I, he reasoned, born and reared in the reign of Queen 
Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange, was an Orangeman by birth, while he 

88 To Number Our Days 

was one only by choice. I had never heard of the Orangemen. 

"Who are they?" I asked. 'What do they stand for?" 

They were, I learned, worshipers (the word is not too strong) of the 
"Glorious and Immortal Memory" of William of Orange, not the founder 
of the Dutch Republic, but of his great-grandson, William III, King of 
England, who went to the aid of English Protestantism when his father- 
in-law, James II, brought back the Roman Mass to the great cathedrals 
of London and Oxford. 

Once a year, on the twelfth of July, Toronto's Orangemen held a 
parade, tens of thousands strong. On that day they carried fancy swords 
and were dressed in Swiss admirals' uniforms with plumed hats resembling 
those of their bitterest opponents, the Knights of Columbus. At the head 
of the procession walked a man carrying "The Open Bible." On their 
banners appeared the words: "Remember the Deeds of our Forefathers." 
This referred to the exploits of their ancestors or predecessors in the 
Battle of the Boyne in Ireland on the twelfth of July, 1690, when William 
III defeated the combined armies of Louis XIV and James II, and, by 
his victory, finally made the exercise of the Protestant religion safe and 
supreme in the realm of England. 

Papa Roche claimed that William III became a member of the Church 
of England immediately upon his arrival in Britain. I should do the same, 
he insisted, now that I stood on British soil, and begin by joining the 
lodge. Anybody amounting to anything in Toronto, the mayor, the alder- 
men, Archdeacon Cody, later president of the University of Toronto, 
the police chief, the heads of the municipal departments, all were "true 
and faithful brother Orangemen." The Orange Order was then something 
like a Tammany Hall in reverse, a Protestant wigwam let us say. 

Horatio Hocken, one of Papa Roche's cronies and editor of The Sentinel, 
the Orange Order's fiercely anti-Catholic journal, waived payment of the 
initiation fee, and I was duly sworn in one night at one of the lodges. 
After the ritual I was called upon by the Worshipful Master to say a few 
words. It was the first speech I made in English. For half an hour I dis- 
coursed, very poorly, I am afraid, on the history of the House of Orange, 
winding up with a panegyric on the Orangemen's own hero, "King Billy." 
I told the story of William's coronation as sovereign of Scotland when 
he refused to swear the oath "to extirpate heresy by the sword if needs 
be." "My lords," William replied amidst the astonished silence of the 
peers of the realm, "I will never lay myself under obligation to persecute 
any man for his opinions. ..." 

In the New World 89 

At the close of my remarks, it was moved by Papa Roche and seconded 
by Horatio Hocken that I be elevated to the second degree. I received 
a sash, striped with blue, gold and orange colors. More secrets were im- 
parted, plus a medal to be worn at the annual parade. That was the only 
Orange lodge meeting I ever attended in my life. As to the sash, I used 
it as a wall decoration in the room Thomas and I occupied on John Street 
for three dollars a week. 

At Victoria College I was duly inscribed on the student role after Dr. 
Wallace certified that my credits obtained in Holland were the equivalent 
of matriculation. For English language and literature, I went twice a week 
to University College. By then I had also a new job; I became a streetcar 
conductor. I owed it to my pull with Papa Roche and the Loyal Order of 
Orangemen that my "run" fell from 5 in the morning till 9, and once again 
in the evening from 8 till 11.30, leaving me ample time to attend classes in 
the daytime. The morning run took care of a couple of loads of Bulgarian 
and Macedonian workers who reeked strongly of sweat and unwashed 
clothes. On the evening run we transported part of the theater crowd back 
and forth. By "we" I mean Padraic Flynn the motorman, and myself. 

Flynn was an anarchist, an extremely well read fellow, who wore a 
heavy black mustache of the walrus type. He was as meek as a doe, but 
at the same time something of a premature beatnik; never polished the 
brass buttons on his uniform, nor his shoes. Most of the time he didn't 
shave either, his excuse being that he was too busy studying anarchism. 

The first part of our late evening run terminated in a small park near 
Scarboro Beach in the east end of the city. In the park we waited for a 
quarter of an hour before starting on the return trip. Flynn took this 
opportunity to initiate me in the philosophy of the man whom he con- 
sidered his "master and teacher," Elis6e Reclus. He had learned most of 
that scholar's works by heart, and quoted him heatedly and voluminously. 
So much so in fact that one night we overstayed the allotted span of time 
at our resting place so that the downtown theater crowd was forced to 
seek other means of conveyance for its homeward journey. The penalty 
for this dereliction of duty was suspension for ten days. Flynn utilized 
his free time to go fishing and for memorizing more Reclus. 

The end came a month or so later when the pole on the top of our 
streetcar jumped the wire at the intersection of Broadview and Queen 
Street. A street railway inspector, who was posted at this juncture where 
the poles habitually jumped the wire, ordered us to climb on the roof of 
the car to adjust the pole. Flynn refused, claiming that it was too dan- 

90 To Number Our Days 

gerous: the top of the car was insufficiently insulated, one might be elec- 
trocuted. The inspector turned to me: "You get on there!" 

"Comrade," Flynn warned, "if you climb on top of that car, you're liable 
to get such an electric shock that you'll be thrown to the ground and break 
your neck. Don t do it!" 

I turned to the inspector: "I better not try, you heard how dangerous 
it is!" 

"You 're both fired," came back the inspector. 

"Thank you, comrade, for your show of working-class solidarity," said 
Flynn as we parted. 

It was only then that I joined Henri Roche in the dining room on the 
top floor of Eaton's department store where he officiated as host or usher. 
He was the only one to wear black; all the other waiters wore white linen 
jackets with black bow ties. The new position had one irresistible attrac- 
tion: in addition to a wage of eight dollars a week, the waiters were en- 
titled to a free meal before serving the luncheon customers. 

The other dining room employees, most of them college students, may 
have been better waiters; they were certainly not better eaters. I was told 
that I could eat anything appearing on the menu, the management figur- 
ing, no doubt, that one or two selections would be ample to satisfy a 
normal person's appetite. However, I took them at their word; I ate 
through the whole menu from the proverbial soup to nuts and a double 
scoop of ice cream on top of the apple pie. In addition, I smuggled out 
enough biscuits in my coat pockets to keep me nibbling through the night 
while poring over my homiletics, patristics and dogmatics. 

What I wondered at most in those days was how little my fellow stu- 
dents knew or cared about the ways of life, the customs, habits and the 
speech of peoples inhabiting other parts of the world. None of them 
spoke any language but English. For French they entertained a contempt 
amounting to hostility, a circumstance which I found hard to understand 
in a country where a recent prime minister, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, had been 
French and whose parliament was, and still is, bilingual. They shook their 
heads incredulously when I told them that in the high school entrance 
examination in the Netherlands, a child at the age of twelve or thirteen 
is expected to be proficient enough in French to speak and write a fairly 
advanced exercise in that tongue. 

In the New World 91 

"Why French?" they shrugged in their provincial self-complacency. 
"What earthly use is French?" 

I did not realize till later that the root of the Anglo-French animosity 
in Canada resides in the historical evolution of the country where English 
is the language of the Protestant conquerors, while French, to old-time 
Torontonians at least, was almost synonymous with Roman Catholicism. 

On the other hand, I can scarcely find adequate words of appreciation 
for Canada's educational system which allowed a total stranger to enter 
college and work his way through without being held up or embarrassed 
by financial considerations or tests of class, caste, race or religious affilia- 
tion. Such a system was then unheard of in Holland. When a Dutch boy's 
father was a shoemaker, it seemed foreordained that he would be a shoe- 
maker in turn, and so on, generation after generation. Higher education 
was out of the question once and for all for working-class children. Auto- 
didacts, no matter how great their learning, seldom got anywhere. With- 
out diplomas they were snootily treated and rejected as freaks and 

In Toronto the situation was exactly the reverse; everybody considered 
himself working class more or less. No shame, false or otherwise, attached 
to the performance of the most menial task. There existed no barriers 
which an intelligent boy or girl might not scale. In Canada I made ac- 
quaintance with an honest attempt to put democracy into practice. As 
a result of that first encounter my admiration and affection for the country 
and its people have never waned. Toronto was a good city to me: Never 
once did any man, high or low, throw it up to me that I was an alien. 
When I received the naturalization certificate, I read on it that "in all 
circumstances" I was "to be regarded and treated as a British subject 
born*' a phrase conspicuously lacking from a later naturalization certifi- 
cate which merely states I am allowed "to enter the United States for 
permanent residence." There is a big difference! 

I studied hard and made good progress. When my parents arrived, 
Thomas and I had saved up enough money to rent a cottage on Eastern 
Avenue overlooking Toronto Bay. Fortunately they brought some of their 
furniture, rugs, paintings, tables, chairs and cupboards, old as the hills, 
no doubt, but serviceable though quaint, and, as I am told, worth their 
weight in devaluated dollars today. 

Hardly were we installed in our new home when my turn came to run 

92 To Number Our Days 

into a little trouble. Among the students in the English class at University 
College was a girl by the name of Margaret. Her surname I have for- 
gotten. Maggie was the daughter of one of Toronto's district fire chiefs. 
I accompanied her home as far as the door two or three times, and once, 
just once, took her for a walk in High Park on a Saturday afternoon. On 
that occasion she informed me that her father, an Englishman by birth, 
forbade her to keep further company with a Dutchman. The poor man 
walked around with the absurd notion that Dutch and Germans are 
identical creatures. 

After her father's warning the obedient Maggie refused to speak to 
me. When classes were over she walked off with the other young ladies 
and didn't even look around at her still fervent admirer. Fool that I was, 
I wrote her a letter and addressed it to her home. In the letter I asked 
her to intercede with her father and allow me to call and explain how 
honorable, noble, and so forth, were my intentions. 

After a week or so when no reply had come, I decided to brave the lion 
in his own den, and one evening traveled to the western suburb where 
Maggie dwelt. I rang the bell and the chief himself opened. I didn't need 
to introduce myself. The fellow evidently knew me on sight. 

"Will you stop pestering my daughter?" he snarled. 

Tm not pestering your daughter, sir! I just want to see you for a 
minute if I may. . . ." 

"Alright, so you have seen me," he replied. "Now get the hell out!" 

With this he gave me a push which made me almost tumble from the 
porch. But not quite! I gave him a push in return and he fell smack on 
the seat of his trousers, and I, having abandoned all hope anyway, made 
a resolute about-turn. 

As if he had heard the alarm bell, the chief was in the street behind me 
in less than a minute. I walked faster and faster hoping to reach a streetcar 
stop before he would catch up with me. He caught up with a policeman 
instead, and the cop took over the pursuit. Foolishly, I broke into a run, 
but the bobby outran me, and grabbed my arm just as I swung aboard 
the rear platform of a streetcar. The next thing I knew I stood before the 
desk in the Dundas Avenue police station and saw and heard a sergeant 
book me on a charge of assault and battery. The constable who arrested 
me led me to a cell, opened the ironclad door and shoved me in. Then he 
opened the spyhole and stuck in his face: "In here you wont have a chance 
to molest Maggie, the fire chiefs daughter. Ha, ha!" 

In the New World 93 

A moment later the desk sergeant entered the cell and brought me "a 
nice cup of tea." 'If you wish to make a statement," he said, "be advised 
that anything you say may be used in evidence against you!" 

"I wont say a word," I replied, "but please telephone the Reverend 

Henri Roche " I sat on the bunk in great trepidation and thought of 

all the jails, dungeons and bastilles I had ever read about. In the end I fell 
asleep, most convincing evidence, as I see it in retrospect, that I had no 
consciousness of guilt whatever. My incarceration lasted a little more than 
six hours. 

In the middle of the night I heard Henri's voice and the voice of Papa 
Roche from the direction— what do they call it in a police station— of the 
common room? After I signed some papers, the sergeant released me on 
Papa Roche's assurance that he would produce me in police court at ten 
o'clock in the morning. This he did. And there I saw Maggie and the fire 
chief for the last time. Both glowered at me as if I were Jack the Ripper. 

"Do you know this man?" the magistrate, Colonel George Denison, asked 

The faithless Delilah shook her head. 

"Do you know him?" asked the colonel, turning to her father. 

"No," replied perfidious Albion. "He came to the door last night and 
tried to beat me up! He was on the point of breaking in " 

"Why then isn't he charged with burglary?" asked the colonel, looking 
around the courtroom. 

"He didn't break in," piped up the cop who arrested me. "He rang the 
doorbell! Then he pushed the plaintiff aside." 

"Is this true?" the colonel-magistrate asked me sternly. 

"It is not true, Your Worship," I said. "The chief pushed me first without 
the least provocation. And I, taken by surprise, pushed back. He had the 
misfortune to fall. That's the whole story " 

"You were thrown to the ground by this lad?" Colonel Denison asked 
the fire chief who was at least half a head taller than I. 

Touched in his sense of honor and manliness the chief replied contemp- 
tuously: "Does Your Worship really think that I could be thrown to the 
ground by that? ... I stumbled over the doormat and slipped, that's what 

"You slipped? Then why do you come here to waste the court's time 
with complaints about being beaten up? Get out of my sight, both of you. 

94 To Number Our Days 

In the same moment Papa Roche walked up to the throne of judgment 
and whispered something in Colonel Denison's ear. 

"Wait a minute!" the magistrate called me back. "Let me shake the hand 

of a brother Orangeman "He gave my hand the secret squeeze. "Take 

my advice," he whispered, "stay away from that Maggie. She's bad medi- 
cine. ..." 

That would have been the end of the affair Maggie, were it not that the 
desk man in the police station later served in the same unit with me in the 
First World War. Whenever he caught sight of me in the camp, he intoned 
a scandalous ditty giving me a wholly unmerited Don Juanesque reputa- 
tion in the battalion: 

Oh, there was young Maggie, the fire chiefs daughter, 

Who let this guy do to her what he shouldn't have oughter. . . . 

Towards the close of the third semester, I was suddenly notified by the 
college chancellor, Dr. Wallace: "You are going into the mission field as a 
'probationer'. . . . You'll continue your studies extra muros, outside the 
walls. Next year's examination papers will be sent to your superintendent 

and you'll write your paper in his parsonage You speak the Austrian 

language, don't you?" 

"The Austrian language, sir? There is no such thing, sir!" 

"The language spoken in Austria, don't you know it?" 

"The language spoken in Austria, yes, sir. . . . But you're not sending me 
to Austria, I hope?" 

"Oh, no! But I clearly see the hand of God here! We have 50,000 Aus- 
trians in the Province of Alberta. They have hardly any teachers or 
ministers or schools and only one small hospital. You are going to help 
extend our evangelistic work among them!" 

Before starting for the mission field I was grilled for a whole day by a 
trio of theology professors as to my views on the doctrine of justification 
by faith through grace k la Martin Luther and John Wesley. There may 
be a slight difference in the conceptions of these two eminent theologians 
on that ominous subject over which men once tore each other limb from 
limb. If there is, it has, thank heaven, faded from my memory! 

Then I journeyed to the Far West on a cut-rate harvesters' train, and had 
the biggest surprise of my life. My superintendent the Reverend John K. 
Smith, M.A., whom I met in an Albertan village called Andrew, asked me: 

In the New World 95 

"Where did you learn Ruthenian?" 

"Ruthenian? Is that a language? Is there a country called Ruthenia? I've 
heard of Ruritania, but never Ruthenia " 

"Ruthenian is the language spoken in the Austrian province of Bukovina 
and it's the language of the settlers here in. Alberta. Ruthenian is akin to 
Ukrainian. ..." 

"In that case," I said, Tm afraid that I won't be of any use to you. I 
don't know a word of Ruthenian, Bukovinian or Ukrainian. ..." 

"But you can learn! And you're going to learn! Here is a Ruthenian 
grammar and New Testament. Please get busy " 

I lodged with a family of Moravian Brethren, about fifty miles to the 
east of the city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta. The Moravians 
were the only people I could talk with; their language was German. They 
were pious, grave, hard-working farmers who wouldn't take any money 
for my board and lodging. It was ample compensation, they said, if I read 
them a chapter from their German Bible at eventide. Besides, they assured 
me, they owed Holland a debt of gratitude. Thousands of Moravians had 
found asylum in the Netherlands after their defeat in the Hussite wars. In 
remembrance of Holland's tolerance shown their ancestors, those Albertan 
farmers treated me as one of their own. The patriarch of the family, Stefan 
Hauser, wasn't sad at all when we parted a few months later. We'll surely 
meet again," he said, pointing upwards. 

All around the Moravians, for some 50 miles in circumference, lived the 
Ruthenians in their isbas. The Reverend Mr. Wesley once spoke of the 
whole world as his parish; I certainly inherited a goodly chunk of it. How- 
ever, my labors in the far western portion of the Lord's vineyard did not 
last very long. An epidemic of typhus broke out amongst the settlers who, 
as now became painfully evident, needed physicians and medication far 
more urgently than itinerant preachers on horseback— circuit riders we 
were called— who did not even speak their parishioners' language beyond 
the Lord's Prayer and a few sentences from the Sermon on the Mount. For 
a time a medical missionary came to my aid, or rather I became his helper 
in burning the vermin-swarming straw sacks on which the Ruthenians 
slept, and disinfecting and whitewashing the walls inside their cottages. 

"I preach the gospel according to the holy syringe and needle," the medi- 
cal man, Richard Costello, would announce as he shot an immunization 
serum into Ruthenian buttocks. 

96 To Number Our Days 

Not dobre den, "good day" in Ruthenian, but Slawa Isusu Christu!, 
"Glory be to Jesus Christl" was the set formula with which Ruthenian men, 
women and children joyfully greeted us when we reined in our horses and 
dismounted in front of their straw-roofed isbas. "Slawal Slawa\" we replied. 
"Slawal Slawal" it was again when we got through with the last chore 
which consisted in cutting their hair, that of the women and girls too, 
incidentally. We could, unfortunately, not accept their hospitality or par- 
take of the meals they generously offered. The bread or cold boiled 
potatoes which they laid out on the bare wooden tables were in the 
twinkling of an eye covered with swarms of green flies. 

Although there was a number of fatalities, our missionary teams were 
well on the way, I believe, to conquer the typhus-carrying lice, when news 
came that Germany had violated the neutrality of Belgium. I read an ac- 
count of the first battles in four or five successive issues of an eastern news- 
paper which a chance visitor left behind. "The river Meuse flows red with 
the blood of the Germans," colorfully announced one of the headlines. On 
another page the unsuspecting reader was informed that the Belgians were 
still "of all" the Gallic tribes "the bravest," as Caesar wrote of them two 
thousand years before. 

On the other hand, the mighty forts of Liege had fallen after an heroic 
defense by General Leman. The Kaiser was decried as a bloodthirsty 
monster, an imp of Satan; Von Kluck, the German commander in chief, 
punningly dismissed as a frightened clucking hen; and Marshal von 
Hindenburg, who commanded on the Russian front, made ludicrous as 
a soft-brained senile who went to bed at nine and wrote his reports to the 
All-Highest Wilhelm on toilet paper. 

All this was bad enough, but worse was still to come. In a few days we 
received news that a British expeditionary force of 10,000 men under 
Colonel Winston Churchill had fled across the border from Antwerp to 
Rilland-Bath, the town of my great-grandfather Amos, and was there dis- 
armed. Churchill personally escaped internment by commandeering one 
of the family tugboats and transferring to a British fishing trawler outside 
Dutch territorial waters. 

Louvain's university buildings and its precious library had gone up in 
flames. Wherever the Germans penetrated, it was reported, they covered 
their advance with a human shield of captive civilians, men, women and 
children. The inevitable atrocity stories were not long in making their 

In the New World 97 

appearance: German soldiers, it was said, cut off the breasts of Belgian 
nuns, and newborn infants were carried like Halloween pumpkins on the 
points of bayonets and Uhlan lances. 

For us at the mission stations, the war in Europe presented a new and 
curious problem. Since very few if any of the Ruthenians had as yet been 
nationalized as British subjects they were still Austrian nationals, owing 
allegiance to the dual empire and its ruler Francis Joseph, Kaiser Wil- 
helm's partner in crime. All at once our parishioners became, technically 
at least, alien enemies. Dr. Costello packed up and left to join a medical 
unit in formation in Winnipeg, and I myself was summoned to the city of 
Medicine Hat to attend a general conference of church workers of all ranks 
called to deliberate on the empire's critical situation. 

At the conference we heard a reverend superintendent of missions de- 
nounce the German soldiers as blasphemous Huns for carrying the motto 
Gott mit Uns on the brass buckles of their belts, and then lead us in prayer 
imploring the same God— at least, I assume it was the same God— to grant 
the victory to King George and the Asquith government which had so gal- 
lantly unsheathed the sword in Belgium's defense. 

In the matter of the Ruthenians a motion was made, seconded and 
carried unanimously (with one abstention), inviting them to participate 
generously and to their fullest capacity in a fund-raising campaign for the 
construction of and the presentation to the British motherland of a battle- 
ship of the dreadnought type. 

That let me out! As an alien, though not an enemy alien, I could not 
very well, I felt, urge other aliens to support a war against the land of 
their birth and political allegiance. I informed my superintendent that my 
usefulness had evidently come to an end, and had decided to return to 
college. "To preach the gospel is one thing," I said, "if only in a stammering 
way, but to raise money for battleships lies outside my province now and 

I ventured to ask for some money for train fare back to Toronto. I was 
supposed to draw a salary of $27 a month, but had never yet received a 
cent. If not for the good Moravian Brethren I would have starved to 
death. The superintendent replied that there were no funds available, but 
that the Lord would surely provide if he wanted me to depart. 

"But the Lord is not supposed to provide," I dared object. "I thought 
it was understood that you were to pay my wages " 

98 To Number Our Days 

"Don t be impatient, don t get rebellious," he cautioned. "Let us rather 
kneel down here quietlyl . . ." 

Til pray in Edmonton if you don't mind/' I said angrily. "I have a re- 
turn ticket to that city in my pocket." 

In Edmonton they were excavating for the building of a prison. Seeing 
that forty odd years have elapsed, that jail must be up by now, though 
still uninhabited, I hope. On this project I got a job as a concrete mixer. 
It was tough going for the mixing was still done by hand. A circle of a 
dozen workmen standing on a wooden platform mixed gravel, sand, water 
and cement with the aid of shovels. After one day my hands were blistered 
beyond recognition. On the second day the blisters burst, I was in pain, 
and I slowed up. A Swedish foreman with blubber lips and the elastic 
voice of a crowing rooster screamed at me: "Wassa matter, you asleep? 
This is the way to do it." He grabbed the shovel from my hands and 
quickly turned over a little sand and gravel. 

"Here, take my glovesl" said one of my fellow mixers. "With gloves on, 
the blisters wont hurt so muchl" 

"You're Dutch," I said. "What's your name?" 

"Wybe Haringa," he replied. 

"You re Frisian," I corrected myself quickly. 

"Now y're talkingl" he said with a broad grin. "Shake hands! We better 
stick together. That Swede bastard has it in for us!" 

"You think so?" 

"I know; all Swedes are bastards and footlickers. . . . But I never take 
sh — from a Swede. I'm a free Frisian and an independent farmer. My 
farm is far away though, near Lethbridge. I got a house on it, but no 
windows in it yet. That's why I'm working at this job, you see, to earn 
money to put in the windows. Next year I'll be all set. . . . Where are 
you staying?" 

"Nowhere yet! I've just come to town. Last night I stayed at a small 
hotel near the station." 

"Crummy place, I bet! Why don't you come and live at the boarding 
house where I am staying?" 

"I have no money yet." 

"What? No money? When did you eat last?" 

"I ate this morning!" 

'What did you have?" 

"A cup of coffee with a roll." 

In the New World 99 

"That ain't enough eating for a job like this, kid You must be 

starving. . . . Come with me, we'll blow this job and get our time. We'll 
find other work tomorrow. There are buildings going up all over the 
place. ... A good country, isn't it, this here Canada?" 

"I will ask the foreman for my two days' wages at quitting time this 

"Don't do that! Never ask anything of a Swede. He'll make you crawl 
on your knees for it. . . . I'll tell you what we'll do; we'll quit right now 
and tell him: 'Fork over our money, Svenska, and kiss our you-know- 

Just then the foreman walked up and sneered: "Hey, you two, can't yah 
talk civilized like white men?" 

For answer Wybe picked up a crowbar and advanced on him, staring 
him right in the eyes with one of those steely, ice-cold Frisian looks I 
knew so well. 

"Take that back, Svenska! Take it back or I'll brain you!" 

"I take it back," quailed the foreman. "I didn't mean any harm! I take 
it back, don't hurt me! . . . You fellows want your time?" 

At the end of six weeks I had saved up enough money to buy a railway 
ticket to Toronto, $51.80. Wybe helped me carry my trunk to the station. 
On a Saturday about noon I started crossing the continent for the second 
time in a little less than a year, but now in the opposite direction. 

By eventide I felt the first pangs of hunger and I reproached myself, 
when too late, for not having kept up shoveling gravel for just another 
week to make enough for the purchase of victuals while en route. I had 
nothing to eat nor any money to buy food. The other passengers did 
nothing else but eat all night long, even when the lights burnt low. I sat 
gazing from the window into the semiobscurity of a moonlit night and 
saw the prairie roll by like a dark green sea. It was all very well, I thought, 
for Pottier, the composer of "The Internationale," to call upon the pris- 
oners of starvation to arise, but what's the use of rising when there is 
nothing to rise for except a cold water tap at the rear-end of a railway 

At dawn a trainman came through the car. Seeing me awake he in- 
formed me that we were making good time. He pulled a plug of chewing 
tobacco from his pocket. "Piper-Heidsieck," he said, "champagne-flavored, 
bite off a chew." I thanked him, and sat chewing tobacco for an hour or 
so as if under contract. In the end I swallowed the wad as if it was one 

100 To Number Our Days 

of old Lena's fruit tarts, but for a wonder experienced no evil aftereffects. 

Shortly before pulling into the Winnipeg depot, the same man walked 
through the car shaking the shoulders of sleeping passengers: "All change! 
This is as far as the train goes!" 

I showed him my foot-long ticket: Tm going to Torontol" I said, 
greatly upset. 

"Don't get your bowels in an uproar," he admonished. "Don't you think 
I know that you're going to Toronto? . . . Your train leaves at eleven to- 
night from this same platform." 

That meant seventeen hours of a layover; I tightened my belt another 

It was a splendid day in Winnipeg, dry, crisp and sunny. I walked the 
streets from 6 till 8 without meeting a soul save for the police constables 
going home from the night watch. At one point I noticed a man opening 
the doors of a large church and I entered. 

"The prayer meeting is upstairs at nine o'clock," the door opener in- 
formed me. 

"I just want to sit here a while," I said. 

"Okay, but if you should want to go to the prayer meeting, the stairway 
is through that door to the left of the platform." He vanished in that 
direction himself. 

I read a little in a hymnbook which I found in the pew, and then saun- 
tered towards the indicated door, and through it, but did not go upstairs. 
After passing through the door I saw a room with a very large table in 
the center. On the white linen tablecloth lay twelve beautiful loaves of 
bread. Evidently the congregation was celebrating holy communion that 

I stared a long time at the bread and thought of the twelve show loaves, 
one for each of the tribes of Israel, which the Levites placed on the 
golden table in Yahweh's sanctuary. No one but the priests were supposed 
to touch the show breads. Still, one day, David, the son of Jesse, feeling 
very hungry and exhausted, with King Saul on his heels in hot pursuit, 
entered the sanctuary and took away five of the loaves reserved for the 
Lord's service. 

Good old David! Surely, the king whom the Bible calls "the man after 
God's own heart" couldn't be a bad example to follow! Accordingly I took 
a similar course. After scribbling a note, offering my excuses and citing 

IntheNewWorld 101 

King David's theft of the show loaves as recorded in the first Book of 
Samuel, I placed the piece of paper on the communion table. Then I hid 
one loaf under my coat and returned to the station waiting room for a 
royal Davidic repast. 

It never occurred to me to ask one of the officers of that church for a 
handout or the loan of a dollar to keep me in food for the rest of the 
journey. In the end, though, I did pay for the stolen loaf, albeit many 
years later when I came to Winnipeg to deliver a lecture, and to my 
utter amazement found myself in the same church where I once sinned 
against the tenth commandment. The pastor's name was then Dr. William 
Laird Armstrong. He had been one of the professors who examined me 
at Victoria on Wesley's theology. 

Tour note made us suspect that it was a very hungry brother who 
went so far as to take a communion loaf," said one of the older church 
officers who remembered the incident. "Why didn't you sign your 

"And have you send for the police?" 

"Not the police," he answered in shocked surprise. 'It's we who looked 
for you all day, all over the city." 

In a burst of belated gratitude I waived my fee, greatly to the chagrin, 
I am sure, of the manager of the Colston Leigh lecture bureau in New 

Toronto was a changed city. Recruiting rallies were being held every 
noon hour on the steps of the city hall. A band played: "O God, Our Help 
in Ages Past," and Archdeacon Cody and other clergymen orated in a 
similar vein. Troops filled the buildings at the exhibition grounds and 
trained in the parks. On Yonge and Bay streets one saw men and boys 
hobbling around on crutches, legless and armless fellows, the first fruit of 
the gory harvest in Flanders' fields. The newspapers published casualty 
lists, exercising great caution to give but a few names from day to day 
in order to camouflage the magnitude of the losses suffered in the first 
Battle of Ypres where the Princess Patricia Light Infantry and the Cana- 
dian First Division had been heavily engaged. 

At first I took little interest in the military situation: I wasn't a British 
subject, nor was Holland involved in the war. What business was it of 
mine, I reasoned callously, that Germans were killing Britishers, Belgians 
and Russians, and vice-versa? Also, I must add, the official accounts of 

102 To Number Our Days 

the origins and causes of the war were hedged about with many reserva- 
tions in my mind. 

Born in a small country lying in the shadow of the German empire, I 
entertained no illusions of the conquering ambitions of the Kaiser and the 
Prussian Junker class. But I also knew that for years Admiral Sir John 
Fisher had been calling for a preventive war against Germany, principally 
to destroy the Kaiser s high sea fleet which threatened Britannia's rule 
of the waves. 

It is true that responsibility for the outbreak of war does not always 
devolve upon the power which strikes the first blow. To the power which 
makes war inevitable goes the greater part of the blame. What was in- 
comprehensible to me was the affirmation, which I heard on all sides, 
that Britain and France, and the whole world in fact, had been com- 
pletely taken by surprise by Germany's attack on Belgium and France. 
How this was possible I could not understand since as school children 
in Holland we already learned of Heinrich Heine's warning: "Everything 
in Germany stinks of bloodr And hadn't Nietzsche prophesied: "It's going 

to snow. . . . The crows will seek refuge in the cities Soon begins 

a period of wars and ever more ferocious wars ... for Europe." The 
statesmen might not know, but we children knew that war was coming; 
the "glorious Kaiser" had rattled his saber and shaken his mailed fist a 
little too often. The First World War was the logical sequence of Ger- 
many's "will to power," a policy pursued with iron determination for 
nearly a century by the German militarist school. 

After another year of study, an examination and a trial sermon between 
waiting on table, I was glad to go back into the mission field. This time 
my parish lay in North Ontario as assistant to the Reverend J. Oscar 
Johnston, who was stationed in the Porcupine gold mine area. My brother 
Thomas came with me and soon got himself a job running a Rand water- 
line drill five hundred feet underground in the Acme gold mine near 

I lived in Golden City and had three churches to attend to: Golden City, 
South Porcupine and Schumacher. My superintendent, Mr. Johnston, 
resided in and operated from Schumacher. We met twice a month on 
Sunday afternoon on the ice of Lake Porcupine, he on his way to hold 
service in Golden City, and I on my way to Schumacher for the same 

In the New World 103 

It was also part of my duty to visit the mining camps and bunkhouses 
and arrange, if possible, for religious services amongst Polish and Italian 
mine workers. I had no luck with these men; the Catholic Church claimed 
their allegiance and saw to it that the sheep of its pasture remained 
unsullied by Protestant innovations. 

On the other hand, I met with a hearty welcome in the village of Potts- 
ville, situated in the woods on the east bank of Lake Porcupine. Pottsville's 
population of about five hundred souls was predominantly Scandinavian. 
Their houses were not the usual rough timber shacks one encountered 
almost everywhere else in the area, but log cabins, the neatest, cleanest, 
most picturesque structures in that sheer boundless wilderness of forest 
and rock. 

The Scandinavians worked as timbermen in the mines throughout the 
region, but their homes, where they spent their week-ends and other 
leisure time, stood in Pottsville. They, and especially the Finlanders 
amongst them, were the only workers who had brought their wives and 
children to the new country. The Italians, Poles, Bulgarians and other 
Slavs, who were contemptuously referred to as Dagos and Bohunks, 
labored for periods of five or six years, saved a little money and then 
returned to their respective homelands. 

In Pottsville the Scandinavians had built a large public hall with a seat- 
ing capacity of 250, equipped with a stage for theatrical performances and 
a magnificent hand-carved speakers' rostrum. In this community center, 
known as the Finnish Socialist House, the whole population gathered on 
Sunday afternoons to hear a concert by a band of Jan Sibelius' countrymen. 
For its opening number the band was in the habit of playing "The Interna- 
tionale" till the Royal Mounted Police objected and requested them to shift 
to "God Save the King." This they flatly refused. I was instrumental in 
bringing the disputants to a compromise: "If you want to play a revolu- 
tionary hymn, why not try the 'Marseillaise?' " I suggested. "The police 
will probably acquiesce in the belief that you are honoring France, Bri- 
tain's ally." 

Since the villagers showed no great enthusiasm for a religious service, 
I proposed a sort of Folks-high-school on the model of the "High school 
for life" such as I had seen in operation in Frisia. With this idea all and 
sundry fell in at once. I volunteered to give readings from the British poets, 
but they preferred Henrik Ibsen, Bjornstjerne Bjornson and Georg Brandes 
(in English translation, of course, else I wouldn't have been of much use). 

104 To Number Our Days 

But best of all, it almost goes without saying in the case of those dyed-in- 
the-wool socialists, they liked to discuss the writings of Marx, Engels and 
Kautsky, to whom I added Jean Jaures, because I considered him the first 
great saint produced by modern socialism. 

It was a curious and heart-warming experience to find a tiny island of 
culture in that vast frontier territory where the rough-and-tumble stage 
of a gold rush had just begun to taper off. Those Norsemen had a fine 
library. Both men and women read a good deal. They liked music and 
poetry. Thanks to the excellent educational system in their native coun- 
tries, they talked quite intelligently about the issues of the day, more intel- 
ligently, I am almost ashamed to say, than some of the leading national 
newspapers who would repeatedly and in all seriousness advance such 
enormities as the proposition that the Flemish and Walloon populations 
of Belgium forget all about their ethnic and linguistic differences and both 
learn to speak English. 

It should not be thought that we remained for long in the serious, solemn 
mood induced by our first reading from Marx* Kapital. As a matter of fact 
the hushed rather formal atmosphere of our first gathering soon gave way 
to a more convivial, intimate spirit. To all intents and purposes we became 
a fellowship; we discussed the weather, and some of the (to me) weirdest 
subjects under the sun, like the merits of different breeds of cattle, Jerseys, 
Holsteins, Aberdeens, bulls, bullocks and cows, or, a very favorite subject: 
the co-operative farming system in Denmark and Frisia. Another Sunday 
we took up the ways in which Christmas is celebrated in different coun- 
tries. From this subject we shifted to Ibsen s Doll's House and Bjornson's 

"What are we going to talk about this afternoon?" I would ask the as- 

"First come down from that pulpit and sit with us here for a cup of 
coffee," called back Haakon Lindquist, a Norwegian timberman, who was 
something like the president of the board of directors of Socialist House. 
When Lindquist said that my heart gave a leap, for it meant that all the 
barriers between us were down. 

"Well, what's to be the topic?" 

"Tell us a Sherlock Holmes' detective story or something about the 
dancing girls of Bali. ..." 

In this way I came to tell the story of Jean Valjean from Victor Hugo's 
Les MisSrables, and that of Joan of Arc; Voltaire's history of Charles XII, 

In the New World 105 

the war of the Swedes against Peter the Great, and Multatuli's* poignant 
and world-famous account of Dutch colonialism's methods of operation in 
Java. . . . 

Hans Andersen's fairy tales, as can be imagined, were a perpetual joy, 
though my friends knew them all by heart, reason the more, I dare say, 
to hear them once again as told by a stranger. Once in a while we tackled 
one of Bernard Shaw's Fabian Essays or discussed Carlyle's French Revo- 

This famous work served us a pretext— the spearpoint of an Ariadne's 
thread to penetrate into the labyrinth of contemporary international and 
social issues. To the Finnish subjects of Czar Nicholas, events in Russia 
were naturally of paramount importance. .They took it as an axiom that 
war is the portal to revolution. Even as the Russo-Japanese conflict had 
produced the 1905 revolution in St. Petersburg and Moscow, so the new 
war between Russia and Germany would lead to a much greater upheaval, 
terminating, as they confidently expected and correctly foresaw, in the 
final liquidation of the Czarist autocracy. All their hopes, therefore, were 
vested in a shattering Russian defeat. Only from a defeated Russia could 
the Finnish people hope to extract cultural and political autonomy and 
set Finland free to pursue a policy in harmony with its own spirit and 
national ethos. 

A free discussion of Finnish national aspirations, however, was ham- 
pered by the circumstance that the Czar of all the Russias figured as 
George Vs ally in the war; the British monarch was also sovereign lord 
of Canada. We had to go easy on the subject of imperial Russia, but got 
around it by proclaiming Tolstoy Russia's spokesman before the world. . . . 

Some of my comments in Pottsville's community center on the European 
war found their way into print in the old Appeal to Reason, the organ of 
the socialist party in the United States, and in Cottons Weekly, a publica- 
tion issued by a group of independent American socialists in support of 
the "One Big Union" as advocated by the I.W.W., the Industrial Workers 
of the World. Charles Barton was the name of the correspondent who, 
unbeknownst to me, put those rambling remarks of mine into deft literary 
shape and sent them to the newspapers. 

♦Multatuli, literally "I have suffered much," was the nom de plume of Eduard Douwes 
Dekker, a Dutch consular agent in Indonesia, who shocked Holland and the world with 
his book on life on the Javanese coffee and tea plantations. The book was published in 
the 1890s and translated into twenty different languages. 

106 To Number Our Days 

Never in my life did I come across another human being of such pure 
and childlike gentleness as this man Barton. Here was an angel in disguise! 
But what a disguise! His bodily frame was of elephantine proportions, and 
his features utterly repulsive. He was six feet seven inches tall and weighed 
well over 400 pounds. He had originally come into the area as a "walking 
delegate" or organizer on behalf of the United Mineworkers of America. 
Because the U.M.A. stood high on the mining companies' black list as 
"criminally syndicalist" (whatever that may mean), Barton had a hard 
time trying to unionize the miners. His face had been kicked out of all 
human semblance by the hobnailed boots of the mine guards. His eyes 
looked like two windows located on different stories of a house. All his 
fingers had been smashed with hammers wielded by Pinkerton detectives 
who swarmed over the mining properties and often far beyond, like so 
many private armies. Following that mutilation by the henchmen of law 
and order, Barton had taken to the woods, and lived in a log cabin located 
on Moose Creek, one of the many streams flowing into the Frederick 
House River. 

Though I had as little money as formerly in the far west, I was able to 
travel as far north as Cochrane and as far south as the Cobalt silver mining 
district on a courtesy pass provided by the management of the Temisk- 
aming and Northern Ontario railway. With the help of this pass I visited 
Barton s cabin. He met me at Frederick House flag station and we pro- 
ceeded to his dwelling place in a large canoe. 

Barton s only companion was MacDougal, an enormous black cat. This 
animal raced up to him the moment we debarked from the canoe in front 
of the cabin and in one jump poised itself on his broad shoulders. Wherever 
Barton went or whatever he did, light the fire, cook the beans or dip water 
from the creek, the cat accompanied him staring with a peculiar curiosity 
from its perch on his shoulders at its master's doings. During the meals 
the cat sat on the bench by the table between the two of us. I am afraid 
that I did not quite come up to MacDougaTs expectations. Whenever I 
looked sideways at him, I found his green eyes boring into mine with 
unconcealed resentment. In the darkness of night, I saw the cat's eyes 
like two coals of fire follow every move I made. He was better than a 
watchdog; I never saw another cat quite like him. 

In and around Barton's cabin the solitude was so immense as to be 
almost tangible. His nearest neighbor, another "independent" by the name 
of Herbert Mabee, lived four miles away. Like Barton, Mabee was of 

In the New World 107 

Scottish extraction and resolutely refused to discuss anything pertaining 
to the war or the international situation. "The sage," he said, "has no time 
for such absurrdities." Mabee had married an Indian girl, a soft-spoken, 
patient person with big black eyes to whom he read poetry sitting in the 
doorway of their cabin while she kept the mosquitoes away by burning 
pots of smudge fire all around him. "The ainly thing I lack is ma haggis," 
Mabee told me. "For the rest this is heaven on earth." 

Through Barton, I received friendly messages from Morris Hilquit of 
New York and Victor Berger, the socialist congressman from Milwaukee. 
Mr. Hilquit, whom I never saw in my lif e, wrote that he shared my venera- 
tion for Jean Jaures the murdered French socialist leader. By way of en- 
couragement, he sent me a red morocco-bound set of books: Jaures' 
Socialist History of the French Revolution which still stands in my library, 
a silent reminder of the days before the storms of this century. 

To Mr. Hilquit's written question how I could possibly bring myself to 
preach the Christian gospel and hold to the socialist doctrine at the same 
time, I replied: "To me socialism represents the vehicle on which the King- 
dom of God advances in history and will ultimately lead mankind fo the 
realization of the prophetic vision of justice and universal peace. ... I am 
an Isaiah socialist. ..." 

"Good enough, comrade," replied Morris Hilquit, "I hope your ticket 

The three pulpits I served lay a long way apart. The distance from 
Golden City to Schumacher, for instance, was a full nine miles. I covered 
it in two hours, once in the afternoon and once again on the homeward 
journey after the service. Mr. Johnston, of course, had to make the same 
trip for the gospel's sake, though in the opposite direction. But he enjoyed 
one advantage: at nine on Sunday evening the weekly train came through. 
He, champion varsity sprinter that he was, made it by running cross- 
country and catching the train at a flag station which for some unfathom- 
able reason was called Rosedale. There was no train going my way at 
that hour, so I walked. 

Probably nobody seeing me today would believe me if I said that I 
covered those nine miles in the middle of the night on the run, all the wayl 
Was I scared? Frankly, yes, a little! People warned me that hungry wolf 
packs roamed the forest, and also that the lynxes had a habit of dropping 
down in the dark from their perch in the trees on a passing wayfarer's 

108 To Number Our Days 

shoulders and tearing him to pieces. I heard the wolves howl more than 
once, but never saw any, nor any lynx. What I did see one evening at twi- 
light was a brown bear with two cubs. 

I had left the corduroy road to pick some blueberries in a patch of shrub- 
bery with an azure sheen over it caused by the thick clusters of the wild 
fruit. Suddenly the bear, who was also feasting on the berries, stood in 
front of me on her hind legs, a cub on either side. . . . 

When Tolstoy got to preaching nonviolence and kindness to animals in 
his old age, his moujik visitors would pester him with the question: "Lev 
Nikolaevich, please tell us, what would you do if you met a tiger?" 

"There are no tigers in Russia!" he would angrily dismiss his questioners. 
But bears there were, and one huge bear once mauled the young Tolstoy 
to within an inch of his life. The remembrance of reading about that in- 
cident flashed through my mind as I stood face to face with not one but 
three bears. I thought: If I turn and make a dash for it, the mamma bear 
will jump me from behind and 111 be a goner. But nothing so drastic or 
dramatic happened. As the bear and I stood staring at each other, she 
growled as if she had a rattle in her throat. This went on till one of the 
cubs suddenly bolted and ran back into the wood. Mamma and the other 
cub followed in short order. 

More perilous than the bear episode was the time when I got lost in a 
snowstorm. On the outwkrd journey to Schumacher some flurries flew 
across my path, but I did not judge them serious enough to take precau- 
tions. And, come to think of it, what precautions could I have taken? 

I had a sledge with three dogs, two huskies and one, the leader, a New- 
foundland dog, Paddy by name. At the rear-end of the sledge stood a pole 
in a vertical position. You held on to this pole while running behind the 
sleigh and from time to time jumped on for a short ride, an on-and-off 
process which pleasantly shortened the distance. As I ran I prepronounced 
the sermon I was to deliver in the evening. It was good exercise; shouting 
against the wind strengthened my voice so much that I never needed a 
loud-speaker in later years. 

On the way back through the forest after the service in Schumacher all 
went tolerably well, but on Lake Porcupine I could not see a foot ahead 
of me. A blinding tempest lashed into my face; I had to brace myself 
against the storm to keep on my feet. Paddy slowed up and presently 
turned and stood by my side pressing his big muzzle in my hand. By his 
whining I could tell that he had thrown in the sponge. 

In the New World 109 

The time was shortly after midnight, the lake was two miles wide, and 
I had just entered upon its frozen surface. I decided to turn back and make 
for the shore I had just left behind. Perhaps I could locate a prospector's 
or a trapper s cabin, build a fire and spend the night. There were quite a 
few such cabins about, and, though abandoned, they were generally 
stocked with canned food and plenty of kindling and firewood ready to 
light the stove. Here is one of the finer traditions of the high north: no door 
was ever locked. It was an unwritten law that you could enter at will, brew 
coffee and eat pork and beans. Before leaving you were honor bound to 
chop enough wood to replace what you had used. 

We didn't make the shore that night. Paddy couldn't pick up the scent. 
The two huskies were absolutely useless. I found huskies the nastiest, most 
vicious canine breed I know of. In fact, I don't believe they are dogs at all. 
The dog is man's best friend. A dog will never abandon his master, but a 
husky will, and he will devour him too, if the man should grow so weak 
as to collapse. 

From midnight till eleven in the morning when the sick dawn finally 
broke through the white shroud lying over the world, we literally fought 
our way inch by inch through the blizzard. Since I had no snow shoes, I 
sank nearly out of sight. Paddy followed. I could not see him, but when- 
ever I slowed up he poked me in the back with his snout. . . . We could 
not afford to rest or stand or sit still, for immobility meant certain death, 
the temperature having sunk to some 50 degrees below zero. When I 
could finally identify the spot where I stood, I discovered that we had been 
walking in circles for nearly twelve hours. 

What kind of sermons did I preach? I would be able to give a more 
precise answer to this question had not the French government in the fall 
of 1939, ordered me expelled from my house in Maisons-Laffitte near Paris 
with special instructions to the police to allow no papers or books to be 
taken out. The old sermon notes from the Porcupine period were in the 
library which remained behind when I walked (part of the way) from 
Havre to Le Verdon in the Department of the Gironde, and there caught 
a ship which carried me back to America. The result is that I can speak 
only about the general tenor of those old sermons. One thing is certain: 
they were short and to the point. In accordance with John Wesley's advice 
to his preachers that no soul is ever saved after the first quarter hour, I 
never spoke longer than fifteen or twenty minutes. My grandfather invoked 

110 To Number Our Days 

another equally wise and homely consideration to spare his hearers' sensi- 
bilities. He used to say: the human brain cannot stand more than the 
human posterior. 

Having committed my sermon to memory in the course of the week, I 
spoke without looking at my notes. I had no inhibitions, nor did I suffer 
from stage fright. This is a plague which descended on me in later years. 
Nowadays I am as nervous as a schoolgirl when I see an audience in front 
of me. I promptly forget everything I had planned to say. Not till I hear 
the sound of my own voice do I regain confidence and overcome these 
awkward hesitations. In the far north I felt ill at ease only when I noticed 
the presence of certain members of the intelligentsia in the congregation, 
mining engineers, county officials or medical doctors. I was particularly 
upset when I spotted the face of Mr. "Happy" Langmuir among my hear- 
ers. Mr. Langmuir was the chief engineer at the Hollinger mine. In private 
conversation his superior learning and wisdom frightened me. But he never 
failed to attend, and when I left he did me the great kindness of saying 
that he had learned a good deal from my homilies. It is just possible that 
he pulled my leg a little! I rather think he did. 

It should not be thought that I disliked my work or performed my task 
merely by rote. I can honestly say that I preached with gladness and that 
I firmly believed myself called to be a verbi divini minister. The desire to 
make money by getting a job in the mines or go prospecting for gold far, 
far away, as my brother Thomas did, never stirred me, though I was so 
poor that I not only had to wash and repair my own clothes and cut my 
own hair, but seldom ate anything but bread and fish. Rabbits or deer I 
couldn't bring myself to kill. I caught fish by hacking a hole in the ice and 
simply scooping up the specimen that came up to breathe. When a fish 
fell on the ice, it was instantly frozen stiff and I figured that it did not 
suffer. It was a godsend to be invited for a meal, be it ever so far away 
or deep in the woods. On those Sundays when my preaching turn in 
Schumacher came around, I ate dinner at the local parsonage where my 
superintendent's wife, dear Mrs. Florence Johnston, received me with win- 
ning affability. At her table I ate so much that I still wonder sometimes if 
she didn't think me a terrible hog. 

For every sermon I prepared as for a battle— with far more joy in my 
heart, I must say, than for the military battles in which I was called upon 
to participate later. Perhaps I was a little brash, but I believed firmly that 
I spoke in the name of God, in the name of the highest justice. "Whom 

In the New World HI 

shall I send?" the voice of Yahweh asked Isaiah. "Then Isaiah said: Here 
I am; send mel' " Such was also my own prayer in those days. Something 
which I would not dare do now, I imagine, occurred when a strike was 
threatening and the U.M.A. called out the workers; I announced as the 
title of my next talk: "God's Program and the U.M.A." 

"Two great currents of new life are coursing through our world today: 
the religious and the social. Like two parallel streams of water running to 
the same sea, these two seek each other. In the hearts of those who are 
seized with the religious ideal, a certitude is growing that God has sent 
them to build a bridge towards those brothers who, while perhaps deny- 
ing God's existence, are, nevertheless, athirst for justice and righteousness. 
Our hope and desire is to walk and to work together with them. 

"As long as the churches try to kill socialism by silence— socialism which 
is the only reminder in the world today of the original impulses of Jesus— 
so long is the anger of socialist atheism, which prefers no God at all to the 
kind of God who is bound up with the capitalist system of production 
and war, absolutely justifiable and justified. . . . What the Church should 
do, the socialists do. Where God should live, there He stays away from. 
And where He is not acknowledged, there precisely He takes up His abode. 

"Jesus walks amongst us right here in the Porcupine area announcing 
the Kingdom of God, the era of co-operation and comradeship when cut- 
throat competition and poverty and hunger and war shall be no more. . . . 
We do not see Him as one enveloped in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. . . . 
We see Him as a helper, as a brother, as a fellow worker, as the banner 
bearer in the workers' cause. ... If it comes to a strike, we shall walk to- 
gether behind His banner, the scarlet banner of the cross. ..." 

The reason I remember that particular sermon is because someone took 
it down stenographically and sent it to the general superintendent of the 
church in Toronto. The purpose was to denounce me as an agitator and, 
if possible, have me expelled from the district as persona non grata with 
the mining companies. From Toronto came a telegram in reply: "Say it 
again and again and againl You're on the right trackl" 

Barton and my Scandinavian friends, fearing that I might meet with 
some bodily harm, sent two husky young fellows to accompany me on 
the long night walks. One of these, Olav Ingeson, played a harmonica 
while on the march. He brought forth such a dismal, nerve-jangling 
screech as might well have stopped any eventual prowling wolf or Pinker- 

112 To Number Our Days 

ton in their tracks Though we expected riots and fights, not much 

harm was done save in one case. Some mine guards sneaked up to Bar- 
ton s cabin in his absence and riddled MacDougal with buckshot. They 
hanged the cat's dead body in front of the door. . . . 

Back in Golden City where I had plenty of time to study, I discovered 
Martineau, Emerson, Matthew Arnold, Parker, Troeltsch and Rauschen- 
busch. The thoughts of these men led me gradually to reject the peculiar 
interpretation given in orthodox seminaries to the opening chapters of 
the Bible, notably the doctrine of the utter sinfulness of all human crea- 
tures born into the world and the necessity of the sacrifice of the Son of 
God for the redemption of the race. I could no longer believe that this 
Saviour had come into the world for the removal of original sin and the 
attainment of salvation. Each creature must be his own saviour; no mirac- 
ulous intervention removed sin. The divinely implanted power in the 
human breast alone was capable of triumph over evil and wrong. 

It goes without saying that I held out no hope of a better, fuller life 
in the hereafter. 'The proper study of man," said Martineau, "is not how 
to die, but how to live." The prime object of religion was to live this life 
nobly and well. Only people who have no life, whose conditions of life 
are subhuman or inhuman, are apt to dream of a life in the hereafter 
as compensation for the ills and injustices suffered in this "terrestrial vale 
of tears." The myth of celestial compensation seemed to me a most con- 
venient doctrine imposed upon the so-called underprivileged by the 
reactionary classes in society as a police measure to block the rising tide 
of discontent and revolutionary sentiment. In short, the hope of paradise 
was a device to divert the people's attention from the evils of the system 
under which they lived. The ruling powers, ably assisted by the eccle- 
siastics, encouraged the myth in order to remain undisturbed in the 
possession of their property and privileges. 

To be sure, I did believe in heaven, but not in a heaven somewhere 
beyond the clouds. I believed in a much more realistic heaven, one that 
was still to be made, a paradise that was constantly under construction, 
so to speak; in this world, by man himself. ... As the highest goal of 
mans striving I held out the vision of the Kingdom of God, though not 
as a mystical and misty pipe dream, but as the dynamite which is to blow 
the status quo asunder and replace it with "new heavens and a new earth 
wherein dwelleth righteousness. 

In the New World 113 

What I upheld in my stumbling way was an application of religion 
to the social relations between man and man. It was a repudiation of 
orthodoxy's stress on individual salvation. Orthodox Christianity, I felt, 
taught a negation of life. I did not deny life. I accepted life and accepted 
this world and I loved it. I love it still more today in the measure that 

my course through it draws towards a close I believed and still 

believe that the earth is the Lord's, a garden for all of God's children to 
walk in: Chinese, Russians, Germans, Americans, all. Yes, and Bantus and 
Angolese, too! 

Hark the rolling of the thunder! 
Lo, the sun, and lo, thereunder 
Riseth wrath and hope and wonder, 
As the host comes marching on! . . . 

From South Porcupine, the amusement and relaxation center of the 
gold fields, the power and the glory had already departed. But evidence 
of stormier and more hectic times in the recent past still lay plentifully 
about. In South Porcupine, where I conducted the service in the Presby- 
terian church on Sunday mornings, you could still see the prospectors 
and trappers come in from a year's search for gold and fox skins. Some 
of these men, quite a cosmopolitan lot they were, had been to other gold 
countries, the Klondike, Mexico or South Africa. They had married 
squaws or taken half-breed women as concubines. They sat on the porches 
of the dilapidated, though once gaudy hotels and saloon bars, rocking their 
chairs and aiming squirts of tobacco juice at brightly polished brass spit- 
toons and, to my never-ending amazement, hitting the objective with 
unfailing precision. As a rule their conversation was a little monotonous: 
gold and women, women and booze, and back again to women and gold. 

One famous prospector, the redoubtable Ben Hollinger, who had sold 
his first discovery for, 't was said, a million dollars, came to town carrying 
a sack of gold nuggets on his shoulder. Once more Ben had struck it rich 
and once more the whole town celebrated. The money he received for 
his first claim had vanished to the last cent. On his former property stood 
the largest stampmill in the world which still bears his name, as do the 
company's quotations on the Stock Exchange. The way he went about 
disposing of the money he received for his new discovery, a mere pittance 
of $100,000 in cash, was a repetition of his first jollification, though neces- 
sarily on a somewhat less extravagant scale. 

114 To Number Our Days 

A man of enormous size, broad shoulders, and an Assyrian bowman's 
raven-black beard, Hollinger bought himself a dress suit and silk hat. 
He chartered a train made up of three Pullman cars, a diner and a 
locomotive, and invited some twenty slightly damaged female saints to 
accompany him either to Ottawa or Montreal, I forget which. They all 
accepted and were off in a haze of whisky and furs. The delightful com- 
pany was absent for a month. Then, one day, half the girls slunk back; 
the other half hadn't been able to raise the train fare. Ben Hollinger re- 
turned a few days later in the caboose at the end of a freight. He had lost 
everything including his shirt. But he still wore his silk hat and the frock 
coat, though in its crumpled and disheveled state it more than anything 
else resembled a burlesque comedian s get-up. 

Once more somebody grubstaked Ben Hollinger, and he tramped off 
on the lonesome trails toting a rifle and a huge packsack containing 
blankets and provisions. 

Some years later his skeleton was discovered in an abandoned cabin in 
the Kapuskasing area. The onetime millionaire had died of starvation. 

The solution of certain problems of a personal nature lay far beyond 
my competence, and understandably so; I was far too young and inex- 
perienced to function as a referee or arbiter, for instance, in cases of 
marital discord or conflict. Yet I was more than once drawn into such 
unhappy family affairs, or called upon for advice or counsel. When such 
incidents occurred I grew aware how hopelessly inadequate and even 
irrelevant was most of the instruction given at seminaries and theological 
schools. It wasn't life these institutions of higher learning dealt with. They 
dealt only with a part of life, that part namely in which the average man or 
woman takes least interest. It may be vastly edifying and instructive to 
meditate upon the secrets of salvation and the immortality of the soul, 
or to dwell in the company of the great fathers of the Church. But it isn't 
enough! At any rate, what I felt I needed most of all "in the field," were 
some sound and solid courses in psychology, or at least some books on 
the subject. I received plenty of other books and read them too, but most 
of them were mere variations on the same old theme of the alleged regina 
scientiarum, the queen of sciences, theology. What a future minister should 
learn most and first of all is how to talk as a man to men. And not only 
when they come to him with questions of religious doubt, which they 
seldom do, but when they confront him with actual problems of life: 

IntheNewWorld 115 

sickness, unemployment, wages, vice, crime, drink, the fear of death 

On these subjects one received no advice at all, or at best a pass-the- 
buck, don't-bother-me directive: "Take it to the Lord in prayer!" Psy- 
chology, moreover, was in those days still widely regarded in orthodox 
Christian circles as something filthy, and Freud with his teaching of the 
libido but a piscator sordium, a fisher of dirty things. 

Calvin, who was a great exegete, told his students that they were not 
priests and must never take upon themselves the role of priests. They were 
to be "shepherds and teachers." That's the whole sum and substance of 
the Protestant ministry. But how would Calvin have acted, I often won- 
dered, if he had met up with some of the experiences that came my way? 

One day a man called on me: "I want you to go and talk to my wife 

She has been playing the whore with a hoist operator of the P — mine. 

She lives with that s.o.b. in his cabin If you don't do something about 

it, 111 have to go out there and kill both of them." 

Most likely Calvin would have clapped the wife-snatcher in jail .... 
and the faithless wife as well, plus, as like as not, the plaintiff. For such 
drastic action, however, which would have been no remedy anyway, I 
lacked the authority. Nor could I think of interesting the Royal Mounted 
Police in the case. The sergeant, Philip Thompson, a good friend of mine, 
would most likely have said something like this: "We cant prevent him 
from going out and shooting the guilty couple, but if you'll do me a favor, 
just remind him beforehand that well hang him as sure as God made 
little apples." 

I didn't want anybody hanged, so I said to the plaintiff: "Do you want 
your wife back?" 

"Sure I do, we have two kids." 

"Will you take her back and forgive her and never mention her lapse 
again as long as ye both shall live?" 

"Sure," he said. "I won't throw it up to her. I ain't been so perfect 

"In that case 111 go and ask her to come back to you." 

But the hoistman proved no easy customer to deal with. For a start he 
cursed me to high heaven. Then he took his rifle down from the wall and 
loaded it. "I give you till I count ten to get out of the house," he said. 

"Thank you, I appreciate your hospitality. I am a little tired, I have come 
a long way. I'll sit here in this chair till you cool off. But don't forget that 

116 To Number Our Days 

if you shoot, you'll dangle by the end of a rope. Phil Thompson always 
gets his man." 

So we sat down and waited, the three of us. 

I said to the woman: "Ma'am, your children are expecting you. . . . 
Come with me; I have a sleigh outside. . . . Your husband will be glad to 
see you. He told me so. . . ." 

When she broke into tears, the hoistman walked up to me with fists 
clenched: "If you don't get out, I'll break every goddamn bone in your 

I didn't wait for that calamity, but administered a tap on the jaw which 
sent him sprawling. While he sat on the floor a little dazed, I took his 
rifle, a .42 Winchester, emptied the chamber and smashed the gun to 
pieces on the cabin's threshold. 

After I took the woman home, I went to Sergeant Thompson. 

"Hello, Phiir 

"Hello, clergy!" 

"Phil, I have a confession to make!" 

"Fire away!" 

"I took Mrs. R — back to her husband " 

"You did? That's fine, you took a big load off my mind!" 

"But I had to beat up the hoistman before I could get her away from 
him. ..." 

"Good boy, clergyl Good for you!" 

"Hell probably be in tomorrow to lay a complaint for breaking his 


"What'll be a pleasure?" 

"What do you think? To get in a few licks myself, of course." 

Since the Discipline of the Methodist Church forbade unordained pro- 
bationers to administer holy communion, I naturally obeyed this rule. 
Mr. Johnston was there to perform this rite. He was my superior, but he 

was far away, sometimes snowed in, or otherwise inaccessible What 

to do in the event of an emergency call? The Scandinavians were all 
nominally Lutherans and though little concerned with religious matters, 
it was a different story when the hour of death struck. To a Lutheran, it 
seems that partaking of holy communion is endowed with certain magical 
qualities. Its administration in the hour of death is like a seal on or 

In the New World 117 

guarantee of forgiveness of sins ... by the administrator taking the place 
of God. I didn't believe in these things. Still, I dared not give offense to 
one of "these little ones," and stay away when summoned. On three or 
four occasions I performed the rite and pronounced absolution in a 
priestly fashion according to the formularies of the Anglican Church. 
When a man was gasping for breath and his body was rent by unendura- 
ble pain as in the case of a serious heart attack, and the doctor could do 
no more than administer a little opium, communion had a beneficient 
effect. It assuaged anguish, brought alleviation, calm and resignation to 
the sufferer. It was all a little dishonest on my part, I know, but then, I 
am sure, God will forgive me. After all, that's His businessl 

I did not hesitate to hear an Italian worker s confession— no priest being 
available— when the man was caught in a cave-in on the sixth level of the 
Dome mine. He could not possibly be extricated without the use of 
dynamite. Tons and tons of loose sliding rock were slowly squeezing him 
to death. There was no time for long discussions, for no discussion at all 
as a matter of fact. When I was called and climbed up in the stope where 
the man lay trapped and dozens of carbide lamps of his would-be rescuers 
illuminated the spot, I knelt down, listened to his words of repentance 
and gave him absolution, promising him with the words of Jesus to the 
thief on the cross: Amen dico tibi hodie mecum eris in paradiso. "Surely, 
I tell you, this very day, you shall be with me in paradise. . . ." The man 
held my hand to the end. Before dying he gave me a message to his wife 
far away in San Daniele del Friuli, near the Austrian border. 

If the Roman priests ever get wind of this, I thought, they will be 
furious with me, but there I was mistaken. One of them, a certain Father 
Jean Marteau, who was the dead mans parish priest, came to thank me. 

"So I did no wrong from your point of view?" I asked. 

"No," replied Monsieur Marteau, "in exceptional circumstances God 
allows unworthy persons to do His work for Him. . . . It's the act of ad- 
ministration that is sacred, not the man who performs the act . . . " 

Jack Kerry came to see me one evening. Kerry was an American, a 
veteran of the Spanish-American War. He drew a pension of one dollar 
a day for life, and was thus, by my standards at least, a rich man. I often 
visited him in the woods, staying overnight, talking, playing checkers 
and drinking black coffee. With Jack Kerry lived his partner, Jimmy 
McCarthy, a thin, pigeon-breasted man, who went around mumbling: 

118 To Number Our Days 

"A hundred thousand dollars or nothing! A hundred thousand or nothing!" 
This figure referred to the price he was willing to accept for the claim 
which the two men worked and owned. % 

When Kerry came to the parsonage, he said to me: "Jim is dead. I 
killed him. . . . We had a fight. He fell and struck his head against the 
stove. . . . What d you think I ought to do?" 

'What did you fight about?" 

"Oh, we had an offer. A mining syndicate offered us $75,000 for our 
claim. We struck a vein of gold on a quartz and schist contact fifty feet 
down after fourteen years of labor. . . . Jimmy wouldn't sell. You know 
his argument: 'A hundred thousand or nothing/ I was more than willing. 
I have my fill of living in the woods, never seeing a soul, eating rabbit 
meat and fish till you. . . . That kind of life drives you nuts. Jimmy, as 
you know, was completely nuts. So we quarreled . . . and you know the 

rest. He was my best friend, really I don't know what to do Should 

I go to Phil Thompson and give myself up?" 

"I'll go and see the sergeant " 

"Phil, if I knew a man to be a murderer and kept silent about it, what 
would you say?" 

"I'd say nothing, but I would hold you as an accessory the moment I 
discovered the truth. ..." 

'Would you really?" 

"No doubt in the world. I couldn't do anything else, clergy. That's the 

"Well, I know a man who killed his partner. ..." 

"Is that what Jack Kerry came to tell you? ... He was in town the day 
before yesterday. I saw him in Bob Polluck's saloon. He was drinking far 
more than was good for him. When he left the saloon, he turned in the 
direction of your cabin Did he tell you he killed Jimmy?" 

"He did. He says 't was accidental What'll you do, arrest him?" 

"No, I won't. You bring him in. It'll go easier with him if you bring him 

We had a trial; a judge came up all the way from Haileybury. I testified 
and told the jury that the Kerry-McCarthy claim had been sold and that 
75 per cent of the money received was being sent to the dead man's rela- 
tives in the United States. 

Kerry was found guilty, but Sergeant Thompson said that my testimony 
indicated extenuating circumstances. The jury made a strong recommenda- 

In the New World 119 

tion for mercy. Kerry received an indeterminate sentence from one to five 

"May I ask a question?" Kerry asked the judge after being sentenced. 


"Can I go and dig up the body and give it a decent Christian burial? 
He lies out there in the woods ... so alonel" 

"Will you undertake to perform the burial ceremony?" the judge asked 


"Alright, this will make Kerry eligible for parole in a year's time," said 
the judge. 

But though I helped to disinter the body, I did not bury Jimmy. Jimmy 
had been a Catholic, so I asked Father Marteau to officiate. James 
McCarthy was buried from the Catholic Church in Golden City. Phil 
Thompson and I . . . and Kerry were pallbearers at the service of 
requiem. . . . 

One more memory before leaving my parish under the northern lights 
never to return. Just beyond the South Porcupine boundary by the side 
of the road to Schumacher, somewhat hidden in the woods, stood an 
enormous log house, two stories high and about a hundred feet long. 
I do not recall whether there hung a sign outside giving the establishment's 
name. Everybody referred to it as The White Rat. In that place rip-roaring, 
tumultuous celebrations went on night after night; a player piano rattled; 
drunken men staggered in and out; shouts and curses in all languages 
rent the air; there were fights and brawls; poker and crap games were in 
progress at all hours of the night and day. 

There were plenty of other brothels in the area, but The White Rat 
took the cake, so to speak. It was the classiest, the most distinguished of 
all the houses of ill fame. The downstairs part served as a gaming room. 
Against a background of mirrors and shelves loaded with bottles ran a 
bar as long as the one at the old League of Nations' building in Geneva. 

Upstairs were the cubicles where mesdames les pensionnaires, some 
twenty odd in number, exercised their profession. I would gladly have 
taken a look inside, but this was clearly out of the question: I had to think 
of the dignity of the cloth, threadbare and scanty though it was. In passing 
I merely glanced at the lighted windows. When payday at the mines came 
around, business at The White Rat was phenomenal. The following day 

120 To Number Our Days 

the girls lined up at the teller's window in the timber shack which served 
as a bank, to deposit their earnings. One morning, the bank manager, Bill 
Todhunter, told me: "More than two thousand dollars were deposited by 
The White Rat's ladies this week." 

'Which makes it exactly two thousand more than was taken up in the 
collection plates last Sunday in church," I commented sadly. 

How this remark of mine got out, I cannot imagine. One of The White 
Rat's girls with a strong mother instinct and a compassionate heart was 
reported to have asked if I really got enough to eat. She told a friend of 
mine: "I would like to call him inside when he passes and give him a good 
square meal. He needs itl" Thereafter several of The White Rat's inmates 
came to church and contributed handsomely to our budget. They also 
wafted a heavenly odor of perfume through the house of God 

As is customary all over the American continent, though not in Europe, 
the officiating minister stands at the church door to shake hands with the 
departing members of the congregation. This is how I came to know the 
names of a good many of the local daughters of Rachab. 

"I'm Elly," one of them would smile kindly as she passed out of church, 
"please pardon my glovel" 

"I'm Fanny I'm Gertie I'm Jean," and so on. 

"And I'm Flo Fabri, they call me Big Flo," said a deep-bosomed and 
expensively garbed brunette, who wore a black seal coat, a muff of the 
same material, and what was known in those days as a picture hat. "I'm 
the madam at The White Rat. Thank you very much for your sermon!" 

"Glad to see you, sister Flol Come again!" 

"I sure will, big boy! Here," she said, "take this." She tried to slip a 
twenty dollar bill into my hand. 

"Flo, that's very kind of you, but I can't take the money." I noticed that 
all eyes were on me. "Give it to Mr. Vance over there! He's the treasurer!" 

"Him?" she drew up her nose, "no sir, never! Not to that tightwad!" 

Miss Fabri seldom failed to show up, though she was often late. Sat- 
urday night, as a rule, was a big night at The White Rat. She always cried 
a little during the sermon, sniffing and daubing her large black eyes with 
a lace handkerchief. My mother would have taken this as a good omen, 

tears being the first sign of "a broken and contrite heart " But I can't 

for the life of me think what made that girl cry so bitterly at times. It may 
be that in her case we were in the presence of a remnant of those collective 
weeping bouts which are mentioned by Coulton, Huizinga, Levy-Bruehl 

In the New World 121 

and other celebrated medievalists. Bauman calls the mass-weeping in the 
Middle Ages a phase of "the divine madness." 

When the preaching friars came to a town, say in France, Italy or Ger- 
many, to call for penitence, which usually meant scaring the people with 
hell-fire, men, women and children not only cried, they sobbed, they 
howled, they wailed, they threw themselves on the floor, and writhed as 
if in the throes of an epileptic fit. The churches were turned into bedlam. 
The history of the Middle Ages is filled with the sound of weeping and 
gnashing of teeth. The Florentine Savonarola's sermons very often had 
this maddening effect upon a crowd. Sometimes he had twelve, fifteen 
thousand "weepers" in the Duomo of Florence! That's where his followers 
got their nickname: piagnoni, crybabies, snivelers. 

Was Flo Fabri a latter-day piagnona? Maybe! I have no other explana- 
tion for her tears. They cannot possibly have been caused by anything 
I said to her. For I liked her very much 

In the spring of 1916 occurred a crisis of conscience which shook me 
to the depths of my being and radically changed my course through life: 
I abandoned all thoughts of the ministry. Although it is true, que Von 
revient toujours & ses premiires amours, and that some years later I re- 
sumed my studies in the theological school of the Reformed Church of 
France, I then left dogmatics severely alone. Having reached the con- 
clusion—not without a deep sense of loss and disillusionment— that cen- 
turies of theology have brought us not one step nearer to the solution of 
the mystery of our existence, I took up the study of the history of religion 
with special emphasis on the origins of Christianity. ... 

As I see it now my mistake in 1916 was that I took the Christian gospel 
too seriously. When I returned to Toronto from the north, I was invited 
to follow a course that would lead in quick order to a commission as a 
military chaplain. I declined on the grounds that in spite of my sympathy 
for Britain's stand, her cause did not seem to warrant desertion from the 
Militia Christi. I decided to take the side of the conscientious objectors. 
It was by no means an easy decision to make, but a truth remains only half 
a truth so long as it exists merely in verbal formulation. It is in action 
that a thought becomes genuinely alive. 

The thought to be made alive was that of nonviolent but nevertheless 
active resistance to war and all its works, though not as a phase of the 
class struggle, but as an attempt reverently to follow in the footsteps of 

122 To Number Our Days 

Jesus. At the seminary it was objected that there exists no direct evidence 
of the Nazarene having pointed to nonviolent action as the road to peace. 
I argued back that the early Christians were still so close to Jesus in his- 
tory that their attitude in this matter must have refleced some important 
aspect of His teachings. It was their understanding of His mind which 
they applied when they refused to take service in Caesar's armies. They 
felt confident that in this manner Jesus had shown them the way to 
overcome the world. And so immense was their hope and so powerful a 
spiritual weapon their nonviolent action that they, a handful of despised 
sectarians, actually overcame the decadence of the Roman world. 

After some correspondence with the Reverend Dick Sheppard, the 
Vicar of London's St. Martin in the Fields and head of the Peace Pledge 
Union, I joined that body of pacifists, antimilitarists and conscientious 
objectors who subscribed to Einstein's declaration that war is a crime 
against humanity. 

I must say that on the whole the churchmen and the civil authorities 
showed great tolerance and forbearance when I began to debate the 
question publicly. True, the Sunday evening meetings in Toronto's Labor 
Temple under the chairmanship of the president of the typographical 
union, James Simpson, a later socialist mayor of the city, were more than 
once disrupted by invading bands of war veterans and super patriots who 
indiscriminately and howlingly decried all present as slackers, cowards, 
defeatists, paid agents of the Kaiser, and so on. 

Those ruffians, finding it easier to beat an opponent into unconsciousness 
than reason with him, got into the habit of reinforcing their catcalls and 
epithets with rubber truncheons and chunks of lead pipe. As long as we 
stayed inside the hall we had police protection. No sooner did we come 
outside than we, not the rowdies, were deemed to have disturbed the 
peace. We got it in the neck from both sides, the veterans and the cops. 

As a result of these scuffles my personal situation became doubly 
awkward; for while the nonreligious antimilitarists did not need to take 
things lying down, and indeed, whenever attacked, promptly and effec- 
tively retaliated, I was talking about nonviolence, reverence for life, love 
of neighbor, the fatherhood of God and the brotherhoood of all men, 
including the Germans, as my motives in opposing war. 

Although it was a hard road to travel for one not altogether bereft of 
physical strength, I thought it my duty to bear up silently under revile- 
ment and opprobrium— and knocks on the head— without in turn having 

In the New World 123 

recourse to the methods of those whom I qualified as barbarians and un- 
converted pagans. 

In the end, it was before the argument that the war was "a righteous 
war" that I capitulated. Two serious-minded elderly citizens, Newton W. 
Howell, the leader of the Liberal opposition in the Ontario parliament, 
and Justice John J. Maclaren of the provincial supreme court, persuaded 
me to look upon the struggle with Germany as the war to end all wars. 

The two men sat with me in a small room in the back of the Metropolitan 
Church in Toronto from nine in the evening till far into the night trying 
to show me the error of my ways. They readily granted that war was 
evil, that it was Christianity's most grievous sin. But the war was on. 
It could not be stopped till a decision had fallen one way or another. "If 
evil is to be done, however much we detest it, let it be done quickly! . . . 
Help us to put an end to war for all time to come! . . . This war is waged 
for liberty, in the defense of weak nations, and to set the whole world 

I was no match for two such dedicated and learned Christian gentlemen. 
I had also grown thoroughly disgusted, I must say, with being stopped in 
the streets by women who insisted on pinning a white feather, the badge 
of craven cowardice, on my clothes. I stood six feet two in my stockings at 
the time, and looked most fit for the service to these militant females. 
I could not begin an argument each time a woman halted me to ask: "Why 
aren't you in unif orm?" 


Soldier of the King 

I was promised that I would be given a noncombatant position as inter- 
preter. As soon as I had sworn allegiance to His Britannic Majesty, and 
thus became his subject, I signed my name to a declaration that I would 
willingly go wherever the King deemed it necessary to send me. In the 
same instant all was forgotten about the interpreter's job. I was shipped 
off to Camp Borden and given a rifle like any other recruit. The unit in 
which I enlisted was known as the Corps of Guides, though what we 
were to do by way of guiding, I never discovered. 

I practiced on the rifle range and went route marching. The exercise 
I liked best fell shortly after reveille at six in the morning when there was 
a wild scramble for the ice-cold water taps by hundreds of recruits 
stripped to the waist, and right after the ablutions a two mile run on the 
double. Four sergeant instructors clad in white sweaters ran in front to 
set the pace. Twenty others ran alongside the ranks bellowing and 
yapping: "Up those knees! Chests out! Swing those arms! One-two, one- 
two, one-two!" 

The first morning I thought I'd never make it. The fellow running by 
my side, Bill Vaughan, who easily weighed 250 pounds, collapsed with 
a groan of anguish. But I was not permitted to go to his aid . . . and, 
incidentally, steal a little breather myself. One white sweater spotted me: 
"Keep going, that man! What do you think this is, a damn nursery? Keep 
going! One-two, one-two, one-two! Don't drag those feet like a bloody 
elephant! Up those knees! Up, up, up!" 

After the run the battalion sergeant major, a gentleman of British 
extraction, known in the ranks as Peppy, who sported a pug nose and 
a red mustache, the ends waxed to needle-point sharpness, asked the 
still puffing Vaughan: "How the hell did you get in the family way, me 
lad? What d you do in civil life?" 


126 To Number Our Days 

Tm a bartender, sirl" 

"A bartender? Blimy! Well, you wont tend any bar 'ere, me lad, at 
least not till you get rid of that beer barrel up in front!" 

'Til never get rid of it," Vaughan confided to me disconsolately. "If I 
have to run like that again, 111 have a heart attack!" 

But wonders never cease; after a month the beer barrel had vanished. 
Vaughan had reduced 40 pounds and ran with the best of us. That morning 
promenade on the double was a real boon. During the first week we 
shivered in the draughty and leaky tents. There was dew on the ground 
and streaks of hoarfrost on the blankets. After a couple of weeks of ice- 
cold washing at dawn and a run around with "knees-up," we didn't know 
what it was to be cold. You glowed with sheer animal fire from top 
to bottom. 

I thought I knew how to walk. The army did not think so, and the army 
was right. It is the army's general opinion that the elements in which 
physical endurance is most usefully manifested are the capacity of bearing 
a weight for long, and marching long and far, "between a sleep and a 
sleep." We were allowed to fill our water bottles before a route march, 
but at the same time advised not to drink from them or at most take a 
swig now and then to rinse the mouth and spit it out quickly. 

During the first weeks this procedure amounted to torture. Many a 
soldier could not resist the temptation to quench his raging thirst after 
a few hours' walking and sweating. I was one of the first to succumb 
in spite of Peppy's solemn warning that I would get as sick as a cat. I 
promptly confirmed his prognostication and had to fall out and be sick by 
the roadside. After that first fall from grace I never drank water again, 
not in Canada, nor in Britain, nor in France. The abstinence from water 
dried me out till I became as thin as a lath, but easily twice as strong. 
There wasn't a dram of superfluous fluid in my body. Not even under the 
strongest sun did I perspire. 

During the second week of training we had a sad accident Six men were 
struck by a bolt of lightning. They walked in the front ranks of the column 
while on a route march through the sand hills in Camp Borden's extensive 
wastelands. For some unexplained reason the first two ranks carried their 
bayonets at the fix. Six of those eight men never knew what struck them. 
A unit of field artillery buried our first casualties on the outskirts of the 
camp, six coffins draped with the Union Jack. 

Soldier of the King 127 

We were apparently considered presentable enough to appear in public 
after eight weeks of flexing and limbering up, and entrained for Brock- 
ville, a quiet, lovely town situated on the north bank of the St. Lawrence 
River opposite Morristown in the state of New York. We were quartered 
in the buildings on the fair grounds and slept in wooden bunks four stories 
high. Shortly after establishing ourselves our manpower was increased by 
two companies who had been recruited in British Columbia and by one 
company of Acadians from Nova Scotia. The British Columbians enriched 
us with a brass band, while the Nova Scotians, the New Scotlanders, ap- 
propriately, brought a band of bagpipes and drums. The pipers wore kilts 
and multicolored tartans. Like the Orangemen on "the glorious twelfth" 
(of July), the drummers swung their drumsticks from leather straps 
around their wrists. When in top form and high battle spirit, they freely, 
savagely and proudly bespattered the drums with drops of their Highland 
blood. For our regimental tune we had the "Colonel Bogey March," while 
the pibroch players' favorite was: 

There our foes that burned and slew- 
Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie! 
There at last, they got their due, 
Bonnie laddie, Highland laddie! 

In Brockville the training became more intense. We had mock battles; 
maneuvers they were called. We dug trenches in the daytime outside in 
the farmlands, and at nights occupied them waiting for an enemy who, 
fortunately, never came. As far as I can remember, those exercises under 
actual battle conditions were always held at nights in the pouring rain. 
The rain was to accustom us to the climatic conditions said to prevail on 
the real battlefields overseas. We fired blank cartridges and occasionally 
fixed bayonets and sloughed and slithered through the mud for an attack 
on an invisible foe. Those night maneuvers would have been a huge farce 
except for our getting soaked to the skin and marching back to barracks 
at the peep of dawn looking like so many cats fished up from the river. 

