Passing the great estate of Tolstoi I could not help thinking of one of his marvelous word pictures and as it concerns everyone of us it will not be out of place to call attention to it here. As the story goes a youth had fallen heir to his father's estate and this taste of wealth made him crazy for the lands adjoining the little homestead. One fine morning this young man was greeted in the highway by a fine looking nobleman who said he had taken a liking to him and had decided to give him all the land he could cover during one day. As they stood at the corner of the little homestead at the grave of his father the stranger said to the young man: "You may start now and walk all day, but at sundown you must be back here at your father's grave."
Without even stopping to tell his wife the good news, or bid her and their little child good-bye, the young man started. At first thought he decided to cover a tract six miles square which would mean a walk of twenty-four miles, but he had only gotten well started when the plan was enlarged to a square of nine miles. The morning was so cool and fine and he felt so strong that he increased it to twelve miles and still later he made it a square of fifteen miles, which would mean a walk of sixty miles before sundown. By noon he had made the thirty miles but so great was his fear of failure he decided not to stop for lunch. An hour later he saw an old man at a wayside spring, but felt that he must not stop even for a drink of water and rushed on his way.
By the middle of the afternoon he had discarded his coat and a little later threw away his shirt. An hour before sunset it was a race for life. His heart had almost stopped beating and his eyes began to bulge from their sockets. As the sun touched the horizon he was still many rods from the starting point. With all the strength of both body and soul he lunged forward and just as the sun went out of sight he staggered across the line and fell into the arms of the stranger who was there to meet him, but when he fell he was dead.
"I promised him," said the stranger, "all the ground he could cover. Strictly speaking, it is about two feet wide and six feet long. And I drew the line here at his father's grave because I thought he would rather have the land he could cover close to his father than to have it anywhere else." "Then the stranger—death—slipped away," says Dr. Hillis, who tells the story, saying: "I always keep my pledge." So they buried the man with the land-hunger.
The Russian people have just gotten a taste of liberty and are as crazy as was the man with the land-hunger. All hope and trust that they will see their condition before the nation comes to a death struggle, but they have passed the meridian and entered the dangerous part of the day and if the leader does not soon come who can stop their onward sweep, they will be in the last great struggle and the death rattle will be heard. But terrible as the situation is at this writing, however, there are some signs of a better day, and as long as there is life there is hope. Some of us still believe that the day will come when Russia will be a mighty and powerful nation.
THE NATION THAT CONQUERS THE SEA—HOLLAND
We read in ancient history that Xerxes whipped the sea, but this chapter will give a glimpse of a nation that conquers the sea. A million acres of the best land in Holland have actually been rescued from the water, and at this hour a large lake is being drained which means that hundreds of thousands of acres will soon be rescued from the sea and be made to blossom as the rose.
The country of Holland is about the size of the state of Maryland. One-fourth of its entire area is below the sea level, and its great dykes were they placed end to end, would make an immense dam more than fifteen hundred miles long and in some places from thirty to sixty feet high. Almost the entire country is a network of canals. A single one of these canals cost more than fifteen million dollars and it is less than fifty miles in length.
The faith of these Holland people in times of adversity is one of the wonders of history. For a hundred years they struggled against powerful Spain, but their faith saved them. It is said that at the siege of Leyden they were reduced to such desperate straits that all they had to eat was dogs and cats. In derision they were called "dog and cat eaters." They replied to their enemies: "As long as you hear the bark of a dog or the mew of a cat the city holds. When these are gone we will devour out left arms, retaining the right to defend our homes and our freedom. When all are gone we will set fire to the city and with our wives and children perish rather than see our families destroyed and our religion desecrated."
Think of it! A country one-half of which is below the level of the water, some of it sixteen feet lower than the ocean, which is only a few miles away! What watchfulness and anxiety bordering upon fear must occupy every moment, both day and night! In a single century there were thirty-five great inundations which literally swallowed up several hundred thousand people. Instead of being disheartened, like ants, they went to work at once to rebuild the dykes, and with the aid of hundreds of gigantic windmills pumped the water back into the sea.
These windmills are not only used to pump water, but they saw wood, grind corn, crush seeds, make paper, and do about everything else. While they are imperilled all the time by water, they make the water serve them in numerous ways. Their fences are ditches filled with water. How their cattle and horses have been trained to stay in, a small lot surrounded by narrow ditches filled with water which they could easily jump over, is a mystery, but every visitor to Holland has seen it with his own eyes.
These Dutch people are great farmers and stock raisers. As their country has no minerals, the people depend upon agriculture more perhaps than in any other part of the world. Supporting a population of four hundred and seventy people to the square mile, every foot of the land of course is tilled carefully. The main agricultural product is potatoes, of which they raise about one hundred million bushels per annum. Then come oats, twenty million bushels, rye, fifteen million and about a third as much wheat.
The Hollanders build ships, refine sugar, dredge oysters, distill liquor and brew beer. They manufacture carpets, leather and paper goods, make chocolate, cut diamonds as well as produce gold and silver articles and pottery. The farmer uses his cow like one of the family. He keeps her in the house when the weather is cold, washes and combs her hair more often than his own, and keeps her room as clean as the parlor. She chews her cud contentedly and the only thing about her which is tied up is her tail, which is generally fastened to a beam above to keep it from getting soiled. Of course, milk, butter and cheese are not a small part of the living of these people. Often in a Holland home the sitting room, dining room and sleeping room are one and the same. People often sleep in bunks one above the other like berths on a ship or sleeping car.
The great bird in Holland is the stork, which is kept and given a home because of the service rendered in keeping down toads and frogs. The people who live in the lowest ground make nests for the storks upon posts erected for the purpose, and almost every Dutch city has a pet colony of these birds. The Dutch folk-lore tells of the tragedy of the stork colony away back in the fifteenth century which occurred during the breeding season. The town of Delft caught fire and when the older storks made ready for flight their offspring were too young to fly and too heavy to be carried, and rather than leave their young, the old birds went back to their nests and perished.
The two great recreation amusements that everybody engages in are cycling and skating. Roads are good so that the former can be practiced the year around, while the latter, of course, can only be indulged in during the winter time. These people become so skilled on the ice that they can beat an express train, and to skate a hundred miles in an afternoon is an ordinary excursion. Some years ago a record of four miles in five minutes was established which is "going some" on skates.
In the beginning of winter when the skating season opens, the young men and maidens have a great time going to the city of Gouda. The young men go to buy long pipes and bring them home safely in their mouths or pockets. The fair maidens try to waylay them and break these pipes. Likewise the maidens purchase brittle cakes and attempt to carry them home in bags without breaking them up, and the young men endeavor to knock the bags from their hands and thus, "break the cake." They all have a gay time.
Skating is ruled by a sort of a national society. The fee is so small that everyone can join it. This society decides when skating is safe, marks the routes and employs sweepers to keep these highways clear from snow, etc. Everyone must obey the rules laid down by this society, consequently accidents are rare. One week each year they have a great festival called the "Kermis," which is not unlike the old-fashioned carnival in this country. All kinds of amusements are engaged in and all have a jolly time. St. Nicholas Day, which occurs on December fifth, is also a great day in Holland, especially for the children.
The largest city in Holland is Amsterdam, which contains more than one-half million people. This is a walled city, but the walls are water in the shape of canals. There are four of them, the outermost being called the Single or "Girdle." Across these canals are smaller canals running diagonally and the city itself is as though built on a thousand islands.
These larger canals are almost filled with ships of various sizes and boats and barges fill the smaller ones. The city has the appearance of being built on the water, canals serving the purposes of streets. The ground used to be a great marsh and the entire city is practically built on piles which are driven down sometimes eighty feet.
One great palace in the city stands upon fourteen thousand piles. One would think the buildings would collapse in the course of time, and some of them are all out of shape, but the people are so used to seeing the buildings lean, almost like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, that they think nothing about it. Once in awhile the road will give way under a heavily loaded truck, but they pry the load out, repair the roadway, and go ahead as though the highway were built upon solid rock.
That the people of Amsterdam are religious is shown by the fact that there are many large churches in the city. The front of the great palace called the Dam has a hundred windows and only one little insignificant entrance. It has been called "the palace without a door." Just across the square is the Exchange with a great portico supported by seventeen columns. Some have called this "A door without a house."
Like New York, Amsterdam has its Ghetto, in which more than sixty thousand Jews are packed almost like sardines in a box, and most of these live in the direst poverty and misery imaginable. However, just beside this Ghetto live wealthy Jewish families, and one of the great synagogues is so magnificent that they claim it represents the Temple of Solomon.
As noted above the gigantic task of draining the Zuyder Zee has already been started. This great lake is a hundred miles long and half as wide, and used to be a great forest. Between seven and eight hundred years ago, this forest and some better lands consisting of farm lands and cities, were destroyed by the River Chim. A writer in the Scientific American, quoted in the Literary Digest, says:
"Then Neptune looked down with longing eyes for his own. About the middle of the thirteenth century, the North Sea broke through the upper sand dunes and swept over the land. Hundreds of villages with their inhabitants were engulfed and destroyed. Geographical continuity was obliterated, and Holland found herself cut in two by an ocean eighty-five miles long from north to south, and from ten to forty-five broad. It proved, moreover, quite as treacherously dangerous a sea as that which divided her from Britain."
The capital city of Holland contains more than a quarter of a million people. Perhaps the most outstanding building in The Hague is the Palace of Peace. It was dedicated August 28, 1913. Something like twenty countries contributed materials for this great building. The granite in the base of the walls came from Norway and Sweden, the marble in the great corridor is Italian; Holland supplied the steps in the great stairway, and the group of statuary at the foot of this stairway came from Argentina.
The stained glass in the windows of the Court of Law came from Great Britain, and the rosewood in the paneling of the Council Chamber is Brazil's contribution. Turkey and Roumania each supplied carpets, Switzerland furnished the clock, and Belgium the iron work on the door at the main entrance. Our own contribution was a group of statuary in marble and bronze at the first landing of the great stairway. Russia and China furnished vases, Japan sent silken curtains, and France furnished a magnificent painting. Thus the nations builded together and we all hope the dream for which this Palace of Peace stands will soon become a reality. We are glad that the building is now open again.
For more than four years Holland occupied perhaps the most difficult position in which any country was ever placed. Every day of that time she was between the "devil and the deep sea." Compelled to be ready for invasion every moment, yet trying to remain strictly neutral, she had the job of feeding hundreds of thousands of refugees. These were anxious months and years, but the Dutch did most remarkably well and kept their heads above water all the time. No people were more happy to see peace come although they were compelled to harbor the greatest enemy civilization ever had.
THE NATION THAT THE WORLD HONORS—BELGIUM
During the world war the eyes of the world were upon Belgium and it is quite fitting that an article be devoted to this little country whom the world honors. Although one of the smallest of all the independent nations yet before the invasion this little country stood eighth in wealth and sixth in export and import trade among the nations. Texas is more then twenty times as large as Belgium. Although not nearly all her land is under cultivation yet she supported seven and a half million people and before the war it is said she had no paupers.
This little country has been called the "balance wheel of the world's trade." The city of Antwerp is said to have forty miles of quays—ahead of New York City. When the war broke out Belgium had just completed a ten million dollar canal and had spent eighty million dollars on her waterways. Her commercial and industrial interests were amazing. She had one hundred and eighty factories for the manufacture of arms alone. A single engine factory in Liege turned out two thousand large engines complete, annually. The zinc foundries and cycle works of this one city are world famous.
Belgium had the cheapest railroad fare of any country on earth. Twenty-four of her thirty-two lines were government owned. One could purchase a third-class ticket, good for five days going anywhere over these lines for $2.35. One could ride to his work on the railway train twenty miles and back each day for a whole week for the insignificant sum of thirty-seven and one-half cents. This made it possible for even the poorest people to travel and many of them did. The city of Brussels had two hundred passenger trains entering and leaving the two great depots every twenty-four hours.
Belgium gave the world the greatest example of thrift ever known. Surely, if ever a nation needed such an example, we did and do. Belgium could live well from the crumbs that fall from our tables. Were the American people as thrifty as the Belgians, we could save all the war cost us, including the soldiers' bonus, in a generation. There, everybody works, even father. While the people are poor, yet, as noted above, it was a country without paupers and will soon be so again.
The government paid interest on savings and encouraged even the poorest to have a savings account. Such an account could be started with one franc and could be opened at any post office. Our thrift stamp idea came from Belgium. The farmer or working man could buy a small plot of ground, build a little home for his family, be insured against sickness or accident, even though he hardly had a dollar to start with. The government would back him and he could borrow money from the national savings bank system.
The Belgians are said to have the best courts in existence. With a single judge in the Supreme Court, cases are reviewed quickly while everything is fresh in mind and witnesses and all other evidence is easily obtained, and the decisions of the lower courts either reversed or sustained at once without any lost motion whatever. The lower courts are open for the settlement of all disputes. The judge cross-questions both sides without any lawyers to interfere and the poorest wage earner can have his wrongs righted without a cent's expense. The assistance of an attorney is hardly ever needed and not one decision in a hundred is appealed.
The contribution of Belgium to farming and stock raising has been immense. Most of the soil is thin and has been used for centuries, and yet she raises more than twice as much wheat per acre as the Dakotas and harvests as much as $250 worth of flax per acre. A few centuries ago the district between Antwerp and Ghent was a barren moor called Weasland. Today every inch of this land is cultivated and is dotted by some of the finest farms in Belgium. This entire sandy district was covered, "cartload by cartload, spadeful by spadeful with good soil brought from elsewhere." It is now like a great flower garden and in fact much of it is flower beds. The city of Ghent is known as the flower city of Europe, there being a hundred nursery gardens and half as many horticultural establishments in the suburbs of this one city.