To make things more realistic, each company was equipped with two 
machine guns. Two, I said. There may have been but few of those Maxims, 
they were nevertheless formidable. They were as awkward to transport 
as the iron rocking horses you see in a merry-go-round, and heavy as lead. 
One man carried the barrel, another the tripod on which the barrel had 
to be screwed down before it could be fired. It fell to my lot to be a tripod 

128 To Number Our Days 

bearer. In moments of not so pious retrospect I can still feel that instru- 
ment of dull torture boring into my neck and shoulders. My inseparable 
companion, the gunner, was Arnold Tremblay, a French-Canadian. It was 
no trick to discover whence he hailed, for he had one song, and one song 
only which he sang bilingually come hell or high water: 

A Montreal, & Montreal! 
That's the place I like to be 
With all the girls so dear to me 
A Montreal, & MontrSall 

One night, in the course of a raging mock battle, blunderbusses and 
firecrackers going off, red and green flares shooting up and sizzling out, 
N.C.O.'s blowing whistles, and a general racket fit to raise the dead, 
Arnold and I, not quite unintentionally, became separated from the com- 
pany's main body just as we had planted the machine gun by the side of a 
ditch for a little rest. We didn't know whether we belonged to the defend- 
ing or to the attacking force, the "blues" or the "reds." Nobody came to 
enlighten us. One officer in passing switched a flashlight in our direction 
and called out: "You fellows reds or blues?" 

"We don't knowl" 

"Then you're green, damn youl" he shouted, laughing at his own joke. 

It was pitch-dark and, as I mentioned, it rained. Nol A storm, a tornado, 
a cloudburst was upon us. The Maxim slipped off the mudbank into the 
ditch. Try as we may, we couldn't lift it back on more or less solid ground 
for the whole terrain was by then a pool of mud and slime. We stayed 
faithfully by the sunken Maxim till the first rays of daylight when we 
heard the bugles far away blow the retreat. 

The British infantry manual says that in exceptional circumstances, such 
as when you are confronted with a force majeure, you are allowed to with- 
draw. Wasn't that Noah's flood a force majeure? I thought so. Accord- 
ingly I gave Arnold and myself the order to retreat. We straggled into 
the barracks by ourselves, two wet and weary soldiers of the King. The 
others were already drying themselves out. 

"Where's the Maxim?" demanded Peppy as we walked past the guard- 

"Gone down the drain!" said Arnold with a shrug of the shoulders. 

"Go back and get h'itl H'it's the King's property. If you ain't back by 
noon, hTll prefer charges against youl" 

Soldier of the King 129 

'What charges?" 

"Sequestering 'is Majesty's property. Go get, on the double!" 

"We can't do it alone," I said. "We've been trying our best since three 
o'clock this morning. It can't be budged!" 

"H'alright then, h'1'11 find a detail to go with you! But get the gun! That's 
stryte from the flag. . . . H'it'll go tough with you blokes if you fyle. . . ." 

After a cup of tea and some biscuits as hard and gritty as concrete 
smeared with the eternal plum and apple jam, we set out to look for the 
Maxim. Six men came along to assist us in our search. The long and short 
of it is we didn't find it, either then or afterwards. The gun had "sunk 
without a trace" as the German communiques used to say of our torpedoed 
convoy ships. But this meant that Arnold and I were "up for orderly 
room" the next evening. 

"Mark my word, you twoll be shot at sunrise as you damn well de- 
serve!" remarked the amiable Peppy as he "paraded" us into the colonel's 

There he was, Colonel Ross MacDonald, the man upon whom in time 
I came to look as a friend and big brother, and who unquestionably saved 
my life at a later stage in the war by digging me out of a bombed tunnel 
with his bare hands in three days and nights of unimaginable bone- 
wracking labor. 

Very tall, a clipped pepper and salt mustache, deep brown eyes, a 
strong chin and a prominent Celtic-type nose, there was a touch of frost 
at the colonel's temples announcing the proximity of middle age. When he 
looked up casually from where he sat behind a plain wooden table as the 
sergeant major paraded us into the orderly room, I noticed that his mouth 
was firm, though marked by patience and kindness. In front of him stood 
a water carafe and a glass. On the table lay some papers which he was 
reading and turning over rapidly, frowning and intent. 

"What's the charge, sergeant major?" 

"H'l beg to report, sir, these two men lost a Maxim gun " 

"Lost a machine gun? Where?" 

"Answer the colonel," ordered Peppy. "'E's h'askin' you a question, 

"Sir," I said, "the gun sank in the mud the other night. We can't even 
locate the spot where it disappeared. ..." 

"Stolen, you think?" 

"No, sir, I don't think so. Nobody could carry it off. It's too heavy." 

130 To Number Our Days 

"They probably sold it to a junk dealer across the river in Morristown," 
suggested Peppy, ever eager to speed our doom. 

"In the middle of the night?" I asked him. "Floated it across, no 

"'Old yer tongue! And stand to h'attention when you speak to the 
colonel. . . . " 

"That's alright, sergeant major," hushed the colonel. "We'll have to 
make another search, I guess. You had better take charge yourself " 

"Very well, sir!" 

"By the way, what do the accused do in civil life?" 

"Hit's all in front of you, sir, in those files. This 'ere one is a pipe fitter. 
TE comes from Montreal. The h'other one is a bee hay. ..." 

"A bee hay? What's that?" 

"Them's the funny letters behind 'is name, sir. D'you see, sir? Them's 
put in to 'igh 'at us regular army men, sir, if you'll pardon me saying so." 

"Very well, sergeant major, you may go. Take Tremblay with you. I 
want to keep the other man here for a minute. ..." 

"Shall h'l 'ave 'im locked up, sir, this 'ere Private Tremblay?" 

"Lock him up? What for? We need him for the search tomorrow, 
don't we? 

"How is it," asked Colonel MacDonald, after the others left, that you 
are marked down here as Holland born? Is that true?" 

"Of course it's true, sir." 

"And you a volunteer in a British army?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Well, that's fine! I can't tell you how much I appreciate that, my boy. 
You must be the only Hollander in this man's army." 

"Not the only one, sir, but one of very few, I dare say!" 

"Presbyterian, too?" 

"Dutch Reformed!" 

"Guid, guidl That's the same thing, isn't it? John Knox and John Calvin! 
I needn't tell you. By the way, why weren't you ordained?" He looked in 
the files again, and then stared me straight in the face. 

"The time hadn't come, sir!" 

"I see, but you can help me a lot, anyway. I want to start a Bible class 
in this battalion, you see." 

"A Bible class, sir? Isn't that forbidden?" I shuddered at the prospect. 

Soldier of the King 131 

I thought I was through with Bible classes for ever and ever. 

"It's forbidden to discuss religion in the ranks, if that is what you mean," 
said MacDonald. "But it's not forbidden to teach God's word, I trust. . . . 
Now look, let's be realistic. We are going to war, aren't we? All these 
fine lads will be thrown into battle. How many will come through? 
Nobody knows. But we can't let them go unprepared. They must stand 
before the judgment seat. It's up to you and me to tell them about Jesus, 
the mighty, to save! . . . We will start a Bible class next Sunday afternoon. 
Of course, attendance will be on a voluntary basis. We won't force 
anybody. But we may not withhold the saving word of grace from any 
man, high or low! You agree?" 

"Sir," I said, trying desperately to get away from this frying-pan-into- 
the-fire project, "most of the French Acadians are Roman Catholics. What 
about them? You don't expect them to come to your Bible class, do you?" 

" 'S long as the light holds out to burn, the vilest sinner may return. . . . 
The Acadians are my own boys. I come from their district. I know their 
parents, brothers and sisters. . . . Did you know that many of them are 
illiterate? That I write their letters for them and read the letters that 
come from their homes? There you can help, too. . . . Some painful letters 
will have to be written when we get to France. ..." 

"Sir, isn't that the chaplain's work? We have a chaplain, haven't we?" 

"Indeed we do. But the less said about him the better. The fellow 
isn't a believer in our sense of the word. ..." 

In our sense of the word! 

I felt the beads of perspiration run down my forehead as I realized that 
I was back where I started; in the old-time religion of Holland's deepest 
fundamentalism. But there was no escape. 

"I'll give you a couple of stripes now," resumed Colonel MacDonald. 
"When we move overseas I'll promote you to sergeant. I need you by my 
side. Can you use a typewriter? You can? I'm so glad to have found a 
man that I can depend on in matters of faith. ..." 

It may come as a surprise at this late hour to learn that the war of 
1914-18 was a religious war. Still, that's the way Colonel Ross MacDonald 
looked upon the struggle with the "Hun." In his book the British Empire 
represented the greatest power for good in a world of wickedness and 
sin. The Kaiser— "oh, that cursed fiend!"— was antichrist in person. Sir 
Douglas Haig, our commander in chief, was referred to as "Jehovah's 

132 To Number Our Days 

terrible swift sword." And wasn't the Prince of Wales providentially 
called after that David who shed Philistine blood by the bucketful? 

After my first interview with Colonel MacDonald I lay on the top 
bunk in the barrack room staring at an electric light bulb on the ceiling, 
and fell asleep dreaming of the Prussian Guard, the Amalekite and 
Jebusite guard, and all the other guards on record as enemies of the 
faith. . . . 

From the 'Cadians I learned that Colonel MacDonald was the owner 
and operator of vast timberlands in New Brunswick and a paper mill in 
Iroquois Falls. In his younger days he worked as foreman in one of his 
own lumber camps. From that time dated the nickname "Foghorn," given 
him by the lumberjacks whom he awakened with the thundering shout: 
"Daylight in the swamp!" Old Mac was above the military age when he 
enlisted, but, in collusion with the Right Honorable Sam Hughes, the 
Minister of War, he wormed himself into the army by keeping his age 
a secret. In his own bailiwick, a village near Sydney, Nova Scotia, he 
functioned as a banker. On Sundays he taught an adult Bible class in the 
Presbyterian church. He owned a bank, the general store, fishing boats, 
apple orchards and extensive pieces of real estate in different cities. 

All this wealth, I gladly testify, stood the battalion in good stead, 
especially when we reached France. The colonel received so many food 
packages and extras that he could not have possibly disposed of them 
by himself. We were the envy of the brigade, of the whole division, in 
fact, for having such a generous commander. The band's new instruments 
he paid for with his own money. As for the bagpipers, they were the apple 
of his eye. When these dudelsackers started their katzenjammer, Ross 
MacDonald whispered in ecstasy: "Ah, mon, what heavenly music! It is 
as if we were entering the pearly gates, don't you think?" Nobody thought 
so, but everybody agreed. For it is not wise to disagree with colonels. 
I say this for the benefit of the young who are still to face that ordeal. 

At Christmas he distributed thick woolen khaki-colored scarves among 
his fourteen hundred odd followers. What this meant once we crossed 
the ocean could perhaps be best ascertained by inquiring— some are still 
living today— amongst the girls, or rather the grandmothers, of Picardy 
and French Flanders. For we were irresistibly contaminated by the 
colonel's generosity. The demoiselles and their mamans shivering in the 
coldest winters of the war were indirectly the beneficiaries of Old Mac's 

Soldier of the King 133 

bounty. With the same impartiality, I should add, the girls also disposed 
of our surplus jam, cheese, white bread, bacon and. . . underwearl 

I don't know how many letters I wrote, hundreds at least, maybe a 
thousand. When the men of the Acadian company learned that they 
needn't importune the colonel any longer, but could confidently address 
themselves to me for their correspondence, they weren't slow to take 
advantage. Most of their missives dealt with family affairs or financial 
matters. Our battalion baker, Sergeant Jean Baptiste Pinay, had nine 
children and he wanted each of them mentioned by name in his weekly 
letter home. 

I didn't mind, for when I wrote letters I didn't have to take part in other 
more onerous "fatigues." Before long I came to like Pinay's children so well 
by long distance communication that I signed myself Oncle Pierre. More- 
over, Pinay was a good friend to have around. Everybody admired him 
because, short, multiple-chinned, and ruddy-complexioned, he was well 
over the military age and still determined to do his bit. His head was as 
bald as a billiard ball, but he had one qualification which gave him a fine 
reputation and brought in some extra cash for our pockets. He could lift 
a chair with his teeth with a man sitting on it. He didn't perform till all 
the bets were placed, generally with visitors from other units. It goes with- 
out saying that we always won. When the battalion went to Britain and 
was inspected by the King in Windsor Great Park, Sergeant Pinay was 
pointed out to His Majesty. "Glad to see you!" said George V. "The same 
here," replied Shorty who couldn't say more because he was out of breath 
with the exertion of holding in his potbelly in the King's presence. 

In France Pinay became more useful from a general point of view. He 
never went up the line with us, but stayed behind in the various billets 
behind the front. He not only bakecj bread, he could also make a fine loaf 
cake. The French people ate bad bread and no cake at all during the war. 
Pinay made money on the side baking cakes for his friends at five francs 
apiece. Soldiers and officers carried the cakes away as presents for their 
girl friends and other acquaintances. ... I didn't have to pay for my 
cakes. The letters to Madame Pinay and the children did the trick 

In the case of other clients for whom I wrote letters, it was I who usually 
put in a few words of endearment or a love paragraph at the end. 

"Don't you want to tell her that you still love her?" I would ask one of 
those 'Cadians far away from home. 

"Sure I do! What'll I say? Don't forget," the man would caution me, 

134 To Number Our Days 

"that Annemarie (or Susanne or Solange or whatever her name) cant 
read, and that she will have to get monsieur le cur6 to read my letter 

In this way a rather interesting contest as postilions d amour developed 
between various anonymous French Canadian ^parish priests and myself. 
Before long we were vying with each other in the fine points of love's 
terminology. Some of those clerics, to my surprise, put in a good deal 
more than one would expect from men who had made a vow of chastity. 

I could not very well stay away from Bible class. The colonel counted 
on me. Captain the Reverend Cyril Jones, M.A., also attended. He felt it 
his duty to sit in, and occasionally venture an opinion. Though twenty-six 
years old, Cyril Jones still looked very much like a boy. A shock of soft 
blond hair gave him a somewhat feminine allure. He was unassuming and 
shy of manner and about six feet tall. The only son of an Anglican vicar 
stationed in some rural community in Ontario, he was British born and 
a graduate of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. He held two de- 
grees and called himself a neoplatonist. For diversion he played the 
mandolin, singing Neapolitan songs, his supreme hope being a trip to Italy 
after the war. I never met another man so magnificently unprepared for 
the bitterness of life; absolutely without guile, almost a saint. Sometimes he 
seemed to be sojourning in another world as he sat meditating on what he 
had just read in some book on mysticism or prayer, his favorite subjects 
also in his sermons. It was Jones' firm conviction that the British people 
were the chosen race and the English gentleman type the nearest possible 
approach to human perfection. 

"Let me tell you one thing," he said one day as we sat drinking tea on 
the floor of a ruined farmhouse in the neighborhood of Bethune, "with all 
its faults and defects Western civilization has produced few things more 
admirable than the English gentleman * 

"You mean strong, courageous fellows, knights in shining armor, hearts 
of oak and all that sort of thing? But such people you find everywhere," 
I objected. 

"The character of the English gentleman is not based only on force and 
courage, but on truth, on public spiritedness, on a due sense of proportion 
and a sober enthusiasm for justice. . . ." 

"Is the English gentleman type found anywhere else on earth?" 

"Obviously not!" 

Soldier of the King 135 

"Aren't the Americans and Canadians of British stock? Couldn't some 
gentlemen have slipped in amongst them?" 

"Well, I don't want to appear uncharitable, we may perhaps go as far 
as to say that they are apprentice gentlemen. . . . There is indeed some 
hope for them. ..." 

"Is there any hope for creatures like myself?" 

"Decidedly! The more English you become, the broader will be your 
sympathy for others, the more Christian you will be. ... " 

"Jonesy, do you consider yourself a gentleman?" 

"I am trying, though I still apprehend the idea very imperfectly and 

realize it more imperfectly still Even so, I thank God every day that 

I was born an Englishman." 

"I'm glad Old Mac isn't hearing you. He doesn't think much of you 

"Oh, he knows my sentiments. . . . There's definitely something fine in 
the man though he is but poorly equipped with knowledge. I think he's 
sincerely striving to be civilized. Did you know that we both smoke the 
same brand of tobacco?" 

"I didn't know. . . . But could I have some more tea?" 

"Definitely! I notice that you too are making progress!" 

"I like coffee better." 

"You can't help that! It's one of the faults of the Americans and the 
Dutch Poor people! They're rather to be pitied than blamed for it." 

"Yes, we must have broad sympathies with others even though they are 
only coffee drinkers." 

"Quite right; I see that you are getting the pointl" 

The sessions of the colonel's Bible class were held in the messroom. 
Twenty, perhaps thirty men turned out, never more. We sat along the 
sides of a dining table, Colonel Mac presiding and Cyril Jones at the oppo- 
site end. Jones always began by offending our teacher by taking out his 
underslung pipe and filling it. 

"No smoking, please, Captain Jones!" warned Mac. 

"I'm not smoking, sir, I'm just holding my pipe in my mouth. I feel 
more comfortable that way." 

"Now," said Old Mac one afternoon as he told us the story of the miracu- 
lous fish catch on Lake Galilee, "now you see, fellows, all those great men 

136 To Number Our Days 

in the Bible, the apostles and the prophets, all of them had a trade or pro- 
fession quite apart from their position in the Church. . . . For instance, 
Peter and James, as we saw this afternoon, were fishermen. . . . Paul was 
a tentmaker . . . Luke was an M.D., and Mark an author. . . ." 

"Were there any bankers in those days, sir?" one boy asked not so 

For a moment the colonel seemed nettled by the question. He puckered 
his brow, sure sign of an approaching storm, for he understood perfectly 
well that it was a loaded question aimed at his own profession. Soon, how- 
ever, he bethought himself: "Sure," he replied kindly, "sure, there was 
Matthew. . . . Matthew was a banker; he was a publican, a tax collector— 
in other words, a financial expert. As I said, every great figure in the Bible 
had a trade or profession. We are told that Joseph was a carpenter, David 
a musician, Amos a plowman. Stephen, who was stoned to death, ran the 
charity distribution department in Jerusalem. . . ." 

"Sure, sure," spoke up Cyril Jones, "and Jehovah himself ran the barber- 

Dumfounded, the colonel's jaw dropped. He stared at the chaplain 
as if he had seen a ghost. 

"None of your smart-alecky tricks now, Mr. Jones! We're here to study 
the word of God. Do I understand you to say, sir, that God ran a barber- 
shop? Aren't you ashamed of yourself, sir?" 

"Sir, it says so in the Bible!" came back Cyril. 

"What does it say, sir?" 

"It says: 'And God himself will shave the beards of those of Babylon!' 
Look it up yourself. You've got a Bible there! Look it up, sir! The passage 
occurs in the seventh chapter of Isaiah, the twentieth verse." With these 
words the chaplain got up and walked out. 

The colonel located the passage, read it and passed the book to me: 
'What does it mean?" he asked. "Isn't this a heluva puzzler?" 

"The passage must be understood allegorically," I said, taking a des- 
perate chance at interpretation. "The Assyrians and the Babylonians in 
their brazen arrogance were inordinately proud of their beards. They 
wore their beards defiantly, challengingly, you might say, for they con- 
sidered themselves the masters of the world. If Isaiah says that God will 
shave off their beards, he means, no doubt, that they will be punished for 
their ungodly arrogance. Their magnificent beards will be snipped off and 
swept up with the dust. ..." 

Soldier of the King 137 

"I see, so that's what it means! . . . But did Jones have to say this in 
front of all those boys? Isn't he the craziest chaplain you ever heard of? 
Isn't he coming very near to atheism?" 

In the course of our stay quite a few of our men were united in holy 
matrimony to Brockville girls. I served as witness at no less than four 
weddings. The possession of a marriage certificate entitled the women to 
a separation allowance and a monthly gratuity from the Patriotic Fund. 
But those weddings also brought a lot of trouble, for the newlyweds pre- 
ferred being together at nights in the rooms they rented on the streets 
leading to the fair grounds where we were quartered, and Peppy wasn't 
very generous in doling out night passes. 

But as always, love found a way; the married men went over the fence 
at nights after the last roll call. The bunk next to mine belonging to Cor- 
poral Charles Pearce was usually empty, as were a dozen others. If the 
absentees returned before dawn they had little difficulty. The sentries 
posted around the grounds usually closed one eye or in comradely solid- 
arity pretended to be totally eyeless when they noticed a belated prodigal 
rejoining the home base. Occasionally, however, the Benedicts weren't 
back for morning roll call, and then there was the devil to pay. When they 
finally showed up, Peppy had no mercy and locked them up in the guard- 
room. At one time the clink was filled to the bursting point with unhappy 
married men. Old Mac then took a hand himself; he delivered a lecture 
to the battalion threatening to send repeaters to the military prison in 
nearby Kingston, Ontario. 

Nineteen men, three N.C.O.'s amongst them, wouldn't put up with 
Mac's no-sleeping-out decree. One night they hired a boat a few miles 
down the river and deserted to the American side taking their wives with 

"You only have yourselves to blame," the colonel quite illogically told 
the remaining 1400 loyal ones, "if after this wholesale desertion, we move 
overseas much earlier than first anticipated." 

This, however, was no threat; we wanted to go overseas! At that time 
most of us were still anxious to have it over with. Had we known what was 
in store for us, we might well have tried to dally as long as possible in the 
peaceful Laurentian environment. 

On the evening of February 1, 1917, the battalion suddenly received 
orders to entrain for Halifax. The entire population of Brockville, its 

138 v To Number Our Days 

streets and civic buildings festively illuminated, was out to bid us adieu. 
Thousands of people walked with us to the station. Many girls linked 
arms with the troops. Everything was permitted. One young lady, a radiant 
beauty with hair the color of a freshly minted gold coin, who said her 
name was Dorothy, suggested that she carry my rifle for me. 

'Why didn't I meet you before?" I asked. 

"It's your own fault," she said. "I saw you a dozen times on the streets 
at nights, but you never looked at me." 

After two minutes the rifle proved too heavy for her. So she put on my 
cap and held on to my arm as if starting on the honeymoon. 

The band stood playing at the end of the railway platform: 'If her 
eyes are blue as skies, that's Peggy O'NeiT and "Oh, don't deceive me, Oh, 
never leave mel How could you use a poor maiden so?" 

Women and girls, members of the local ladies' aid societies of all de- 
nominations, loaded us with boxes and packages of cake and pie, 
chocolates and candy. Girls you had never seen before walked up, threw 
their arms around you and kissed you till they took your breath away. 

It was a gay scene, but also a sad one; mothers and fathers, sisters and 
sweethearts clung to their departing boys as if they would never let go. 
Peppy's wife, leaning on her husband's shoulders, sobbed her heart out. 
The colonel's wife, smiling bravely through her tears, clutched her man's 
arm. Nor could Cyril Jones control his emotions as he embraced his father 
and mother. . .for the last time! 

Old Mac himself had to wipe his eyes time and again. Then suddenly 
he straightened out and signaled to the bandmaster. A whistle blew and 
for an instant no sound was heard save for the puffing of the locomotive 
far up in front. 

A cold chill ran down my spine. Was it the angel of death passing by, 
serving notice that all the fun was over and the real business of war 
about to commence? 

Again Peppy's whistle shrieked! The color guard stepped forward. We 
presented arms as the band struck up; first the national anthem: 

O Canada, terre de nos aleux. . . . 
then Old Mac's favorite: 

God be with you till we meet again! 
When life's perils thick confound you, 
Put His loving arms around you. . . . 

Soldier of the King 139 

We slept on the floor of a huge armory building in Halifax where we 
arrived late at night. Early the next morning we went on board the 
S.S. Metagama, a medium-sized C.P.R. passenger liner. We were scarcely 
installed in our cabins when the ship raised anchor and we moved out to 
sea. There were seven or eight ships in the convoy; one boat was loaded 
with New Zealand troops who had traveled across the Pacific to Vancouver 
and from that city by rail to Halifax. Another ship carried Manchurian 
labor units, for China was in the war too— on our side, that is. The other 
ships were freighters carrying guns and munitions. 

'We'll be safe," Peppy said as we stood leaning over the railing watch- 
ing the convoy ships taking up their positions. "I mean the Jerry subs 
wont attack us." 

"Why not?" 

'They say Prime Minister Borden is on board with us here. The Jerries 
never fire at prime ministers. ..." 

They might not have fired at the prime minister; we had a good scare 
nevertheless. A little more than halfway across, a whole flock of British 
destroyers hove in sight. They dashed to and fro, circled the convoy, then 
moved off again into the fog. Suddenly in the middle of the night the 
alarm signals screamed. The Metagama's engines stopped and we were 
all ordered to the top deck where we stood in three rows with life belts 
around our necks. We all thought that a submarine had been sighted, 
but how anyone could see anything in that pitch-black night was in- 

Pretty soon a destroyer hove to, lowered a boat and a party of British 
naval officers clambered up our bridge ladder on the starboard. The 
naval officers talked with the Metagama's captain who summoned Old 
Mac, who in turn summoned Peppy. All went below deck and stopped 
before the door of a cabin on E deck. The Britishers got from Peppy the 
names of the men quartered in that particular cabin, but who were for the 
time being on deck standing by during the alert. When the boarding 
party returned, revolvers were drawn and a naval lieutenant seized hold 
of one of our men. They took him off in their boat and at the same time 
the Metagama's engines started up again. 

We all knew the fellow who was removed. He had told us that he was 
a naturalized Swiss. "He's more likely a German," explained Old Mac. 
"He has been signaling the subs with a flashlight from the porthole of his 
cabin. He attracted a destroyer's attention. Maybe the sub's attention 

140 To Number Our Days 

as well. Well have to stay on deck till we get word from the destroyers 
that the coast is clear." 

Three hours we stood waiting. At the peep of dawn there was a burst 
of gunfire from two of the destroyers and from the naval gun mounted 
on the aftdeck of the New Zealand troopship. Whether a German sub- 
marine got near our convoy, I don't know. We only saw the flashes of 

the guns When daylight came all the ships were seen steaming in 

proper order. We never saw our "Swiss" fellow soldier again. 

In Liverpool's harbor the New Zealanders went ashore first. We fol- 
lowed soon after. First a roll call on deck under the critical gaze of 
British officers who scanned every mans face, asked his name and 
regimental number and checked these off on their lists. Another roll call 
followed on the quay with more questions and a third time on the railway 
platform by intelligence police. 

Our first stop was the railway station at Oxford where we got off the 
train and had tea with crackers handed out by a detachment of WAACs.* 
The sun was sinking fast, but in the distance we could still see the towers 
of the famous colleges and Christ Church Cathedral outlined against the 
day's afterglow It was night when we reached our destination. 

"Is this Purfleet?" I asked Peppy. 

"HI don't know where we are, but it ain't Purfleet, that much h'l 

After one more roll call we marched off in the stygian dark, the pibrochs 
skirling to drown out the curses of the men stumbling and bumping into 
each other on a poor narrow country road or, as the British call it: a 
lane. By three in the morning we reached our camp and were quartered 
in wooden huts after getting another cup of tea from another squad of 

These young ladies informed us that we were in the middle of 
Windsor Great Park and that the royal castle was about two miles off. 
With that it started to rain and it rained for a solid month. 

Though we were in quarantine for a fortnight, this did not mean that 
we could rest on our laurels. In the first place, there were no laurels to 
rest on. We dug trenches, we marched miles and miles over the endless 
roads through Windsor Great Park, we put up some huts, we had special 
instructors sent over from Aldershot to improve our manners in the gentle 
art of bayonet fighting and we were taught boxing and wrestling. I made 
♦Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. 

Soldier of the King 1 41 

but one appearance in the ring against a certain Sergeant Phillips, who 
flattened me with one terrific blow on the chin which made me feel 
groggy for a week. Two weeks later I took revenge on him in a place 
where no gloves were available and the Marquis of Queensberry rules did 
not count; in a pub at Sunningdale. 

It rained so heavily during those first weeks that the colonel grew 
worried. He remembered the experience of the First Division which 
lost nearly half its man power in an epidemic of spinal meningitis in the 
rain-soaked huts of flooded Salisbury Plains in the course of the winter 
1914-15. The troops were coughing and sneezing and developing respir- 
atory ailments. Several cases of pneumonia were diagnosed. The entire 
band was on its back with influenza. The general feeling was that if we 
could only get a little more wood for the tiny stoves standing in the 
middle of the huts, we would soon be ourselves again. For this a remedy 
lay close at hand; Windsor Great Park grows plenty of trees. Put two and 
two together, that is: trees and a gang of bushwackers from New 
Brunswick, and you have the solution. A tremendous sensation was the 
upshot. One of the trees chopped down dated from the tenth or eleventh 
century. It was so worm-eaten and decrepit that its ancient branches had 
to be supported with poles. It had a fence around it and a sign on the 
fence saying that in this hollow oak the Black Prince or Richard or some 
other King hid for a few hours during some battle in the long-ago. The 
tree was so dry and dead that, when cut up, it burnt like pitch. 

A whole troop of Coldstream Guards from Windsor Castle called at 
our camp to raise hell for the burning of the King's tree. We had destroyed 
"a national monument." We were guilty of an act of vandalism, disrespect, 
lese-majeste, I don't know what else. The gold-braided, beribboned 
Guards' captain spoke to our colonel within hearing of a score of men. 
Old Mac's temper rose to one of his rare Highland furies when he heard 
the word vandalism applied to his lambkins. Who chopped down the tree, 
the beautiful captain wanted to know. 

"I chopped down your bloody tree," Old Mac replied in his best 
fog-horn style. "The health of my men, sir, is worth more than all the 
damned trees in England, Wales and Scotland put together " 

"Don't your men realize, sir, that there's a war on, that we must con- 
serve fuel?" 

"A war on? You don't say? Who the hell are we fighting now, sir, the 
bloody Afghans again?" 

142 To Number Our Days 

When the colonel occasionally reversed the sequence of the companies 
on the march, I found myself in the first rank of the fifth company right 
behind the band, which meant that in front of me moved the bass tuba, 
the oompah. This was played by one Michael Brophy, a North of Ireland 
man who had transferred from the Mounted Rifles so as to change his 
spurs from his heels to his elbows in order, as he said, to be able to 
scratch his back properly. 

Brophy hailed from the town of Ballyshannon. He was a perpetual joy 
with his gift of the gab and his uninterrupted stream of Irish brogue. 
Sergeant Major Peppy might scream for silence in the ranks till his face 
was as red as his hair, the irrepressible Mike paid not the least attention. 

"That limey can't put me in the clink," he commented. "There's only 
one oompah in this outfit. . . . They can't do without me." 

In a stentorian voice and an accent reminiscent of the Emerald Isle, he 
kept up a running comment on whatever or whomever we passed in the 
streets. When on the march in Windsor Park, he entertained all within 
hearing with a rollicking description of the members of the British upper- 

"Did you blokes ever notice how closely the dukes resemble their but- 
lers? D you know how that is? Without the endeavors of the gentlemen 
butlers all the earls and baronets would be pure nitwits and Mongolian 
idiots. Butlers and chorus girls are the saviors of the British aristocracy. . . . 

"When I see all those harmless does and deer lying about and grazing, 
I lose all the respect I ever had for the king. . . . Isn't the man a little bit 
ashamed of himself now? Is this what he hunts and boasts about when he 
has his picture taken for the newspapers with the cadavers of gazelles at 
his feet? . . . And all those gamekeepers standing about; ach, they are the 
most disgusting, degenerated, detestable duds I ever clapped me eyes on. 
I would gladly crush them like bedbugs if I didn't know that dead they 
stink still morel 

"Alright, Chester," he'd shout to the sergeant major bandmaster over 
the heads of the other bandmen. "Chester, I have a dirty taste inside me 
mouth. Let's have a tune that's fresh and clean! Wadda yah say, Chester? 
*Eyes right, a — tight, foreskins to the front. . . / Let's go!" 

Thus I remembered Corporal Brophy, D.S.M., * young, carefree, tall 
and lithe, the joy of the battalion ... till exactly forty years later when I 
*Distinguislied Service Medal. 

Soldier of the King 143 

came to Ottawa (one day in 1957) and stayed at the hotel Ch&teau 
Laurier. In the evening I went down to the basement cafeteria and was 
pushing a metal tray along when the food dispenser behind the counter 
called out: "Hey, Brophy, some more plates herel" At first the name didn't 
ring a bell. But when the employee carrying a stack of plates passed right 
in front of me, my heart sank in my shoes. There was Mike Brophy! He 
had shrunk and walked with a stoop. He shuffled his slippered feet, his 
hair was white as snow, his mouth had fallen in for lack of teeth. . . . Was 
it possible? 

"Hi there, Corporal Brophyl" 

He looked at me for a moment after he put down the plates: "Oh, it's 
you, Peerie?" Then he came from behind the counter and walked up to 
me. We shook hands and he muttered something incomprehensible. 

"Anything wrong, Mike?" I asked. 

"You knew Mary, didn't you? And Jimmy, me boy? Well, she's gone, 
Peerie, and Jimmy's gone, tool Ah, you'll never fathom the pains she suf- 
fered. She died of cancer, Peerie. . . . Jim was taken prisoner by the Japs 
in Hong Kong He died in one of their bloody camps " 

When the quarantine was over, we received permission to walk out or 
catch a bus at nights and on Sundays to Maidenhead, Virginia Water, 
Windsor, Eton, Richmond and other towns in the vicinity. They tell me 
that sailors have a girl in every port. I can well believe it. It's one of the 
risks of their job. But the Corps of Guides easily went the navy one better. 
In those English towns, as William Langland found long ago, "all was 
buxomness . . . and great love and liking; for each loveth other." In no time 
every guy was in love or at least thought he was. No doubt, 't is bliss to be 
in England, but it's got to be spring to be very heaven. During our 
sojourn it was winter; the grass was much too wet. Every night the stoves 
in the huts had to be fired up: the ceiling was draped with tunics, great- 
coats and especially breeches hanging up to dry. . . . 

Two weeks before crossing over to France, Old Mac assembled his 
followers to tell them that they were to have ten days' leave of absence 
and could go wherever they liked, rail transportation being free through- 
out the British Isles. I found my way to London town. Since the passengers 
from the leave boats from France had just come in, there was no room at 
the Canadian Maple Leaf Club on the Strand, so that I was assigned to a 
large wooden shed built up against the walls of the then half-finished 

144 To Number Our Days 

Westminster Cathedral. The "hut" or hostel was run by the Catholic 
Women's League. There was a huge sitting room and WAACs behind a 
counter serving tea. The price per night for a cubicle with two beds was 
one shilling. I was alone for an hour when Cyril Jones walked in with his 
mandolin under one arm and some books in his other hand. . . . 

"Can I sleep here?" 

"Of course! What books have you got there? All Italian, I see!" 

"Yes, we're going to do a little studying." 

"You wont have a chance, there's too much to see in this town." 

"In Soho there are Italian clubs and restaurants; I'd like to try my luck 
there. I must get into practice. After the war I'm going to Italy, you 
know. ..." 

It was Friday night, March 16, 1917; we had till Saturday, March 24, at 
eleven o'clock in the evening before we were expected back in Windsor 
Park. We spent the next day looking at Madame Tussaud's waxworks, 
the Tower of London, the British Museum and in the evening went to a 
vaudeville theater accompanied by two WAACs from the Catholic Women 
League's hostel who had free tickets for "lonesome soldiers." On Sunday 
Jones was off at daybreak to attend an early service at Westminster Abbey. 
I went to St. Paul's Cathedral and had the immense pleasure of hearing 
the famous Dean, the Very Reverend William Ralph Inge, preach a mag- 
nificent sermon from the text: "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the 
world. ..." In the evening I paid a visit to the Church of the Austin Friars 
on Threadneedle Street and heard a sermon in Dutch, far too long, far 
too tedious and far too sanctimonious. . . . 

Next to me in the pew sat a man with a blond beard in a black suit. He 
looked sideways at me to see if the fellow in the British uniform could 
follow the words in the Dutch psalmbook. When the service was over we 
walked out together. In ten minutes I knew his whole life story. He was 
a sea captain, had been torpedoed twice, but, instead of blaming the Ger- 
mans for his misadventures, he charged them up to the British. 

"I tell you what we'll do. You'll come aboard my ship. I'm moored near 
London Bridge. Till I'm cleared by the customs, 111 hide you in the hold. 
In three days you'll be back in Holland where you belong. ..." 

"No thanks!" 

"You won't come along?" 


"Why not? You'll be rid of the red necks!" 

Soldier of the King 145 

"I wont, I tell you. I don t belong in Holland any longer." 
"Go to hell!" He turned away. "You landverrader, traitorl" 

That visit to London, short though it was, and my purse dwindling with 
every passing day, has remained a treasured memory throughout the 
long succession of years. None other of the many visits I paid to London 
in afteryears was so memorable. The town was full of soldiers, most of 
them on leave from the front in France and Belgium or the various training 
camps in Britain itself. When Jones left to visit his old college in Cam- 
bridge, a Cameron highlander became my neighbor in the cubicle. Next 
door stayed two Anzacs, members of the Australian and New Zealand 
army corps, and on the other side two men belonging to the South 
African Springbok Division who told me in their quaint Cape Dutch that 
they were as good as excommunicated by their Calvinist parents for 
serving in the army of "the enemy." 

Strange to say, it seemed almost a rule of Medes and Persians for all 
these "colonials" to go and see the changing of the guard in front of Buck- 
ingham Palace at eleven in the morning. I stood with the two Springboks 
in a dense mob of soldiers watching the Grenadier Guards do the honors 
in front of the royal residence one morning. "Imperial"* military police 
went around amongst the spectators demanding that a coat button be 
fastened here or a cap set straight there; suggestions which were not 
universally accepted with good grace. All went well, however, till the 
M.P/s started their sartorial hectoring on some Australians. They did 
not get very far. 

"Who the hell are you?" demanded one Aussie of the M.P/s who ac- 
costed him. "Will you bastards bloody well keep your hands off my hat 
or must I teach you a bloody lesson?" 

The M.P/s, who probably had previous experience with antipodeans, 
blew whistles and other M.P/s came to their aid. I fear that a detailed 
report of the ensuing conversation would not make for interempire or 
commonwealth unity even at this late hour of the common market, and 
hence omit it. The officers amongst the Australians were already removing 
their badges of rank from their shoulder straps in anticipation of fighting 
it out, when an elderly gray-haired inspector of the Metropolitan Police 
interposed himself between the contending parties. To the M.P/s he said: 
"You re not the only pebble on the beach, you knowl The diggers have as 
*A11 troops from the British Isles proper were called "imperials" by us. 

146 To Number Our Days 

much right to stand here as you. . . even if they wanted to stand stark- 

"You just came in time, Mac," the Aussies told the inspector, "for that's 
just what we planned to do. . . . We were going to strip the pants off every 
bloody M.P. in London. . . . * 

Could they have done it? 

They did it, once in Le Havre, France, and once before in Cairo, Egypt, 
where in addition they burnt down 24 blocks in the red-light district near 
the Fish Market. . . . 


With Jones when he returned from Cambridge, I went to Canterbury 
by train. Except for lunch and tea in an establishment on High Street, 
we spent the entire day in the cathedral. Jones knew the place like a 
book. I visited Canterbury several times in later years to see my friend 
the Dean, Dr. Hewlett Johnson, but I never again had a guide so perfect 
and omniscient as Cyril Jones. He showed me the hall where Archbishop 
Becket ate in public of pheasant and roast beef and nineteen other courses, 
washing it all down with goblets of red wine from Poissy with which the 
King of France supplied him. Of course, we looked at the flagstones 
where Becket's blood was shed on December 29, 1170, and sat in front 
of St. Augustine's Abbey which is second in seniority only to Monte 
Cassino in the Benedictine Order. 

As we sat on a stone bench in a brief spell of sunshine, a venerable 
clergyman with long white hair and a marvelous fine face who looked, 
I thought, very much like "The Warden'' as pictured in Anthony Trollope's 
novel of that name, greeted us: "Where may you be from?" 

"From Canada," replied Cyril. 

"Good heavens," the cleric exclaimed, "you have come a long wayl 
Many thanks for coming!" 

"May I ask what is your position in the cathedral, reverend father?" 
queried Cyril. 

"I'm only a pop gun. ..." 

"What's that?" 

"A Minor CanonI" 

It was like living for a day in the Middle Ages except for the fact that 
in that distant time the cathedral was a much livelier place than now. 
Not only because of the pilgrims from all over the world seeking healing 
and miracles near the tomb of St. Thomas & Becket, but because mystery 

Soldier of the King 147 

plays and communal dinners were given in the cathedral with the people 
sitting on straw on the floor. The cathedral was their theater, their 
symphony orchestra, the lovers' trysting place and club as well as their 
house of prayer. Becket was as magnificent, if not more so, than King 
Henry. The churches were not then as they stand today, to use Richard 
Church's somber definition: "quiet solitudes of ghostly masonry ." 

We crossed the Channel on April 8, 1917, and heard a loud-speaker on 
the steamship quay at Boulogne blare out the news that America had 
declared war. 

"What does it mean, Pierre? ,, asked Ross MacDonald. 

"It means that we are going to win/' I said. 

"That was never in doubt/' he came back. "I only hope that the Kaiser 
will not try to knock us out before the Yanks get here " 

Just then a Frenchman in civilian clothes with a lady on his arm walked 
to the edge of the quay and, quite unconcerned by the stares of 1500 men, 
stood urinating into the harbor. The battalion shook with laughter, and of 
comment on this touchingly pastoral scene there was no end that after- 

It's eighteen miles as the crow flies from Boulogne to Etaples. It took 
us a full twelve hours to cover the distance. The colonel drove off in a 
staff car. And then there were so many alluring pubs near the waterside 
that the troops could not withstand the temptation to taste what was on 
tap in those dives and taverns. It took nearly two hours to round them up 
for the fall-in to Etaples where we were immediately swallowed up in the 
melting pot of a hundred thousand men from the four corners of the earth 
and learned the eternal lesson that we too weren't the only pebbles on the 

If the Corps of Guides didn't do any guiding when it got to France, 
what other function, it may well be asked, did it perform in the general 
scheme of things? Well, sometimes we were pressed into service as plain 
infantry. Other times we were set to digging tunnels underneath the Ger- 
man trenches for the purpose of blowing their occupants to hell. This 
work fell literally in the category of a rat race since Jerry was a swift and 
thoroughgoing digger himself. The listening devices being seldom of much 
use on account of the steady roar and rumble of the artillery, the German 
sappers as well as we had to guess as to the moment of truth when to set 

148 To Number Our Days 

off the charges of dynamite which would produce an artificial volcano 
and a landslide engulfing, burying and obliterating in one fell swoop as 
many of the opposing team as was humanly possible. It was a nerve- 
wracking business, enough to drive you insane, if you let yourself go and 
think about its hazards. But then, luckily, we didn't do much thinking! 
In this respect we were perfect soldiers. 

The next item on our program turned us into a common ordinary gang 
of "navvies." This happened when the Guides were ordered to sew small 
square patches of red cloth in the middle of the back of their uniforms 
between the shoulder blades, and were rebaptized "a battalion of royal 
engineers on a temporary basis." The reason was that the railway line 
Abbeville-Hazebrouck, along which moved the supply trains for our hard- 
pressed infantry divisions in the Franco-Belgian border region, had come 
under a withering artillery attack. 

The bottleneck between the enemy's advance position to the east of us 
and the North Sea to the west was no more than fifteen kilometers 
wide. . . . The coastal dirt road from Dieppe to the Belgian frontier and 
German-occupied Dunkirk, which ran to the west of the railway line, was 
choked with guns, troops, transport and an endless stream of ambulances 
going to or returning from the forward dressing stations. One needn't be a 
Moltke or Treitzke to figure out that if that rail line had been permanently 
cut, our forces up north, British, Belgian and Portuguese deprived of 
munitions and supplies, would have been annihilated or forced to sur- 

It was our job to keep the trains moving by repairing the tracks which 
were damaged almost uninterruptedly. The area under fire extended for 
some twenty-five kilometers to the north where French railway troops 
were employed on the same task of keeping the tracks clear. On both sides 
of the line, as far as the eye could reach, lay a jumbled mass of smashed-up 
freight cars, tenders and locomotives. The German barrage came from the 
direction of Amiens. On rare clear days we could see the towers of the 
cathedral, a perfect target for the German artillery, and the white and 

black puffs of smoke of their exploding shells Twice the Fritzes 

aimed their poison gas cylinders at us, both times the northwest wind 
kept the vapors from coming near. 

We were two long months on the railway line, divided in day and night 
shifts, sleeping in ruined farmhouses and barns, eating hard tack with 
canned meat called Mackonachie. We lost more men in that period than 

Soldier of the King 149 

during the whole rest of the war. We weren't exactly sitting ducks, but 
came very near it. The infantry had it soft compared with us; they at 
least had their trenches and dugouts. 

The night shift was the worst. There we were in parties of twenty, 
soaked to the skin, lifting a piece of railway track by means of gigantic 
pincers, slipping and sliding in the mud up and down the embankment, 
and then a parachute flare suddenly opening up above our heads 
revealing every moving object as far as the eye could reach. In such 
moments the "royal engineers on a temporary basis" dropped the rail line 
like a hot potato and plopped headlong in the mud and lay there most 

unroyally till the light burnt out Old Mac was the hardest worker of 

all, for he alone knew the secret of the emergency. His face was haggard 
and tense with exhaustion and worry. I never learned till after the war 
that while we were busy on the railway line, General Gough's Fifth Army 
was annihilated and we lost 149,000 men in prisoners in ten days. 

When the danger of a German break-through had passed by the reduc- 
tion of the salient, Sir Arthur Currie, C.O.C., Canadian Expeditionary 
Force, rewarded us with a well deserved period of rest in the base camp 
of Etaples. We were issued new clothes and made a festive bonfire of our 
old uniforms and greatcoats which had been ripped to shreds on the 
railway line. There being a shortage of Canadian greatcoats, I was given 
a brand-new British specimen which was better tailored, double-breasted 
and far more glamorous 

Colonel MacDonald fell in with the idea to give the troops a little more 
lively diversion than was occasionally provided by entertainers sent over 
by the Y.M.C.A. and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Cyril 
Jones, myself, and three or four others were commissioned to arrange for 
a theatrical performance by scaring up some local talent from St. Omer, 
Le Touquet, Le Tr£port, St. Val£ry, and other towns in the vicinity. The 
colonel gave us a thousand francs to start with, a fortune in those days, 
and the advice to do our best. 

While Raoul Desormeaux a newcomer, Jones the neoplatonist, and I 
scouted for talent, the band, whose members served as stretcher-bearers 
during our periods in the line, got its instruments back and learned to 
play appropriate light music such as "Keep your eye on the girl that you 
love," and "Oh, Johnny, oh, Johnny, heavens above " 

We recruited thirty young ladies for a revue which was provisionally 

150 To Number Our Days 

known as The Boulogne Scandals, so called in honor of Boulogne-sur-Mer, 
about which there is really nothing scandalous to report except perhaps 
that the town at that time had an unusually large number of clip and 
gyp joints. 

A certain captain, who claimed to be a theatrical agent in civil life, 
trained the girls in the ballroom of the Hotel Lion d'Argent in Etaples, 
where the artistes were also lodged, at Old Mac's expense it goes without 
saying. While watching the rehearsals, I gained the impression that strip- 
teasing en masse doesn't really require much training. At any rate, dis- 
robing seemed to come perfectly natural with those girls. I had never 
been in a theater in my life and thought the performance "exquisite, 
explosive, an erotic riot.'' Such at least were the adjectives which I, as 
the publicity man for the show, used to describe the attraction on the 
announcement posters in camp. 

One day we had a visit at the Lion d'Argent from Lady Diana Duff 
Cooper who ran the canteen for the high brass on the hill in Camp Etaples. 
Lady Diana was accompanied by General Gerald F. Trotter, V.C., and 
H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. Each spoke a word of encouragement to the 
trainees after our girls gave an exhibition of their high-kicking art. After 
that everybody wanted to see the show in the making. The entire general 
staff moved up so that it became a little crowded at the Lion d'Argent. 

The r6p£tition gSnSrale came off very well. But on the night when the 
Boulogne Scandals were to appear for their premiere at the big dreary 
hall near the Bull Ring, thousands of would-be spectators were forced 
to wait in vain. 

A division of Australians had moved into camp on the very morning 
when we were to stage the grand opening. These antipodeans were also 
in from the line for a period of rest. By eventide their officers crossed the 
dividing line between the camp and the town of Etaples and, as fate would 
have it, found the Lion d'Argent. They took our only too willing artistes 
in to dinner and by eight o'clock, when we sent out six staff cars to pick 
up the mademoiselles, they and the Aussies had vanished in the night. . . . 

The whole camp was in an uproar. Thousands of men went in search 
of the vanished Scandals. Not one was found. In the street in front of 
the hotel such a riot took place that the Provost Marshal had the alarm 
sounded and police troops came running on the double, and. . .drove us 
back like sheep to our tents. ... 

Soldier of the King 151 

The British poet Robert Graves mentions in "Goodbye to All That" 
that the unit in which he served, a battalion of Welsh Fusiliers, suffered 
heavy casualties as a result of German sniping activities. He adds that the 
Canadians finally put an end to this deadly game. What he does not say 
is that the stunt of silencing the snipers was pulled off, not by Canadians, 
but by a crew of Red Indians from the Six Nations' reservation near 
Brantford, Ontario. These Indians were our men, and they alone were 
responsible for getting our honored name of "Guides" restored to us. 

There's no denying that the German snipers for a time played havoc 
with our troops. They were nearly all head wounds which they inflicted, 
in other words, the most dangerous and deadly. How to overcome this 
insidious evil had long occupied the so-called best brains of our high 
command. No solution was found till our Ruby the Indian chief and his 
friends took a hand, and in their own way brought the enemy sniping to 
an end for good. 

The Indians used specially fabricated Ross rifles of extraordinary pre- 
cision. Before using these guns, they carefully explored the terrain to 
familiarize themselves with the German snipers' positions and the enemy's 
methods of operation. It was a battle of wits and agility, for it involved 
crawling into no man's land in the middle of the night and making their 
way like snakes between the thousands of wooden stakes and posts on 
which the barbed wire was strung. In many a spot the Fritzes, also by 
the crawling method, had stuck tin cans or even pots and pans on top 
of the stakes. In daylight the Germans trained their seven-foot-long 
barreled sniping rifles on these tins and pots so that when darkness came 
and one of our patrols or wire-repairing parties accidentally touched the 
posts and set the cans a-rattling, all the Germans had to do was fire in 
the direction of the sound and were almost bound to hit somebody. 

As a sample of their marksmanship I might cite the occasion when I 
walked through a front line trench in the middle of the night. A man 
carrying his rifle with bayonet fixed immediately ahead happened to 
stumble over the duckboards. Somebody turned on a flashlight for an 
instant and. . .ping! a sniper's bullet struck the bayonet. A shot fired 
from 600 yards' distance broke off the tip of the bayonet. The splinter 
embedded itself in my left leg just below the knee. I poured some iodine 
on the gash and carried on till, two days later, I developed a stiff ankle 
and then a stiff knee: septic poisoning had set in. . . . 

152 To Number Our Days 

After cutting holes in the barbed wire, Ruby and his men tied strings to 
all these German tin cans and contraptions, a highly hazardous under- 
taking, for the least jingle or rattle brought on an immediate riposte from 
the German rifles which were trained on these objects. When they had 
tied on the strings, the Indians crawled back to our trenches and waited. 
Then they pulled the strings and the cans moved. The Fritzes fired, 
hitting nobody of course, and the Indians fired back aiming at the spurt 
of flame from the German rifles. In this way they silenced one sniper 
after the other. 

Another stratagem employed by Ruby was to crawl out into no man's 
land and paint a tiny streak of luminous paint on the wire posts and props 
on the side facing the German line. When back in our trench, the Indians 
would toss a sack of straw or a bundle of old clothes across the barbed 
wire. Then very slowly they pulled the sack towards them. When the sack 
moved past the painted stakes, the Germans invariably mistook the moving 
object for the body of one of our men on crawling patrol. The German 
snipers fired immediately and thus disclosed their own position. This is 
what Ruby was waiting for. Again he and his men fired back, knocking 
out the snipers by a lightninglike crack at the tongue of fire leaping from 
their long-barreled guns. 

On our section of the front the snipers were demolished in a month's 
time whereupon Ruby and his men moved to other sections of the line. 
Everywhere they were highly successful. 

Although many of our fellows were killed in action or permanently 
disabled, such was not the case with Raoul Desormeaux, the newcomer, 
who became the best friend I had in the army. It was fickle Eros who 
brought him to a fall. Raoul's mind went to pieces on a double-barreled 
love affair. The young lady to whom he was engaged to be married lived 
in the Lachine suburb of Montreal. The other damsel was a French 
countess, the granddaughter of a retired French army general in the 
resort town of Paris-Plage just south of Boulogne-sur-Mer ten miles from 
Etaples, whose dinner guest I was once, but Raoul half a dozen times. 

We met the countess through her grandfather whom we encountered 
one afternoon strolling near the seashore of Paris-Plage. The general, 
Fran§ois de St. Gervais, looked as old as Methuselah. His white mustaches 
streamed like two wayward banners in the sea breeze. He had more 
decorations than I had ever seen before. He wore a red and gold kepi, 

Soldier of the King 153 

and a uniform featuring a pair of violently red trousers which may have 
been regulation in the third Napoleons time, but now looked as if they 
had been retrieved from some scarecrow in the fields. 

When we saluted, the general stopped, and mistaking us for Russians 
(not an unusual occurrence) complimented us on a victory lately won 
by the man to whom he referred as "your noble commander in chief, 
His Imperial Highness, the Grand Duke Nikolas Nikolaevich." We hadn't 
heard of that victory, nor did we receive confirmation of it ever after. 
Raoul and I became aware that the old boy was pretty well gaga when he 
started to tell us that the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 was by no means 
the harrowing debacle "the dirty pig" Emile Zola makes it out to have 
been in his book on the battle of Sedan. General de St. Gervais com- 
manded an infantry brigade in that war and, if you could believe him, 
won it hands down all by himself. 

He invited us into his house, and showed us an immense map of 
France spread out on a specially constructed table of the kind the general 
staffs have at their disposal in the chateaux where they think up the next 
offensive. On the map stood whole forests of tiny pin flags, red, blue, green 
and yellow in color. Red flags indicated the spots where "our noble 
British allies" held the line. The blue flags represented General Foch's 
divisions, while the green and yellow symbols stood for the Belgians and 
Portuguese, whom the general, en passant, also raised to nobility. 

Red Pants walked up and down the room, his hands clasped behind 
his back, discoursing on the battles of the Marne, Verdun, the Chemin des 
Dames and the Somme front. Suddenly he pounced on the map and with 
his ebony walking stick pointed to a cluster of blue flags. 

"Ici," he said, "stands General Petain! ... If that nincompoop would not 
always allow the enemy to make up his mind for him, we would already 
be in Berlin. . . . Look, if you please, if Petain would pay heed to the many 
letters I wrote him on the subject, he would attack Id, over there, out, 
right there. . . . Without the slightest difficulty he could roll Hindenburg 
back on the Meuse, while Giraud and Magnin, standing here, id, at 

this point, would catch the Boche on the rebound The war," he 

snapped his fingers, "would be over in one stroke just like that " 

"Moi, je suis Liliane, I am Liliane," announced a black-velvet-gowned 
madonna who was adjusting a cross set with tiny diamonds around her 
neck as she entered the maproom in the moment of near-victory. "How 
would you like to catch me on the rebound?" she laughed. 

154 To Number Our Days 

Liliane's grandpa sank down in an armchair. With his knees wide apart, 
his hands leaning on the knob of his walking stick, he looked like one of 
those military commanders you see in the old battle pictures, surveying a 
cavalry attack from a very, very great distance. "Mon Dieu, Liliane," he 
sighed, *1 wish you wouldn't always upset my campaigns. . . . * 

Liliane paid no notice; she just laughed. She may have been twenty-five 
years of age, though she looked more mature. Her eyes were of a peculiar 
liquid gray with long black lashes. Her voice was of a deep and passionate 
timbre. You felt at once that all the secrets of night, of jeweled light, 
of whispering, laughing voices and red carnations, were hers. . . . Her 
body swayed softly in its tight-fitting revealing gown with a split skirt, a 
very daring fashion at that time. Raoul swallowed hard and stuttered. I 
saw right then and there that he was a lost man. 

"Mademoiselle" he blurted in an awe-struck whisper, u mes compli- 
ments, mes complimentsl" 

"But I am not a demoiselle" she replied. "I am a madame 9 and a widow 
to boot. My husband, the Count de Jouvenceau, is one of those silly 
casualties of whom pSpdre never wants to speak. He was lost on the 
Salonika front. . . . " 
"Comtesse, I am so sorry!" 

"No sentimentalities, please. Have a dry sherry and stay for dinner. I 
dare say pSpire hasn't even invited you. He's so forgetful!" 

We had several sherries, but when, because of the absence of any other 
table or sideboard in the room, we placed our empty glasses on the map 
of France, the general, who had dozed off in the meantime, woke up 
and jumped like a watchdog from his armchair: "For God's sake, mes- 
sieurs, don't put your glasses there, I beg of you, not right on the 
Argonne front! ..." 

We hastily removed our glasses and carried them into the dining room 
with us. . . . 

Til be right in," the general called after us as he fumbled with his 
trouser buttons. "I have to make pipi first. ..." 

Before leaving, Liliane presented Raoul with the cross which she took 
from her own bosom and sewed on the inside of his tunic. It was so 
clearly a case of love at first sight for both that I felt it a pity to have 
to sound the retreat. The lady gave me also something, a protective 
amulet: a silver medallion of the Sacred Heart, but she didn't sew it on, 
though I wouldn't have minded in the least to play second fiddle. 

Soldier of the King 155 

On the way back to our hole in the chalk hills, Raoul talked of nothing 
else but Liliane. Had I ever seen a woman so gracious, so witty, so 
charming, so divine? He talked till his vocabulary ran out of superlatives. 

It was a long stiff walk along a narrow road in the sand dunes. We 
would certainly not have made it before reveille had we not come upon 
two Algerian sous-officiers fast asleep on that balmy summer night in a 
bush of shrubbery. Apparently the two had been celebrating heavily; a 
half a dozen empty wine bottles lay around. Against a nearby tree stump 
stood their bicycles. We stealthily approached the machines, jumped 
on and peddled off as fast as we could. 

Looking back over my time of service, I must say that being part of 
a sappers detail was the most agonizing experience of my life. Not that 
I thought much of death or of the thin strand of luck by which hung my 
life and the lives of my companions. Not then at any ratel It's now, nearly 
half a century later, that in thinking of the episode, I undergo the full 
measure of claustrophobia's dread and anguish over which I skipped so 
lightly and casually in the long-ago. 

It was May, 1918, when the accident occurred. We were digging a 
tunnel in a chalk hill in a spot where the authorities planned to install 
an underground surgical hospital. The tunnel was half finished and partly 
shored up with pit props when a Messerschmitt dropped a high explosive 
on top of the hill under which we were at work. The tunnel caved in and 
I was trapped with seven other men in the forward part near the face of 
the cut. I owe my life to the fact that I fell with my head near the end 
of a pipe leading to a hydraulic drill. The drill was demolished but the 
water kept running. Still, if my entombment had lasted twenty-four hours 
longer, I think I would most likely have suffocated like the others. 

On my left arm lay a piece of rock the. size of a table. There was little 
pain, though the arm was fractured in three places and the bare bones 
were sticking through the skin. After two days and three nights I was 
brought out on a stretcher and felt myself being heaved up. In the light 
of day I saw Ross MacDonald and looked at the sleeve of my tunic which 
had turned black. In the hospital my arm lay next to me like something 
that didn't belong to me. I had no feeling in it. 

The colonel said: "Blessed be Godl So now, what? Do you want me 
to recommend you for a decoration? Or maybe you want to go home to 
Canada and be a recruiting officer? What shall it be? Just tell mel" 

156 To Number Our Days 

"I had a lot of time to think things over down in that hole," I said. "I 
have vowed to go to the Holy Land, after the war of course, and walk 
on my bare feet in every spot where Jesus once walked, in gratitude for 
having been plucked like a firebrand from the fire. . . . " 

"That's a capital idea," nodded the colonel. "And 111 come with you, 
and you'll be my guest! Agreed?" 

"Agreed, of course!" 

"Let's hope that we both get through this war more or less intact!" 

I was up and around and in less than three months' time went with the 
battalion to Albert and Bapaume and to Cambrai when the Germans be- 
gan to fall back at last. On November 11, 1918, we were in the vicinity of 
Mons, the spot which the British "Contemptibles" had abandoned in the 
month of August four years previously. There, on the morning of the 
Armistice, Ross MacDonald was killed, shot through the heart by a 
retreating German patrol. He lies buried in the British cemetery at Etaples 
behind the huge granite cross with its single line from John Keble's 


The First Time I Saw Paris 

No greater contrast can be imagined than that between the joyful 
celebrations of the Armistice of November, 1918, in the great cities of 
the allied world, and the sullen, brooding silence of the soldiers still in 
the field. We heard of rejoicings and boisterous revels, music and 
dancing in the streets of Paris, London, New York and a hundred smaller 
centers of population. With us the same old grind and addleheaded 
military fuss went on day after day as if nothing had happened. 

No doubt, every man heaved a sigh of relief that the end was in 
sight, but the hastily arranged festivities here and there on our march 
to the German border were so pitifully forced and artificial as to be 
almost farcical. Not even the two or three extra rations of rum which 
the King sent over with his compliments could break or dispel the general 
feeling of disillusion in the ranks. 

It was as if something had gone out of our lives, something to which 
we had grown deeply attached. We had a vague feeling that we were 
on our own again, or soon would be. Instead of buoying us up, this im- 
pression left us with an inexplicable sense of insecurity and helplessness. 
The men became irritable and short-spoken, they sulked like children 
who have been deprived of a toy. The ranks were riven by all sorts of 
little tensions, unuttered resentments, suspicions and jealousies. For my 
own part, I felt like a derelict in a vast empty space; nothing to look 
forward to, nothing to go back to, anchorless, up in the air. In one word: 

For months, in many cases for years, the men had supported the 
privations and sufferings with relative good cheer and resignation. They 
had looked forward to the end of the war with high expectation as if 
it would produce some miraculous flash event like the return of Christ 
on the clouds of heaven. Now there was neither token nor portent nor 
sign of fulfillment. 


158 To Number Our Days 

The sense of frustration was heightened by the burden of sorrow lying 
on the land of France. It was as if all the tears since 1914 were incarnated 
in one mass of woe. You felt like crying out, a wordless, desperate cry 
of anguish over the abysmal horror of it all and the senselessness of 
human existence. Cannon fodderl Two million French deadl A million 
British deadl Eight million Russian, Austrian, Italian and Belgian deadl 
Does anyone imagine that the two million German dead did not count 
in the scales of the Great Weigher? God has no favorites I 

Had it been feasible to transfer us on some gigantic magic carpet in 
one swift dash to our homes across the Atlantic, the spirit of the troops 
might have been lifted up with anticipation of reunion with dear ones 
and the familiar scenes of home and childhood. Nothing could be more 
depressing than the spectacle of our environment. On every hand in the 
liberated areas you saw shell-torn woods, bomb-pitted meadows, trench- 
scarred greenswards, ruined buildings, orchards, schools, churches. And 
on top of it all, the squalor, the hunger and the mute despair of the 
French population. 

Politicians, statesmen and prelates, accompanied by newspaper cor- 
respondents and certain creatures designated on the bulletin boards as 
"diplomatic observers," who came to take stock of the war damage, 
swarmed all over the newly liberated areas of northern France and 
Belgium. In spots where large numbers of troops were concentrated, 
some of these announcers of the shape of things to come took occasion 
to fire off a speech. The orators thanked us on behalf of George V and 
Christian civilization and promised that, once back home, we would all 
get a pension, and nothing would be too good for us. 

Five of the most eminent speakers whom I went to hear— Lloyd George, 
Jan Christiaan Smuts, Sir Philip Gibbs, Colonel Repington and tie 
Bishop of Sodor and Man— hammered away at one and the same subject: 
"Germany will be made to pay for everything, and the Kaiser will hang as 
high as Haman." All that was required of us was just one more little effort: 
Ludendorff and Hindenburg and their "Hunnish hordes" were to be 
pushed across the borders, and a watch placed on the Rhine to see that 
they stayed in their own bailiwick forever and ever. . . . 

These harangues left the men as unresponsive as fish. A growing 
resentment against further service in the armies slated to occupy the 
trans-Rhenan bridgeheads was spreading in all directions. At times this 

The First Time I Saw Paris 159 

spluttering discontent assumed a bitter, ugly tone, though it never showed 
mutinous tendencies, which is something that cannot be said for the 
French. Our fellows had but one thought in mind: "The war is over. . . . 
The Kaiser has scrammed Let's go home!" 

Near the huge encampment at Huy in Belgium, halfway on the road to 
Germany, where Lloyd George mounted a specially constructed open-air 
platform to address a mass meeting of Australian and Canadian "colonials," 
the Prime Minister, after platitudinizing and wisecracking for a quarter 
hour through a screeching megaphone, was unceremoniously howled 
down. One giant Australian with the voice of a hungry lion interrupted the 
speaker: "111 tell you what we'll do. We'll carry out the bargain we myde. 
. . . Well march as far as the border and see to it that Jerry gets across. . . . 
Then well all piss in the bloody Rhine and we'll go back to Lee 'Avre. . . . 
And better see to it, Mister Lloyd George, that you 'ave enough boats on 
'and to tyke us back 'ome." 

The Prime Minister, who was surrounded by a bevy of general staff 
officers, backed away as if he had been pulled by his coattails. He and his 
glittering retinue motioned for silence. But fifty thousand men laughed in 
his face and the Welsh Wizard walked off very unwizardly, to say the 

There was no breakdown in discipline, no revolt or refusal to obey. The 
men felt themselves liberated from the draperies of convention and red 
tape. Saluting stopped as by preconcerted design. Nothing, neither prom- 
ises, nor threats, could stir the troops to hate the enemy enough to continue 
the campaign. The war was napoo* fini, and the Rhine the end of the 

I do not believe that there had been the least feeling of hatred for the 
Germans in the first place. The British soldier seems once and for all in- 
capable of hatred and lacks every sentiment of revenge. He looked upon 
the whole business of war as a competitive sports event, very inconvenient, 
no doubt, and uncomfortable at certain moments, but nonetheless a game 
to be played according to the Marquis of Queensberry's or somebody else's 
rules. The British are the last survivors of the age when chivalry was in 
flower. After a bloody fight they shake hands with the foe as if to say: 
"Well done, good and faithful servant. . . ." Can anyone imagine a German 
commanding officer, in the midst of a murderous campaign, admiring his 
chief adversary to the extent of pinning the man's picture above his desk, 
*Napooi cockney for n'y a plus — is no more. 

160 To Number Our Days 

as Montgomery did in the case of Erwin Rommel? As they sank the 
Kaiser's high-sea fleet at Skagerrak, Beatty and Jellicoe ordered a flag 
salute for the enemy's drowning battle cruisers. Hadn't Von Tirgitz fought 
like a gentleman? That was the sole criterion! 

According to the terms of the Armistice there was to remain a space of 
twenty-four hours' walking distance between the advancing allied armies 
and the retreating Germans. After ten days we had fallen some 72 hours 
behind, if not more. The reason for this delay was the vicious, swift-killing 
epidemic of Spanish influenza which raged through the length and breadth 
of Europe for the second time that year. It struck down thousands of our 
men, and, of course, did not spare the Germans either. As soon as we left 
the mining town of Lens behind, we found that every available bed or 
shelter in the succeeding towns and villages was taken by sick Germans. 
Some of their hospital units and medical orderlies remained behind to look 
after the afflicted and bury the dead. 

Our delays caused whole batches of German prisoners of war to catch 
up with us. The French simply emptied their prison camps and turned the 
men loose to let them find their way home as best they could. The whole 
system of prisoner evacuation had broken down chiefly through the flu 

Near Seneffe in the province of Hainaut, a group of German officers 
going in the same direction passed by just as we were loading our own sick 
in ambulances and sending them off to the various hospitals. The Germans 
asked if they could be of service. We had seen many prisoners before, but 
never any like these. They were mere walking skeletons. Their clothing 
hung in tatters, their unshaven faces were haggard with hunger and pri- 
vation. Some of them were so weak they could hardly stand on their feet. 
All were more or less afflicted with the flu. 

One Oberleutnant, the youngest of the lot— his companions were nearly 
all elderly Landwehr officers— said to me that they preferred not to go to 
the hospital because of the rain. The unheated tent hospitals, he claimed, 
theirs as well as ours, were deathtraps. "No man who goes to the hospital 
with the flu comes out alive. . . . It's a headache one day, the second day 
it's double pneumonia, on the third day comes the funerall ... On the road 
we have a chance ... in the hospital, none!" 

"How long have you been a prisoner?" I asked. 

'Two years and a half," he said. 

'Where were you?" 

The First Time I Saw Paris 161 

"At Dunkirk working on the sea defenses." 

"For the British?" 

"No, if that were only true; we were prisoners of the French." 

"Didn't the French treat you well?" 

"Please look," he said, as he unbuttoned his ragged uniform. "See, I have 

had no underwear for two years. This tunic is crawling with lice " His 

neck and chest were indeed scratched to the raw. "The French refused to 
let us fumigate our clothes. . . . They fed us twice a day, soup they called 
it. None of us has eaten a mouthful since we were turned loose. ..." 

"How long ago is that?" 

"Three days, this is the fourth day " 

"Christ!" exclaimed our Captain Farquharson, "that's tough! Come to 
the rolling kitchen. Well get you something to eat. Our bakers just baked 
bread last night. . . . No, just sit down here by the roadside, well bring it 
to you." 

Our men were as good as their word; everybody brought something. 
Hot tea was always on tap. With it the ex-prisoners had bread and jam 
and cans of Machonochie and boiled potatoes, using our spoons and 
forks and dixies. . . . 

Pretty soon they were showing us family photographs and our men 
showed theirs. 

"You married, Fritz?" 

"/a, married und drei KinderV 

"Are these yours? Fine looking kids, Fritz! How long since you last 
saw them?" 

'Three years!" 

"Well, you'll soon be home, quicker than we, I m thinking." 

We made the Germans stuff their knapsacks with all the food they could 
carry, cartons of jam, bully beef, tinned vegetables, loaves of bread. We 
even supplied them with can openers, blankets and tobacco. . . . 

Then the Germans conferred amongst themselves and suddenly rose to 
their feet as one man. They clicked their heels and the Oberleutnant 
made a speech. He took a ring from his finger and presented it to me. 
Captain Taylor got a cigarette lighter, Desormeaux a leather billfold. 
They insisted on giving us their home addresses, and before we fell in 
to continue our march to the Rhine we all promised to write. . . . 

If any animosity remained it seemed directed, not against the Kaiser 
or any other German, but against the Flemish people who, if rumors 

162 To Number Our Days 

could be believed, had shown themselves very unco-operative when our 
troops had been fighting— and dying in their tens of thousands— in defense 
of their country. I came too late in the war to take part in the struggle 
on the Yser, but every veteran of that early campaign had a story of 
personal resentment against the Flemings. Handles had been removed 
from the pumps in farmyards, it was said, and village squares at the 
approach of our men. Food was refused even when exorbitant sums of 
money were offered. Shops and estaminets were shut in the faces of 
friends and allies, while Flemish girls— this was perhaps the offense that 
rankled most— had gone so far as to express preference for the "good 
Fritzi Kameraden" According to reports, obstructionism, sabotage, and 
even betrayal and treachery had been common occurrences in Flanders. 

I wanted to find out what lay behind those stories of anti-British feeling 
in Flanders and thought I had a chance when, in passing through the 
southern suburbs of Brussels, I had the unexpected good fortune to 
develop a loose kneecap. Raoul got the flu and several of the Guides 
were down with the scourge. Sergeant Pinay, our regimental baker and 
famous father of nine children, was one of them. 

As luck would have it all the hospital beds in Camp Huy were oc- 
cupied so that we were assigned to one of the small huts made of rough 
lumber slabs which stood in long rows on the camp's outskirts. Bearing 
in mind the German officer's warning about the danger of the unheated 
hospitals, I managed to sequester a pile of blankets from the quarter- 
master's store, and put my two companions to bed. With the wood I 
gathered in the forest and the aid of a German saw-bayonet to split the 
tree branches, I kept the little cookstove in the hut burning night and 
day. My patients got no other nourishment but hot tea and toast, and 
twice a day a rubbing of their chests with turpentine. The rubbing was 
intended to make them sweat— and sweat they did under that load of 
Hudson Bay blankets. In fact they sweated till they squealed. When they 
squealed, I figured that they were on the way to recovery, and I wasn't 
wrong. I got the idea from Dr. Hahnemann's book on homeopathic medi- 
cine which, now in tatters, has accompanied me for half a century all 
over the world. The turpentine was my own invention. Hahnemann 
doesn't mention it. He prescribes a certain kind of liniment which proved 
unobtainable at Huy. 

In the meantime I went before a medical board with my loose kneecap. 
The three medics behind the table were in exceptional good humor. They 

The First Time I Saw Paris 163 

asked me whether my sore knee derived from collegiate or varsity football. 
One of them was trying to suck beer from a bottle through a stethoscope. 
Their compassionate verdict was that I needn't and couldn't possibly 
accompany the Guides to the Rhine. I was assigned for a month's rest 
to one of the resort hotels or villas in the neighborhood of Ostende which 
the British had commandeered for those recovering from the flu. 

However, when I asked the transport officer for a railway ticket to 
the seashore, he referred me to the intelligence service. 

"Do you speak Flemish?" asked the officer. 

When I replied in the affirmative, he said: "In that case you're not 
going to Flanders. . . . Don't argue." He put up his hand as I began to 
remonstrate. "Flanders is out, definitely and irrevocably!" 

"For what reason?" / 

"Political and diplomatic reasons 1 Just be a good fellow and put 
Flanders out of your mindl" 

Raoul, who was standing by, pulled me away. "Don't irritate him," he 
cautioned. "If you keep on shooting off your mouth, he might cancel our 
month's leave, and we'll have to go and piss in the Rhine after alll . . . " 

"Our leave?" I asked. "Are you coming?" 

"Yes, vieux" he said. "How d'you like that? The medical board found 
a spot on my lungs. . . . You and I are to proceed to the base hospital in 
Rouen for an X-ray checkup. Isn't that a pip? Pinay is coming too. He 
has a pain in the chest, probably from all the rubbing you gave him. ..." 

"Strange," I said, "my knee feels better already." 

'1 thought so," nodded Raoul, "Liliane's scapulars sure work won- 
ders. ... I haven't coughed once since I learned that we are going on 
a vacation. ..." 

When we boarded the train at Brussels-South, we found Shorty Pinay 
already installed in the compartment. With him was Gordon Gilchrist, 
a lieutenant in the 72nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, gloriously ac- 
coutered in kilt, sporran and tam-o'-shanter. They had swiped two bottles 
of cognac each from a display stand in the buffet of the waiting room and 
were busy hiding the flasks under the seat cushions. 

"Nobody speaks a word of French," the French-Canadian baker 
warned. "That's our surest line of defense. When the customs officers 
come in, or the police, or the conductor, mum is the word. ..." 

As he spoke, the conductor did indeed make his entree. "Tickets, 

164 To Number Our Days 

please!" The man looked at our transportation slips: "You are on the 
wrong train," he said. "This train goes to Paris. . . . You are going to 
Rouen. . . . For Rouen you take the train at platform 3. The carriages 
are marked Lille-Amiens. . . . " 

"We can't quit this compartment now and leave the cognac behind/' 
remarked Gilchrist under his breath. 

"Give him a bottle and make him shut up!" I suggested. 

"Are you nuts? Not a whole bottle," objected Shorty. "If the worst 
comes to the worst, he can have a swig. ..." 

With the customary tra-l&-l& of French railway employees, customs of- 
ficers and sundry other state functionaries, the conductor, who had dis- 
appeared for a moment, returned presently, bringing a whole squad of 
railway police in his wake. Our visitors twirled their mustaches to show 
their superiority and shifted their revolvers back and forth in their belts. 
After ten minutes of gesticulating and palavering in the sign language, 
we parted with one bottle of cognac. 

"D'you know what's happening?" I asked. "We re going to ParisI We re 
going to the forbidden city! Let's celebrate!" 

"I won't believe it till the train starts rolling," mumbled the cautious 
Scot "There's many a slip, yeh ken, and this slip may be marked by an 
imperial transport officer's veto. I think I see one of them beasties walking 
up and down the platform now. . . . For the love of God, keep your 
heads down!" 

A few minutes later, the train set in motion. But we were too over- 
come with surprise at our phenomenal luck to do any celebrating just 
then. After ten hours of travel plus four of shunting on and off sidings 
on the Ceinture line, the old strategic railway circling Paris and linking 
all its suburbs, we debarked at the St. Lazare station at ten in the morn- 
ing. According to our cognac-mellowed conductor, the main line was 
out of order, else we would have come in at the Nord station. 

Our unforeseen visit to Paris started with a fight right outside the rail- 
way station in front of the Hotel Terminus. 

"Where shall we go first?" I asked. 

"I'm going to the Place d'I6na," said Raoul. "I'm meeting Liliane. Her 
grandpa has a town house on the Place d'I£na. There's a hotel on the 
Avenue d'l&ia, just around the corner. Why don't you fellows take a room 
in that hotel so that we'll be close together? ..." 

The First Time I Saw Paris 165 

"I think I'll have a little session with that dame over there!" spoke up 
the sergeant-baker. 

'What dame?" 

"The one coming up, can't you see? Isn't she a doll? Look how she 
wiggles. . . . " 

"For God's sake, Shorty, be sensible! Let the bitch wigglel That girl 
has just been talking to a guy on the corner. He's her pimp. He sent her 
over! Look, he's watching us now!" 

"I'm old enough to be your grandfather," snorted the baker. "I can 
take care of myself. I like that darnel She's my type! Nobody's going to 
stop me. ..." 

"Before you go, let me have some of your money for safekeeping," sug- 
gested Gilchrist. "In case they rob you, you won't lose all you have!" 

"What dyou think I am, a boob? I won't be robbed. I'll see you at the 
Hotel d'lena. Here, hold my pack a while. ..." 

We watched poor Jean Baptiste Pinay walk away on the arm of the 
mopsy. The two were talking and laughing as if they were old acquaint- 
ances. Her pimp sauntered up as we stood on an island in the middle of the 
street waiting for a streetcar going in the direction of the Place d'I£na. 

"Want to change some money?" he asked. 

"Fous-moi Vcampl Buzz off! said Raoul. 

"What dyou have to interfere in my business for?" asked the pander. 
"You tried to keep my woman from earning some money. I saw you!" 

"You saw right, you bastard! ... If anything happens to our friend, 111 
cut off your damn gee-gee with my own hands," said Raoul. 

Hearing this threat, the pimp whipped out a knife and slashed the sleeve 
of Raoul's greatcoat from shoulder to cuff. As he backed away, he bumped 
into me, and I, weighed down under the heavy pack on my back, and 
Shorty's in my hand, lost my balance and fell to the ground. I struck my 
nose against a lamp post and bear the faint mark of that encounter till this 
day. However, I managed to grab the mackerel's leg, and he fell too. Gor- 
don Gilchrist was on top of him in a flash, and reduced his face to a bloody 
jelly. . . . 

But there stood Gilchrist with the pimp's wicked-looking blade in his 
hand. A whistle blew! Two whistles blew! French cops who, like other cops 
in certain other cities we know, can never be found when you need them 
sprouted from the asphalt like so many toadstools after a night's rain in 
the forest. They came running from all directions. . . . 

166 To Number Our Days 

Naturally we had to go along to the police poste. Even in Paris you 
cant disturb the peace and get away with it. However, the interrogation 
ended on a happy note. When Raoul gave the commissaire or station chief 
the name and address of General de St. Gervais, it made a tremendous im- 
pression on the assembled cops high and low. A telephone call to the house 
on the Place d'lena to verify our statements changed the situation com- 
pletely. An inspector was ordered to drive us in a rattling old jalopy to 
Liliane's home. Arrived there, we shook the man's hand and, in gratitude 
for his promise to look for our wayward baker, donated a bottle of cognac 
to the cause of freedom and justice. 

After Raoul vanished into Liliane's boudoir, Lieutenant Gilchrist and I 
went around the corner to the hotel which turned out to be a recreation 
center for American doughboys. We duly registered at the reception coun- 
ter presided over by a man carrying the red Wangled Y.M.C.A. badge on 
his collar. 

They actually had a clothes-pressing department and a barbershop on 
the premises. We paid for our pressing and coiffeuring with our last bottle 
but one, and came out smelling like the dames of the old White Rat in 
Porcupine. After that we were shown to our room and had a bath. While 
Gordon lay in the tub, a waiter brought in a bottle of Scotch, some soda 
water, and six tumblers. Gordon lined up the six glasses on the rim of the 
tub and drank them down in swift rotation. . . . 

After he got out of the bath, he marched up and down the room imitat- 
ing a high-stepping drum majorette: 

Scots wha ha'e wf Wallace bled, 
Will henceforth bleed nae mair. . . . 

"What11 they do instead?" 

"They'll love a lassie, a bonnie, bonnie lassie, as soon as they can find 
one. ..." 

"Take it easy! . . . Wait and see how Pinay makes out! ..." 

Our first walk through Paris took us along the Seine quays, past the 
Chancellery of the Legion of Honor, the Foreign Office and the Chamber 
of Deputies at which point we turned left, crossed the bridge and arrived 
in the Place de la Concorde. The immense square, dismal and dreary under 
a lowering December sky, was filled with captured German tanks, cannon, 
rolling kitchens, transport trucks, searchlights and other heavy materiel. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 167 

In the open spaces between this green-gray mass of war trophies lay in- 
comprehensible rolls of barbed wire. A mountain of red roses almost hid 
from view the statue of the Maid of Strasbourg, the monument which had 
been draped in black mourning for forty-seven years. Now, with the Alsa- 
tian capital liberated at last, the monument had been restored to the light 
of day and the company of the other Maid statues representing the other 
cities of France. 

On the terraces of the Tuileries Gardens, overlooking the Place de la 
Concorde, a regiment of Senegalese infantry was bivouacked. Steel- 
helmeted sentries with fixed bayonets walked up and down. The pres- 
ence of all these troops in the heart of Paris gave the city an eerie, almost 
sinister air of malaise. This certainly wasn't gay Paree, la Ville Lumiere, 
of which I had dreamt all my life. We tried to mount the steps leading to 
the gardens, but a Negro sentry stopped us. 