A marvelous thing about Belgian agriculture is that they rotate the soil rather than the crops. Their methods of intensive farming are so wonderful that if North and South Dakota could be farmed as is Belgian soil, nearly all the people in the United States could move to these two states and be fed. Belgium is a land of very small farms and it is said that the poorest agricultural laborer has a better chance to become a land owner than in most any other country. Until auto trucks made their appearance the great drays of London and New York were drawn by Belgian horses. Belgian stallions often take the blue ribbons at our great state fairs and our farmers have found that the Belgian breeds of stock are second to none. Even Belgian hares are most prolific and most profitable of any breed of rabbits in this country today.
The contribution in architecture of this little country to the world has been so great and her churches and public buildings so stately that Belgium has been called, "The Jewel box of Europe." Of course, many of her great cathedrals and public buildings were damaged or destroyed, but they will, in a large measure, at least, be restored.
The art of Belgian painters is world famous and graces the finest galleries in both Europe and America. Many of the paintings of Rubens and other master artists are almost priceless. As lace makers the women of Belgium are famous the world around. From early morning until late at night these toilers sit in their low chairs and the skill with which they shoot the little thread-bobbins back and forth across the cushions is indescribable. Neither men nor women in Belgium are overly much given to amusements. They work with all their might, but when the national holidays come they abandon themselves to the amusements for the moment and have a most enjoyable time.
While many are illiterate, the Belgians are giving much attention to schools these times. Even while they were guests of France, with their government located at Havre, they established twenty-four schools for the children and a single woman had more than five thousand pupils under her care and direction. They also established large schools at that place for disabled soldiers and many of them became not only skilled workers, but inventors. One of these disabled men invented a process to make artificial limbs out of waste paper and it is said that these limbs are the best made. Many of these legless soldiers with artificial limbs can walk so well that one would never imagine that they had been wounded.
Providence seems to have made Belgium the great battlefield of Europe. Nearly every great general of European history has fought on Belgian soil. When the Spaniards looted Belgian cities and set up the inquisition it seemed as though the very imps of the lower regions were turned loose. I have looked upon many of the instruments of torture that can still be seen in European museums and they were even more terrible than anything used in the late war. Again and again has Belgian soil been drenched with blood. Only a little more than one hundred years ago the hosts of Napoleon and Wellington decided the destiny of nations at the battle of Waterloo.
Here was this great hive of industry, with the wheels of her factories humming and her people happy, industrious and contented up to that fateful day in August, 1914. No people were more loyal to their ideals, more trustful of others or more anxious to serve humanity than these honest-hearted, hard-working people. They felt secure, for the treaty which protected them had been signed by all the nations around them. This treaty had been held sacred for more than eighty years and was to last as long as time. It had held them secure during the great crisis of 1870-1871 and when the war cloud gathered in Austria and Servia they felt secure.
Soon, however, it became plain that Germany had been planning for years to crush this little country like an egg shell. Four double-track lines of railway had been built up to the Belgian border. Miles of concrete platforms had been built, but no suspicions had been aroused. When the enemy started across Belgium he had better maps of the country than any Belgian had ever seen. At once many Germans in Belgium left their homes silently and the surprise of Belgian neighbors can be better imagined than described when they saw their old friends coming back with the enemy's army. They had been spies all these years.
When the great siege guns were brought from their hiding places in the Krupp factories into Belgium, the foundations for them were already there. These guns were so heavy that the London Times stated that it took thirteen traction engines to pull a single one of them. They threw shells that weighed almost a ton twenty miles and a single one of them would destroy a building as large as our own national capital building in Washington. So accurately had these foundations been placed that scarcely a single shell was wasted.
It is said that years ago some so-called German university men asked the Belgian Government for permission to study the geology of their country. This permission was granted freely. But these were mostly military men and spent months investigating and surveying and marking certain places. Once more these men came to the Belgian Government stating that they wished to study the formation of rocks and soil which would necessitate digging into the earth and as they did not wish to be bothered by the public, asked permission to build barricades around the places where they worked. Their request was granted instantly and by this means they built the foundations for these great siege guns.
Finally the fateful day came. Germany told Belgium that she intended going across her territory anyway and if she would allow this to be done peaceably she would pay her double price for everything destroyed; that it would be to her best interests to allow this and that she might have twelve hours to think it over. In the darkest hours of the war, when it seemed that the Germans would be victorious, I heard the Belgian minister in Washington say in an address: "Yes, they gave us twelve hours to decide, but they gave us eleven hours and fifty-nine minutes too much time." As long as time, it will be remembered to the glory of Belgium that she told Germany instantly to stay upon her own territory; that the world would never say that Belgium went back upon her word; that if war came she would remain neutral as in the treaty she had agreed to do. The minister referred to above also said in this darkest hour: "They now have all but three hundred square miles of our territory, but what will it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul.' We have lost our property, but we have saved our soul, and if it were to do over again we would do exactly the same thing."
Brave little Belgium! For four and one half years she stood bleeding and with her head bowed in sorrow! Her homes were destroyed, her old men and women shot down like dogs, her women outraged, her youths and maidens enslaved, her little children misused, but Belgium still lives, and always will live in the hearts of men and women wherever civilization is known! Her King and Queen were brave and heroic through all those horrible times; her church leaders could not be bought or sold, and her common people were true as steel. As a nation she blundered in days agone, but what nation has not made mistakes? Belgium saved democracy for a thousand years and is today the nation that the whole world honors.
A GLIMPSE OF AMERICA'S FRIEND—FRANCE
Although great in history, France is but a small country. It is interesting to note that all France could be placed in the state of Texas and there would be room enough left for Belgium, Holland, Denmark and Switzerland, one in each corner. Even then, Delaware and the District of Columbia could be put in for good measure and the Lone Star State would still have more than eight hundred square miles to spare.
About half of the people of France depend wholly upon agriculture for their living. Instead of living on farms as we do they live in small villages. Their farms are very small, generally running from two to fifteen acres. As a rule, the soil is thin and unproductive, but with their patient toil, careful methods of farming and a very liberal use of fertilizer they raise abundant crops. Just about half of the soil of France is tilled and about one-eighth is used for grazing while all the famous vineyards of this country cover but about four per cent of the ground. The balance is in forests and streams, highways, canals, and railways.
When the war broke out there were about four million French families who owned their homes and a thriftier and more industrious people could hardly be found. In 1871, when the heartless Bismarck insisted on having a one billion dollar indemnity, besides the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, he thought he had the people of France throttled for a generation, but to his very great amazement every dollar of this huge sum was paid in less than three years. This fact is but an indication that the French are a race of savers.
A silent revolution in the habits of the peasant people has been the outcome of the war. Ages ago an uprising took the land away from wealthy owners and gave it to the peasants. A few years later Napoleon had enacted or rather established a Code by which a man's property was equally divided between his children. Thus, if a man died leaving four children and an eight-acre farm, it was divided into four strips of two acres each. Then, in the course of time, one of these children died leaving four children, his two-acre farm was divided into four strips of a half acre each.
Thus a great portion of the land is cut up into little strips and gardens. Through the intermarriage of children a family might own several of these strips of land, often miles from each other. This often brought complications and made it impossible to introduce modern farm implements and do away with much of the drudgery of peasant life.
This is one advantage that grew out of the war in many places. In the devastated areas all landmarks were often obliterated and in many cases the government brought in tractors and plowed great fields which before the war were hundreds of little farms and gardens. Then, too, many of these peasants became greedy, selfish individualists. Each man worked by himself and for himself and the idea of co-operation was almost unknown. No ordinary farmer ever became able to have modern farm implements himself and they never dreamed that several of them could go together and purchase a binder, a thresher or tractor. Their one standby was the hoe and not only the man but his wife and children often had to work from daylight until dark to keep the wolf from the door.
Since the war a new day has dawned for the French peasantry. It was very hard for some of them to give up their old notions and customs, but it meant a new order for all who were in the pathway of the war. While the city of Paris has been always known as the Gay City, yet the people in the country did not enjoy life in any such way. They had no amusements, no daily papers, and in some places no songs. The famous Man with the Hoe is a picture of the French farmer. In many of the rebuilt villages now they have amusements and movies and in many cases public libraries have been started.
It is said that in many of the farmhouses of the French peasantry may be seen hanging little colored prints representing the main professions. At the top of a stairway stands a king with the motto: "I rule you all," on a step below is a priest who says: "I pray for you all;" still farther down stands the soldier who says: "I defend you all;" but at the bottom of the stairway is the peasant whose motto is: "I feed you all." The French peasant seemed to take this for granted and never imagined that while doing it he might have advantages and pleasures that would help to make life worth living.
Of course, there are great industries and industrial centers in France. The city of Lille was, before the war, the Pittsburg of France. This city was not only the center of the textile industry, but had scores and hundreds of factories and machine shops of all kinds. While the city itself was not totally destroyed, the factories were almost completely ruined. In some cases railroad tracks were laid into the buildings and whole trainloads of costly machinery were shipped out of the country. I saw the inside of many of these buildings where high explosives were used and all that was left was the shell of the building, the inside being one mass of twisted iron girders and broken concrete.
Of course, the idea of the enemy was to make it impossible for French factories to ever again compete with their own so they attempted to destroy all they left. They especially looked after all patterns and plans and thought they were making a clean sweep. In one case a great factory that covered sixty acres of ground was destroyed. But the owners had a branch factory in southern France and immediately began manufacturing duplicate machinery so that when the war closed all that was needed was the transportation facilities to get the machinery to Lille.
In the great coal fields about Lens the works and machinery were so completely destroyed that one could hardly tell there were coal mines in the district at all. The writer went over these ruins after the war closed and it is simply beyond the imagination to picture the actual conditions at that time. The course of small rivers and streams were changed so that the water could be run into these mines.
One quite remarkable distinction is noticeable to a stranger going through France and that is that an occasional factory seems to be located in the midst of an agricultural district. The land may be farmed on all sides up to the factory buildings. The men often work in these factories while the women and children and old men do the work on the farms.
Portions of southern France are noted for the beautiful vineyards. Bordeaux and other brands of wine are famous the world around. Some of our boys are laughing yet about the French methods of making wine. The grapes are gathered and piled into a great vat. When this receptacle is filled, men, women and children take off their shoes and most all of their clothes and climb in. Here they walk and jump and tramp until the whole thing is a mass of pulp. In the meantime, the wine is continually draining out and being cared for by others.
After they have tramped out all the juice possible by this method the remains are put into a great press something like a cider press. After all the wine has been extracted by these various methods, they use the pulp in the manufacture of a powerful intoxicant, but this is not generally used as a beverage. Of course, all understand that in many places they have modern machinery and make wine along scientific lines, but in many cases they use these old methods to this day.
The courage of the French people is sublime. Even in the darkest days their faith never wavered and they firmly believed they would be victorious. As a monument of this faith there is in Paris today the most wonderful painting perhaps that was ever put upon canvas. It is called the "Pantheon de Guerre" and is a marvelous cycloramic painting of the war. It was opened up to the public soon after the armistice was signed and the writer saw it while attending the Peace Conference.
Many remember the wonderful representation of the Battle of Gettysburg which used to be in Chicago. This Paris cyclorama is along the same line, but ten times more wonderful. It is three hundred and seventy-four feet in circumference and forty-five high. The actual preparation of this began in October, 1914, and while the army of the invaders was within thirty miles of Paris and the big guns were shaking the city, more than twenty artists were working on the marvelous production.
The central figure is a woman, mounted upon a high pedestal, which stands in front of a huge temple, and she is holding aloft the laurel wreath of victory. Upon the first step of a giant stairway which leads to the temple is a group of French heroes which includes Joffre, Foch, Petain and many others, while in front of them are guns and flags bearing marks of conflict. The only allusion to Germany in the whole painting is in the battle-scarred flags and guns which were used in the first battle of the Marne. Upon this gigantic stairway are life-size figures of more than five thousand people nearly everyone of which is a life sketch of some French hero of the war. Among them are many women whose heroic work and influence will live forever.
Just across on the opposite side of the painting from this scene is depicted a gigantic tomb on the top of which is a group of soldiers holding aloft a great coffin in which is a dead companion. At the base and on the steps is a woman dressed in mourning, kneeling in the attitude of prayer, while nearby is a wreath inscribed to the unknown dead. Back of the tomb in the distance you can see the rays of the setting sun and in some indescribable way they are lighting up the faces of those on the temple stairway like a beautiful rainbow of promise, while the tomb itself is left in the shadows of the declining day.
In the group representing Belgium it is only natural that Edith Cavil should have a prominent place. To be sure King Albert and his queen and others are there. As in Belgium the first casualties occurred it is fitting that here alone is seen a wounded man and the Red Cross workers are caring for him as he lies upon a stretcher. Here too, are seen the broken pieces of a cathedral tower with a chalice and altar and Cardinal Mercier in his priestly robes, while lying on the steps between him and the king is the torn "scrap of paper."
But it would take pages of this book to give an adequate description of the entire panorama. Of course, all the allies are represented. In a group representing the United States, President Wilson is one of the chief figures. I am told that the picture of General Pershing is a life-sized painting, which he was kind enough to sit for, to be used in this production. Here is also seen an American Indian, a cowboy, a merchant and an artisan. An American flag is borne aloft while four West Point cadets suggest training and leadership. Women relief workers of all kinds are seen. Then extending entirely around the room above and back of all these groups is a profile map of France from the Channel to the Swiss border. Here can be seen the principal towns and cities involved during the war. Here, too, can be seen all the modern implements of war and everything is actual or life size.
As I stood gazing upon this wonderful production of artistic genius, my own brain almost reeled and staggered at the immensity and vividness of it. One moment the perspiration would break out and the next moment it was hard to keep the tears back. Pride, beauty, indignation, mourning, genius, art, science, invention, generalship, statesmanship, honor, love, tenderness, devotion, heroism and glory are all intermingled in a most marvelous way. The opportunity to behold and study this great panorama of the war is almost worth a trip to Paris. Then to think of the faith and courage it must have taken to work on and on while the shells from the big guns were bursting at regular intervals during the day and the bombs dropping from the aeroplanes above at night; all this fills and thrills one's heart with admiration for the French people.