"On ne passe pas\ No thoroughfare!" he said. 

"Isn't this a public garden? What's the trouble?" 

"No trouble yet," the infantrist grinned back. "But you never can tell. 
Things might liven up any moment!" 

A white officer belonging to a colonial regiment, judging by his shoulder 
straps, stepped nearer. "What business are you on?" he asked. 

"No business at all, mon capitaine. Just sight-seeing. This is our first 
visit to Paris. . . . " 

"You've picked a bad day. Qa va harder] It's going to boil overl Keep 
moving, please! These are my orders, I'm sorry. ..." 

A little further, on the Rue Royale facing the Madeleine church, more 
colonial troops were standing and sitting about. Barbed wire was strung 
on posts in the shape of sawhorses. The men had their rifles stacked on the 
sidewalks and the steps of the Madeleine. As if they were maneuvering 
between the shell craters of a battlefield, the empty autobusses picked 
their way cautiously through the entanglements and the groups of soldiers. 
The same spectacle on the grands boulevards; everywhere we saw heavy 
troop concentrations and but few civilians. In the sidewalk caf6s on the 
Boulevard des Capucines some American officers were sitting around a 
brasier 9 an open-air stove. They looked as glum and mournful as people 
with a bad conscience waiting for Gabriel's trumpet call. Paris seemed 
deserted or confined to barracks. A regiment of dragoons clattered by, and 
then more infantry and still more infantry. All those soldiers carried their 
bayonets at the fix. The day had begun in rain, it now advanced to brief 

168 To Number Our Days 

gleams of sunshine which, passing up and down the long streams of bay- 
onets, lighted up the waving lines like a silver cornfield. 

We walked as far as the Porte St. Denis and turned left into the Boule- 
vard de Strasbourg till we came to the Gare de l'Est. The gates of the 
railway station's vast outer court were closed. Through the iron bars we 
saw that the entire court was packed with troops. Sentries paced nervously 
back and forth on the outside. Parked against the sidewalk stood a row of 
armored cars. A lieutenant sitting pn the hood of one of these chars dassaut 
was, not very successfully, trying to roll himself a cigarette from a sack 
of Bull Durham. 

"Here," I said, "try one of these," and held out the package I had pur- 
chased a few hours before at the canteen in the Hotel d'l&ia. 

"Oh, thank you very muchl Vous etes bien aimableY' 

"The atmosphere seems kind of tense in Paris," I said. "We've just come 
in from Belgium. We thought we'd find the people still dancing in the 
streets in celebration of the victory." 

"Victory?" he sneered. "A country that counts one dead in every family 
does not celebrate, mon ami. There's no need to proclaim either victory or 
defeat. Everybody with eyes in his head can see it: La France est fichuel 
We're in trouble. France is finished. ..." 

"But all these soldiers? The sight made us think perhaps that the Boche 
had made about turn, and was heading this way once more." 

This made him laugh. "If that were only true," he said, "we'd know what 
to do. As things stand it's all very miserable. Nobody knows what's going 
to happenl" 

"Then what's up?" 

"A general strike is about to go into effect. But that isn't all. Twenty of 
our own divisions are reported to be marching on Paris. They've given up 
trailing the Germans and are coming to join the revolution. ..." 

"The revolution? Great God! Is there likely to be any shooting?" 

"Not if we can help it. I for one certainly don't feel like shooting my 
own people. Would you fire on your own brothers? Je suis Parigot, moil 
I'm a Parisian!" 

"Come and have a drink at the caf£ across the street." 

"I can't leave." The lieutenant shook his head. "I'm stuck here. ..." 

'Then take a pull from this flask" said Gordon, producing our last 
bottle of cognac from his knapsack. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 169 

"Ah, ga je veux bien I don t mind if I do. It's chilly hanging 

around in the streets. We've been here since dawn." 

In the distance, from the direction of the Rue des R£collets, a long 
column of workers hove in sight. Rain-soaked red flags led off the proces- 
sion. A few of the flags were covered with black crape. . . . 

Some of the paraders sang La jeune garde qui descend sur le pav6, 
sur le pave, "The young guard which comes to take possession of the 
streets." Masses of police and republican guards armed with carbines 
followed in open trucks at the tail end of the procession. 

"Now, if I was ordered to fire on those punks, I wouldn't hesitate a 
moment," said the lieutenant, contemptuously motioning his chin towards 
the police. "Sales vachesl Salaudsl Vile, rotten scuml ..." 

A bugle's shrill call sounded somewhere in the station's courtyard, and 
the soldiers halfheartedly picked up their rifles from the stacks. Our 
lieutenant climbed aboard his armored car. "Merci, heinV He waved his 
hand as he ducked inside. 

"This needs some explanation," I said to Gordon. "Do you think we'll 
get any wiser from reading the newspapers? Let's buy somel" 

But there were no newspapers on sale; all the stands were closed. For 
another day or so we were forced to continue our road through life in 
utter ignorance of what was going on in the world. I had hardly seen 
a newspaper in two years. When I did see one occasionally it contained 
at best some cryptic bulletin or communique drawn up by the ineffable 
Maxime Weygand who had a reputation, given him by Foch, of being 
the greatest communique writer since Napoleon Bonaparte. 

The day and evening passed without a sign of Pinay. Around midnight 
Gordon and I were sitting in a sidewalk cafe on the opposite side of the 
street facing our hotel, debating whether or not we should go back to 
the neighborhood where we lost our master baker and institute a search 
for him, when we saw his bedraggled figure stagger up the steps. He 
was walking in his bare feet. 

" How did you get here?" 

"I walked," he said. "I have no money, not a cent. . . . Mr. Gilchrist," 
he turned to Gordon, "did I give you some of my money to keep for me?" 

"You did not!" 

"Then it's all gone!" 

170 To Number Our Days 

"How much?" 

"Two thousand francs I" 

"Where did you get so much money in the first place?" 

"Didn't I bake cakes for all of you? Those bastards took everything: 
my money, my papers, my watch, my shoes, my greatcoat, my underwear, 
my socks. ..." 

"Who robbed you?" 

"That whore and her pimpl" 


"How, you ask?" 

"Yes, how? Did you just let them frisk you? ..." 

"No, that's not the way it went After I left you, the girl and I first 
went to a bistro near the station. ... I had a glass of Pernod. ... I got 
very sleepy. ... I remember walking to a small hotel with her, up two 
flights of stairs.... In the room I fell smack on the bed, and that's 
all. . . . That's all I remember. ... I woke up with the bums. ..." 

"What do you mean, the bums?" 

"1 didn't wake up in that hotel. ... I woke up under a bridge. There 
were half a dozen guys lying there. All drunk as hell. ..." 

"Any of our fellows there?" 

"No, just bums. . . . They puked and stank I got sick, too " 

"How did you get under the bridge?" 

"How should I know? I don't remember a thing But they got my 

transportation ticket, tool For Christ's sake, you are not going to write 
home about this, are you?" he anxiously inquired. 

"Don't worryl My letter-writing days are overl First have something 
to eat. Then we'll go up to the room and call Raoul and decide what's 
to be done. • . • " 

Liliane's lover boy proved unavailable till next morning. 

"Sergeant Pinay, you are a disgrace to the British uniform and a damn 
fool," Raoul blurted out the moment he stamped into our room while 
the prodigal still sat rubbing his eyes on the edge of the cot where he 
had slept. 

"Stand to attention, man, when I speak to you. You are a damn fooll" 

"Yes, sirl" 

"Say that you are a damn fool! Say itl" 

"I am a damn fool, sirl" Shorty agreed, and started to whimper. 

That's alright then Blow your nose. . . . Not on the rug, you 

The First Time I Saw Paris 171 

damn peasant! . . . Well have some coffee brought up. Then well go 
downstairs and try to get you a pair of shoes and an overcoat. We have 
no quartermaster store in Paris. There are some imperial M.P.'s around, 
but if we take those guys into our confidence, they're bound to start an 

investigation, and we re apt to land in the clink Don t forget we're 

not supposed to be in Paris " 

"Have they a clink here?" asked the still blubbering Pinay. 

"Of that you may be sure," said Raoul, "if the imperials have anything 

at all, they'll have a clink! We'll have to try the Americans Pierre, 

you talk to the Y.M.C.A. wallah downstairs Just give him a cock- 
and-bull story about the bums robbing Shorty here. Leave the whore 
and pimp out of the picture. The Y.M.C.A. is prejudiced against people 
who consort with whores. . . . " 

"But I didn't consort with any whore!" said Pinay in a pitiful voice. "I 
never touched that girl!" 

"You never touched her? Then you're a still bigger damn fool than I 
thought you were. ..." 

In less than an hour Shorty had a pair of secondhand American 
service boots. "Such things are happening all the time," remarked the 
desk man. "But you needn't do any beating about the bush with me. We 
know perfectly well what happened. Ten to one it was a woman who 
lured the sergeant. She slipped him a mickey, and he woke up under a 
bridge somewhere. Isn't that the truth?" 

Since the remorseful Pinay was determined to go to Rouen as soon as 
possible, the whole day was spent in rehabilitating him. Liliane and 
Raoul supplied the money for the rail ticket, and the next morning our 
baker departed, swearing on the heads of his nine children that in future 
he'd drink nothing stronger than water. ... To make sure that he wouldn't 
fall under the spell of another sweet siren's song, we accompanied him 
to the station and put him safely aboard the train. We never saw our 
sergeant again. When Raoul and I turned up at Rouen's base hospital 
a few weeks later, nobody could tell us what had become of him, or 
whether he had reached the place at all. There was no record. . . . 

Lieutenant Gilchrist did not accompany us to the station. He was taking 
a bath and repeating the stunt with the six whisky and sodas on the 
bathtub's rim. 

"I'm going to get drunk twice a day as long as my money lasts," he 

172 To Number Our Days 

announced. "Once in the morning and again in the evening. I'm sorry 
the war is over. I don't know how to get along without it. . . ." 

That was just double talk. The truth was that he wanted to get rid 
of us. He wanted to go it alone in Paris. His wish was fulfilled a few days 
later when he met up with a Scottish WAAC. The two went on a sight- 
seeing trip to the cMteaux on the Loire, at least so they said. We never 
saw Gilchrist again either. . . . 

His departure soon forced me to look for more modest quarters. I had 
received 30 pounds sterling from the army paymaster just before starting 
from the Brussels-South station. This amount had dwindled to 25 pounds 
in less than a week's time. At this rate, I figured, my financial situation 
would soon become catastrophic, and so I decided to retrench. Without 
informing Raoul, since he would almost certainly have objected and in- 
sisted on pitching in from his own or Liliane's affluence, I moved to a 
small room on the Rue Soufflot near the Luxembourg Gardens in the 
heart of the Latin Quarter. After storing my equipment in my new abode, 
I sent Raoul a pneumatique,* telling him of my whereabouts. I paid the 
equivalent of two and a half dollars a week for the room which was 
located on the sixth floor. I need hardly say that it wasn't a penthouse in 
the modern sense of the word. 

My room had no windows; the only light, a few feeble rays, percolated 
through a grime-covered, iron-framed set of four glass panes in the ceiling. 
This skylight could be pushed up and when in that position afforded me, 
while standing on the rickety bed, an inspiring view of the Left Bank's sea 
of roofs, mansards and chimney pots. To the right, when looking out, I 
could see within a stone's throw the impressive dome of the Panth6on. My 
eyesight was then still so perfect that I was able to decipher without dif- 
ficulty the lettering on the band just above the massive Corinthian col- 
umns: Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante.** 

If the Pantheon remained an object of recurrent pilgrimage to me, it 
was for one reason only: to verify how much the wear and tear of the 
years has contributed to the deterioration of my visual powers, and whether 
or not I must move any nearer than was the case in a.d. 1918 to decipher 

*A pneumatique is a special delivery letter which is shot through a pneumatic tube 
and guaranteed to reach its destination within one hour anywhere in Paris. 
**"A grateful fatherland to its great men." Mirabeau, Voltaire, Diderot, Jean Jacques 
Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Jean Jaures are some of the immortals sleeping 
in the granite tombs in the crypt. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 173 

the inscription above the portico. It may be objected that I might just as 
easily and at far less cost have my eyes tested in an optician's shop. Perhaps 
so! But then, every man has his idiosyncrasies; the contemplation of the 
Pantheon's f agade is as good an excuse to visit Paris as any. 

For breakfast, which was included in the price of the room, I had some 
hot water with chicory that went by the name of coffee. It was dished up 
in a bowl, very much chipped and cracked, and smeared with a brown 
gluey rim left over from former collations. With the coffee came a piece 
of unbuttered stale bread, stale bread being cheaper. The concierge's 
husband insisted on carrying the breakfast up all six slippery flights of 
stairs. This journey, a very arduous undertaking for a man stomping around 
on a cork leg, was not, however, inspired by any altruistic motivation on 
his part. As I was to learn to my sorrow, he climbed all those stairs in his 
line of duty as an indicateur de police. In other words: he kept an eye on 

After he stumbled upstairs with the coffee, Jules Vignon— such was the 
informer's name— told me how he came to lose his leg. The story came not 
all in one piece, but in installments, a little more every morning after a 
brief synopsis like the old-time feuilleton in the family newspaper. The 
mishap occurred, Vignon said, during the Batde of the Marne in Septem- 
ber, 1914. He was one of the 100,000 men who were rushed at a moment's 
notice from the streets of Paris to the battlefield. 

According to Vignon, Papa Joffre was still asleep at nine o'clock that 
morning of September 4, when General Galli6ni, the military governor of 
Paris, telephoned: 

u Xook Joffre, it's time 

"To get up? Already?' 

" 'No, it's time to attack! You'll never get such a chance again. Von Kluck 
is out of breath. . . . He's staggering with exhaustion. . . . ' 

" Xeave me alone!' replied Joffre. 1 haven't the men, I can't attack! I'm 
going back to sleep!' 

" 'Come on, Joffre, for God's sake, wake up! Ill send you the men/ the 
governor pleaded. 1 am calling 100,000 Parisians. ... I am sending them 
up in taxicabs. 

" What'll you arm them with?* 

" With knives if needs be! If the knives prove insufficient they'll use 
their teeth '" 

174 To Number Our Days 

"Is that the way the battle was won?" I asked Jules. "With knives?" 

"Yes," he nodded, "c'etait formidable, fantastique. We literally waded in 
blood. . . . The battlefield was a porridge of guts and merde. . . . The 
river. . ." 

". . . flowed red with the blood of the Germans/' I interjected. 

"How d you know? Were you there?" 

"No, but I heard...." 

"You heard right. . . . Believe me, that's something to see, a river of 
blood. . . . We slaughtered the Boche where he stood. ..." 

"Didn't he fight back?" 

"He didn't have time. . . . We were too quick for him. I myself cut down 
half a dozen of the slobs, maybe a dozen. I don't know, I lost count. Zitl 
Zitl Zitl I slashed right and left, never missing." 

"How then did you get wounded?" 

"When they retreated the Allemands raked us with artillery fire. One 
piece of shrapnel carried away my left leg. I thought I was done for. . . . 
But, as you see, I'm still hopping around. . . . Here"— he took a medal from 
his pocket— "look, this is what I got for my services, the croix de guerre 
and a gold palm." 

"Why don't you wear it?" 

"I am not the bragging kind." 

As soon as I finished my coffee, Jules Vignon returned downstairs and 
donned a cocked hat with a red, white and blue cockade in front, and left 
for his major job as messenger boy for some brokerage house in the vicinity 
of the Bourse. When, in the course of my wanderings in Paris that month, 
I encountered him one day accidentally in the neighborhood of the Bourse, 
I learned that in the financial quarter he went by the nickname of Jo- Jo 

The concierge, Madame Gaetan, was a lady with reddish-brown hair, 
a cafi-creme complexion, and big slow-moving dark eyes. She wore a 
perpetual black shawl around her shoulders. There could be no doubt 
that once, not so long ago, she had been a very attractive person. She 
talked in a soft purring tone of voice and walked, or rather tripped, with 
the quick capering steps of a danseuse. She had a peculiar way of rubbing 
her chin while subjecting me to a little questioning whenever I passed her 
loge, the one-roomed, partially glass-enclosed quarters she occupied on the 
ground floor next to the staircase. 

Nobody can say that the surveillance in that house left anything to be 
desired. It was an all around the clock service, for Jo-Jo slept on a cot 

The First Time I Saw Paris 175 

under the staircase, and you had to declare, more often shout, your name 
to him before he pulled the cord that let you in after dark. 

Also on the ground floor, but reached by a separate entrance, was a 
bookshop, owned by Monsieur Jacques Fourier. Monsieur Fourier hap- 
pened to be a widower, a circumstance which may have gone far to explain 
his incredibly unkempt appearance. During the morning hours he wore a 
bathrobe and a sort of turban on his head. Both the bathrobe and the tur- 
ban were so deeply buried under a layer of grease that their original color 
could no longer be distinguished with the naked eye. At noon he changed 
clothes; he put on a yellow dust coat over the bathrobe. In the place of the 
turban he wore a black skullcap with a green tassel dangling from the rear. 

The bookseller must have been in his sixties, a lanky, dried-out individ- 
ual with a goatee, a glittering pince-nez, and a set of badly fitting false 
teeth. The set, habitually referred to as his rdtelier, caused him unendur- 
able pain. For this reason he carried it most of the time in the pocket of 
his bathrobe. 

He slept in a small oblong room in the rear of his shop where he also 
cooked his meals and had a washroom from which emanated an aroma not 
exactly atar of roses. However, as he remarked more than once: the great 
Erasmus already complained about the smells of Paris five hundred years 
earlier and still managed to live out a long and useful life. Why should he, 
Jacques Fourier, complain and lose a lot of time while the drains were re- 
paired when he had important work to do? 

Most of his waking hours Monsieur Fourier sat by a desk which was 
buried under a load of newspapers, trade journals, catalogues and other 
paperasserie. Above his desk hung a sign in red and black letters: Notre 
temps est bref, soyez bref. "Our time is short; you, too, be short." In such 
and suchlike slogans, he informed me, lay the secret source of the success 
of great American businessmen who kept these signs constantly before 
their eyes by reason of their subtle inspirational and creative impulse. 

One narrow strip of his desk was kept scrupulously clear. In that space 
stood an inkwell and lay two books, one an account book, the other a 
weighty ledger, three inches thick, in which he wrote a few lines every 
day. In that book Monsieur Fourier made notes which were to serve him 
at a later date in the compilation of a history of all the wells, springs, 
fountains and pumps of Paris from the earliest times to the modern .era. 
He had been at this task for thirty odd years and told me, as I could well 

176 To Number Our Days 

imagine, that it involved a great deal of research. When completed he ex- 
pected the work in two volumes to be crowned by the Academy of Arch- 
aeological Inscriptions. 

It was his life's task to describe all the subterranean watercourses, where 
they originated or who dug them, the Druids, the Gauls, the Christian 
missionaries, the early kings and so on; further, after which nymphs, fauns, 
satyrs or saints they were named and why; which prominent person drank 
from them; who was drowned in them, accidentally or otherwise, not 
omitting the curative and therapeutic value of certain waters, as well as 
the sinister pestilence-breeding capacities of some of them; in short: a book 
most apt and suitable to make the mouths of amateurs water. 

In the evening, after sundown, Fourier stepped outside for a little air 
and to place the shutters in front of his shop's single display window. 
After that hour not a glimmer of light was visible from the outside and 
the place resembled a tomb. Once a week he was joined in the evening 
by a friend, and the two went out to dinner. The first time I saw them 
go out, I hardly recognized Monsieur Fourier. He was dressed fit to kill: 
a black suit, a bowler hat, a tie in which sparkled a jewel, a thick gold 
watch chain and an umbrella. It wasn't till my second or third week 
that he had enough confidence in me to inform me that they did not 
really go to dinner, but attended a meeting of the masonic lodge, "Virtue 
and Fortitude," located in a dark alley off the Rue de Rennes. 

In his shop were to be found practically all the French classics with 
separate shelves for modern novelists and poets. All pages of the novels 
were cut because he read everything before selling it. The largest section 
consisted of books dealing with "occultism," the subject in which Mon- 
sieur Fourier specialized: magic, soothsaying, clairvoyance, necromancy, 
mesmerism, sadism, sexual perversions, satanism and other subjects which 
he dubbed exotique. Since I hadn't the wherewithal to buy any of these 
precious volumes, the proprietor graciously allowed me to borrow what- 
ever I liked. The only condition was that I refrain from carrying the 
books off the premises, which meant that I read them in bed under the 
feeble glow of the 25-watt bulb dangling from the ceiling in my garret 

One afternoon when the cold rain drove me indoors, and I took refuge 
in Fourier's bookshop, a customer came in. He was a gentleman got up 
in the style of the ancien rSgime, a monocle, striped trousers, spats, a 
black overcoat with fur collar and a walking stick. Fourier jumped up 

The First Time I Saw Paris 177 

like a jack-in-the-box, quickly put the rdtelier in its rightful place, and 
pirouetted around the personage, bowing and scraping and addressing 
him alternately as Excellency and Monsieur le Ministre. 

Then with a furtive glance in my direction, he went to the rear of 
his shop and opened a door which I had theretofore imagined to be 
that of a cupboard. It wasn't a cupboard: that door led into another 
room full of books. I caught a glimpse of the room's interior as he switched 
on the light before he and his distinguished client disappeared inside. 
After a quarter hour the two men emerged, Fourier carrying two or three 
gold-tooled volumes bound in fine blue leather. The books were wrapped 
up in an old newspaper, some money changed hands, and the visitor, 
after tipping his hat to Monsieur Fourier, rejoined his waiting limousine 
and chauffeur at the curb. 

"Eh bien" said the bookseller when he returned from seeing his cus- 
tomer out, "now that you know my secret, I might as well show you 
what I have in that room. You didn't think," he remarked contemptuously, 
as we passed by the shelves containing the aforementioned occult litera- 
ture, "you didn't think, I hope, that I make my living selling this crap. . . . 
Here," he showed me into the secret chamber, "here are my treasures I" 

There must have been a thousand volumes in the room. In contrast with 
the outer shop, the inner sanctum appeared as neat and tidy as an Amer- 
ican housewife's kitchen. There was even a rug on the floor. The books 
were ranged with the savoir-faire and loving kindness of a connoisseur. 

What he showed me was the largest illustrated collection of erotica 
I've ever seen or heard of in my life. Monsieur Fourier pulled out one 
volume which bore the title The Forty Ways of Making Love As Taught 
by a Galilean Courtesan of Distinction (meaning Mary Magdalen). 

"This volume," he explained, "is from the pen of Marcel Daniel, the 
pictures are from the hand of an unknown master; that is, the illustrator 
is unknown to the public, though he is very well known to me. ... Do 
you wish to see the blue, gold and red miniatures of Abraham and Sarah 
disporting themselves in the cool sands of the desert at eventide? Here 
they are! They're excellently realistic, don't you think? . . . What is your 
opinion of this portfolio of engravings of Cardinal Dubois and his con- 
cubines? Rather crude work, isn't it? Alas, yes, it's eighteenth century! 
It took time to reach our present-day state of erotic perfection. ... All 
ages and all nations are represented in my collection: the Greeks, the 
Romans, the Persians, the Hindus, the Bulgarians, all of them, and each 

1 78 To Number Our Days 

nation, as you may easily verify, has had some original or piquant con- 
tribution to make to the cult of Priapus " 

"Any Dutch pictures?" I asked. 

"Monsieur," he replied, visibly shocked by my ignorance, "how can you 
ask such a question? The Dutch were never blessed with the necessary 
imagination to produce this particular kind of art, though 111 grant that 
they're strong in certain other directions." 

"What other directions, for instance?" 

"For instance: theology! . . . 

"By the way, he added, as we regained the outer shop and he turned 
the key in the lock of the treasure chamber, "I consider it my duty to 
warn you against the unijambiste* next door. I have noticed you talking 
to him now and then. For your own welfare, I pray you, avoid Monsieur 
Jules Vignon as much as possible. The man is a monster of depravity; 
he'd sell his own mother and probably did. He's hand in glove with the 
brigade mondaine, the vice squad; I need say no more. I am a patriot, 
but I have so high a regard for our noble allies that I shouldn't wish 
you to have more contact than you can help with that one-legged piece 
of ordure. ..." 

"But Monsieur Fourier," I objected, "how can you talk that way about 
a man of valor like Jules Vignon? . . . True, he seems a little boastful by 
nature, but one must make allowances for the fact that he is a war 
invalid. . . . " 

"Un invalide de guerre? Who? Jo-Jo?" 

"Yes, he told me the circumstances in which he lost his leg, throwing 
back the Germans in the Battle of the Marne. ..." 

"Who was at the Marne? Jo-Jo? Did he tell you that?" 

"He did. I have all the details. ... He showed me his decoration. ..." 

Monsieur Fourier started to laugh. He laughed like a maniac. He 
slapped his bathrobe in merriment and almost lost his balance. . . . "That's 
a good one," he coughed when he finally recovered his composure. 
"What would you say if I told you that I know Jo-Jo since he was that 

high He lost his leg when it was crushed by the wheels of an autobus 

at the age of five or six. It happened right in this street. I helped carry 
him indoors myself. . . . But tell me, how in the name of all that's reason- 
able did you ever come to rent a room in the hole above my shop?" 

^Unijambiste: from une-one, and jambe-leg: a man with one leg. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 179 

Fourier asked after he dried his tears with the slip of his bathrobe. 

"I saw an ad in the window of a renting office, and took a chance " 

"Where is your room located?" 

"On the sixth floor." 

"Ah, so it's you who occupy Mademoiselle Germaine's rooml" 

"Mademoiselle Germaine?" 

"Yes, the girl that was murdered six months ago That was a 

mystery which has never been cleared up The flics ransacked the 

house from top to bottom, even took photographs and everybody was 
subjected to the humiliation of fingerprinting, myself included. What 
indignityl What barbarism! What will the republican police think up 
next to violate the Declaration of the Rights of Man?. . . Though the 
rechercheurs didn't find a single clue, they nevertheless informed the 
newspapers that they knew for sure that the assassin or assassins had 
entered Mademoiselle Germaine's room through the skylight. How do 
you like that for logic? Absolutely no clues, and still they knewl Our 
criminal police is very strong on logic. Myself, I have no logic, but I have 
my theories. In fact I worked out one theory which furnishes me with in- 
disputable evidence as to the murderers identity. ..." 

"Why don't you tell the police?" 

"Monsieur," he replied, "crime and religion are matters of the individual 
conscience. Nor do I want to have my throat slit. I'm fairly certain that 
the murderer lives in this very neighborhood. The least suspicion on his 
part that I am aware of his identity and hell strike again. Pfuitl Just like 
thatl One stroke across the throat. . . . Incidentally, Madame Gaetan must 
be happy to have rented the room at last. It's been vacant ever since 
the murder. That's on account of the condition of the floor, of course." 

"What's wrong with the floor?" 

"Didn't you notice? You had better watch your step The old boards 

are rotting away They were soaked in blood The poor girl bled 

so much that her blood seeped through the ceiling into the room 
below. That's where the prince lives, in the room below Mademoiselle 
Germaine's. ..." 

"The prince, you say?" 

"Yes, he's a prince, Monsieur Youriev. There can be no doubt about it; 

he's an authentic prince He woke up when the blood drops fell on 

his face. ..." 

"So it was the prince who notified the police?" 

180 To Number Our Days 

"He did notl The unijambiste did that. The prince only laughed his 
silly laugh. I haven't told you that he is totally demented. The poor man 
is as crazy as a loon. And not he alone, but all his cronies who are princes, 

"All princes? You surprise me, Monsieur Fourier, aristocrats in this 

"Si, they're Russian princes who fled the revolution. They were very 
highly placed personages in their native land. We have at least one ex- 
general and two former governors of provinces in this house. There is 
hardly a stick of furniture in that room of theirs. They sleep on mat- 
tresses lying on the floor. In the evening they get drunk and run a contest 

of spitting at the blood stains on the ceiling That's the sole sport 

they engage in. . 

"Don't they ever work? How do they live?" 

"On dit, 't is said, that they have some jewels stashed away. But then," 

he shrugged his shoulders, "this is said of every imigrS noble Once 

in a while they go to the Halles, and work at unloading vegetables and 

"Haven't they any family?" 

"No, they have a girl that cooks for them, but she's not Russian. The 
girl is the daughter of the professor who occupies the room next to the 
prince. • • • 

"A real professor?" 

"Of course, a real professor; a professor of music, piano! ..." 

"I haven't heard any sound of piano-playing so far." 

"That's a profound observation. The reason you hear no piano is that 
there is no piano. The professor hasn't touched a piano for years. He plays 
on a wooden board on which the keys are painted black and white, a 
a make-believe keyboard " 

"Quelle misdrel" 

"Why? It's no misery at all. In fact, he's very happy, the professor! He 
feels quite certain that an invisible audience listens to his inaudible 

music The professor and his daughter are accompanying the princes 

when they return to their beloved native country. They weep together 
when they hear the church bells of Nizhnii Novgorod ring in their heads. 
They all want to see the dear moujiks again, too. ..." 

"When are they returning to Russia?" 

"Ah, don't worry, it's only a dream Those gentlemen will never go 

The First Time I Saw Paris 181 

back. Lenin and Trotsky cooked their goose. But in their case the dream 
is stronger than the dreamerl . . . 

"Since I'm introducing you to your neighbors, I may as well tell you that 
just below the professor lives a couple who hail from the Low Countries. 
I am but imperfectly informed on their affairs. They don't talk much. To 
tell the truth, we know nothing about their business, but they do have 
money, and they spend it liberally. Every Sunday they go to the country 
and walk in the forest of Meudon." 

"Well, that shouldn't be so expensive. Meudon isn't very far!" 

"Not expensive? Do you think that riding out to Meudon in a taxicab 
isn't expensive? Just try it once. You'll find that in a time like this the rates 
are ruinous, and the taxi chauffeurs worse than Sicilian bandits. . . . The 
couple I am speaking of are in mourning. . . . You'll see them sooner or 
later, very decent and sedate bourgeois people. . . . They had a boy who 
was killed by the explosion of a Big Bertha shell.* If you turn to the left 
on leaving the Rue Soufflot and follow the Boulevard St. Michel as far as 
the School of Mines, you may see with your own eyes where the bomb 
struck that killed the little boy. The fagade of the school is pitted with 
holes made by the shell's fragments. The explosion tore the boy to shreds. 
They picked up the pieces in a blanket. . . . The authorities proposed that 
the child's remains be cremated. . . . But the parents objected. For what 
reason do you suppose?" 

"I have no ideal" 

"They were afraid that if the body was reduced to ashes, the child would 
not hear the archangel's call on the day of judgment. . . . Upon my soul, 
I'm not joking. The parents were afraid that the child would miss the 
resurrection, so to speak. A grisly prospect, don't you think?" 

'What's grisly about it?" 

"That boy rising from the grave all in pieces— wouldn't you call that 
grisly? I can't imagine where people pick up such lugubrious notions * 

"There's nothing grisly about this," I observed, as we saw a young lady 
entering the large door next to the bookshop. 

"I take due notice," replied Fourier, smiling his toothless smile, "that 
the eternal snows of Canada have not blinded you to the glorious reality of 

D6d6 That's the name of this goddess, this blonde poule you just saw 

enter Madame Gaetan's doleful cavern That girl is the joy of my eyes, 

and of all our eyes, I may well say, all of us on this street, and many 
*The giant gun with which the Germans bombarded Paris. 

182 To Number Our Days 

others It's a mixed world we live in, isn't it? Maniacs and murderers on 

the one hand, and angelic innocence, snow-white immaculateness on the 
other. Aren't they a bizarre lot, our contemporaries?" 

"But I thought you said she was a poule?" 

There isn't any contradiction in my estimates. She's the loveliest child 
in Paris, my dear sir. Her figure is divine. I have had the honor and priv- 
ilege to gaze upon it. Oh, not in the way you imagine perhapsl I only want 
to say that aesthetically her body is a masterpiece, definitely the crown of 
creation. God did Himself proud when He made that creature. Yes, I'll not 
withhold praise where praise is due; the Lord puts out superb workman- 
ship when the fancy strikes Him. What I sincerely deplore is that this 
doesn't happen more often. ..." 

The Lord probably grows weary. . . . He's been at it so long. ..." 

"Not weary, Monsieur, disgusted He gets, thoroughly disgusted with all 
the cochonnerie, swinishness, in which His human creations indulge. . . . 
But as I was saying, it came about this way— I mean the time I saw her 
disrobe. D£d£ was struck by a taxicab, not seriously, thank heaven— she 
wasn't hurt in the least. But the police officer on duty in front of the Pan- 
theon thought she'd better accompany him to the precinct house located 
to the right of the great building at the end of our street. I was on my way 
back from delivering a volume from my treasure chamber, when I noticed 
Ded£ being escorted into the police station. I immediately inquired what 
was wrong. The policeman said that he took her in to have her examined 
by the physician on duty. 

"Though I had not seen the accident, I came along as a witness, as a 
friend of the victim, as is my right and duty as a citizen of our rSpublique 
one and indivisible. ...Eh bien, the doctor and the commissaire ques- 
tioned D£d£. When she said she wasn't hurt and did not wish to prefer 
charges against the chauffeur, the doctor asked her to show her shoulder 
and more particularly the spot where she was slightly bruised by her brush 
with the cab. 

"Ah, mon Dieu, mon Dieu, what a spectacle! What a revelation! What 
an apotheosis! What we saw was something to make the gods gasp! She 
dropped her gown right down to the waist: 'Look,' she said, 'vraiment, ce 
riest rienl It's nothing, really!' 

"We couldn't answer, Monsieur. It's nothing,' she said. Fact is, it was 
everything. We couldn't find words. We could only stare. The vision before 
our eyes was one of dazzling Praxitelean inspiration. The doctor, the com- 

The First Time I Saw Paris 183 

missaire, the chauffeur and myself, we had to swallow hard as our throats 
had suddenly gone dry. The aspect of Ded£s be-all reduced us to silence, a 
religious silence, I may well say. . . . Such a gorge, such a bust, such a 
miracle of perfection! We were all men of experience, men of the world, 
but we hadn't the faintest idea that such a wonder of beauty existed here 
below. . . . That's our little D6d6 who just went by. . . . She lives on the 
second floor in the rear." 

"What does Mademoiselle D6d6 do for a living?" 

"She's an artist's model!" 

"Lucky artistl" 

"You wouldn't say that if you knew the man. He's the unluckiest, un- 
happiest person alive, perhaps the man most to be pitied in the whole 


"He's a eunuch!" 

"A Turk?" 

"No, he is not a Turk, he's a Frenchman, Parisian born and bred. He 
lives on the Rue Lepic in Montmartre, on the hill of the martyrs, very aptly 
so called in his case. He became a eunuch through the ravages of war. He 
was grievously wounded at Douaumont in the vicinity of Verdun. One 
razorlike sweep by a shell fragment and, horrors, the most essential part 

of his anatomy flew off The peculiarity of it is, perhaps it's a biological 

curiosity, in less than a year's time he lost all his hair, he is totally bald. 
Even the hair of his eyebrows he lost. His vocal powers degenerated into 

the piping, fluting sound we expect in a castrate But loyal! Ah, what 

loyalty that man displays He's like a watchdog over Ded6 He 

fetches her in the morning and brings her home again in a taxicab. The 
comfortable thought about his attentions is that D6d6 is perfectly safe 
with him. ..." 

On weekdays I was usually out of the house by seven o'clock. I had no 
definite travel plans; I just walked where chance and the spirit led me. It 
has often been said that Paris is composed of many cities. There are at 
least twenty mairies or borough halls within the circle of the old fortifica- 
tions. I visited every one of them and found that every arrondissement, 
every district and quarter has its own distinctive physiognomy, its own 
poetry, its own sadness, its own moral climate. Paris even has its own 
dialect. I haven't seen a copy for years, but I do recall once buying a 

184 To Number Our Days 

pocket dictionary of Parisian argot with the meaning of the words in official 
French on the opposite page. 

I traveled but seldom by bus, though I used the subway, the famous 
metro several times. On one of my first outings I emerged from the under- 
ground at the end of the line and found myself in front of the Donjon, 
the castled fortress of Vincennes. A Tonkinese sentry at the gate let me 
pass unchallenged. I walked to the grassy moat in the rear of the castle to 
the spot where my erstwhile compatriot, a Frisian girl by the name of 
Margaretha Zelle, better known as Mata-Hari, faced the firing squad the 
year before on October 17th. 

"Was she guilty?" I asked a gray-haired quartermaster officer who was 
strolling about with his hands behind his back, watching me carefully as 
I stood looking at the three black-painted stakes at the end of the field. 

"The evidence produced at her trial," he replied, "showed that she had 

the death of at least 21,000 French soldiers on her conscience As an 

actress she traveled up and down between Paris and Madrid. In Paris she 
learned from careless French officers how many of our troops were to be 
dispatched to the Salonika front, and when. This information she carried 
to Spain and communicated to the German consular authorities. The con- 
suls in turn notified the commanders of the German U-boats lying in 
various Spanish ports. And they, of course, swooped down on our troop- 
ships sailing out of Marseilles and Toulon. . . . 

"My name is Choisy," he said, putting out his hand. '1 am pleased to 
meet you! I have my quarters here in the Donjon. I've lived here eleven 

"Mon adjudant" I asked, "did you ever see Mata-Hari? Was she as 
beautiful as they say she was?" 

"I saw her carriage pass through the Donjon s gate at five in the morning 

on the day of her execution She sat between two nuns I caught 

a glimpse of her eyes only as the carriage passed by the lanterns in the 
covered gate. ... A few minutes later I heard the shots and was called 
over to the moat because one of our men serving on the firing squad had 
fainted. ..." 

"She was dead then?" 

"No, evidently she wasn't quite dead. The officer commanding the firing 
squad was bending over her and discharged his revolver. ... I didn't care 
to look at her face after that. . . . 

"But why," the quartermaster suddenly asked, "why should you, a 
Russian, be interested in this woman?" 

The First Time I Saw Paris 185 

"A Russian, I? I am not a Russian. Why do you take me for a Russian? 
This has happened before. Others have taken me for a Russian." I 
thought of the first time Raoul and I met General de St. Gervais on the 
beach at Paris-Plage when old Red Pants also mistook us for Russians. . . . 

"You needn't worry about me," Choisy nodded reassuringly. "I respect 

your secret I took you for a Russian because of your greatcoat. . . . 

I thought perhaps you were one of the Russians who escaped the 
massacre. ..." 

"What massacre? What greatcoat? I don't know what you are talking 
about. ..." I unbuttoned my coat and showed him the shoulder straps 
on my tunic with the word Canada and the letters C.G. (Corps of 
Guides) embroidered in gold on the collar. . . . "Voi&i, there is no secret! 
Only I don't understand what you mean when you speak of the 
massacre. . . . " 

"Don't you know about the ten thousand Russian soldiers who came 
to France to fight on the Western front?" 

"I never heard of them! How did they get here? Break through the 
German lines?" 

"No, they sailed around the world from Vladivostok and landed in 

"Did they go to the front?" 

"Yes, they went to the front and gave a fine account of themselves under 
Mangin in the first offensive on the Chemin des Dames. ..." 

"Were they massacred in that battle?" 

"They were massacred— executed would be a better word— when they 
declared their solidarity with the Russian revolution in October last 
year. They downed arms and demanded to be sent back to Russia. . . . 
Their camp was then surrounded by units of the French battle police, and 
they were machine-gunned to death to the last man. . . . No, not to the 
last man, a few are thought to have escaped and to be hiding in Paris. ..." 

"Why were they killed?" I asked. 'We had a few hundred Russians in 
the Canadian army who also downed arms at the time of the Russian 
revolution. They weren't shot. They were sent to work camps in southern 
France. They'll probably be dishonorably discharged, but that's all." 

"Clemenceau ordered the ten thousand executed because he feared 
their influence on French morale. Do you realize that the spirit of defeat- 
ism was so strong that just before the Armistice there was but one division 
between Paris and the front on which the government could place ab- 
solute reliance. . . . Just one division! All the rest were ready to quit. 

186 To Number Our Days 

Had the Boche waited two or three more days before carrying the whjte 
flag over to our lines in the Rhetondes forest, he would have found that 
the bulk of our soldiers had followed the Russian example and gone 

"So the German surrender came just in time?" 

'In the nick of timer 

"A light begins to dawn," I said. "I begin to understand now why 
there is so much tension in Paris. There is more brewing than a general 
strike " 

"Qa gronde partoutl" he came back. "The volcano is rumbling every- 
where. The general strike has been called off, postponed for the time 
being. ... It's in a month or two that well be up to our necks in the 
worst crisis since 1871. . . . " 

I visited all the faubourgs, the old revolutionary Faubourg St. Antoine, 
the aristocratic St. Honor6, the drab but multitudinous Faubourg du 
Temple, the site of the Bastille and the Trocad6ro which has since disap- 
peared. One of my longest walks led me to the P&re-Lachaise cemetery 
and the Mur des F6d£r£s, the wall where the last defenders of the Com- 
mune died before General Galliffet's firing squads in 1871. The wall was 
covered with fresh wreaths of poppies and red roses, a sure sign that the 
revolutionary fever in Paris was on the way up. I climbed the steps of one 
of the towers of Notre Dame and a day later went up in the elevator to 
the top of the Eiffel Tower where I sat down to eat a freshly baked brioche 
in Gustave Eiffel's private chamber at the very summit. That day the wind 
was so strong that you could feel the gigantic structure sway in the breeze. 

It was the first time in many months that I marched unencumbered 
save for an insatiable curiosity and a love for the city which has grown 
stronger ever since. It is from that first visit to Paris that I retained the 
habit of looking into the churches of every city I visited in afteryears, be 
it Rome, Warsaw, Moscow, Copenhagen, Kiev, London, Sevilla, Trond- 
heim, Constantinople or Jerusalem. I still like the churches of France best, 
especially the country churches. Their interiors are so dark and mystical, 
so neglected and poor; poor as the church should be, impotent, helpless in 
the face of the world; without "f orm or comeliness." 

From the Madeleine which served as a "Temple of Victory" during the 
Revolution and which is not so much a church as a religious salon, 
though its red plush boxes and alcoves are growing seedier-lpoking every 

The First Time I Saw Paris 187 

year, I walked to the Sacr6 Coeur on the summit of Montmartre, the hill 
of the martyrs where St. Denis was beheaded in the good old days when 
the Church had no cathedrals but was a persecuted minority whose mem- 
bers gathered in catacombs. 

If the towers of the Sacr6 Coeur look from the distance like a set of 
champagne bottles, the resemblance is by no means intended to be sym- 
bolical of the traditional gayety of "Montmartre by Night." The church 
was erected after the national defeat of 1871 as a protest on the part of 
the Catholic party against the godlessness of the republicans who brought 
the third empire to a fall and drove the fanatical war-mongering Empress 
Eugenie into exile. 

Ever since the Sacr6 Coeur has remained the monumental symbol of 
Catholic opposition to the inroads of laicism and secularism. On the other 
hand, the anticlericals, represented by the Masonic Order and such politi- 
cal leaders as Waldeck-Rousseau, Clemenceau, Briand, Sarraut, Herriot 
and Daladier, had their revenge in such a way as to render the great 
basilica almost anathema to the faithful. Right in front of the church they 
erected a statue to the Chevalier de la Barre who has no other claim to 
immortality save the fact that he was the last man to be executed in 
France for refusing to kneel before a procession carrying the sacred host. 
Thus the two adversaries, clerical and anticlerical, continue to confront 
each other on Montmartre's hilltop, albeit only in stone 

If I had little difficulty in identifying the great monuments and edifices 
of Paris, this was largely due to the old stereoscope which had its place 
on a small polished table in my mother's "best" or "Sunday room." On 
special occasions the children were permitted to see "the wonders of the 
world" through the two tiny magnifying windows in this delightful con- 
traption. The longer you looked through the stereoscope, the clearer 
became the outline of the sites and fagades of Europe's greatest buildings. 
As far as I remember there was but one view from America in the set of 
about 120 photographs. This view represented Niagara Falls. Since we 
were not permitted to open a book or do the least homework on Sundays, 
the stereoscope helped mightily to while away the most tedious hours of 
our Calvinist sabbath. There were some photos of London, Rome, Milan, 
Florence and Naples, but Parisian scenes predominated. 

When I walked around in the Seine city in December, 1918, it was 
merely a case of verifying the exactitude of the stereoscopic pictures. 

1 88 To Number Our Days 

I greeted all those sites as old acquaintances: the Opera, the Palais Royal, 
Palais Bourbon, Petit Palais, Grand Palais, the Louvre, the Luxembourg, 
the Tower of St. Jacques and the Bridge Alexander III with its golden 
eagles which was built in honor of the last Russian Czar but one. Alex- 
ander was also the first to cross the bridge. So great was the fear of 
assassination that the police did not allow another living creature on the 
bridge while the Czar's carriage started to cross. Yet, to the stupefaction 
of the authorities and the huge crowds, a gentleman was seen to climb 
over the railing. He had been hiding beneath. The gentleman, whose 
identity was never established, walked up to the imperial carriage, politely 
swept off his hat and said to Czar Alexander: "Vive la Pologne, Monsieurl" 

Every corner of Paris became alive for me. I would have liked a guide- 
book, a Baedeker or something, but for such things I was not financially 
equipped, so I let the stones speak for me. The stones of the Concorde 
bridge, next in line to the Pont Alexandre, I knew, were taken from the 
pile left behind when the revolutionaries pulled down the Bastille. I sat in 
the graveyard of the Church of St. Julien-le-Pauvre wondering which old 
stone Dante used as a pillow five hundred years before when he was a 
penniless and a very hungry student in Paris. In the Pantheon quarter, at 
number 12 Rue Valette, I found the house in which John Calvin lived 
while studying Hebrew at the College Fortet. There was a picture in the 
room once occupied by the Reformer. It showed a young man, dressed 
like a sixteenth century dandy, gloves in hand, a blond beard and a large 
beret of the kind the artists wear. Right behind the Pantheon I entered 
the Church of St. Etienne-du-Mont, perhaps the oldest, surely the finest 
little church in all Paris. Behind the altar in an alcovelike chapel sat a 
group of Carmelite nuns absolutely motionless in "perpetual adoration" 
before the Holy Sacrament. Every few hours these girls were relieved by 
another batch of sisters who marched in close formation through the 
narrow streets of that part of Paris which is now the Chinese quarter. On 
the floor, amongst the tombstones, I saw the grave of Clovis, the King of 
the Franks, and the epitaphs of Jean Racine and Blaise Pascal. 

At the Prison du Cherche Midi, where Dreyfus was incarcerated, I was 
first refused admission, but later called back from the street and told that 
I could come in and look around. It's almost incredible that such a primi- 
tive structure with rat-infested corridors and bare cells, really ice-cold 
stone cages without much light, has continued to exist in the very heart 
of Paris till the present day. At the time of my visit the prisoners were all 

The First Time I Saw Paris 189 

soldiers who had refused military service for religious reasons. I asked 
the officer who presented the visitors' book to me if I could write a word 
of observation. "Please do!" he said. I wrote: "This prison is a disgrace to 
France and to humanity * 

"I'm surprised that you don't have a torture chamber," I said. 

"If you want to see a torture chamber," he said, mistaking my senti- 
ments, "you should take a look at the cellars under the Place du Ch&telet. 
There they'll show you the iron chair with a grated seat under which a fire 

was stoked to cook the heretic sitting in it They have five-pronged 

grapplers equipped with claws. With those things a woman heretic's 

breast could be squeezed off in one single twist But don't pull such 

a horror-stricken face. They don't use those instruments any longer. ..." 

I left the prison by a rear door and came out into a courtyard where 
stood a small church, absolutely invisible from the street side. I walked 
through a tiny narrow street, the Rue Dupin, and emerged in the Rue de 
Sevres where a crowd of women milled about a large fruit and vegetable 
stand. Against the wall, looking on, stood a very old man in the old- 
fashioned clerical garb, a large white bib with black borders instead of 
a modern-day Roman collar. His mouth hung open like a child's looking 
through the window of a toyshop as his gaze turned slowly from the 
apples and pears to the magnificent grapes. Finally he approached the 
stall and bought himself a bunch of soup greens. 

"Is this all you buy, Monsieur VAbbe?" I asked. 

"It's all I can afford," he came back with a shrug of the shoulders and 
a pathetic smile. 

"In that case faites-moi la grdce, do me the pleasure of accepting some 
of these muscat grapes." 

"Ah, but what will madame say if you come home without them?" 

He accepted the paper bag and pulling me by the hand went a short 
distance up the street where he made me sit on a bench by his side. I 
have never seen another person eat grapes in just the same manner as 
that old priest. He put six, eight, ten grapes in his mouth, chewed for a 
while and then spat out the skins. 

"It's a day I won't soon forget," he said, as he rose to his feet "I haven't 
eaten such excellent grapes since I was ten years old." 

"Where was that?" 

"In the village of Moissac on the Garonne River. That's where I was 
born, eighty-three years ago. My parents died before I was twelve. I was 

190 To Number Our Days 

placed in an orphanage and that's where I am today. I am now directeur 
de conscience to the nuns who run the orphanage down this street. Their 

convent stands behind the chapel of St. Vincent de Paul This was his 

district, you know." 

"Ah, it must be a source of deep satisfaction to you to work in the same 
district where once lived so great a saint and humanitarian." 

"Would you like to come in and see the convent and the orphanage? I 

have my room there. It's not much of a room, it's located in the cellar 

But it's in Paris, that's all that matters. It's really a pity that you can't 
come with me. From my room you can hear the weirdest sounds, especially 
at nights " 

'What kind of sounds?" 

"You can hear the voices of the dead. . . . " 

"The dead?" 

"Si, mats il riy a Hen d, craindre, they have a good time. They do an 
awful lot of laughing while they work." 

"The dead are working, you say?" 

"Yes, it's only a theory of mine, but I believe, not without some evidence, 
that the dead are constantly excavating the territory beneath our feet. 
They are undermining the foundations of the world. They are always 
digging, scraping and hollowing out the earth. There is really not much 
more left but a thin shell. One of these days the shell will crack and 
that'll be the end." 

"The end of Paris?" 

"No, they are digging everywhere. The earth's crust under London, 
Vienna and Moscow is just as thin. The entire world is going to crumble 
in the dust. This will be the revenge of the young men who died in all 
the senseless wars of history. ..." 

Only one structure, perhaps the most interesting of all, I did not recog- 
nize. I refer to the ruins on the Boulevard St. Michel, in the very heart of 
the oldest part of Paris. This building made of the flat long bricks used 
by the Romans in the construction of their temples, baths and aqueducts, 
could not be entered. It was and is separated from the street by a fence 
of iron staves the original of which the sans-culottes removed during the 
Revolution to use as weapons and pikes. On those pikes they carried the 
severed heads of the aristocrats. 

In the rear of the ruins stands the Mus£e de Cluny. This was open to 

The First Time I Saw Paris 191 

the public and there I learned that the house in front was once inhabited 
by that Julian the Apostate who, since schooldays, was one of the most 
fascinating figures in history to me. In that place Julian sat writing his 
books, dressed in a philosopher's gown, his face adorned with the philoso- 
pher's beard. 

Here came the legionnaires one stormy night to inform him that he had 
been chosen Caesar Augustus. When he refused the diadem, the soldiers 
threatened to kill Julian, and he gave in. The imperial purple was thrown 
over his shoulders and he was raised on a shield amidst the wild acclaim 
of the troops. Julian forthwith marched back to Rome where he proclaimed 
the abolition of Christianity as the state religion. 

No matter what the Church historians* say to the contrary, Julian did 
not persecute the Christians. He detested them, that's true enough. As a 
student of philosophy in Antioch, he one day climbed the wall of the 
garden where he walked and meditated. On the other side of the wall 
ran the avenue of the gods adorned with a long row of statues from the 
chisels of Pheidias and Praxiteles. As Julian looked on, he saw the Christian 
mob break up those priceless works of art with hammers. "I despise 
myself," he said, "for being of the same flesh and blood as these utter 
barbarians. . . . " 

No human language can express the emotion which rises when one 
comes to a spot of which it can be said with reasonable certainty: "Here 
once stood a manl Here once an act of greatness was performedl Here a 
word of truth or wisdom was spoken!" 

The novelist and critic Ludwig Lewisohn,** in whose neighborhood I 
lived in Paris in later years, reproached me for visiting the Chapel of 
the Invalides and Napoleons tomb on the day when the annual Mass 
of Requiem is said for the repose of the Emperor's soul. Lewisohn called 
Napoleon "the greatest vulgarian of all times." 

I have never been able to make up my mind whether Napoleon was 
a soldier of liberty, the bearer of the Revolution or merely the last flare-up 
of the dying theocratic military order. I have read I don't know how 
many biographies of the man, but to say that I have seen his face or 
caught a glimpse of the inner recesses of his soul, I cannot. Nor can anyone 
else, it seems, for though there are no less than 40,000 biographies of the 
Corsican, we still do not know him. We know a good deal about his wars, 

*Alzog, Auer, Luebker and others. 

**The Island Within, Criticism in America, etc. 

192 To Number Our Days 

his policies, his marshals, his ministers and administration, his wives and 
mistresses, and we have some information on himself. But the more there 
is written, the less we seem to know the man. Forty thousand volumes 
like so many tombstones cover that Unknown Soldier. 

The seventeen year old Russian poet Lermontov, who had never seen 
Napoleon, perhaps understood him best when he wrote: "Napoleon was 
a stranger to this world. . . . Everything in him was mystery!" 

The little children of France still sing: Parlez-nous de lui, grandmdre, 
parlez-nous de lui\ "Speak to us of him, grandmother, tell us about 
him. . . . " 

The last time I visited the Chapel of the Invalides, I noticed the white 
coffin containing the remains of the Duke of Reichstadt standing in one 
of the niches. The Duke of Reichstadt was the curly-headed little King 
of Rome, Napoleons son by Marie Louise, who wanted to share his 
father's exile on St. Helena. The strange thing about the coffin is that it 
was Adolf Hitler who ordered it shipped from Vienna to Paris and placed 
near the immense porphyry sarcophagus where the Emperor sleeps. It's 
the one and only known act of kindness the Fuehrer ever performed in his 
life. Was Hitler perhaps another man nobody knows? 

The book barrows along the Seine quays were closed and locked on 
account of the bad weather. But I found one library, the Bibliotheque 
des Huguenots, on the Rue des Saints-Peres. In that place where I was 
often the one solitary reader, I met the editor of the organ of the 
Christian socialists, Christianisme Social I became the correspondent of 
that periodical and remained so till 1960 

After a day's tramping, I was glad to get back to my ultimate port of 
call on the Rue Soufflot. If I reached the premises before closing time, 
I sat for an hour or so in Monsieur Fourier's bookshop where a number of 
the proprietor's neighbors and friends dropped in for a chat during the 
cocktail hour. Not that we drank cocktails! One visitor, Dr. Roger Curand, 
condemned cocktails as "poisonous filth" which, in his opinion, not only 
ruined five million French stomachs a year, but produced sexual im- 
potency in men and sterility in women. White wine was the sole beverage 
he approved of; so it was white wine we drank with roasted chestnuts 
from a paper bag which I usually brought along from one of the peddlers' 
stalls at the entrance to the Luxembourg Gardens. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 193 

Dr. Curand was a gynecologist, fiftyish, graying hair, and a cigar 
smoker. When I say that he was a cigar smoker, I mean he sucked away 
on a stogie of the Voltigeur brand, which when set alight reeked like 
a mixture of tarred rope and dried camel dung. He had no private 
practice, but functioned as an obstetrician at the maternity ward of the 
H6tel-Dieu, the great hospital near the Notre Dame church. When he 
turned the door knob of the bookshop, his friends would look up and 
almost unanimously say: "Ah, there's the good Doctor Vaginette!"* 

As soon as Dr. Curand let himself down with a big sigh in one of 
Fourier's prehistoric armchairs, the proprietor or someone else would ask: 
"And, cher docteur, what was the harvest like today?" 

"Just a moment, please," he'd reply, "let me consult my logbookl . . . 
Now, let me see; one, two, three . . . Three females! One, two, three, four, 
five . . . six, seven, eight, nine . . . Nine malesl That's the score todayl See 
for yourself I The tiny circles in my notebook stand for the girls, the circles 
with the dots in the center for the boys I delivered today." 

"You must have delivered a thousand babies in your day, judging by all 
those pages filled with circles!. . . " 

"Alas, yes, not just one thousand, but many thousands. And a sad 
business it is when you come to consider that all of them were born to 
suffer and die an early death. . . . What does Homer say? 'Of all that 
breathes and walks upon the earth, or creeps, naught is more wretched 
than the unhappy race of man. 

"Docteur, you are a pessimist," remarked Fourier. "Nine malesl That's 
not such a bad day for France! That'll mean nine good soldiers twenty 
years hence!" 

"Why do you say twenty years hence? Do you expect another war by 
then?" asked Monsieur Eugene Linsolas, the proprietor of an electrical 
shop a few houses further up the street. 

"Twenty, thirty years, that's about the rate, isn't it?" returned Fourier. 

"We count 1918 now, in twenty years it'll be 1938 Yes, I imagine just 

about 1938 we'll be sliding into another war " 

"If I thought you were right," protested the doctor, "I'd sterilize all the 
females of the species I could lay my hands on." 

"That would be a criminal offense!" 

*The nickname corresponds to a certain four-letter word in English. For this reason 
the doctor's friends made sure that he never heard them say it. 

194 To Number Our Days 

"Not at all! It would be a boon for humanity. . . . The only way to make 
the statesmen stop waging war is to place them before a fait accompli: no 
more babies, no more soldiers, no more wars. Isn't that logical?" 

"I wish you would practice your logic and sterilization tricks across the 
Rhine," said Fourier. "Here in France your radical proposition sounds 
defeatist, unpatriotic. . . . What do you say, Monsieur Linsolas?" 

"I say nothing." The electrician dolefully shook his head. "I have my 
own troubles. . . . " 

"Troubles, you? A man with such a flourishing business?. How is that 

While Fourier said this, he signaled to me to pay attention, for they 
were merely trying to draw the electrician out in order to amuse them- 

"Pray, Monsieur Linsolas, tell our transatlantic visitor about your 
troubles! He is sure to be amazed!" 

"Well," said Linsolas, eager to comply with his friends' suggestion, 
"have you noticed a lady walking around in this neighborhood with blood- 
shot eyes and the face of a bulldog?" 

"Not that I remember," I said. "I have seen many ladies, of course, but 
none answering your particular description. ..." 

"A woman with a large bust, broad shoulders, a mustache and the gait 
of a dragoon!" 

The doctor taking his stand behind Linsolas' chair motioned to me to 
reply in the affirmative. 

"Yes, yes, such a lady I seem to recall. . . . " 

"You see, you have seen her! In fact, you couldn't miss herl That person 
is my wife, Monsieur. Do you know why she is so big up in front? Do 
you know what she carries in that enormous bosom of hers? Make a guess!" 

"I cannot guess. • . • " 

"I'll tell you," went on Linsolas, "it's no secret anyway. These gentlemen 
know what she carries around with her. . . . That's my money she has 
there. Yes, my money! Whole packets of one thousand franc notes, all 
pinned down to her chemise! . . . That is the reason her bosom is so 
large. . . . What do you think of that? Two hundred thousand francs she 
took with her when she left me, all the money I had." 

"The last time you told us it was three hundred thousand francs!" inter- 
rupted Dr. Curand. 

"That's true, but the franc has been devaluated since, as you well 

The First Time I Saw Paris 195 

know. . . . It's all in those packages on her bosom. It's ten years since she 
left me. She still parades around with that money on her person and passes 
my shop half a dozen times a day just to aggravate me, just to wreck my 
nerves. ..." 

"Why didn't you put your money in the bank?" I asked. "Madame 
couldn't have touched it without your consentl" 

The doctor nodded vigorous assent. "Trds bien, trds bienl Very good, 
very good!" 

"Monsieur Linsolas comes from the Pyrenees country," explained 
Fourier, "from the city of Pau. They don't believe in banks down there! 
They don't believe in anything! The only thing they believe in is Henri IV, 
the King of Navarre, who became King of France." 

"The best king France ever hadl" retorted Monsieur Linsolas with a 
ring of defiance in his voice. 

"Certainly, certainly," assented Fourier, "if we may believe Gabrielle 
d'Estr^es. Gabrielle swore that Henri was as formidable in love as he 
was in war. ..." 

"I maintain that Henri IV was our greatest king!" returned Linsolas 

"Ah no!" contradicted Fourier. "There you are wrong, mon ami. It's 
Louis XIV who was our greatest king. There can be no doubt about 
that, the Sun King who said: 'L'etat, cest moil The State? I am the State!' " 

"Do you know what the people of Pau thought about your confounded 
Louis XIV?" shot back Linsolas. "They petitioned Louis to permit them 
to erect a statue to Henri IV, because Henri was born in Pau. For a long 
time Louis did not reply. Then, one day, a statue arrived; a statue of Louis 
himself. Can you beat that for arrogance? The statue had been cast in 
Paris and dragged all the way down to Pau, eight hundred kilometers. Do 
you know what the people of Pau did? They put the statue of Louis XIV 
on a marble pedestal and placed it in the main square, where it still stands. 
But they did not put Louis' name on it. On the pedestal they had a sculptor 
chisel the words: Celui-ci est le petit-fib de notre bon Henril 'This one 
here is the grandson of our good Henril' " 

The doctor and Fourier roared with laughter, though they must have 
heard the account of Pau's statue a hundred times. 

"The men of Pau must be very clever!" I commented. 

"Cunning would be a better word," interjected Fourier. 

"Thank you for your tribute to my native city," Linsolas bowed in 

196 To Number Our Days 

acknowledgment. "Your opinion does you great honor But I'm 

leaving I see that these gentlemen can only laughl How beastly rude 

can you getl To laugh over a man s domestic tragedy is the height of 
uncivilized behaviorl Au revoirl Till tomorrow night! 

What lured me to "Montmartre by Night" one evening was a burning 
curiosity to see something which I found advertised in the theatrical paper 
Comoedia as a spectacle "tantalizingly philosophical and superbly satanic" 
to be given at the Theatre du Grand Guignol. Let me say at once that I 
came away nauseatingly disappointed and feeling ridiculously gypped. 

The first of f our short plays showed a young man in the act of digging 
a grave by the light of a lantern. At least such was the first impression I 
gained from the tombstones and crosses standing about pele-mele. What 
the young fellow actually did was disinter a corpse, the corpse, as it 
turned out, of a well shaped damsel, somewhat in the style of the cur- 
rently beauteous B. B. After a time, as he dug deeper and deeper, the 
digger became invisible to the audience, but his cries and groans and sighs 
of rapture could still be heard rising from the depths. From his passionate 
exclamations uttered in an appropriately hoarse voice it became evident, 
first, that there wasn't any coffin, and second, that the buried damsel's 
name was Yvonne. 

"At last I've found you back, m amour. ... So they buried you, my 
beloved Yvonne, in this cold, cold earth!" 

The digger hoisted the body onto the stage floor and picked some tiny 
lumps of clay from the region of the breast and elsewhere. This gesture 
earned the actor a wave of applause. The dead Yvonne lolled in her lover's 
arms like a big kewpie doll, eyes half shut, arms limp, with a big painted 
smile on her lips. Though dead she still seemed to enjoy the touch of the 
digger's roving fingers. Then came what I suspect to have been the 
philosophical part as advertised: the moment supreme. The lover twisted 
Yvonne's neck corkscrew fashion, and off came the head. As can well be 
imagined the decapitation scene made the audience shudder. . . with 
pleasure. The disinterrer tore the mop of red hair from the corpse's head 
and buried his face in the curly locks. Then he threw the body back into 
the hole and jumped in after Yvonne screaming like a maniac: O m amour, 
quels delices, quels d6lices\ ..." 

The second tableau showed a much gayer scene: a middle-aged surgeon 
in his clinic. This gentleman was in the habit of luring young ladies into 

The First Time I Saw Paris 197 

his office, strapping them to the operating table and neatly slicing off their 
upper eyelids. On a board on the wall he had a whole collection of 
severed eyelids, brown, white, black and even green. He sat contemplating 
his collection like any other amateur of butterflies or postage stamps. 

In the course of the action he got suspicious of his wife who was having 
an affair with his assistant, a much younger surgeon. Just at the moment 
when he was going to strap her to the operating table to remove her 
eyelids, the young doctor came to the rescue and instead they both put 
the old man on the table. They went to work on him with lancets and 
scalpels till the blood spouted forth like a fountain gone haywire. The 
victim screamed like a pig that has its throat cut by the pork butcher. 
Then I had enough! 

When the lights went on, I walked through a door next to the stage 
marked "emergency exit." Passing a dressing room I saw the actress and 
the actors wiping their hands and faces. The young lady called: "Did you 
enjoy yourself ?" 

"I should say I did! Very high art; madame, mes hommagesF 

"Are you alone?" asked the usherette who opened the street door for me. 

"Yes, all alone!" 

"Wont you wait for me? Ill be through after the next act. . . . We could 
go to a cinema bleu on the next street. . . . It's very good they say, very 
obscene. ..." 

"No, thank you, I must be leaving I have a date " 

"Where?" she asked. 

"In the Montmartre cemetery!" 

"Ah, quelle horreurl" she exclaimed. "Vous Stes vraiment vicieux. You 
do have a dirty mind, don't you?" 

I sauntered leisurely down the Rue Pigalle. It took me almost till day- 
light to reach Madame Gaetan's emporium. At every corner, in doorways, 
under rusty old awnings and staircased streets, in alleys too narrow for a 
cat to squeeze through, the prostitutes were on the prowl. 

"Won't you come up?" 

"It's too cold!" 

"But it's warm in my room. ... I can light a fire. Have pity on me. I've 
been on my feet since four o'clock. My shoes are killing me. They're soak- 
ing wet. . . . Can't you see that I'm a widow?" 

"I see that you are in mourning. Was your husband a soldier?" 

198 To Number Our Days 

"He was killed on the Salonika front, mon pauvre mari I weep for 

him every night. . . . And two gosses I have. They're orphans now 

Don't think, please, that I'm doing this to amuse myself. ... I do it to 
keep from crever de faim, croaking from hunger. ..." 

The same tale of woe on the next block; two of them, both widows with 
husbands killed on the Salonika front, both starving to death, both with 
children boarding out in the country somewhere. . . . 

I don't recall how many times I heard the Salonika front mentioned 
that night. It was never the Verdun front or the Somme or any other 
front but Salonika. 

On the corner of the Rue Clichy, I entered a bistro for a glass of coffee. 
There were no seats available. The leather-backed benches under the 
mirrors against the wall were occupied by card-playing cigarette-smoking 
pimps. I stood at the zinc. Four or five girls also leaned their elbows on 
the counter. 

"Can I have something? I'm so hungry!" said a little one, very young and 
pretty, a whiff of whose breath indicated a very empty stomach. 

"Sure, what'll you have?" 

She named some brand of aperitif. 

"Don't drink that muck. It isn't good for you. Rather have a glass of 
wine or coffee and a sandwich. ..." She grabbed a big sandwich from the 
basket in front of her and bit into it like a tiger. 

"You have strong teeth!" I said. 

"Ahhh, is that what you like? Would you want me to bite you a little, 
just a little?" 

"Ho, what's this? Why the favoritism?" challenged a tall brunette who 
had taken off her wet shoes. "Why can't I have a sandwich like Denise? 
Am I not as good-looking as she?" 

"Have one," I said. She was already eating it. 

One of the pimps sneaked up from behind and was on the point of 
performing the old hat-snatching trick when I caught sight of him in the 
mirror back of the bar and saved my cap just in time. The idea is to force 
you to buy your cap back from the snatcher, probably another ten francs. 

Those women and their keepers operated on the principle that all 
foreigners are fools. I was a particularly big fool: I had given away some- 
thing for nothing. I paid the sad-faced double-chinned bartender and 
made for the door. The little one joined me in the street where she put 
up her umbrella. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 199 

"That was a good sandwich," she said. "Ill accompany you wherever 
you want. You may not believe me, but I'm a widow. My poor 
husband " 

"I know Salonika front, wasn't it?" 

From the corner of my eye I could see her pander in the bistro's door- 
way looking after us to see if his protegee made the contact. We advanced 
a few steps when another woman bobbed up from some hole in the wall 
and screamed at the girl by my side: "You can't have him. . . . This is not 
your territory. . . . You stay in your own place." 

For answer the little one gave the newcomer a whack over the head 
with her umbrella. Just then a group of American soldiers came into the 
street from an alley. At their sight both females deserted me. 

Every second house in that neighborhood was a bistro, a bar or a 
taproom. In between were small walk-up hotels with broken down 
electric signs advertising "running water and all comforts." Vegetable 
and grocery shops had a frontage no wider than six feet. It was the first 
time that I became aware that Parisian butcher shops keep their light 
burning at nights and also that they have no doors. They are separated 
from the street by sets of iron bars; for what reason I do not know and 
never found out. Here was a boucherie chevaline, sl horse butcher. A 
little further down the street a boucherie hippophagique. What's hippo- 
phagique? The Greek-sounding name is a trick to fool the foreigners. It 
also means a horse meat shop. How many tourists eat horse meat in 
Paris while imagining they have a thick juicy Chateaubriand in front of 
them? You order a bifteck and you hear the waiter shout into the kitchen: 
"Une boule\" (A ball or a lump. ) He doesn't mean you, he's not as impolite 
as all that; he is notifying the chef to dish up a piece of horse meat made 
up to look like a tournedos with a thin slice of fat around it held together 
by a piece of string. In every restaurant I passed I saw American service- 
men eating mighty beefsteaks. 

The further I walked down the Rue de Clichy, the fewer became the 
tiny dance halls and dives with low-burning lights. I still met widows 
whose husbands had fallen on the field of honor at Salonika, but they 
were on their way home now, weary, dragging their high-heeled profes- 
sional shoes. At the foot of the street, near the Trinity church a window 
stood open. In passing I looked inside the fully lighted room and saw an 
enormously fat individual stark naked doing his physical exercises. 
"Come in," he invited, "and join me." 

200 To Number Our Days 

Tm in a hurry," I replied. "There's a cop fifty paces behind me," 

"Thanks for the tip, copainF He shut the window with a bang. 

At the deserted tables of a darkened sidewalk cafe on the Rue de la 
Chauss6e d'Antin I saw three or four ragpickers assorting the day's loot 
from the garbage cans. One man in a tattered overcoat, his worn-down 
shoes tied with a rope, turned up his bearded face at me as I passed. 

"Want to buy some tobacco?" he asked. 

"Is that what you have there, tobacco?" 

"Si, I pick up cigarette butts all day. At nights I come here to remove 

what's left of the tobacco from the butts "He had a heap of shag 

tobacco in front of him on the marble table top and was making small 
paper bags from old newspaper sheets lying on a chair beside him. 

"How much?" I asked. 

"Fifty centimes a bag," he said. 

A man in a postal employee's uniform passed by. He greeted me with 
a grunt. As he was going in my direction, I walked by his side. When I 
approached a wastepaper basket for the purpose of disposing of my 
tobacco, my companion held me back: "Give it to me if you don't mind." 

Ahead of us staggered a drunken vagabond. He was singing at the top 
of his voice. He sang the famous song about the station master and 
his wife. . . . 

"Qa va ta gueule? Shut your trap," the postman said. 

The singer stopped dead and asked: "Can't a citizen sing when he feels 
like it?" 

"Sure, you can, but not that song Not in public at least. It's for- 
bidden. . . police regulation." 

"Police regulation?" asked the drunk. "Well, isn't that funny? 111 sing 
twice as loud now that you've told me. That's as much as I care for the 
police." He snapped his fingers disdainfully and began to bray the 

Cfl ira, ga ira, ga it a 

Tons les bourgeois on les aura. . . . 

Vive le son, vive le son, 

Vive le son de Vexplosionl 

On the bridge leading into the Boulevard du Palais, a man who was 
doing some midnight angling with the aid of a lantern held up his hand 

The First Time I Saw Paris 201 

to us as we approached. At the same time he pulled up his tackle and 
a tiny fish, no larger than a lead pencil, flopped on the pavement. 

"You see," he said, "I have a catch Pardon me for stopping you. 

I was afraid that the sound of your footsteps would scare away the 

"That's a good sign," remarked the postman. 

'What's a good sign?" 

"To see a man catch a fish. Didn't you know? It means good fortune 
for both of us. I can stand a little luck. My wife is sick with consump- 
tion. . . . The kids, too, have it. C'est triste la vie, hein? Life is sad, isn't it?" 

From far away came the sound of a church bell. The postman counted 
the strokes. When the bell stopped the man crossed himself. "Do me the 
favor of crossing yourself, too," he said. 


"The ringing of that bell means that a priest is lifting the chalice before 
the altar somewhere. ..." 

"Isn't it rather early for Mass?" 

"Not in the monasteries. The monks pray for us all the time, night and 
day. If we make the sign of the cross now, we join their prayers for my 
wife and kids. ..." 

"Alright! It's done!" 

"Thank you very much, fr£re\" 

We walked past the Conciergerie, the old prison where Marie Antoinette 
spent the last hours with her two children before being pushed into the 
tumbrel, her hands tied behind her back, to be driven to the Place de la 
Concorde where thousands of Parisian women sat knitting and watching 
the heads of aristocrats plop into the executioner's basket. 

"Danton, too, had his head chopped off," remarked the postman. "He 
was a great man, un chef, we haven't got men like him nowadays. . . . 
Marie Antoinette was an Austrian bitch; she got what she deserved. ..." 

"What about her two children?" I asked. 

"Just royal scum! . . . They vanished, they were probably dumped into 
the Seine, drowned like rats!" he laughed. 

With these words the postman left me while I continued my way past 
the statue of Voltaire. Under the street light I noticed that the lips were 
curled up in a sneer. Incidentally, Adolf Hitler ordered Voltaire's statue 
removed. It isn't there any more. I marched up the Rue Bonaparte as far 
as the old abbey church of St. Germain-des-Pr6s and the Cafe des Deux 

202 To Number Our Days 

Magots which was dark and deserted. Two more clandestine tobacconists 
were occupied disembowling cigarette butts on the marble-topped tables 
on the sidewalk. 

In this neighborhood are more bookshops than in the whole rest of 
France, and lecture halls and publishing houses and antique shops and 
secondhand furniture dealers. How in heaven's name all these shop- 
keepers make a living is more than I can understand. But they have 
been there for hundreds of years through war and peace and student 
mobs in the window-smashing mood. Every bookshop specializes in one 
or more particular branches of literature: geography, history, classic 
languages, political science, archaeology, poetry. . . . Because of the prox- 
imity of the School of Medicine, there are several shops vending surgical 
instruments, human skulls and skeletons. In one display window between 
two human skulls I noticed a large gray cat, its front paws placidly folded 
under its body, staring into the street where a rat scurried in the gutter. 

An old woman lay sleeping in a doorway not far from Danton's statue 
which has also disappeared, also on Hitler's order. "To dare, to dare still 
more, to dare always more," read the inscription beneath the statue. At 
the corner of the Boul' Mich* two cycling sergents de ville* passed me. 
They looked me over intently and then talked between themselves. Ideas 
about escaped Russians must have crossed their minds. One of them 
called out: "Quelle nationality? 9 ' 


"fa va bienl" Both men saluted. 

On the Rue Soufflot, Monsieur Fourier was out taking down the shutters. 
"Better come inside," he said, "and have some coffee. Get the dampness 
out of your bones. 

"You're early!" 

"I couldn't sleep. ... I knew you were out. It worried me " 

Towards evening I came down to the bookshop again and gave an 
account to the Messrs. Fourier, Linsolas and Curand of my expedition 
to the district of joy. Dr. Curand listened attentively when I told of the 
postman who prayed for his wife and children suffering from tuberculosis. 

"Outrageous!" exclaimed Fourier before the doctor could say any- 
thing. . . . "It's with this kind of superstition that the priests keep our 
people in subjection. How long will it go on, this prolongation of the 
Middle Ages into the twentieth century?" 

*Sergents de viUe-mgbt police. 

The First Time I Saw Paris 203 

'Till the last priest is strangled with the guts of the last king," said 

"Well spoken, Monsieur Linsolas!" nodded Fourier. 

The doctor chuckled. "Monsieur Linsolas quotes from Pierre Joseph 
Proudhon. The words are apocryphal, but the tuberculosis is real enough. 
It is the worst scourge France has ever been visited with, France, and 
particularly Paris. ..." 

"Is it something in the climate or environment?" I asked. "Germs? A 
virus perhaps?" 

"Not at all. Its main source is malnutrition, dietetic insufficiency— in 
other words, low wages and poverty. Look what the Parisian working 
class gives its children for breakfast. A cup of coffee and a piece of bread 
and butter. This is all the average Parisian family can afford. It is not 
substantial enough Don't the children look poorly, anemic, weak?" 

"I can't deny it, but perhaps that is the result of four years of war and 
food scarcity." 

"It's that way in peacetime as well," said the doctor. 

"The thing that struck me most painfully," I said, "was the sight of the 
young girls standing on the sidewalks in front of the big department 
stores— the salesgirls, I mean, who serve the sidewalk customers. Yester- 
day it was cold and it rained. Many of those girls were sick of cold and 
exposure. Their faces and hands were blue and raw. Can nothing be 
done about such conditions? You seem to be breeding tuberculosis on 
every hand." 

"That's not the worst," said the doctor. "None of those children— for 
that's all they are, children— earns enough money to pay for her board 
and lodging. Girls like that are compelled to look for supplementary 
income from lovers or pickups. It's customary, it's our way of life, it is 
expected of them. It's the same sad business all around. Poverty is at the 
base of it all, the unequal distribution of wealth. You say you found 
Montmartre a gay place? Well, our police prefect calls it the whorehouse 
of Europe That's the correct name for it. It's a phony, artificial, make- 
believe gayety. It's all put on for the benefit of the foreigners. Vice is big 
business. French people don't go to Montmartre. The average Parisian 
goes to bed at ten o'clock, not later. Fundamentally, Paris is the most 
puritanical parish in the world. You must not count Montmartre or the 
great boulevards. There's some night life there, to be sure. But what can 
you expect with thousands of licensed prostitutes on the streets? They 
start work at four or five in the afternoon and most of them go home 

204 To Number Our Days 

hungry by midnight or thereabouts. They enjoy something of a windfall 
at present with so much foreign military around. Still, most of the girls 
are poor starving creatures. This accounts for more tuberculosis and more 

physical deterioration Come with me some morning to the health 

department and see with your own eyes. I am dutybound to spend two 
mornings a week examining the card-carrying prostitutes. . . . The sight 
is so degrading, humanly degrading and disgusting as to make one almost 
nauseous. Of course, Im used to it by now. I no longer notice the ugliness 
and misery. I have been examining harlots for nearly thirty years." 

A few mornings later I did accompany Dr. Curand to that section of 
the health department which was then installed in the basement of the 
Palace of Justice. We entered a large bare hall electrically lit and with 
a rough concrete floor. Along one side of the huge room ran an iron bar 
of the kind on which ballet dancers rest their feet and flex their muscles. 
The metal bar was approximately twenty yards long; a wooden step-up 
elevation, about two feet high, ran in front of the iron bar. At the door 
stood three or four policemen near a glass-enclosed booth marked 

"These policemen are members of the brigade mondaine, the morals 
squad," explained Dr. Curand. 

The doctor went into a side room and presently returned wearing a 
white coat. With him were two younger medical men similarly dressed. 
Some women came in. They showed identification papers to the police 
sergeant sitting in the cashier's booth, and walked to the side of the room 
opposite the long iron bar. There they undressed and left their clothing on 
chairs and benches standing against the wall. 

When there were about thirty to forty women in the room, a policeman 
called out: "Attention les fillesl Alright girls, line up! You can keep your 
shoes onl" 

The girls marched across the room. They hadn't a stitch of clothing on. 
Every one of them shivered; the hall was as cold as an icebox. 

"Alright, step on the platform! Bend over, all of you!" ordered the 

The women bent over the iron bar. 

"No talking now! No talking!" 

The two young doctors walked to opposite sides of the room and began 
their examination with a flashlight and a surgical instrument known as a 

The First Time I Saw Paris 205 

speculum. Some girls were told to stand up straight and face the examining 

"What's going on?" I asked Monsieur Curand. 

"Those girls will have to be more closely examined at the hospital. 
They're suspect. ..." 

"Suspect of what?" 

"Of diseasel They go to the Hospital Saint Louis for observation. I 
wouldn't advise you to go to St. Louis. The sight is unbearable. Some of 
the leprosy and elephantiasis patients at St. Louis are simply rotting 
away. ..." 

More girls came in as Dr. Curand was called over to the line-up bar for 
a consultation. The newcomers undressed and took their place by the 
metal bar. When the doctor returned I asked: "Are these girls the inmates 
of brothels?" 

"No, the brothel girls are due tomorrow. These here are streetwalkers, 
licensed streetwalkers. They pay ten francs for a monthly examination." 

"How many are there in Paris?" 

"I don't know exacdy, several thousand, I expect. Of course, there are 
also a good many who never come here. They are the free lancers, ladies 
who try to make a little extra money. They are the most dangerous from 
a sanitary point of view." 

"How can they be told apart?" 

"These girls here are good girls, they carry a card." 

"What happens if they don't show up for examination?" 

"Eventually they will be picked up by the morals squad and they lose 
their card. Before leaving here they have their cards stamped at the 
booth where their names are checked off too. A red card signifies that a 
girl is certified clean, a yellow card that she has been diseased once but 
has been cured. Under police bylaw the women are required to show their 
cards on demand to prospective customers." 

Two girls were crying as they were led away into a side room by a 

"They're sick," said Dr. Curand. "They're off to St. Louis. ..." 

Other girls were still coming in. They undressed and bent over the bar, 
twenty, thirty at the time, fat ones, lean ones, old hags, fresh young things, 
not older than seventeen or eighteen. Their skin was discolored, blue and 
raw from the cold. With all those women bending over the bar, the hall 
looked like a stable for human cattle. . . . 