SOME IMPRESSIONS OF THE GREAT PEACE CONFERENCE
For a month the writer listened to the heartbeat of nations as their representatives were gathered in the city of Paris. No other city ever had within its borders so many of the statesmen of nations. There were worked out the beginnings of the great problems that will mean the life of civilization.
Should the nations of the earth plan and make preparation for another war the race is imperilled. It is either universal peace or universal doom. Either some plan to stop war or preparation for the final judgment. Quit fighting or quit living. Peace or death.
The late war revealed the possibilities of human genius. Man's power to destroy has been discovered and across the sky can be seen in letters of blood the warning, "Abolish war or perish." Some say the war ended six months too soon, but had it continued that much longer, the probable results are too awful to contemplate. The Angel of Destruction had the sword lifted over Germany, but it was as though divine providence stayed his hand.
American genius was just coming into play. For instance, we are told that a gas had been discovered that is so deadly that a few bombs filled with it and dropped upon a city would all but wipe it out of existence. When the armistice was signed hundreds of tons of that gas were ready for use and on the way to the battle front. Other inventions and discoveries have since been brought out that are too deadly to even talk about.
No one can describe the Peace Conference without giving great credit to our president, for without him it seemed that the leaders were unable to get anywhere. When he said that the time had come when the civilized nations of the earth should form an organization to abolish war the enthusiasm of the common people knew no bounds. A committee was at once appointed to work out a constitution for such an organization and President Wilson was made the chairman.
Some problems touch only the rich and others have to do with the poor alone; some interest only the capitalist and others interest only those who toil with their hands; some absorb the thought of only the white race while others have to do with the black and yellow races; some have to do only with the educated while others reach none but the ignorant; but here is a problem that has to do with every family on the earth, rich or poor, capitalist or laboring man, white, black and all other colors and races—in fact, it touches every home and will do so as long as people live upon the earth.
To abolish war would rejoice the heart of every mother who has gone into the jaws of death to give birth to a son. It would bring gratitude from the heart of every wife and sweetheart whose face has been bathed with tears as the last good-bys were on their lips. It would be a blessing to every child now living, as well as to the generations yet unborn. It would thrill the heart of every lover of justice and mercy and would answer the heart longings of millions who have prayed without ceasing for the reign of peace on earth among men of good will.
When President Wilson enunciated the fourteen points some wiseacres laughed and criticised, but these very points formed the basis of the armistice and the Good Lord only knows how many American lives were saved to say nothing of English, French, Italian and all the rest. No one knows how many are alive and well today who would have been sleeping in unknown and unmarked graves had the armistice been detained a single week.
The American headquarters in Paris during the Peace Conference were in the Hotel Grillion, which is on the Place de la Concorde in the heart of the city. The room number 351 belonged to the suite occupied by Colonel House and it was really the birth chamber of the League of Nations. The nineteen men who made up the committee belonged to fourteen nations. President Wilson, as chairman, called them together in this room. The first meeting of this committee was held February third and was very brief. In all, ten meetings were held and all were held in this room. President Wilson presided at all but one of them. Each man brought his suggestions in writing so there would be no chance for misunderstanding. Full discussion of all points was always encouraged. When the entire constitution was worked out it was agreed to unanimously and it was then ready to be presented to the Peace Conference.
Until the Peace Treaty was ready to sign all meetings of the great conference were held in the Foreign Ministry building in Paris. This is across the river Seine from the Concorde. Many supposed all meetings were held at Versailles but this is a mistake. Versailles is a city of some sixty thousand people and about ten miles from Paris. The old Palace is there but the great Hall of Mirrors where the treaty was finally signed could not be comfortably heated in the winter time. So for that as well as other reasons the meetings were held in Paris.
Through Mr. Ray Stannard Baker I received a pass to the Peace Conference. These passes were only given to newspaper men and I represented People's Popular Monthly. The great day was February fourteenth, 1919. On this date eighty-four statesmen representing twenty-seven nations, the combined population of which is more than twelve hundred million people, were seated around one table. Clemenceau was the chairman of the conference and sat at the head of the table. By his side sat our own president, who at that time, towered head and shoulders above the statesmen of the world. Let politicians rave and senators criticize, yet the fact remains that Woodrow Wilson will have a place in history by the side of the immortal Lincoln and Washington.
When he was introduced our president read the constitution, or covenant as it was called, and then made some remarks concerning it. While I stood listening to him as he thrilled the hearts and held almost breathless this company of statesmen and noted their faces as he said: "We are now seeing eye to eye and learning that after all, all men on this earth are brothers," my eyes are swimming in tears and I don't know yet whether it was the man speaking, what he said, or the way he thrilled those men, that caused it. I do know, however, that it was one of the greatest moments I ever lived.
Near the end of the table sat the black man from Liberia. How his face shone and his eyes sparkled when he heard these words! When he reached his homeland he no doubt told his people how the great American president championed a plan to abolish war and told the statesmen of the Peace Conference that the world is learning that all men on this earth are brothers, and the very hills of that black land echoed with praises for America.
Since that day the Chinese, who have never been warriors and love America anyway, have talked in their tea rooms and joss houses about the American President's plan to abolish war. In the villages of far away India, in the homes of the Sea Islanders and in fact wherever human beings have congregated they have talked of a world peace. But it was the peoples of the downtrodden, war-stricken nations especially who looked to our president as the great champion of liberty and freedom. They believed that he was the "Big Brother" and that the country that he represented would see that they were treated fairly.
Representing the great western giant whose genius, power and marvelous accomplishments of a few short months filled all Europe with amazement and far out-distanced anything they had done in the three years before, standing at the head of the only unexhausted nation and which could dictate the policies of the world—for this man to go to the Peace Conference with a plan to forever abolish war, it simply won for himself and our country the admiration and confidence of the statesmen of the world. Nothing like it had ever been seen before and the gratitude of all knew no bounds.
Then the modest, dignified, unselfish bearing of our president among them turned gratitude into love and devotion. The words of far-sighted wisdom spoken everywhere brought from the greatest statesmen the recognition of leadership. Without a single effort on his part to put himself forward, he became the natural leader of all.
A single instance of his thoughtfulness will be given. I was determined to see the tomb where General Pershing stood when he uttered the famous words: "Lafayette we have come," and which made the whole French nation doff its hat and cheer. After hours of searching and miles of walking and inquiries galore, the place was found, but the door to the enclosure had to be unlocked with a silver key. When entrance was gained and the spot finally reached, there on the tomb was a wreath of flowers nearly as large as a wagon wheel and which, when they were fresh, must have been beautiful beyond words to described. Upon it was a card on which had been written in English the words: "The President of the United States of America. In memory of the great Lafayette from a fellow servant of liberty."
Then came the months of haggling, the work of selfish politicians both at home and abroad, and finally the rejection by our own people of the greatest piece of work since the beginning of the Christian era, all of which makes one who knows the real situation hang his head in shame. Why any living mortal in America could oppose a plan that has for its object the abolition of war is simply amazing to the people of Europe. Just before I left Paris in 1919 a French business man said to me: "I understand that the cables are saying that you have some men in your country who are opposing your president and this effort to abolish war. What kind of men have you got over there, anyway? Go back and tell them that it is not only the greatest thing for America that he came over here but it is one of the greatest things for the whole world that ever happened."
In the fall of 1921 I made another trip to Europe and the change was beyond any power to describe. People who looked upon America as the one great nation of the earth almost sneered when they mentioned our attitude toward the League of Nations. They have almost lost confidence in us and it will be hard to regain it. France is especially bitter. Perhaps the result of the Disarmament Conference, which is practically the same thing under another name, will help them to forget some things, but the French will be slow to take up with it. We are all proud of the part our leaders had in this great meeting in Washington, but had our government stood enthusiastically for the League of Nations it would have saved hundreds of millions of dollars that we now have to dig up in taxes, and at the same time saved famine, fighting and hatred that it will take a long time to overcome.
THE NIGHTMARE OF EUROPE—ALSACE-LORRAINE
"I congratulate you on the annexation of an open sore to your Empire," said Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria to the German Kaiser when Alsace-Lorraine was ceded to Germany by the Treaty of Frankfort at the close of the Franco-Prussian War, in 1871. As we entered the world war to fight for the downtrodden people of the world, determined that people must have their rights and that the peril of military autocracy must be crushed forever, the problem of Alsace-Lorraine became a great problem to America. Every citizen of the United States should know something of this little country that has been called "The Nightmare of Europe."
Germany made every possible effort to blind the eyes of the world in regard to the facts about these provinces. She constantly declared there was no Alsace-Lorraine problem. In 1881, the Kaiser, in speaking of these provinces gave utterance to these words: "Germany would leave her eighteen army corps and her forty-two million people on the field of battle rather than surrender a single stone of the territory won in 1871." Because Mr. Daniel Blumenthal, who lived in Alsace all his life, was mayor of one of the important cities there and a member of the German Reichstag and the Alsace-Lorraine Senate for years, dared to tell the world the truth about his country, he was condemned to death eight times. He lived, however, and then they imposed upon him sentences of penal servitude that aggregated more than five hundred years' time. This man finally got out of Germany and the whole world then listened to his story.
First, take a look at the provinces. They are located, as you know, at the northeast corner of France. Together they are about as large as the Yellowstone National Park, or the size of about six Iowa counties. The soil is the most fertile to be found in Central Europe. The hills are richly wooded with fir, oak and beech, as well as other varieties. Corn, flax, tobacco, grapes and various fruits are grown. The great wealth, however, is in the minerals. Iron, lead, copper, coal, rock salt and even silver are there. Manufacturers of cotton and linen are plentiful.
In the old days this country was a part of ancient Gaul and the Romans had it for five hundred years. When Rome broke up it became a part of France, and so remained until about the middle of the tenth century, at which time it came under the jurisdiction of Germany. Later on Alsace became a part of the Holy Roman Empire. During these days it was made a republic under the direction of a bishop and became a decapole, or province with ten free cities. This league of free cities had control for two hundred years, and with this in mind it is easy to see where and how this principle of liberty and freedom was born in the hearts of these people.
At the close of the Thirty Years War, at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, these provinces came back to France and constituted a part of this country until the close of the Franco-Prussian War when Germany took it. The Treaty of Frankfort, which ceded this land to Germany was, as some one says, "not a treaty of peace but a treaty of hatred." Bismarck declared that Metz and Strassburg had been an open door through which France came again and again to invade Germany and he proposed to lock the door and throw the key into the well. Of course he had an eye upon the rich iron mines which were absolutely necessary to Germany in her preparation for a world war.
This country has been a battlefield for centuries. It was the religious battleground in the seventh century. The Thirty Years War devastated almost every foot of the territory. It is said that in one community there was not a wedding for twelve years and not a baptism for fifteen years. Strassburg with its great university and priceless library was burned. The writer of these lines passed through this country years ago where it is said that there were two hundred square miles of cemeteries instead of farms.
In 1870-1871 came the Franco-Prussian War and once more these provinces were largely devastated. Somehow the people got an inkling that their land might go to Germany and at once they were up in arms about it. They sent a delegation of twenty-eight men to the national assembly at Bordeaux with the following appeal: "Alsace-Lorraine are opposed to alienation. These two provinces, associated with France for more than two centuries in good and evil fortune and constantly opposed to hostile attack, have consistently sacrificed themselves in the cause of national greatness; they have sealed with their blood the indissoluble compact that binds them to French unity. With one accord, citizens who have remained in their own homes and the soldiers who have hastened to join the colors, proclaim by their votes or by their action on the field, to Germany and to the world, the unalterable determination to remain French."
When the decision was reached to give these provinces to Germany they sent the following appeal to the nations of Europe: "Europe cannot permit or ratify the abandonment of Alsace and Lorraine. The civilized nations, as guardians of justice and national rights, cannot remain indifferent to the fate of their neighbor under pain of becoming in their turn victims of the outrages they have tolerated. Modern Europe cannot allow a people to be seized like a herd of cattle; she cannot continue deaf to the repeated protest of threatened nationalities. She owes it to her instinct of self-preservation to forbid such abuses of her power. She knows too that the unity of France is now, as in the past, a guarantee of the general order of the world, a barrier against the spirit of conquest and invasion. Peace concluded at the price of cession of territory could be nothing but a costly truce, not a final peace. It would be for a cause of international unrest, a permanent and legitimate provocation of war."
Even after this wonderful appeal, still another final plea was made, but it did no good. The heartless Bismarck had France by the throat and other nations seemed afraid to champion the cause of these helpless people. Thus the whole world reaped the reward of silence when great principles were involved. I have given the protest almost in full, quoting it from David Starr Jordan, that readers of this chapter can behold the evil effects of accepting a peace when the rights of people are left out of the question.
A provision in this Treaty of Frankfort allowed those who wished to cross the line into France to go. Of course this would involve leaving their homes, their farms, their old neighbors and everything else that they could not take along. More than a year was given for this and on the last day of grace one author says: "All those who had means of transportation rode in carts, wagons, carriages, running over the black roads. Whole families drove their cattle. Old men dragged themselves on, leaning on the shoulders of young women who bore at the breast new-born children. Sick men, who wished not to die German, were carried bodily that they might draw their last breath on the frontier of Nancy and thank heaven to die on French soil."
Then the Germans tried to blot out all traces of France. The French language was forbidden in schools, on advertisements or even on tombs. Police and secret service men watched the inhabitants and men were imprisoned for any demonstration whatsoever that exalted France. The frontier was closed, all communication with France was cut off and no one could cross the border without a passport that was vized by the German Ambassador in Paris. This was done until the death of Bismarck. In spite of all this, whenever a chance was given for the people to choose between France and Germany, they chose France. It must be remembered too, that a half million people crossed the line into France while they could and that a half million German immigrants had taken their places.