206 To Number Our Days 

I accompanied Dr. Curand to the H6tel-Dieu. "What do you say now 
about human dignity?" he asked. I bade him adieu at the door of the 
maternity ward. 

I often saw the doctor in afteryears when I came to reside permanently 
in Paris. All his days he remained a man of candor, good sense and 
compassionate interest in his fellows. . . . "We must work while it is yet 
day," was his counsel, "no matter how distasteful the work at times, he 
jour viendra, the day will come when disease will be no more. ..." 

In 1926 Curand sponsored my admission to the masonic lodge on the 
Rue Cadet. If you are interested you may see his name on a small bronze 
plaque with the names of eleven others attached to the fa9ade of a house 
on the Rue Soufflot. Beneath their names appear the words: N'Oubliez 
Jamais, "Never Forget!" The twelve men, all physicians, were executed 
as hostages by order of General von Stuelpnagel, the Nazi governor of 
Paris in the spring of 1944. Dr. Curand was 82 years of age at the time 
of his death. . • • 

The trip to Chartres to see the great cathedral was made in a chauffeur- 
driven Renault belonging to Liliane's grandfather. It was about one 
o'clock in the afternoon on a Sunday in mid-December, that Liliane and 
Raoul picked me up at the corner of the Rue Soufflot and the Boulevard 
St. Michel. As I stepped in the car, I noticed from the corner of my eye 
that Jo-Jo, the one-legged stool pigeon, had followed me and was casually 
glancing at the automobile's license plates. The informer was soon for- 
gotten as we fell to chatting of the sights I had seen and of the theaters 
the two lovers had visited. 

We did not, however, get as far as Chartres that day. Halfway we left 
the main road and stopped near the small town of Saint-Cyr where the 
French have their military academy, the equivalent of our West Point. 
The idea was Liliane's; she suggested that, before going to Chartres, we 
drop in to pay our respects to Anatole France who lived in an old re- 
modeled farmhouse, known as La B£chellerie, just west of Versailles. 

"Are you sure he'll receive us?" I asked. "It seems a bit of an imposition." 

"He keeps open house on Sundays," Liliane reassured. "You'll find La 
B6chellerie full of American soldiers. He's as vain as a peacock and likes 
playing the role of showpiece. It'll flatter his ego no end that two 
Canadians have come halfway around the globe to pay homage to the first 
literary man of France. But we must bring him a present, anything at all, 

The First Time I Saw Paris 207 

else he will be peeved. I think we had better double back to Versailles 
and buy him a box of chocolates." 

"Chocolates? There aren't any!" 

"Oh, yes, the Americans are importing shiploads of chocolates. They're 
buying up half the women of Paris with them." 

And so it came to pass that Liliane got out of the car and bought a large 
box of assorted candy in a shop across the street from the Church of St. 
Louis in Versailles. 

The Maitre, thus he was addressed by everybody, opened the door 
himself. He waved us inside. Looking at Liliane with the eye of a 
connoisseur, he rubbed his hands and bowed very ceremoniously. 

"Canadians! Ah, that's something new for me!" were his first words. 
He went on talking rapidly: "You represent a virile race, a tragic race 
perhaps, but better days are in store for you. The British, who are our 
allies now, defeated the poor French farmers of Canada on the Plains of 

Abraham That was in 1759, if I am not mistaken. The people of 

Quebec lost their country and their courage at the same time. What to do? 
What stratagem to employ to get the conquerors out? Once the rude Go- 
dons burnt Joan of Arc; what might their descendants not do to the gentle 
women of Acadia and Laurentia? We all remember Monsieur Longfellow's 
poem about Evangeline. . . . Nobody had an idea how to proceed. That's 
the way it generally is in an emergency. 

"But the priests, leave it to them, hit upon a solution: 'Au litY they told 
the dispirited habitants of Quebec. To bed! To bed!' Here in France we 
sing in 'The Marseillaise' about the day of glory having arrived. In 
Quebec the priests said: 'The night of glory has come. ... Go to bed! 
Make children! Make as many children as you can. In a hundred years 
we will not only recoup our losses, but outnumber the British ten to 
one. . . . ' Isn't that the whole history of French Canada in a nutshell? 
Isn't that the way providence has most graciously ordered things for your 
country, Madame?" he asked Liliane as he bent to kiss her hand the second 
time. • • • 

"I am informed that the French Canadians have enormously large 
families. . . . How many have you, Madame? Is this your husband?" He 
pointed to Raoul. "He seems quite capable, this young man. What is your 
rank, my child? A lieutenant? Well, to work, mon lieutenant! There's 
work to be done! But at least it's pleasant work! With me it's altogether 
different. For me the night has come when man can work no longer, not 

208 To Number Our Days 

the kind of work I'm talking about, anyway. When you grow as old as I 

am it's unbelievably sad One wants to love, but cannot! The last 

time I tried it made me very ill. C'est & pleurerl I could weep! Why am I 
so sad today? It's the sight of your beautiful shoulders, Madame. It's the 

tristesse of love. It's the abyss of regrets that rises in my soul Have I 

said enough? Can I now have that package which I see you hold in your 
dear hand?" 

"Maitre," said Liliane, "we brought you some chocolates." He affected 
to be surprised and opened wide his eyes. 

"Chocolates, you say? Please, let me have them at once. I haven't tasted 
chocolates in years. It's perfectly horrid the way we have been deprived 
of everything good by that confounded Clemenceau " 

He stuffed a bonbon into his mouth and began carrying the box away. 
Tm going to hide these," he called back. "If I show them around every- 
body will want some. You brought them for me, didn't you? Well, to me 
they go, all of them! My infinite gratitude, Madame, for your kindness in 
filling an old man's heart with joy and his mouth with sweetness. ..." 

In spite of his seventy-four years, the Maitre still walked erect. He 
seemed tall and lean, but his beard and the hair on his head were white 
as snow. He wore a black velvet jacket and a spotless white shirt with a 
loose flowing tie, a so-called lavallidre. When he returned from hiding his 
box of chocolates, he shepherded us into the salon where a few guests 
were assembled. He gently pushed me in the direction of three gentle- 
men standing together in a corner of the room. 

"This is Dr. Couchoud," he introduced. "Monsieur Couchoud is tie 
enemy of St. Paul. . . . This other gentleman is Monsieur Vaillant- 

Couturier, a deputy to the Chamber. He's just out of the army Politics 

called him home. And this gentleman," he continued, "is my dear old 
friend, Monsieur Jean Longuet. Monsieur Longuet is a legitimate grand- 
son of Karl Marx Yes, of the Karl Marx!" he repeated. Monsieur 

Longuet's mother was born Jenny Marx. ..." 

Longuet was the only one to shake hands with me. The other guests 
just stared at Liliane. 

"Tell me," whispered Anatole France, "who is this woman you brought 
with you?" 

"She's the granddaughter of General de St. Gervais," I said. 

"A French general?" 

The First Time I Saw Paris 209 

"Yes, a French general!" 
"Pas possiblel Unbelievable!" 

"Are you an enemy of St. Paul?" I asked Dr. Couchoud. 

"Not an enemy!" he laughed. "I don't think that such a person at St. Paul 
ever existed. The figure which goes by that name in the books is a sort of 
a prop to hold up the Christ myth " 

"Oh, now I know you, you are Dr. Couchoud, the mythologuel" I 
gasped. All at once I recognized his name as that of one of the most radical 
New Testament critics. "We have heard of you in Canada," I said, " of your 
theories, that is. Your work is well known in Holland, too. ... I was a 
theological student before entering the army. ..." 

"So was I, chimed in Vaillant-Couturier. "My father is a Huguenot pas- 

"And you? A pastor, too?" 

"I'm a socialist deputy to the Chamber. Jean Longuet is one of the edi- 
tors of Humanitd. 

"The paper founded by Jean Jaur&s?" 


"But this is a most fortunate meeting. I am an old admirer of Jaur&s 

If only he had lived. If Jaures had lived this war would probably never 
have taken place " 

"That's going a little too far," Longuet interrupted. "Jaures could not 
have prevented the war's outbreak. . . . But you may safely say this: had 
Jaures lived, this war would have been over two years earlier at least " 

"Well, it's over," anyway!" I said somewhat lamely. 

"Monsieur," said Longuet, "you depart from a false premise. . . . The 
war is not over. It has only begun. Or rather we are moving headlong 
into a new war. . . ." 

"Well, there is no peace treaty as yet, only an armistice, if that is what 

you mean For the time being the Germans are done for, aren't they? 

They were thoroughly defeated." 

"Were they? By whom were they defeated? Not by us, surely." 

"The Kaiser fled to Holland," I said. "Ludendorff has fled to Sweden. 
Hindenburg is a doddering old sergeant major. All the fighting spirit has 
gone out of him. ..." 

"No, Monsieur," said Longuet, "you are positively wrong, and 111 tell 
you why. With the consent and approval of the allied high command, the 

210 To Number Our Days 

doddering old field marshal is at this very moment under our very noses 

pulling one of the greatest mystifications of history What he is doing 

is nothing less than a stroke of genius God the father Hindenburg is 

bringing his children safely home When you say they are done for, 

you overlook the fact that the German army is not in flight. It is unde- 
feated. It is intact. It is making a perfectly orderly withdrawal. It is retreat- 
ing like a machine that's put in reverse. The organization of the withdrawal 
across the Rhine is a marvel of German efficiency. Not one unit goes astray. 
Every man knows exactly what route to take and to what garrison town 
or military depot he is to direct himself. ..." 

"Even so," I said, "they'll be demobilized the moment they pass the 
Rhine. ..." 

"Have you heard," asked Longuet, "that the Germans are taking every- 
thing with them they brought into France and Belgium, all the guns and 
tanks and weapons, plus the loot from a hundred thousand private dwell- 
ings, factories and public institutions? They're buying up horses in Holland 
and Denmark to pull their overloaded caravans of household material, 
machinery and foodstuffs. It all goes like clockwork. They're stripping 
northern France bare. ..." 

"They'll be made to pay for itl" 

"Pay? By whom? Hindenburg will be f£ted as the savior of the father- 
land, the supreme benefactor, the navigator who steered the ship safely 
back into harbor. . . . The allies trail behind him on the homeward trek 
till they reach the Rhine. . . . That's the armistice agreement, isn't it? 
There's no customhouse or control system on the Rhine to see what the 
Germans take out. ..." 

"Monsieur Longuet," I said, "you speak as if the Germans were the 
victors. . . . My impression is different. Their army is definitely kaput. If 
they do not carry out the armistice terms punctually, the Americans will 
surely cross the Rhine and bring them to their senses. ..." 

"Jamais de la viel Never on your life!" almost fiercely interrupted 
Vaillant-Couturier. "Evidently, you don't know what's going on." 

"I know a little of what goes on. The Americans clinched our victory. 
This is undeniable. ..." 

"It is true," Vaillant-Couturier agreed, "that the Americans brought the 
war to an end. But you are positively wrong if you imagine that the Ameri- 
cans have come to put or keep the Germans in their place. That's not their 
plan or purpose. The American armies are in Europe to prevent the revolu- 

The First Time I Saw Paris 211 

tion They are here to save German big business and French big busi- 
ness from collapse. . . . " 

"Do you mean to say," I asked, "that American big business is in some 
way in cahoots with German big business?" 

"You are a big child, Monsieur." Anatole France entered the conversa- 
tion at this point. "I mean: you talk like a child, all innocence, all good 
faith. But you are terribly naive. Didn't Monsieur Longuet just tell you that 
if Jaur&s had lived the war would have been over at least two years earlier? 
Do you know why Monsieur Longuet said that? He said that because all 
through the war till the year 1917, German and French diplomats and 
military men and representatives of German big business and French big 
business met on the neutral soil of Switzerland to confer, not on how to 
bring the war to an end, but how to keep it going without running the 
risk of arousing the wrath of the people on both sides, the popular masses 
who were doing the bleeding and the dying. ..." 

"Is there proof of this? If true, it is abominable!" 

"There is ample proof," observed Vaillant-Couturier. "Don't you read 
the papers? ... It was revealed in our Journal Officiel that till the begin- 
ning of 1917 the firm of Krupp of Essen shipped 250,000 tons of steel per 
month through Switzerland to the Comit6 des Forges, here in France. In 
exchange for this German steel, the French high command undertook not 
to bomb the iron ore mines and smelters of Briey which is French territory 

of course, but was occupied by the German army at the time It was 

not till the beginning of 1917 that the growing social unrest in France 
forced our government to take energetic measures to put an end to these 
murderous arrangements between the general staffs. ..." 

"Clemenceau took those measures?" 

"Yes, but not till Romain Holland unmasked the whole vile intrigue in 
the Journal de Gendve. . . . Holland was the first to dare tell the truth 
about the war and refute the lies of the bourgeois press. ..." 

"So all the woe and misery of the war was endured for the sake of keep- 
ing the capitalist system afloat? Is this what you mean to tell me? . . . Do 
you think," I asked, "that there's an awareness amongst the American sol- 
diers of what you say is the real purpose of their presence in France?" 

"Did the British air force ever bomb the Krupp works on the Ruhr?" 
Longuet asked in turn. "Or the munition plants at Liege under German 
occupation, or the Skoda cannon factories in Bohemia?" 

"Not that I know of ! . . . I'm shocked beyond belief," I said. 

212 To Number Our Days 

Even if these men exaggerated, as I thought then, I was bowled over by 
what they told me. That the war had never been an idealistic struggle to 
make the world, in Woodrow Wilsons phrase, "safe for democracy," I had 
long suspected. I never realized what sordid, naked, slimy mammonism it 
had been. I looked at Anatole France with a questioning glance, but he 
only nodded his head gravely: "It's truer' he said. "On croit mourir pour la 
patrie, on meurt pour les industriels."* 

His hands behind his back, Anatole France paced back and forth 
amongst his guests, starting a conversation here, asking a question there, 
but never lingering very long with anyone. Without any apparent effort 
the Maitre made everyone feel that he or she was the subject of a particular 
preference. He took a few of us out of the house and led us to the pavillion 
where he had his library. In that cottage he resumed his pacing. I noticed 
that whenever he passed the fireplace he looked up for an instant at the 
fine eleventh century tapestry which occupied the entire wall space from 
the mantelpiece to the ceiling. No matter how many times he went by the 
enormous bookcases, he never failed to brush the costly bindings with his 
fingertips. The paintings and engravings on the walls of both the salon and 
library, as well as other objets dart, were all of perfect style and taste, not 
spectacular but quiet and somewhat solemn. 

It having become too late to continue our journey to Chartres— the cath- 
edral is closed after sundown— Liliane's chauffeur dropped Dr. Couchoud 
off at his home in the Passy quarter of Paris, and the two socialists at the 
offices of L'Humanit6 on the Rue Montmarte. 

I don't think that a French general's official car would stop to let two 
editors of VHumanitS off in front of their office today. In 1918, however, 
VHumanitS was not a communist paper: there was no French com- 
munist party in existence. Founded by Jean Jaur&s, who was assassinated 
on July 31, 1914, by the wretched half-wit Robert Vilain, whose mind 
had been inflamed by false reports that Jaures' efforts to preserve the 
peace of Europe proved the socialist leader to be in the pay of the Ger- 
man Kaiser, VHumanitS at this time was the official organ of the Section 
Frangaise de Tlnternationale Ouvriere (SFIO), the French section of 
the International of Labor. 

The split in the socialist ranks did not occur till the party congress at 
Tours in 1920 when the extreme left wing broke away and entered the 
•"People imagine they die for their country, in reality they die for big business." 

The First Time I Saw Paris 213 

newly founded, Moscow directed Third International, better known as 
the Comintern. The communists took UHumanitS with them when they 
split off. The socialists remaining in the old Second or Amsterdam Inter- 
national then issued a new journal, Le Populaire, of which L6on Blum 
was the editor in chief. For this paper I wrote many articles, amongst 
them a series on F.D.R/s New Deal under the pseudonym Pierre Laurusse, 
which, I should say, is really not a pseudonym at all, but an excerpt from 
the long name my parents gave me at the baptismal font. 

I paid two or three visits to the offices of UHumanitS. It was a long 
walk from Madame Gaetan on the Rue Soufflot to Montmartre, but well 
worth the trouble. I met some men whom I will always remember: 
Pietro Nenni, who is still the leader of the Italian socialist party; Henri 
Barbusse, in whose company I made a trip to Russia on a Soviet ship 
through the Kiel canal in 1934. With Barbusse and Nenni I was asso- 
ciated in the Comit6 Franco-Ethiopien under the chairmanship of Pierre 
Cot, minister of aviation in the Popular Front government. We thought 
we could prevent the outbreak of the Italo-Ethopian war by publicizing 
the underhand intrigues of Pierre Laval with Mussolini, an effort which 
turned out disastrously in my case. Pierre Laval never forgot; he re- 
quisitioned the house where I lived in Maisons-Laffitte when the war 
broke out in 1939, and forced me to leave the country. 

Others with whom I became acquainted were Andr6 Marty, the man 
who headed the mutiny of the French Mediterranean fleet when ordered 
to bombard Odessa in 1919; Marcel Cachin, senator of France, at whose 
request I wrote a series of dispatches from Berlin in April, 1933, when 
Hitler was appointed chancellor. My first dispatch, signed "P.v.P." was 
printed on the front page under an eight-column banner: HITLER: 
C'EST LA GUERRE EN MOINS DE DIX ANSI ("Hitler's access to 
power means war in less than ten years") 

Not a bad guess! 

But was it a mere guess? It was no more a guess than my announce- 
ment in Le Populaire in 1935 that Austria would be the first country to 
be attacked by the Nazis, and Czechoslovakia would follow in short 
order. These things sounded incredible at the time of publication and 
I was duly covered with ridicule and all the scurrility, venom and slime 
the Fascists could muster. 

Oil sont les neiges dantari? "Where are the snows of yesteryear?" Save 
for Pietro Nenni, all these men have been carried away on the ever-rolling 

214 To Number Our Days 

stream of time. In memory they come back at times in the too-little-known 
lines of Landor: 

The leaves of perhaps our last autumn are falling, 
Half spent is the fire that must soon cease to burn, 
How many are absent who heed not our calling? 
Alas! and how many who cannot return? 

As the year 1918 moved to its close, the weather turned uncommonly 
cold. But it was not the vigorous, blood-warming cold of Frisia or the 
Canadian forest. It had a soggy, bone-chilling quality that made me 
sweat and caused my teeth to chatter at the same time. Nearly every 
morning the world was enveloped in a blanket of fog. The milky white 
vapor penetrated the cracked roof tiles in the top of my room with the 
result that the moisture ran down the walls and stood in puddles on 
the floor. The old crazy quilt on my bed soaked up the dampness like a 
sponge. On a day of high wind, it is true, the room dried out a little, but 
if it rained the situation became too dreary for words. I could not afford 
to close the skylight, for when sealed off the garret reeked so strong of 
rotting plaster and decay that I became nauseated. 

I began to he awake at nights listening to the rain gurgle in the gutters 
and counting the strokes of the clock tower of the nearby church of St. 
Etienne-du-Mont. I cannot say that after the day's noisy scenes in the 
streets, the hushed quietness of the night came as a release. Restlessness, 
boredom and anxiety are the fate of those confined to enclosures where 
absolute silence prevails. My garret was as silent as a tomb. I was as tired 
in the morning as when I went to bed. Nothing was more welcome than 
Jo-Jo's stomping footfall at the peep of dawn. 

Not that the city itself bored me. That never happened. Paris was even 
then getting into my senses and working its way into my blood, and has 
remained there ever since. There were generally a few hours of sunshine 
around noon when the light sprinkled the gray fagades and the dead trees 
in the parks with a powder of soft gold. This brief surcease from the rain- 
sodden drabness compensated almost miraculously for the dreary hours 
of night. 

A strange, yet startlingly realistic image of things rose in my mind. I felt 
as if I stood on the top of a hill looking backward and in one all- 
encompassing glance took in the entire road through life which I had 

The First Time I Saw Paris 215 

covered so swiftly. Was I dreaming? Was I sick? Did I suffer from 
hallucinations? No, for my eyes remained wide open. Still, whatever their 
nature, dreams or imaginings, they left an uncomfortable, haunting 
aftermath of futility. One moment, I recall, I was plunged into sadness 
over the death of Ross MacDonald. Where was he now? Could he see 
me? As if he had heard my question, his face rose before me as I last 
saw it on the morning of the Armistice with that intense gaze of surprise 
and horror. "Are you in pain now?" I asked. The gaze softened into 
tenderness and vanished. . . . 

Homer calls that part of tne day the solemn hour when the sun stands 
highest and the market places are still and deserted. Isn't there a solemn 
hour also in the night? The dead seemed so near me that I thought I 
could hear them murmur: "Tomorrow, tomorrow, we will meet again!" 

Since I had so few people to talk to, I had begun to talk to myself. 
Luckily, I discovered a clubhouse for students of the Free Protestant 
faculty on the Rue de Tournon, not far from the Luxembourg Museum, 
and often dropped in there in the evening. But in that place, as I soon 
found out, I went too far in the other direction; I talked so much and so 
long that I got ravenously hungry and was forced to dip into my fast 
diminishing exchequer for an extra meal before retiring. Evidently, my 
position of the half-tourist, half-deserter vagabond was becoming un- 
tenable. I had no idea though that the next step would be forced on me 
by events over which I had no control 

It was towards dusk on a Tuesday evening, about the time when the 
official bugler makes his rounds in the Luxembourg Gardens, blowing the 
sad signal for all lovers lingering in the dark avenues to break it up, 
that I turned for the last time into the Rue Soufflot. When I noticed that 
the light in the window of Fourier's bookshop was burning brightly, I 
sensed at once that something unusual was afoot. The proprietor himself 
was standing behind the door peering through the rivulets of drizzle run- 
ning down the glass panel. The moment he caught sight of me, he opened, 
and with a discreet motion of the hand he beckoned me inside. When I 
gave him a word of greeting, he placed his index finger on his lips and 
whispered: "We had better go into the treasure chamber so as not to be 
overheard. . . . Will you do me the honor of drinking a little glass with 
me? I have just opened a new bottle." He poured me "two fingers" of old 
Armagnac and downed his own with a mighty click of the tongue. 

216 To Number Our Days 

"Courage, Monsieur, courage" began Fourier after shutting the door 
of the inner sanctum behind us. "I am a blunt person I feel honor- 
bound to inform you that you are in danger!" 

"Danger? What are you talking about? What danger?" 

"Your room has been searched in your absence by a representative of 
the Ministry of the Interior!" 

"The Ministry of the Interior? That's the political police, isn't it? What 
do they want from me?" 

"I am not quite sure whether the visitor was from the Ministry of the 
Interior or from the prefecture of police. But that he was a mouchard, 
a plain-clothes man, of that there can be no doubt whatsoever. I cannot 
deny that he had a somewhat human face and certain other human attrib- 
utes, still I discerned in his features and general deportment inescapable 
evidence of a soul distorted by the most powerful evil passions: terror, 
greed and cruelty " 

"Monsieur Fourier, please come to the point. . . . You frighten me. ..." 

"I beg your forgiveness; such is not my intention. To the contrary: I 
believe that it would be a grave error of judgment on your part to show 

the least sign of alarm or nervousness That uncouth individual I just 

mentioned talked with the unijambiste and with Madame the concierge. 
I overheard at least part of their conversation. ..." 

"Were you present at the interview?" 

"I can answer both yes and no," he chuckled. "Just allow me to ex- 
plain: like every citizen I have had to take measures to protect myself 
against prowlers and Peeping Toms; that is to say, in the rear of my 
shop, above the water closet, there is a loose panel in the wall. By stand- 
ing on the toilet and applying my ear to the wainscoting, I am able to 
overhear whatever is said above a whisper in Madame Gaetan's loge. 
When the light burns in her room, I can also see what goes on. However, 
with the sordid details of what I have witnessed there over the years, I 
will not detain you for the present " 

"Oh, please, do tell me what you heard!" 

"You want the truth? Well, here it is: I heard that you are suspected 
of being a spy!" 

"A spy? Who accuses me of being a spy?" 

"The fake hero, the phony war invalid, our one-legged friend, the 
odious Jo-Jo! Nobody else!" 

"Jo- Jo's crazy. I'm not a spy. He has no evidence " 

The First Time I Saw Paris 217 

"Don't speak hastily, Monsieur, nor in anger. As I told you before, the 
man is evil incarnate. It's his business to fabricate false evidence. That's 
what he gets paid for. It was he who called in the police inspector and 
denounced you in the first place. That much I gathered readily enough 
from their conversation. ,, 

"But in what dirty deal does this scoundrel seek to involve me?" 

"Ah, there's the crux of the matter; it appears that Jo- Jo saw you enter 
an automobile two weeks ago last Sunday at the corner of our street 

and the Boulevard St. Michel And further that the ownership of 

this automobile has been traced to a French general " 

"Is that all?" 

"No, it isn't all by any means. The general has made a statement deny- 
ing all knowledge of you. He says he did not loan out his limousine or 
place it at anyone's disposal." 

"The general is in his second childhood He suffers from an en- 
larged prostate gland and his brain has turned to putty. He doesn't even 
know that he owns an automobile. Still that limousine can be easily ex- 
plained The general's granddaughter, the Countess de Jouvenceau, 

treated a friend of mine and myself to a ride in her grandfather's 

"If you will permit me to give you a bit of sound advice, leave the 
lady's name out of your explanations if ever they should have to be made 
before an official body. ..." 

"Well, we visited the home of Anatole France that Sunday afternoon. 
I told you so at the time. That certainly can easily be verified " 

"That has already been verifiedl But the limousine, recognized by its 
license plates, has also been observed standing in front of the publishing 
offices of L'Humanite." 

"Why sure! We gave the editor a lift back to Paris from La B^chellerie 
at Saint-Cyr. . . . That's no crime, is it?" 

"And the fortress of Mont Val&rien? What was the limousine doing 

"Oh, that's true, I forgot all about that. My friend and I visited the 
old fortress one afternoon last week. ..." 

"That's serious, Monsieur," said Fourier, gravely nodding his head, 
"that's very serious. ... No foreigners are permitted inside that military 
strong place under wartime regulations which, as you must know, are 
still in force. Why did you go to Mont Valerien? Why expose yourself 

218 To Number Our Days 

to suspicions? . . . Don't you realize that your visit to Mont Val&ien may 
be used to weave a net of circumstantial evidence around you?" 

"Monsieur Fourier, the fortress has some historical significance. Didn't 
it figure prominently in the Dreyfus affair? Didn't Colonel Henry, the 
accomplice of Esterhazy, commit suicide there? The general's grand- 
daughter obtained a permit for us to enter * 

"That makes no difference. . . . The lady's name will never figure in 
the evidence. . . . * 

"But you say that the mouchard and Jo-Jo searched my room. They 
certainly didn't find anything incriminating there?" 

"The inspector carried some articles away with him!" 

'What? My steel hat, my sewing kit?" 

"I have no idea." 

"What will happen now?" 

"When you go into the house presently, Jo-Jo or Madame Gaetan will 
ask you to fill out a sheet of paper giving all the details of your Stat civil, 
date of birth, names of parents, grandparents, nationality, color of eyes, 
the shape of your big toenail, what side you part your hair on, birthmarks, 
your entire curriculum vitae. . . . Signed by you, that paper will be taken 
to police headquarters this very night yet by Jo-Jo. You yourself, no 
doubt, will also be summoned, probably tomorrow, or the day after, or 
even this very night, who knows? ..." 

Things passed off precisely as Monsieur Fourier foretold. I answered 
all the questions on both sides of the long sheet of paper and signed it. 
Madame Gaetan handed me a receipt signed by "Georges Gougerot, 
Inspector," stating that he had taken away from my room the following 
articles: one gold ring engraved with a tiny Prussian eagle (the gift from 
the Oberleutnant at Seneffe); further, a spare set of brass buttons and 
two Mills' bombs. • 

Then I went out and raced by taxicab to the Place d'I£na. 

"Why did you carry the hand grenades with you?" asked Raoul. 

"They were in my haversack, I guess. I completely forgot they were 
in there. I should have turned them in after Mons. ..." 

"Anyway," he said, "bombs or no bombs, this is the end. Finita la 
commedial We're picking up your things right now and you'll spend the 
night in the Hotel d'I£na. We'll go to Rouen either tomorrow or 
Thursday " 

The First Time I Saw Paris 219 

We were back on the Rue Soufflot in less than an hour's time and 
parked the general's Renault at the curb. I went upstairs while Raoul 
stood talking to Madame Gaetan. As expected, Jo-Jo was absent. I 
brought all my equipment down and was about to dump it in the car 
when Monsieur Fourier stepped outside. 

"You are leaving us, I see!" 

"Yes, I am going to Rouen." 

"Monsieur," said Fourier, "it has been a pleasure and an honor 

Do me the favor, I beg of you, to accept in souvenir of your stay amongst 
us this beautiful volume with my respectful homage " 

He handed me a splendidly bound book. It's title was: The Secrets of 
King Solomons Harem. 

I thanked him for all his kindnesses and his hospitality, and he gave 
me the accolade. 

That was the last time I saw the bookseller. I corresponded a little 
with him, but did not tell him that the book he gave me was stolen from 
my bunk on the troopship Aquitania on the homeward journey, even 
before I had time to delve into wise old Solomon's secrets. In 1922 I re- 
ceived a death notice, a card framed in deep black borders: Priez pour 
Tdme de Monsieur Jacques Fourier, <Mc6d6 & son domicile. . . muni des 
Saints Sacrements de TEglise. . . . "Pray for the soul of Mr. Jacques 
Fourier, who died at his home, fortified with the holy sacraments of 
the Church. . . . n 

It must have been a deathbed conversion for the old Jacobin, who 
swore to me that he would never retreat before the Pope. 

The last night in Paris, Raoul and I spent in the Opera quarter. The 
chauffeur carried my belongings to the Hotel d'I6na, and we two went 
to dinner at the Caf6 de la R6gence opposite the Com^die Frangaise. 
The place was crowded with American service men and a few British 
staff officers, recognizable by the red tabs on their lapels. One of these, 
Captain Ferdinand Tuohy of the intelligence service, introduced himself 
and joined us for a drink and then another drink and still another, till 
I don't recall how we ever managed to get to the Rue de Caumartin 
and the bar of the Hotel St. Petersbourg. The barroom was crowded; 
men were standing eight, ten deep in front of the dispensing counter. 
All drank whisky and soda, the atmosphere was tense with the spirit 
of battle. 

220 To Number Our Days 

"D'you know what the senators told Sims?" shouted a Yank officer in 
my ear as I walked in. 

"No, I don't, and I couldn't care less!" 

'Well, I'll tell you, anyway," he insisted. "J ust before Admiral Sims 
took the American fleet into the Atlantic to beat the Jerry submarines, 
the senators in Washington warned him: 'Look, Sims!' they said, 'don't 
let the damn British pull the wool over your eyesl' That's what they 
told him. Wasn't that a good one? . . ." 

"Why did they tell Sims that?" asked Tuohy. 

"Search me!" said the Yankee. 

"Because the British are no damn good, see!" a red-faced major spoke 
up. "I'm Boston Irish. I ought to know." 

"I'm Irish, too," said Tuohy, "but from Ireland, from Armagh. Did you 
ever hear of the place?" 

"No, I haven't," said the major. "But who won the war, you or we? 
Tell me that, you Redcoat!" 

"Oh," I said, "don't let's start that! Who cares? Let's have another drink." 

All at once the whole room changed from buzzing into an uproar. 
"You started the war and we finished it for you," the major shouted at 

"You don't think we could have finished it by ourselves?" 

"No, you couldn't! Neither you nor the frogs, nor all of you put to- 
gether! You were stuck!" 

"Then why the hell did you wait so long before you came to help out?" 

"It wasn't our warl It was the British who dragged America in. . . . We 
would just as lief have ..." 

"Shut up, you idiot!" several Americans admonished their overheated 

"Gentlemen," I said, 'let's talk of something else. Anything! Mademoi- 
selle from Armenti&res, for instance! ..." 

"The hell with youl" the major interrupted me. "I say the British 
bastards are to blame for everything. ..." 

"Don't call me a bastard, you son of a bitch!" Tuohy said threateningly. 

He and the Boston major were blazing into each other's faces, two 
fighting cocks, ready to start slugging. They tried to put their glasses 
down, but couldn't reach the bar on account of the mob. 

A short white-haired man in the front rank, leaning his arms on the 
bar, the only person in civilian clothes in the room, suddenly asked: 

The First Time I Saw Paris 221 

"Isn't there anyone here who has a good word for the British?" 

"I have," I said, turning to the man in the tuxedo. "I like them." 

"Why?" he asked. 

'They are decent people," I said. 

"Right!" he came back. "Have a drink! The name is French!" 

Tuohy prodded me in the ribs. "You're talking to General Sir John 
French ..." he said in a hiccup that was intended as a whisper. 

"I don't care if he's the Lord God Almighty," I said. "The British are 
decent people!" 

"You say that?" asked Raoul. "Have you forgotten what you told me 
about the South African Boers?" 

"To hell with the Boers!" 

"Right again!" broke in the gentleman in the tuxedo. "Have another 

"Okay, so well all have a drink!" chimed in the American major. 
Everyone in the room was aware by now of the civilians identity. 

"Gentlemen," spoke up Sir John, '1 drink to the health of President 
Wilson and . . . His Majesty the King!" 

"The King! The King! . . . For he's a jolly good fellow," the Americans 
sang as if to the manner born. 

"I'm proud of you, vieuxl" said Raoul as we rolled to the Place d'I6na. 
"I only wish Old Mac could have heard you " 

"He and Cyril are sitting right here between us in this cab," I said. 
"We couldn't let them down, could we? ..." 

And so we both cried! 

We drove in the general's car to Rouen the next afternoon. It was 
Christmas day, 1918. 


Short Stand in Dixieland 

I did not actually go in search of my newspaper job; I was assigned 
to it by the army, or rather by the government's Bureau of Soldiers* Civil 
Re-establishment. When I informed the last medical board before de- 
mobilization that I felt no inclination to return to church work, the three 
board members awarded me a pension of $5 per month in compensation 
for my shattered left arm plus a $1000 gratuity, plus "a farm" of 160 acres, 
a so-called veterans lot, located in North Ontario. An Indian guide from 
Cochrane's land office showed me the approximate location of my farm, 
which looked like one solid pile of rock grown over by a forest of 
stunted pine trees. I came, I looked, but left the conquest of the wilder- 
ness to more competent hands. I returned to Toronto and mingled with 
the ' returned" soldiers who swarmed in their thousands in the downtown 
area; very restless, very much in need of a program of action. In one 
Canadian city they went so far as to hoist the red flag on the city hall 
and to enforce a general strike of ten days* duration. 

In the absence of a school of journalism, the Bureau of Soldiers* Civil 
Re-establishment suggested that I go and sit in a newspaper office for 
a year or so at the government's expense, and learn the trade. This seemed 
not an unpleasant prospect and I called at The Star, The Telegram, The 
News and The World, saw the managing editors of these papers and put 
the proposition to them. They wouldn't take a chance; there were long 
waiting lists, and besides members of their permanent staffs were still 
overseas. I was about to give up the quest when I happened to pass the 
offices of The Globe, the foremost liberal paper of Canada. I did not ex- 
pect any better reception at The Globe but, as fate would have it, in the 
hallway upstairs I met a gentleman wearing a high silk hat. 

"Show me your discharge papers!" 

The man studied my credentials for a while and suddenly looking up 


224 To Number Our Days 

said: "For what you have done for Canada, we all owe you a debt 

You may come here as soon as you like. . . . I'm the editor in chief." He 
put out his hand. "My name is Thomas Stewart Lyon " 

The same evening, after talking with Fred Mears, the city editor, I 
went to work. "The main thing in newspaper work is accuracy," said 
Mears. "I mean, you've got to spell people's names correctly. . . . There 
are MacDonalds and McDonalds in this world, some spell their name 
with a capital T>,' others with a small 'd.' If we get it wrong, we re in a 
heluva lot of trouble. . . . Watch yourself, especially in writing obitu- 
aries. . . . The bereaved are our worst enemies. ..." 

For a time I accompanied veteran reporters on their assignments to 
the law courts, inquests at the morgue, city council and Ontario parlia- 
ment meetings, police stations, the old labor temple, familiar from days 
gone by, the headquarters of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, 
the Board of Trade and other such uninspiring spots. This went on for 
two months when a fierce blizzard struck Toronto one evening in Decem- 
ber, 1920. I was sitting in the waiting room of the old Union Station 
watching the passengers go to and fro when a Roman Catholic priest 
came up to me and asked in broken English whether I could tell him 
the hour of departure of the delayed train for Montreal 

"You re French, mon pete*' I said. "Old country French. I seem to 
detect a Gascon flavor in your speech. ..." 

"Yes," he replied, "I am a Gascon, and my colleague here— " he pointed 
to another priest "—is German. We re missionaries going home after twenty 
years in the jungles of Borneo south of Sarawak. . . . * 

"So you were stationed in Dutch colonial territory? Did you see any 
head-hunters in Borneo?" 

"No, we didn't. Most of the head-hunters are on the island of New 
Guinea. . . . " 

"It will be quite an experience to see France after all those years?" 

"Yes, we are both anxious to see our homelands again. We spent the 
duration of the war in total ignorance of the fact that it was going on. . . . 
We only heard two years ago that France had been invaded. A trader 
who passed our way told us about the destruction and devastation and 
the battles of Verdun and the Chemin des Dames. . . . But when the 
man told us the fighting had already stopped ..." 


"Amazing and atrocious. We had a hard time of it after learning of the 
invasion. ..." 

Short Stand in Dixieland 225 

"How so?" 

"Well, my colleague is German as I told you, and I am French Sud- 
denly we found ourselves at daggers drawn. The Germans had carried 

out a ruthless campaign of destruction in France The news struck 

us with a sort of paralysis of the senses. We actually hated each other 

We couldn't talk We couldn't eat We couldn't sleep We 

couldn't look each other in the face The tension was terrible. We 

both suffered agonies compared to which the awful heat and the swamps 

and fevers were as nothing We who had lived and worked together as 

brothers for twenty years were suddenly separated as by the whole world's 
width. . . . We were estranged in one blow. . . . We were enemies " 

"How did it end, your estrangement?" 

"One Sunday morning I saw my colleague walk across the sun-drenched 
clearing from the hut which he occupied. He was on his way to say Mass 
at our small chapel. I could see that he was weeping. So I ran out to meet 
him. When I came near, my friend knelt down and asked my forgiveness 

for what the German army had done to France and the French people 

We fell into each others' arms. . . . There was no more question of Ger- 
man and French, either then or ever afterwards. . . . The love of Christ 

wiped out all our differences, swept away all our hate That morning 

we rang the church bell together laughing like two schoolboys. ..." 

After seeing the two clerics to their train, I sauntered back to the Globe 
office which was but a few minutes' walking distance. As I entered the 
local room and stood by the city desk, Fred Mears asked me the usual: 
"Anything doing?" 

I told him of my meeting with the two priests. Mears listened atten- 
tively, but the further I got, the more excited he became. He had a curious 
habit of pulling out the hairs on his head one by one while reading copy. 
Now he was pulling them out so rapidly that the other copy editors 
pricked up their ears. . . . 

"Tell your story to Paul Reading," said Mears. "Hell put it in shape 
for you." Reading, I should say, was a rewrite man. Mears himself walked 
off and entered the sanctum sanctorum where Stewart Lyon was writing 
a late editorial. 

A few moments later Mears returned to the local room. "Go in there." 
He pointed to the editor's office. "The chief wants to see youl" 

When I told Lyon about the two priests, he asked: "Are you writing 
that story?" 

226 To Number Our Days 

"No, sir," I said, "Mr. Reading is writing it. He is waiting for me now!" 

"Nothing of the sort!" returned Mr. Lyon. "You write that story in your 
own words. Hand the copy to me when you get through, I'll edit it 

After typing the story, which lasted about an hour, I took it to the 
editor. As a rule Stewart Lyon went home about ten o'clock. It was now 
ten to twelve. A few minutes later he came out and, rolling my manu- 
script into a tube, shot it up to the composing room. 

"Tell the army," he said, "that they needn't pay you any longer 

You are from now on a member of the staff of Canada's National News- 
paper. ... I hope I spelt your name correctly in the by-line, two a's; 
and two s's, isn't it? Change it, if necessary, when the proof comes 
down. ..." 

The representatives of the Montreal papers and the telegraph agencies 
met the two missionaries the next morning at Windsor station, verified 
their statements and flashed the word over the length and breadth of 
Canada. After that, I was no longer assigned to any particular task, I was 
free to write whatever I liked and my daily piece appeared as a feature in 
the right-hand lower corner of The Globe's front page. 

Because he was the first of the prominent persons I interviewed I recall 
most vividly Bramwell Booth, the General of the Salvation Army. The 
interview took place in a combination club-sleeping car standing on a 
siding in the yard of the Canadian National Railway in the vicinity of 
Toronto's Exhibition grounds. As the general insisted on detaining me 
for dinner, the meeting lasted no less than six hours, from five in the after- 
noon till eleven in the evening. 

Bramwell Booth was a fluent and fascinating talker, a man of dignified, 
even regal bearing, imbued with that "passion for souls" which is charac- 
teristic of the Salvation Army's spirit and endeavors till this day. However, 
it was not I who did the questioning. Placing his hands on my shoulders 
as I entered the railroad car, his first question was: "Before anything else 
let me ask you: How does it stand with your own soul?" Though I did not 
resent the question as coming from him, I replied somewhat flippantly 
that I had lost it in the mud somewhere between P6ronne and Bapaume 
on the Somme front. The general threw up his hands in a gesture of alarm 
and immediately went down on his knees to ask God kindly to help me 
find my soul back. 

Although an absolute newcomer to journalism, I realized (by instinct, I 
suppose) that this episode would not make the slightest impression on 

Short Stand in Dixieland 227 

Fred Mears. Fortunately, when Bramwell Booth, having risen to his feet, 
proceeded to predict a cataclysm that might well signify the end of the 
world "in our time," I felt mightily reassured and on much firmer and 
familiar ground. 

The newspaper for which I worked styled itself "Canada's National 
Newspaper," but was commonly referred to as "The Scotchman's Bible." 
The owner and publisher, Mr. Will Jaffe, was a Calvinist of the old stamp 
in whose ears, if he ran true to form, the news of coming world catastro- 
phes would probably sound like so much sweet music. I therefore listened 
carefully as the general made a startling forecast of the nature of the 
calamity bearing down on us. It would, he said, take the form of "a uni- 
versal conflagration, a fire of such fierce intensity as will make us all shrivel 
up like so much tissue paper in a roaring furnace." He described the dis- 
aster so realistically that it almost seemed as if he had a premonition of 
Hiroshima. On "that awful day of wrath," he predicted, "the waters of 
Lake Ontario will seethe and boil and the steam arising from it will choke 
millions to death. . . . The mountains will catch fire, the very heavens will 
be rolled up. ... " 

In an attempt to turn him from pursuing his horrible story to the bitter 
end, I ventured to mention that as a boy I had seen and heard his illus- 
trious father, General William Booth, on the occasion of that gentleman's 
visit to Rotterdam in the spring of 1911. Bramwell Booth took this bit of 
information so kindly that he dropped his apocalyptic prognostications 
and told me the whole fascinating story of the Salvation Army's rise from 
the slums of London's "darkest wilderness" to the world-wide and univers- 
ally respected missionary and rescue movement which we know today. 

Probably wanting to test either my memory or my veracity he suddenly 
asked if perchance I remembered the names of any of the Army's officers 
who accompanied his father on that preaching mission to Holland. 

"I remember the names of two men who were on the platform with 
your father in Rotterdam's old Doelen hall," I said. "Commissioner Thomas 

E. Estill and Colonel Lawley Colonel Lawley was a tall man of a 

deadly facial pallor and a coal-black beard. Of him it was said that he 
had been picked from the gutter by General William Booth himself. Seven 
times Lawley slipped back into the drink habit and seven times he was 
sought out by General Booth in one of London's shabbiest flophouses and 
brought back to the Army. In the end Lawley became one of the most 
eloquent and persuasive 'fishers of men' who was constantly by the gen- 
eral's side in that moment of supreme importance in the Army's services 

228 To Number Our Days 

when sinners are asked to step forward and kneel at the mercy seat. 

"You have a good memory," said Bramwell Booth, "and a good under- 
standing of my father's concern for the world's outcasts and the victims 

of drink It is true, my father never despaired no matter how low a 

person had sunk. He never gave up hope It's also true that Lawley 

had an extremely pale face. For years he was in agonizing pain: he suf- 
fered and died of cancer of the stomach * Then the general talked with 

gentle wistfulness and admiration of his mother, Catherine Booth, some- 
how giving me the impression that his father came quite a poor second 
in his affections. . . . 

The interview with Bramwell Booth established me so firmly in the 
publisher's confidence that I was assigned to the "hotels and rails" beat 
which meant keeping an eye on the registry blotters of various Toronto 
hotels for persons who visited the city to give lectures or concerts or per- 
form some other task. In rapid succession I talked with Margot Asquith, 
the wife of the prime minister who declared war on Germany in 1914; 
Frank Swinnerton, the author of Nocturne and other novels; Cardinal Mer- 
cier, the Primate of Belgium; Hilaire Belloc; Gilbert K. Chesterton; Bel- 
gium's socialist leader Henri de Man, who turned collaborator during the 
Second World War; Sir Philip Gibbs, the famed war correspondent and 
author; H. G. Wells, the snootiest snob I ever met in my life; and Field 
Marshal Jan Christiaan Smuts, nicknamed Slim Jannie, "Clever Johnny," 
by the Boers, who is still bitterly spoken of in South Africa's nationalist 
press as "Smuts the traitor" because of his swift transfer of allegiance to 
Britain after the Anglo-Boer War. 

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I met one of the saddest, most mixed up men 
I ever came across. Sir Arthur was in Toronto to lecture, but not on the 
subject of crime detection or any related topic. He spoke on the possibility 
of communicating with the dead. 

I began by telling him as much as I knew about the case of a certain 
local theatrical entrepreneur, Alexander Small, who had disappeared with- 
out leaving a trace. I suggested to Sir Arthur that he interest himself in the 

"I can solve only those crimes," said Conan Doyle, "which I have plotted 
myself. ... All others are beyond my capacity. But what may not be be- 
yond my capacity," he continued, "at least I hope it is not, is to see my 
boy again, or perhaps hear him speak. ..." 

Short Stand in Dixieland 229 

"Did you say your boy, Sir Arthur? Wasn't he one of the gallant guard 
officers who fell in battle?" 

"Yes, a most gallant and dear boy Kingsley was He is now trying 

to get in touch with me from the other side. I have hopes of finding here 
in Canada a spiritualist medium able to establish the connection with my 
son I am much encouraged by what I have learned about one particu- 
lar woman medium who resides here in Toronto She is said to have 

brought many people in touch with their beloved dead "He fell silent, 

but then suddenly asked me: "Do you think she will succeed in putting 
me in touch with him?" 

It's horrible enough to see a woman weep. But to see a strong man, a 
calm and unemotional man like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote 
without the least trace of sentimentalism about the atrocities in the Congo 
and the sufferings in the Anglo-Boer War, break down and sob like a 
child is unendurable. . . . 

He walked over to where I sat in the chair facing him and took my 

hand "Promise me," he said, "that you'll help me. Promise me that 

you'll go to the medium with me. ..." 

"I promise you, Sir Arthur. Ill do whatever I can " 

"Please, excuse my emotion," he added. "I can't get over my boy's death. 


On Sundays, like most of the senior reporters and editors, I went to 
church. Religion was news at The Globe, which wasn't called "The Scotch- 
man's Bible" for nothing. We turned in a brief synopsis of the sermon we 
heard. There was a wide choice, for Toronto, if I am not mistaken, counted 
no less than 500 churches, large and small. I turned up frequently at the 
Church of the Ascension where my friend of the first hour, Henri Roche, 
was the rector, and his father, Papa Roche, the top-degree Orangeman, 
one of the vestrymen. Once only I visited the Unitarian Church on Jarvis 
Street where the minister gave a talk of such sound common sense that I 
wrote two columns. But that report got me into plenty of hot water with 
the publisher. 

Mr. Jaffe sent for me, and lectured me in somewhat the following terms: 
"Your reports on sermons are a great comfort to me, and, I dare say, to 
tens of thousands of our readers. I also agree that we must have broad 
sympathies with others so that I do not mind if you report an Anglo- 
Catholic service and sermon occasionally. But we must draw the line 
somewhere. The Latter-day Saints? Well, they might pass in a pinch, 

230 To Number Our Days 

though not too often, if you don't mind On the other hand I don't see 

why we should give the liberal Catholic Church any space. There are no 
liberal Catholics, as you well know, so that all their hocus-pocus is pure 
eyewash. I'd leave them stew in their own juice if I were you 

"But the Unitarians," he went on as his face suddenly hardened, "I am 
sorry to have to tell you; they get no space in my paper. They are Arians, 
Socinians, pagans, heretics, godless materialists, worse than Jewsl The Jews 
are damned and doomed on their own say-so. They called God's curse on 
their own heads when they shouted at Pontius Pilate when he was judging 
our Lord and finding Him innocent: 'Crucify Him! Let His blood be upon 
us and upon our children!' If they are persecuted they have only them- 
selves to blame. Still, we must be patient with them for God's word com- 
mands us to! But the Unitarians " 

"The Unitarians do not stand far from liberal Judaism," I said. 

That's just it!" exclaimed Jaffe. "They are Judaizers. They deny our 

Lord's divinity But whereas the Jews sin unknowingly, their minds 

and hearts having been closed to the truth of Christ, the Unitarians 
know the truth but reject it. They sin against the light, and they know 
it. I never want to see another Unitarian sermon reported in The Globe. 
Never! That piece you had in the paper this morning was an insult to 
every believing Christian. . . . What will people think we are, hea- 
thens? . . . And as to yourself, a Calvinist, born in a Calvinist country, 
aren't you ashamed of yourself? You have betrayed your Lord! Are you 
aware of that?" 

"But that Unitarian minister did not say anything that could offend an 
orthodox Christian; in fact I agreed with a good deal he said." 

Jaffe sank back in his chair. His anger grew into a towering rage. He 
rose and advanced upon me with pointed finger. 

"Young man," he shouted, "if you go back to that Unitarian charnel 
house, you may lose your chance of salvation. Do you realize what's in 
store for you? You are going to get a red-hot seat in hell between Satan 
and Judas Iscariot. ..." 

With this harrowing, though not wholly uninteresting prospect staring 
me in the face, the end could not be far off. And it wasn't. I was assigned 
to cover the revolt of the Six Nations' Indians at Brantf ord, Ontario. On 
that reservation I saw the sharpshooters again who reduced the German 
snipers to silence with the exception of their leader Ruby who, as I 

Short Stand in Dixieland 231 

learned, had been killed in action. For the sake of old lang syne I was 
permitted to sit in at the convocation of the Indian parliament and touch 
the sacred wampum belt. 

The parliament of the Six Nations was in session to deliberate on the 
advisability of seceding from the Dominion of Canada because the Ottawa 
government in proposing to modernize the reservation by introducing the 
public school system and making other innovations had, in the Indians' 
opinion, broken its word and all its solemn pledges to let the red man 
choose and follow his own way of life. In the night I attended a session 
at the Long House, and learned to my astonishment that the Indians still 
clung to their ancient tribal religious practices. 

By the light of torches, the medicine man, who wore an ugly mask, 
slaughtered a few chickens. When the decapitated birds ran around 
flapping their wings and scattering drops of blood all around, the braves 
went into a frenzy of excitement. Unable to understand their language, 
I did not fathom the symbolism of the sacrifice, and hence could not 
make out what they howled and shrieked about. The celebration ended 
with a dance. It wasn't lurid or sensational; it was about the silliest thing 
I ever witnessed, though, who knows, it might well have been full of 
meaning. . . . 

The Indian parliament served an ultimatum on the government inti- 
mating that at the first sign of the Royal Mounted Police on the reserva- 
tion the braves would shoot. I was commissioned by the chiefs to proceed 
to Brantf ord to notify the authorities of the state of affairs on the reserva- 
tion. When I brought back word that the police did not seem to attach 
much importance to their warlike declarations and preparations, the 
Indians promptly got drunk and declared war. Some of them became 
so angry with me for bringing back bad news that I was arrested and 
locked up in the Long House. One fellow informed me that I was being 
held as a hostage and an enemy agent. The incarceration lasted two days 
and two nights. For food I had what was left over from the sacrificial 
chickens, but had nothing to drink. In the course of the second night 
the population had another celebration. What the occasion was I do not 
know. Those people celebrated at the drop of a hat. During the festivities 
so much whisky was consumed that my jailer, the medicine man, lost in- 
terest and went to sleep on the floor of the Long House. I took the key 
from his pocket and walked out, reaching Brantford without any further 
trouble about daybreak. 

232 To Number Our Days 

Eventually peace and order were restored on the reservation. But not 
before a royal commission of inquiry disclosed that the Indians were 
systematically neglected and left to succumb to the ravages of tuber- 
culosis, rickets and similar diseases of malnutrition and faulty diet. The 
only physician on the reservation was the native medicine man. 

Their resistance against the government's plans to modernize the res- 
ervation was not just a momentary fit of unwillingness to assimilate. The 
Indians were a priori suspicious of the white man. They nourished an 
enduring hatred for him and this, we may well add, not without good 
reason. For, if we want to be honest, we must recognize that the history 
of the relationships between the white man and the Indian all over the 
North and South American continents is a horrible record of word- and 
treaty-breaking, unprovoked attacks, expulsions, deliberate starvation and 
massacres ... on the part of the white man. 

As a boy I read the Indian stories by James Fenimore Cooper and Karl 
May. As a result I had expected to find a manly, courageous, proud race 
on the reservation. I was never so disillusioned as when I saw the depth 
of degradation into which the Indians had sunk. Here indeed was a race 
of people broken in spirit. Something had gone out of them. In frustra- 
tion and dumb hopelessness many had become chronic alcoholics. Others 
were virtually dying on their feet. Naturally, many of the young folk 
had left and were constantly leaving to find their way in the white man's 
world. Some Indians had opened law offices in Brantford and other 
Ontario towns or hung out their shingles as medical practitioners, but 
the old people who stayed behind were a sorry lot indeed, physically 
speaking. The children looked anemic, undernourished and were so weak 
that their voices scarcely rose above a whisper. The reservation was a 
joyless, dreary place. Blank faces stared in stupid inertia at the occa- 
sional visitor. . . . 

I was busy at the Globe office writing a series of articles on the human 
condition on the reservation when a letter arrived from Clark Howell,* 
the owner and publisher of The Atlanta Constitution, inviting me to come 
to Georgia and work as a feature writer. The time was March or April, 
1922. After a week or so of deliberation I decided to accept. Save for a 
brief visit to Morristown, New York, while on military service at Brock- 
ville on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River, I had never set 

* Clark Howell, national democratic committeeman for Georgia, was the delegate who 
placed Franklin D. Roosevelt's name in nomination at the democratic convention in 

Short Stand in Dixieland 233 

foot on United States soil. It was more a case of wanting to see something 
of the world than a desire to change my employers or habitat that I took 
the step. I told Stewart Lyon that I would be back shortly, since I con- 
sidered Canada my country and Toronto my home; Atlanta was to be 
a mere interlude. But this is not the way things turned out. I never re- 
turned to Toronto except to lecture in that same Massey Hall where I had 
heard so many others. 

I arrived in Atlanta on a Saturday morning, and after registering at 
a hotel went in search of The Constitutions offices. The building was an 
old ramshackle structure five stories high wedged in between sections of 
a department store. I sat with Clark Howell in his office for an hour 
or so. When he asked me where I was staying and I said the Kimball 
House, he remarked that General Sherman resided there too "during the 
war." I did not know who General Sherman was, nor to which war 
Mr. Howell referred. But as can readily be imagined I was not for long 
allowed to remain in the dark on the subject. To the Atlantans there 
was but one war; all other wars were meaningless tempests in puny 
teacups. . . . 

"On the morning of November 15, 1864, my father took me by the 
hand," said Clark Howell, "and with a number of citizens we called on 
General Sherman at the Kimball House. We pleaded with him to desist 
from his proclaimed intention to destroy the city. Absolutely to no avail! 
We could not bring him to change his mind. Atlanta was a railroad 
center, an important link in the Confederate lines of communication; it 
was 'the gateway to the South/ Sherman deeply regretted the step he said 
he was forced to take; the destruction of Atlanta was an unavoidable 

necessity of war The same afternoon Atlanta started to burn. The 

city was almost completely destroyed. ..." 

The horror of that day still made itself felt in a hundred ways in the 
daily life of the city. There was more animosity against Yankees, blue- 
coats and carpetbaggers than there was in France and Belgium against 
the Kaiser and the Germans, though the Civil War lay nearly three 
quarters of a century in the past and the city had entirely been rebuilt. 
There being but few Yankees about, the resentment against the North 
for the ruthlessness displayed seemed to have been transferred to the 
Negroes who made up one-third of the city's population. 

There is scarcely a trace left today of the unimaginable squalor of 

234 To Number Our Days 

Atlanta's Negro quarters. Under the drive and impulse of Roosevelt's 
New Deal all the shanty towns and slums were wiped out and replaced 
with modern dwellings. In 1922, though, the city's Negro sections were 
labyrinths of unpaved narrow streets, tumble-down shacks with cor- 
rugated iron roofs and a teeming population of loose laborers, their wives 
and children and so many drunken harlots that by comparison Cairo's old 
Fish Market seemed a model of puritan respectability. 

Even so, my first assignment lay in quite another direction. In one of 
Atlanta's suburbs stood a home for veterans of the Civil War. It was a 
palatial structure in red brick with a broad lawn of such pure emerald 
green as if a portion of the mythical Elysian fields had been transferred to 
the here and now. Above the lawn floated the flag of the Confederacy and 
in the shade of its rich old elm and laurel trees sat the last remaining "boys 
of the old brigade," the erstwhile comrades-in-arms of Generals Lee, 
"Stonewall" Jackson and Bragg still wearing their gray uniforms and broad- 
rimmed campaign hats. These veterans, daydreaming on the white benches 
dispersed over the length and breadth of the lawn, were not only Atlanta's 
pride, they were the object of all of Dixieland's love and veneration. Dele- 
gations of southerners from far and wide visited the home to pay tribute 
and homage to the tired old battlers in "the lost cause." 

Now it was a custom at The Constitution newspaper to mark the birth- 
days of these old campaigners with a visit by a photographer and a re- 
porter. It really meant no more than that since most of the old soldiers 
were fading away so fast they were no longer capable of giving a coherent 
account of their exploits or reminiscences. The oldest inmate of the home 
was far past the century mark and the youngest not much behind. It so 
happened that just at the time of my arrival one of the most tempestuous 
of the southern army commanders celebrated his ninety-second birthday. 
Everybody on the staff, from Clark Howell to the youngest reporters, felt 
that I should go out to the veterans' home for the occasion. I think they 
all expected some fun. 

"You've seen famous French and British generals, now you'll see the 
victor in the battle of Chattanooga," said the publisher. "If you can make 
him talk, you'll have the biggest story of the year." 

I think the general's name was Calhoun, but I may be mistaken. The 
superintendent of the home took the lensman and myself all through Dixie- 
land's Valhalla looking for the day's celebrant. 

Short Stand in Dixieland 235 

At last we found our man. He sat hunched forward resting his chin on 
the knob of a hefty shilelagh, his snow-white beard touching his knees. 
He didn't even look up when we stood still in front of him. I congratulated 
him on his birthday and said something about the beauty of his surround- 
ings and the fine Dixie weather we were having. He looked up at me and 
at the superintendent whom he seemed to recognize, but did not say a 
word. I asked him if he remembered anything about the great fight he put 
up in the Shenandoah valley at Richmond and at Chattanooga. There was 
no answer. I tried four or five more questions with the same negative 
result. At last seeing the futility of my efforts the superintendent came to 
my aid: "Just stand back a little/' he said, "111 make him talk!" 

"General Calhoun, sah, I have a damn Yankee here who says he can lick 

The old boy jumped to his feet like an eighteen year old. When he 
straightened out, he appeared very tall, powerfully built, as erect as a 
candle. He put me in mind of my great-grandfather Amos, the tugboat 

"Where is the son of a bitch, sah?* 

"Right here in front of you, sah, ready to fight you." 

I didn't wait; I made a run for it. Friend reader, I have served in the 
Canadian infantry alongside Australia's diggers. I've watched at close 
quarters the riot of the Australians on the Rue des Gallions in Le Havre 
on New Year's day in 1919 when they tossed the harlots up in blankets and 
first disarmed and then stripped the pants of an entire regiment of Portu- 
guese military police. In other words I have heard such profanity as could 
not be surpassed, at least so I thought. But the Confederate general went 
beyond all previously established records. I withdrew as fast as I could up 
the sloping lawn in order to escape the shilelagh which my would-be 
assailant swung about his head like old Goliath his spear. Looking around 
for an instant I saw the general stumble and fall to the ground. I ran back 
and picked him up. 

"Did you see any damn Yankees here just now?" he asked when I lifted 
him to his feet. 

"Yes, sir, I did, but they were running like hell. ..." 

"That's what I thought," he came back. "I can lick any dozen of them 
any day." He laughed like a goat that has the hiccups. . . . 

To familiarize myself with my new environment it was suggested that 

236 To Number Our Days 

I visit the police court on Monday morning; not to report, of course, only 
to have a look. The court was located on Marietta Street in the heart of the 
Negro quarter. On Monday mornings the men and women were tried who 
had been arrested over the weekend. A judge or magistrate sat on the 
bench which was a large table placed on an elevation. A dozen cops in 
shirt sleeves rested their elbows on the judicial rostrum. The judge, a 
shriveled up little man with blackened teeth stumps and a drooping mus- 
tache, wore a soiled linen jacket and had unfastened his collar, for it was 
stifling hot in the courtroom. On the side stood the prisoners closely packed 
together, all Negroes. They were waiting to be tried, or rather to be sen- 
tenced, and were called one by one to face the man on the bench. 

"Joe Smith," called out a cop. 

The man answering to that name approached the magistrate. 

"Nigger, what was you doing in that woman's room Saturday night?" 

"Judge, I wasn't in no woman's room. ..." 

"Thirty days! Next!" 

"Fred Hastings!" called out another cop. 

"Haven't I seen you here before, nigger?" 

"No, sir, Judge, I never. ..." 

"Thirty days! Next!" 

"Elsie Gibson!" 

"Your name Elsie? You scratched your landlady's face? . . . Was you 
drunk, Elsie?" 

"No sir, Your Honor, I wasn't drunk. ..." 

"Thirty days!" 

"Charles Newman!" 

"Nigger, you were caught with a knife in your hand, threatening an 

"Your Honor, that wasn't no knife!" 

"You carried a deadly weapon! Thirty days on the chain gang!" 

"But Your Honor, I was peeling potatoes when the officer walked in. 
. . . And it wasn't no knife. ..." 

"Don't talk back! Sixty days!" 

"Sixty days, Your Honor! What for?" 

"Shut up, nigger, ninety days on the chain gang. The trouble with you 
is that you talk too much. ..." 

"Jeez, Your Honor, it was the victrola that was playing. I wasn't doin' 

Short Stand in Dixieland 237 

"You talked yourself into a year on the chain gang, nigger. You used 

profane language in court Take that blabbermouth away Next! 


• • • 

I am not exaggerating; such was the normal procedure at the Atlanta 
police court day after day and especially on Monday mornings when the 
number of arrests sometimes ran up to a hundred or more as a result of 
the raids carried out by the police in the Negro section on Saturday nights. 
The prisoners were not even asked whether they pleaded guilty or not. But 
seldom were they represented by counsel, and even more rarely was any- 
one discharged as not guilty. It was the sheerest travesty of justice and a 
negation of those very Anglo-Saxon traditions of fair play on which the 
whites as pure lineal descendants of the English settlers under Oglethorpe 
so highly prided themselves. 

The "niggah" simply did not fall in the human category. And newcomer 
that I was, I did not understand what it was all about. 

"Would you want your sister to marry one of these monkeys?'' I was 
asked when I spoke critically of the sessions in the courtroom. "Don't you 
know that the niggers have but one thought in mind: to rape a white 

"Is that why you see so many half -colored people around here?" I asked 
in turn. 

"Stay a while," said Clark Howell, 'Til buy you a house, and you'll learn 
to love the South/' Had I accepted the offer, I would almost certainly have 
fallen victim to the depradations of the Ku Klux Klan of which Atlanta 
was then the headquarters and the managing editor's brother, Edward Y. 
Clarke, the Kleagel or Grand Master. 

The Jewish community of Atlanta at that time seemed to live under a 
cloud. Several years previously one of its members, Leo Frank, had been 
lynched as he was being transferred from the Fulton Tower Prison in At- 
lanta to Milledgeville for trial on a charge of having raped and murdered 
a little girl in his warehouse which stood right opposite the Constitution 
building. Many Jewish citizens who recalled the lynching were unanimous 
in assuring me that Frank was innocent of the crime. 

I took to reading all the evidence pro and con in the record department 
at the courthouse. Before long I came upon an envelope containing a 
sheaf of papers and a number of X-ray photographs showing teeth in- 
dentures. The murdered girl had been bitten on the left shoulder and neck 
before being strangled. But the X-ray photos of the teeth marks on her 

238 To Number Our Days 

body did not correspond with Leo Frank's set of teeth of which several 
photos were included. If those photos had been published at the time of 
the murder, as they should have been, the lynching would probably not 
have taken place. 

Though, as I said, the man died several years before, it was not too 
late, I thought, to rehabilitate his memory and perhaps restore the good 
name of his family. I showed Clark Howell the evidence establishing 
Frank's innocence and asked permission to run a series of articles dealing 
with the case and especially with the evidence just uncovered. Mr. Howell 
immediately concurred, but the most prominent Jewish lawyer in the city, 
Mr. Harry Alexander, whom I consulted with a view to have him present 
the new evidence to the grand jury, demurred. He said Frank had not even 
been tried. Hence no new trial could be requested. Moreover, the Jewish 
community in its entirety still felt nervous about the incident. If I wrote 
the articles old resentments might be stirred up and, who knows, some of 
the unknown lynchers might recognize themselves as participants in my 
description of the lynching. It was better, Mr. Alexander thought, to leave 
sleeping lions alone. Some local rabbis were drawn into the discussion 
and they actually pleaded with Clark Howell to stop me from reviving 
interest in the Frank case as this was bound to have evil repercussions on 
the Jewish community. 

That someone had blabbed out of school became quite evident when I 
received a printed warning saying: "Lay off the Frank case if you want to 
keep healthy." The unsigned warning was reinforced one night or, rather, 
early one morning when I was driving home. A large automobile drove up 
alongside of me and forced me into the track of a fast-moving streetcar 
coming from the opposite direction. My car was demolished, but I escaped 
without a scratch. . . . 

It was on a Sunday afternoon that I sat in the local room alone with 
Robert Moran, the assistant city editor, when the telephone rang. Moran 
answered and after hanging up the receiver turned to me: "There's a 
murder near Fort McClellan Will you go out and see? ..." 

On a side road near the Fort McClellan suburb I came on the scene of 
the murder. A Negro man lay on his back in the middle of a dirt road. He 
had been shot through the head. Two policemen were trying to move 
the body out of the way. They rolled the dead man over with their feet. 
There were about twenty or thirty people standing about, all Negroes. 

Short Stand in Dixieland 239 

"Has someone called for an ambulance or a doctor?" I asked the by- 
standers. Nobody answered. 

One cop was saying to the other: "Ain't that a fine shot? Right between 
the eyes. That nigger must have had a hell of a big surprise." Both police- 
men laughed. 

"What's this mans name?" I asked, pointing to the dead Negro. 

"Who wants to know?" 

"The Constitutionl" 

"You from The Constitution, bud?" one of the policemen asked me, and, 
turning to his partner: "D you believe he's from The Constitution?" 

"Who shot this man?" I insisted. 

"What business is that of yours?" 

"I told you I am a reporter from The Constitution. I'd like to know. 
I want to turn in a report " 

"You do, heh? A report? Now ain't that nice! . . . Well do all the 
reporting that's to be done, bud. Just go about your businessl" 

'What's your name?" 

"What do you want my name for?" 

"I want to print the name of the man who kicked the corpse " 

"You do? What'll you print if I kick you the hell out of here?" 

"It'll be the last time in your life that you lift your foot, copper " 

"Say that again!" 

Both policemen advanced on me. One man raised his baton and the 
other fumbled for his revolver in his hip pocket. The bystanders came 
nearer, too. One elderly Negro man said to me: "I'll give you all the 
details Come away with me. You have no chance here. Those fel- 
lows will kill you. ..." 

I walked away from the dead man's side. The stranger told me that 
the man was killed by his own wife. "They were both drunk. He aimed 
the pistol at her, but she grabbed it from his hand, and off went the 
gun. That's all there is to itl" 

It was nearing six o'clock. Knowing that the first edition of the morning 
paper would be on the street by eight in the evening, I thought it better 
to telephone the story of the murder from a corner drugstore. Hilyard 
Wimpe, one of the rewrite men, took the message. 

Then I drove back to the office. The paper came out. The first copies 
arrived in the local room via a belt conveyer from the press room in 
the basement. I looked for my story, but found no trace of it. When the 

240 To Number Our Days 

hubbub in the local room subsided somewhat, I went up to the city desk 
and asked Robert Moran: "Was there anything wrong with my story 
about the murder?" 

"What murder?" came back the assistant city editor. 

"The murder at Fort McClellan this afternoon. You sent me out your- 
self I telephoned it to Mr. Wimpe " 

"Wimpe," Moran called out in great alarm at the rewrite man who sat 
typing something with a set of earphones clamped about his head, 
"Wimpe, what about that murder at Fort McClellan?" 

"That was no murder, Bob, that was a niggerr 

"What's your name again, sir?" Moran asked me. I gave it to him. 
"Mr. van Paassen," he said, "we never report the killing of niggers in this 

paper And please, don't forget that the word Negro is never spelt 

with a capital *N' in this part of the world Atlanta is a beautiful city, 

isn't it? Let's not spoil it You don't want to get to be known as a 

nigger lover, do you? It might do you great harm, you know Quite 

a few members of the staff here belong to the Klan " 

"Well, I'm going back to Canada," I told Clark Howell the next day. 
"I know I can't do anything to change the situation with regard to the 

colored people But I don't have to live here I'd explode if I 

had to witness any more of what I've seen so far in the police court and 
on that road at Fort McClellan." 

"Don't run away yet," came back the publisher. "I will take you off 
the local staff and put you in a room by yourself. You'll write some edi- 
torials and some feature stories One of these days I'll show you that 

we know how to appreciate a good darky when we see one I am 

sending in to you George Washington Carver. George is quite a boy. He 
was born a slave, but he has studied and done a good deal to improve 
the soil of Georgia by eradicating certain plant diseases. George is a 
good darky who makes no pretense of being anything else " 

That "good darky" came into the room to which Clark Howell trans- 
ferred me, holding his hat in his hand and bowing to me as if I were 
the Shah of Persia on his peacock throne. 

"Come in, Dr. Carver, please have a seatl" I said to the world-famous 
agronomist, member of the Royal Society of Arts, who served as professor 
at the Agricultural Institute of Tuskegee. 

"I'll gladly come in, sir, but I won't take a seat," he replied. "Not that 
I wouldn't like to sit down, but somebody is apt to see me sitting in a 
white man's room and that wouldn't do." 

Short Stand in Dixieland 241 

"In that case, I'll stand too, Dr. Carver, or if you like we can go down 
and sit in my car." 

In the room to which I was transferred stood two desks of ancient and 
dilapidated vintage. At the other desk sat Frank L. Stanton, a remarkable 
man about seventy years of age, a little waggly on the legs, but for the 
rest still hale and hearty. Stanton had been publisher of a weekly coun- 
try paper, The Dahlonega Nugget, but never in his life, as he told me, 
set foot outside the territory of the state of Georgia. On The Constitution 
he succeeded Joel Chandler Harris, the "cornfield" writer and creator of 
the "Uncle Remus" stories. Stanton wrote one editorial a day and one 

"The Poet of the Soil," as Frank Stanton was known, is perhaps best 
remembered for his: 

Sweetest little fellow, 
Everybody knows, 
Don't knowVhat to call him, 
But he's mighty like a rose. . . . 

a sentimental song which, like several of his compositions, was set to 
music and sung by a make-believe Negro on the vaudeville stage all 
over the country. 

Frank Stanton and the publisher lived in a permanent state of un- 
declared war. Each in his own way was constantly wondering who would 
be the first to be called on the long journey from which there is no 

"He can t last much longer," Stanton would tell me, speaking of Clark 
Howell, "his neck is too short. . . . People with short necks never make 

the grade They are destined to die in infancy. Our dear employer 

has long since passed the limit. ..." 

"Frank," the publisher would say as he sauntered into our office, "I 
just came down from the composing room and saw the poem you wrote 
for next Sunday. . . . It's too long, Frank. I cut off two lines. ..." 

"At the top or the bottom?" 

"At the topi But they aren't lost. Your poem for next Tuesday I found 
too short. I added the two Sunday lines to Tuesday's piece " 

"At the top or the bottom?" 

"It doesn't matter. The poem makes no sense either way!" 

When Clark Howell left the room, Frank Stanton looked at me in 

242 To Number Our Days 

dumb despair. "Now you know," he'd remark, "why General Sherman 

said that war is hell. He discovered it here in Georgia There is 

nothing for it but to get a pint and drown my sorrows. It's the only 
way to drum up enough inspiration for the next poem. . . . 

"Theodore Roosevelt Gibson!" he called out to the Negro boy in the 
hallway. 'Theodore, go out and get me a pint!" 

He meant a pint of corn liquor, aptly called "Georgia mule'' because 
of the devastating wallop it carried. Stanton drank the pint in one gulp 
and with one big groan. "If the Muse doesn't come now," he said, "111 
get me a second pint, though 111 probably have to be driven home in a 
hearse as happened more than once through the kindness of my friend, 
Mr. Strachey, the undertaker " 

Stanton always left a little liquor in the bottom of the bottle. This he 
carefully poured into a saucer and placed on the floor. In no time the 
saucer was surrounded, invaded and swamped by a host of cockroaches 
which came running from all directions, from the cracks in the walls and 
the ceiling, and. . . from the drawers of our desks. They were of all sizes, 
big whoppers and tiny ones, really too small to become victims of the 
drink habit at so tender an age. 

"I don't see General Grant this morning," Stanton would say looking 
at the gathering of the roach clan. "He's the granddaddy of them all and 
usually comes first to my roll-call. I see Sherman, Sheridan and Fighting 
Joe Hooker. . . . He's the big one over there that's pushing everybody 
else around. Now watch how they get drunk and go staggering all over 
the place. . . . Good God, if we only had had some of this Georgia mule 
we could have won the war. It would have blown the damn Yankees 
sky-high. ..." 

This was no exaggeration: Georgia corn was not only a drink it was also 
a high explosive. Although I could not stomach the stuff, which tasted like 
spoilt carbolic acid, I thought that by mixing it with some cream, sugar 
and beaten eggs, and boiling it, something like an eggnog could be con- 
cocted. I took a pint home to make the experiment and put it on the 
kitchen stove to boil. ... It didn't boil. It practically exploded. 

Many of the reporters got their supply of "corn" by driving out into 
the country in the small hours of the morning after the paper had been 
put to bed. I accompanied them several times on these nocturnal expedi- 
tions which took us in the general direction of Stone Mountain where the 
renowned sculptor Gutzon Borglum was carving the gigantic figures of 

Short Stand in Dixieland 243 

Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and other southern heroes on the 
face of that promontory. On top of Stone Mountain the Ku Klux Klan 
frequently met in conclave and burnt fiery crosses to warn Catholics, 
Negroes and Jews not to intrude on white Protestantism's sacred preserves. 

One day Clark Howell said to me: "The darky was better off under 

slavery than he is now When he was a slave, he represented a valuable 

piece of property. His master looked after him, clothed him, fed him and 
got him a wife. When he fell sick, it was in his masters interest to make 
him well or else lose him as a productive force Since the emancipa- 
tion he has been on his own, and you can see for yourself what he has 
made of his freedom. Most of the darkies would become gangsters and 
bums if the police didn't keep them in bounds. . . . The Negro districts 
of Atlanta are breeding grounds of crime, vice and Bolshevism. ..." 

I brought Clark Howell's attitude to the attention of the Negro clergy 
and asked them what their view was. One of the bishops of the Afro- 
American Methodist Church seemed more afraid of me than of the 
Kluxers. I dare say he suspected me of being a spy or informer trying to 
draw him out. Not one man amongst the professors and instructors of 
Atlanta's Negro university dared probe, at least in public, the dismal 
situation of his people. Nor did a single Negro ever complain to me about 
the social discrimination of which he was the victim. 

In fact, the southern Negroes put me very much in mind of that tribe 
of Pigmies which Stanley encountered on his voyage across Africa in 
search of Livingstone and which he mentions in his book Zanzibar. These 
tribesmen lived in a forest so dense that the sun's rays never penetrated. 
They fed on ants and grass roots. They disinterred the corpses of some 
of Stanley's companions who had succumbed to the heat and other rigors 
of the climate and were on the point of eating them when the explorer 
intervened. Stanley sought to convince them that beyond their dark 
forest was sunshine and light and open fields, rivers and lakes. He invited 
them to follow him. But the Pigmies waved their arms: "All the world is 
like our forest, dark, dark, dark with the menace of wild beasts lurking 

in every corner We pray to our god, Yer, when he sends thunder 

and lightning and say: *Why are you angry with us, Yer? We are content 
with the portion you gave us/ " 

Thus also spoke Atlanta's Negro bishop: "We Negroes," he said, "do not 
believe that we are placed in this world merely to be happy, but to pre- 
pare for heavenly glory." The same man, Dr. Howard Brown, died of a 

244 To Number Our Days 

heart attack within a month after I had talked with him. Though I wasn't 
assigned to it, I attended the funeral service in what was said to be the 
largest Negro Methodist church in the world. 

I was the only white person in that vast congregation. The white clergy 
evidently drew the color line even in the case of death of a brother in 
Christo. The coffin containing the bishop's body stood in front of the 
pulpit and was almost buried under a mass of white lilies and pine 
branches. The dead mans face was visible and except for a pair of gold 
spectacles resembled that of a Roman senator in its fine symmetry and 
dignity. A scarlet-robed choir of 100 voices, male and female, accom- 
panied by a first-class organ, sang: "Swing low, sweet chariot. 

Another bishop, the dead man s successor, a powerfully built individual 
with the voice of Boanerges, preached the sermon. 

"Brother Brownl" called out the bishop, looking directly in the dead 
man's face. "Brother Brown, Brother Brown, can you hear me? 

"Last Thursday evening," the preacher went on, turning to the con- 
gregation, "an angel came to Brother Brown as he was sitting in his study 
and says to him: 'Brother Brown, come along, you gotta get packed. 
You're goin on a big long trip. . . . ' 

" 'No, angel man, please,' replied Brother Brown, 1 can't leave just now. 

I got so much work to do here I'm up to my ears in a revival campaign 

and fighting the devil for all I'm worth. . . . ' 

"But the big angel he insists and Brother Brown he packs his trunk 
and he goes on the train and he rolls through Georgia and through 
Alabama and Germany and Russia and China and all those places till he 
come to the river. . . . 

"And Brother Brown he gets into the boat and the boat sails away. 
And it is dark on the river. Oooh, is it dark? It's so dark that Brother Brown 
he can't see his own feet. ... He can see nothing, nothing but darkness 
in front of him and darkness behind him and all around him. . . . And the 
waves they roar, and the waters of the river of death they rise up and 
they bang and beat against the boat. And Brother Brown gets scared 
and calls out: 'Oh, Jesus, Jesus, save me, for my bark is so small and the 
waves are so big. 

"But at last Brother Brown he sees a small light, a weeny, teeny light. 
He knows now that he's bound for Canaan's shore and soon will stand 
where bright angel feet have trod. . . . 

"And then," continued the bishop, "Brother Brown sees a man in a white 

Short Stand in Dixieland 245 

gown and as the light grows stronger, Brother Brown he can see that it 
is Jesus standing there on the other shore and peering into the darkness. 

"And Jesus, He too sees Brother Brown, and He calls out: 

"'Hello, Brother Brown!' 

"'Hello, Jesus!'" 

"Jesus! JesusI" The congregation took up the cry and it was as if the 
church would burst with pent-up emotion and fervor. 

" 'Come on, Brother Brown, get a move on! Were all waiting for you,' 
Jesus calls out. 'The apostles and the prophets are waiting for you. And the 
angels are waiting for you with the golden crown and My father is waiting 

for you to hug you in His big arms We re having a picnic here on 

the golden street by the side of the glassy sea that flows from the throne 
of God.../ 

"There's a dance going on in heaven now," the preacher assured the 
congregation. "And Jesus He's dancing. He's dancing with Brother Brown. 
And God He shakes with laughter and He, too, joins in the dance. 

"Dance people of God! Dance children of the Most Highl Dance! Shout 
for joy! All your tears will be wiped away! All your chains they will be 
broken They are even now melting in the hands of God's love! . . . " 

It was a beautiful and fascinating picture the speaker drew of a white- 
robed Christ and a laughing God dancing on golden streets, but it was also 
infinitely pathetic and naive. I told a gathering of the most "liberal" white 
ministers at their weekly ministerial meeting that Bishop Brown's funeral 
service was a dishonest, mean, unchristian trick to divert the people's 
attention from the real issues at stake in society. 

They listened in silence, but at the end of my talk, one of the brethren 
neatly turned the tables on me by accusing the Dutch of standing at the 
source and origin of the Negro's woes in America. 

"Your Dutch slave merchants," he said, "were the most active in bring- 
ing the Negro to America. . . . Have you never heard of Wagner's opera 
The Flying Dutchman, which deals with the cursed slave ship and its 
godless captain who raided Africa's shores, clamped irons on tens of 
thousands of blacks and brought them to America to sell them to the 
planters? . . . You have no right to talk, brother," he added. "It's your 
nation which for filthy lucre's sake sold its soul to the devil and dumped 
the Negro problem in America's lap. ..." 

I should not like to leave anyone with the impression that I thought 

246 To Number Our Days 

the South and Atlanta in particular a place of unmitigated squalor and 
misery, or an intellectual desert. This would be misleading. There was 
unquestionably a certain backwardness, a standstill in development, but 
this could truthfully be ascribed to the consequences of the Civil War. 
For the North not only conquered the South, it also ruined its economy 
and thwarted its recovery. For more than half a century the South's path 
led through purgatory. Its most gracious flowers were uprooted. An 
endless chain of perpetually repeated and unmeaning torments bound 
the people's destiny in nostalgic and tragical unity 

The truth is that I found Atlanta a beautiful city with fine parks, ex- 
tensive flower gardens, shaded avenues and stately homes. In the down- 
town section stood a cluster of skyscrapers housing banks, hotels and 
insurance companies, a magnificent city hall, a legislative assembly 
building and dozens of churches including a Roman Catholic and a 
Protestant Episcopal cathedral. Atlanta had many institutions for the 
higher education of both white and colored students. The Georgia Insti- 
tute of Technology which is a part of the state university is of world-wide 

Here and there I also came upon small groups of men and women 
whose consciences were disquieted in the presence of social contradictions 
which were growing more acute as time went on. In the Protestant 
churches a small minority seemed aware that the Church's theologizing 
period had long since come to a close and that the social question would 
inevitably become the foremost subject of discussion and dispute even 
in Atlanta. . . . 

If conditions, especially among the Negroes, have improved enormously 
since my stay in the city, it is in no small measure due to the reforming 
zeal of the same newspaper where I worked for a couple of years. Its 
ramshackle old building has come down and the offices transferred across 
the street to a splendid, modern office of which even much larger cities 
might well be proud. If a new spirit has come to prevail this is in the 
main due to the unflagging devotion of The Constitution's young editor, 
Ralph McGill, whose example of liberalism has set the whole community 
in motion to such an extent that the partial integration of the Negro came 
about without any noticeable shock in Atlanta, though a hard fight had 
to be waged and the editor s life was more than once in acute danger. The 
"cracker" know-nothing mentality based on deep fundamentalism in re- 

Short Stand in Dixieland 247 

ligion had to give way, albeit reluctantly and still fighting a stubborn 
rear-guard action, before the irresistible advance of enlightenment and 
social democracy. 

In this respect Atlanta has conformed to the general pattern of what the 
humanitarian and Christian social philosophers would probably ascribe 
to a profound change of heart in America. But this is an illusion. There 
was but a small dose of altruism involved in the movement to improve 
the human condition of the millions of "submerged" whom Roosevelt 
inherited from previous regimes. 

What has really happened in our day, I think, is this: the modern 
capitalist state has brought to fruition a good deal of what was mere 
theory or doctrinary aspiration on the part of socialism at the beginning 
of this century. America, the last stamping ground of "rugged individu- 
alism" has nilly-willy moved in a direction which, verbally at least, still 
remains to the entrenched reaction anathema, Utopian foolishness, soft- 
ness and weakening of the national fiber. Social security, popular health, 
socialized medicine, popular education have more and more become the 
concern of the government. Forty years ago these socialization measures 
were still regarded and denounced by the public opinion molders as 
crass subversion of the competitive system which was camouflaged under 
the nice-sounding name of "The American Way of Life," the way of life 
which "made the country great." 

Slowly an awareness grew that the American way of life is not an 
unalterable, solidly and eternally fixed Rock of Gibraltar, but rather a 
great ship on the move in the teeth of social and economic storms buffet- 
ing the entire world. Where the humanitarians were wrong was in pro- 
pounding the notion that the improvements of the last quarter century 
were undertaken for the sake of lifting the souls of men. 

The first and foremost motivation was one of expediency; the interests 
of the state and society. The modern state simply cannot afford the colossal 
waste of the people's strength, capacities and potential technical and 
intellectual skill as was the case under half -feudal and autocratic systems 
such as czarism or early capitalism or even the initial stages of the com- 
munist regime in the Soviet Union. The state cannot function properly 
if its human material is deficient. 

If the state wants to remain strong, capable of engaging in competition, 
capable of waging war too, it must become social. It must raise the status 

248 To Number Our Days 

of popular health, liquidate illiteracy, encourage talent, instill hope of a 
better life and, in general, give the under-privileged, the propertyless 
masses, a chance to raise themselves to a higher economic level. 

Marx thought that this was a moral question which capitalism would 
be incapable of solving because of the clash of interests between the pos- 
sessing classes on the one hand, and the aspirations of the proletariat on the 
other. On this point Marx was most certainly in error. It's the capitalist 
state which has proven that in self-interest it can— because it must— raise 
the general status of well-being. 

The socialization measures introduced in recent years are, therefore, 
not, as is sometimes said, a form of "creeping socialism." They are de- 
signed and operate as supports of the capitalist order. And Roosevelt 
under whose New Deal a beginning was made in socializing America— only 
a beginning, for the process will, because it must, go much further— was 
not a traitor to his class as he is often still decried in ultraconservative 
circles, but its savior "I am trying to keep the millionaires from com- 
mitting suicide/* he said once, explaining his program of social renovation. 

In 1942, Atlanta's Oglethorpe University built a memorial tower and in 
the vault placed a number of articles dating from that year. One of the 
articles in the vault is a book of mine entitled Days of Our Years. In a.d. 
2042, one hundred years after the sealing of the vault, it is to be opened. 
In addition to the book, I was asked to give a letter with a prediction. 
My prediction ran this way: 

"Eppur si muovel In a.d. 2042 when Oglethorpe's vault is opened, there 
will be a socialist president in Washington. He will be a Negro!" 


Going To and Fro in the Earth 

While still a resident of Atlanta and a member of The Constitutions 
editorial staff, I started to write a daily column under the general heading 
'The World's Window." This column did not deal with strictly local 
affairs, but was made up of semieditorial comment on men and events 
abroad, anecdotes about the great and near-great, brief notes on books 
published in various European countries, and, generally speaking, of 
incidents marginal to the flowing tide of world history. In addition to 
printing this column, The Constitution's management syndicated it and in 
a few months' time sold it for publication to some 30 newspapers in the 
United States and Canada. The strange part of this syndication enterprise 
was that I was left completely in the dark about it so that the column 
had been running regularly in the Evening World of New York for some 
four or five months before I became aware of the fact. 

About the same time, April or May, 1923, Mr. Isaac Carmel, an organizer 
for the Zionist Organization of America, who visited Atlanta to present 
a certain Dr. Joseph Silverman, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El in 
New York to the local Jewish community, called on The Constitution's 
publisher to ask for an editorial to draw attention to Dr. Silverman s visit. 
Clark Howell referred the organizer to me and I wrote the requested 
editorial. The novelty about Dr. Silverman's position was that he, a rabbi 
in the Reform branch of American Judaism, after a lifelong opposition 
to the rebuilding of Palestine on a national-political basis, had been con- 
verted to the Zionist ideal following a visit to the Holy Land where he 
had seen the initial stages of the land redemption program which in our 
day has flowered into the progressive democratic State of Israel. 

Since the Constitution seemed to approve of the cause represented by 
Dr. Silverman, not only the local Jews, but virtually all of Atlanta's 
Protestant clergy attended the mass meeting which was held in the 


250 To Number Our Days 

largest theater in town. After hearing Dr. Silverman I wrote a second 
editorial in which I expressed the view that a reconstituted "national home 
for the Jewish people in Palestine" was one of the most worthwhile and 
hopeful changes in the international scene to issue from the Great War. 
To this I added a word of hope: that our generation might yet see the 
lamps on Zion's hill rekindled and, according to the prophet's vision, that 
Torah, i.e. teaching, enlightenment and inspiration for all mankind go 
forth from Zion once more. 

With that I passed to the order of the day and thought no more about 
Palestine till the local Jewish community invited me to speak in one of 
their synagogues. The editorials evidently had fallen on fertile soil. I 
received invitations to lecture from New Orleans, Memphis, Chattanooga, 
Birmingham, San Francisco, Syracuse, Buffalo, and other cities where my 
column appeared. One invitation which I accepted eagerly came from 
New York. This led directly to my departure from Atlanta. 

In New York I lectured right and left, not only in synagogues and Jewish 
centers, but a good deal also in the old Dutch Reformed churches up and 
down the Hudson valley, in New Jersey and Michigan; Detroit, Grand 
Rapids, Kalamazoo and towns with rather large populations of Dutch 
origin. In the city of Albany it was Mr. Gorham Rice, onetime American 
ambassador to the Netherlands, and author of "The Singing Towers of 
the Netherlands," who did me the honor to preside at the meetings which 
I addressed. Save for the minister of New York's Community Church, 
Dr. John Haynes Holmes, I was, I suspect, the only non-Jewish Zionist 
in America at the time. And not only was I a Zionist, I was passionately 
imbued with the ideal of Zion Restored as the beginning of the triumph 
of justice in all humanity. 

Others soon followed, amongst them: Charles Edward Russell, Ameri- 
can high commissioner in Britain during the First World War; Dr. Amos I. 
Dushaw, a Presbyterian divine in Brooklyn; and Dr. James E. Freeman, 
the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C. Before long we enlisted the 
collaboration of about 500 Protestant clergymen and set up an organiza- 
tion known as the Pro-Palestine Federation of America which also pub- 
lished a journal, the Pro-Palestine Herald. When I say that we published 
this Herald, I mean that we came out three or four times a year or 
whenever a man or a woman of means gave us a helping hand. There was 
no pecuniary compensation and not even the editorial factotum and 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 251 

general secretary of the Federation, Dr. Aaron Ben Elias, received the 
slightest remuneration. 

For the study of the history of Zionism, its ideology and philosophy, I 
turned to some of the most eminent Jews of the day: Reuben Brainin, the 
dean of Hebrew letters in America, who was the living refutation of 
Kenan's assertion that Hebrew as the language of the prophets could 
never be turned to profane or modern use. Brainin remained a friend 
till the end of his days and was, much more than any of the contemporary 
Zionist leaders, steeped in every phase of European culture, a lover of the 
Russian poets and the German philosophers, and an essayist of distinction. 
Professor Mordecai M. Kaplan, the promoter of "Judaism as a Civilization," 
the first to title me "a friend of the Jewish renascence," remains till this 
day in spite of his advanced age, through his vast erudition and his capa- 
city for work and study, one of the greatest living Jewish scholars. 

There were also Dr. Shimon Bernstein, the authority on medieval 
Hebrew poetry and Louis Lipsky, the peculiarly American interpreter 
of Zionism, a brilliant writer and great orator; Dr. Stephen S. Wise, the 
liberalizer of liberal Judaism, founder of the Free Synagogue and of a 
rabbinical school, the Jewish Institute of Religion. It was in Dr. Wise's 
pulpit at Carnegie Hall that I preached my first sermon from a Hebrew 
text: Hoy, kol-tsame lechu Imayim, "Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come 
ye to the waters!" 

By Louis D. Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, I was 
encouraged with many letters in his meticulous handwriting. When I 
published my first book, Days of Our Years, in 1940, Justice Brandeis 
bought the chapter dealing with Palestine and Zionism from the publisher 
and distributed, at his own expense in pamphlet form, a hundred 
thousand copies. He declared that the Palestine chapter marked "the 
turning point in Zionist endeavors in America in that a non-Jew had 
finally brought the issue into the open." A compliment which coming 
from him was as good as, if not better, than the poet's: "Praise from Sir 
Hubert is praise indeed!" 

Sometimes the situation became a little ticklish in the Pro-Palestine 
Federation by reason of the fact that most of its clergymen members were 
Christian fundamentalists who undoubtedly nourished a secret hope that 
our movement might somehow or other be instrumental in bringing Jews 
to the foot of the cross. Others, believers in the millennium, supported 

252 To Number Our Days 

Zionism on the basis of their eschatological expectations that the Jewish 
people's return to Palestine was the conditio sine qua non for Christ's 
reappearance on the clouds of heaven. This sentiment I discouraged as 
much as I could. Of course, the brethren were perfectly free to tell their 
own congregations whatever they liked. In our official conferences, how- 
ever, the subject of Jesus was taboo in deference to the sensibilities of 
any Jew who might happen to be present. The Jewish people have 
suffered too much to be reminded of Jesus in whose name or because of 
whom most of the horrors of their tragic history have been inflicted upon 

As might be expected, we non-Jewish pro-Palestinians also met with a 
good deal of opposition. Several persons of national prominence upon 
whom we thought we could confidently call for moral support turned us 
down flat. Two of these, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. James G. 
McDonald, refused us their patronage on the grounds that Jews should 
strive to be good American citizens rather than meddle in foreign affairs, 
as if every man in this world has not at least one other, perhaps a higher 
loyalty than to the country in which he happens to be born or reside. 
Haven't we all two fatherlands: our own country and the City of God? 

While it is true that both these distinguished citizens in the course of 
time became ardent supporters of the State of Israel, the first as one of 
the chief fund raisers for Israeli causes, the second as America's first 
ambassador to Israel, they did not do so till the battle for Israel's inde- 
pendence had been won. 

Personally, I met with strong opposition in the World's editorial office. 
Herbert Bayard Swope, the director general of the two World papers, 
reproached me for mentioning Palestine too often in my column. The 
truth is that he would rather not have seen it mentioned at all. Once 
he had me on the carpet to charge me with patriotic laxity for not having 
become an American citizen which, it had to be pointed out to him, was 
an impossibility with only a couple of years' residence in the U.S.A. At 
another time Mr. Swope went so far as to order a discontinuation of my 
column because of what he called its pro-Zionist slant. There seemed 
to him something un-American about Zionism. Nor were the harassed 
European Jewish masses fit or desirous, he argued, to set up a common- 
wealth of their own in the wastes of the ancient Holy Land. 

In his case, too, I lived to see the day when he— gingerly, it is true- 
climbed on the band wagon. Was he converted to Zionism? I hardly think 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 253 

so. I could never fathom the mentality of assimilationist Jews of his kind. 
Nobody asked them to transfer their political allegiance to Palestine or go 
and reside in that country. Still they behaved as if they were asked to 
commit an act of high treason when summoned to support the rebuilding 
of the land of their fathers. What were they afraid of? Were they 
ashamed of the land which produced the prophets and psalmists, that 
extraordinary body of men which stands at the head of the chain of 
those who have made Americans differ from the slaves who crouch 
beneath despotic scepters? Were they fearful of the reactivation of those 
values and beliefs which sprang from Israel's soil and made the Hebraic 
culture one of the parent streams of Western civilization? I could not 
then, and still cannot see why it should be un-American to support any 
nation, people or individual suffering injustice. 

The controversy came to a head in a Reform temple in the city of Cin- 
cinnati where I was to address a congregation which filled every nook 
and corner of the edifice long before my arrival. In Cincinnati Reform 
Judaism had, and still has, its training school for the rabbinate, the 
Hebrew Union College. Back in the 1920s that college was one of the 
bastions of anti-Zionism in America, though amongst its professors were 
also some of the most brilliant exponents of different schools of the Zionist 

philosophy: Neumark, Maximon, Margolis, Schloessinger Dr. David 

Philipson, the rabbi of the temple where I was to speak, was considered a 
bitter anti-Zionist. He was a native of Germany and preached exclusively 
in German till the outbreak of World War I. 

The chairman of the evening was State Senator Alfred M. Cohen, presi- 
dent of the International Order of B'nai B'rith. When I found myself in 
his company in the robing room behind the Ark, I noticed that he was 
nervous and apprehensive. "Yes," he admitted, "I have heard that you 
sometimes mention that country in Asia Minor [Palestine]. I beg of you 
not to do so in your lecture this evening. Frankly, we are not interested. 
The congregation is anti-Zionist. . . . " 

"But," I asked, "isn't the audience made up of Jews? And don t Jews 
pray three times a day for the rebuilding of Jerusalem?" 

"Not these Jews," he replied. "We have dropped all references to Pales- 
tine from our prayer booksl Besides, there are several Christian clergymen 

"Palestine is also the Christian's holy land What would the situa- 

254 To Number Our Days 

tion be like if the audience were made up of Hollanders or people of 
Dutch descent, and that at this time Holland was in trouble and Hol- 
landers at home were trying to rebuild their country, what would they 
think of me if I kept silent about a matter in which they would unques- 
tionably be deeply interested?" 

"Heavens! I foresee a lot of trouble here this evening," exclaimed 
Senator Cohen, throwing up his hands in alarm. It being time, however, 
to start the meeting we walked out onto the platform. He introduced 
me and said that I would discuss the Rapallo Treaty between Soviet 
Russia and the Weimar Republic and turned the pulpit over to me. 

I thought: I will have to make myself clear once and for all. For I did 
not speak to convince; I spoke because of my faith in divine prophecy. 
"I feel greatly honored to be in this rabbinical city and to stand in the 
presence of so many scholars and students of Judaism, but though not a 
Jew myself ," I added, perhaps a little melodramatically, "le ma'an Tsion lo 
echsheh, For Zion's sake I shall not keep silent " 

The students started to applaud and the battle, for that night at least, 
was over. Not till a Christian minister rose in the question period was 
there any disharmony. This person called out in an angry challenging 
voice: "By what right has Britain given Palestine to the Jews?" 

I had to point out to this brother that Britain had neither the right nor 
the desire to give away anything that did not belong to her. Palestine 
was under a League of Nations' mandate, just as Syria and Iraq, Trans- 
jordan, Tanganyika and German West Africa. Britain merely administered 
the Palestine mandate on behalf of the League. She was required under 
the mandate's terms (ratified by 52 league members and by one non- 
member, the government of the United States) to institute such condi- 
tions, political, social and economic, in Palestine as would in the course 
of time lead to the establishment of "a national home for the Jewish 
people" with the proviso that nothing be undertaken against the civil and 
religious rights of peoples (Arabs and Druses) already resident in the 
country. . . . 

It was around the issue of the spiritual allegiance of American Jewry 
to the land of their fathers and its rebuilding as a means to revivify and 
revitalize the Hebraic tradition wherever Jews dwelt, that the debates 
and controversies generally revolved. 

One evening I filled a speaking, engagement in a Presbyterian church 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 255 

in Brooklyn. In the course of my address I said that certain observers of 
the international scene warned that the skies were darkening once more 
in Europe and that a new armed conflict seemed to be in the making. 
There was a reporter present in the meeting and the next day one of the 
newspapers carried word that I had predicted the outbreak of a new 
world war. John H. Tennant, the managing editor of the Evening World 
sent for me: "On what do you base your prediction of war?" 

"I made no such prediction," I said. "I merely cited the opinions of 
men like Romain Holland, Barth&emy de Ligt, Judah M. Magnes and 
Stefan Zweig who believe that the danger of a new armed conflict is 

"Who are they? Who is this Holland you are talking about?" 

"He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature for his book Jean- 
Christophe. He's a professor of the history of art at the Ecole Normale 
Superieure in Paris." 

"Never heard of Holland." Mr. Tennant shook his head. "Where does he 
get his information anyway?" 

"Who knows? Maybe from the gypsiesP 

"The gypsies?" 

"Yes, there was a gypsy woman once who foretold the course of Ger- 
many's history for a hundred years to come. She foresaw wars and revo- 
lutions and great upheavals." 

"Write me the gypsy's storyl" 

"You're sure you do not want something about Holland? He's one of 
the truly great men of our time, as great as Tolstoy perhaps." 

"I'm not interested in the guy. Write about the gypsy!" 

"But it's a very old story, nearly a hundred years old. I read it at least 
twenty years ago in a magazine which was itself perhaps fifty years 

"She predicted war, did she?" 

"She did that, yes." 

"Write it, manl Gypsy stories are always good " 

Here in brief is the story. The year was 1849 when the gypsy's predic- 
tion was made to William, the second son of the King of Prussia, Frederick 
William III. Prince William was not directly in line for the succession to 
the throne, his eldest brother Frederick, who was still alive, bore the title 
of crown prince. William had been in charge of the Prussian troops in 
the revolutionary year 1848 when riots occurred in Berlin and the barri- 

256 To Number Our Days 

cades went up in half a dozen European countries. Prince William acted 
with such severity in repressing the revolt in Berlin that he became 
very unpopular and was given the nickname "Billy Cartridge." His father 
thought it advisable to send him abroad till the wave of popular dissatis- 
faction should have blown over. 

William went to Switzerland and stopped in the city of Interlaken. 
Strolling along the lake front one day a gypsy woman approached him 
and greeted him as "Your Imperial Highness." 

"Woman, are you out of your mind? Imperial Highness of what em- 
pire?" asked William with a sneer. 

"Of the German empire," she said. 

"But my good woman, there is no such thing as a German empire." 

"It will come," said the gypsy. 


"Just write down the figures of the present year 1849 and add the num- 
bers vertically, thus: 



"That's the year," she said, "1871, when the German empire will be 

born And you will be the emperor." 

"That's interesting," said William. "How long will I remain emperor?" 
"Make another addition in the same way: 





Going To and Fro in the Earth 257 

"That's the year when you will cease to reign," said the gypsy. 

"The year of my death?" 

"Yes, that's the year of your death!" 

"Will the German empire go on existing?" 


"For how long?" 

"Add up the figures again: 



"1913 marks the beginning of the end for the German empire," said the 
woman. "The empire will be defeated in war. But Germany will remain 

"That's one consolation at least," observed William. "And how long will 
this condition last?" 

"Just add the numbers once more," suggested the gypsy: 



"The year 1927 is the beginning of a new time of troubles for Germany." 
"But some day there's an end to all troubles, isn't there? Shall I add up 

once more?" asked William. 
"You may add if you like, but I wouldn't if I were you, for the outcome 

of your addition will give you the year when Germany in its entirety will 

lie in ruins." 

258 To Number Our Days 




Tm going to add up once more," laughed the prince. "I wont leave 
Germany in the horrible state you just mentioned." 


"What's going to happen in the year 1966?" asked William. "I don't 
know," shrugged the woman. "I don t recognize what I see. . . . Germany 
isn't Germany any more. ..." 

"I wonder if you couldn't go to Europe for us," said Jack Tennant a day 
or so after publication of the gypsy story. There must be plenty of that 
kind of stories lying around. It's human interest stories I am looking for. I 
don't want any political stuff. Who the hell cares about Rapallo and San 
Remo and all that diplomatic blah which don't mean a damn thing to 
our readers anyway? I'd like to find out who that guy Mussolini sleeps 
with, and that other fellow Briand [he pronounced the name Bryant]. 
They say he's quite a skirt chaser. . . . We don't do badly ourselves here 
in New York, but don t they have the juiciest murders in France? I mean 
those crimes passionelles as they call them. All I get is politics and more 
politics. Who cares? Besides, the telegraphic agencies supply us with 
all the political gossip we need. It's damned dull stuff, if you ask me. . . . 
Go upstairs and see Arthur Krock. He wants to see you." 

That's how I became a foreign correspondent for the New York Evening 
World. Mr. Krock, who still functions as an editorial columnist for The 
New York Times, supplied me with letters of introduction to the (Morn- 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 259 

ing) World's correspondents resident in Paris, London, Rome, Geneva, 
Moscow and Berlin, requesting them to place the facilities of their offices 
at my disposal. I was to be a roving correspondent and could go wher- 
ever I liked. And so I was off on the S.S. Mauretania. 

From the day I arrived in Paris my life was split in twain. Jack Tennant 
wanted anecdotes and other trivialities. He got them. But I also had my 
own life to live and it was more valuable to me than a hundred thousand 
Evening Worlds. The first thing I did in Paris was to inscribe myself at 
the Sorbonne as a student in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. The 
men who received me and under whom I graduated some years later was 
Charles Guignebert, professor of the history of Christianity. 

Before going any further, I must say that I was not alone in Paris; 
Cornelia Machelina, who has been my companion through joy and sor- 
row from her youth till this very day, stood by my side then as she does 
now. Everything of value I received in life is but dust and ashes compared 
with what she gave me. Love is so mutilated in our time, so profaned 
and turned to such banality that it has become virtually impossible to 
pronounce the word love. There are all sorts of love and they are all 
related, sexual or erotic love, caritative and sympathetic love, but there 
is also the kind of love of which the Apostle Paul speaks: the uncondi- 
tioned giving of one's self to another. That love is timeless and rises above 
all conventionalities and legalities. This love was ours and, I am happy 
to say, remains ours today when silver threads have begun to appear 
amongst the gold. . . . 

After a day or so, Paris looked as familiar as in that month of December, 
1918, when Raoul Desormeaux and I spent our last war days in the city. 
Before settling down to work I made a quick trip to Holland, going by 
train as far as Antwerp and walking the rest of the way through Flanders 
and re-entering the land of my birth at the customs post of Wuustwezel. 

My grandparents had passed away in the dozen years of my absence. 
My uncle Kees had been drowned in the Rhine. My other relatives, uncles, 
aunts, cousins, etc., were so infuriated with me for having served in the 
Canadian army and to have borne arms against what they called "your 
own German brothers" that I came away in a hurry. One of my cousins 
who has since risen to the position of theology professor in Utrecht 
University, proceeded to give me such a dressing down for my "milita- 
ristic insanity" that I left his house without saying a word. The family 

260 To Number Our Days 

had to wait till 1939 before becoming convinced what a nightmare a 
united Germany is and always will be to Holland and the rest of Europe. 

I wrote a few articles for Mr. Tennant about the dykes and the plans 
for the draining of the Zuyder Sea, and on the way back to Paris stopped 
over for a few hours in the city of Ghent to take a look at the new Flemish 
National University. On the Street of the Bears, near a bridge across the 
river Lys which bisects the city, I found a restaurant which seemed to be 
frequented exclusively by instructors and students of the nearby Athe- 
naeum. There was a prolonged, somewhat embarrassing lull in the buzzing 
conversation when I entered the dining room so that everybody present 
could hear me plainly as I ordered something from the waiter who pre- 
sented himself with the menu. Quite inadvertently I spoke to the waiter 
in French and immediately I was in trouble. Two of the students came 
over and politely inquired: "Do you not speak Dutch? [Netherlandish, 
they said.] You don't look like a Frenchman." 

"I am not a Frenchman," I replied in Dutch. 

"In that case, will you be kind enough to speak your own language in 
Flanders?" they asked. "Any language in the world except French * 

"Do you hate French that much? I thought Belgium was bilingual." 

"Quite right, Belgium is bilingual, but Flanders is not bilingual. Flanders 
is unilingual. Flanders is Dutch [Netherlandish] and does not want to 
be anything else but Dutch. We are trying to get rid of French, not 
of French itself, but of French as the language that is forced on the 
Flemish people. The policy of forcing the Flemish people to speak a 
foreign language which has been in operation for nearly a century cut 
the common people from the source of its culture and literature and has 
caused Flanders to sink to the intellectual level of a Balkan peasant 

"But you yourselves broke away from Holland, the source of your 
culture, in 1830. You live in a separate state called Belgium. You have an 
army, a judiciary, and all the paraphernalia of separate statehood. Youevein 
have a national anthem which is the only national anthem in the world 
which carries an insult to the ruling house of a neighboring nation. Don't 
you sing in the "Brabangonne," your national anthem: La mitraille a ScrasS 
Vorange de Varbre de la UbertS [With our grapeshot we have knocked 
the orange off the tree of liberty]? That's a reference to the House of 
Orange and an insult to Queen Wilhelmina, who is the Princess of Orange 
and the sovereign lady of Holland." 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 261 

"We never sing that Belgian piece of Dreck. It's not the anthem of 
Flanders. We don't uncover our heads when we hear it sung or played. 
We would like to get rid of the whole Belgian caboodle; state, king, army 
and officialdom. Have yqu ever heard of any other state which seeks to 
denationalize the majority of its population, its principal ethnic group? 
Our Flemish boys are commanded in French in the army. The courts use 
only French. All official documents are drawn up in that foreign lan- 

By that time a dozen or more students had gathered around. They talked 
and talked while the evening wore away. When they finally accompanied 
me to the Hotel de la Poste on the Place d'Armes, it was two o'clock in 
the morning. But it wasn't wasted time entirely: for one thing I discovered 
the reason why the British Intelligence had prevented me from going 
to Flanders right after the Armistice in November, 1918. 

In that month the Belgian government, which spent the four years of 
World War I in exile in the city of Le Havre, returned to Brussels and 
broke up the Flemish nationalist movement. During the occupation, the 
German governor general, Von Bissing, allowed or rather urged the 
Flemish nationalists to set up a Council of Flanders under the presidency 
of Dr. August Borms and thus virtually made Flanders autonomous. In 
the event of a German victory Flanders was to be either an independent 
republic or to be reunited with Holland, whatever the people favored. 

The mistake of Dr. Borms and his Council of Flanders was that they 
allowed the Germans to bring their nationalist aspirations temporarily to 
fruition. The Flemings were certainly entitled to autonomy and self- 
determination, but it was neither politic nor wise to have these rights 
established for them by the occupying power. As soon as King Albert and 
Queen Elizabeth returned from Le Havre, Dr. Borms and the members 
of the Council of Flanders were arrested, tried and sentenced to death. 
Many of the most prominent Flemish leaders fled to Holland and the 
whole country was thrown into turmoil. 

With the Germans under General von Bissing as their friends and 
protectors as long as the occupation lasted, the Flemish nationalist groups 
came to look upon the British who were fighting the Germans as their 
enemies also. Here lay the source of that animosity and anti-British 
sentiment which our soldiers felt on every side while fighting in Flanders. 
The Flemings did not hate the British per se. They hated the Belgian 
state; the ally of the British. They resented the British presence in their 

262 To Number Our Days 

land because if and when victorious the British would almost certainly 
contribute to a restoration of the status quo ante in Belgium, which 
would mean that the French-speaking Belgian bureaucracy would rule 
Flanders again as if it were a conquered province. 

From the day that Flanders was torn away from Holland in 1830 by 
the intervention of a French army, the policy of the emerging Belgian state 
had been directed towards the denationalization of the Flemings. In a 
hundred years' time, the Belgian government figured, there would be no 
more Flemings. All the inhabitants of Belgium would speak French and 
the Flemish question would be a thing of the past. 

As things turned out, the present-day situation in Belgium is precisely 
the reverse. The French-speaking Belgians, known as Walloons, are in a 
hopeless minority. The population increase in Catholic Flanders has been 
infinitely greater than that in liberal and socialistic Wallonia. The two 
peoples did not merge; they remained two separate nations in two sepa- 
rate countries lying side by side: Dutch-speaking Flanders and French- 
speaking Wallonia. 

The main issue at stake between the two remains the city of Brussels 
where 87 per cent of the people are Flemings. Being the administrative 
capital, however, Brussels is in Walloon hands. 

It is on the issue of Brussels that the Belgian state may yet fall apart. 
Indications are that the struggle is entering a new and more disquieting 
phase. It's the Walloons who want to split off now; some of them want 
to be integrated into or attached to France and have done with Flanders 
for good. That would mean the end of the Belgian state. . . . 

I promised the students in Ghent that I would keep in touch and, if at 
all possible, bring the situation in Flanders to the attention of world 
public opinion. Before I left I asked them the names of some of the 
Flemish nationalist leaders. They gave me a dozen names, but insisted 
that the man most likely to be of help to me was: Brandt van Varewyk. 

"Where does he live?" 

"He lives in Holland, just across the border in the village of Heerlen 
near the city of Maastricht. He is forbidden to come into Flanders by the 
alien Belgian government, but he comes to see us nevertheless from time 

to time " 
"In disguise?" 
They all laughed. "Yes, in disguise more or less. ..." 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 263 

'What's the joke?" 

"There is no joke. You'll find out who he is when you see him " 

Before continuing my trip back to Paris, I took a bus from Ghent to 
Brussels, then another one to Liege. A third bus took me to Maastricht 
in Holland and the fourth bus brought me to the village of Heerlen. 

It was pitch dark and pouring rain when I f ound the house. The young 
lady who opened the door exclaimed: "Oh, there you are at last. Uncle has 
been waiting for you all day. He had almost given you up." 

"How did you know that I was coming?" 

"Uncle received a telegram from the Flemish university in Ghent " 

When she led me into the study I stood face to face with a Roman 
Catholic prelate. 

"Are you Brandt van Varewyk?" I asked. 

"Sometimes," he laughed. "It's my pen name. My real name is Robrecht 
de Smet. I am the papal prothonotary for the Scandinavian countries." 

"What does that mean?" 

"I am preparing the restoration of the Catholic episcopate in Sweden, 
Norway and Denmark. ... I can see that you are surprised. ..." 

"Indeed I am. I had not expected to meet a Roman Catholic digni- 
tary Had I known I would probably not have come. . . . You see, I 

am a Protestant. ..." 

"I know, I know, your family lives here in Holland. They are of Flemish 

"Quite right! They moved north into Holland when the Inquisition 
exterminated Protestantism in Flanders. ..." 

Monseigneur de Smet must have been in his fifties, a tall man with pale 
blue eyes shielded by a pair of thick glasses. Before dinner we sat a few 
minutes in his study where hung a Flemish national flag and a painting 
of . . . Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. When I remarked that I was dis- 
tressed by the intellectual decline amongst the Flemish people, adding 
that the deterioration was almost inconceivable in a people which pro- 
duced the later renaissance, Monseigneur de Smet said: "This is the policy 
of the criminal Belgian state; impoverish the Flemings intellectually 
before denationalizing them altogether. It's a scandal that cries to high 
heaven for redress. . . Belgica delenda esse " 

I have never met another person who hated Belgium so thoroughly as 
Monseigneur de Smet, and not only Belgium but France as well and the 
whole Latin or Mediterranean civilization. If his duties did not call him 

264 To Number Our Days 

to Rome from time to time, he said, he would never go there. On the 
other hand, anything Germanic, Scandinavian or Nordic could not be 
praised enough. The character of the Teutonic peoples was marked by 
honesty, frankness and straightforward dealing. Unlike the decadent 
French and the amoral Italians, the Nordic peoples were the salt of the 
earth. The Belgian state was a monstrosity, a bastard state which, at the 
behest of France, was doing its utmost to destroy the national spirit and 
language of Flanders. . . . 

Though I could not, of course, agree in toto with these outrageous 
propositions, I felt a deep sympathy for the degraded and, the word is not 
too strong, the downtrodden and oppressed section of the Netherlands' 
people living in Flanders. When De Smet asked me, I promised to help 
him in the Flemish liberation movement with the understanding that no 
violence was to be used or advocated. By regular parliamentary and 
democratic methods and by virtue of the universally recognized Wilsonian 
doctrine of the right of self-determination for small peoples, the Flemings 
could not fail to win out in the end. It was a matter of education and 
of inculcating a will to freedom and independence in the Flemish masses. 

Monseigneur de Smet revealed that he was publishing a paper called 
Vlaanderen (Flanders) which he smuggled into the land of his birth and 
distributed amongst the students of Louvain University and the Flemish 
National University in Ghent. The great obstacle to the diffusion of this 
paper lay at the border. Edition after edition had been seized and con- 
fiscated by the Belgian customs officers. He wondered if I could not have 
the paper printed in France and smuggled into Belgium from the south. 
"It will take the Belgian authorities a long time to discover that the source 
of Flemish nationalist propaganda lies in France. Here," he said, "is the 
last copy of Vlaanderen. Take a look!" 

I took a look. Across the front page ran an eight column banner head- 
line: Flemings never forget, Belgium is NOT your fatherland. In an 
article on the same page, "Brandt van Varewyk" referred to King Albert 
of the Belgians as "the French prefect [provincial governor] in the 
Flemish city of Brussels. ..." 

The greatest difficulty lay not in the smuggling. It was the printing of 
the paper which caused me the most trouble. French printers print 
French well enough, I dare say. It was a different matter to get French 
printers to print Dutch correctly. I was proofreader, make-up editor and 
sometimes typesetter (by hand) in a rat-infested attic on the Rue du 
Croissant in the Montmartre quarter. One thousand copies of the journal 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 265 

were smuggled out of France by passing them through the property of 
a nobleman, half of whose estate lay in France and half in Belgium. 

Rather than following personal experiences in chronological order at 
this point, I would like to show how my association with the Flemish 
nationalist movement continued for some years and then abruptly termi- 
nated with the assassination of the President of France, Paul Doumer, in 
1932. In the publication of Vlaanderen I had the assistance of four Flemish 
young men residing in Paris: one a schoolteacher, two seminarists and 
one man, a painter, named Vlaminck who rose to world fame. 

In addition to supervising the printing, shipping and smuggling, I wrote 
a regular article for the periodical dealing with the struggle or the move- 
ments for national liberation in other parts of the world. Catalonia sought 
freedom from Spain, Brittany from France, the Basque nationalists 
clamored for liberation from both the Spanish and the French tutelage. 
The Jewish people were maltreated in Poland, Rumania and in the little 
Baltic states who had, along with Finland, been given their freedom by the 
Soviet government following the revolution of 1917. In Alsace a movement 
had sprung up directed against the centralizing tendencies of the French 
state, the suppression of the German language which is the mother tongue 
of 90 per cent of the Alsatian people and against the replacement of the old 
Catholic parochial school system with the neutral, laic school of the Third 
Republic into which Alsace was incorporated at the close of the war in 

Some of the leaders of these nationalist and activist groups came to 
Paris from time to time to supply me with news or to ask questions till 
the idea gained ground that these movements of national liberation should 
all band together and thus not merely represent some nuisance value, 
but exercise a definite and constructive influence on the course of events. 
Henri Barbusse accompanied by Panait Istrati, the Rumanian novelist, 
came to see me and proposed the integration of all the movements for 
national liberation or autonomy into the "League against Imperialism." 

Now the League against Imperialism was a communist-controlled 
organization. Barbusse served as its international chairman. Ilya Ehren- 
burg was one of its officers and likewise, I think, the gentle and scholarly 
Christian Rakowsky, the Soviet ambassador in Paris who was expelled 
from France precisely for participating in the anti-imperialist league's 

I pointed out to these men that even if I should accept the proposition, 

266 To Number Our Days 

there wasn't a chance in the world of bringing the Flemish nationalist 
movement, where a great many Roman priests were amongst the active 
members, into a communist-controlled organization by whatever name 
it went. The same objection held for the Catalans, the Basques, the Al- 
satians and the Bretons. The membership of all these groups was pre- 
dominantly Catholic. 

When the negotiations failed Barbusse wrote me a letter: "Not one of 
your nationalist movements will ever achieve national liberation; it is the 
Third International which will set humanity free." At the same time he 
went full speed ahead with an attempt to extend communist control over 
the various nationalist movements in Europe. He launched a weekly paper 
called Monde and appointed Auguste Habaru, a Flemish nationalist, who 
had formerly been with us, its editor. 

In riposte Monseigneur de Smet and I set up "The International of 
Oppressed Nations/' and issued a monthly bulletin in French under the 
same title. My house in St. Germain-en-Laye served as headquarters of 
the new International. The meeting place for the executive was the back 
room of a bistro on the Place de Rennes in Paris facing the Montparnasse 
railway station. The bistro which was owned and operated by an ex- 
schoolmaster from Alsace, Erich Matmueller, put up a sign: Au Rendez- 
vous des Nations OpprimSes, "Meeting Place of the Oppressed Nations." 

Of course we were no match for Barbusse and his associates. They put 
out a fine, attractive paper and soon gained a wide circulation. Barbusse, 
Istrati and Habaru, moreover, were excellent writers. We had no writers 
worth mentioning. We had no money either. There were neither salaries, 
nor expense accounts, nor subsidies of any kind. Barbusse's journal re- 
ceived a large subsidy from the French communist party which was at the 
time on the way up with a membership in the millions and more than a 
hundred deputies in the French parliament. Had I not been paid a salary 
by the Evening World, it is quite safe to say that we would not have come 
out with a single issue of our Bulletin des Nations OpprimSes. 

On top of that our International received a blow which nearly put us 
out of commission. This happened when the chief of our Alsatian section, 
Friedrich Roos, and some of his companions resorted to direct action. They 
bombed some newly installed French public schools in Colmar, Strasbourg 
and Muehlhausen. In court Roos sought to put the blame on our Inter- 
national. We, he declared, had sent him instructions to take the bull by 
the horns and start an anti-French revolution in Alsace. Monseigneur de 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 267 

Smet's name could not be disclosed to the police, so I had to take the 
responsibility for our defense. I had no difficulty in showing the French 
political police that neither as an individual nor as the secretary-general 
of the International was I in any way involved in the terroristic activities 
in Alsace. It was a stroke of good fortune that the Minister of the Interior 
at the time was Anatole de Monzie with whom I had previously made a 
public appearance in the Salle Wagram in behalf of the reconstruction 
work in Palestine. 

Then months and months went by. I was absent successively in Syria, 
Poland, Russia, Palestine, Rumania and Italy, but on the day of my return 
to Paris a Russian terrorist, Gorgulov, shot and killed the aged President 
Paul Doumer, the most inoffensive and innocuous President the Third 
Republic ever had, which is saying a good deal. Andr6 Tardieu, editor in 
chief of Le Temps, the great Parisian daily, brought out a special edition 
with a headline: The communist assassins have killed Doumerl The com- 
munist newspaper VHumanitS came back a few hours later with a special 
edition of its own. On UHumanit£s front page appeared only the words: 
Tardieu a Mentil 'Tardieu is a liar!" 

However, on an inside page VHumanitS supplied the information that 
Gorgulov had confessed at a preliminary hearing before the police magis- 
trate that he was a member of the Green International. The communists, 
who knew better, charged that the Green International was our Inter- 
national. In reality the Green International was an association of peasant 
parties, Rumanian, Ukrainian, Bessarabian, Bulgarian and so forth. But 
the name of our International had been mentioned in public and its link 
with the anti-Belgian Flemish nationalist movement disclosed. Our secret 
was out. 

French-speaking Belgians resident in Paris held a demonstration in the 
Place de TOpera to express their indignation over the murder of Doumer 
. . . by us\ I attended the demonstration and asked to speak. I wanted to 
tell the crowd that the Flemish nationalists had nothing whatever to do 
with the assassination. I hadn't spoken five minutes when someone struck 
me a blow on the head from behind and then a mob of Belgian ex- 
servicemen— at least they wore Belgium's military uniform— set about 
to give me a drubbing. It rained blows and kicks, but finally I managed 
to break away from the lynchers and jumped into a cab which drove me 
at a furious rate to the house of an old friend, Marvin Lowenthal,* on the 
♦Author of A Civilization Passed By, Montaigne, etc. 

268 To Number Our Days 

Quai de B&hune, who not only bandaged my head, but gave me so much 
vermouth to pick me up that I sallied forth from his place a couple of 
hours later in high spirits. 

After that the International of Oppressed Nations died of inanition. 
The association of different nationalist movements in an international 
organization is not only a contradiction in terms; it is an impossibility. 
The different parties either become internationalist, socialist or com- 
munist, or they fight each other. Neither course was practicable. Mat- 
muehler changed the sign on his bistro to Au Rendez-Vous des Chauffeurs, 
and I notified Monseigneur de Smet that my participation in the Flemish 
activist movement must come to an end by reason of other pressing 

As I said, I was a roving reporter and hence frequently absent from 
France. The first trip abroad was made in 1926 when I attempted to keep 
the vow I made in 1918 to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 

Ever since the death of Colonel MacDonald, who had promised to 
go to Palestine with me, I had been worrying how I could get to the Holy 
Land. With my appointment in Paris I felt I came within view of my 
project. I wrote Jack Tennant a letter saying that if he would furnish the 
funds I would undertake a journey to the Arabian desert where, I lied, 
certain archaeologists were reported to have found a remnant of "the ten 
lost tribes of Israel." 

Mr. Tennant pondered the matter for a while and finally replied by 
cable: dont bother stop five lost ttubes located here residing ocean 


me to find my way to Palestine, at my own expense. To cut down the cost 
of transportation I took the cheapest boat available out of Marseilles, the 
S.S. Lotus of the Messageries Maritimes whose first port of call was Oran 
in Algeria; second, Alexandria, Egypt; third, Jaffa, Palestine; and fourth, 
Beirut in Lebanon which country was then still a vilayet or province of 
Greater Syria. 

The Lotus passengers were divided into four classes. In first class 
traveled a pilgrimage of about 200 Irishmen under their bishop. In second 
class I was lodged in a cabin next door to two Dominicans, Father Joseph 
Marie Lagrange, the head of the School of Biblical Research in Jerusalem 
and one of his assistants, the world-famous scholar and chief of the 
Vatican's Biblical Commission, Father Pierre Dhorme. 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 269 

Below in the hold, third class or steerage, was an entire company of 
African infantry on their way to Syria where the Druses were in revolt. 
On the forward deck (fourth class) in the open, slept, ate and prayed a 
motley crowd of Moslems whom we picked up at Oran in Algeria. These 
men, old and feeble and some actually on the point of death, hoped to de- 
bark at Jaffa and from there proceed to Amman in Transjordania in order 
to travel by the old Hedjah Railway as far as Medina from which city 
they intended to continue by camel-back to Mecca, Islam's holy city. 
These men literally went out to die in the comforting nearness of the 
Kaaba. Not all reached their Meccan destination. One old fellow, who 
suffered more from hunger than from any disease, expired on deck. His 
body was wrapped in a canvas shroud before the rats could get at it. 
Weighed down by stones, it sank out of sight in the vicinity of Stromboli 
which happened to be in eruption. 

The rumble of the volcano, which sent up puffs of fire and smoke and 
huge rocks at regular twenty-minute intervals, frightened the African 
troops below deck so much that they howled and screamed in distress. 
They were not allowed to come on deck. They were locked in the hold. A 
door with heavy iron bars separated their quarters from a stairway. On 
account of the terrific heat in the hold, the soldiers had taken off their 
clothes. You could see them hunched down stark naked behind the bars 
and hear them screaming obscenities, the only words in the French 
language they had learned. 

We had twenty-nine nationalities on board and seven representatives 
of the world's leading religions. In second class we ate at one common 
table presided over by the ship's doctor who was flanked by the two 
Dominican Fathers. Next to Father Lagrange sat the Marquis de Chaun- 
essy, a cavalry officer on his way to fight the Druses in Syria; next to the 
marquis three ladies, one the madam of an etablissement in Beirut called 
"High Life" which she pronounced "Ee Leef," the other two to take up 
positions in that selfsame establishment which was, according to the pro- 
prietress, reserved "for officers only." On one side of me sat a Greek 
merchant of loukoum on his way back from New York to his home town 
of Smyrna, and on my right a terrific fundamentalist bore, Elmer Brockle- 
bank, who was employed by the Sudan Inland Mission. His town of origin 
was Wichita, Kansas. He was setting forth for the second time in his life 
on the utterly futile errand of trying to convert little Moslem mullahs to 
our sacred Christian religion. He said grace before meals in a voice 

270 To Number Our Days 

intentionally loud and offensive to the Roman Catholic priests, but not 
before our two waiters had temporarily removed the bottles of red wine. 
Our Kansan fellow traveler was a teetotaler and refused to pray so long 
as there remained strong drink on the table. In revenge or disgust, but 
to everybody's intense satisfaction, one of the waiters, a good-looking 
boy from Nice, spilled some soup now and then down the fanatic's neck 
or over his clerical vest. 

We also had three or four Jews and their families in second class, but 
they did not eat with us. They brought their own kosher provisions 
which ran out because of the delay in crossing the Mediterranean. In the 
Strait of Messina something went wrong with one of the ship's screws 
and we lay motionless for three days and nights opposite Messina, the 
famous city ruined in the earthquake of 1908. We were so close to the 
shore that we could see the Sicilian signorinas stroll along the brilliantly 
illuminated boulevard at night. We could even hear a band playing in 
one of the parks. 

In Port Said, where we crawled into port for another layover of twenty- 
four hours, an Arab wearing a fez and a nightshirt attached himself to 
me along with a small army of shoeshiners, self-styled guides, touts, pimps 
and their 'Tittle sisters," hashish peddlers and a voluminous assortment 
of pickpockets and cutthroats of indeterminate nationality. In order to 
get away from this reception committee, I entered the Hotel of the Nile 
where the staff was Greek and ate a meal with a predominant taste of 
olive oil. I considered taking a room, but on lifting the mattress, I noticed 
such a large number of crawling things that I retreated to the Lotus and 
its legion of cockroaches and rats which, at any rate, didn't get into bed 
with you. 

In Jaffa the Lotus did not touch land. It lay about a mile off shore. The 
passengers were taken off one by one in the following manner: after a 
section of the railing of the Lotus 9 lower deck was removed, you stood in 
the open space. Down below an Arab rowboat could be seen dancing up 
and down on the swelling waves. When the boat rose to the level of the 
deck, an Arab standing astride the rowboat's gunwales on his bare feet 
seized you by the waist, lifted you bodily from the Lotus and deposited 
you safe and sound in his boat, which simultaneously dropped back 
between the waves with the speed of a falling elevator. This maneuver 
was repeated till the boat was full. 

Once ashore the boatmen started to haggle about the price of debarka- 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 271 

tion. I offered the chief of the rowers a half pound Egyptian. He said: 

"Excellency, count, baron, my prince, I have five babies " I cut him 

short: "I am not His Excellency, I am only His Excellency's secretary. 
His Excellency is just coming ashore now with the next boat," and I 
pointed to the Reverend Elmer Brocklebank. A dozen Arabs stormed in 
the direction of the Kansan D.D. Father Dhorme tapped me on the 
shoulder: "You are coming with us in the automobile. Father Lagrange 
invites you to be our guest at the Convent of St. Stephen in Jerusalem * 

And so it came to pass that on my first visit to the Holy City I was the 
guest of the Dominicans. I slept in a cell like any monk, rose for mattins 
and again for early Mass, and even rang the bell once or twice for the 
brother bell ringer. With Father Lagrange I sat many hours in his library. 
He was a tall man with a small graying beard. His eyes sparkled with 
enthusiasm and goodness as he discussed the Gospel of St. John on which 
he had spent a lifetime of study. He was positively convinced, he said, that 
St. John's is the oldest of the four gospels. When his book on St. John 
came out a few years later in Paris, I rushed out to buy a copy. To my 
amazement I saw that St. Matthew was indicated as the writer of the 
first of the gospel booklets. The Vatican had threatened Lagrange with 
suspension from his function as dean of the School of Biblical Research if 
he went on insisting on St. John's priority. Lagrange submitted; he was an 
old man. Like Galileo, at the sight of the Inquisition's thumbscrews, he 
gave in. 

I stayed ten days in Jerusalem, saw all the soi-disant holy places, such 
as the Via Dolorosa, Pontius Pilate's pretorium, the Upper Room where 
the Last Supper was eaten by Jesus and His disciples, the Garden of 
Gethsemane, the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre, the valleys of Hinnum 
and Josephat, and the spot where once lay those marvelous gardens of 
Solomon where the wise king received the Queen of Sheba and made 
her the ancestress of the Ethiopian emperors. 

In the Arab village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of Mount Olive, 
I paid ten piasters for the privilege of sitting down in the house, a mere 
hovel, where once dwelt Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus 
who was raised from the dead. The attendant Franciscan monk was a 
Frenchman. He told me the story of the miracle. In turn I told him the 
story which Oscar Wilde was fond of telling: "When Lazarus came home 
from the grave where he had lain three days, Jesus took him aside: Well, 

272 To Number Our Days 

Lazarus, tell me something of your experiences. What did you see? With 
whom did you speak while you were dead? What did heaven look like?* 
Lazarus shook his head: 1 heard nothing and saw nothing. There was 
nothing, absolutely nothing!' 

" 'Are you sure?' 

" 'Absolutely surel' 

" In that case/ said Jesus (according to Oscar Wilde) 'see to it that you 
never breathe a word about this to any living soull' * 

Not being a Jew, I was permitted to enter the Mosque of Omar after 
putting on a colossal pair of slippers over my shoes. I stood gazing at 
the rock jutting from the floor on which Abraham is said to have tied 
his son Isaac for the sacrifice which was prevented by an angel of the 

Lord The mosque is built on the site where Mohammed's horse, Al 

Borak, rested for an hour on its flight to heaven 

All those so-called holy places have to be taken not merely with a 
grain, but with a whole sack of salt. None is genuine or authentic. The 
most phony place of all is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which con- 
tains the alleged tomb of Christ as well as the hill of Calvary. As late as 
the year 325 a.d. absolutely nobody knew where the tomb was located. 
It was the Empress Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, who found 
it buried sixty feet under a heap of rubble and rock. The site was revealed 
to her in a dream, a method of research of which modern archaeologists 
cannot avail themselves. It is she who also built the Basilica or part of it, 
as well as the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem above the grotto 
where Jesus was most certainly not born. 

The journey to Bethlehem, as per vow, was begun on my bare feet. I 
put my shoes on again near Rachel's Tomb, another spurious site, and 
marched the rest of the way in comfort. My fellow traveler was Father 
Georges Thibault, a Basque, who went from St. Stephen's Convent in 
Jerusalem to take up a new position in the city of David. Father Thibault's 
luggage lay astride the back of a donkey which he pulled by a rope. The 
donkey not only stopped repeatedly, he bolted twice, thus forcing us to 
go after him in the sweltering heat and bring him back to the narrow path. 
When we reached Bethlehem at last, Father Thibault was pulling and I 
was pushing the donkey. 

I spent the night in a pilgrim hotel which was run by a Greek who told 
me that he had made his money in Rochester, N.Y. "I'm returning to 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 273 

America as soon as I can," he said. This Bethlehem is not what it is 
cracked up to bel" 

"What's wrong with Bethlehem?" 

"Too damn many Greeks, my dear sirl Too damn many Greeks by far!" 

I walked on to Hebron the following morning and on the way inspected 
the ruins of the palace of Machaerus in the dungeon of which Herod's son 
imprisoned John the Baptist and Salome danced the dance which cost John 
his head. In Hebron I entered the mosque which is built over the cave of 
Machpelah containing the tombs of the Hebrew patriarchs and their wives, 
with the exception of Rachel. At the police post, Captain Edgar Saunders 
of the Palestinian Military Police introduced me to an Armenian gentleman 
who owned "a limousine" of the Ford variety. Then back to Jerusalem via 
the western shore of the Dead Sea and through Hebron and Bethlehem 
once more. 

In Tel Aviv I stayed at the home of Marek Schwartz. Schwartz was an 
ex-officer who served in the Austrian artillery attached to the Turkish 
army in Palestine during the First World War. If ever the Israelis get to the 
point where they honor the memory of their heroes, they ought to bear 
Marek Schwartz in mind. 

Schwartz was ordered by Jamal Pasha to train his batteries on Jerusalem 
in 1917 and to blow the Holy City to smithereens at the precise moment 
when General Allenby and his staff would walk in through the Jaffa Gate. 
In the course of the preceding night Schwartz spiked all the Turkish guns 
and then ran over to the British lines to surrender. The British promptly 
arrested him and locked him up. But Schwartz escaped and hid for a year 
in that ruined Crusaders' castle which stands at the top of the Jordan val- 
ley east of Lake Huleh. 

At Schwartz' home I met Dr. Shmaryahu Levin, onetime member of the 
first Russian Duma and Meyer Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, who 
in 1929 conferred honorary citizenship on me. He took me for a stroll 
through the city and showed me the surroundings from the top of a hill. 
It is hard to believe that back in 1926 I saw nothing but sand as far as the 
eye could reach. Today the city has grown to metropolitan size with shops 
and apartment houses, banks, schools, a university, many first-class theaters 
and with a population approaching the million figure while the reddish 
sand hills outside are now overgrown with orange groves and plantations 
of all kinds. 

From Tel Aviv I walked to Nazareth. On the way to Nazareth in the 

274 To Number Our Days 

middle of the Emek valley, then still largely a malarial swamp but now 
the great agricultural center of Israel with villages and kibbutzim stretch- 
ing in a long string from Mount Carmel to the shores of the Jordan, I heard 
a British bugle sound the mail call-"A letter from lousy Lou, boys!"— and 
I entered an old Turkish blockhouse in which was quartered a company 
of the King's African Rifles, the famous Green Howards. The commanding 
officer was Captain W. C. Cowper, D.S.O. When he heard that I served in 
the Guides in the Great War, he exclaimed: "Wasn t Ross MacDonald 
your colonel? A marvelous soldier, your colonel, but socially impossibleP 
I spent two days with Cowper and ate British army rations once more. 

From Nazareth I walked clear around Lake Galilee and found my way 
to the confluence of the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers where Pinchus Rutten- 
berg had built the first hydroelectric station. 

Ruttenberg drove me back south to Jericho and Petra. On the way, fol- 
lowing the eastern bank of the river, Ruttenberg told me an episode from 
his life's story. I had noticed that he always kept his gloves on; at table 
during mealtime, in the automobile again. I had seen only one person 
before who had this habit, Georges Clemenceau, who kept his gloves on 
even in the Chamber of Deputies when he spoke from the rostrum. Mon- 
sieur Clemenceau may have suffered from some skin disease, but I dared 
not ask Ruttenberg the reason why he constantly hid his hands. I had to 
wait till he told me. 

Ruttenberg was a member of the presidium of the social revolutionary 
party in Russia at the time of the 1905 revolution. In the beginning of that 
year he and his party decided to petition Czar Nicholas II to grant Russia 
a modern constitution and a democratically elected parliament. One of 
their fellow members on the executive committee was a Russian Orthodox 
priest by the name of Georgii Gapon, a handsome, black-haired individual 
dressed in a splendid cassock who enjoyed immense popularity amongst 
the workers as well as in governmental circles. 

Father Gapon and Ruttenberg headed the procession of a hundred 
thousand to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg where the petition was to 
be presented to the Czar. The country was seething with discontent. There 
were strikes everywhere and demands for reform. With religious banners 
flying and ikons borne aloft, the procession halted before the main entrance 
to the Winter Palace. Here the vast crowd went on its knees to sing the 
national anthem. The palace major-domo came out to inform the multi- 
tude that only Father Gapon would be permitted to enter for the purpose 
of presenting the petition to Nicholas. 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 275 

No sooner had Gapon gone inside and the door was shut behind him 
when the approaches to the Winter Palace Square were closed off by 
squadrons of Cossacks. Infantry mounted on the roofs of adjoining build- 
ings trained their Gatling guns on the crowd and began to fire while the 

Cossacks rushed in swinging their swords and long leather nagaikas 

Thousands of innocent people were mowed down. 

This happened on January 22, 1905, which is known in Russian history 
as Bloody Sunday. 

Ruttenberg and the other members of the social revolutionary executive 
fled across the Finnish border and took up residence in a deserted hunting 
lodge near Terioki. There they remained in hiding till one day Gapon put 
in an appearance and greeted them as if nothing had happened. They 
realized at once that their hiding place had been discovered and that 
Gapon would soon be followed by the police or that he would attempt 
to lure them back onto Russian soil. 

Pinchus Ruttenberg and his companions seized the priest and, constitut- 
ing themselves into a revolutionary tribunal, accused him of being a secret 
police agent, convicted him of treason and sentenced him to death by 
hanging. A rope was tied around his neck and the end thrown over a rafter 
in the ceiling of the hunting lodge. 

But the rope broke and Gapon fell back on the floor. The priest was 
struggling to his feet when Ruttenberg threw himself on Gapon and after 
a brief struggle choked him to death. 

"From that day [April 11, 1906] till now," the engineer said as we drove 
through Transjordania, "I have not been able to look at my hands. I have 
tried to live without gloves, but every time I do I become ill, and would 
go insane if I persisted in looking at my hands." 

With Ruttenberg at the wheel we drove through Transjordania as far as 
Petra, the mysterious deserted city of the Nabataeans which is entirely 
palaces, temples and houses, carved from the rock. Then back north as far 
as the legendary site of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. 

There are no words to describe the godforsaken dreariness of the area 
just south of the Dead Sea where Sodom is located. One is 1200 feet below 
sea level, deeper than any submarine has ever dived below the oceans 
surface. It's the "abomination of desolation," mountains of salt standing in 
a burning desert, the sun so hot that it cuts off your breath like a two-edged 
sword and no living creature in sight save for some lizards and other creep- 
ing things. At nights we could hear the jackals howl from close proximity. 

276 To Number Our Days 

But at dawn it was bitter cold and our sleeping bags were covered with a 
thin layer of hoarfrost. From the east blew a wind carrying the smell of 

When I walked in that blistering heat south and west of Sodom, I could 
not by the widest stretch of the imagination envisage even a thousandth 
part of the work of reclamation and soil redemption that has been accom- 
plished in that part of the Land of Israel now called the Negev. At the 
time of my first visit the Negev was still called Turkish crown land. And 
there is no use saying that Jews of great vision foresaw the future develop- 
ment of the Negev, for they definitely did not. The directors of the Jewish 
land development agency in Jerusalem to whom I spoke about the Negev 
shook their heads: "Absolutely nothing can be done with the Negev!" they 
assured me. 

We raced back to Amman, crossed the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan 
River; I was back in Jerusalem in time to meet Captain Cowper, who 
transferred me to his own car and carried me to Haifa and along the hard 
sand beach to Beirut in Syria. In that beautiful city I was the guest of 
General Maurice Sarrail in the Hotel Unger next door to the Cercle Mili- 
taire, the officers' club. The headquarters of the French Expeditionary 
Force was in the Grand S6rail, the former harem palace of the Turkish 

Though petering out, the revolt of the Druses was still a serious matter 
in Syria. The French had suffered several thousand casualties. Patrols 
were still being ambushed and having their throats slit. The Druses who 
had filtered into Damascus in small parties were blown out of the city by 
a fierce artillery bombardment. Sarrail had called in the Foreign Legion to 
mop up the countryside. The legionnaires went to work with such savagery 
as was perhaps never known in French colonial warfare till Algiers in 
1961. Seventy-five per cent of the Foreign Legionnaires were Germans. 
These German boys in French uniforms were taking revenge on the Arabs 
and Druses for the massacre of German prisoners of war in 1918 at the 
close of the war against Turkey. 

Captain Charles Henriet, adjutant to Sarrail, drove me to Damascus. 
On the way he showed me how every well and farmhouse was stuffed with 
dead Arabs and Druses. The corpses lay rotting in piles. The sky was 

darkened with clouds of flies The Meiad quarter of Damascus lay in 


When I returned to Beirut, General Sarrail had just been notified that he 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 277 

was recalled. He received me in the Grand Serail. To a question as to how 
the Druses had been able to amass so much ammunition and guns as to 
stage so powerful a revolt, the General took me to a window of his room 
which looked upon the port. 

"Do you see that flag?" he asked pointing to a boat flying the Union 

"That flag," he said, "is the flag of the enemy of France Without 

British supplies, the Druse tribesmen could not have lasted a month. Every 
Druse warrior has a Lee-Enfield rifle and carries a supply of British 
manufactured hand grenades. Every Druse woman has a string of British 

gold sovereigns around her neck And this is the reason I am recalled. 

I have told the truth about the treacherous machinations of our British 
allies in stirring up the Druse revolt and carrying on with a ferocity of 

which the world has no conception These things are going on behind 

the scenes, behind the official screens of entente cordiale and eternal 
Anglo-French friendship " 

Back in Paris, while going over the twenty odd daily newspapers one 
morning, my eye caught an item in the theatrical journal Comoedia con- 
taining a very peculiar request by the editor. He asked any possible reader 
who had seen the film The Big Parade in the United States to communi- 
cate with him immediately. According to rumors, he said, the version of 
the film as shown in America differed considerably from that of Le Grande 
Parade running at the Cinema de la Madeleine on the boulevard of the 
same name. The American version, he claimed, showed an incident which 
was intended as a slap in the face to the whole French nation. In the 
American film a French officer was seen to tremble at the sight of an on- 
coming German infantry attack. 

I had seen the picture in New York just a few days prior to my departure 
and I could not remember any such scene. Perhaps it will be recalled that 
The Big Parade, starring John Gilbert and Ren6e Ador6e, from the script 
by Laurence Stallings,* dealt with an episode in the battle of Chateau- 
Thierry where American troops were heavily engaged in World War I. I 
wrote Comoedia that the rumors were obviously false. No American movie 
company, I wrote, let alone Laurence Stallings, who was himself grievously 
wounded in the course of that battle, would knowingly have portrayed 
anything detrimental to the honor of the French people or army. 

*Book reviewer at the New York World. 

278 To Number Our Days 

"There is no trembling French officer in the American picture. I even 
doubt if there exists a special American version of the film at all." 

My letter was published in Comoedia a few days later. But another 
letter followed mine in the same column signed by a person with a 
Scandinavian-sounding name. The second letter writer affirmed that he 
too had seen The Big Parade in New York and that he had been shocked 
by the disdain for the French army as shown in "the American version." 
Comoedia 9 s editor added a postscript in which he set forth the opinion that 
his Swedish correspondent was "obviously right" and I just as "obviously 
wrong." To this he added a few uncomplimentary remarks about the 
American army. 

I wrote back: "S'il y edt If there really was a French officer in the 

American version who trembled, it was clearly not a case of fear of the 
Germans, but a deep concern for the young American soldiers whom he 
saw, without much preparation, throw themselves into the fight against 
the battle-hardened German veterans of three years' campaigning. ..." 

In printing my second letter Comoedia s editor doctored it up a little by 
leaving off the conditional "sT (if), so that in the paper I was made to 
say the very opposite of what I intended to convey. In his closing para- 
graph he spoke of my "apology" and "admission" that I had made a 

Again I wrote, but this time a little sharper. I said that I had made no 
apology and no mistake either. "There was definitely no French officer who 
trembled." I furthermore advised the Comoedia man to stop waving the 
flag, and challenged the French movie people to produce at least one war 
picture as good as The Big Parade. And that was the end of the debate, 
at least so I thought. 

I went off to the Near East and only learned upon my return that a 
police inspector had called at the office to ask about my whereabouts, my 
family relations, country of birth and so forth, the usual rigmarole. Many 
months went by till one day, as I was about to board a train at the Gare 
de rEst, a man with a mustache k la Groucho Marx, dressed in a black 
suit and wearing a derby hat, handed me a sheaf of papers. 

When the train moved off, I sat down to read the document and saw to 
my amazement that I had an "Act of Accusation" in my hands. Au nom 
de la Rdpublique, I was charged with having launched "vile insinuations" 
1°. against the French people; 2°. against the Actors Equity Society; 3°. 
against the Association of Scenario Writers; 4°. against the employees of 
the various French movie companies I had abused French hospitality, 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 279 

expressed disdain for republican institutions, scoffed at the honor of 

French womanhood In short, or rather not in short for the document 

was seven pages long, I saw myself described as an undesirable alien and 
was summoned to appear in police court . . . "to hear sentence pro- 

In the police court I lined up with a number of prowlers charged with 
having committed offenses against public morals in the Bois de Boulogne 
the night before and heard them sentenced to various stretches in prison. 
I was fined 10,000 francs for defamation, libel and derogation of the 
French national character "with costs" which brought the total up to the 
considerable sum of 20,000 francs, something like $1,000 at the current rate 
of exchange. My attorneys, Patrick Morgan, an American, and Pierre 
Goupy, a Frenchman, went into the basement of the Palace of Justice with 
me and signed a request for an appeal. 

Two years passed as French justice ran its course, sending half a dozen 
individuals to the guillotine and I don't know how many to Devil's Island, 
when my turn came at last to face the court of appeal. 

There were five judges sitting on the bench at the end of the room. On 
the left of them, in a box all by himself, throned Monsieur le Procureur de 
la Republique. 

The procureur rose and addressed himself to the chief prosecuting at- 
torney: "Maitre LSmery vous avez la parole." My own lawyer bent forward 
to whisper in my ear: "He is Senator L6mery. He sits in the senate for the 
island of Haiti. He is particularly vicious when it comes to America or 
things American. . . . He was once a candidate for the French ambassador- 
ship to Washington, but was turned down because of a few drops of 

colored blood in his veins. At least, so it is said Whatever you do, 

keep calm. He will say the most outrageous things in order to make you 
lose your temper. . . . That's his usual tactic. ..." 

Maitre Lemery walked to the center of the forum, bowed to the judges, 
and, pointing his finger in my direction: "Gentlemen, I show you the ac- 
cused: born in Holland; an adherent of a false religion; a citizen of the 
British empire; employed by an American newspaper; a resident of France; 
just returned from a journey to Syria; quel m&lange de brutalitS, what a 
mixture of brutality!" 

I jumped to my feet, though the gendarmes tried to push me back into 
my little bench. "Monsieur," I called out, "my life is an open book. There 
is nothing unavowable in my life " 

The procureur shouted: "Do you realize to whom you are speaking?" 

280 To Number Our Days 

"Sure I do. I am speaking to him over there, the fellow in the button 
shoes. . . . " 

"Accused, observe the amenities. . . . You are speaking to a senator of 
France " 

"Je demande pardon, I thought the senate assembled in the Palais du 
Luxembourg " 

From the audience which, I became suddenly aware, was for the greater 
part made up of cinema actresses and other "arteestes" came shouts of 
"A has le Ku Klux Klan\ Down with the Ku Klux Klan! . . . he sale mitd- 
que, the dirty foreigner!" and so forth. 

When order was restored, Maitre L6mery once more bowed to the pro- 
cureur and the judges, and began his discourse by stressing the demoraliz- 
ing effect of American films on pure and innocent boys and girls. According 
to him, American movies dealt chiefly with violence, corruption, alcohol- 
ism, adultery, crime, perversion, murder and sudden death. 

"I point to the accused and show you a typical specimen of the degrad- 
ing influence of American films. 

My attorney, Maitre Goupy, interrupted him at this point: "Is my 
learned friend aware that my client does not represent the American movie 

"He is a hireling of the yellow Yankee press which is just as evil as the 
American movies," shot back L&nery. 

Loud cheers from the audience! 

Then amidst the astonished silence of the judges and everyone else in 
the courtroom, L6mery revealed to what depths of ignominy and vilifica- 
tion Hollywood descended in its portrayal of life in France. 

"When the Americans," exclaimed the Haitian senator, "present a par- 
ticularly lewd female on their cinematographic screens, they make sure to 
give her a French name or a French accent. They paint her face, dye her 
hair and arrange her coiffure in a way which they imagine to be typically 
French or Parisian When they picture a debased criminal, a pick- 
pocket, a gigolo, or a lecherous dSbauchS, they select an actor whom they 
can easily, by various false tricks of make-up and travesty, pass off as a 

Frenchman Do they want to titillate their audiences with a taste of 

fiendish sadism, they pounce upon the French Foreign Legion and show 
our glorious soldiers in the act of cutting the throats of Moroccans, Berbers 
and Senegalese or practicing other unmentionable cruelties upon their 
writhing bodies These brutes," he pointed at me again, "transfer their 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 281 

own beastly instincts to the people of France and draw a psychological 

compensation from this ignoble substitution All they know about 

Paris, or rather all they tell their American audiences through the medium 
of the cinema about Paris, is the abject Rue Mouffetard and its neighbor- 
hood with its brothels, streetwalkers, male prostitutes, apaches, souteneurs, 
voyous, peddlers of dirty pictures and organizers of nauseating sexual 
orgies. . . . 

"Voild Vintage de la France as shown the world by the money-grubbing 
crowd of Hollywood's film directors," declared Maitre L&nery. 

He received a thunderous ovation from the courtroom spectators and 
shouts of "Bravo, bravo!" which the procureur allowed to pass without a 
word of rebuke or remonstrance. 

L&nery had been orating and gesticulating for nearly two hours. The 
sun was sinking, the shadows in the courtroom lengthened. The slightly 
discolored spot above the judges' heads, where once hung the crucifix back 
in the days before the separation of Church and state, had merged with the 
drab grayness of the plastered wall. Two of the judges were struggling 
against sleep by rubbing their eyes when the presiding official suddenly 

"Maitre L6mery, you have given the court a most fascinating and learned 
expos6 of the way in which certain foreign interests calumniate and defame 
all that is good and decent in France Yours has been a truly astound- 
ing revelation. I trust that the stenographers have noted down your words 
most carefully so that we may see them reproduced in our great journals 
of opinion, though I hardly think they will be appreciated at their true 
value in certain countries across the Atlantic. [Laughter in the courtroom 
and female shouts of Wive LSmery, Vive la FranceY] 

"But Maitre Lemery," continued the presiding judge, "may I ask you 
one question: Do you charge that the accused is personally responsible for 
all those horrible and in fact uncouth and worthless movies which you 
have so truly depicted and courageously castigated? . . . You have not said 
a word about the film called The Big Parade, nor about the accused's fan- 
tastic nerve in daring to use his pen against France and distinguished 
French artists. ..." 

"Mr. President, I was just coming to that," replied L6mery. "I will pres- 
ently call the accused and question him concerning his, let me say it mildly, 
his villainous, scandalous conduct." (Renewed acclaim from the bleach- 

282 To Number Our Days 

"Mr. President," I called out, "Maitre L&nery goes too far " The 

two gendarmes tried to hold me down, but I was on my feet. "Am I not 
here in a hall of justice in the land of the Declaration of the Rights of Man? 
Are not the shades of Zola, Condorcet and Voltaire looking down upon us? 
May I not expect to be treated in a civilized manner in France, the most 
civilized country in the world? ..." 

"Silencel" thundered the procureur. "If you don t keep silent you will be 
cited for contempt of court." 

"Sit downl For heaven s sake, sit down!" urged my counselor. "If you 
lose your temper that way, only the opposition will benefit. ..." 

"A bas le Ku Klux Klanl ... Le salaud Yanquil" blared the chorus. 

The presiding judge rose and rang a bell to restore order. "Court is ad- 
journed," he said, "till one month from today at two o'clock in the after- 
noon. At the next session, Maitre L6mery, you will kindly conclude your 
argument, and Maitre Goupy, you will take up the defense. ..." 

During the month's delay Pierre Goupy prepared the defense; that is, he 
made me write the war department in London for a copy of my military 
discharge papers. 

The finale came a month later. It was so typically, comically and at the 
same time generously French that I recollect it with the greatest satisfac- 
tion. While walking to the Palace of Justice on the day of the trial, I asked 
my attorneys, Goupy and Morgan, what they planned. "Are you going to 
refute L6mery's attacks on the American movie industry?" 

"If the American movie industry is offended or feels itself libeled, let 
its legal representatives take appropriate action. I am not defending Holly- 
wood, I am defending youl" 


"Well let events take their course. But remember one thing: when you 
are asked to stand up and testify, be sure to keep your left hand in your 
trouser pocket. And keep it there! Don't let the procureur or anyone else 
bulldoze you. Keep your hand in your pocket! That's all! Understand?" 

Lemery resumed his argument as soon as the proceedings reopened. But 
he was brief. He merely referred to the word indigne (unworthy) which 
I had used in my last letter to Comoedia. I had written: "It is indigne, 
unworthy of you, Mr. Editor, to mutilate and falsify my letter in leaving 
out the conjunction si [if] with which I began my epistle." L6mery sought 
to insinuate that indigne meant something sinister, something criminal or 
treasonable. A sworn interpreter was summoned and he informed the 
court that the the word indigne meant unworthy and nothing else. 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 283 

Then Maitre L&nery took up his stand before the judges and asked the 
procureur to call me to the bar of judgment. 

"AccusS, levez-vousl Accused, stand up!" called the procureur. 

I walked over from my poor sinner's bench to the little semicircular 
fencelike contraption facing the judges. 

"Tirez votre main de votre pochel Take your hand from your pocket," 
ordered the procureur. He repeated the command twice more. L£mery, 
seeing me keep my hand in my pocket, spoke up: "I move," he said sol- 
emnly, "that the accused be cited for contempt of court. I have never in 
all my life seen such unseemly and insolent behavior in a court of law." 

These were the last words he spoke. 

My lawyer, Pierre Goupy, advanced to the bar and turning half to the 
judges and half to L&nery and his clique of gens de robe and his claque 
in the courtroom: "Messieurs, I present my client, un soldat de France, a 
soldier of France. ..." And then in a high voice: "He is incapable of 
taking his hand from his pocket. . . . That hand, messieurs, he gave for 
France. . . . Native of a neutral country, he volunteered for service in the 

cause of France His hand was shattered in the battle of Villeneuve 

St. Vaast, which is, as we all know, a village in France. ... He placed his 
very life in the balance for France, I repeat, messieurs, for France. ... I 
have here a document from the British War Office citing his acts of brav- 
ery. He served in an army of a country that was and remains forever terre 
frangaise, French soil, the never-forgotten, dearly loved, ever glorious land 
of Canada. ..." 

There was nothing in my discharge papers about acts of bravery or any 
other acts. I had never in my life been in Villeneuve St. Vaast. My left 
hand, though once crushed, was as good as ever. I had never thought of 
my military service as performed for France. ... I trembled lest the oppo- 
sition enter into a detailed questioning, but I needn't have worried 

The presiding judge turned to Pierre Goupy: "Maitre,T thank you!" To 
L&nery: "Maitre Lemery, the case is dismissed!" 

From the rear of the Villa Gabrielle, the house which we rented in St. 
Germain-en-Laye, twelve miles from Paris, I caught a glimpse now and 
then of an extremely tall old gentleman with a small white chin beard who 
walked up and down a beautiful garden with his hands behind his back 
and his head bent forward in deep meditation. From other neighbors I 
learned that this solitary giant was the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich, 
uncle to Czar Nicholas II and onetime commander in chief of the Russian 

284 To Number Our Days 

armies. He waved his hand in friendly salutation whenever he spotted me, 
and once, on one of his rare appearances in the streets, stopped to chat 
for a few moments. 

Because of the Grand Duke's residence, St. Germain was filled with 
Russian nobility, princes and princesses, counts and countesses, generals, 
ambassadors, marshals and such, all ex-, of course, and nearly all reduced 
to penury and even to near starvation. They lived in garrets and tumble- 
down old houses dispersed through the various quarters of the town. 

His mansion was a meeting place for Russian emigres of the top social 
rank from all over Western Europe. If not for its poor secondhand furni- 
ture, rugs and drapes, one might have called it the last court of the Ro- 
manovs. The visitors, as I noticed on the two evenings when I was invited 
over as a neighbor of His Imperial Highness, still observed the rules of 
etiquette to which they and their fathers had been accustomed for cen- 
turies in the palaces of St. Petersburg, Kiev and Moscow. 

About the Russian nobility there was one peculiarity which distin- 
guished them from the nobility of certain other countries I know: they 
were the least snobbish of all and they liked to talk. In fact each and every 
one was just burning to tell you his or her life story. We met on the famous 
terrace or in the Caf 6 de la D6barcadere where they dropped in for a glass 
of coffee or to play a game of cards. In this way I came to know the Count 
Obudiuwo, Prince Gallitzin, General Miller, General Kutiepov, Prince 
Piotr Troubetzkoi and Prince Ilya Gorchakov, the last two mere boys, both 
orphans and straws in the tempest that swept over their country. Both 
boys studied in Paris at the expense of the Jesuit Order. 

The Jesuits looked after the Russian youths in gratitude to the Empress 
Catherine II who, when Pope Clement XIV dissolved the Society of Jesus 
in 1775 and every country in Europe, even Spain, expelled its members, 
gave the Jesuits asylum in Russia. Many of the Russian boys became Ro- 
man Catholics and even priests to form a band of missionaries to accom- 
pany the armies which some day, they fervently believed, would lead them 
back to Mother Russia to convert the Slavs from Pravoslavnaya to Roman 

Though the figure is probably greatly exaggerated, there were, it is said, 
nearly a million White Russians in Paris in the '20s and '30s. They had their 
societies and clubs and, of course, their veteran organizations. From Piotr 
Troubetzkoi I learned that he belonged to a military formation which 
gathered on Sundays in the forest of Rambouillet where the President of 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 285 

France has his country house. They drilled with real rifles and machine 
guns and maneuvered with secondhand armored cars. Who paid for these 
military operations and equipment? Not the Smigrds themselves, of course, 
for they were on the whole as poor as church mice. Andr£ Tardieu was 
their protector and benefactor. An orphan from birth, Tardieu was brought 
up by Georges Clemenceau and inherited not only the Tiger s aptitude for 
statesmanship but his hatred of the Bolsheviks. 

One Sunday afternoon, in the fall of 1927, all the Russian SmigrS soci- 
eties in France assembled in Paris, the military phalanx included. They 
marched up the Champs Elys^es to place a wreath on the tomb of the 
Unknown Soldier under the Arch of Triumph. The hetman of the Don 
Cossacks and about a hundred of his men, followed by a score of Pre- 
obrazhensky Guard officers, led off the parade. It was a grand show; 
especially the patriarch and his staff of censer-swinging and banner-toting 
archimandrites in their splendid copes made a fine impression on the 
Parisian working class, the so-called popu, which, as everyone knows 
who has lived in Paris for any length of time, considers the downtown 
streets and boulevards its private reserve on Sundays. 

All might have gone well had not the old generals and the mitred abbots 
intoned the czarist anthem when they arrived at the Arch. 

"Qu'est-ce que cest que ga? What's that?" the workers asked themselves. 
Since nobody knew, the hymn was taken for a Fascist rallying cry. There 
was a brief skirmish. The Russians retired in disorder without having 
accomplished the pious mission on which they had come. The demonstra- 
tion, perhaps five to ten thousand strong, dispersed ingloriously into the 
side streets. 

As he wandered mournfully down the Avenue Kleber General Eugene 
Miller from St. Germain spotted me and told me something which brought 
the tears to his eyes. "In August, 1914," he said, "the French army was 
defeated at Charleroi and retreated on the Marne. There seemed no way 
to stem the German avalanche under Von Kluck and the Crown Prince. 
In that moment of great peril for France, the Czar began his offensive 
against East Prussia, though the Russian mobilization was by no means 
complete. This forced the Kaiser to withdraw three whole army corps 
from the Western front and transfer them to the Eastern front. The Rus- 
sian army was sacrificed for the sake of France. And France virtually won 
the war at the Marne Hadn't we the right," he asked me, "to com- 
memorate our share in the victory this afternoon?" 

286 To Number Our Days 

After the demonstration s failure on the Champs Elys6es, the Russian 
military formation broke up. The generals waited for "the coming oppor- 
tunity" and in the meantime grew too old and wobbly on their legs to think 
of any offensive except on paper. Also they quarreled fiercely amongst 
themselves. Should they or should they not move to Germany and line up 
with the Nazis whose Fuehrer already then screamed that he was going to 
wipe the Bolshevik subhuman creatures off the face of the earth. 