All through the years France had mourned for her lost provinces and refused to be comforted. Many times I have seen the mourning figure of Strassburg, which is in the Place de la Concorde, in the heart of the city of Paris. This statue represents the distress of Alsace-Lorraine and "around this figure the war spirit of France rallied for forty years." It is said that flowers were placed at this figure every day for forty years.
When General Joffre and the French army entered Alsace in August, 1914, the joy of the people knew no bounds. How they wept and rejoiced as the bands played the Marseillaise! French flags that had been hidden away for forty-three years were brought out and such scenes of rejoicing have rarely been witnessed. The same was true in Paris. A great company of Alsatians formed a procession and marched to the Strassburg statue on the Concorde. The procession was led by Alsatian women who carried palm branches. All marched bare-headed to the statue. Ladders were placed against the monument. An Alsatian climbed to the top and wound a broad tri-colored sash around the statue. The crowd cried: "Away with the crepe" and instantly all signs of mourning that had surrounded the statue for forty-three years were torn away.
As might be expected, when the French army was driven out of Alsace later on, the people suffered untold misery. The Good Lord only knows what they went through. Thousands were condemned to prison for the awful crime of manifesting their French sentiments. A single word that reflected upon what Germany had done in any way would send one to prison. A lawyer by the name of Berger was sentenced to prison for a term of eight years for casually alluding to the invasion of Belgium. The number of women condemned to prison was enormous, for the women were more outspoken and less respectful to the Germans than the men.
Neither did prison sentences end it; sentences of death were very many. The press was not allowed to mention those who were shot. It was reported that thirty thousand of the people in these provinces were imported into Germany. But those days have gone by and it is certain that never again will Germany wield the sceptre over these provinces. Of course in this brief glimpse of Alsace-Lorraine many very important matters could not be mentioned at all, but these are sufficient to show why they could not help hating the people who have been heartless in their effort to subdue some of their blood relatives.
THE HOME OF THE PASSION PLAY—OBERAMMERGAU
Nestled at the foot of the mountains in the highlands of Bavaria, is the little village of Oberammergau, the home of the world-famous Passion Play. Although of German extraction, these humble people were opposed to war with all their power, but when it came they were compelled to submit. One of the saddest pictures during the war was that of these people as it was given by Madaline Doty, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1917.
This writer said: "The village was silent and the people were in great distress. There were no carriages or even push carts; no smiling people, no laughter, and no gay voices were heard. Old people sat about as if dazed. Five hundred and fifty out of eighteen hundred population had gone to war." The village was bankrupt. There was no money. It was like a plague-stricken place. The theater building was locked up. The little stores had nothing to sell. No person was allowed more than one egg per week and but few could get that. People were on the point of starvation.
During the season of 1910 the writer made the journey to Oberammergau on purpose to see the Passion Play and this chapter is but a brief description of it. Journeying from Zurich, Switzerland, to Oberammergau a stop was made at Munich. From that place there is but one little dinky railroad and one of the greatest mobs I ever got into was at the depot in Munich. A thousand people were trying to get on a train that could carry only a few hundred. Finding a porter who was persuaded to open a compartment with a silver key a half dozen of us had a comfortable place. The distance to the mountain village is less than one hundred miles, but it took from five in the evening until midnight to reach it.
Having purchased a ticket for the play on the following day weeks before, and with it lodging for two nights, a gentleman took me from the depot to the home of one of the players and I went to bed. Early the next morning while eating breakfast at the home, on looking through the door I discovered that one end of the house was a cow stable. Going from the house all that was necessary was to follow the crowd, for people seemed to be coming from everywhere. Passing through the winding, narrow streets, soon the large theater building was reached.
This building is one hundred and forty feet square. The roof is supported by six gigantic arches that are sixty-five feet high in the center. The floor is built on an incline so that every one of the four thousand seats is a good one. The stage reaches entirely across the building and is in the open air, the whole end of the building open. At each end of the stage are small buildings representing the Palace of Pilate and the Palace of the High Priest. Back about twenty feet from the edge of the stage is a covered stage with a curtain and in which the tableaus are arranged. There are fourteen entrances to the building.
The large orchestra is just in front of the stage but lower than the people, so unless one happens to be near the platform the musicians cannot be seen at all. The end of the entire building being open, the rain beats in and the cheapest seats are those where one is likely to get wet should it rain. The orchestra is kept dry by a large canvas that is pulled out when the rain begins. Back in the inner covered stage is a network of ropes, pulleys, lances, arms for Roman soldiers, dishes for banquets, costumes and wardrobes for the players, all in perfect order and ready for use at a moment's notice.
The play itself occupies about eight hours. There are six hundred and eighty-five people in it, but only one hundred and twenty speaking parts. The principal actors are not many, but during the play there are many children as well as old men and women take part. There are twenty-two tableaus; seventy-six scenes and in all eighteen acts. The tableaus represent Old Testament prophecies of the events portrayed. It must be remembered, however, that the play represents only the events that occurred during the last week of Christ's life.
The music is simply wonderful. For generations these mountain people have been developing a tenderness and pathos that really grips one's heart. The music was composed by a man by the name of Dedler, about one hundred years ago, and while it gives expression to the composer's tender heart, yet experts say that it reminds them of Hayden and Mozart. The paintings in the building are those of great masters. It took an entire year to paint the scenery for the play in 1910, but they could not afford to spend so much upon it in 1922. The curtains and costumes are of fine material, nothing shoddy or cheap about it.
The story of the beginning of the Passion Play is as interesting as a novel. It was in the year 1633. A pestilence was raging in the villages in the mountains of Bavaria and death rode down the valleys like a mighty conqueror. Hundreds were smitten and the hand of death could not be stayed. Whole villages were depopulated and even the dead were left unburied. For a while the village of Oberammergau was favored, while neighboring villages were stricken. A line of sentinels were stationed around the village and a strict quarantine was maintained. Finally, love of home and the desire to see his family caused a laboring man, Casper Schushler, who was working in another village, to steal through the line and spend an evening at his own family fireside.
In a couple of days all was changed. The songs of the children were hushed in silence, for this man had brought the plague into the village. In thirty-three days eighty-four had perished and scores of others were smitten by the hand of death. It was a great crisis and looked as though that soon there would not be left among the living enough to bury the dead. A public meeting was called. It was a sad gathering of hollow-eyed men and women. They spent the whole day in earnest prayer. They vowed to the Lord that day that if he would hear their petition and save them, they would repent of their sins as a token of their sincerity, and that they would try to re-enact the scenes of Calvary and thus give an object lesson of God's love for humanity.
The chronicler says that from that moment the hand of death was stayed. Not another person in the village died from the plague. Every one smitten recovered and by this they knew that the Lord had heard their prayers. At once they set about to carry out their vow. From that day forward they aimed to give the object lesson every ten years and have done so except on occasions when they have been hindered by war, as two years ago. In 1910 a quarter of a million people endured the hardships and inconveniences of a long, tiresome journey, sometimes spending many hundred dollars, to see the play.