Many nobles returned to Russia when the Soviet government declared 
the doors open to repentant "Whites." Prince Dmitri Mirsky, the fine liter- 
ary critic, was about the first to go. Alexander Kuprin, author of Yama 
(The Pit), I visited one day together with the Russia-born Joseph Loewin- 
sohn of Atlanta. Kuprin said his nostalgia for Russia was killing him. He 
soon followed Mirsky and many others. One Russian woman in St. Ger- 
main, the Countess Alexandra Tierwin, told me, as we traveled on the 
commuters' train from Paris one day, that there wasn't a night when she 
didn't weep out her eyes for Russia. She too went home. 

The Russian philosopher and lay theologian, Nikolai Berdiaiev, who did 
not live in St. Germain, but in the working-class suburb of Clamart, gave 
me a glimpse of what kind of life the half -starved exiled families left be- 
hind. He himself did not run away, but was first imprisoned and then 
expelled by the Soviet government from the family estate of Belaia Tser- 
kowi owned by his aunt the Countess Branitsky. He said the estate was 
really a feudal dukedom with a court and tens of thousands of people who 
lived from the court. There were racing stables with 500 horses on the 
estate. In springtime hunting parties, dances, reunions and plays were 
given for the benefit of hundreds of members of the aristocracy of South 
West Russia. All these nobles, their wives and children, ate in the estate's 
summer palace: fifteen-course dinners prepared by expert French and 
Polish cooks and served by a staff of 250 liveried servants and a major- 
domo. For many families a private house was available the year around. 
Though Berdiaiev's ancestors were all generals and field marshals and per- 
sonal friends of the emperors, and he himself in his youth served in the 
imperial corps of pages, members of the reigning imperial family were 
never invited to Belaia Tserkowi. The Countess Branitsky and Berdiaiev's 
mother looked upon the Romanovs as too plebeian and vulgar a crowd to 
associate with. 

Berdiaiev had no sympathy with the monarchist exiles. He believed in 
socialism "because," as he said, "I understand socialism/' He was one of 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 287 

the most prolific writers on Christian ethics and philosophy. His books have 
been translated into a dozen languages. With the aid of that great and 
good American, John R. Mott, the head of the Y.M.C.A., Berdiaiev set up 
the Academy of Philosophy in Paris, which still exists. To this place he 
invited both Catholic and Protestant scholars and thus may be said to have 
brought about the first genuine ecumenical encounter. 

As a speaker Berdiaiev also appeared frequently at the Union de la 
Verit6 where I saw amongst his hearers such men as Paul Claudel, Stafford 
Cripps, Paul Val6ry, Jacques Maritain, Andr6 Gide, Etienne Gilson, Em- 
manuel Mounier, Leonhard Ragaz and many other philosophers, theolo- 
gians and statesmen, French, German, Swiss and British, but never an 
American, though the sessions were open to the public. 

One day as we strolled in the Pare Monceau, Berdiaiev said: "There 
are two great organizations in this world which seek the Kingdom of God, 
the Christian Church and the communist party, but of the two only the 
communist party works at it. 

"Communism always imitates its bitterest opponents; it has become a 
church in turn. The communist who is wholly wrapped up in the service 
of the idea, capable of immense sacrifices and of a disinterested enthu- 
siasm, is the heir of that Christian education in which our Western society 

has been steeped for ages Everything in the communist movement, its 

methodology, its proselytizing, its totalitarianism, its doctrinaire infal- 
libility and intolerance has been taken from the Church. 

In mentioning Berdiaiev I merely want to show how valuable was my 
wholly unsought acquaintance with different groups of Russian exiles. 
When Sunday night came around and the Worlds correspondents, Arno 
Dosch-Fleurot, Alfred Murray and Georges Rudlov gathered in the office 
at number 47 Avenue de l'Op£ra to bemoan the scarcity of news, I was 
often instrumental in cooking up a good and true Russian story for "Blue 
Monday/' I don't know how many times I transmitted an announcement 
from the Russian general staff in exile or the Orthodox patriarchate, also 
in exile, that important events were about to transpire in Russia or amongst 
the Russian exiles in Turkey, Yugoslavia and France. It was nearly always: 
in another month, in another week, in another day or so that the White 
armies would assemble somewhere in Eastern Europe to launch the grand 
crusade for the liberation of Mother Russia. 

I called for Berdiaiev one evening and took him from his cottage in 

288 To Number Our Days 

Clamart to the Salle Cadet to hear Ilya Ehrenburg who was going to 
explain the situation inside Russia to the members of the International 
Committee of Wrtfers and Artists. Berdiaiev and I sat in the second row 
between Andr£ Gide on one side and Andree Viollis, the famous 
newspaper correspondent, on the other. 

Gide chain-smoked Gauloises Jaunes, the cheapest cigarettes obtainable. 
The chairman of the evening was Louis Aragon, the poet. Next to him 
sat Paul Vaillant-Couturier, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle and Ehrenburg. 

Instead of discussing conditions in the Soviet Union, Ehrenburg at- 
tacked Drieu for being a Fascist. Gide eyed Izvestias correspondent 
(Ehrenburg) with looks of unconcealed contempt. Though admittedly 
an excellent writer, he was classed by his own fellow communists as 
un fils d, papa, "papa's darling boy." He was suspected of being in direct 
touch with Stalin. . . . 

Unlike the others who advanced to the rostrum to speak, Ehrenburg 
remained seated when his turn came. He insisted on being addressed 
as Maitre. He sneered at the old Russian intelligentsia and attributed a 
purely social function to literature by saying that a pair of shoes was of 
infinitely greater value than Shakespeare and Tolstoy. He jumped from 
one subject to another, but seemed most concerned about a lecture he 
had given at the Lyc6e Duruy where the students had dared to snicker 
a little at his French pronunciation. Gide could not stand the man's 
snobbishness and arrogance. He got up and left, snorting with indig- 
nation. . . . 

At the close of the meeting Paul Vaillant-Couturier came down from the 
platform to shake hands. "Did you hear that Gide is going to visit the 
Soviet Union? When he returns he will join the French communist 
party. . • . Isn't that significant?" 

"He will probably go to Russia, but don't be too sure that he will join 
your party." 

'Why not?" 

"Have you ever been to Gide's house?" 

"No, have you?" 

"I have, and I can tell you that the inhabitant of such an apartment 
will not quickly find himself at ease in the Soviet Union. Gide has been 
accustomed to great luxury from his youth. No matter how much he 
sympathizes with the Russian revolution, the material conditions and the 
lack of freedom of expression in Russia are bound to disgust him. . . . " 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 289 

"Ah, non\ Not Gide!" 

"On verral We will seel" 

We did see. Gide went to Russia and wrote one of the most scathing 
attacks on Stalin and the Stalinist period ever published. 

My first meeting with Andre Gide came about when I received a cable 
from Meyer W. Weisgal, the editor of The New Palestine, the house 
organ of the Zionist Organization of America: "Please ask Gide for an 
article on Palestine." His telephone did not answer, so I went to his home. 
Gide lived then on the Rue des Champs just off the Boulevard St. Michel 
near the top of the Luxembourg Gardens. He opened the door himself. 
We soon laughed heartily about my mistake. 

"Obviously you ve come to the wrong Gide. I have never been to 
Palestine and I never write articles for magazines. It's my uncle Charles 
who, as professor of social economy at the Sorbonne and president of the 
Christian socialist movement, takes a deep interest in the Palestine 

question I understand he has just recently paid a visit to the Holy 

Land But let me warn you, if you see Toncle Charles, you had better 

not mention that you spoke to his nephew n 

'Why shouldn't I?" 

"L'oncle Charles is a strict Calvinist I am not, I'm afraid " 

That is also the way (by requesting articles) that I met Joseph Caillaux, 
prime minister and minister of finance in different cabinets; Anatole de 
Monzie, rector of the university; Aristide Briand, the foreign minister; 
Andre Spire, the poet; Edmond Fleg, another poet who is still living in 
one of the most beautiful apartments in Paris on the Quai aux Fleurs 
from where he looks on the whole expanse of the Cathedral of Notre 
Dame across the river; and Ferdinand Buisson, a Nobel peace prize 
winner, who was the author of a book on Castellio, Calvin's opponent. The 
Nazis traced and burnt every copy of Buisson's book but two. One of the 
remaining copies is in the library of St. Pierre's Cathedral in Geneva; the 
other stands right in front of me as I write these words. 

The Worlds Sunday editor, Louis Weitzenkorn, published articles by 
all these men. The other correspondents were reluctant to go and ask for 
articles because of the miserably low compensation they were allowed to 
offer the authors. Letters requesting articles received no reply. I took it 
upon myself to call on the authors in person, first to ask for an article, later 
to bring them their checks. Everyone received me with the most exquisite 
courtesy especially when they got their reward, except, I must say, Joseph 

290 To Number Our Days 

Caillaux; he raved like a wild man because the Worlds editor by way of 
introducing one of his articles had prefaced it with a brief biographical 
note in which the fact was mentioned that Caillaux* wife had shot and 
killed Gaston Calmette, the editor of Figaro. 

The relationship with Daladier and Herriot was a different one; we 
were frdres magons, lodge brothers. What this meant in the days of the 
Popular Front, of which they were the leaders, can be imagined when I 
say that in the lodge they frequently gave the brethren the low-down 
on the international situation. 

Theodore Dreiser I saw several times at the home of Ludwig Lewisohn. 
James Joyce we all went to see one evening in the dining room of the 
Hotel Lutetia on the Boulevard Raspail. It was like watching the animals 
at the zoo. Joyce didn't say a word and I couldn't blame him, it was all 
too ridiculous for words: half a dozen reporters with notebooks poised 
waiting to hear him ask for the salt shaker. His Irish voice was said to 
be a marvel. Nobody, not even a genius like Joyce, can drop pearls of 
wisdom with an Irish flavor at the word of command. 

Sholem Asch, on the other hand, invited a number of friends to his 
home in Bellevue near the Meudon forest whenever he was about to 
finish a book. One night he read us snatches from The Nazarene in 
Yiddish: Reb Jeshuah hot ongeton sein groessen weissen talis. In Maurice 
Samuel's English translation this phrase became: "The Lord put on his 
great white robe." Quite a difference! But it was this difference which 
made the book! 

The historian Hendrik Willem van Loon never failed to look us up when 
he came to Paris. During the '20s and '30s he commuted between New 
York and the town of Veere on the island of Walcheren 4n Holland's 
Zealand province where he dwelt in a house dating from the Middle Ages. 
Van Loon was of enormous physique, but his heart was still bigger. When 
in trouble every broken-down Dutch sailor or ship jumper in New York 
went automatically in search of Van Loon. He was never too busy to cross 
over to Ellis Island to help them get straightened out with the immigra- 
tion authorities. I don't know another person in the whole world who had 
so many destitute individuals of all nationalities on his pay roll. Several 
remained on his staff, so to speak, for years. When he died he bequeathed 
half a dozen of his most deserving customers to me, or, rather, they 
bequeathed themselves. They still come to tell me stories about the good 
Dr. van Loon. 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 291 

Once in a while I visited an upstairs room at the Closerie des Lilas at 
the comer of the Montparnasse and St. Michel boulevards with some 
artists of my acquaintance: Leopold Gottlieb, Arthur Szyk, Soutine, 
Cassou, Pascin, Vlaminck, Zucker and Piet Mondrian. Except for Jacques 
Zucker who now lives in New York and Jean Cassou who became director 
of the Mus6e de l'Art Moderne, these men have all preceded me to "the 
land o* the leal." 

"There's nae sorrow there, John The day is aye fair, John, in the 

land o' the leal," sang Carolina Nairne. I hope that painters of genius 
like Mondrian meet with a little more appreciation in the land o' the leal 
than they got in the paradise of mediocrity and smugness which our world 
has become. The fate of the truly great artists is enough to make one 
shudder. Rembrandt was buried at the expense of the "commissioners 
for the poor." Van Gogh died of starvation. Pascin killed himself. Soutine 
was carried in a coffin to the hospital for an operation when it was too 
late. Modigliani's girl friend jumped from the roof. . . . Mondrian would 
willingly have given one of his masterpieces for one cup of coffee and 
a bun. . . . 

The best friend I had amongst the artists was Max Band, who is listed 
in the art encyclopedias as one of the "founders of the Ecole de Paris.*' 
He is still with us, baruch ha Shem. But Max Band was also at a low 
ebb when a committee of Americans residing in Paris back in 1934 
commissioned him to do a portrait of F.D.R. In 1940 he escaped as by 
miracle from Paris and made his way to the U.S.A. 

What's peculiar about Max Band's art? Like Van Gogh he is a God- 
seeker. Every still life of his conveys the feeling of a religious poem. He 
has this in common with Rembrandt, that in the amazing blend of light 
and dark every child he paints seems to step straight from the pages of the 
Bible. From the luminous eyes of his men and women goes forth a stream 
of sorrow and Weltschmerz. His art has that indefinable quality which 
the Bible calls the beauty of holiness. When Mrs. Roosevelt saw Band's 
portrait of her husband she stood silent for a time and then said: "Here 
is something nobody else ever caught: the President's inner smile." 

When you come to his cottage in Hollywood, whether it is Martin 
Buber, Joseph Schildkraut, Mordecai Kaplan, Gregor Piatigorsky or Bruno 
Walter that's sitting for him, you will, even before you enter, be struck 
by the noise of laughter and joy. For Band is the greatest raconteur I 
know, in seven languages at that. 

292 To Number Our Days 

On my way back from the Near East to Paris, I landed at Naples and at 
once proceeded to Rome where Filippo Turati, the secretary-general of 
the Fascist party, took me to the Palazzo Venezia. In the Venezia, Turati 
turned me over to Emilio Mascia, the chief of the press department of the 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mascia led me to the Duce's chamber and 
left me, without a word of introduction, standing alone in Mussolini's 
presence. When I said: "Bow/our, Excellence^ the Duce looked up from 
his desk and barked at me: "Why do you have a correspondent in Lugano? 
Why all the mystery-mongering? You Americans, you think you are very 
sly, but you can't fool me. ..." 

He referred to George Slocum of the London Daily Herald who was on 
the lookout at Lugano just across the Swiss border for prominent Italian 
liberals and socialists fleeing from Fascist daggers. 

"Slocum reported to your paper that Fascist gangsters, Fascist gangsters, 
mind you, broke into the homes of Italian scholars and destroyed their 
private libraries. This is a lie! Nobody was maltreated. Besides, we don't 
burn books. We write them. The entire Italian nation is writing a new page 
in history. When you foreign correspondents want to find out what goes 
on in Italy, why don't you come to Rome? We have nothing to hide. Why 
do you pick up rumors and gossip from runaway cowards in Switzerland? 
Here in Rome is the place to come for information " 

"Well, as you can see for yourself, Signor Mussolini, I have come to 
Rome, here I am. . . . " 

"Oh, nol You don't get an interview out of me that way. I gave an 
interview to Bolitho,* and look what he made of it. A series of twelve 
articles in the New York World on The Truth About Fascism'. . . . Lies, 
lies, lies from beginning to end. ... I tell you the interview is dead. 
The bad journalist Bolitho killed it." 

"Whose head is that, Signor Mussolini?" I asked, pointing to a human 
skull grinning at me from the corner of the Duce's enormous writing table. 

He laughed a big round boyish laugh. "No, it's not Bolitho's skull, if 
that is what you thought. . . . And more's the pity. The fellow ought to 
have his head chopped off. . . . Incidentally, what is that woman cor- 
respondent of yours doing here in Rome? What's her name. . .Miss Basker- 
ville. . . . She writes pretty good detective stories, I understand. What 
else does she write?" 

♦William Bolitho, author of Twelve Against the Gods, The Trial Of Landru, and 
other books. 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 293 

"She's mainly occupied with Vatican affairs!" 

'What is there to write about the Vatican?" 

"Your Excellency ought to know, you wrote a whole book about the 
Vatican. ..." 

"You mean my book The CardinaVs Mistress? Don't mention it! It's 
gone and forgotten " 

"Where did Your Excellency learn to speak French so flawlessly? I am 
really astonished. Most Italians do a lot of oo-ooing like Napoleon's mother 
who said 'pourvou que cela dome [instead of pourvu que cela dure], 
if only this lasts!" 

This brought another big laugh "It takes practice," said Mussolini. 

"I lived in Switzerland. I had public debates in Lausanne and Geneva 
with Emile van der Velde (secretary-general of the Second International), 
with Lenin, with De Brouckere, with Trotsky, with Eduard Bernstein. . . . 
I wiped the floor with all of them." 

"But you were on their side then as a socialist, weren't you?" 

"Yes, but those men lacked the courage of their convicitions. . . . They 
were without initiative. ... I alone took the bull by the horns. ... I am 
the only man to have consummated a great revolution without accepting 

the revolutionary doctrine of Marx Were you in Italy before my 

assuming the direction of things? No? Well, people who were here before 
1921 do not recognize the country. It's a new nation that has come upon 

the scene What do you really want to know of me? Let me rather 

ask you a question: What do you think of the Italian people? No, not 
about their souls or their philosophy. What do you think of their looks, 
their appearance? Did you see any beggars on the streets of Naples?" 

"Now that you ask, Signor Mussolini, I must confess, here in Rome I've 
a feeling that everybody is dressed in his Sunday best. The Romans seem 
much better dressed than the Parisians." 

"I am glad you said that. That's the esthetic sense of the Italians 

No other people has so high an artistic sense, so refined a taste Only 

this national quality, it must be taken into account, has both its good 
points and its drawbacks. It's bad for instance when you have to build 
an army, as I am doing now. I need an army of lions. All I get is regiments 

of opera singers Every Italian rear-rank buck private wants to look 

like a stage admiral It's impossible to gratify their ambitions Italy 

represents the proletarian amongst the nations of the earth. We are the 
poorest country in Europe. We have no coal, no wheat to speak of, no 

294 To Number Our Days 

steel, no oil, no colonies, except some worthless deserts in Africa. The 

others have all the wealth, all the well-being Look at England 

She owns half the world She has far more than she can take care 


"Signor Mussolini, I am to confine myself to writing about your private 
life, your family, your hobbies, things of that sort. No politicsl" 

"Va benel Because I said that about England, please, don't put me down 
as an Anglophobe. I'm not an Anglophobe. I am an Anglomaniac. I admire 

the English tremendously, I envy them My family? Well, you know 

where I was born of course. I was born in Predappio and my father was 
a blacksmith, Alessandro Mussolini, a great and good man and a revolu- 
tionary. Do you know that my father once planned to emigrate to America? 
What do you think would have become of me in that event?" 

"An actor, a journalist, a politician maybe. 

"Not President of the United States?" 

"No, that would be impossible: a President of the U.S.A. must be native- 
born That's the law " 

"What about breaking the law? I did it here in Italy * 

"I wouldn't try it in America They dont joke about such things in 

the United States. . . . America is a democracy. ..." 

"So what? Democracies come and go. . . . I talked about democracy 
myself as long as it suited my purpose. But the impetus of my policy is 
not derived from democratic or philanthropic principles. I admit that I 
am animated solely by my love of glory and of Italy. Democrats have 
the same ambitions, but they are hypocrites. They wont own up to it. 
They talk of the common weal, but they feather their own nests first. 
We can't afford such waste in a poor country like Italy. ... I advance 
straight to my goal. I eliminated all my adversaries because their ambitions 
and aspirations stood in the way to my own power and fame. . . . You 
remember the story of Caesar looking down from the Pyrenees on a 
Spanish village when someone asked: Wouldn't you rather be first in that 
village than second in Rome?' Caesar replied: € Aut Caesar, aut nullus. 
Either Caesar or nothing. . . . ' That's my motto also. . . . 

"You can form an estimate of my father's character when you consider 
that he named me after Benito Juarez, the Mexican revolutionary leader. 
My brother Arnaldo was named for Arnaldo da Brescia, a great adversary 
of .the temporal power of the Popes and a republican. . . . 

"You want to know about my hobbies? I have many hobbies," he went on 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 295 

in the same breathless tempo, as he rose from his chair and started to pace 
up and down the room. I saw that in spite of his elevated boots he was 
but a short stocky peasant with the bent legs of a worker of the soil. 

"I like to play with the lions in the zoo, that's one of my hobbies. They 

communicate something of the fearlessness of their spirit to me And 

then, I have one great hobby, which I've had all my life, I read one canto 

of Dante before going to sleep But I've never yet been able to stop 

with one canto One hour with the divine poet and I forget all my 

troubles; I am a new man every morning Of course, I also play the 

violin " 

"Signor Mussolini, this is absolutely new. I'm sure nobody in the whole 
world knows about this " 

"What is that you say? Nobody knows? Let me call for my violin. . . . 
Ill play for you " 

"Could we have a picture of yourself in the act of playing the violin?" 

"Certainly! Ill call Mascia. He will summon a photographer " 

He put the violin under his chin and played Tartini's Adagio. The next 
day a courier brought a photograph to the Albergo d'Inghilterra, the 
hotel where I was staying. It showed the Duce fiddling while Rome. . . 
didn't burn as yet. On the side was written: A mon cher collegue. . . "To 
my dear colleague. ..." The autograph I cut off, but even then the 
picture was too large for any mailbox. It had to be rolled up and was 
duly published in the Evening World full-page size. . . . 

To visit me at the Albergo d'Inghilterra came the Duce's brother, 
Arnaldo, who was to commit suicide a few years later. Unlike his brother, 
Arnaldo Mussolini had remained a socialist. He told me with a sad face 
that all the talk about Fascism's imperial grandeur and invincibility was a 
sorry illusion. About his brother's ambitions of power and conquest he 
could only shake his head: "The future of Fascism? Blood, blood, blood 
. . . the whole experiment will end in a terrible blood bath." 

"Why should it?" I asked. "The Duce seems to enjoy the confidence of 
some of the world's leading statesmen. . . . Winston Churchill said that if 

he was an Italian he would certainly be a follower of Mussolini 

Austin Chamberlain calls himself the Duce's friend. The British press 
lords— Northcliffe, Rothermere, Beaverbrook— show great sympathy for 
your brother's views. Even Bernard Shaw gives him high recom- 
mendation. ..." 

"What good is that?" asked Arnaldo in turn. "Benito will be deserted by 

296 To Number Our Days 

everybody when the chips are finally down. He will stand all alone. 
You watchl" 

I did watch. I visited Rome several times in years to come. Outwardly 
the pomp and circumstance went into ever higher gear; glorious parades, 
wonderful military bands, arches of triumph, fiery discourses from the 
Venezia's balcony and boiling multitudes shouting: "Duce, Duce, Duce!" 
When he was gradually but irresistibly forced into Hitler's camp by the 
persistent refusal of the Western statesmen to pay the slightest heed to 
Italy's needs in her deteriorating social and economic condition, the Duce's 
face hardened. He lost his sense of humor. The chin went up higher and 
higher. It was like keeping a stiff upper lip. It is true, of course, that he 
always pulled a stern face in public. But that was mere make-believe, 
part of the game, part of the role he played. After Hitler's accession to 
power, Mussolini became uneasy, nervous, visibly ill at ease. Long before 
others he saw the abject role he would be called upon to play under 
Hitler, a stooge of the Gestapo which was ordered to plunge a dagger into 
France's back. But he could no longer break away from the fateful alliance. 
With sadistic glee Ribbentrop ordered Mussolini to execute his favorite 
daughter's husband, Galeazzo Ciano, and wept as much as Ciano when 
told that as a traitor he must stand with his back to the firing squad. 

In spite of all his histrionics, I must say that I rather liked Mussolini 
personally. Especially in the beginning of his reign. He was always ready 
to talk, always accommodating, always genial. "I won't have you stay at 
that Albergo d'Inghilterra again. Do you like it there? I know the place. 

It's full of German monsignori and such people Go to the Hotel 

Excelsior. . . . Tell them from me that you are the guest of the Italian 
government. Wait a minute till I give you a note to the management. ..." 

It was not only to me that he was kind; he liked to talk with newspaper- 
men in general. I know at least a dozen journalists, not necessarily Fascists 
themselves, who were captivated by the Duce's charm and brilliant con- 
versation. It was quite evident that he had read a book or two, unlike 
Hitler who boasted that he read only Karl May's stories of North American 
Indians. In 1928 he did me the great favor of informing me that Cardinal 
Pietro Gasparri, the papal secretary of state, and he were negotiating to 
bring the so-called Roman Question to an end, so that I was able to 
announce the outline of the Lateran Treaty of 1929 nearly six months 
before the Pope's isolation in the Apostolic Palace was brought to a 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 297 

An incident that has been totally forgotten, or at least never been 
publicized, occurred in 1934, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler murdered 
Ernst Roehm and others of his associates in the Nazi party. I asked the 
Duce about his reference to Adolf Hitler as ein schwaetzeriger Moench, 
a monkish blabbermouth, which he had made to the correspondent of 
the Reichpost of Vienna. I learned then of the immense service he had 
rendered France and was also convinced that Mussolini would much 
sooner have stood on the side of France in the bloody disturbance that 
was soon to follow. 

In July, 1934, the Fuehrer suddenly flew to Italy, met Mussolini at the 
airport of Venice, and after two hours' conversation raced back to Berlin. 
On that occasion Hitler solicited Mussolini's aid and co-operation in a 
venture that, had the Duce accepted, would have sent the world spinning 
out of its course. The Fuehrer proposed nothing less than a nocturnal 
attack by the combined German and Italian air forces on Paris and Lyons, 
the harbors of Saint-Nazaire, Le Havre and Marseilles, the Longwy-Briey 
steel manufacturing district, the Schneider-Creusot armament mills and 
France's chief centers of communication. Paris itself was to be blanketed 
with poison gas while the fleet of bombers rained showers of incendiary 
and high explosive bombs. The larger part of the population, the govern- 
ment and the employees in the service were to be exterminated in a six 
hour bombardment, the bombers moving up in waves at twenty-minute 

Mussolini indignantly refused to be a partner in this undertaking and 
dismissed Hitler with the prediction that such an attack would be followed 
by a world rising in arms against Germany and such a commotion in the 
German soul that the young Nazi regime would be swept into the garbage 

As he came from the airport Mussolini was met by some newspaper 
correspondents, the Reichpost's correspondent amongst them to whom he 
remarked that he had just talked to ein schwaetzeriger Moench. 

"And you notified France?" I asked. 

"I notified Henri Franklin-Bouillon [the leader of one of the right-wing 
parties in France] whom I knew to be staying at the Lido-Venice at the 
time. M. Bouillon rushed to Paris and in turn informed the French prime 
minister and foreign minister Pierre Laval." 

In return for this information Laval gave Mussolini a free hand in the 
conquest of Ethiopia, and when the Italo-Ethiopian war broke out it was 
Laval who, to the entire world's amazement, refused the British navy the 

298 To Number Our Days 

use of the French harbors of Toulon and Bastia (on Corsica) as bases for 
an eventual anti-Italian blockade. 

The French people never learned of the Fuehrer's planned sneak attack 
till after the Second World War. But by then all the dramatis personae, 
Hitler, Goering, Laval and Mussolini had died violent deaths. 

At one time Mussolini said: "Tell me honestly: do the Jews in Palestine 
really talk their ancient language again?" When I said that the little 
children in Jerusalem's streets call each other in the language of Isaiah, 
Mussolini exclaimed: "Unbelievable That nation is the most unpredict- 
able in history. They were the toughest people to handle in the days of 

the Roman empire In Russia, which was overrun by the Mongols, the 

conquerors withdrew leaving not one soldier behind. Yet for hundreds of 
years the Russians paid their tribute annually. A caravan loaded with 

treasure made the trip to Karakorum once a year On the other hand, 

the Romans were always in trouble with the Jews. The best legions had 

to be stationed in ancient Palestine to keep the Jews from revolting 

The ablest Roman generals had to be summoned from the ends of the 
earth, from Britain even, to suppress the Jewish revolt when it did break 

out Funny thing, I had a man here from Palestine the other day, a 

journalist, Ittamar Ben Avi, who told me to take down the Arch of Titus 
because of the inscription Judea Capta. He wanted me to change the words 
to Judea Liberata. 

" 'And if I don't?' I asked him. 

" If you don't, we Jews will come and do it ourselves some day,' replied 
Ben Avi." 

He always inquired about the circumstances in which his old socialist 
friends lived in their Parisian exile. When Laval and P&ain took over the 
government in France for Adolf Hitler and shipped the Italian exiles 
back to their homeland in the expectation that Mussolini would do like 
Francisco Franco, the Duce let Laval .believe that they were executed. 
In reality, Pietro Nenni, Malatesta, Augusto Turati and many others were 
given cottages and villas in the Tivoli district where Mussolini frequently 
visited his old comrades at nights 

The only time that the Duce left Italian territory (before he made his 
pact with Hitler) was on the occasion of the International Conference 
at Lausanne. There must have been 50 foreign newspapermen on the 
railway platform to see him arrive. We were all frisked for arms by the 

Going To and Fro in the Earth 299 

Swiss police. As Mussolini hove in sight followed by Grandi, Ciano, 
De Bono and all the other members of his cabinet, he walked close by the 
ranks of the spectators. He greeted many newspapermen by name. When 
he spotted George Slocum, whom he couldn't miss because of the 
(London) Herald correspondent's fiery red beard, Mussolini exclaimed: 
"Hello, Signor Slocum! How are the Bolsheviks?" 

'Were not Bolsheviks!" Slocum called back. 

"Oh, I must be wrong!" said the Duce, shrugging his shoulders. 

"You certainly are wrong," retorted Slocum, "and this is not the first 
time Nor will it be the last time, I am afraid " 


Shadow of Coming Events 

As did neably everyone else in the France of 1927, I believed that the 
Weimar Republic had completely disarmed. All the troops had been 
demobilized and a great deal of war materiel destroyed. The German 
fleet lay at the bottom of Scapa Flow. No new keels were put down and 
the shipyards were idle. Allied control commissions, going up and down 
the country, certified to their governments that their inspections had 
brought to light nothing that could be interpreted as violation of the 
terms of the Versailles Treaty. German popular sentiment was definitely 
antiwar if not antimilitaristic. Ludendorff had started a movement among 
reactionary war veterans preaching revenge, but his mobs of nationalists 
were chased off the streets of Munich and Berlin. There was never before 
such a stream of peace literature— books, pamphlets and periodicals— as 
came out of Germany in the mid-'20s. Huge German pilgrimages visited 
the French battlefields to swear solemnly on the graves of their own and 
the former enemy's war dead that there would never again be war. 

In the summer of 1927 the myth of a reborn peaceful Germany ex- 
ploded with a loud bang. A German of aristocratic ancestry, who served 
as professor of political science and philosophy at the University of Zurich, 
blew it wide open. This man, Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, today a 
resident of New York, placed a pamphlet of his own composition entitled 
Germany's Secret Rearmament before every delegate to the League of 
Nations' general assembly in Geneva ten minutes before the session 

Germany's foreign minister, Dr. Gustav Stresemann, almost had an 
apoplectic fit when he read Dr. Foerster's pamphlet and the meeting 
broke up in confusion. Dr. Foerster revealed that for several years 
Germany had been busy manufacturing tanks in. . .Russia, notably at the 
Krupp Works in Kazan on the Volga which started operating immediately 


302 To Number Our Days 

after the conclusion of the Rapallo Pact between the Soviet Union and 
Germany in 1921. Under cover of the peaceful democratic Republic of 
Weimar, German big business had worked out and set in motion a vast 
plan of rearmament and remilitarization. Not only was Krupp manufac- 
turing tanks in Russia, but also guns and airplanes and turning out a 
vast quantity of small arms. 

Foerster's revelations met with a wild outburst of denunciation and 
invective on the part of the German Right, which was in 1927, as it is 
now, made up of the Rhineland's big business concerns, the banks and 
the Centrum Party of which Konrad Adenauer's Christian Democratic 
Union is the latter-day offspring. A few years later in 1935, Josef Goebbels, 
Hitler's propaganda minister, referred to Dr. Foerster s revelations in a 
mass meeting in Berlin where, amidst a storm of laughter and applause, 
he praised Germany for having led the whole world by the nose as early 
as 1927 by rebuilding its army in secret. 

I was in Zurich at the home of Leonhard Ragaz, the leader of Europe's 
religious socialist movement, when the storm over Foerster's revelations 
broke. Though a pastor of great promise at the Basler Munster and a 
professor of theology at the University of Zurich, Ragaz had quit his 
mansion on the Zuercher Berg and gone to dwell in a working-class 
district. He resigned his professorship and opened a People's University in 
the garden of the tenement house where he took up residence. 

To him flocked students and scholars from all over Europe. He brought 
Thomas Masaryk to lecture in Zurich; also Martin Buber, Gustav 
Landauer, Bertrand Russell, Barth£lemy de Ligt, Henri Roser, Rauschen- 
busch and Karl Barth. Barth was amongst the first collaborators on the 
Neue Wege, the periodical which Ragaz founded, edited and published 
for 40 years. 

"Unless the allies take prompt action,'' said Ragaz when the Foerster 
revelations hit the newsstands, "the remilitarization of Germany will go 
from strength to strength and another world war becomes a virtual 
certainty. ..." Ragaz' hope was vested in the League of Nations and in 
men like Lord Robert Cecil, George Lansbury, the British labor leader, 
and Thomas Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, whose country, Ragaz predicted 
even then, would be one of the first to be put under pressure by a new 
German militarism. Ragaz thought that an aroused public opinion could 
still rally the nations against the German militarists and prevent them 
from carrying their conspiracy to its logical conclusion. But on this point 
he was proven wrong. 

Shadow of Coming Events 303 

The world turned against Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster. Germany was 
the poor benighted victim whose genuine peaceful aspirations and striving 
had been called into question. Even Robert Dell, the Paris correspondent 
of the Manchester Guardian and The Nation of New York, a man of great 
influence at that time, called Foerster to task for having disturbed the 
growing atmosphere of peace. 

"The world wants to be fooled," says an old German adage. And so the 
world was fooled! The German Right succeeded in a very short time in 
burying the Foerster revelations out of sight. And the secret rearmament 
of Germany went on till Hitler came to power in 1933 when it was no 
longer secret. 

I was only half convinced and went on from Zurich to Berlin. Although 
tanks and planes were being constructed in faraway Kazan, I thought 
something of the resurgent militarism must be visible here and there in 
the Reich also. I saw absolutely nothing in a military way to cause alarm. 
I smelled poverty in Germany and saw it, mass misery and hopelessness 
on all sides. Considering that years had elapsed since the termination of 
the First World War, I was struck by the sight of the large number of 
crippled, blind and invalid soldiers still dressed in their tattered uniforms 
dragging themselves around on small pushcarts or hobbling on crutches. 
In Paris the authorities kept the so-called Gueules CassSes out of sight 
because of their hideous aspect. In Berlin it was the other way around. 
The maimed, the halt and the blind seemed everywhere; they mingled 
with the crowds on the busy streets, walked in the parks, stood at street 
corners with hands outstretched or a tin cup at their feet waiting for 
alms from passers-by. People were hungry, children were hungry. Even 
a sackful of deflated marks did not suffice to buy one cup of coffee. If 
you sat in a restaurant close to the street window, men and women going 
by threw a furtive look in your direction, making you feel ashamed of 
your own affluence. A man walked up to me in the vicinity of the 
Schlesinger railway station. He wore a neat dark suit, though threadbare 
and shiny. On his lapel was the ribbon of the Iron Cross first class. Tve 
been following you," he said. "It took me an hour to work up enough 
courage to address you. But I cannot go on. I am too weak. And I wouldn't 
ask for help if it were not for my wife and children. We have literally 
not a crumb of bread in the house " 

I thought: these people have learned their lesson; they will never go 
to war again. I noticed that many who were evidently veterans wore the 

304 To Number Our Days 

emblem of the tiny bronze rifle broken in twain on their lapels, denoting 
membership in the Nie Wieder Krieg (Never Again War) movement. If 
a secret army was in course of formation where was it? 

Under the terms of the peace treaty, the Reichswehr was permitted 
to keep only 100,000 men under arms. Divided over the barracks of a 
hundred cities through the length and breadth of the country there could 
hardly be more than a couple of thousand soldiers in Berlin. Every day 
around noon, a Reichswehr company marched up and down Unter den 
Linden from the Brandenburger Tor to the vicinity of the old palace where 
President von Hindenburg was in residence in a house which flew the 
republican flag. Nobody stopped to look at the changing of the guard. 

There were hardly any civilians at the ceremony in midtown at the small 
Grecian temple east of the Friedrichstrasse-Linden intersection where 
they once buried their Unknown Soldier. It was a day of commemoration 
of the Battle of Tannenberg, in which Hindenburg destroyed the Russian 
armies in the first months of the Great War. A Schupo said: "If you want 
to see the President, stand right here." Presently a black-helmeted 
Reichswehr detachment, about two hundred strong, marched down the 
street and took up a position in front of the Unknown Soldier's shrine. 
Almost immediately a limousine arrived and discharged Hindenburg and 
General von Mackensen. The President wore the old-fashioned spiked 
helmet, the Pickelhaube. The handle of his saber lay in the crook of his 
left arm. Mackensen wore the busby with the Totenkopf emblem of the 
Death-Head hussars, and a uniform with blue horizontal stripes across 
the chest. 

A bugle sounded. A monocled infantry lieutenant, whose torso seemed 
squeezed in a corset, stepped into the center of the cane and called the 
parade to attention in a voice unmistakably Prussian. It rasped like a 
knife on the grindstone. Four or five officers unsheathed their sabers, 
advanced and saluted the President. Not a word was spoken. Then five 
notes on the bugle and, in a movement of such perfect precision as to 
take my breath away, the troops presented arms. They stood absolutely 
motionless like so many statues, their white gloves on the butt end of 
their rifles bisecting their bodies in a straight unbroken line. Stolid, 
impassive, Hindenburg entered the shrine. Somebody handed him a 
wreath of roses which he laid on the tombstone in the center. Then 
the band struck up: "Der gute Kamerad." The civilian bystanders un- 
covered their heads, some women daubed their eyes with their handker- 
chiefs. Now, I thought, will come "Deutschland, Deutschland Ueber Alles," 

Shadow of Coming Events 305 

but there was no more music. Hindenburg and Mackensen merely saluted 
the tomb by lifting their marshals' batons, and walked back to their car. 
The ceremony was over. The war spirit is dead, I said to myself. 

My next call was at the press department of the foreign office on the 
Wilhelmstrasse where I was shown into the office of a Ministerialdirektor. 
The gentleman asked me: "Have you also come to probe our wounds?" 
He asked the question in Dutch. But it was spoken in such perfect gram- 
matical Netherlandish, each syllable so carefully enunciated as no native 
Hollander could ever imitate without feeling ridiculous. 

I asked: "Are you a Hollander ?" 

"No," replied the Ministerialdirektor, "but I served as an attach^ at the 
German embassy in The Hague. I married a daughter of Mynheer Staal, 
the leader of the liberal democratic representation in the Dutch parlia- 
ment." He then asked: "What's your dominant impression?" 

"I have been only a day or so in Berlin," I said, "but I am profoundly 
depressed. It's horrible to see a great people in such a state of humiliation 
and destitution." 

"A great people? Aren't we alter Welt Feind, the whole world's enemy?" 

"I don't look upon Germany as an enemy. All of us, all nations, are 
debtors one to another. I don't care a hoot what revanchists or disap- 
pointed generals either here or in France or wherever have to say. It's 
your poets and thinkers that I would like to hear again. They speak the 
heart of the nation. Cardinal Newman's motto was: Cor ad cor loquitur. 
Only if the heart speaks to the heart will misunderstandings vanish. . . . 
To me Germany is still the land of Denker und Dichter. The world cannot 
do without Germany. If you suffer, as you do now, all the world is bound 
to suffer in the end " 

"You do not hate Germany?" 

"Not in the least, and never did! But will you kindly tell me: what are 
we to make of these rumors that Germany is secretly arming, building 
tanks and airplanes in Russia. . . building naval units in Scandinavia. . . 
laying up vast stores of oil? What about these national socialists we hear 
about? Wasn't there a whole crop of political murders beginning with 
Rathenau and others who stood for European reconciliation? Isn't there 
a secret so-called Black Reichswehr which seeks to revive the spirit of 
revenge and war?" 

"I won't deny it," he said. "But these elements are leftovers from the 
Ruhr occupation of 1921 and '22 which caused deep resentment in 

306 To Number Our Days 

Germany. Those national socialists you mention are mere hooligans. They 
are unemployed bums and loafers. Their movement will die a natural 
death as the nation gets back on its feet. There's no denying that we are 
bankrupt today. We are stagnating in the lowest depths of an economic 
slump. But we are straining all our efforts to get to work again. Work is 
the only cure for the present situation. . . ." 

But what kind of work, I wondered, as I strolled back along the Fried- 
richstrasse to my hotel on the banks of the Spree. In the newsstand in the 
Friedrichstrasse railway station I bought myself a book: The Kaiser Left, 
but the Generals Stayed On. And before the night was over I knew from 
reading this book that, however disillusioned and peace-loving now, Ger- 
many would sooner or later rearm and remilitarize and some day fight 
another war because such was the will of the international merchants of 

"Proletarians of all countries unite," said Marx. They were as disunited 
as ever. But the petrolarians, the international oil trusts— the common 
market of death— were getting together with Krupp, Thyssen, Hugenberg, 
Siemens, Frowein, the Ruhr steel magnates, the banks and the general 
staff, and their unity spelt disaster for the whole world. 

Every foreign newspaper represented in Paris had received an in- 
vitation to send a correspondent to Poland to see the * miracle" of Polonia 
Restituta, the resurrection of Poland in the few short years since that 
country's triple liberation from German, Austrian and Russian domination. 
In the Worlds Paris bureau we had drawn lots for the opportunity to 
make the trip to Poland which was to be on a grand scale at the expense 
of none other than Marshal Josef Pilsudski, the President of the Polish 
Republic. The winning matchstick had indicated me as the prospective 
Polish traveler. Thus it happened that I continued my journey from Berlin 
to the capital city of Warsaw where I put up at the famous Bristol 

One hears it said that the communists show a foreign tourist only what 
they want him to see in Russia. If this is so, I can tell from whom the 
communists learned the trick. It's the Poles who are their teachers and 
masters in this respect. On my three journeys through Russia I was each 
time accompanied by a guide supplied by the Intourist Bureau. In Poland 
I had two superintendents, two robust young honey-blondes of the 
Amazon type, Anna and Marta, who spoke French bomme une vache 

Shadow of Coming Events 307 

espagnole. These girls never let me out of their sight. They even came 
with me into the office of Marshal Pilsudski in the Belvedere Palace when 
I was granted an audience by the old Bazi-Bazouk. Though I hadn't said 
a word about my intentions or desires, it was Anna who told the chief 
of state where I wanted to go and what to see. It seems that I was simply 
burning up with impatience to lay eyes on the new port city of Gdynia, 
the cotton-spinning factories at Lodz and the brand-new coal mines in 
the districts bordering on German Silesia. When at last I managed to get 
a word in edgeways by asking if I would have a chance to see the city 
of Przemysl, Pilsudski's heavy brows contracted; he couldn't make out 
what I meant. 

After some discussion about the correct pronunciation of that impossible 
word, President Pilsudski asked me: "Why Przemysl?" 

"I was brought up in a fortress city myself; isn't Przemysl the place 
which changed hands sixteen times in the course of the Great War?" 

"Seventeen times," the marshal corrected, and proceeded to give me 
the dates of the takes and retakes which one of the girls dutifully noted 

But he didn't really want to talk about the Great War. "Every country 
has its own rivers, mountains, monuments and heroes," he said, "and also 
its own wars. Our greatest war was fought in 1920 against Stalin. Stalin 
was in command of the Red army column which came nearest Warsaw. 
Budenny commanded the Red cavalry. They were rolled back with heavy 
losses. Every foreign invader has been thrown back from Poland's borders. 
. . . Everyone " 

"Were you in command of the Polish forces in 1920, Monsieur le 

"No, the Virgin Mary, the patroness of Poland, gained the victory for 

"But it was General Weygand of France who brought up the guns." 

"Yes, Weygand was in charge of the artillery Herbert Hoover of 

America supervised the food supply for our army and the papal nuncio, 
Cardinal Achille Ratti, who is Pope today under the name of Pius XI, 
fired the troops with his enthusiasm. . . ." 

"Does His Holiness speak Polish?" 

"I don't think so. He speaks Latin though. . . . Poland is the furthest 
outpost of Latin civilization in the Slavic world. That's our great historic 
vocation: to keep the Slavs in their place. Poland is the bulwark of Latin 
civilization. . . . We are the traditional enemies of Pan-Slavism. We hold 

308 To Number Our Days 

the Slavs at bay as once we kept the Turks out of Central Europe " 

"But in the case of Przemysl the business worked both ways, by rotation 
you might almost say. One day you Poles were in command of the city, 
the next day the Russians. . . ." 

The President laughed. "Let me tell you about Przemysl," he said. 
'That's a different case entirely. It has always been a peculiar situation 
in Przemysl. In peacetime, before the great war between Austria and 
Russia, the Austrian officers of the Przemysl garrison crossed the border 
once a week into Russia to dine with the officers of the Russian garrison 
in Getorsk. The next week it was the other way around: the Russians 
visited Przemysl. It was an ancient custom established way back in the 
days of Catherine the Great and the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. . . . 
The two countries entertained the most cordial relations then. ... As a 
result of those military visits there were perhaps as many babies with 
Russian fathers born in Przemysl as there were babies of Austrian paternity 
in Getorsk Were you ever a soldier?" 

When I said yes, the marshal remarked: "Well, in that case I dont 
need to tell you. You know how things go in the army. . . * 

"I'm sorry," I said, "the battalion in which I served never experienced 
such a pleasant concurrence of circumstances. . . ." 

"This is a question of personal initiative, ,, said Pilsudski. "All I can say 
is that I don t think you were a very good soldier. . . ." 

Pilsudski, a former socialist, who came to power by a Putsch engineered 
by a group of younger officers headed by Colonel Josef Beck, assured me 
that Poland need fear no foe since he had taken the reins of government 
personally in hand. German rearmament he pooh-poohed, the growing 
strength of the Soviet Union he dismissed as so much propaganda: Poland 
was ready for any contingency. Moreover, Poland was allied with France 
and the combination seemed invincible to the marshal. He gave me notes 
of introduction to foreign minister Colonel Josef Beck and the chief of 
staff General Rydz-Smigly. These two gentlemen laughed heartily when I 
told them of my fears regarding the remilitarization program that had 
just gotten under way in Germany. "Just let them try," said Rydz-Smigly. 
"The Polish army will be in Berlin and Moscow in no time. . . . Poland 
is invinciblel" 

That day of the audience as we were about to leave the marshal's 
office, Pilsudski reminded Anna and Marta to be sure to show me the 
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, a remark which made the girls burst into 

Shadow of Coming Events 309 

laughter and me very curious. Forthwith they took me to the center of 
the city and showed me a field of mud. 'This is Holy Trinity," they said, 
still laughing at my surprise. On the site of that sea of mud stood for 
two centuries the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and 
the palace of the Russian governors general. The first thing the Poles 
did after the liberation of their country in 1918 was to demolish these 
structures which in their eyes symbolized their long subjection to Russia. 

One evening Anna and Marta took me to a combination restaurant- 
dance hall near the riverside where two bands were playing in different 
pavillions and the smallest meal was a seven-course dinner costing I do not 
know how many zloty. Marta paid for everything. The place was packed 
with Polish officers eating, drinking and dancing. En passant, I must make 
mention of a peculiar art in which, I think, the Poles are the masters. It's 
in the department of medals that they excel. Polish generals don't just 
wear ribbons. They wear real medals, row upon row, all the way up to 
their collars and down to the region of the navel. When the generals in 
that restaurant danced they jingled like Salvation Army tambourines. 
Before quitting Poland I came to the conclusion that if the Poles would 
have ten thousand times less medals, but instead one, just one good solid 
well-paved road, they might stand half a chance in any future war. In 
Poland the country roads were made of mud; not just plain everyday 
ordinary mud, but a slimy mire sucking carts and wagons and horses 
down like pools of quicksand. 

"Would you like to talk to some of the officers?" Anna asked me as 
we sat in the restaurant-dance hall. 

"I would like it very much!" 

"With whom?" 

"There's a fine-looking officer over there," I said. "He seems to be all 
alone Could you ask him? . . ." 

"Not him!" said Anna, drawing up her nose. "Look, he has only one 
row of medals. . . . He's only a poprrycnik, a second lieutenant . . ." 

"A lieutenant may be a general some day, Annouchka. You should not 
discourage the lower ranks." 

The lieutenant came over. He was Ignace Stanislas Kowalski of the ar- 
tillery and was as hungry and thirsty as if he had just crossed the Sahara 
Desert on an empty stomach. But he turned out a mine of information, not 
alone on the military situation, which he pronounced deplorable, "our 

310 To Number Our Days 

artillery is a joke," but on the love life of the high brass as well. He invited 
me to visit the town of Kalisz where he lay in garrison. I promised to stop 
over in Kalisz on my way back to Western Europe. 

The girls showed me the port of Gdynia and the cotton factories, the 
new coal mines, steel plants and oil wells. I have always been deeply in- 
terested in steel mills. But there is one peculiarity about steel mills that 
must have struck others ere this: when you have seen one steel mill, you 
have seen them all. 

In Cracow I saw the Stanislaw Cathedral, the Pantheon of Poland. 
Here the Kings of Poland were crowned and many of them buried, as well 
as the national heroes and poets, Thaddaeus, Kosciuszko, Adam Mickie- 
wicz and others. Above the sepulchre of St. Stanislaw, the patron saint of 
Poland, burnt a perpetual light. A group of nuns dressed in black and 
wearing black shrouds drawn over their heads kept up a day and night 
vigil while chanting in Polish a mournful lament which had such a de- 
pressing effect on me that it spooked through my head for days. 

Unlike Cracow, Warsaw is a magnificent city, or at least it was. Uni- 
versity buildings, libraries, cathedrals, governmental departments, banks, 
theaters, opera, all were sumptuous structures. The architecture was con- 
spicuously German, late Gothic, splendid and rich. The churches contained 
many art treasures and much gold. . . . 

It was not till my second Sunday in Poland that I slipped away from 
my chaperones and set out to look around with my own eyes. After at- 
tending service at the surprisingly large and beautiful Reformed church, 
I strolled down the Ujazdowska Aleja, the Champs Elys6es of Warsaw, 
planted with fine rows of lime trees and bordered by caf 6s and places of 
amusement. I came out in the Lazienki Park, which, next to the Saxony 
Garden of the same city, is unquestionably one of the finest in Europe. 
In the Church of the Holy Ghost I stood still for a moment and bowed 
my head before the monuments of Copernicus and Fr6d6ric Chopin. 

To the north of Sigismund Square with its palaces and churches, I 
landed in the Stare Miasto, the old quarter, which is the ghetto. The spec- 
tacle of squalor and destitution that I beheld in this area shocked me as 
nothing else ever did. In the Stare Miasto lived "Jews without money," 
300,000 of them, in conditions that can be only described as the lowest 
depth of human degradation. Squalid tenement houses, narrow alleys with 
the fetid odor of open sewers, unpaved streets, mud everywhere, heaps of 
uncollected garbage, and narrow-chested, pale-faced children in rags wan- 

Pierre Laval, who expelled the author from 
France in 1934 

13. Count Ciano, who expelled the 
author from Eritrea in 1936 

14. Joseph Goebbels, who 
expelled the author from 
Germany in 1933 

15. Eduard Daladier, speaking, and left, seated, Edouard Herriot, 
in 1937 with other leaders of the Popular Front 

16. Mr. and Mrs. Leon Blum, 1936 

Shadow of Coming Events 311 

dering about in sunless passageways. The walls of the alleys were lined 
with peddlers: peddlers of matches, of shoelaces, of bagels, of lead pencils, 
thread and needles. All their stock in trade the peddlers carried on a sort 
a tray which hung by strings around their necks. When a droshky came 
tearing into one of the alleys it bespattered them and me from head to toe 
with mud. 

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon as I passed a house from 
which issued a crowd of teen-age boys dressed in ragged black overcoats. 
On their heads they wore small round black caps (not skullcaps). From 
under the caps peeped long strands of hair curled over their cheeks denot- 
ing their Jewish identity. I stopped to speak with some: "Can any of you 
direct me to the Palestine immigration office? There is such an office, isn't 
there?" Twenty, thirty boys accompanied me to a dilapidated community 
center where a crowd of men, women and children were getting something to 
eat from a soup kitchen. In the office I saw Dr. Shmaryahu Levin, the one- 
time member of the Russian Duma whom I had met earlier in Jerusalem. 

"Explain to me, please/' I said, "what the meaning is of all this misery. 
How do all these Jews live? Nobody seems to have a job in this neighbor- 
hood All that the men seem to do is stand or walk about in the streets 

or just sit in the doorways of these stinking holes in the wall which for 
lack of a better word one still must call houses, I suppose. ..." 

We went to a restaurant to drink tea. The tea, slightly yellow-colored 
hot water, was served in tall thin tumblers. Dr. Levin produced a lump 
of sugar from his pocket and drank the tea scalding hot, so hot in fact that 
he had to wrap his handkerchief around his glass for fear of burning his 

"Now you've caught a glimpse," said Dr. Levin, " of the Jewish condi- 
tion in Poland. But only a glimpse; conditions in half a dozen smaller 
cities are far worse. Of the 80,000 Jewish men in Lodz, 60,000 are unem- 
ployed. They are weavers by trade. But the Russian market of prayer 
shawls and zizith* which they formerly supplied is closed since the Bol- 
sheviks took over in Russia." 

"Can't they move out, emigrate?" 

"They would like nothing better, but the doors of America are only 
ajar now. Hardly a thousand a year can go to America on account of the 
new immigration laws. ..." 

"What about Palestine?" 

♦Fringes which observing Jews wear around their waists (Deut. 22:12). 

312 To Number Our Days 

"The British administration in Palestine declares that the absorptive 
capacity of the country is too limited to permit more than a few thousand 
Jews to enter the Land of Israel. 

"But Britain pledged to make Palestine "a national home for the Jewish 

"Ja, ja, ]a\ Sounds good doesn't it, especially here in Polandl But the 
truth is that the outlook is very dark. The [British] Palestine admin- 
istration is keeping the doors of the Jewish national home closed to 

"But Poland is booming. I have just been told by the highest authorities 
in the state that the New Poland is riding high on a wave of prosperity 
unheard of. Isn't the Jewish population to share in this prosperity? The 
Jews are Polish citizens, aren t they?" 

"]a, ja, ja\ But there is no difference between starving as a citizen and 
starving as an alien. There is no hope for the 'Polish citizens of the Jewish 
faith/ No hope at all. They are doomed. ..." 

"How many are there?" 

"More than three million!" 

"What will become of them?" 

"The majority is going to perish!" 

For five days I walked around in the Warsaw ghetto, climbed the stairs 
of tenement houses, spoke to men, women and children; everywhere the 
same story: they were all poverty-stricken, all the Jews in the sixty or sev- 
enty city blocks, which made up the ghetto; three hundred thousand 
pauperized Jews. It was the same all over Poland, in the towns and villages, 
masses of ruined Jewish middle-class people. The misery of the three 
million Polish Jews beggared all description. 

And why was this? Why this ruination and squalor? Was all this acci- 
dental or unavoidable? So long as Poland was under the Czar, Jews 
constituted a class of traders, merchants, cattle dealers, shop and tavern 
keepers, teachers and foresters; in short, they were the middlemen. With 
the glorious resurrection of the Polish state, the Poles became the masters 
and started to build a middle class of their own, entirely composed of 
non-Jewish citizens. The new middle class was built, unavoidably— I was 
quite frankly told in official places and governmental circles— on the sys- 
tematic and calculated ruination of the Jewish population. There was no 
alternative. It was a question of life and death for the new Poland to 
destroy the old middle class or get rid of it. There were three million Jews 

Shadow of Coming Events 313 

too many in the country. Ultimately they would have to perish or be 
evacuated, go elsewhere, anywhere. The Polish authorities did not care 
where they went. In Poland they were unwanted. 

I talked with dozens of former middle-class Jews who told me all the 
same story. They were ruined, living in the worst slums in the world. 
Formerly— ten, twenty years before— they had been quite well to do. Nearly 
all those fine shops on the main streets of Warsaw, the Marszalkowska and 
the Ujazdowska, were formerly Jewish owned. Their proprietors had been 
taxed out of existence and driven into the proletariat. Seeing no way out 
of their troubles, the younger element had turned socialist or communist. 
This was a new cause of vexation and irritation to the Polish authorities: 
the Jews were Reds now and because Reds they were also enemies of 
Poland, of religion and of free enterprise. When you want to beat a dog 
it isn't hard to find a stick. . . . 

Whole families lived in one room with a couple of rickety beds, a table 
and an oilstove the only furniture. I found an entire family, consisting of 
a father, mother, three sons and one girl, squatting on the floor. They had 
neither chairs nor table. All of them were sewing buttons on khaki army 
overcoats. A few houses further down the street I glanced into a room 
where a baby was being born in one bed while in another bed an old man 
moaned and groaned in the last stage of a mortal disease. People showed 
me family albums with photographs of themselves younger and in better 
circumstances, men carrying golden watch chains on their vests, some even 
wearing top hats, women in silk dresses with necklaces and bracelets on 
their wrists. There were pictures of confirmation and wedding parties, the 
men in neat cloth suits and the women in their sabbath best, the children 
fresh and clean. 

They wanted to prove to me that they had not always been as I saw 
them now, destitute and impoverished. One man showed me a photo- 
graph of the big dairy products store he once owned in one of the main 
shopping districts of Warsaw. The man s neighbor had been a prosperous 
timber merchant. He was ruined now. He once had offices in different 
cities and agents all over the country. "There isn't one office left today," 
he said, "Jews are no longer employed as land agents or cattle traders. . . ." 

One mother showed me a photograph of her youngest son. 'This 
is Misha," she said. "Misha lives in Eretz Israel. ... He walked to 
Palestine. . . ." 

"He walked?" 

314 To Number Our Days 

"Yes, he walked. He had no money and no passport. He was notified 
one day that he must serve in the Polish army. He said he wouldn't 
serve in the army of a country which denied his people bread and life. 
He disappeared. Several months we were in fear and trembling that 
something had happened to him. Then at last came a letter from Misha. 
He had safely arrived in the Holy Land. He is saving up money now to 
take us all there. . . ." 

"You will all go," I said. 

"No." An old Jew shook his head. 'Well never see Eretz Israel. It isn't 
possible. We are lost, all the old people are lost. But it doesn't matter so 
long as our children may go to the Land. . . ." 

Getting not the least satisfaction in official Polish circles, but expressions 
about 'Very regrettable circumstances," "unavoidable social trasforma- 
tions" and ' unassimilable minorities," I called as a last resort on His 
Grace, the Archbishop of Warsaw. The prelate poured me a glass of 
wine and proceeded to tell me that "after all, we should not be too sur- 
prised to see the Jews suffer." 

"Not surprised in la nouvelle Pologne; a land bursting with prosperity 
and new wealth?" 

"You forget the Bible, mon fils, you forget that they crucified Our LordI 

The Jews killed God's only Son, our Saviour They cried out to Pontius 

Pilate: 'Crucify Him, let His blood be upon us and upon our children. . . / 
It has come down upon them, hasn't it? God took them at their word! 
You see how true the Bible is. . . ." 

I don t know what came over me in that moment. "Monseigneur," I 
said, "Your Grace has the reputation of being a fine biblical scholar, but 
Your Grace is guilty of willful obscurantism. . . . You have just now in- 
voked a text which of all the false texts in the New Testament is unques- 
tionably le plus faux, the most spurious and corrupt " 

"Mais mon fils, have you forgotten how the Jews massacred the in- 
habitants of the land of Canaan?" 

"Does Your Grace mean to tell me that the government of your country 
in ruining and persecuting the Jews is taking revenge for what happened 
four thousand years ago to Moabites, Edomites and Philistines? . . . Are 
you aware that you are speaking of something that never really happened 
at all. . . . Those accounts in the Book of Joshua about the entry of the 
Hebraic tribes into Canaan are mere wishful thinking. They are the work 
of the prophetic, Yahveistic school, which flourished five hundred years 

Shadow of Coming Events 315 

after the Hebraic infiltration into Canaan. The writers wanted to preserve 
the Jews from contact with the Baal and Astarte worshippers in their 
midst, who hadn't been massacred, obviously " 

"But there is no proof of this!" objected the Polish prelate. 

"Yes, there is, Monseigneur! Three hundred years after the Hebraic 
tribes entered the Holy Land, Jerusalem was still the capital of the 
Jebusites. . . . Your Grace quoted a text; I will also quote you a text. You 
look in Ecclesiasticus and you will read there: The inhabitants of the 
land [Canaan] had sinned against thee, o Yahweh, but thou didst spare 
them for they were human ' " 

The last thing I saw of Poland was the city of Kalisz where I visited 
with Lieutenant Kowalski. The library of the military club where I stayed 
contained all the back copies of the two pornographic weeklies, La Vie 
Parisienne and he Sourire de France, but not much else to remind one of 
Latin civilization. When Poprrycnik Kowalski took me to the railway 
station we saw how the yards were taken by storm as a wild crowd of 
Jewish men, women and children clamored around some carloads of 
spoilt potatoes which had been rejected by the military commissariat as 
unfit for comsumption by the troops. And they, too, those Jews had once, 
not so long ago, been fairly prosperous tradespeople, shopkeepers, pro- 
fessional men. 

Upon my return to Paris I wrote the story of my first visit to Palestine 
for the Evening World; nine articles on Palestine and three on the Jewish 
condition in Poland. I contrasted the two: on the one hand, a virtually 
empty country crying out for workers and farmers, scientists and teachers. 
On the other hand, the overpopulated ghettos of Poland with all their 
human misery and hopelessness. 

The typewritten articles were 1500 words each in length. They made 
quite a package of paper. I sent them off and waited. After two months I 
received a notification that the articles would not be published. Mr. 
Tennant and Mr. Swope had submitted them "for verification" to Louis 
Marshall, a well-known attorney in New York, who was frequently desig- 
nated in the press as "the spokesman of the American Jewish community." 

Mr. Marshall's report, seventeen pages long, drawn up in the pompous 
style of a lawyer's brief, stated that whereas and whereas and whereas . . . 
I "must be regarded as having been too pessimistic about the Jews of 
Poland" and "too optimistic about Palestine as a haven of refuge." His, 

316 To Number Our Days 

Marshall's, private sources of information in both countries did not lead 
him to believe that the situation in Poland was "half as bad" as I pictured 
it. "Van Paassen s report about the Palestine groves shipping 600 boxes 
of oranges to Australia and New Zealand [in 1926]," I read, "is a foolish 
exaggeration. Palestine couldn't possibly export 100 boxes of oranges per 
year. The land is too poor for citrus culture," wrote Mr. Marshall.* 

And so the articles were not published, not in the Evening World at 
any rate. But I sent copies to other papers and they must have been 
published after all, though I had forgotten all about them in the years 
during which three million Polish Jews were trapped and done to death. 

On February 16, 1962, in Temple Israel in Jamaica, Long Island, where 
I preached the Purim sermon, the chairman of the Cultural Activities Com- 
mittee, Dr. Rudolph Halley, introduced me to the congregation. 

I transcribe here part of his introductory remarks: 

"We will tonight hear the man who back in 1927, thirty-five years ago, 
wrote the following warning: The Jews should be evacuated from Poland 
and from all Eastern Europe at no matter what cost. . . . They should be 
directed to Palestine in their hundreds of thousands, in their millions if 
possible. . . . Just as there has been a total evacuation of Greeks from 
Anatolia and of Turks from Grecian Thrace under the supervision of the 
League of Nations, so the Jews should be transferred from Poland to their 
Palestinian homeland by land and sea in the shortest possible time. ... No 
matter whether Palestine can absorb them or not; let them be temporarily 
housed— for a whole decade if needs be!— in camps and tents till they can 
be integrated in the growing economy of that country. . . . 

" 'But save theml Save their lives! . . . There is no time to lose. ... If 
left in Eastern Europe masses of Jews are doomed to die if not of hunger 
then by persecution. . . / " 

I do not mean to claim credit for having been a prophet of doom. I 
would much sooner have been utterly repudiated by events. Nor, must I 
add, was I the first to point to the situation of the Jews of Poland laden 
with hazard and danger as it was. Already in 1895 Theodore Herzl, the 
founder of the Zionist Organization, hearing the mobs on the Parisian 
boulevards shouting "Mort aux Juifs!" remarked: "If this can happen in 
France, the most enlightened country in the world, what can we expect 
•In 1962 Israel exported eleven million boxes of oranges. 

Shadow of Coming Events 317 

in certain countries of Eastern Europe which have not reached the posi- 
tion which France occupied a hundred years earlier?" 

Max Nordau, the correspondent of the Vienna Neue Freie Presse in 
Paris wrote in the same year: "The world should seriously consider the 
evacuation of the Jews from Eastern Europe. ... If left in Poland, Russia, 
Hungary and Rumania they will perish in the great upheavals that stand 
before the door * 

As late as 1930 Vladimir Jabotinsky started a movement in Poland to 
walk the Jews out in a great exodus. He actually got a few thousand young 
Jews to follow him on the long trek to the Holy Land when a few miles 
outside Warsaw the Polish government stopped the march and the military 
drove the Jews back into their ghettos. At that time certain respectable 
Jewish individuals and organizations in the United States amused them- 
selves by deriding Jabotinsky's act of desperation as that of a Fascist 
Fuehrer without followers, a self-styled saviour and publicity seeker. 

In 1930 the Nazi party had an office in the Kaiserhof Hotel on the Wil- 
helmstrasse. The hotel was headquarters for Gau Berlin; Dr. Goebbels was 
the Gauleiter. The main headquarters were still in Munich. I do not know 
if Horst Wessel had an official position in the Nazi party. He did not wear 
the brown shirt. He hung around cafes where foreign newspapermen fore- 
gathered. Guido Enderis of The New York Times introduced me to him 
one evening in the Vaterland Cafe. There was a disturbance in front of the 
coffeehouse that evening; the city police was picking up homosexuals on 
the streets and in the cafes and charging them with "solicitation of men 
by men" which had just been forbidden under a new city ordinance. 

Herr Wessel explained to us that this police action was an outrage 
initiated against the national socialist party by the Jews and Marxists. 

"As German citizens/' he said, "we homosexuals have our rights We 

will not stand for the curtailment of our freedom by such Asiatic intruders 
as Jews and communists. There is going to be a showdown one of these 
days. To begin with we plan a tremendous protest meeting in the Turn- 
halle. The Berlin municipal government simply has to revoke this bylaw 
against the freedom of the streets. . . . It's an outright scandal and provoca- 
tion. Women are not forbidden to solicit, but men are. We are going to put 
a stop to this disgraceful injustice " 

'Who's we?" 

318 To Number Our Days 

"The Maenner societies and clubs " 

"Has the Nazi party as such anything to do with the fight for homosexual 

"No, though there are some very distinguished Nazis in our elite so- 

"Elite societies?" 

"Yes, elite societies! We homosexuals are the elite of the German nation. 
We are the creative elements, the poets, the artists, the defenders of mas- 
culinity, the champions of German morality. We are the Edel-Germanen. 
Homosexuals always appear on the scene when a given civilization reaches 

its highest pinnacle The great Greek philosophers, soldiers, builders 

were all homosexuals, Socrates, Pericles, Alcibiades. . . . The Romans, too: 
Caesar, Pompey, Augustus. The Renaissance flourished as a result of 
greater sexual freedom. ..." 

"Is Herr Hitler a member of one of your elite societies? ..." 

"No, the Fuehrer is indifferent on the subject." 

"Who knows the Fuehrer best? Is it Goebbels? Or Roehm?" 

"No, the man who knows the Fuehrer's innermost thoughts is Ernst 
Hanfstaengl. Hanfstaengrs mother is the lady who gave Hitler his first 
chance to meet with persons of influence and distinction at her home in 
Munich. If you want to know something of Hitler's intimate life you ought 
to speak to Hanfstaengl. He's half American, a graduate of Harvard 
University. ..." 

"Where can he be found?" 

"Wherever the Fuehrer is At present all the leaders of the party are 

staying at the Kaiserhof Hotel. They have all been summoned to Berlin. 
There's something big in the offing. There are several thousand storm 
troopers in Berlin for the big event. ..." 

"What big event? Are the Nazis going to seize power?" 

"We will see what we will see " 

Horst Wessel sold me a book of his own poetry and vanished into the 
night. He was murdered a few weeks later in a brawl between rival bands 
of pimps. 

Alfred Rosenberg, later the governor of German-occupied Russia who 
was hanged at Nuremberg, struck a pose when I came to see him. I had 
been told that he was of Jewish extraction, but he did not impress me that 
way. He had fishy gray eyes that bulged somewhat from his forehead, and 

Shadow of Coming Events 319 

pudgy hands. He sat in a room full of books. On the table in front of him, 
conspicuously in sight, lay his own two volumes: Die Talmud Juden and 
Der Mythus des 20 Jahrhunderts. The chief aim of the national socialist 
party, he said, was to stand guard over the purity of the Aryan race and 
to seek living space for the German nation. 

"In other words you want colonies I" 

"No, what we want is beauty. But not beauty like the Greeks of yore, 
a cold sensuous beauty/' Beauty of soul was the object of all Nazi striving; 
nobility of character, clarity of thought, a warm sense of solidarity with 
all members of the Aryan race. 

"Of course, we want colonies too, but not in Africa or Asia. Germany's 
colonies lie right next door. For ages the Teutonic peoples moved West 
for their conquests. It was a mistake. . . . The Fuehrer will direct Germany 
in easterly direction. There in the East we will find all the room we need 
and shall not have to go as far from home as the British or the French to 
satisfy our needs." 

"You mean you are going to march against Russia if you get a chance?" 

"It will not be so much a march of conquest as taking possession of 
what properly belongs to us. It would be unnatural and downright 
criminal to leave the resources of the East in the hands of a mass of back- 
ward, illiterate and uncouth peasants." 

"But Germany has a pact of friendship with the Russians: the Rapallo 
Pact. . . . The moujiks are manufacturing tanks for the Reichswehr. . . ." 

"It's a lie thought up by a Bolshevik agentl" 

"Is Dr. Foerster a Bolshevik agent? He is not known as such in France 
and Britain. He is the personal friend and counselor of prime ministers 
and presidents. He is rather known as a conservative Prussian of the old 
school and, no doubt, ein sehr frommer Mann, a most pious person." 

"Er ist ein Schuft [He is a scoundrel]! This is what Stresemann called 

"Dr. Stresemann apologized and publicly expressed regret for that 
remark. . . ." 

"He's an enemy of the new order. ... He stands on one line with the 
Jews, the Roman Catholic Church and the Marxists against German re- 
novation and the Fuehrer." 

"You forget the army, the Reichswehr. Neither President Hindenburg 
nor the members of the general staff such as General Schleicher or 
Freiherr von Fritsch seem to be very receptive to Hitler's propaganda " 

320 To Number Our Days 

"Ludendorff is. . . . He's the man that counts. . . . Frau Ludendorffs 
book Zur heiligen Quelle der Deutsche Kraft, 'The sacred source of 
German power/ is the Bible of the New Germany that's a-borning." 

"Do you expect the Christian German nation to adopt Mathilde Luden- 
dorffs paganism?" 

"Yes, I do. When the light begins to shine the German people's eyes 
will be opened. They will see that they have been defrauded for ages 
by the priests and ministers of Christianity who, by fire and sword, have 
foisted a Jewish Galilean creed on them. . . . There will be one united 
German church, a new religion, a German religion. . . . Adolf Hitler is 
the Messiah of the new religion, the savior of the world. . . . He's even 
now throwing his fire into the world, his fire and his Kupferwut [his 
brass fury]. The sparks of Hitler's fire fly from town to town, from village 
to village, from farmhouse to farmhouse, from peasant cottage to peasant 
cottage till all the land will be on fire, till Germany boils over with holy 
wrath and men will draw the sword without prompting. . . . Did you 
know that Adolf Hitler's picture stands on the altar in many German 

"I didn't know that. I haven't seen any pictures in the churches at 
aU. . . ." 

"I can give you the names and location of half a dozen Evangelical 
[Protestant] churches where Hitler has been elevated to the altars and 
is venerated as the divine redeemer. . . ." 

"I don't believe it." 

"You doubt my word?" 

"I certainly do. I am like St. Thomas; I don't believe unless I see. . . ." 

"You will see and you will believe and you will fall at Hitlers feet in 
adoration. . . ." 

"Dr. Rosenberg, you are a student of Talmud. Do you know the story 
about Akiba who proclaimed Bar Kochba the Messiah? The rabbis of 
that time told him: the grass will sprout from your ears, Akiba, before 
the Messiah comes. ... I wish you could give me the name and address 
of just one Protestant minister of training and education who shares your 
belief in Adolf Hitler as the new Messiah. . . ." 

"I'll give you ten names: Dr. Buchholz of Cottbus, Dr. Schneiderman 
of Bremen, Pfarrer Otto Schmidt of Wolfsburg, Pfarrer Frenssen of 
Barlt. . . " 

"Do you mean Gustav Frenssen, the author of Hilligenlei?" 

Shadow of Coming Events 321 

"Yes, that's the man!" 

"Can I see him?" 

"Will you believe in Hitler if Gustav Frenssen shows you the truth?" 

"I am very respectful of Gustav Frenssen. It so happens that I also 
know something of the Frisian people of whom he writes. I lived in 
Frisia, in the Dutch part of Frisia. I know their language and their way 
of life. It would be interesting to see what influence Hitler and Nazism 
exercise on the mentality of a Free Frisian " 

"Go to Hamburg, change trains there for Meldorf. In Meldorf take a 
carriage to Barlt and you'll be at Gustav Frenssen s house in half an 
hour. . . . You'll be able to see the ships and ocean liners sailing out of 
Hamburg from the window of his front room. . . ." 

Knowing a little of what goes on in the minds of Protestant pastors in 
Frisia, I bought a fine Edam cheese, a box of cigars and a crock of Bols' 
gin in the Hamburg railway station, and set out in quest of the reverend 
gentleman whose novels Joern Uhl, Otto Babendiek, Der Pastor von 
Poggsee, and many others, dealing with Frisian and Ditmarsh folkways, 
I admire till this day. Barlt is but a hamlet inhabited by fishers and 
farmers. In front of the Frenssen home stood a flagpole with the swastika 
flapping in the North Sea breeze. 

"Herr Pastor Frenssen?" I asked the bearded man with deep-blue eyes 
who opened the door. 

"You can drop the Pastor stuff," he said before I could utter another 
word. "I have broken with the Christian Church. . . . Just call me Gustav. 
How did you know that Edam cheese on rye bread and gin is my 

"I figured it out. I am a little bit Frisian myself." 

"You are of the right stock, my boy. How did you find me?" 

"Dr. Rosenberg gave me your address." 

"There's a man for you, a German man, ein rassechter Germane who 
dares tell the truth. Do you drink your coffee with sugar, dear Peter? 
That is your real name, isn't it? Let's drop the foreign, un-German names!" 

"Are you no longer functioning as a minister?" 

"Not for many years! It took me a lifetime to come to the truth. . . . 
Did you read my books?" 

"I did, Gustav!" 

"In German?" 

322 To Number Our Days 

"In German, though I've seen them in English translation too. They had 
quite a vogue in Americal Ludwig Lewisohn translated them." 

"I met him in New York A Jew, you know that, of course. But what 

do my books matter? We have now the greatest book ever written: Mein 

"Gustav, do you mean it?" 

"Do I mean it? I swear by Mein Kampf What a book! What power! 

What a hero! What do Goethe, Shakespeare, Schiller amount to when 

compared with Hitler Ach, that my old eyes have been privileged to 

see this miracle, this resurgence of the German spirit. Who'd have thought 
it possible ten years ago that Germany would rise again. What a blessing! 
What did the angels of Bethlehem tell the shepherds? Unto thee is born 
a saviour. . . . and his name is Adolf Hitler. . . . " 

"You talk as if Hitler had already taken over?" 

"He has taken over. He has taken over the mind and soul of the German 
people. ..." 

"But he's not in power!" 

"He soon will be, my boy. Hitler is irresistible. Hell sweep Germany 
clean of all the internationalisms, Christian, Marxist and Jewish. Under 
Hitler Germany is going to walk in its own shoes. Nobody in the whole 
world will dictate to the German people the road it is to travel. The 
German blood is the measure of all things. It is the healing stream in 
which all mankind will find salvation. . . . Trinken wir: Heil Hitlerl Sieg 

"He still faces a tough struggle. There is strong opposition. ..." 

"Not as strong as you think! All his foes are vanishing. . . . Franz von 
Papen, as the spokesman for the Catholics, will see to it that the Centrum 
party withdraws its candidates in the next national election. There will 
be no Catholic opposition after that. . . . With the Jews no compromise 
is possible. They will be eliminated. They will be transported to the 
island of Madagascar." 

"The socialists, the liberal democrats, communists, still make a powerful 
opposition, don't they?" 

"They're Germans, aren't they? They will see the light!" 

"If they should not see the light?" 

"In that case well have to be as ruthless as they. No mercy! Our enemies 
had no mercy with us. They made us a people of slaves, didn't they? Tens 
of thousands of German children died as a result of the hunger block- 

Shadow of Coming Events 323 

ade. . . . Now the shoe goes on the other foot. Soon it will be Germany's 
turn to make decisions/' 

"Before that can happen Hitler must be in power!" 

"He will be in power, in great power. Here in the Nordmark there 
isn't a man or a woman who opposes Hitler. That's the way it will be all 
over Germany. . . . Our people are growing more determined every hour 
that the two million German men who laid down their lives for the father- 
land, for the honor of Germany, for its place in the sun, for its right to 
live, shall not have died in vain." 

"But all this will lead to war. Are you willing to see more millions of 
German men and women sacrificed in a new armed conflict?" 

"See, that's where you are wrong, my boy. There will be no warl Under 
Hitler Germany will be so strong, so united, so well organized, so well 
equipped with arms of all kinds, that no power on earth will dare to 
attack her. German preparedness will be the greatest deterrent to war 
that was ever devised. No war will be necessary. German authority will 
impose itself by its moral superiority. . . . We are at last in sight of the 
eternal peace predicted by our greatest German philosopher Immanuel 
Kant. . . ." 

When I left Frenssen s home, I noticed that a stiff breeze blew from the 
West and the swastika flag was beginning to unravel at the edges. 


I Saw the Triumph of Evil 

Alfbed Hugenberg, a member of the board of directors of the Krupp 
Armament Trust and leader of the German nationalist party, took it upon 
himself in 1932 to collect large sums of money both inside Germany and 
abroad to help set the struggling Nazi party on its feet. These funds, which 
included some important contributions from American financiers, were to 
be used for propaganda purposes and to stimulate the flagging German 
national economy. However, before turning the money over to the Nazis, 
Herr Hugenberg once more tested Hitler as to his political views. One of 
the questions he asked the Fuehrer was: "Why do you believe in a com- 
munist danger?" 

Hitler replied: "Ich bin nicht so dumm, um selbst an eine kommunist- 
ische Bedrohung zu glauben, abet ohne Propagieren dieser Gefahr kom~ 
men wit nicht an die Macht. ... I am not so stupid as to believe in a com- 
munist threat myself. But without making propaganda about this danger, 
we will not get into power and without taking over supreme power in the 
state we will not be able to rearm. There is no other remedy to overcome 
the economic crisis than by spreading the fear of communism. We can only 
get popular support for rearmament by pointing to a communist danger."* 

In this statement by Adolf Hitler, which motivated German big busi- 
ness—and certain foreign business interests— to come to his side, lies the 
heart and kernel of "the big lie." Hitler ordered all Prussian state papers 
destroyed in which appeared documentary proof that he himself did not 
believe in a communist menace. He threatened death to all witnesses 
because in the Reichstag fire trial his statement could have become very 

•This statement by Hitler is found in the section of the Abegg Archives containing the 
Papers of Qregor Strasser. Gregor Strasser was one of the top Nazis who was killed on 
the Fuehrer's orders in the Roehm purge of July, 1934. The Abegg Archives are called 
after Dr. Wilhelm Abegg who was state secretary for Berlin when Hitler came to 
power. Dr. Alhard Gelpke of Zurich is the Achives* present-day custodian. 


326 To Number Our Days 

embarrassing to him. He had ordered the Reichstag building set on fire 
precisely to impress his countrymen and the world at large with a clear 
and present communist danger. 

The charge that the communists set the Reichstag on fire was proven 
false in court. But this did not keep Goebbels from taking up the cry. It 
was one of the propaganda minister's shock tactics to influence public 
opinion. "The big lie" repeated over and over again was the most powerful 
of the Nazi weapons. It not only nearly conquered Europe for them, it still 
operates with mighty suggestive power as we may see by simply opening 
any morning or afternoon newspaper. "The big lie" leads directly to the 
anticommunist hysteria under which all creation still "groaneth as in pain 

When Hitler came to power, his master plan as outlined in Mein Kampf 
looked so difficult, if not impossible of execution, that many in France and 
elsewhere dismissed it as the figment of a fool's imagination. What could 
the Fuehrer do in 1933 to upset the European balance of power? How 
could the Nazi Reich ever break out of its encirclement? 

France had a formidable army and was linked in pacts of mutual as- 
sistance and collective security not only with the Soviet Union, but also 
with the Czechoslovaks and the Polish republics and with the kingdom 
of Yugoslavia. Though "cordiality" and depth of "understanding" between 
the two countries had worn pretty thin, the wartime Franco-British 
alliance, known as the Entente Cordiale, was still, nominally at least, in 
force. South of the Pyrenean border the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera 
had collapsed in 1931 and been replaced by a freely elected democratic 
republic. The Spanish republic represented no danger to France. 

There was only Mussolini, the Italian dictator, who ordered his black- 
shirted cohorts to clamor for living space in the French protectorate of 
Tunisia and for a return of the city of Nice and the province of Savoy to 
the Italian motherland. But Mussolini was not taken seriously, nor was he 
Hitler's ally as yet. 

'1 have eight million bayonets," boasted the Duce. "Nobody and nothing 
in the whole world can stop them when I give the order to advance." 

"Signor Mussolini seems to overlook la douane frangaise [the French 
customs service at the border]," retorted the Parisian newspaper L'Oeuvre. 

Moreover, France's Yugoslav sentinel stationed on Italy's northeastern 
borders was ready at a moment's notice to throw into action those Croat, 
Slovene and Serb divisions which the Duce remembered only too well 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 327 

from his days as a common soldier when he saw them come across the 
Alps in the Austrian army to inflict the defeat of Caporetto. 

In March, 1934, a year after Hitler's coming to power, King Alexander 
of Yugoslavia was assassinated as he debarked at Marseilles for a state 
visit to France. The French foreign minister, Louis Barthou, the champion 
of the German and Italian containment policy, met his death at the same 
time, while General Joseph Georges, one of the younger French comman- 
ders, who was the leader of a group in the general staff which favored 
strengthening the French army with more armored divisions, suffered a 
wound from which it took him a long time to recover. 

Who killed Alexander? Unquestionably it was a Croatian terrorist who 
fired the shots. The murderer was cut down within a minute after the 
shooting. But who organized the murder plot? Who stood to gain most 
by Alexander's disappearance? The virtual unanimity of the European 
press held the Duce responsible. Ex-prime minister Joseph Paul-Boncour, 
who was retained by the widowed Queen Marie of Yugoslavia to represent 
her in a court action to recover damages, would not say anything beyond: 
"The French government has carried out a minute investigation and knows 
the names of all the participants in the murder conspiracy " 

Not till after the close of World War II did the Co-operative Society of 
German Officers disclose that the murder plot was hatched in the German 
embassy in Paris. 

After Alexander's death Yugoslavia was thrown into chaos through inter- 
party warfare and terroristic activities on the part of pro-Nazi elements 
and fifth columnists. The surest ally of France had been knocked out. 

In the fall of 1934 Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and 
in the spring of the following year, in defiance of the terms of the Versailles 
Treaty, introduced compulsory military service. 

After restoring compulsory military service Adolf Hitler told six of his 
army commanders what was next.* "We are now free to attend to our main 

business: Germany is going to move in easterly direction First Austria, 

then Czechoslovakia. In Austria I expect no trouble. If France should show 
half a mind to go to Czechoslovakia's aid, I will create a social crisis of 
such severity inside France that the French army will be wholly occupied 
in suppressing internal troubles and thus, as a striking force against us, 
completely eliminated." 

But the Fuehrer did meet with resistance in Austria. When the Reich's 

*Protocol of the Nuremberg Trials. 

328 To Number Our Days 

diplomats pressed Austria to join the Nazis in the so-called Anschluss, 
Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss refused and mobilized his small army. 

In support of Dollfuss, Mussolini occupied the Brenner Pass and sent 50 
divisions to the Austrian frontier. Hitler went into one of his tantrums. 
But Dollfuss was assassinated in July, 1934, by pro-Nazi elements in the 
Austrian capital. The labor unions, who were mobilizing to defend Austria 
in the event of a Nazi attack, were annihilated in a brief civil war. 

Since neither France, nor Britain, nor anyone else, showed the least 
appreciation of the Duce's move to check Hitler's aggressive designs on 
Austria, Mussolini was isolated and thus forced to make up with Hitler. He 
came to terms with the Nazis and even concluded a pact of friendship and 
mutual assistance with the Fuehrer. 

At the same time that Hitler tried to overrun Austria, but found his fifth 
column in that country not strong enough to carry the Anschluss through, 
Fascism raised its head in France and became a serious threat to demo- 
cratic institutions and to the republican regime itself. In the beginning of 
1934, the Croix de Feu (the Fiery Cross), initially an organization of 
nationalistic and reactionary war veterans, turned into a militant anti- 
democratic, anti-Semitic and pro-Fascist movement. Like the Italian Fas- 
cists in the days of the march on Rome, the members of the Croix de Feu 
were organized on a military or semimilitary basis. 

At the head of the Croix de Feu stood Colonel Casimir Fran§ois de la 
Rocque who made no secret of his veneration for Mussolini for having put 
the Italian labor unions in their place. The methods De la Rocque adopted 
were Hitler's. His troops paraded in the streets in military style. Gatherings 
of ten to twenty thousand men would appear overnight in a given place, 
usually one of the working-class suburbs— Montrouge, St. Denis, Malakoff, 
Argenteuil or Aubervilliers— and then vanish into the night. The colonel 
had at his disposal a vast fleet of motorcars. He also had airplanes and 
ambulances. From time to time his secret arsenals were discovered stocked 
with hundreds, in some cases, thousands of rifles, pistols and machine guns. 
In the four or five newspapers which sympathized with his views, De la 
Rocque openly announced his preparations for civil war. 

In Becon-les-Bruy&res, halfway between Paris and the town of my resi- 
dence, St. Germain-en-Laye, where I witnessed one of the Croix de Feus 
"mobilizations," the "chief drove up in a powerful automobile, preceded, 
surrounded and followed by the rolling thunder of motorcycle squads. His 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 329 

followers, wearing Basque berets and leather belts, greeted him with out- 
stretched arms, repeating his name incessantly in a sort of staccato chorus. 
He himself went bareheaded. He neither looked to the left nor the right. 
He was a man without humor, without any original ideas and was known 
never to smile. 

De la Rocque was known to be a friend of Marshal Petain and General 
Weygand, the chairman of the Supreme War Council and chief of the 
General Staff respectively. But he passed for an honest, patriotic, disinter- 
ested citizen, without government connections. When his movement broke 
in twain in 1938, the dissenters stated that De la Rocque had all along been 
financed by the cabinets of Gaston Doumergue, Pierre Flandin and Pierre 
Laval and, of course, by great industrial and financial organizations and 
the armament manufacturers, such as Schneider-Creusot and the Comit6 
des Forges. 

The night I heard him at B6con, the colonel attacked the League of 
Human Rights and the "atheistic" Order of Free Masons who, according to 
the speaker, wanted to destroy the parochial school system in France and 
push all the abbes, nuns and Christian Brothers under the guillotine. After 
every sentence his belted minute men gave him a roaring ovation: "De la 
Rocque, De la Rocque, De la Rocquer as if the colonel's name alone was 
the answer to every problem in the world. 

Though the mass meeting, according to the posters, had been called "to 
examine the economic and social conditions of the French people," De la 
Rocque hadn't a word to say about the immense poverty, the flagrant in- 
equality in the distribution of wealth, nor about the rotten slums in so 
many quarters of Paris and its suburbs where, for instance, autobus drivers 
lived who, at that time, earned the equivalent of $9.90 per week. Shopgirls 
in the great department stores were getting $5.70, less than half of what 
American tourists spent for lunch at Maxim's or LaRue's. The weavers in 
Lyons and the steel workers at St. Etienne earned a little over $10 a week, 
while the women at the airplane factories received $4.85. It had long been 
a mystery to me how people could live on such salaries without ultimately 
suffering physical or moral degradation. 

One of De la Rocque's associates, a Sam Browne-belt-wearing big shot, 
the "Marquis" de la Meuse, referred briefly to the "revolutionary labor 
elements" and their demand for higher wages: "If the steel workers find 

the cost of living too high, they could save fuel by going to bed early 

Their wives are good-looking women who will surely keep them warm " 

330 To Number Our Days 

As to the shopgirls, weren't they clever enough, he asked, "to make a 
little supplementary income ... by picking up a rich lover or taking a walk 
up and down the street now and then?" It was like the remark by Marie 
Antoinette to her ladies in waiting: "If the people have no bread, let them 
eat cake." Not even De la Rocque's faithful dared applaud these vul- 

On February 6, 1934, De la Rocque tried to stage a Putsch in Paris. 
All his forces, probably 50,000 men, marched down the boulevards and 
converged on tie Place de la Concorde where they were joined by mem- 
bers of the Parti Populaire, headed by Jacques Doriot, a former com- 
munist member of parliament who was to die in 1942 in Hitler's service 
and uniform on the Russian front. The demonstration advanced in solid 
ranks and was heading for the Chamber of Deputies which was in session 
that afternoon. I readily recognized L6on Daudet, the novelist; Maxime 
Real del Sarte, the sculptor; Maurice Pujot, the publisher of Action 
Frangaise; and Charles Maurras, the philosopher and editor of the same 
monarchist paper. They walked at the head of a contingent of their 
Camelots du Roi, the King's Henchmen. 

Jean Chiappe, the police prefect, himself a Fascist, was present in the 
great square. He had just been dismissed from his post for involvement 
in a financial scandal, the Stavisky affair. He nevertheless gave the police 
the order to fall back before the surging crowd as it shouted: "Blum to 
the gallows! Daladier into the Seine! Pierre Cot d la lanternel" The 
Chamber's session was suspended by its president Edouard Herriot. 
Herriot and the members of the cabinet appeared on the garden terrace 
of the Palais Bourbon which then housed the Chamber of Deputies. 

A regiment of helmeted mounted police came galloping along the Quai 
d'Orsay, veered to the left and met the oncoming Fascist multitude on 
the Concorde bridge. I climbed a tree on the very spot on the Quai 
d'Orsay where today stands a concrete pillbox in front of the Chamber. 

Instead of falling back before the cavalry, the mob produced garlands 
of straw soaked in pitch, set these alight and tossed the flaming hoops 
around the horses' necks. The first ranks of the mounted police were 
thrown into confusion. The horses reared and some with the burning 
hoops around their necks jumped in panic over the bridge railing, plung- 
ing to their deaths in the Seine. Several cuirassiers, who had hastily dis- 
mounted, were overwhelmed by the mob and joined their horses in the 
river. Steadily the Fascists were pressing onward to the left bank of the 
river and the parliament building. ... It seemed but a matter of minutes 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 331 

till the government would be taken prisoner and the cabinet members 
strung up on the lamp posts. . . . 

Then the cohorts of the Croix de Feu and their allies hesitated as masses 
of workers marching up along the quais met them head-on. Other crowds 
of workers, coming down the Avenue des Champs Elysees and through 
the Tuileries Gardens, attacked De la Rocque's "invincible legion" from 
two sides. De la Rocque himself, who was somewhere in the parade, 
backed up his automobile and, in doing so, knocked over several of his 
own valiants. A dozen of the Fascists on the bridge were pitched into the 
river. The mob surged back towards the Place de la Concorde and there 
the battle was fought out which ended in the complete route of the 
Croix de Feu and their allies. About nine in the evening a machine gun 
started to rattle, but I do not know where it was posted. One of its shots 
killed a chambermaid who was standing near one of the windows in the 
Crillon Hotel. On hearing the first shots I came down from my perch and 
dispersed, so to speak. 

The following day a mountain of roses lay in the middle of the Place 
de la Concorde on the spot where fifteen Fascists had been killed. Women 
were kneeling and an abb6 went around with uplifted hands blessing 
the ground where "the martyrs" had fallen. The Fascist papers, Action 
Frangaise, Gringoire, Le Jour, Emancipation, henceforth spoke of Leon 
Blum only as "the hyena," Daladier "the killer," and Pierre Cot "the bloody 

Within a few days after De la Rocque's unsuccessful Putsch, the 
Comite de Vigilance des InteUectuels Anti-Fascistes was formed. Its 
president was Jean Perrin, winner of the Nobel prize for physics and 
general secretary of the Academie des Sciences. Paul Langevin and Emile 
Borel, both members of the Institut de France, were chosen adjunct chair- 
men. In a month's time the Comit6 had five thousand members, all artists, 
writers, savants and professors at the Sorbonne, the College de France 
and the great lyc6es. 

On the invitation of F61icien Challaye, professor of philosophy at the 
Lyc6e Condorcet, I joined the Vigilance Committee. This was a mistake, 
though not from an ideological point of view, for I was deeply convinced 
that the Fascists presented a universal menace who should be resisted 
by every democrat whether French or otherwise. My mistake was that 
I allowed my name to be published. 

Within a month after joining I was notified by the Ministry of the 

332 To Number Our Days 

Interior that I was expected to leave French territory within forty-eight 
hours. I ran to the Place Beauvau and asked to see the minister, Pierre 

"You occupy yourself with things that do not concern you," said Laval 
as he lit one cigarette with another and blew the smoke through his 
nostrils. I had seen him before when he came to talk to us at the Anglo- 
American press club in the Hotel St. Petersbourg, but never at so close 
a range. 

'What things?" I asked. "The Vigilance Committee? But the Committee 
was set up in defense of the French people's liberties. Democratic freedom 
in France is everybody's business. Every civilized person has two coun- 
tries, France and his own. It was France which poured out her own blood 
in the French Revolution for us all in the conquest of human rights. . . ." 

"We do not need the help of foreigners. ... Go back to America to 
talk of civil liberties. . . . We have more than enough of your kind here." 

'What kind?" 

"People who make a nuisance of themselves by blabbing about freedom. 
Freedom for whom? Abyssinians? . . . Moujiks? . . . Montenegrins? ..." 

At the Canadian embassy, Jean D6sy and Pierre Dupuy, the ambassador 
protem and the passport officer respectively, promised to take up my 
case with the press department of the Foreign Office. It took them so 
long that I received a second note from the ministry asking when an 
inspector could be sent to conduct me to the border. Leon Blum advised: 

"Go to the border, Belgium or Switzerland, establish residence in one 
of these countries, and come back on the next train. There is nothing in 
your expulsion document about being permanently barred from French 
territory. In the meantime we will investigate and try to find out for what 
reason Laval wants you out." 

So it was done. I took Cornelia and Hugo to Brussels. But no permit of 
residence was granted in the Belgium capital. A Walloon official remem- 
bered my activities in the Flemish nationalist movement, and I went on 
to Basel. In Basel's railway station we were turned over by a French 
plain-clothes man, who had evidently traveled on the same train, to the 
Swiss immigration authorities. This kind gesture immediately rendered 
me suspect to the Swiss security police. I could come in as a tourist, they 
said, and stay as long as I liked, but for the privilege of permanent 
residence I must give the names of two Swiss citizens, willing to guarantee 
my harmlessness. 

J Saw the Triumph of Evil 333 

"You are expelled from France for engaging in political activities. We 
cannot let you go into Switzerland without some assurances that you 
won't do the same thing here. . . . Can you give us the names of two Swiss 

"The editor of the Neue Zuercher Zeitung," I said, "and Dr. Jean 
Schorer, minister of the cathedral of St. Pierre in Geneva. . . ." Tine," 
said the inspector, "we will telephone the Neue Zuercher Zeitung and Dr. 
Schorer on condition that. . . you pay for the call. . . ." The call was made 
and I was at once allowed to proceed. 

We lived for a year in Zurich; that is, my wife and Hugo did. I went 
to America to do a lecture tour hastily arranged by Morris Margulies, 
secretary of the Zionist Organization of America. 

Upon my arrival in New York I called on J. David Stern, publisher of 
the New York Post, because the World, for which I had worked since 
1924, had disappeared in the depression. Mr. Stern promised me a job as 
foreign correspondent as soon as I should have completed my lecture 
tour. I toured the country from New York to San Francisco, but upon my 
return to New York, Mr. Stern's editorial assistant, I. F. Stone, upbraided 
me for having given an article to Joseph V. Connelly, the manager of 
King Features, a newspaper syndicate. 

The article in question dealt with a conversation I had on board the 
S.S. Lafayette with an Indonesian gentleman. This person told me that 
he was absolutely certain that Japan would at a not distant date seize 
the Netherlands East Indies. 

"But," I said, "the Nippos wont get very far. Neither Britain nor the 
United States will stand for such an act of aggression. Britain has just 
spent hundreds of millions of pounds on a naval base at Singapore and 
that base will certainly keep the Japanese navy from Malaya, Burma, 
India and, I suppose, from Indonesia as well." 

"Have you ever heard of the Isthmus of Kra?" the Indonesian asked me. 

"Yes, but I don t know exactly where it is located!" 

"Let's look at the mapl" 

"Here across this narrow strip of land at the top of the Malay Penin- 
sula, the Japanese will dig a canal. Through that canal the Japanese fleet 
will sail around Singapore or, what's more likely, the Japanese army de- 
barking at Kra will take the British base of Singapore from the landside." 
Thus, exactly, it came to pass in 1941! 

I happened to talk of this meeting with the Indonesian to a reporter 

334 To Number Our Days 

of the Portland Oregonian when I lectured in that city. The Portlanders 
showed no interest whatever in Hitler's or Mussolini's movements. Japan, 
on the other hand, was a different matter to people living on the Pacific 


The story made a sensation in Oregon and King Features wired me 
for details. I hadn't the faintest notion that King Features was part of the 
Hearst organization. But Mr. I. F. Stone did. 

"We on the Post," he told me after my return to New York, "will not 
employ anyone who writes for Hearst " 

Fortunately, on that lecture tour during my stay in old Toronto, Harry 
C. Hindmarsh and Joseph Atkinson, the managing editor and the owner 
of the Toronto Star, appointed me general European correspondent for 
the Star and the Canadian Central Press. 

Before sailing from New York I received a cable from le vieux militant 
Jean Longuet, saying that my expulsion order had been revoked. The 
Comity des Intellectuels Anti-Fascistes had brought about the change. 

And so we were back where we started. This time we took a house in 
Maisons-Laffitte and I resumed my watch of the way Hitler was working 
out his master plan. The leaders of the democratic parties, clubs and 
societies in France were negotiating to put up a common front against 
the growing Fascist menace, for though De la Rocque had been routed, 
other colored-shirt movements had come into existence. For one, the 
extreme right had set up a terrorist organization, known as the Cagoulards, 
so called after la cagoule, the cloak worn by monks and the masked cowl 
of the Ku Klux Klan. These people carried out acts of terrorism against 
lone individuals, masonic lodge presidents, schoolteachers, labor leaders. 

The Comity de Vigilance had appointed thousands of workers to stand 
guard at nights and these workers promptly retaliated when a suburban 
city hall or labor temple was attacked. It was quite clear that the next 
elections would bring the parties of the Popular Front to power and that 
the Fascist menace would be a thing of the past. 

However, just before the elections, on March 7, 1936, Hitler, frustrated 
in his designs to create an internal crisis in France (via De la Rocque), 
made an alarming move in the foreign field. 

In the afternoon of that day, Radio France announced that the 
German army had crossed the demarcation line between the Reich and 
the Rhineland which was a demilitarized zone under the terms of the 
Versailles Treaty. 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 335 

"Tomorrow afternoon at one o'clock all the members of the Supreme 
War Council have been summoned to the H6tel des Invalides to deliberate 
on the steps to be taken to counter Germany's breach of the Versailles 
Treaty." In a word of comment of his own, the announcer added: 
"Monsieur Hitler has gone on the warpath. . . . His Thousand Year Reich 
teeters on the brink of the abyss. . . . Vive la Francel" 

It was a brilliant Sunday as I joined thousands of promenaders on the 
Esplanade des Invalides to see the military chiefs arrive. Maxime Wey- 
gand came first. In spite of his 69 years, he walked with the sprightly 
step of a young lieutenant. He was soon followed by Philippe Petain, 
Marshal of France, and General Gamelin, the new chief of the general 
staff. Albert Sarraut, a member of the cabinet and chairman of the 
Military AfEairs Committee, who was evidently going to preside, was the 
only official to receive an ovation from the crowd. "Albert, hold firm! 
don t let the Boche fool you!" He smiled back and waved his hand in a 
signal of strength and confidence. 

Then we waited. At four o'clock, Sarraut's voice was heard over the 
radio: "German troops have entered the Rhineland in flagrant disregard 
of a solemn treaty. . . . The French forces in Alsace have been alerted. . 
Our first armored division is about to cross the Rhine bridge at Kehl. . . . 
The French people may rest assured that we will never leave the towers 
of Strasbourg under the menace of the German guns. . . ." 

"Cest la guerrel This is war!" said a man next to me in the crowd. 

"I agree with you, but it wont be much of a war. Hitler hasn't got the 
power to strike very hard. . . yet." 

At nine in the evening the broadcaster said that the French troops had 
withdrawn from their forward positions and that there would be no 
interference with Hitler's occupation of the Rhineland. 

What made the French government change its mind? How could they 
promise the French people at four in the afternoon that Strasbourg would 
never be allowed to come under the menace of the German guns, but five 
hours later withdraw their opposition and allow the Germans unobstructed 
passage to the borders of Alsace? 

Leon Blum, in explaining the incident to me at his home, said that a 
telephonic consultation with the British government had failed to bring 
about agreement on a joint Franco-British warning to Hitler or the adop- 
tion of a common stand against the first open Nazi act of armed aggression. 

We had to wait till the Nuremberg trials of 1945 to learn how alarmed 
the German general staff itself was on the day of Hitler's occupation of the 

336 To Number Our Days 

Rhineland. "I must acknowledge," said General Alfred Jodl, speaking from 
the prisoners' dock at Nuremberg, "that I felt as uncomf ortable as a gam- 
bler who has placed his all on one throw of the dice " 

"One French regiment," said Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel ("with a 
gesture of chasing a bothersome fly from his nose"), "one French regiment 
could have thrown us out of the Rhineland." To which Jodl added: "Only 
three German battalions were involved. One went to Aix la Chapelle, one 

to Trier and one to Saarbruecken The French border guards could 

have blown us away." 

Why didn't France go it alone in throwing the Nazi invaders out of the 
Rhineland, or at least make an attempt? Why didn't Britain lift one little 
finger to frustrate this breach which virtually annulled the Versailles peace 
treaty of 1921? 

These questions are unanswerable only by those who, whether they 
believed it or not, spread the myth that England slept when the Nazi 
monster first began to show its teeth in the international sphere. They leave 
conveniently in the dark what Anthony Eden, to his credit, although many 
years too late, made quite clear in his Memoirs: the fact of Anglo-French 
disunity as the essential precondition of Hitler's career of aggression. 

Right from the sessions of the Versailles peace conference, Clemenceau 
and Lloyd George, respectively the French and the British negotiators, 
were in such total disagreement on the future of Germany that once or 
twice they would have come to blows had not Cadorna and Woodrow 
Wilson kept them apart. 

Lloyd George and his colleagues in the British government pursued 
what was with little variation essentially Britain's foreign policy in the 
European continent since the days of Cromwell: opposition, overt or clan- 
destine, to any other power's predominance in Europe. Every successive 
rising state was knocked down by Britain, if not directly then by acting in 
concert with other powers. The Spanish empire was wrecked in collabora- 
tion with the Dutch Republic whose fleet bottled up the Spanish flotilla 
of fighting ships in the harbor of Dunkirk while the storm— "God's breath," 
states a commemorative medallion from 1588— threw the Armada, the 
battle cruisers of those days, into confusion and wrecked the major part 
of the Spanish navy on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. When Holland 
seemed on the way to become the mightiest colonial power in the world, 
Britain fought four wars with the Dutch Republic, was beaten in three 
but victorious in the last. After Holland came Louis XIV of France whose 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 337 

military supremacy in Europe was broken by the British under King Wil- 
liam III, Prince of Orange. Napoleon and his empire were destroyed by 
Britain in collaboration with Prussia, Austria and Russia. In the First World 
War, Kaiser Wilhelm II and German expansionism were defeated by the 
British empire and its allies and associated powers. In the years leading to 
the outbreak of the Second World War, Britain isolated France from her 
continental allies and thus met the Nazi grab for world power more than 

When Adolf Hitler overran the Rhineland, his generals may have held 
their breath, but the Fuehrer himself showed no nervousness or anxiety 
whatever. He had Joachim von Ribbentrop, his London ambassador's word 
for it, that Britain not only would not budge, but would also prevent 
France from interfering. 

England was not asleep. The truth of the matter is that Britain had a 
more or less tacit understanding with Hitler. Britain's foreign minister, Sir 
John Simon, signed a naval agreement with Von Ribbentrop the year be- 
fore the invasion of the Rhineland, on June 18, 1935. Under the terms of 
the old Versailles Treaty Germany was not to have a battle fleet to replace 
the one lying scuttled at the bottom of Scapa Flow. In a secretly negotiated 
treaty, without consulting France or any other power, the British govern- 
ment granted Germany the right to build a new navy on a 100-35 per cent 
ratio -with that of Britain. 

Lords John Simon and Samuel Hoare looked upon the naval pact with 
Germany as a triumph for their country in that it diverted Hitler's land 
hunger, his Lebensraum dreams, exclusively and irrevocably in easterly 

With the naval treaty of 1935, Britain made a scrap of paper of the Ver- 
sailles Treaty and left her Entente partner in the lurch. 

When Hitler was asked in 1941 what was the happiest day in his life, 
the Feuhrer declared that it was not the day when he was called to the 
chancellorship, nor the day when he marched into Prague, nor even the 
day when France begged for an armistice in June, 1940. 

"The happiest day of my life was the eighteenth of June, 1935, when 
Ribbentrop signed the naval agreement with Sir John Simon!"* 

Not only did the naval agreement give Hitler the right to build a new 
fleet, an opportunity of which he took immediate advantage by ordering 

♦Quoted from: Zwischen London und Moskau (Between London and Moscow), by 
Joachim von Ribbentrop (subtitle, "Memoirs and Last Observations"). 

338 To Number Our Days 

the keels laid for three battle cruisers and a score of submarines, he also 
ordered the construction of pocket battleships in the secret hiding places 
of the Norwegian fjords. The main advantage he drew from the agreement 
with Britain was the opportunity it afforded him to move ahead at an im- 
mensely accelerated tempo with his military preparations on land. The 
danger of becoming involved in a naval armament race with Britain simul- 
taneously with the urgency to build up his land forces was eliminated. 

The unopposed reoccupation of the Rhineland cannot be understood 
without taking into consideration the German-British naval treaty of the 
year before. By signing that treaty with the Nazi Reich, Britain acquiesced 
beforehand in any subsequent move that Hitler undertook to strengthen 

his position on the Continent It was the British government— before 

Churchill in 1939— which broke the back of France's military supremacy. 
This historic fact Charles de Gaulle was to remember when he, to the 
incomprehension and surprise of our "best" commentators, vetoed Bri- 
tain's admission to the European Common Market in 1963. He blocked 
the attempt of Britain, as America's cat's-paw as he saw it, to regain her 
old influence on the European continent. . . . 

There is no event in the history of the Third Republic about which so 
many falsehoods have been told and still circulate as about the Popular 
Front. The Popular Front, it is charged, injected such deep dissensions in 
the political, social and economic manifestations of French collective life 
that the unity of the French nation was destroyed and France four years 
later became an easy victim to German aggression. The truth is the exact 
opposite: never, either before or after, was there such a deep sense of na- 
tional unity as when the government of the Popular Front came to power 
in May, 1936. The three main parties constituting the Popular Front, who, 
on the advice of the Comit6 des Intellectuels Anti-Fascistes, had coven- 
anted to stay together till the Fascist danger was over, achieved an over- 
whelming victory at the polls, 425 deputies out of 600. No previous govern- 
ment, not even the governments of national concentration of Clemenceau 
and Poincar6, set up in the emergency of World War I, received such wide- 
spread, almost universal support. 

The new government ushered in a program of social reform which was 
to bring the working class and the poor peasants somewhat nearer to the 
standard of living long since attained by the workers of America, Britain, 
Germany and the Scandinavian countries. The horrible slums of the capi- 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 339 

tal and other large cities, foul breeding hearths of disease and generations 
of anemic and tubercular human beings, were to be cleared. Higher edu- 
cational facilities were to be provided for the children of the poor both in 
the cities and in the rural regions. The airless and sunless school buildings, 
erected two, three centuries before, were to be torn down and replaced 
with modern edifices. Clinical facilities were to be provided for the sick 
amongst the destitute. Maternity hospitals were planned and begun. The 
labor syndicates or trade-unions were conceded the right of collective 
bargaining. Company unions were proscribed. The number of daily work- 
ing hours, still twelve and even fourteen in the mines of the Pas de Calais 
and in the textile plants of the Lyons and Roubaix districts, was reduced 
to forty-five per week, giving the workers half a day free and two weeks' 
vacation with pay. In a few months' time hundreds of vocational schools 
were opened, and the country was dotted with youth hostels to which the 
boys and girls from the crowded cities tramped or bicycled for week-ends 
and holidays. 

There is no doubt in the world that the Popular Front saved France 
from civil war. It faced a grave situation when it came to power. In line 
with Adolf Hitler's avowed intention to create such a severe economic 
and social crisis in France as to paralyze the country and force the army 
to be exclusively occupied with repressing disorders, the French Fascists 
under De la Rocque, Marcel D6at, Maurras and Jacques Doriot deliber- 
ately brought the country to the brink of disaster in a desperate attempt to 
forestall the electoral victory of the Popular Front parties. The banks ex- 
ported their gold abroad. The industrialists closed their plants. They 
refused to listen to the requests of the labor leaders for shorter work hours 
and the right of collective bargaining. Agents provocateurs were sent into 
the barracks and military training camps to pose as communists and foment 
trouble so that the Fascist elements in the general staff could point to the 
army's unreliability. 

The first practical measure to be taken by Premier Daladier was the 
convocation of employers and unions for the settlement of labor questions. 
By December, 1936, the Matignon agreements (so called after the H6tel 
Matignon, the prime ministers official residence) were concluded and a 
tremendous wave of joy broke over the country. There are no words to 
describe the mighty burst of enthusiasm that swept France from one end 
to the other. For the first time the workers were free on Saturday afternoon 
and it was on Saturday that the men, women and children of the suburbs 

340 To Number Our Days 

came to Paris. The trains could not handle the crowds. When in Paris they 
strolled along the boulevards and sat in the caf6s. There were no demon- 
strations, no angry chauvinist whipped-up protest meetings, not a word of 
rancor, not a cry of revenge. The sordid past seemed forgotten. The world 
of slums, of shanty towns and gutter poverty had taken on a rosier hue. 
It still existed but it was wrapped up in the twilight of a sinking sun. It 
was a regenerated France that had come upon the scene. 

I have never seen such an elation of spirit, such an outburst of joie de 
vivre as a few days after the signing of the Matignon agreements. At noon 
Albert Einstein, invited by Paul Painlev6, one of the ministers of the gov- 
ernment, made a speech at the Sorbonne on his favorite subject: "The re- 
conciliation of nations and classes and the formation of a European demo- 
cratic federation." 

In the afternoon one million people promenaded on the boulevards. 
They did not march. They strolled quietly, with great dignity, from the 
Madeleine to the Place de la Republique and beyond to the Place de la 
Bastille, workers, professors, scientists, street cleaners, scrub women, shop- 
girls, students and soldiers. With my wife I stood at the intersection of the 
Boulevard de Sebastopol and the Boulevard St. Denis, seeing the real 
France go by, the France of the French people, the France of Robespierre, 
Condorcet, Lamennais, Zola and Jean Jaures, le pays reel. . . . 

I will never forget the moment when two rows of Catholic priests and 
seminarists, dressed in their cassocks, arms linked and stepping in unison, 
came into view. The burst of acclaim that greeted the clerics, "Vive les 
camarades-abbSs" was overwhelming. 

Two of my teachers, Etienne Giran* and Frangois Bonsirven, who 
passed by in a crowd of students and professors, stopped to invite us to 
join the moving mass. 

"I dare not," I said. "I will be expelled again if I take part in a political 
demonstration. Please remember, I'm a foreigner. . . . " 

"What are you talking about?" said Giran. "There are no more for- 
eigners. . . . And this is not a political demonstration, camarade. This is 
the army of la patrie humaine, the human fatherland on the move. We are 
going to build schools and theaters and lay out gardens. We re going to 
be human. ..." 

♦Etienne Giran, minister of the Reformed Church of France, was arrested by the 
Gestapo in 1942. He was promised his life if he would inject some bubbles of air into 
the veins of a Jewish rabbi. Giran refused and was done to death with the rabbi. 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 341 

"Alright, say no more! Here we cornel Vive la patrie humainel" 

We had to shake hands all around. 

But we also took a look the same afternoon at the demonstration on the 
Champs Elys6es where the Croix de Feu was on parade, De la Rocque in 
front. What did we hear there? 

"Down with Blum! Down with Dreyfus! Mort aux Youpinsl Death to 
the kikes!" One huge banner carried the words: "Daladier has sold France 
to the Bolsheviks!" Another banner proclaimed: "Le Youpin Rothschild est 

The grand presse, the respectable big papers, kept up a frenzied tom- 
tom of slander, attack and misrepresentation. The capacity for evil of the 
Popular Front's leaders was made to appear of satanic dimensions. It was 
as clear as daylight to the tone-setting editorialists, who had lost most 
of their income through the cancellation of the item for "secret funds" in 
the new government's budgets and now appeared at the pay windows of 
the big utilities as regularly as bees gather near a sugar factory, that Dala- 
dier intended to disarm France, demoralize the people and then hand the 
country over to Joseph Stalin and "the Mongolian hordes." 

Action Frangaise, the monarchist paper, printed lists of men who were 
"to be shot down like mad dogs." Blum stood at the top of the list with 
Pierre Cot, Edouard Daladier and Georges Mandel, Clemenceau's Minis- 
ter of the Interior, who did not belong to any of the Popular Front parties. 
Blum was described in Gringoire, the paper owned by Jean Chiappe, the 
former police prefect, as a charter member of the executive of the Elders 
of Zion, a Bulgarian by birth whose real name was Garfinkel, and who 
was engaged at Russia's behest with Trotsky and Litvinov in the interna- 
tional counterfeiting business. 

Leon Blum, one of the finest men I've ever known, was of Alsatian origin, 
a novelist of distinction, a classmate of Andr£ Gide, the last person to be 
called a rabble rouser. At his home it was a thrill to follow his conversa- 
tion which had the range and stamp of a large and original mind. This 
man, a corporation lawyer by profession, was said to have given vent to 
his "base Semitic instincts" to bring about the demoralization and spolia- 
tion of France in the interests of some universal mythical bankers' cartel. 
To assist him in this undertaking he was importing the dregs of the Jewish 
ghettos from across the Rhine and Eastern Europe. He was said to be 
naturalizing the refugees from Hitler at the rate of seventy-five to one 
hundred thousand a year. With these "human mongrels," Blum was said to 

342 To Number Our Days 

be spending his days and nights in endless carousals in the chateaux he had 
bought up with money stolen from the national exchequer. Fascist papers 
gave descriptions of banquets and feasts at which the socialist leader was 
said to preside that surpassed in lustful delirium the most fantastic sat- 
urnalia of the ancients. At those feasts "Jewish scum ^ rom Poland [ate] 
from the filched gold plate of the former kings of France and drank the 
health of a grateful House of Rothschild." 

If anyone thinks me guilty of exaggeration let him turn up the files of the 
journal with the largest circulation in France, Gringoire, and read there 
the front-page articles by the ' master" journalist Henri B6raud, or the out- 
pourings of Jacques Doriot in La LibertS and Pierre Drieu la Rochelle in 
Emancipation, and, if he's immune to nausea, glance through a book of 
filth entitled Bagatelles pour un Massacre (Minor Reasons for a Big Mas- 
sacre) by Louis-Ferdinand Celine which was scattered in tens of thou- 
sands of copies at the expense of certain large industrial concerns. Not even 
Julius Streicher, in his wildest paroxysms af hydrophobia, equaled C61ine 
in obscenity and hate. 

The campaign of calumny reached a crescendo when pro-Fascist sec- 
tions of the British and American press treated the country of France as a 
boiling hotbed of anarchy, the most dangerous hearth of violent revolu- 
tionism which, with the aid of Russia, was about to set the world aflame. 
Although Paris and the provincial cities had remained perfectly calm and 
peaceful throughout the nearly two years of Popular Front supremacy, the 
most bloodcurdling articles and dispatches were sent out to Britain and 
America about tourists fearing for their lives and escaping massacre just 
in the nick of time, about scenes of horror, looting, lynching, raping and 
bloodshed, all, it goes without saying, personally witnessed, or based on 
the testimony of the "usually reliable sources." 

The flood of misrepresentation rose so high that the French government, 
unable to bear the ignominy any longer, issued a communique saying that 
it could not allow the publication of "such flagrant lies" without making a 
categorical protest. No scenes of violence or horror had occurred in Paris, 
it said. "Nowhere in France has there been any rioting." 

"Is this socialism you are introducing?" I asked the vice-chairman of the 
council of ministers, L6on Blum, one evening. 

"No, it is not," he replied. "We have no mandate to introduce socialism, 
like Roosevelt in America we are merely trying to extract from the capital- 
ist system the fullest possible measure of well-being for all. We are first 
and foremost to raise the standard of living. We desire to create such social 

>rofessor Leonhard Ragaz, pro- 
essor of theology in Zurich and 
eader of the European Religious 
locial Movement 

18. Nicolai A. Berdiaiev, Russian lay theologian 
and philosopher living in France 

Reuben Brainin, Dean of Hebrew 
Letters in America who taught the 
author Hebrew 

20. Chaim Weizmann, President of the World 
Zionist Organization, later first President 
of Israel 


21. The author, second from left, with Gloria Holden, Lionel Barrymore, Mrs. 
Max Band and her husband, the painter, in Hollywood. The man on the 
extreme left is unidentified. 

22. Mr. and Mrs. van Paassen at home, 1958 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 343 

conditions as will make every citizen proud of the fact that he is a French- 
man and therefore willing and eager to defend France if a threat to her 
national existence should ever arise." 

"But suppose," I ventured, "the people who are sometimes called the 
ruling class refuse to collaborate and withhold their capital or export it 
abroad as they have begun to do, if the high clergy and the unquestionably 
reactionary army officers obstruct and hinder the efforts of your govern- 
ment? What will you do then, employ force? Will you in that case institute 
a dictatorship of the proletariat as the communists did in Russia; that is, 
crush your opponents and liquidate them as a class?" 

"Ours is not a workers' government," replied Blum, "but a government 
of national concentration. We are a government of all Frenchmen and of 
all classes. We are also the government of the bankers, the trust magnates 
and the press lords. It is true that these are our opponents. But I do not 
think that we are trespassing on their interests. Have they themselves not 
always insisted that France must be strong and free? How can France 
be strong and free if the majority of her citizens live in stinking holes 
where children perish from malnutrition and grown-ups are led to hate 
the country which is always praised as free and generous, but which 
denies them an elementary measure of well-being? Our program is one 
of national regeneration, and in this we expect all classes to collaborate 
for the common good." 

"When you nationalized the Bank of France and the armament in- 
dustries, weren't you trespassing on the privileged status and the interests 
of the haute bourgeoisie? Isn't it said in certain sections of the press both 
here in France and abroad, in Britain and America, that you are a trail 
blazer for a Bolshevik revolution? Aren't you called a second Kerensky? 
Do not the communists charge you of being too weak, too hesitant in 
pushing through your reforms?" 

"Yes, the communists are very critical of us. But they are not in power! 
They have no representation in the cabinet. They want to go faster, but 
they must abide by the law. They should bear in mind that a French 
government with a full-fledged socialist program would almost certainly 
meet with opposition from abroad; that there even might be foreign 
intervention. That's what happened in Russia. The communists ought to 
know this better than anyone else. . . ." 

"Suppose the communists stage a coup? That's the way they got into 
power in Russia. . . ." 

"The communists are no threat to our government. . . . But I will say 

344 To Number Our Days 

this, if the reaction continues its present tactics, if the opposition places 
still greater and more obstacles in our way, if it still further discredits us 
abroad, I will go to the workers and I will tell them frankly: It cannot be 
done, my friends. You have enemies who deny you a place in the sun, 
it is up to you to decide what to do next/ " 

More than once both Daladier and Blum reminded the communists in 
parliament and in the press that their support was desired only insofar as 
it affected national regeneration through social reform and military pre- 
paredness, and that the government would under no circumstances 
tolerate the furtherance of revolutionary aims which they might secretly 

"Might secretly harbor," for in reality revolution was the furthest thing 
from tie minds of Stalin and his followers in France. Stalin favored the 
maintenance of the status quo in Europe. He was anxiously guarding 
against the slightest change in the postwar situation in Europe either 
by a revolution or by a shift in the alliances. He did not want to em- 
barrass France in the least. He told Pierre Laval on the occasion of 
that politicians visit to Moscow in 1935, to pass word to the French 
communists that they were to drop their opposition to the passage of 
military budgets in the French parliament, and zealously support any 
French government so long as it pursued a policy of collective security. 
That meant also not to play any revolutionary tricks. 

It goes without saying that the French communists strictly obeyed the 
ukase of the Russian chief. In the days of the Popular Front the com- 
munist party conducted itself with exemplary patriotism. They were in 
fact more nationalistic than the nationalists and outhurrahed them in 
patriotic demonstrations. 

By their correct attitude, or rather by overdoing it, the communists 
nevertheless played into Hitler s hands. The Popular Front frightened 
the Fuehrer. A France so solidly united, militarily so alert, politically so 
unanimous, was not the kind of France that could be run underfoot as 
easily as the Rhineland. The French communists, whom Hitler expected 
to disrupt the political unity by driving for a position of supremacy in the 
Popular Front and ultimately making an attempt to institute a communist 
dictatorship, did the very opposite. They toned down their revolutionary 
propaganda to a minimum and became the advocates of a preventative 
war against Nazi Germany. The communists staged their largest demon- 
strations and mass meetings in cities on the German border, notably in 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 345 

Alsace at Strasbourg, Colmar, at Metz and Troyes and other cities. 

This tactic greatly embarrassed the French cabinet. Blum, Daladier 
Herriot and Paul-Boncour did not want to give the world the impression 
that France was rearing to go to war. They still hoped for a reconciliation 
with Germany and to avoid a European conflict. By their tumultuous 
mass meetings in the German border regions, the communists, however, 
made it look as if France was in an aggressive mood. 

Though the Popular Front alliance was still in tact, the image of a 
solidly united country began to pale. 

Suddenly the King of the Belgians, Leopold III, fearing, as he said, that 
his country in the event of war between Germany and France would 
become the main battlefield, broke off the alliance with France and re- 
verted to a position of neutrality. This move, which was suggested to Leo- 
pold by the British foreign office, was a serious setback for France.* The 
northern borders suddenly lay wide open and the Maginot Line became 
virtually useless if the Germans should follow the same route of invasion 
as in 1914 and 1870; i.e., through Belgium and the Ardennes. 

Before the French high command had time to remedy the situation by 
building up defenses on the Franco-Belgian frontier, Adolf Hitler took 
a step which transferred the world's attention to an entirely different 
arena. A group of Spanish generals, headed by Sanjurjo, rose in revolt 
against the Spanish democratic republic. At first this military revolt was 
looked upon in France as a mere colonial brawl or pronunciamento. It 
soon became evident that Hitler was behind it. At the German embassy 
in Madrid a consignment of 140,000 revolvers from Germany was dis- 
covered. Six Italian bombing planes, carrying ten machine guns each, 
crashed in a storm in French Morocco. They had started from the military 
airdrome in Milan for Spanish Morocco three days before General 
Franco ferried three brigades of Moorish troops across the Straits of 
Gibraltar on July 18, 1936, to the Spanish mainland. 

The world was informed that these patriotic Spanish generals had gone 
to liberate Spain from the communists. The only drawback to this asser- 
tion was that there were no communists to speak of in Spain. In the Cortes 
sat thirteen communist members out of 315 deputies. There was not a 
single communist in the republican cabinet. But this the world didn't 

♦See: Le Roi des Beiges a-t-il trahi? (Was the King of the Belgians a Traitor?), a book 
published by a group of Belgian lawyers after the war. 

346 To Number Our Days 

know. Nor did the world know that Franco and the other leaders of the 
rebellion were men who had been banished from the mainland to the 
colonies for having been implicated in an insurrectionary movement in 
Asturia two years earlier. Any other government would have had them 
shot. The republic asked them to swear an oath of allegiance to the demo- 
cratically elected government of Spain and gave them positions of com- 
mand in the colonies, Canary Islands, Spanish Morocco and Ifni. This 
was their banishment. 

I happened to be touring Palestine, Transjordania, Syria and Egypt 
following my long visit to Ethiopia when word came of the Spanish in- 
surrection. I flew on July 25th from Alexandria to Barcelona in a machine 
piloted by a Belgian who carried a load of what I suspect to have been 
narcotics from Smyrna. I was in agony from the moment I climbed 
aboard this old crate till I set foot in Catalonia. Three times we almost 
touched the water as the one engine conked out and three times as by 
some miracle started up again. 

When we landed in Barcelona the fighting was still going on, though 
the bulk of the 40,000-man garrison had gone over to the loyalist side 
after a three-day battle which cost about 5,000 lives. Only the commanding 
general, Goded, and his staff were still holding out in a tower adjacent 
to the Church of St. Agathe on the Plaza del Key. They fired their machine 
guns into the square and the Calle Tapineria till their last bullet was 
spent. The church was set on fire and the general and his staff were 
smoked out. As they walked from the entrance they were shot down. 
Goded was arrested and later executed. Then the fire brigade appeared 
and the fire was quickly put out. This was the first glimpse I had of the 
so-called Spanish civil war. 

I wanted to go to Madrid where the military revolt had also failed, 
and actually got on a train loaded with milicianos headed for Lerida 
and Saragossa. The train advanced ten kilometers, then turned back to 
Barcelona because unseen snipers took it under fire. On the second try 
we advanced fifteen kilometers and then found that the track had been 
dynamited. We had to wait two days before a crew of railroad workers 
came up from Barcelona to lay some new rails. Then we passed through 
Lerida, but got stuck again at Sietamo which lies a few miles southeast 
of the town of Huesca. In Sietamo a column of milicianos had made a 
halt prior to launching an assault on Huesca. The columns chief was 
Durutti, the president or chairman of the Iberian Anarchist Federation. 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 347 

He had his headquarters in a freight shed on a siding. With him was his 
general staff made up of an English boatswain, Frank Middleton, who 
had jumped ship in Barcelona; Antoine Crespin, a journalist of the 
Parisian newspaper Barrage; and a certain Senor Panjanu, the only one 
of the 49 colonels of the Catalonian garrison who had not joined Goded's 
revolt. There was also a monk in Benedictine garb. He came from the 
great convent of Montserrat and seemed to have taken upon himself 
the role of father confessor to the badly wounded and dying. Father 
Ponchon was his name. He was fighting a war all of his own; for 
Catalonian independence. He told me he hated everything Spanish, 
the language most of all. 

The milicianos, Duruttfs men, carried revolvers. There were about 
2,000 of them, including the batch that came on the train. There were 
perhaps 100 riflemen. On all sides— in the grass, under the hedges and 
pollard willows— lay peasants, some mere children, all waiting for supplies. 
The riflemen had advanced as far as the railway station, but could not 
get beyond. The station was under fire from the town hall and the church 
of Sietamo. Finally a train of flatcars came up from Barcelona. On the 
flatcars stood six cannons which had been removed from the fortress of 
Montjuich. While everybody got busy unloading the cannons, three 
planes came overhead and dropped bombs on the railway tracks and in 
the orchards. Some of the bombs must have been of the incendiary type. 
They set a wheat field on fire and a few barns. Everybody got up to 
look at the planes. Machine-gun bullets from the airplanes pecked away 
at the plaster walls of the cottages. One pursuit plane veered around 
and almost touched the roofs of the houses. It flew so low that I could 
see the observer swing his machine gun around. 

I said to the monk: "If he comes again, you can drop him with your 
rifles. . . . Someone is bound to hit the gasoline tank if you give him a 

"Sure we could," came the answer, "only we have no cartridges. . . * 

No cartridges, no medical supplies, no blankets, exactly two hundred 
old shells for the antiquated cannons. The airman flew overhead again 
and sprayed his bullets. The monk pulled my sleeve and made me lie 
down with him under an umbrella tree. 

Six hours at least elapsed before the cannons were unloaded. They 
were placed in position to fire at the tower of Sietamo. After a dozen 
misses the cannons found the range and were knocking off chunks of 

348 To Number Our Days 

masonry from the church's roof and belfry. Smoke puffs were issuing 
from the church. But nobody dared to go beyond the station where the 
snipers were still busy. They had been reinforced with machine guns. 
Some peasants were carrying the bodies of the snipers' victims past us 
and laid them under the trees. 

An armored train rattled up. The engineer and fireman jumped off the 
locomotive. About twenty milicianos followed them. 

"What do you bring us?" asked Durutti. 

"A hundred rifles and a supply of shells for the artillery.*' 

"That's enough to take Sietamo. We have to be quick though. There may 

be reinforcements for the Whites from Saragossa Unless our people 

have won out over there. ..." 

The body of a boy lay slumped against the first house past the railway 
station. The top of his head was missing. His mouth was stuffed with bread. 
Death had caught him in the act of eating. In his hand he held the rest of 
the loaf. The bread was soaking up the blood that trickled from his head. 

Suddenly a tank came lumbering towards us. It crunched over the 
strands of barbed wire stretching across the street. Colonel Panjanu or- 
dered me into a rail guard's cabin. After five minutes a miliciano told me 
to come out. "It's all right. That tank is one of ours. Some peasants captured 

Everybody crowded about the tank to look it over. The young man who 
drove it over was being questioned by Durutti and Panjanu. The colonel 
climbed on top and tumbled inside, leaving the lid open. Presently he re- 
appeared and began handing out jute sacks containing hand grenades. 

Durutti smiled: "Well soon have as much ammunition as Sanjurjo ," he 

"Sanjurjo is dead," I said. 

"How d'you know?" 

"I heard it over the radio in Barcelona Mola and Franco have taken 

over " 

We were now in the main street of Sietamo. "Better walk close to the 
walls of the houses," said the colonel. "Get into that doorway, they're snip- 
ing. There are snipers even on the roof of this house where we are 

We stood in the hallway of a small apartment house. Colonel Panjanu 
drew his revolver and fired a few shots at the machine gunners on the 
roof of the house across the street. 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 349 

"What do you want to do, commit suicide?" I asked. 

He laughed and pulled me back further into the hall. "I am giving 
Durutti a signal where I can be found." As he spoke a spray of bullets from 
the roof ripped into the fagade of the apartment house. Firing was going 
on in all directions. We could see milicianos run along the street hugging 
the walls of the houses. I saw one miliciano who seemed to stumble like a 
little boy who stubs his toe. His rifle flew forward and clattered on the 
cobblestones. As he fell his body was riddled with bullets. I sat down on 
my leather satchel to smoke a pipe. Colonel Panjanu moved cautiously up 
to the street door, threw it open and then hastily retreated into the back 
of the hall. 

In the same instant the body of a soldier in uniform plopped into the 
street right in front of us. It was followed by a second and a third. 

Panjanu said: "Our roof is being cleaned up. We'll soon be able to go 

"Surely not till the roof across the street is cleared." 

"It'll be done in a minute. Take a look!" 

I saw a soldier lying on the edge of the roof quietly emptying the drum 
of his mitraillette into the street below. Suddenly a miliciano's head ap- 
peared behind him. The soldier turned sharply and fired at the miliciano 
and brought him down. In his fall the miliciano grabbed the soldier and 
both rolled off the edge of the roof. Their bodies locked together came 
down with a smack in the street. A man wearing a slouch cap and slippers 
quietly picked up the mitraillette. In less than a minute it was spitting fire 
in the direction of the central square where the church stood. 

Darkness came. Some houses in the square were on fire. The reflection 
of the flames through the clouds of thick smoke gave the scene a lurid, 
lugubrious aspect. Dark figures dashed to and fro at the spot where the 
street ended in the square. Only the captured tank ventured into the bullet- 
swept area to reconnoiter. It did not return. It stood burning and sending 
up thick clouds of black smoke just below the balcony which ran along the 
fagade of the church. From all sides the milicianos converged on the 
medieval building with its massive walls, buttresses and counterforts. They 
fired blindly at the windows and porticos. Short wicked-looking tongues of 
flame leaped in answer from the sound holes in the tower and the belfry. 
A half dozen machine guns fired in our direction from between the pillars 
of the balcony. 

Milicianos were dragging up two of the cannons of Montjuich. 

350 To Number Our Days 

"Why only two?" shouted Durutti. 

"We have only two shells lef tl" 

"Well, fire away, hit the balcony!" 

The balcony wasn't hit, but its machine guns killed several milicianos. 

"We'd better wait till dawn," Durutti said to the colonel. "Then well 
try the hand grenades. We must dislodge the Whites. Reinforcements for 
them may be here any minute." 

"That all depends," came back Panjanu. "The reinforcements may well 
come to us. If our people won out in Huesca, the victors will come to help 
us out." 

The firing kept up all night. By the first streaks of dawn the hand gre- 
nades were distributed. They were of German manufacture, round tin 
boxes fastened to wooden handles. But the hand grenades did not reach 
the balcony. Those who pitched them did it awkwardly. Some men hurt 
themselves by letting go too abruptly. 

"Well have to rush the square," said Durutti. 

"It'll cost us a thousand men," objected Panjanu. 

"What are you talking about, we haven't a thousand armed men here, 
all told...." 

I was showing a crowd of milicianos how to toss a ball of clay without 
causing a shock to themselves when a terrific explosion occurred in the 
square. All my pupils deserted me in a flash. Some men had rushed across 
the square and flung packs of dynamite sticks at the balcony. Two or 
three packages landed inside the balcony which came crashing down in 
chunks on the flagstones of the parvis in front of the church. An instant 
later a white flag waved from one of the louvers of the tower. A thick 
column of smoke issued from the bell loft. The Fascists in the bell tower 
were roasting to death. Those in the church came out with their hands up. 

While the church flamed, the milicianos went around the rear and forced 
the municipal building in the same way as the church had been taken, by 
dynamite. Then a horrible discovery was made. When the last defenders 
came out, milicianos searched the building and found in the dank cellars 
the bodies of the hostages, the labor leaders and the liberals of the com- 
munity. They lay in pools of fresh blood. The clots of brains adhering to 
the mildewed walls showed that they had been shot at close range. 

Towards sundown the Fascist prisoners were led by. They were all 
soldiers, several officers amongst them. On the west side of the church they 
were halted and placed against the wall. A crowd of spectators gathered, 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 351 

women and children amongst them. Father Ponchon went along the line of 
prisoners with a crucifix in his hand. Each of the prisoners kissed the cruci- 
fix. Then Durutti appeared on the scene. 

"Down with your rifles!" he shouted to the milicianos who were about to 
shoot the prisoners. "They executed our companeros, you say? Does that 
mean that we have to do the same thing? . . . These prisoners are going to 
Barcelona or Huesca for trial. They are human even if they behaved like 
swine. . . . " 

As the prisoners were led away, five airplanes zoomed overhead. After 
letting go their bombs a series of terrific explosions followed. I went to the 
quarter where the first bombs had fallen. Several houses had collapsed. 
Milicianos set about digging out the dead and injured whose cries could 
be heard from under the pulverized and smoking masonry and smashed 
beams. I saw a little girl and a woman brought out, both badly hurt. From 
the side of the square came rifle shots again. The milicianos were executing 
the prisoners after all. The friar, still holding the crucifix in his hands, sat 
crying on an upturned munitions box. 

The journey to Madrid took eleven days. I moved by fits and starts— a 
few miles by rail, sometimes a lift on a truck— but most of the distance I 
covered on foot. It was August and the roads had turned into heaps of 
suffocating powdery dust, the color of ocher. My clothes, my hair and face 
were covered with a layer of coppery dust. At nights mist came up in 
clouds from the west. At daylight the gloom of night was replaced 
with deceptive illuminated vapors and drifting fog in which it was difficult 
to gauge one's progress. I slept in village inns, sometimes in a bed, more 
often on a wooden bench or even a table. The bread I ate was hard and 
stale and smelt of the dust on the roads. The wine tasted as if it had been 
mixed with iron. Only in one village, Taro, did I see any liveliness, a few 
guitars played by old men sitting under a wooden awning in front of a 
tavern. Three or four girls danced as about a hundred people looked on, 
solemnly and reverently as if watching a religious ceremony. There was 
also some singing. 

While watching the dancers, I sat inside the inn all alone except for a 
very beautiful girl who set before me an excellent meal of bean soup, veg- 
etables, bread and a flask of wine. She went in and out of the room to dis- 
cuss whatever it was she discussed with an ancient character with a hard, 
knotted face, her father or grandfather, I imagine. For dessert she brought 
me some sausages which I declined. Instead she brought me some coffee 

352 To Number Our Days 

and a little cheese. My request for a room and bed produced a minor 
sensation under the awning. After deliberating with the ancient one, the 
girl returned to ask if I was a Christian. When I said yes, she went into the 
kitchen to fetch an enormous fat female who lit a candle, took me upstairs 
and showed me a room with a large upholstered bed with a baldaquin. 
The only other piece of furniture in that chamber was a prie-dieu. On the 
wall hung a colored picture of the Virgin adorned with a golden aureole 
and a blue dress. A large bleeding heart transfixed by a sword hung by a 
cord around her neck. 

"Nuestra Senora," said the woman pointing to the picture. 

"Si," I said, "gratia plena et benedicta inter mulieres" My words brought 
a satisfied smile to the fat lady's face, the first smile I had seen in a month. 

At a small third-rate hotel in Madrid not far from the Calle de Toledo I 
cleaned up and then went in search of Dr. Gerhard Fliedler, the Swiss pas- 
tor of the Reformed church, who acted as a sort of co-ordinator of various 
Protestant missions to Spain. He praised the republican government for 
having established freedom of religion and told me the astonishing news 
that since the establishment of the republic in 1931, the various Protestant 
denominations had won nearly 100,000 converts and opened eighty 
churches or chapels. They had even started a joint theological school for 
the training of ministers. 

"The rebellion is over," said Fliedler. "We had some days of anxiety, but 
the fact that the people swiftly overcame the rebel garrison is indication 
enough that the republic will be victorious all along the line." Madrid, he 
said, was the heart and center of the military conspiracy and the rebellion's 
most formidable threat. The provinces were a mere side show where mop- 
ping-up operations were now in progress. 

Two days later Dr. Fliedler introduced me to Don Miguel Azaiia, 
president of the Council of Ministers, who in turn sent me to Indalecio 
Prieto and Largo Caballero, the leaders of the Frente Popular. 

"Catalonia is entirely liberated," said Caballero. "And Catalonia is the 
crux of the situation. On Catalonia the word-breaking generals pinned 
their highest hopes. For in Catalonia reside twenty-five per cent of the 
entire population of the Spanish peninsula. The province contains fifty 
per cent of the natural resources of Spain and is the center of seventy- 
five per cent of the peninsula's light industry and commerce." 

"But how many troops have the rebels? Where are they now?" 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 353 

"Franco has brought across from Morocco three regiments of the 
Tercio, the foreign legion, and two or three brigades of Moors. We don t 
know exactly where they stand today, though it's quite certain that Franco 
has his headquarters at the moment in Sevilla. We have word that the 
Moors are heading for the Portuguese border line, fanning out through 
the valleys and forests leading towards Badajoz." 

"What about the Spanish navy and air force? Can't they intercept the 
landings in the south?" 

"The fleet lies in the Bay of Biscay ports. The crews are loyal, but 
about half the naval officers have deserted and several cruisers are badly 
damaged by saboteurs. . . . We are afraid that the rebels are under pro- 
tection of Italian naval and aerial units as they cross over to the mainland." 

In Madrid we listened twice a day to the voice of General Queipo de 
Llano, the rebel general stationed in Sevilla, the only large city where the 
rebellion succeeded. The first time I heard him he was telling the world 
that Madrid lay in shambles, all churches destroyed, all priests killed and 
raping parties of Marxists assaulting the nuns in the middle of the streets. 
But, he promised, it wouldn't be for long. Retaliation was under way. 
General Franco, also speaking over the radio, said that even if he had 
to kill off half the population of Spain, he would go through with the 
campaign "to restore traditional Spanish morality and religion." 

When the Tercio and the Moors started their march northward, Queipo 
de Llano speaking on Radio Sevilla, gave the troops some highly moral 
advice: "Rape the women of the Frente Popular wherever you find them, 
rape all you want, and when you have raped them, strangle the bitches." 

Fernandes de los Rios, the foreign minister, soon to go as Spanish 
ambassador to Washington, was the most optimistic of the loyalist leaders. 
He said he had faith that America and especially President Roosevelt 
would not leave the constitutional democratic government of Spain in 
the lurch. Claude Bowers,* the American ambassador to Spain, whom I 
had not seen since 1924 when he was an editorial writer on the Evening 
World, shook his head dolefully as he said: "The rebels have powerful 
friends in the democratic party." 

•In his posthumously published book My Life, Bowers states that the first thing Presi- 
dent Roosevelt said to him when he called at the White House upon his return from 
Spain when Madrid had fallen after a three years' siege: "God, I'm glad you're back. 
. . . We made a big blunder in Spain with our nonintervention policy." Like so many 
others Roosevelt, let me say it charitably, had been the victim of "the big lie." 

354 To Number Our Days 

Bowers was about the only foreign diplomat in Madrid to be a staunch 
sympathizer of the loyalist cause. He called Franco a savage and bar- 
barian, to no avail however. Neither the President, nor Cordell Hull, nor 
Senator Key Pitman, the chairman of the foreign relations committee, 
paid any heed to his ambassadorial dispatches from Spain. 

In the foreign papers still reaching Madrid, I saw that the loyalists 
had on the whole an extremely bad press, even before any large-scale 
battles were fought. In most countries the Roman Catholic Church as- 
sumed the role of propagandist and whitewasher of the rebel cause. There 
were, of course, notable exceptions, especially in France where some 
Dominicans, siding with the loyalists, issued a paper of their own, called 
Sept (Seven). In that paper the rebel generals were flatly accused of 
betraying not only the Spanish republic but "the cause of Christ" in the 
first place. What the rebels and their clerical backers found hardest to 
digest was the fact that the clergy of the Basqueland was solidly on the 
side of the republic. In return, the clerical press accused the Basque 
priests and bishops of being in the service of Stalin. This was a lie. 
Fran§ois Mauriac, the editor of Figaro, and Emmanuel Mounier, founder 
and publisher of the Catholic monthly Esprit, who visited the Basque 
country before it and its people were given over to the savage murdering 
hordes of Franco's Moors, praised the co-operative system of the autono- 
mous Basque republic as "the finest application of the Catholic doctrine 
on labor" as laid down in the encyclical Rerum Novarum. It didn't help; 
the movement was destroyed root and branch when the rebels at last 
reached the provinces on the Bay of Biscay. 

"Why does France always have to wait for Britain to make up her 
mind?" I asked Leon Blum as soon as I reached Paris. "One French army 
corps mobilized on the Spanish border will lift the hearts of the loyalists 
to a pitch of enthusiasm where they will drive the rebels back to the 
Mediterranean shores." 

"Officially we cannot intervene. Britain fears that even a partial mobili- 
zation will involve us in war with Germany and Italy." 

"Without your help the Spanish republic is lostl" 

"My heart bleeds as much as yours for republican Spain. I am daily 
pressing the British government for some decisive action, or merely to 
allow us— that is, France— to take some action that will redress the situa- 
tion for the [loyalist] militia which is now entirely on the defensive. 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 355 

"The British government proposes a policy of nonintervention," he said 
abruptly. "America is going to place an embargo on the shipment of arms 
to both sides in the Spanish civil war." 

"But it isn't a civil war any more, the German Kondor Legion and the 
Italian Blue Division are actually fighting in the Guadarramas. They have 
received some hard blows, but reinforcements are constantly pouring in." 

"But Russia is supporting the republic. This makes it awkward for us." 

"I don't know how much munitions Russia has sent to Spain. But there 
are no Russian troops in Spain, of that I am sure. An embargo on arms 
would be an obscene farce. This wouldn't affect either Italy or Germany. 
If the American government puts through that measure it means that the 
American government has opted for Franco." 

"I don't think you ought to say this; the American people certainly are 
not for the rebels The American President is under terrific pressure." 

"By whom?" 

"By the Vatican and the American Catholic hierarchy. The Catholic 
clergy is screaming blue murder. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pacelli, 
has paid a personal visit to Mr. Roosevelt at his country house in Hyde 

Park. That some deal was pulled off, you may be sure In return for 

Catholic support in domestic affairs, the President has been maneuvered 
into betraying democracy in Spain. ..." 

The only member of the French cabinet to adopt a fearless, unequivocal 
pro-loyalist attitude was Pierre Cot. He was the minister of aviation. He 
insisted that France was honorbound to make delivery of some 50 fast 
pursuit planes which had been ordered, contracted and paid for prior to 
the Franco rebellion. The delivery was held up on one excuse or other. 
The Fascists, Croix de Feu and Parti Populaire had stationed observers 
and guards around airplane factories and on the airfield at Villacoublay, 
to watch for shipments going out to Spain. About half the planes reached 
Spain nevertheless. The other half was destroyed en route by saboteurs 
in and outside the French air force. 

At nights I attended mass meetings of the workers of Paris and suburbs. 
I was one of the speakers with Romain Rolland, Paul Langevin and Leon 
Jouhaux at a rally in the Velodrome d'Hiver where the audience of thirty 
to forty thousand rose to clamor for des avions pour VEspagne. In St. Denis 
where Jacques Doriot had been mayor and still resided, the audience 
marched through the streets after the meeting shouting for aid to Spain. 
The same thing happened in Aubervilliers where Pierre Laval was mayor. 

356 To Number Our Days 

In the Salle Wagram I followed two Catholic speakers on the rostrum. 
I spoke of nothing but of what I had personally witnessed in Spain. At the 
same time I warned that if Hitler and Mussolini were victorious in Spain, 
the French people would forever regret not to have gone to the aid of 
the Spanish republic. In the Chamber of Deputies I listened to the debate 
on a motion to forbid the passage through France of foreign volunteers. 
Pierre Cot argued that France could not prevent the debarkation of for- 
eigners in France if they came as tourists, nor keep them from passing on 
to Spain. The men who went to join the International Brigade and its 
American sector, the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, had gone to Spain 

"Monsieur le President" interrupted the rightist deputy, Tixier-Vignan- 
cour,* 'let them go to Spain, accord them free passage. . . . The quicker 
they get to Spain, the quicker Franco will kill them off and save us the 
trouble later " 

The Chamber's session broke up in a brawl. Deputies streamed into the 
antechambers, pummeled each other and the ushers till la Salle des Pas 
Perdus looked like a battlefield. 

On my last visit to Spain Dr. Fliedler gave me a list of Protestant pastors 
and lay preachers who had been done to death by Franco's men. "The 
first thing the rebels do after taking a town or village," said Fliedler, "is to 
look for the Protestant chapel or meeting house, set it on fire and round up 
the members of the congregation and shoot them out of hand " 

The dispatch of this list of Protestant martyrs to Dr. Francis McConnell, 
the bishop of the Methodist Church in New York, was the end of my 
career as a newspaperman. The American bishop published the list and 
the sources of my information. Every incident had been scrupulously 
verified. Nobody denied the accuracy of my information, but such a flood 
of letters from all over the continent reached the desks of the Toronto 
Star and its dozen associated newspapers that the editors gave up the 
struggle. A radio priest in Toronto delivered a daily blast at me. I didn't 
hear him, I was too far away. Only after the civil war did I learn that I 
had been designated as a card-carrying communist, an anarchist and 
atheist. My hatred of the Catholic Church was said to pass all bounds. 
For the sake of Bolshevik gold I was said to be slandering the Catholic 

♦This is the same man who defended Roger Salan, the leader of the O.A.S. at his trial 
in the spring of 1962 and got him off with a life sentence where everybody, including 
De Gaulle, had expected the death penalty. 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 357 

clergy of Spain and trying to sow dissension between Catholics and 
Protestants in America, Timbuktu and other places en route. The Star 
discontinued printing my dispatches, but never dared inform me for 
what reason, till one day its circulation manager informed me that my 
articles had been bad for business. Elmer Balmer and Valdemar Vetluguin, 
the editors of Redbook magazine, showed me later how it's done: "Just 
send letters to the editor, like this pile in front of you, smearing the 
correspondent, and there's no publisher in America who can resist the 

In February, 1938, everybody in Paris knew that Adolf Hitler was 
getting ready to march into Austria and annex that country to the Reich. 
The leaders of the Austrian Nazis amongst whom was the infamous 
Arthur Seiss-Inquart, the later Nazi governor general of the Netherlands, 
assured the Fuehrer that the time was ripe at last and that there would 
be little if any opposition at all to the incorporation of the Austrian re- 
public in the Greater German Reich. They were not wrong: the occupation 
of Austria came about without a hitch, except that the Nazi army showed 
some serious deficiencies in the quality of its equipment, especially the 
tanks and armored materiel. It was definitely proven to be of inferior 

At that time the French capital swarmed with German agents, most of 
them businessmen and Vertrauensmaenner, confidential agents, for Ger- 
man armament firms such as I. G. Farben, Rheinmetall and Vulkan with 
whom the French government would have made short shrift were it not for 
the fact that they were hobnobbing with French industrialists and bankers 
who were practically unanimous by now that Hitler's final aim, the 
elimination of the Russian menace, was in the interest of the civilized 
advance of mankind; that is to say, the pocketbooks of the armament 
manufacturers. General Hans Speidel was military attach^ at the German 
embassy in Paris. He knew day by day and hour by hour what was being 
discussed and planned in the French high command. Otto von Abetz, 
a high-ranking Nazi, served as the Fuehrer's personal representative. His 
main task seemed to consist in giving parties and receptions at the German 
embassy and in acting gemuetlich in fostering Franco-German friendship 
and understanding for Hitler's real purpose in bringing peace to Europe. 
Abetz bought up journalists, writers, newspapers, news agencies and other 
media of communication, paying enormous sums of money to spread "the 

358 To Number Our Days 

big lie." One famous French writer I know made a million dollars writing 
a series of novels with a pro-Nazi slant. Abetz bought the German rights 
for these publications. 

Czechoslovakia was next on the Fuehrer s list of conquests and Czecho- 
slovakia was a full-fledged ally of France. From Jan Masaryk, then 
Czechoslovakia's roving ambassador, I learned that Prague was growing 
uneasy, not only about the occupation of Austria, but chiefly about certain 
incidents in the German general staff. The chief of the German general 
staff, General von Metzsch, and some of his colleagues had warned the 
Fuehrer in March, 1938, that even though the army was ready and the 
war stocks sufficient, he could not expect successfully to fight Czecho- 
slovakia, plus France, plus the Soviet Union and possibly Britain and 
Poland. His commanders gravely warned the Fuehrer against "the pos- 
sibility of commotions in the German soul": far too many Germans lived 
in dread of a new war which, if again fought on two fronts, might lead to a 
military debacle worse that that of 1918. 

The officers who took it upon themselves to impress "caution and delay" 
on Hitler were immediately dismissed from the service. But the chief 
of the French general staff, Maurice Gamelin, was himself disquieted to 
a point where he, accompanied by eighteen staff officers, made a tour of 
inspection of the military installations of Czechoslovakia and Poland. 
Upon his return to Paris, Gamelin submitted a "technical report" to the 
Supreme War Council and, of course, to the French government. In this 
report he stated that there was no other way out of the difficulties but 
to declare war on Germany and march into the Reich together with 
Czechoslovakia. The French army was to cross southern Germany while 
Czechoslovakia's forty divisions were to come south and make a juncture 
with the French at Munich in Bavaria. Bavaria was to be detached from 
the Reich and united with Austria under the crown of "His Catholic 
Majesty," Otto von Hapsburg. The first effect of this military move, in 
Gamelin s opinion, would be the withdrawal of the German and Italian 
air force and troops from Spain and thus put an end to Franco's march 
of conquest. 

The new French foreign minister, Georges Bonnet, whom Daladier 
had brought from Washington where he served as ambassador, immedi- 
ately informed the British government of Gamelin's proposed armed 
intervention, while Maxim Litvinov, the Soviet commissar for foreign 
affairs, notified Prague that in the event of a German violation of the 

7 Saw the Triumph of Evil 359 

Czech borders, Russia would throw her entire air force against Germany. 

Hitler was blocked. To march against Czechoslovakia under these 
circumstances would be more than hazardous; it would be foolhardy. The 
Fuehrer had to get help. But where would he get it? It looked as if the 
whole world was against him. A still greater danger threatened: if Hitler 
got into difficulties or should fall from power, what further use would be 
the armament campaigns? All the national economies would suffer per- 
haps irreparable damage. 

Herr Hitler had more friends in Europe than he counted on. The most 
influential opinion molders in the British press suddenly veered against 
Czechoslovakia. The famous J. L. Garvin, editor of the Observer,* de- 
nounced Czechoslovakia as "a robber state." Arnold J. Toynbee, the later 
author of A Study of History, then an official of the Royal Institute, wrote 
in the Economist that the Henlein Germans (the Germans inhabiting the 
Sudeten area of Czechoslovakia), who had raised the cry of "Home into 
the Reich," were decent patriots. It was the Czech State which oppressed 
and robbed them of their rights. At the same time the arch-appeaser, 
Lord Halifax, who was foreign secretary, busied himself in eliminating 
criticism of Hitler from the British press. Lord Lothian, the former Philip 
Kerr, onetime secretary to Lloyd George and later ambassador to Wash- 
ington, joined the influential Rothermere press in expressing "nothing but 
contempt" for the Czechoslovaks democracy. Czechoslovakia "was an 
impossible caricature of statehood."** The Germans, he held were right 
in aiming at a Teutonic Mittel Europa; that is, establish a hegemony over 
Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Rumania, Poland and Hungary, lest these 
states place themselves under Russian protection and thus increase the 
Soviet power. Britain, so ran the argument of the pro-Germans in the 
British press and the foreign office and its affiliates, should side with 
Germany and not back France and Russia in their "policy of Germany's 

Evidence of American support for Hitler's program of conquest of the 
Soviet Union came to light when in December, 1936, William C. Bullitt 
arrived from Moscow where he had been U. S. ambassador, to take up a 
similar position in Paris. Bullitt, an ex-newspaperman, one of the first, 
with John Reed and Lincoln Steffens, to report from Russia, was thought 
to be friendly disposed towards the Soviet Union. After his first tour of 

*Observer, February, 22, 1938. 
**Engtan&$ Schatten Ueber Europa (England's Shadow over Europe) by Klaus Buehler. 

360 To Number Our Days 

observation, on which President Wilson had sent him, he and Steffens 
returned to America to tell Herbert B. Swope, the managing editor of the 
New York World: 'We have seen the future; it works!" 

Appointed to the post of ambassador to the U.S.S.R. by Roosevelt, he 
soon came to be known as a supporter of isolationist big business interests. 
But nobody, I dare say, expected so complete a turnabout in his views on 
international affairs as became evident from the press conferences he 
gave on arrival in Paris. Mr. Bullitt made no bones about it that he favored 
an alliance between France, Britain and Germany— under American 
leadership— to wage war against Russia. 

His sponsor in America was not President Roosevelt, but the assistant 
secretary of state, Sumner Wells, who often pursued a foreign policy 
diametrically at variance with that of his chief. Bullitt was supported in 
Europe by the appointment of Joseph P. Kennedy as U. S. ambassador 
to London and the removal from the Berlin post of William E. Dodd, an 
anti-Fascist liberal professor from Princeton. 

At one of his press conferences, to which Robert Murphy invited me, 
Bullitt sharply criticized the collaboration of France, Britain and the 
Balkan states for the maintenance of peace. He predicted the rapid 
conquest of Czechoslovakia and Austria by Hitler. Czechoslovakia, he 
intimated, was the great obstacle in the way to a German march against 
the Soviet Union. 

Never were the French so disillusioned and confused. Nobody knew 
what or whom to believe. In order to throw sand in the world's eyes, the 
Germans talked peace while Americans of great influence were urging 
a speedy breakup of Franco-Soviet friendship even if such a course clearly 
pointed to war. In this atmosphere of doubt, confusion and contradictory 
circumstances, the Popular Front lost its strong cohesive force and 
gradually broke up without any decree or dissolution having been pro- 
nounced. The left was in power, but the right, with powerful foreign 
influences at its side, ruled the roost. Blum was fully aware of the danger 
France ran while the Popular Front disintegrated. Daladier was a broken 
man because of the cruel suffering and death of his wife which occurred 
at the height of the Munich crisis. 

In April, 1938, the Goebbels press accused the Czechoslovaldan re- 
public of having become "an aircraft carrier for Russian bombers." Czecho- 
slovakia, it reported again and again, swarmed with Russian planes. The 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 361 

Czech government not only denied these false statements, Dr. Benes 
formally asked the British government to send a mission of experts to 
investigate Goebbels' charges. Great Britain refused the request. So 
Goebbels went ahead propagating this part of "the big lie." 

Hitler took advantage of the wavering political situation in Europe 
during the summer of 1938 by beginning the construction of a new 
Siegfried Line. One million men were set to work night and day to build 
an uninterrupted line of fortifications right opposite the Maginot Line 
inside German territory. This showed that someone had informed the 
Fuehrer of the existence of General Gamelin s "technical plan." The 
invasion of South Germany by a French army became, if not impracticable, 
then at least fraught with extreme hazard from that moment onward. 
France was completely isolated and bottled up within her own defense 
works. Czechoslovakia stood alone in Central Europe, for Poland de- 
clared at the League of Nations in Geneva that she would not permit 
a Russian army to go to the aid of Prague, nor allow Red planes to fly 
over her territory. 

In September, 1938, the Great Powers, England and France, pulled 
off the greatest mystification of modern times. For ten days the world 
stood still. Europe was made to appear as hovering on the brink of 
catastrophe. Czechoslovakia mobilized. A million men poured into the 
Maginot Line. The civil population was evacuated from Strasbourg and 
the rural regions of Alsace. The British navy took up its wartime position 
at Skagerrak. Stock exchanges suspended operations. London and Paris 
were blacked out. In British and French ports, Southampton, Liverpool, 
Le Havre and St. Nazaire, all traffic came to a halt, except naval prepa- 
rations. Not a sound was heard save the crackle of the transatlantic radio 
broadcasts which grew more ominous as the hours ticked away. One hasty 
careless move by a diplomat, it seemed, or a random shot fired by an 
excited peasant soldier on those borders now bristling with guns, and the 
continent would be aflame, great cities crumble. 

Then the show was suddenly called off; Czechoslovakia surrendered. 
Dr. Eduard Benes of Czechoslovakia had been "persuaded" by Chamber- 
lain s emissaries, Lords Halifax and Runciman, that it would be in the 
interest of world peace to hand over the Sudeten areas to Hitler. He, 
Benes, would be the saviour of the world, the man who made a great 
sacrifice to prevent the outbreak of the Second World War. Generations 
to come would bless his name. 

362 To Number Our Days 

Did it go as easy as all that? No, Dr. Benes wanted to resist. He counted 
on the Gamelin plan. But the Gamelin plan was already discarded by 
P&ain and Weygand on the ground- that an invasion of South Germany 
had become impracticable by reason of the construction of a line of 
German forts right opposite the Maginot Line. 

France and Britain reinforced their suggestion to give up the Sudeten 
area to Hitler with an ultimatum: if Czechoslovakia should be so bold 
as to defend herself against the Nazi legions standing at the borders and 
thus unleash war, she must not, she was told, expect any help from France 
or Britain. If Czechoslovakia should in desperation call on the Soviet 
Union for help, France and Britain would "take a serious view" of such 
action; in other words, France and Britain might give Hitler carte blanche 
to take over the whole of Czechoslovakia's territory and not merely the 
Sudeten areas. 

It was under these circumstances that Benes gave in. He was confronted 
with an ultimatum. Europe's "model democracy," Czechoslovakia, was 
betrayed by its staunchest friends, the two chief democracies of Europe, 
France and Britain. After concluding a naval pact with the Fuehrer in 
1935, and handing him the Rhineland on a silver platter, Britain and 
France now presented Hitler with the nigh impregnable line of Bohemian 
fortresses in addition to the armament and equipment of forty Czech 
divisions and the greatest munition plant of Europe, the Czech cannon 
factories of Skoda. It was quite a performance for an England which was 
supposed to be asleep. Hitler got what he wanted without firing a shot 
and all Germany sang "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" while acclaiming 
Adolf "the greatest military genius of all times." Chamberlain assured the 
world that the cession of the Sudeten areas meant "peace in our time." 
Six months later, on March 15, 1939, Hitler broke his pledge to Cham- 
berlain and Daladier that he had no further territorial ambitions in Europe. 
He gave orders to occupy the rest of the Czechoslovak land. 

The greatest debacle of modern times: the fall of France from the 
position of a first-class power was now only a matter of time. This would 
not have happened had not the Franco-Soviet pact been destroyed first. 
And the Franco-Soviet pact would not have been destroyed, had the 
government of the Popular Front not been eliminated first of all. Without 
the bastion of Czechoslovakia, which could have served as a bridge be- 
tween France and the Soviet Union— a bridge from which the Russian air 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 363 

fleet could have bombed Germany's Ruhr industries— France could no 
longer be successfully defended except in the framework of the security 
pact she had with Russia. Repeatedly Moscow drew France's attention to 
the dangerous situation. German pressure on Poland was increasing in the 
early months and spring of 1939. Russia saw what was coming. 

What could the Soviet government do? To remain faithful to the 
Franco-Soviet pact after Munich was to invite a German attack on France. 
Winston Churchill, who was not a member of the cabinet at the end of 
1938 and the beginning of 1939, urged the implementation of the existing 
pacts with a military accord with Russia on the part of both Britain and 

In June, 1939, Moscow asked the French government very insistently to 
take her agreements seriously and negotiate an immediate military accord. 
France accepted on condition that Britain participate in the negotiations. 
Britain accepted too, but with visible reluctance. Interminable notes passed 
between Moscow, Paris, Warsaw and London, but no accord was con- 
cluded. At last, in July, France and Britain consented to send a military 
mission to Russia. To show his contempt for the Soviet Union, foreign 
minister Pierre Flandin ordered the French mission to proceed to Britain 
first and from there slowly to Moscow. When the negotiators arrived 
they informed the Russians that they had not the power to make binding 
agreements, but merely exchange information. When the time came for a 
frank discussion of war plans, the Russian general staff realized with 
stupefaction that the French and British representatives either had no such 
plans or were concealing them. After this experience, and with Hitler's 
attack on Poland imminent, the Soviet government could choose only 
between being attacked under the worst possible conditions or signing a 
Russian-German nonaggression pact. 

Great was the indignation in the world when the Ribbentrop-Molotov 
pact came into existence. Chamberlain called it "monstrous," American 
"liberals" denounced it as a "criminal conspiracy." It was neither the 
one nor the other. Closely informed by Pierre Cot, the chairman of the 
Vigilance Committee which had expanded into an International Com- 
mittee to Prevent War (of which I was one of the first members), I knew 
how tirelessly M. Coulondre, the French ambassador to Berlin, and M. 
Suvitz, the Soviet ambassador to France, had worked to bring France and 
Russia together into a military accord. 

The fact remains that the Soviet government did warn the French of 

364 To Number Our Days 

the danger they were running. The Russians recognized Hitlers trap. 
When they could get no assurance from France, they realized that they 
must face the German attack alone. Since they were far from being pre- 
pared to withstand such an eventuality, they hastily concluded the non- 
aggression pact with Germany which Ribbentrop offered them. Thus the 
isolation of France was complete. Hitler struck at Poland and the Soviets, 
deeming it wiser to follow the age-old advice "If you can't lick 'em, 
join 'em," decided to meet the Germans halfway. They occupied the 
eastern part of Poland. 

But when Poland was attacked by Hitler, Britain sacked Chamberlain 
and Halifax, the apostles of appeasement, and called Winston Churchill 
and Anthony Eden to the direction of national affairs. Britain and France 
did what they long before should have done, they declared war on 
Germany. But they did not attack. Britain and France with 110 divisions 
mobilized looked on while Germany with 25 divisions slaughtered Poland. 
At the Nuremberg trials General Jodl testified: "If France and Britain had 
struck at us in September, 1939, Germany would have lost the war five 
years earlier. ..." 

A British expeditionary force landed in France. The British air force 
dominated the sky above France. For a time it looked as if nothing more 
serious would follow. Then Hitler struck again, first at Denmark and 
Norway, then at the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and France itself. 
Gamelin could not prevent a break-through. The new methods of tank 
warfare, worked out by Colonel Charles de Gaulle, were applied by. . . 
the Germans. P6tain had given it as his opinion that neither tanks nor 
airplanes would play an important role in any future war. Instead of 
sending all available tanks to the front, General Weygand, who pre- 
ferred fighting the workers of France to resisting the Nazis, distributed 
the tanks over the whole French territory to prevent an imaginary com- 
munist uprising. 

All the German generals were young men who had worked out methods 
of co-ordination between tanks, aviation and anti-aircraft. The French army 
was under command of elderly, not to say antiquated, commanders who 
thought in terms of conditions prevailing in the 1914-1918 conflict. The 
Rhine and Meuse bridges were not blown up. The Maginot Line garrison 
was withdrawn, but, instead of being sent up north to face the Germans 
pouring into Belgium, was directed to the Riviera and the Gironde. 

When the Germans struck and the front line was pierced, and the 

I Saw the Triumph of Evil 365 

British army under Field Marshal Gort withdrew towards Dunkirk, the 
French government moved from Paris to Tours and then to Bordeaux. 
Gamelin was replaced by Weygand as commander in chief. 

Winston Churchill appeared in Bordeaux to suggest a merger of the two 
countries, Britain and France, under one single government. "If the French 
army is defeated, Britain will still be unconquered. . . . We will regroup 
our forces either in Brittany or North Africa " 

Weygand sneered at Churchill: "Non, Monsieur Churchill, France is 
not ready yet to surrender to Britain. . . . What we need is an immediate 
armistice with the Germans. ..." 

"General," interjected Georges Mandel, the chief of personnel at the 
Ministry of the Interior, "General, why an armistice? The greatest part of 
the French army has not been engaged. Nothing is lost." 

"Paris is lost already," said Weygand. "The communists have taken 
over " 

Georges Mandel interrupted again: "General Weygand, I just spoke by 
telephone to the police prefect in Paris. He assures me that everything is 
quiet in Paris. Paris will not be defended. It has been declared an open 
city. ..." 

"Monsieur Mandel, I say that the communists are taking over. There 
is a revolution in Paris at this very moment." 

"General, let me call the prefect once morel" 

"Would you dare to question the word of a French officer?" 

"I do question the accuracy of the statement you just made. ..." 

Jeroboam Rothschild Mandel (Georges Mandel for short), three times 
Minister of the Interior and Clemenceau's most intimate collaborator, was 
imprisoned in a German concentration camp till 1944. When brought back 
to France he was turned over to Petain's militia who assassinated him at 
Fontainebleau. In the eyes of the Fascists it was tantamount to crime to 
want to defend France against so nobly intentioned a gentleman as Adolf 
Hitler. "The big He" triumphed all along the line. 

In the very last hour before the outbreak of the war, the Chamberlain 
government sought to persuade Poland to make up with Hitler by ceding 
the Danzig Corridor, as Czechoslovakia had ceded the Sudeten areas. 
Poland did not refuse to negotiate, but Hitler was in a hurry now. The 
Fuehrer ordered a number of prisoners from concentration camps dressed 
up in Polish uniforms, and sent them to attack the border radio station 

366 To Number Our Days 

of Gleiwitz. They destroyed the station with bombs and blew up a nearby 
bridge at Dirschau. 

These two faked incidents of aggression were sufficient warrant for 
Adolf Hitler to launch his attack on Poland.* When Britain called upon 
the Reich to desist from invading Poland, Hitler lied: "Germany did not 
attack Poland; Poland attacked Germany." 

In a somewhat similar way the Germans went about destroying Rotter- 
dam. At the Nuremberg trials, Air Marshal Hermann Goering disclosed 
under questioning the reason for his having given the order to bomb the 
city of Rotterdam (causing 100,000 civilian casualties) at three o'clock 
on the afternoon of May 14, 1940, when a Dutch officer five hours earlier 
had gone into the German lines to arrange for the capitulation of the 
Netherlands' army. 

"I sent the Luftwaffe to bomb Rotterdam," said Goering, "because I had 
information that on May tenth, ten Dutch planes threw bombs on the 
German city of Freiburg." 

Freiburg certainly was bombed, but not by Dutch planes. Freiburg 
was bombed by Squadron 51, the so-called Edelweiss (Lions Foot) 
Squadron, commanded by Josef Kammhuber. In other words, German 
bombers killed German people to furnish Hitler with the excuse to destroy 
Rotterdam in what he called retaliation for Freiburg. 

The commander of the Edelweiss Squadron was in 1954 appointed chief 
of the new German air force by Konrad Adenauer. 

That the Fuehrer did not march straight to Moscow in 1939, as was his 
intention all along, must be attributed to his fear of France where there 
might be a last minute return to the Popular Front policies, collective 
security and the Franco-Soviet pact. It would have meant another war 
on two fronts, the contingency the German general staff dreaded most. 
When France was eliminated in 1940 and Churchill, contrary to Hitler's 
expectation, did not sue for peace, the Fuehrer attacked Russia in 1941, 
and thus had his war on two fronts anyway. And that was his downfall! 

•Testimony of German General Erwin Lahousen at Nuremberg Trials. 


Last Days in France 

Our personal situation in Maisons-Laffitte became downright intolerable 
as the date of the declaration of war approached. We were plagued and 
harassed day and night. Slowly it dawned upon me that someone in the 
political police wanted me out of the way. My friendship with certain 
leaders of the noncommunist left and my work in the interest of the Popu- 
lar Front and the Spanish republican cause had evidently made me an 
"enemy" in the eyes of the rising reaction. One day in the Ministry of the 
Interior I happened to see four cartons filled with clippings of articles 
which I had sent to various periodicals in different countries. Scarcely 
a week passed without my being summoned to appear for questioning 
at the local police station where a squad of tough mobile guards had 
taken over from the regular gendarmerie. Three times our house was 
searched. For what? "Armes blanchesl" explained the inspector. What 
are armes blanches, literally "white arms?" They are bayonets and knives. 
Cutlery in our easel 

A division of Algerian infantry was quartered in Maisons-Laffitte and 
vicinity. As we stood looking on as one of its regiments marched down 
the Avenue Longueil, the main thoroughfare, two carbine-carrying mobile 
guards ordered us begone on pain of being locked up. "Aliens," said one of 

the men, "are forbidden to watch French troop movements " 

"We are not enemy aliens; we are allies of France." 
"Makes no difference. We have orders to keep an eye on you. ..." 
The local parish priest, Father de la Rouardaire, an old friend of ours 
who, in passing, overheard the mobile guard's remark, asked brusquely: 
"Who gave you that order?" The man did not answer. "Whoever the 
person is who gave that order," continued the priest, "please tell him 
from me, without my compliments, that I consider him and his order 

beneath contempt " 


368 To Number Our Days 

I was broadcasting from Paris for the National Broadcasting Company 
in those agonizing months of August and September, 1939. My spot before 
the microphone in Paris came at one in the morning, which was eight p.m. 
in New York. At several train halts between Maisons-Laffitte and Paris, I 
was forced to get off and hand over my identification papers for verifica- 
tion. Sometimes the train on which I had come left without me and I had 
to take a cab into the blacked-out capital. 

In the city I had first to go to the Hotel Continental to submit my script 
to the military censor. Once at the Continental I was led into a waiting 
room and sat together with Ilya Ehrenburg, the correspondent of Izvestia. 
I thought it strange that I was left in the same room with Ehrenburg 
while other correspondents— British, American, Spanish, Canadian, nearly 
all men of my acquaintance— went freely in and out the censor's office. 
Could anyone in the world suspect me of being pro-Nazi? What then 
about Ehrenburg whose country was now associated with the Nazis in 
the Stalin-Ribbentrop pact and on the point of fighting together with the 
Nazis against the Poles? 

At last I faced the censor, a young staff officer of noble birth. I handed 
him my script and he got busy at once with his red pencil. Every favorable 
reference to France or the French army in my script was roughly scratched 

"Why?" I asked. "Why do you censor those particular sentences?" 

"We owe you no explanation," he replied. "But, please remember: if you 
depart by one iota in your broadcast from the corrected script, you will 
be cut off the air." 

"Everything is quiet in Paris," I wrote in one of my scripts just before 
the war broke out. "Official sources inform me that there is complete 
confidence that France will weather the storm if it should break. France 
is ready. . . . She has a better army than Hitler, more airplanes, more 
guns, just as many tanks. She has the unbreachable Maginot Line and the 
British navy on her side. ..." 

"Who informed you that France is so confident?" asked the staff officer. 

"The Minister of War, Monsieur Daladier," I said. 

"Where did you see him? You have no pass to the War Ministry!" 

"I saw the Minister at the offices of the Grand Orient" 

"You are a Mason?" 


"Who told you that the French army was as well equipped as the 

Last Days in France 369 

"Monsieur L6on Blum." 

"Vous &tes Juif? Are you a Jew?" 

"I am not a Jew. But Monsieur Blum honors me with his friendship. 
I had dinner at his home a few days ago. Isn't Monsieur Blum a good 
authority to consult in the present crisis? ..." 

"Monsieur Blum," replied the officer, "nest pas Frangais des Frangais, 
he is not a real Frenchman. You yourself are a Jew too. Don't deny, pleasel 
I have it right here before me in this paper." He showed me a copy of the 
Angriff dated June 23, 1933. "This article says," continued the viscount, 
"that you are a Jew and that you are in the pay of the Jewish international. 
Further, that you are one of the ten worst enemies of the German Reich." 

"Who wrote the article, may I ask?" 

"The Minister of Propaganda, Dr. Goebbels. 

"Je m'en fous pas mal de ce typel" I said. "Would you mind telling me 
who are the other nine chief enemies of the Hitler gang?" 

'Winston Churchill, Rabbi Stephen Wise, Dorothy Thompson " 

"Pretty good company," I said. 

"Monsieur," the viscount retorted angrily, "the international Jews have 
for years conspired to drive France into war with Germany. ... If you 
think that by your broadcasts you can help the Jews take revenge for the 
salaud Dreyfus, you are mistaken I cancel your script. ... In tomor- 
row's broadcast you will not speak of French military affairs. Bonjour, 
Monsieurl ..." 

"No, it's not bonjour, this time it's adieu. You do not want a victory 
for France, do you? You think like Thierry Maulnier who writes in his 
Gerbes de Force that a victory for France would mean a victory for 
democracy in all of Europe, including Germany. You don't want democ- 
racy at all. Isn't that the whole point? ..." 

"Rather Hitler than Blum!" he replied. 

Such was also the thought in the back of the minds of the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy, the big bankers, certain members of the high command, the 
Weygands, Petains, Darlans; the editors of the antidemocratic newspapers, 
Daudet, Maurras, Drieu, Doriot, Coty, Deat, Laval and De la Rocque, 
most of whom were anti-Dreyfusards in the days of the Affair. The French 
Fascists utilized the war of 1939 to destroy La Gueuse (the slut), the 
scurrilous epithet by which they generally designated the republic* 

•According to Daniel Gue"rin in his Revolution ManquSe, Madame la Marechale 
Petain said in the spring of 1941: "My husband has never been so happy in his life as 
these last two years . . . while liquidating the remnants of the French Republic." 

370 To Number Our Days 

They thanked God that the Popular Front was no more. They were 
afraid that in the hour of France's danger, the people might reunite and 
the Popular Front be reconstituted. 

Had the Popular Front been in power in 1939, 1 am convinced that the 
war with Germany would not have taken place! 

One night a dozen women and girls gathered in front of our house at 
No. 1, Rue Edouard VII, to shout that a light was burning in the attic. The 
black-out watchman for our street, who must have been just around the 
corner, appeared on the scene an instant later. He was a well-known 
Cagoulard. He went into the attic with myself following in his wake. There 
was no light. But the women outside kept on shouting: "We ve seen the 
light ourselves. He's signaling to the Boche. He's a Boche himself. Boche 
assassin] Boche assassinl" The shouting woke all the dogs in the neighbor- 
hood and of barking there was no end that night. 

The following day a military officer called to advise me that I must 
vacate the premises within ten days. "Foreign consulates are moving from 

Paris on account of the air raid danger Your house is required for the 

Turkish consul general. ... By the way," he added, "you had better get rid 
of your dog. He disturbs the peace at nights. There have been many com- 
plaints. . . . We must preserve France's food supply. We cannot afford to 
feed alien dogs It may be a long war. ..." 

u My dog is not an alien. . . . He's Alsatian." 

"No matter! Tomorrow hell be put out of the way!" 

The same afternoon I watched a column of civilian prisoners walk into 
town. These men and women, loaded with suitcases and other luggage, 
were marched to the grandstand at the race track and locked up in the 
sheds beneath. 

"Something is going on here that isn't right," I said to Jean Treille, the 
pastor of the Huguenot church. "I recognized three individuals among the 
prisoners: Lion Feuchtwanger, Ernest Toller and Leonhard Frank. These 
men are not enemies of France. They are fugitives from Hitler. They 
fought Hitler and the Nazis from the very beginning They are anti- 
Fascists to the core." 

"Let's go and see the mayor," said Monsieur Treille. 

At the town hall the mayor turned us over to the commandant of the 
mobile guards. 

Last Days in France 371 

I began again: "Those prisoners have been legal residents of France 

for years No doubt, a mistake has been made The League of 

Human Rights ought to be notified " 

"These prisoners are Leon Blum's cronies," interrupted the commandant. 

Tm sure they have permits of residence " 

"Would you like a permit to join them under the grandstand?" 
"What's going on in our France?" asked Pastor Treille when we regained 

the street. 
"Fascism is installing itself, that seems clear enough! . . . When Fascism 

comes in justice goes out!" 

At the Police Prefecture in Paris one had to obtain an exit permit for 
leaving the country, and at the Finance Ministry, then located in a wing of 
the Louvre, a certificate that all taxes were paid. The revenue employees 
were very slow in their movements. Twice I lined up from ten in the morn- 
ing till four in the afternoon without obtaining permits or certificates. On 
the third day I was finally given some attention. Sections of the Paris streets 
were suddenly sealed off by military police and persons caught in the 
sealed-off portion badgered with questions as to their identity and domi- 
cile. Many were arrested. I was caught twice and let go after being ques- 
tioned and making a telephone call to Anatole de Monzie. I no longer 
dared call Blum or Jean Longuet. ... 

One morning— it was in mid-September— I took the last train for 
Maisons-Laffitte out of the St. Lazare station at 1:40 a.m. and sat all by 
myself till the train set in motion and a man entered the compartment. He 
was well-dressed, about six feet two or three tall, and clean shaven. I 
glanced in his direction once or twice for, though I had some newspapers, 
the light in the compartment was so feeble that reading was out of the 
question. I thought I recognized him as a frequent traveler on the subur- 
ban line Paris-Maisons-Laffitte, but I may have been mistaken. After all, 
I had traveled up and down the line a thousand times and must have 
looked into as many faces in the course of the years. 

Slowly the train rattled on, stopping at every station to let on or let off 
passengers: Batignolles, Clichy-Levallois, Asnieres. As soon as we crossed 
the Seine bridge at Asnieres, my fellow traveler who sat in the opposite 
corner near the door giving on the railway platforms, rose from his seat, 
reached for a package in the net above his head and unwrapped a revolver. 
I acted as if I did not notice but, when he sat down again, I suddenly 

372 To Number Our Days 

looked him straight in the face. He had the revolver in his right hand and 
was pointing it in my direction. 

The train stopped at Bezons. There were no passengers and we rolled 
on to Houilles. I was growing nervous and said pointing at his revolver: 
"Quest ce que cela veut dire? What does this mean?" He did not reply. He 
only jerked the revolver upwards pointing it at my head. As I looked at him I 
noticed the tiny gold emblem of the Croix de Feu on the lapel of his jacket. 

"Don t make any move when we stop at Houilles," he spoke up suddenly. 
"I have you covered. ..." 

"Why have you got me covered?" I asked. 

"That's my business," he returned. "D'ailleurs, you know very welll You 
are one of those foreign agitators who have pushed France into war with 
Germany. ..." 

"I have done that? Monsieur, you are mistaken. I assure you that I 
haven t the slightest influence in such matters. ..." 

"There's no mistake. . . . You are one of the agitators who wanted to 
weaken France by sending our airplanes to Spain," he said. 

I did not reply; the train was slowing up for the halt at the Houilles 
station. I don't know what thoughts passed through my head. There was 
no possibility of throwing myself on the stranger for the entire compart- 
ment's width was between us, and one move on my part, so I figured, at 
least, would make his revolver go off. 

The train stopped and, as it happened, the compartment in which I 
traveled halted right in front of a station platform lamp. Through the win- 
dow I could see a woman carrying a basket and two station employees 
talking with her, the stationmaster and his assistant, the contrdleur, who 
took the tickets when passengers got off. 

One of the men opened the door of the compartment and the lady en- 
tered. As she stepped inside her eye fell on my fellow traveler sitting next 
to the door with the gun in his hand. She let out a scream. 

The train had begun to move, but the stationmaster, hearing the woman 
scream, blew his whistle and brought the train to a halt. He approached 
the door of our compartment, opened it and said to the lady: "Was that 
you calling?" 

"Yes," she said, 'look!" She pointed to the man with the revolver on his 
lap. . . . Before anything else could be said or done, the stranger got up, 
pushed the stationmaster aside, and ran for all he was worth down the 
platform and through the gate into the darkened street. . . . 

Last Days in France 373 

"Who was that?" asked the railway man. 

"I don't know," I said. "He's been sitting in that corner since the St. 
Lazare station. He pulled the gun after we left Asnieres. ..." 

"Did he point it at you?" 

"He sure did." 

"Did he threaten you?" 

"He asked me if I still wanted French airplanes to go to Spain." 

"Ah, c'est ga\ That was one of De la Rocque's goons!" 

"More likely, Laval's!" I said. 

"Quite well possible," agreed the stationmaster. "That guy is another 
one who has sold out. ..." 

By that time the engineer and the fireman had come into the station- 
master's office where that official proceeded to draw up a report of the 
incident. . . . The train got going again with about twenty minutes' delay. 
In Maisons I passed through a lot of Algerian military sentries and reached 
the house without any further trouble. But I never found out the name of 
the man who had menaced me with his gun. 

I did not tell my wife for fear she would be disquieted every evening 
I had to go to Paris. Still, I thought it advisable to take her and Hugo to 
Britain. We crossed over on the last boat in the regular Channel service. 
At Tilbury docks, at exactly the same spot where I landed on my way to 
Canada in my youth, I saw them off on the S.S. American Farmer, sailing 
for New York. Back in my London hotel, I turned on the radio and heard 
an announcement that the American Farmer was stopped and searched 
by a German submarine crew. . . and, after an agonizing minute in which 
I felt as if the world had come to an end, learned that, while the 
Farmer flying the American flag had been allowed to proceed, another 
passenger liner of British nationality, the S.S. Athenia, had been torpe- 
doed and many of its passengers drowned. . . . 

I had no trouble getting back to France; the Channel service was now 
in British hands and the steamer crowded with troops. In Paris I watched 
still more soldiers leave for the Belgian frontier and take up their position 
in the inglorious Maginot Line. The dismal mood of the departing poilus 
seized me by the throat with an agonizing grip. Without anybody telling 
me I knew then and there that France was lost. I never saw troops so 
downhearted, so dispirited, so much like dumb sheep being led to the 
slaughter as those French soldiers leaving for the North and East in the 

374 To Number Our Days 

late summer of 1939. Their morale was not only low; there was no morale 
at all. The Fascist papers threw the departing troops into a still greater 
quandary by asking day after day whether it was really worth-while to 
"go and die for Poland." 

After I got the old gardener in Maisons-Laffitte to help me pack the 
books and furniture for shipment to America, the police appeared on 
the scene again. 

"You are not allowed to take out any books or papers" said the 
lieutenant as we were carrying some boxes into the garden. 

"But they are my property" I objected. 'Who forbids me from taking 
out what belongs to me?" 

"I am acting on special orders of the Ministry of the Interior," he said. 

"I will telephone at once." 

"Whom will you telephone?" 

"I will telephone Monsieur Daladier, the Minister of War " 

"Your telephone has been disconnected this morning." 

Til go to Paris right now." 

"Your car has been requisitioned by the War Department. There was 
a brief case in it. We have saved it for you " 

"What am I permitted to take out of the house?" 

"One suitcase with clothes. We will give you a receipt for everything 
that stays behind " 

I walked into the house, went through all the rooms, and in the library 
stood still for a minute gazing at the rows of books, all my grandfather's 
old books and many, many more, accumulated in the course of the 
years Adieu, adieu, mes ami$\ 

How I ever got to Le Havre, Til never understand. The train was so 
crowded that I stood on the running board outside the compartment 
and clung to a door for dear life's sake. In Le Havre I had a new dis- 
appointment, the boat, the S.S. Washington, on which I had reserved a 
berth, was just sailing while German Stukas bombed the harbor installa- 
tions and adjacent streets. I still could catch the ship though, I was told, 
for the Washington had not sailed directly to America; it was going to 
run into port at Le Verdon which lies at the mouth of the Gironde on 
the Bay of Biscay. But how to get to Le Verdon? No bus or train was 
running in that direction. I strung my suitcase to my back like a packsack 

Last Days in France 375 

and walked as far as Rennes, where I caught a train at last. The journey 
took six days. From Bordeaux I traveled by streetcar to Le Verdon. 

In the cabin on board I found M. Stephane Lauzanne, the editor of 
the Parisian newspaper, Le Matin. M. Lauzanne was going to Britain. 
When we sailed for Southampton after a further delay of a week, M. 
Lauzanne told me that his bones had turned to water. "There is no hope, 
no hope at all for France," he said. 

"What are you talking about?" I asked. "Poland may be crushed. The 
French army is intact. Except for some skirmishes in the Saarland, not 
a shot has been fired." 

"The French army has no equipment!" 

"No equipment? What do you mean?" 

"The equipment is there, but it isn't where it should be. . . . The tanks 
have been distributed over the whole country. There are tanks in every 
city: Marseilles, Lyons, Bordeaux, Toulon, Nice, Tours, everywhere. The 
air force is on the Riviera and in North Africa " 

"Why? Does the high command expect an attack by Mussolini?" 

"No, Weygand has persuaded the government that there may be a 
communist uprising." 

"A communist uprising? But Churchill himself says that the com- 
munists are joining their units like all other Frenchmen. . . ." 

"I am going to Britain," said M. Lauzanne, "to talk with members of 
the British government. ... I am going to tell them that the French 
republic is betrayed. . . . Even now the country is being handed over to 

At Southampton M. Lauzanne and many members of the Canadian 
consular staffs stationed in France went ashore. Their places on the ship 
were taken by a mass of passengers led by Lord Beaverbrook, the owner 
of the London Express, Helena Rubinstein, the well-known beauty expert, 
and Arturo and Signora Toscanini. In the course of the first night at sea, 
I noticed that Signor and Signora Toscanini sat in the library; they had 
no cabin. Some cots were placed on the top deck for their convenience, 
but they were driven downstairs by a cold wind and rain. I told the 
purser that the Toscaninis could have my cabin. I would take a cot on 
the top deck. 

Thus it was arranged. My cot stood between those occupied by Shlomo 
Grodzensky, the editor of Der Yiddischer Kempfer, a socialist-Zionist 
paper in New York, and Professor Solomon Fineman of Temple University 

376 To Number Our Days 

in Philadelphia. Because of the American flag and the presence on board 
of Lord Beaverbrook, many of my fellow passengers felt quite safe from 
a German submarine attack. I suspected the opposite: had the German 
high command been aware of Beaverbrook's presence, they might well 
have made an attempt to send us all to the bottom. Lord Beaverbrook, 
and the mission on which he was bound to America, represented a greater 
danger to the Nazis than an army with banners. 

When I landed in New York I could scarcely walk. I had lumbago, 
sciatica, and a host of similar ailments, abetted by sleeping in the cold 
wind on a sheet of canvas spread between four stilts. 

It took nearly a year to put me back on my feet. While lying down I 
wrote a small book and gave it the title The Time Is Now taken from a 
minute-by-minute electric time signal flashing from across the Hudson 
River in full view of the bed where I lay in the apartment house at 90 
Riverside Drive. 

In The Time Is Now I sought to show that Hitler would not be content 
with conquering the European continent. In accordance with the grand 
strategy, elaborated by Dr. Karl Haushofer of the Geopolitical Bureau, 
the Fuehrer would, I thought, make Africa the next objective of his 
world campaign. True, the British navy in the Mediterranean still barred 
the German army from setting foot on Africa's shores, but this obstacle, 
I predicted, would be overcome by the Nazis walking around the Old 
World sea. 

The Italian air force was already bombing all British and allied points 
d'appui in the Mediterranean: Malta, Gibraltar, Greece, Crete and Cyprus. 
From Sicily the Nazi troops and Mussolini's arditi would most likely 
attempt the crossing while swarms of German submarines sought to 
block the Mediterranean to British ships. From wherever they landed- 
Tunisia, Algeria or Cyrenaica— the German march of conquest would 
move inevitably in the direction of the Suez Canal. Egypt and its King 
Farouk would in all probability, like the Dutch, the Danes and the 
Norwegians, be made happy with a promise of "liberation" from British 
domination while the capture of the Canal would bring about, not only 
a juncture of the Italian and Japanese navies, but cut Britain off from 
her Far Eastern possessions and military resources. 

The immediate objective in the Near East appeared quite clear: after 
their conquest of Russia, the Nazis would continue their march through 
the Caucasus, Turkey and Iran, while the German-Italian forces moving 

Last Days in France 377 

east in North Africa would in a gigantic pincer movement seize Sinai, 
Syria and Iraq, and thus force the British in Palestine and Egypt and 
elsewhere on "the thin red line" of empire to surrender or else withdraw 
in the direction of Afghanistan and India, leaving their artillery and 
other heavy equipment behind. 

This was all speculation on my part for the Germans still hadn t reached 
Stalingrad, nor were they as yet across the Mediterranean. Many of the 
critics thought the book worse than speculation. They doubted my sanity 
and dubbed me an armchair strategist, a sensationalist and warmonger 
who had risen "to new heights of ignorant, irresponsible, malicious 
jingoism/' One novelist wrote that my aim was to create a war hysteria 
with the object of bringing America into the war against Germany. 

I hadn't said a word about the desirability of bringing America into 
the war. When I entitled the book The Time Is Now, I meant that the 
time had come to reflect, to take stock and ponder the possible conse- 
quences for all mankind of the downfall of British world power. 

After Hitler's attack on Russia in 1941, 1 was, in the estimation of Ameri- 
can Firsters and Bundists, merely an agent of Stalin. I wanted America to 
save Russia. I had given myself away, it was said, by supporting the 
Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. There was no use pointing out that in The Time 
Is Now I had referred to the Nazi-Communist pact as "the work of the two 
greatest scoundrels of world history, Hitler and Stalin," the lie had been 
launched on its career and it was hard to overtake it. 

The radio program which I, as "a dollar a year man," conducted for the 
Department of the Treasury in support of United States Savings Bonds 
was the first victim of the slander campaign. The Secretary of the Treasury, 
Henry Morgenthau, showed me some letters in which the charge was 
made that I brought only communists to the program for the purpose 
of spouting Stalin's propaganda. Not only did I not select the persons in- 
terviewed—this was the work of Judge Ferdinand Pecora— but a careful 
examination failed to turn up one single communist in the list of prominent 
persons who had appeared on the program: Major Alexander de Seversky; 
Countess Alexandra Tolstoy; Thomas Mann; Heinrich Mann; Klaus Mann; 
Jarmila Novotna of the Metropolitan Opera; Henri Bernstein, the French 
playwright; Henri Torres, member of the Chamber of Deputies; one of the 
leaders of the Free French in New York, Maurice Maeterlinck; Edna 
Ferber; Professors Tillich, Borgese and Salvemini; Count Sforza; William 
Ziff; Dr. Chaim Weizmann; Max Ascoli; Eve Curie; Henri de Kerillis, a 

378 To Number Our Days 

(rightist) deputy to the French Chamber; Hendrik Willem van Loon; 
Dr. Stephen S. Wise; Senator Wagner; and Jos6 Iturbi 

With Hendrik van Loon, Hans Kindler, the director of the Washington 
Symphony Orchestra, and my kinsman, Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo, minister of 
the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas on Fifth Avenue in New York, I 
went around in the Reformed churches raising money for the relief of 
thousands of destitute sailors and travelers who were left stranded in var- 
ious American ports on the Atlantic and Pacific. 

I spoke all over the country in meetings in support of the Free French; 
once to 25,000 people in Madison Square Garden together with Jan 
Masaryk, Dr. Albert Simard and Jacques Soustelle, who was then De 
Gaulle's chief lieutenant in the western hemisphere. The only belligerent 
gesture I indulged in, if belligerent it may be called, was to invite the 
audiences I addressed to rise for a moment in tribute to the men of the 
Royal Air Force who were bearing the brunt of the Teutonic furor in the 
Blitz. It was in reality a testing of the audience: if they rose they were 
friendly. If they refused to rise, as happened more than once in Chicago 
and other midwestern cities, I knew the audience was hostile and con- 
ducted myself accordingly. 

In the fall of 1941 1 had a visit of two young Palestinians, Peter Bergson 
and Samuel Merlin, who asked me if I didn't think the time had come for 
the Jews to raise an army of their own to fight on Britain's side. Bergson 
and Merlin were accompanied by my old friend, Colonel John Henry 
Patterson, D.S.O., who commanded the Royal Fusiliers in Allenby's army, 
the so-called Jewish Legion. Many old people in Palestine, said Bergson, 
were walking around with capsules of potassium cyanide in their pockets 
in fear of a Nazi victory at Suez and a wholesale massacre of the Jewish 
population of Eretz Israel. 

"Hitler is killing the Jews as Jews Let them fight back as Jews, in 

a Jewish army, in Jewish uniforms and under the Jewish banner," I said in 
answer to the question. 

"Will you," Patterson asked in turn, "repeat what you now say in the 
presence of the military attaches stationed in Washington? ... I must 
warn you that we have consulted the British ambassador Lord Halifax in 
Washington, and that he is drastically opposed to the idea of a Jewish 
army. He claims that a Jewish force, either independent or incorporated 
in the British Near Eastern armies, would place Britain in an embarrassing 
position vis-&-vis the Arabs." 

Last Days in France 379 

"Is there one single Arab state or Arab mandated territory in the Near 
East friendly to the British cause?" 

"Not a single one," said Patterson. "As a matter of fact a large British 
force is pinned down in Egypt, unable to join the fighting in the desert 
because of a possible Egyptian uprising. The Egyptian army officers are 
pro-German without exception. They have established contact with Gen- 
eral Rommel and assured him that they are preparing a royal welcome 
for him when he reaches Cairo. An apartment is held in readiness at Shep- 

heard's Hotel for the German commander The chief of staff of the 

Egyptian army was arrested as he prepared to fly over to Rommel with 
the British campaign plans in his pocket." 

"The more reason to strengthen the British forces in the Near East by 
the addition of a Jewish brigade," I said. 

When the question was again put to me by Colonel Patterson in a gath- 
ering of some 40 or 50 military attaches and other foreign diplomatic 
representatives in Washington's Mayflower Hotel, I expressed the convic- 
tion that Jewish military participation in the struggle would, in the event 
of victory, greatly enhance the chances of an independent Jewish State 
emerging from the existing mandatory regime. . . . 

Ludwig Lore, a columnist of the New York Post, rose to propose my 
election by acclamation to the position of national chairman of a Com- 
mittee for a Jewish Army, and elected I was. But I don t know by whom, 
though the military representatives of half a dozen governments in exile, 
and as many colonels and generals in uniform representing Latin Ameri- 
can republics, raised their hands in my favor. 

Back in New York I called at the St. Regis Hotel where Dr. Chaim Weiz- 
mann, president of the World Zionist Organization, resided at the time. 
He expressed his pleasure that I had been elected chairman. His secretary, 
Meyer W. Weisgal, drew up an agreement under the terms of which the 
different roles of the Committee for a Jewish Army and the Zionist Organ- 
ization were clearly delineated. We, for instance, were not to engage in any 
political activity, nor were we to try and negotiate with the British govern- 
ment or any of its diplomatic agents in America, such as Lord Halifax and 
Sir John Dill, the top military adviser at the embassy. 

The work got under way at once. In a month's time we had branches of 
the Committee for a Jewish Army in a dozen major cities. The newspapers 
took notice of us; some like the New York Post, the Washington Post, the 
Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle went out of their way 
to show their support and friendliness. 

380 To Number Our Days 

I wrote a number of open letters to Winston Churchill, President Roose- 
velt and certain senators and representatives which were published as full- 
page ads in The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago 
Daily News and two or three other papers of national prominence. The 
gist of the letters was a plea for recognition of the right of Palestinian and 
stateless Jews to go and fight, and if needs be die, for democracy under the 
walls of Jerusalem. . . 

All was going well, we were enlisting thousands of supporters, both Jews 
and Gentiles, when David Ben Gurion, the leader of the labor party in 
Palestine, appeared on the scene. The future prime minister of Israel was 
in a tempestuous mood. He barged into my apartment and without a word 
of greeting called on me to resign forthwith from the chairmanship of the 
Committee for a Jewish Army. 

"I don't want a Jewish army," he fairly shouted. "I wont have it! I wont 
stand for it! I will have nothing to do with the gang which propagates the 
idea of setting up a Jewish army. They are Fascists and terrorists " 

"Is Colonel Patterson a Fascist? You yourself and your friend Itzhak 
Ben Zvi (the later President of Israel) enlisted in Patterson's Fusiliers in 

World War I I consider the colonel a gallant officer and a steadfast 

supporter of a Jewish Palestine Besides, Dr. Weizmann doesn't object 

to the formation of a Jewish army Nor does Jan Christiaan Smuts! 

The Field Marshal's name appears at the top of a list of 14,000 signatures 
by South Africans, Boers and Britons alike, which I have just received." 

"I don't care! I object! There must be no Jewish army!" 

"Why not?" 

"You are operating under false auspices!" said Ben Gurion. 

"What do the auspices matter so long as we get a Jewish army on its 
feet? You are a Palestinian! You know the danger better than anyone else. 
If Britain is defeated in the Near East, all hope of a Jewish Palestine will 
go up in thin smoke. Why don't you rather join in the effort to stop Rom- 
mel? . . . Why don't you take the lead?" 

"Palestine is not an independent country. Not till Britain gives the word 

will Palestinian Jews enter the fray Lipsky," went on Ben Gurion, 

addressing himself to Louis Lipsky, the American Zionist leader who was 
present in my apartment, "it's your duty to see to it that this man stops 
his agitation for a Jewish army. ..." Mr. Ben Gurion grew so excited that 
he clenched his fist under my nose. 

Last Days in France 381 

Thus I became involved in a quarrel which was certainly not of my mak- 
ing, nor at all to my liking. Denunciations and anathemas from official 
Zionist sources rained on my head. One Yiddish newspaper in New York 
changed its habitual reference to me as der bewusste Freind von Yidden to 
ein Sakono far dem Yiddishen Folk, "a menace to the Jewish people." A 
leader of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization, called me a 
"traitor," though I do not recall what or whom she accused me of betray- 
ing. Others, editors of periodicals and spokesmen of Jewish political parties 
and societies, charged me with having broken Zionist discipline, forgetting 
that I was never a member of the Zionist Organization and hence not sub- 
ject to its discipline. 

I went straight on with the work of enlisting support for a Jewish army. 
I never replied to attacks. The raising of an auxiliary force, any auxiliary 
force, to fight the Nazis appeared too urgent to me to waste time in futile 
and meaningless controversy. Only in one instance was I forced to take 
action. This happened when two distinguished rabbis, Dr. Solomon Gold- 
man of Chicago and Dr. Joshua Loth Liebman of Boston preached almost 
identical sermons one Friday evening. They attacked the Committee for a 
Jewish Army from their pulpits. I was so used to this that I did not pay the 
slightest attention. But when word reached me that both doctors had in- 
formed their congregations that the Committee was my "private racket" 
which had netted me "the tidy sum of $50,000 in a few short months' time," 
I thought they passed the bounds of civilized behavior and instructed 
Aaron Fishman, an attorney, to investigate, and, if reports were found true, 
institute proceedings for libel and defamation of character. I took this 
course because I never received the slightest financial remuneration or 
compensation as chairman of the Committee, though my successor, Sena- 
tor Guy M. Gillette of Iowa, received a salary immediately upon assuming 
office. I believed it reward enough if we should succeed in setting a 
Jewish army on its feet and thus establish the premises from which, as 
fruit of the common victory, a wider measure of autonomy or dominion 
status for the land of Israel might reasonably be expected to follow after 
the war. . . .* 

With our agitation for a Jewish army went a strenuous effort to bring 
the plight of the Jews in Germany and German-occupied territories to the 
attention of the American people. Night after night I spoke in churches, 
temples, synagogues, high schools, universities and public forums all over 
*When faced with legal action both rabbis profusely apologized. 

382 To Number Our Days 

the country urging diplomatic intervention and even military action in 
order to put Hitler on notice that the civilized world would not allow the 
mass murder of Jews to go unpunished. 

If European Jews could not be evacuated to Palestine, I proposed to 
throw the doors of America open to these refugees. It was all to no avail. 
The American government did indeed call a conference on refugees in 
Bermuda in 1942 to which 52 nations sent delegates, but not one of the 
52 countries represented in Bermuda or at a second conference on refugees 
held in Evian-les-Bains volunteered to take in a single refugee. After 
hesitating a long time, the United States allowed one thousand (1,000) 
"displaced persons" to enter the country, but when they arrived locked 
them up in a camp at Oswego. A thousand saved out of millions was but 
a drop in the bucket. Still, even that small figure was far too high in the 
opinion of America Firsters and other Fascists. Roosevelt was accused of 
trying to swamp America with communists. 

I wrote to William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking him to 
explain the difference between a Germany that was killing Jews and a 
Britain barring their road of escape and, when they did manage to escape 
by sheer superhuman efforts, imprison them behind barbed wire in camps 
on the island of Cyprus. Though Dr. Temple read my letter in the House 
of Lords— and commented favorably on it— the consequences of this letter 
were most disagreeable for me. Winston Churchill did indeed seek to ex- 
cuse me by saying that as a British subject (which I still was at the time), 
I had "the full right once a week to tell the British government to go to 
hell," but this was not good enough for certain "grand moguls" in American 
Judaism who, in seeking to hide their own inner sense of insecurity, pre- 
tended to be plus royaliste que le rot. It was I, they charged, who obstruc- 
ted the American war effort by placing obstacles in the way of our British 
ally's military campaign in North Africa. One learned professor at a Jewish 
theological school in Philadelphia declared in a classroom full of rabbinical 
students that he had good reason to suspect me of being a secret anti- 

In retrospect it is sadly ironical to see certain great American journals, 
secular and denominational alike, join in commemorating the uprising of 
the Warsaw ghetto, whereas at the time of its occurrence I stood virtually 
alone on the platform lauding the heroism of the Jewish boys and girls 
who refused to be led to the slaughter like dumb animals. 

Last Days in France 383 

I resigned from the chairmanship of the Army Committee when I could 
no longer ignore the fact that the Palestinian members of our executive 
who were all members of the Irgun Zwi Leumi, an underground move- 
ment of nihilistic tendencies in Palestine, worked fundamentally at cross 
purposes with me yet keeping me up in front as a sort of f agade of demo- 
cratic legality. For a time I put the Irgunists down as disinterested young 
patriots, perhaps a little more vociferous or outspoken than other groups, 
but without any ulterior motive other than to see their country free to take 
its place in the ranks of the nations resisting Hitler's drive for world power. 
In truth the Irgunists were concerned only with building up the prestige 
of their own political party in Palestine which assumed the name Herut 
(Freedom) after the war and still sits in the Knesset as the second largest 
group. Back in the forties the Irgunists aimed at gaining a reputation in 
America as the most resolute, daring and devoted Palestinian patriots, by 
running down David Ben Gurion and Moshe Sharett, the leaders of the 
labor party and the Trade Union Council, as weaklings, hirelings of the 
British and little better than Quislings. 

Retroactively the claim has been advanced that the Irgun-Herut liber- 
ated Palestine by driving the British out. Without batting an eyelash the 
spokesmen of Herut till this day claim to have brought in the bulk of the 
illegal immigrants and in general having been the determining factor in 
achieving independence for the State of Israel. These allegations are too 
absurd to require refutation. The Irgunists' sole merit lay in their initial 
endeavors which made a certain impact on public opinion in America and 
brought many Jews, who stood aside till then, into the general movement 
of Zion Restored. They forfeited all claims to glory when they, or their 
partisans, launched into terroristic activities in Palestine, kidnaping and 
murdering British soldiers and officials and destroying British military 

I was all for raising a Jewish army, but not for the purpose of fighting 
the British. 

In the end it was the British government which deprived the Committee 
of its raison d&tre by raising a brigade of Jewish volunteers in Palestine 
and incorporating these in Montgomery's Eighth Army. 

It was this brigade whose tanks turned Rommel's right flank at El 
Alamein and Mareth and, together with the Free French under General 
Pierre Koenig, achieved the almost incredible victory of Bir Hakkim. The 

384 To Number Our Days 

Jewish suicide commandos were the first in Bardia and Tobruk and they 
destroyed the Vichy government's harbor installations in Beirut and the 
airdrome near Bagdad where Nazi troop planes were landing in anticipa- 
tion of an Iraqi uprising against Britain. 

When I saw that the British high command could not bring itself to 
acknowledge by a single word the invaluable contribution made by the 
Palestinian Jews to the common war effort, and that not a single British or 
American newspaper deigned to take notice of Jewish heroism, I wrote 
a book, The Forgotten Ally, setting forth the story of Jewish military 
participation and the role Palestine played, mainly through its industries 
and laboratories, as a base and supply depot for the entire British Eighth 
Army. The book sold a quarter million copies and was translated into 
eleven foreign languages, including German. It was banned from British 
Empire territories, but both Ireland and South Africa brought out a 
clandestine edition while members of the British Intelligence Service in 
Egypt smuggled a hundred photostatic copies into Palestine itself. The 
man who photographed the book's pages one by one was Dr. Eliahu Elath, 
then a major in the British army, later Israeli ambassador to Washington 
and to London, today president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 

The Jewish Brigade also formed the nucleus and backbone of the 
Army of Liberation which David Ben Gurion called to arms in 1948 
when, upon the proclamation of Israel's independence, five Arab countries 
with a twenty times stronger military potential attacked the new republic 
only to be hurled back in shame and humiliation. . . . 

Our views of the world are perpetually changing. On one point, how- 
ever, I have never varied: I always took the Jewish people seriously. 
Though prone to renounce all distinctions of race, nationality and religion 
from my youth onward— the result, I dare say, of having been brought 
up in a small country where a certain measure of cosmopolitanism comes 
almost naturally— I nevertheless identified myself voluntarily and steadily 
with the Jewish people's national cause to an extent not seen, as far as 
I know, in the case of any other contemporary Gentile either in America 
or anywhere else. I do not claim any merit in this matter. My deeper 
acquaintance with Judaism and the Jewish people proved a greater 
blessing to me in a quite personal sense than any honors, recognition or 
reward could have furnished. Without it, on the other hand, I am sure, 

Last Days in France 385 

the course of my intellectual development would have been sensibly dif- 

Israel, the Jewish people, remain to me of central significance in the 
history of Western civilization. And this not because of any chosen people 
concept or special divine revelation, but because the Jews, in spite of 
the enmity of demonic forces and a thousand deaths, furnish mankind 
with the key that fits the door through which civilizations enter and 
leave history; I mean their Messianism, their undying vision and inex- 
tinguishable hope of the future. 


Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 

On his journey through the inferno, Dante could still hear the branches 
on the trees sigh their doleful whisper: no light . . .no hope . . . God has 

forsaken us Our trees on the Western front neither whispered nor 

sighed. They were all dead. When you looked towards the ridge beyond 
Arras and Bapaume, you saw that the forest had all but disappeared. 
What remained was a boundless desolation: heaps of blackened rubble, 
charred and broken stumps, here and there the bombed and burnt out 
ruin of a human habitation. The whole valley of the Somme lay under a 
blanket of snow that winter. The trenches were covered with sleet and 
ice. Inside the dugouts dirty yellow icicles hung from the ceiling. The 
frost-covered pit props gleamed like pillars of filthy glass by the candles' 
feeble light 

That night— it was Christmas eve, 1917— about ten or twelve of us 
stood or sat or lay in a big dugout, probably twenty feet square. Down 
the steps of frozen mud rushed a cold wind mixed with the putrid odor 
of filth and corruption from the latrine buckets standing at the top. Most 
of us wore our balaclavas under our tin hats, brown woolen masks, leav- 
ing only the eyes, nose and mouth exposed. Men were constantly coming 
down and going up the steps, returning from or moving out to the 
listening posts, the firing bays, the wiring parties and reconnaissance 

After nightfall our chaplain, Cyril Jones, went from dugout to dugout. 
Whenever the men raised no objection he read the Christmas story about 
a great light shining in the darkness and multitudes of the heavenly host 
announcing the tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. 

"Wasn't that all a bloody hoax, sir, just to fool the troops, that song 
about peace on earth?" one man asked Cyril. "Shouldn't the world be 


388 To Number Our Days 

filled with peace by now instead of the stench of corpses?" Cyril put his 
cap back on but didn't say a word in reply. 

At ten thirty sharp on that evening of December 24th, 1917, the German 
artillery suddenly stopped firing. 

"That's a sign they're going to attack at dawn," said Arnot. 

"Maybe they ran out of shells," suggested Perryn. 

"Oh, hell, we've been hearing that story for three years now. No more 
shells, no more munitions, no more food, no more nothing. But still they 
keep on coming. . . . More likely Fritzll send over a dose of poison gas for 
breakfast " 

Men began to run to and fro, taking up their positions in the firing bays, 
in the support and communication trenches. All you heard was the clatter 
of their hobnailed boots on the duckboards. There were calls for silence. 
Words of command flew back and forth in the stygian darkness. Then 
suddenly our artillery stopped firing too, just as abruptly. 

A man came through the trench. He wore high boots and carried a 

"Put that light out, you damn fool!" shouted Arnot. 

"Look my man, if you can't talk better language, I may be obliged to 
put your damn light out." 

The flashlight man stopped to light his pipe. He was a staff officer; red 
tabs on his lapels. 

"Sir," I accosted him, "no smoking in the front line! That goes for every- 

"The German high command has proposed a twenty-four-hour truce," 
he came back. 

"What for?" asked Coots. "To bury the dead?" 

"A twenty-four-hour truce in honor of Christmas!" 

Ten minutes before midnight our bugles sounded the cease-fire. Nobody 
knew at first what the signal meant, for nobody had ever heard it before. 
But it put all doubt to rest. It wasn't a trick or trap after all. News of the 
truce was official on both sides. 

By the glare of the Very lights we saw them coming over the top. First 
the coal-scuttle helmets appeared above the parapets. And then their wear- 
ers, the men in field gray. For once they carried no guns, no flame throwers, 
no hand grenades and no cylinders of poison gas. They were unarmed, 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 389 

They stood on the very edge of their trenches with their backs to their 
own parapets. On our side, too, men were climbing over the top. A de- 
scending greenish Very light was caught in the blinding beam of one of 
our searchlights so that the sky was lit up to noonday brightness. 

All at once the Germans began to sing: "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht. . . " 
We could see them uncover their heads. They stood with their helmets in 
their hands. 

"Silent night, holy night! ..." I couldn't believe my own ears. All my 
life Christmas had been a feast of unusual joy and intimacy to me, a time 
when the worries and sorrows of everyday lif e vanished and all tensions 
were relaxed. At the approach of Christmas I had a holiday feeling, an 
anticipation of a time of carefree human, perhaps all too human, joy. I 
hadn't felt it that night. But now it came back to me all of a sudden and 
in a measure overwhelming, and I may well say devastating, as if a mirac- 
ulous state of grace descended on the world and filled every human heart. 
Holy night, indeed! All at once they and we were the shepherds in Bethle- 
hem's fields. From all directions came the sound of singing. 

Can it ever be forgotten, that moment? 

Their engineers, and ours too, clipped holes in the barbed wire for pas- 
sageways. Soon the troops were building bonfires of yule logs from the 
debris on the battlefield, the loose stakes and pit props, everything went 
into the fire. No man's land was no longer no man's land. It was every man's 
land. As far as the eye could reach the fires were burning. The dark sil- 
houettes of human figures moved about the flames in pairs, in groups, in 
circles, in multitudes. The men were eating, drinking, laughing, trying on 
each other's hats, showing each other snapshots of parents, sweethearts 
and babies. 

All along that firing line which wasn't a firing line any longer, those 
mortal enemies of a few hours earlier forgot all the official slogans of hate 
and suspicion. In a simple, unostentatious gesture, they celebrated the 
Lord's supper, reaffirming the "blessed tie that binds" men across all 
barriers, hurdles and frontiers into one brotherhood. 

And then, as it is written in the golden legend, the men gave each other 
presents like those Magi who followed the star from the East till it stood 
above the manger and offered their gifts, "gold, myrrh and frankincense," 
to the holy Mother and Child. They, the Germans, had brought sausages, 
cigars and beer. Our men handed out cigarettes, bully beef and cartons 
of jam 

390 To Number Our Days 

It was to have been a twenty-four-hour truce. At noon on Christmas day 
when it started to snow again, our artillery laid down a barrage. The truce 
had been called off. The excuse was given that the Germans hadn't played 
fair. They had spied out the lay of the land when they came into the open. 
In ten minutes' time the German artillery replied. In a flash everything was 
again as it should be: shrapnel and Jack Johnsons screamed through the air 
and exploded in their appointed places, machine guns rattled, snipers 
sniped, the Guides went back to their interrupted task of digging a tunnel 
under the enemy's lines to blow up as many as possible of the friends of a 
few hours before. 

Nearly half a centurry has gone by since that Christmas episode on the 
Western front. Every detail of that night stands out as vivid in my memory 
as if it happened last evening. I still hear the voices of the men arguing 
back and forth. I still see their faces. But what, in the light of later events, 
did it amount to after all? A handful of soldiers in a blue funk talking so as 
not to be terrorized by their own thoughts of the last great enemy standing 
by their side. What is the First World War in retrospect but a skirmish? 
So much blood has flown since; innocent blood, the blood of forty or fifty 
millions, not only soldiers, but unarmed civilians, men, women and chil- 

Since our moment of peace on the Western front we've had a Second 
World War, the horror of Korea, the torment of Dienbienphu, the beastli- 
ness of Algeria where tens of thousands of women and children prisoners 
perished as they were sent out in the morning to explore the roads for 
booby traps and land mines before getting something to eat for breakfast. 
Who shall measure the woe in the earth? Who shall tell us how many 
children die of hunger each day? Who shall count the tears in South Africa 
where the Dutch, with the approval of their Church, have turned their 
country into a slave state! How many natives are choked to death in the 
Angolan bush under an avalanche of napalm bombs invented and manu- 
factured in America? How many Spanish exiles are to be turned over to 
Francisco Franco to be locked up in those abominable prisons where 
thousands were done to death since the end of the civil war for defending 
their country against a sanguinary monster? . . . 

The other day someone drove me in his car from New York to Bronx- 
ville. By the side of the road I saw a sign: This road will be closed in the 
event of enemy attack] I couldn't help laughing. 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 391 

Do the authorities really expect the enemy to come and fight it out on 
that road by invitation? And if that road is closed, will other roads be open 
in the event of enemy attack? And to whom will they be open? To chil- 
dren whose eyes have melted in their sockets? To women who have their 
insides seared with a carbolic detergent? A girl from Hiroshima told me 
that when the American atom bomb fell, thousands tried to run for the 
river. But the river water steamed and boiled and they were cooked to 
death. There must be someone around who remembers the days when the 
Stuka dive bombers came down on the civil population of France. Some 
roads were closed then too! French soldiers machine-gunned panic-stricken 
trespassers without the slightest compunction. . . on orders from higher 
up. . . . 

The main question today is: What can be done, what must be done to 
prevent the outbreak of the Third World War? 

Is this a Christian question? There are not a few, in every country, who 
aver that this is not a religious, but a political question. They say that it is a 
question that concerns only the politicians. The Church is occupied with 
totally different and far more subtle questions. 

When the world creaks and cracks like a doomed ship in the midst 
of a tempest, when the sails and masts are ripped to shreds and some have 
already broken off and gone overboard, the Church holds ecumenical 
conferences, world-wide ecclesiastical parliaments in Rome, in New Delhi 
and elsewhere. According to the correspondent of Express, a Parisian 
newspaper, the gathering of November, 1962, in Rome of nearly 3,000 
bishops and prelates, all in their most gorgeous robes and vestments, was 
"the most stupendously magnificent spectacle ever presented to human 

There are others who, looking upon that solemn ecclesiastical demon- 
stration, ask the question: Can the church still afford to tilt with windmills 
while the general staffs play with hydrogen bombs? 

Of what value are all conclaves and conciliabules, when they scrupu- 
lously—no, fearfully— avoid mention of the question that stares us all in 
the face like a furious tiger: the question of the to be or not to be of the 
human race. "Where there is love, fear is cast out." The Churches are so 
fearful these days that they grow shrilly hysterical about the menace 
of atheism and communism. What we see before our eyes is one of the 
saddest, most humiliating episodes in the history of Christianity. The 

392 To Number Our Days 

prelates have discovered an enemy and they make him as black as the 
devil. That this "enemy" in the long run would most probably associate 
himself quite logically with the Christian doctrine of peace and aversion 
to war and violence, they cannot and dare not even envisage. For they 
have their dogmas, their eternally unchangeable prescriptions of what God 
wills and wills not, what to believe and what not to believe, dogmas, 
frozen cakes of ice in which the human spirit is trapped like a cockroach 
in Pleistocene lava. 

Paul Claudel, of the Academie Frangaise, wrote that "the most con- 
temptible thing" he saw during his ambassadorship in Washington was 
the list of sermon topics advertised weekly in the American press. He 
ought to have heard that Luthern Pfarrer in Duesseldorf orate on a 
Sunday in October last year. A heavily gowned brother on whose breast 
dangled a silver cross, whom I watched going through the motions, 
chided his congregation for being afraid of nuclear warfare: "Haven't you 
always known that you must die some day? What does a day sooner or 
later matter? What difference does it make what sort of death you die?" 

And then he declared with a smile on his face what James A. Pike, 
a bishop of the Episcopal Church in our midst declared within sight 
and hearing of millions of television viewers: "We are not afraid of 
the atom bomb, for we have eternal life!" That a half-literate exhorter 
in the hillbilly country where they are taught that heaven is a sort of 
Tom Tiddler's Lubberland consoles his congregation with this kind of 
poisonous pap is understandable. In some quarters it's still considered 
quite essential for the pigs to learn to die without squealing. 

The "symbol" of "eternal life," according to Paul Tillich, is "popular 
Christian superstition made so with the help of a misunderstood Plato." 
If Jesus and the evangelists used the phrase, as the New Testament in- 
timates, it is a misrendering of the Hebrew helek Xolam habba, which is 
not time without beginning or end, or an occult experience in some after- 
life, but participation here and now in the building of the better world 
of tomorrow. That is the meaning of acquiring "a share, a portion, in 
the world to come," for which the Greek expression "eternal life" is a 
misleading substitution. 

In a time of world crisis, such as ours, the Christian Church must draw 
the people's attention to the significance of events transpiring in the 
present. If there is no change soon in the course we follow our military 
political situation will inevitably plunge us into war. We seek peace and 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 393 

security in an arms race. But an arms race has never brought about more 
than a postponement of war. There are men of the highest intelligence 
and expert knowledge who warn us that the ultimate catastrophe is not 
likely to be postponed beyond the year 1975. 

Les Eglises Trahissentl "The churches betray God and lead mankind 
astray." This shocking and terrifying indictment does not come from 
some center of atheistic or materialistic propaganda or philosophy. It is 
a cry of pain and sorrow wrung from the heart of the Church of Geneva 
and its minister, Robert Junod. 

The Churches betray God, though they pray for peace and preach 
sermons without end on brotherhood and good will. They hide their faces 
from the horror of modern war, but they accept its possibility. They 
support the military budgets and approve of the present armament race 
and in many cases commend it, and refuse to act or speak out un- 

Prayers for peace without action for peace are the most idiotic eye- 
wash under the sun. They signify nothing more or less than trying to 
unload on God's shoulders the work the Churches are called to perform 
themselves. It's the ecclesiastical equivalent of the vulgar jemenfoutism 
of letting George do it. How otherwise qualify such prayers for peace 
and the simultaneous manufacture of the most gruesome weapons of 
war as mockery and derision of the Most High? 

Communism and atheism are not the enemy. The enemy is the atom 
bomb and the hydrogen bomb which both, East and West, are piling 
up in such quantities that both sides boast that they are fully capable 
and ready to wipe out the opponent ten times, a hundred times over. Do 
you see, does anyone in the whole wide world see how an atomic war 
can be prevented when the armament race is in full swing and made to 
masquerade as a guarantee of peace and security? 

American civil defense speaks of Megabod, the British of Megacorps. 
Both expressions signify as much as a million corpses] These abstract 
terms are needed to figure out how many deaths would be caused by the 
firing of a given number of atom bombs in a certain area, how many may 
possibly remain alive, how many would be permanently attainted by 
diseases stemming from radiation. Robert McNamara has told us that 
ten million American dead is the "absolute minimum" in one atomic 
attack. Persons occupied with such and suchlike calculations and pre- 
parations, officers, soldiers, technicians, scientists, men and women 

394 To Number Our Days 

workers in the armament industries, are forced to close their hearts to 
all human sentiment. How else can they bring themselves to do their 

In his time, the Dean of St. Paul's, William Ralph Inge, used to refer 
to "the bottomless insincerity" of the British and American press. There 
never was a more sordid tale of journalistic exaggeration, distortion and 
sheer invention than that told by the American press in furthering the 
remilitarization and rearmament of Germany to a point where the 
Federal Republic again stands at the top with the selfsame leaders in 
command who plunged the world into unspeakable horror under Hitler. 

On Adenauer s 86th birthday, January 5, 1962, I saw the parade of 
the new German army— ex-soldier organizations; Hitler men, old and 
new; dreamers of revenge and all the other un-denazified patriots— take 
six hours to goose-step past the old Chancellor, his cabinet and his 
generals standing in front of Schaumburg Palace in Bonn. 

A local Bonn newspaper went so far that day in its adulation as to 
remark that Adenauers "genius" had placed the Chancellor "beyond 
the petty exigencies of everyday policy" and made him "the virtual brains 
of the Western alliance. . . ." "The chief inspiration of the remilitarized 
Federal Republic/' added the paper, is "the dynamic directive: the con- 
quest of the East as far as the Ural mountains. 

There you have it: conquest! As a people the Germans have never 
come to terms with the outcome of the two world wars. They have never 
expressed regret or shown the least sign of remorse over the commission 
of the greatest crimes against humanity. Nor is it likely that they will 
make any amende honorable so long as our government and press make 
of Germany's lack of contrition and repentance our most powerful ally 
against the East. With our complicity and approval the future of German 
freedom and democracy has been placed in the hands of the same men 
who not only instituted nonfreedom in Germany, but sought to spread 
it by force all over the world. 

What tragedy and irony! German unity lasted for about a hundred 
years and for a hundred years German unity was the world's nightmare. 
As often as the Germans succeeded in making their national business 
the center of world interest, the navel of world politics, so often did their 
country become the hearth of explosion! 

Today everything in the world again turns around the German question, 
around German wishes and aspirations and interests. German claims, 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 395 

German pretensions, German rearmament and German honor are amongst 
the principal themes of discussion. But as always, the Germans pay not 
the least attention to the interests, the honor and the anxiety of others. 
The President might tell Aleksei Adzhubei, the editor of Izvestia, that 
he has Adenauers pledge not to equip the new German army with 
nuclear arms, but General Lauris Norstad* promised the Germans that 
they can have atomic weapons as soon as they want them, and Franz 
Josef Strauss,** the head of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, when 
he was defense minister, stated outright: "We Germans must have atomic 
weapons so that we by ourselves alone can fight the Russians without 
waiting for the Americans to make up their minds." 

In the Periodical for German and International Politics, Dr. Albert J. 
Rasker, a Dutch university professor, writes: 

"The most disquieting aspect of the situation is that the guilt for the 
division of Germany into two parts is always charged to the Russians. . . . 
Where is the German with enough moral courage to say: *We West 
Germans are guilty ourselves, we did it in the full knowledge that it 
would lead to disaster?' " 

The Germans say now that they are for the freedom of the West, for 
the ideology and image of the free man against those in the East who 
menace that image 

What do they know about it? They do not even want to remember what 
attitude they took with regard to human freedom on the day of their 
bloody glory. They looked upon freedom and human life itself with infinite 
contempt and did their utmost to destroy both. 

In Die Soldaten Zeitung, the Soldiers' Newspaper, published in Munich, 
appear editorials from time to time demanding an act of expiation on the 
part of America, Britain, France, Russia and other countries which fought 
the Nazi murder machine in the Second World War. "How long will we 
tolerate it," asks the Soldiers' paper, "that we are accused of the vilest 
atrocities in that war when, as we all know, the German people is abso- 
lutely without guilt and has never done the least harm to any other 
people. ..." 

As long as such unrepentant self-righteousness prevails in Germany 
there isn't the slightest chance of international reconciliation. The German 
militarists have learned nothing and have in fact forgotten everything! 

Nobody in the West seems to have the slightest conception of what went 

*Norstad is quoted from Deutsche Zeitung, June 19, 1959. 
**Franz Josef Strauss is quoted from Bonner General Anzeiger, Dec. 15, 1959. 

396 To Number Our Days 

on in Russia during the years of the Nazi occupation, when Hitler actually 
gave orders to depopulate the Ukraine; that is, exterminate its 30 million 
inhabitants, in order to open up that vast area of good earth for settlement 
by Germans. The Germans came very near pulling off that fantastic crime 
of genocide. And this is the horror which stands at the back of all 
American-Russian divergencies: Russia is afraid of Germany, not of the 
present Germany, but of the Germany in the making under American 

Talk about threats! In June, 1963, Germany obtained the right to have 
a voice in selecting atomic targets in Russia. Is it reasonable to expect the 
Russians to stand by and wait? Aren't they just being provoked and baited 
to strike the first blow? 

In the summer of 1961 America ordered a swift reinforcement of its 
military potential in Germany on the pretense that Russia threatened a 
military attack on West Germany. Millions of newspaper readers till this 
day believe that Khrushchev threatened to seize Berlin that year. 

The President's acceleration of war preparations, the dispatch of an addi- 
tional 250,000 men and the increase by six billion dollars in military ex- 
penditures, the whipped-up propagandists arrival of Vice President 
Johnson in Berlin accompanied by 1500 American soldiers, and the 
appointment of General Lucius Clay as the President's personal representa- 
tive "to give the nation a greater immediate striking power," all these 
precautionary measures and "defense maneuvers" were undertaken for the 
purpose of preventing a purely hypothetical Soviet attack on West Berlin. 

I was in Germany and watched the mounting anxiety among the com- 
mon people. Would it be war? Would General Lucius Clay be able to stem 
the pent-up avalanche of a hundred odd divisions Russia has parked in 
East Germany and environs? Would the Russian armored juggernaut, 
which since 1945 is said to stand poised to strike at the North Sea shores 
and ports, at last start off on its predicted conquest of West Europe? It was 
curious to notice the absolute silence of Konrad Adenauer and Franz Josef 
Strauss, the defense minister, in what the American press made look like a 
major catastrophe standing before the door. 

I learned from Professor Renate Riemeck, leader of the Peace Party in 
the Reichstag, who campaigned in the election under the slogan Im Geiste 
Albert Schweitzer's, "In the Spirit of Albert Schweitzer" (Reverence for 
Life), that Khrushchev at no time had threatened to advance ... on Ham- 
burg, Kiel, Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Antwerp or Paris. "The only threat 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 397 

Khrushchev has made so far as I can remember," said Dr. Riemeck, "is 
the threat to sign a peace treaty with East Germany if negotiations with 
the West over Berlin do not succeed. That's not a threat of war." 

The publisher of Die Andere Zeitung of Hamburg, Heinrich Kraschutzki, 
who was standing by as I talked with Professor Riemeck, remarked: "I will 
gladly pay 4,000 marks, a thousand dollars, to anyone who can show me 
one single Soviet war threat in the course of the last three years." 

"But we in America hear and read of Soviet war threats virtually every 
day," I ventured. 

"You mean about Krushchev going to bury the West?" queried the 

"No," I replied, "that expression, I know, does not relate to war 

Only a few months ago one of two German-bora doctors in New York who 
were giving me a physical examination said to his colleague as they looked 
at a set of X-ray photographs of my intestinal tract: 'Dieser Mann wird tins 
beide begrabenY ( This man will bury us both. ) They meant that according 
to what they saw on the photographs, I would, in their own opinion, most 
likely survive both physicians." 

"Those rumors of Soviet war threats," resumed Herr Kraschutzki, "are 
part of an artificial psychosis created by the manipulators of the armament 
industries who are deadly afraid of disarmament. Those rumors are spread 
daily, almost hourly, in order to keep the peoples in a permanent state of 
fright so that they will readily agree to everything the warmakers pro- 
pose to keep the tensions alive. ..." 

To this must be added that Adenauer, since his "conversion" to the 
view that Russia can be dealt with only from so-called "positions of 
strength," has systematically torpedoed each and every possibility of 
reunion of East and West by refusing to negotiate with Russia on the 
conditions of reunion. 

Why did the Russians in August, 1961, order Walter Ulbricht to put up 
a wall between East and West Berlin? 

The answer is this: the Russians got wind of the preparations for 
"Operation Kettle." Under Operation Kettle, a highly mobile section of 
the Bundeswehr, about five armored divisions, was to take the East 
German army by surprise, pounce on East Germany's frontiers and make 
a gap about 50 kilometers wide. The gap was to be kept open for 48 
hours to give the East German population an opportunity to stampede 
into West Germany, while the troops, of course, created all the havoc they 

398 To Number Our Days 

could possibly make in blowing up railway stations, harbor installations, 
warehouses, governmental buildings and so forth. 

When the Soviet intelligence learned of the planned coup, a few 
thousand tanks moved up from the Polish borders and took up a position 
in and near East Berlin. The West Germans fully counted on such a 
Soviet intervention and for that reason intended to withdraw after 48 hours 
or as soon as the Red forces came into view. The Germans were not out 
to start a war. They hadn't even notified the American command of their 
little maneuver to sow panic amongst the population of the German 
Democratic Republic. They were like the man who, half-absentmindedly, 
throws a banana peel in the path of his approaching enemy in the hope 
that it might do most good where most needed. 

The West German newspapers which published the merest hint about 
Operation Kettle were quickly suppressed and forbidden to reappear. 
One of the banned newspapers in its final edition printed this remark: 
"We published the story of 'Operation Kettle' in the hope and with the 
wish that it may open thousands of sleeping eyes before German military 
and political adventurism once again plunges the world into unspeakable 
disaster. . . . " 

When I saw and learned that the "emergency" wasn't an emergency at 
all, but an attempt to lead public opinion astray on the resumption of 
atomic testing, and above all just another enterprise to stimulate the 
sagging economy, I shook the dust of Germany off my feet and sat for a 
while looking at the North Sea from a veranda of one of the hotels at 
Scheveningen in Holland. 

The next day I stood by the side of an old fisherman on the sea wall 
peering through his telescope at some scarcely distinguishable dots far 
out at sea. "On one of those ships is my youngest son," said the old fisher. 
The man had just told me that his father and two brothers were lost during 
the First World War when their boat was torpedoed. "In the Second 
World War one of my boys was deported to Germany as a slave laborer 
and never again heard of. My other son served in the underground, but 
was betrayed and shot with eight others in those dunes over there " 

Just as we were speaking three military jets roared by at a very low 
altitude and in a few instants disappeared from view in a northerly 

That's to reassure and protect us and the thousands of bathers on the 
beach below," I said, referring to the jet patrol. They are flying up and 
down to scare away the Russians." 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 399 

"How old are you?" asked the fisherman. "Old enough, I'm sure, judging 
by the color of your hair, to know that those jets are no protection at all, 
neither for the bathers on the beach, nor anyone else." 

"They are part of the deterrent policyl" 

"They are part of the magnetic policy," he corrected me. "It's these 
things which, like a magnet, draw hell nearer every hour." 

I was off a few days later on a train which took me from The Hague 
to the city of Arras once the center of the fighting on the Somme in the 
First World War. My wife wanted me to put some flowers on the graves 
of Cyril Jones and Ross MacDonald and some other friends of whom I 
spoke often to her. In Arras I hired a car driven by a French Fleming who 
had only one arm which he used more to gesticulate than to chauffeur 
while proceeding at the speed of 100 kilometers an hour. 

"There," he motioned, "is St. Quentin That cathedral on the hill was 

ruined in the First War." 

"I saw it every night," I said, "for months on end like an immense 
brazier while the Germans poured in their incendiary bombs." 

"Big bonfire, hein? . . . You want to see the trenches and dugouts where 
the Australians and Canadians died?" he asked. 

"Show me Loretto Heights, Vimy Ridge and the positions between 
Bapaume, Peronne and Albert." 

"There are only cemeteries now," he said, "and they are almost forgotten. 

The stone crosses are falling to pieces Ha, hal We'll soon be needing 

new graveyards, won t we?" 

"We won t need graveyards in the next war," I countered. "There'll be 
no corpses, not even a spot of grease where we fall " 

"There won't be anyone left to bury the dead anyway," he said. "It'll all 
be done by machines next time. Nice, neat, clean job! . . . Vive Tautoma- 
tionl . . . Here you have the cemetery of Loretto. Forty thousand French- 
men lie buried here. Forty thousand poor boys who once thought they 

were doing something for humanity And here lie the Canadians who 

took Vimy Ridge. The roles have been reversed as you may see. Vimy took 

them in the end Boom, boom! All that ridge, they tell me, went up in 

the air one fine morning. The sappers blew it up and tens of thousands 
of Germans with it! . . . " 

"Where are the Germans buried?" 

"They? They were buried in pits, in mass graves." 

"Two terrible wars passed over this area!" I commented. 

400 To Number Our Days 

"Two only? This here ground has seen a dozen wars go to and fro 

If you care to well stop and look into the old trenches and dugouts. Some 
have been kept intact for tourists to look at. You can still see some skulls 
and bones lying about Do you want to pick up a skull perhaps?" 

"No, thanks, I have one * 

Back in Arras I let the driver put me down in front of the restored 
church. Across the f agade ran an inscription drawn up, I was told, by the 
mayor of Arras. 

Ye who come as pilgrims to their graves, climbing the mountain of their 
death and its bloodstained pathways: Hear the terrible cry of these 
hecatombs: Peoples, unitel Man, become human] . . . 

And so across France by train to Cologne on the line to Basel in 
Switzerland. At the railway station of Coblenz, a man, his wife and two 
sons entered the compartment. Judging by their clothing and luggage, 
of which there was a good deal, they were middle-class people, possibly 
upper middle-class. The two boys, perhaps sixteen and seventeen years 
of age, stood in the corridor looking at the never-wearying spectacle of 
the Rhine. 

"IVe never seen the Rhine so full of traffic," I remarked to the father 
when he joined us in the corridor. "What's the cargo of all those long tows 
of barges?" 

"Eisenerz," he said. "Iron ore. It goes to the steel mills." 

"It seems German business is going ahead full speed again." 

"Yes," he agreed, "and that's why I am getting out!" 

"To Switzerland?" 

"No, we, my family and I, are on our way to Marseilles. . . . We sail 
for Australia the day after tomorrow. ..." 

"You are emigrating?" 

"Yes, we are four of the fifty thousand West Germans emigrating this 

"Fifty thousand, isn't that an enormous figure?" 

"Since the Federal government introduced compulsory military service 
in '52, the average number of emigrants per year is fifty thousand." 

"You mean you are going abroad to escape military service?" 

"I am personally not liable to be called, I am too old. But these two boys 
of mine must join the colors sooner or later. I am getting them out while 
there is yet time. . . . My grandfather fell in the battle of Gravelotte in 
1870. My father was lost at Verdun in 1916. My youngest brother died in 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 401 

the Russian campaign of 1942. These two boys are not going to die on 

any battlefield I really don t like to go abroad. No German likes to 

separate himself permanently from his native country. . . . But enough is 
enough * 

"Are all fifty thousand leaving for the same reason?" 

"It's the chief reason. We don't have to go abroad because of any 
scarcity of work or business here in Germany. There is so much work that 
we have to import workers from Italy and Spain and even from Fin- 
land In fact, there is too much work, too much work of the wrong 


"I am surprised they let you go!" I said. 

"So am I," he came back. "I wont feel safe till we cross the Swiss border." 

"We shudder to think," said a Swiss newspaper which I bought on arrival 
at Basel, "what would happen if Germany should get nuclear weapons 
and throw a bomb on Russian territory." 

I shudder still more when I think that the German adventurers might 

throw a bomb on New York, Washington or Detroit Would there be 

time to investigate where the bomb originated? Wouldn't the counter- 
blow be on its way to Russia within minutes? 

Is this a foolish supposition? It is not foolish at all when you stop to 
think in what school of treachery and villainy the present gang of German 
generals was brought up! 

It is not the differences of opinion in the question of control and in- 
spection which represent the greatest obstacle to general disarmament. 
It's the will to disarm that's lacking. The peoples in East and West are 
subject to mass suggestion manufactured and steered by giants. The 
peoples must be made aware of dangers and filled with fears and appre- 
hensions. For without the fears and anxieties of the masses the minority 
of the giants could not keep its mastery intact. But the giants are also 
themselves afraid and want to avoid nuclear war. 

A Third World War becomes possible only when the giants make an 
error. The surest way to prevent such an error is total disarmament with 
all-around universal control. 

However, this remedy would damage the interests of the giants both 
in East and West. In the event of total disarmament the Western financial 
giant would have to give up his most profitable business and the Eastern 

402 To Number Our Days 

giant his striking power. Both disarmed countries would, moreover, lose 
their power to threaten! . . . 

Cutting through the mist of words and spurious patriotism, what we 
should say in the present harrowing circumstances is this: We, the 
Churches— God's witnesses and the disseminators of His spirit— condemn 
war in all its forms. If we have sinned in the past by not doing our duty, 
today, on the eve of what looks to be the final fall of Christianity, we vow 
to apply all our strength, all our influence and all our resources in making 
peace amongst the nations. If madmen insist on closing the eyes of their 
intellect and heart, and express themselves ready to engage in the most 
sacrilegious anti-God enterprise imaginable— i.e., to wipe out God's cre- 
ation—we, from our side, condemn and absolutely reject the use and 
manufacture of all weapons of war. . . . 

We intend to act in the name of the God of peace. No worldly interest 
will be our inspiration or motive. We reject the immorality of having the 
goal justify the means. The means must be just as righteous and pure as 
the objective. We will unmask the lies of bourgeois and communist 
society: deterrent and terror policies do not deter, but lead all mankind 
nearer the precipice every hour. When millions of so-called atheists unite 
to talk and act for disarmament and peace, other millions— Catholics, 
Protestants, Jews, Mohammedans, Hindus and Buddhists— will also unite. 
They will become the fire that purifies by making of themselves, their 
bodies and minds, a wholly acceptable sacrifice. . . . 

Instead of shouting "Rather dead than Red," would it not be more 
Christian to say quietly, "Rather dead than a murderer?" 

In Paul Tillich's Interpretation of History, written during the aftermath 
of World War I, occurs the phrase: "In every power there is an element of 
renunciation of power, and the power lives on this element." How can 
renunciation of power be achieved? "It cannot be done," says Tillich, 
"with the aid of state power, but only if a people or the nations as a whole 
are seized by a transcendental idea and for its sake renounce power. . . . 
Such an event would be one of the great turning points of history, it would 
perhaps create mankind. ..." 

Renunciation of power, who shall initiate it? Who shall set in motion 
a great courant de foi whereby with mystical energy a single idea is 
suddenly carried in the minds of millions of individuals, whereby a 

Still Stir the Ashes of Klaas 403 

country, an epoch, a generation becomes kindled like a firebrand and 
sheds light over the environing darkness? 

If a mental state of this nature is to fashion anything enduring, it must 
be boldly conceived in truly heroic forms. Such an idea would be worthy 
of America and make this country truly great as a pioneer of the future, 
great in the things of the spirit, great in justice, great in mutual co- 
operation, great in love. What matters is to be great, not merely to seem 

If we can attune our minds to the idea's magnitude and simplicity, we 
may already feel its vital warmth radiating into our mortal world. The 
idea will grow in the process of fashioning, though it must go through 
purgatory and hell. Men and women will have to suffer to impress their 
contemporaries that nothing is more precious, more glorious and beautiful 
than life. All true creation grows out of the dark humus of rejected Utopias. 
In extraordinary circumstances such as we experience, the Utopian, the 
extraordinary, the seemingly impossible may be the only sensible way. 

Even so, it should not be expected that the peace movement will 
suddenly grow so strong as to sweep the earth clean of the abomination 
of war and militarism. As ever, only a small minority will stand up for 
righteousness and common sense. And that minority will be denounced 
and vilified and hated to an extent that it will be virtually outlawed and 
given over to the execration of the mob. 

"What I see in the offing at not too great a distance/' recently wrote 
Helmut Gollwitzer* to Martin Niemoeller, "is an era of persecution and 
martyrdom. Rather than follow the peacemakers, the different national 
states, whether Christian or not, will seek to crush and obliterate 

The time to act therefore is now; now, while there is still time to say 
without fear what we think just and decent. No man has the right to give 
us the order to die. No American citizen is under any patriotic, moral, 
social or any other obligation to die for any social-economic system 

If we want it so, the world of the future can be happy, wondrously 
beautiful and free. On the other hand, to leave the disposition of the 
future to chance or to those whose mentality is warped by their avowed 
or unavowed lust for power and wealth means death for all of us. 

•Professor of theology, Berlin. 

404 To Number Our Days 

RSsistezl Rdsistez toujoursl These words: "Resist! Always resist!" which 
may still be seen in the dungeons of Nimes scratched on the walls by the 
manacled hands of the imprisoned Huguenots should be brought back 
into the open. 

For only resistance will give us the right to hope for survival! 

And resistance in the present circumstances means: rebellion, refusal 
to be brainwashed any longer, cease being "a nation of sheep," throw off 
the death urge with which the present power structure seeks to put us to 
sleep, and stop accusing everybody who wants somebody else's foot 
removed from his neck of being an enemy to freedom. 

What we need first of all in order to safeguard both the treasures of the 
past and the rights of the future are two things: a great act of repentance 
and a great act of faith. Repentance for all our infidelities, our idolatries, 
our worship of the false gods, our criminal narrow-mindedness, our ana- 
themas against those who are not of our opinion, our crusading spirit by 
which we identify the relative values of our civilization with the absolute. 
And last but not least, our inveterate habit of ascribing to God what in 
essence is but the conceit of the masters of the world's game of guile 
and blood! 

While it is true that we cannot count on the surprises of history, this 
much we can and do say: No tyranny was ever so systematic, nor no 
oppression so barbaric, but that there were men and women, small groups, 
religious conventicles, secret fighters for freedom, willing and able to 
confound the ignominy that tramples the majority and fight for the truth 
against the monomaniacs of power and privilege. 

A small flame can set an immense heap of wood on fire and the most 
worth-while things in life and in history have always come from exceed- 
ingly small minorities. . . . 

Peace to all men of good will. . . and also to the othersl . . . 

Picture Acknowledgments 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 17, 19, 21 and 22. Author's Collection 

6. Photograph by Berenice Abbott, courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf 

7. The Bettmann Archive 

8. Courtesy of Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Inc. 

9. United Press International Photo 

10. Brown Brothers 

11. The Bettmann Archive 

12. Wide World Photo 

13. Brown Brothers 

14. Wide World Photo 

15. The Bettmann Archive 

16. Wide World Photo 

18. Photograph by Studio Dorlys, Coll. R.Z., Paris. From "Rebellious Prophet, 
A Life of Nicolai Berdyaev," by Donald A. Lowrie. Harper and Row, 1960. 
Courtesy of Donald A. Lowrie 

20. Photograph by Lotte Jacobi, courtesy of Zionist Archives and Library, 
New York City