The day I spent there was one of the shortest days in my memory. Sermons not an hour long have sometimes seemed longer than this entire day. A strange silence was everywhere. There was no gaiety such as one sees at a theater. There was no applause, no laughter. Criticise it if you will, condemn it if you like, yet the fact remains that it is the greatest object lesson of the ages. It would be hard for any man to see it and not come away with a more tender heart and a better appreciation of the world's Redeemer. The late William T. Stead truly called this play "The Story That Has Transformed the World."
No other story so fills and thrills the soul. I saw non-Christian men sit trembling with emotion and great tears rolling down their faces. Sometimes one's indignation was so aroused that it was hard to sit still. At other times the fountains of the great deep were broken up and one's heart would nearly burst. On this particular day every one of the four thousand seats were taken and five hundred people stood up from morning until evening. It is as impossible to describe the Passion Play as it is to describe a song. It is real life before your eyes. I have never yet seen pictures of it that did not make me heart-sick, for it is impossible to give a true picture of it on the screen.
On years when the play is given it generally begins about the middle of May and closes the last of September. They give it regularly on Sunday and Wednesday of each week during this time. During the busy season it is often repeated for the overflow on Monday and Thursday and occasionally on Friday. Tickets for the regular play are generally sold out beforehand but as usual a great many reach the place without tickets and have to be accommodated in this way.
All the years the highest ambition of the boys and girls in the village is to so live that they will be chosen for some prominent part in the play. No one can be chosen unless born in the village and this confines it to the village. No one is chosen for a prominent part if there is anything against his character and that places a premium on right living. Hence one can easily see their reason for hating war with all their power. While narrow in their peculiar religious ideas, no doubt, yet a more consecrated and devoted class of people are perhaps not found in another village on earth.
All told there are nearly a thousand people who are connected in some way with the play and as the population of the village is less than two thousand, it practically takes in every family and sometimes every member of the family. The choosing of the important players is always an important event in the village. After a season closes no characters are chosen for seven years. At length the day arrives when the committee of fourteen who are to choose the leading characters for the play three years hence is elected. It is a great day. The assembly meets in the town hall. Every parishioner has a vote. The mayor of the village is chairman.
After this committee of fourteen is duly elected a meeting is soon called. It takes several months to consider the problem. Every player must sign a contract to carry out his part to the best of his ability. Offenders are punished with great severity. Married women are barred from the prominent parts. It is said that more than one hundred rehearsals are held before the opening day.
The receipts for a season are enormous. The sale of post cards and souvenirs greatly add to the sum. It is not surprising that these people are often accused for running the play for the money there is in it. But the leading characters only receive a few hundred dollars for the season's work. The church receives a large amount. The theater building and upkeep represents a fortune. To care for the thousands who attend, the town must have a good water supply, an up-to-date sanitary system, and many things that would be uncalled for in an ordinary town. Located as it is away in the mountains, it is very difficult to have the things that are necessary in the way of improvements.
The people of Oberammergau are a humble, hard-working people. Their main business is wood carving and they are experts in this work. Without the Passion Play season the demand for their product would not be so great. As is said above these people are very religious. They have a very expensive church or two. On a peak of one of the highest mountains in the vicinity is a gigantic cross. This is kept polished and when the sun shines upon it the sight is very beautiful. Many journey to the top of this mountain and the view richly repays one for the difficult climb.
THE COUNTRY WHERE THE WAR STARTED—SERVIA
It was a Servian lad who started the war, or rather the fire was all ready to start and he lit the match. Whether he was hired to do this or not as has been reported may never be known as he died before the investigation had been completed. Nevertheless, this deed aroused the interest of the world in a country that was almost unknown before the war.
Servia is not quite as large as the state of Indiana. The population is about double that of Indiana and the climate about the same as this state. The northern boundary is, or was at the outbreak of the war, the Danube river, on the east Bulgaria, on the south Greece, while on the west were Albania, Montenegro and Austria. She was shut away from any seaports all the years, and most of the time surrounded by enemies, the greatest of these being Austria on the west and Turkey to the east.
In natural resources Servia is one of the richest countries in Europe, being productive of soil, good climate, well watered and having large mineral wealth. The Moravia river runs across the great plain in middle Servia and is to the country much the same as the Nile is to Egypt. Corn is cultivated everywhere in the country and is perhaps the greatest crop, while wheat also is largely raised. While various fruits are widely grown the plum orchards are the most numerous. Grapes also are grown extensively. Gold, silver, copper, iron and coal are found in many parts of the country. It is interesting to know that a Belgian company has perhaps the largest anthracite coal mine in Servia. Also, there are three and one-half million acres of forests in this small country.
The Servians are a race of peasant farmers, eighty per cent of the people being tillers of the soil. Most of the farms, however, are very small. The average farm is less than twenty acres. Servia perhaps leads the world in home owners according to population. Nine-tenths of the farmers own their farms. This is largely due to laws and old customs. The law allows a man a minimum farm of five acres with a team of oxen and farming implements and no one can take these from him for debt no matter how just may be his claim. Another law requires everyone to contribute a certain quantity of corn or wheat each year to a municipal institution to be lent in time of need or for seed to anyone and at a very moderate rate of interest.
Another old custom among the Servians is for the entire community to go and help any man, who may be unfortunate, harvest his grain. This is made a great day and singing and laughing can be heard all day long in the fields, and in the evening they have certain religious ceremonies which end in a feast with music and dancing. These are great events for the young folks. It is a custom among the girls for those who are open for engagement to wear a red feather in their hair. Of late years the farmers have an organization that is not unlike the grange that we used to have in this country. Through this they get better markets for what they have to sell and lower prices for what they have to buy. Many who read these lines can call to mind some of the great times that people used to have in the meetings and great days in granger times.
The Servians have some queer customs in regard to death and funerals. Almost every Servian prepares boards with which to make his own coffin and keeps them in a dry place ready for use when he dies. Old women save up money and sew it in their dresses, to be used to pay their funeral expenses. If a farmer is able to afford it he generally keeps a barrel of whisky in his cellar, to be drunk at his funeral.
When the body of a dead person is in the house no one eats anything and the floors are not swept. After the funeral the floors are swept and the broom thrown away. For a day after one dies a little bread and a glass of wine are kept in the room with the dead body. They believe the soul tarries awhile and might want to eat and drink. They also believe that the soul lingers on earth forty days after death, visiting old familiar places and on the fortieth day ascends to heaven.
On the day of a funeral an animal, likely a sheep, but never a goat, is killed at the grave in the presence of one holding a wax candle. This animal is then roasted and those attending the funeral have a feast, the guests each bringing something to eat with the roast. Women never sing or wear flowers or jewelry during the first year of mourning.
European civilization owes much to the Servians. For hundreds of years these people have fought to save Europe from invasion. They have been the bulwark of Christendom against the unspeakable Turk and his religion. The bitter trials and hardships of the Servians have made them brave, heroic and self-sacrificing. This is especially true of the women as the following incident among many will show.
After all the hardships of the Balkan War, when diseases and suffering were everywhere; when the land had been left uncultivated and hunger stalked across the country and the women in both town and country had toiled unceasingly; after all these days of misery, when Austria was mentioned to a peasant woman she declared that she was ready for fresh sacrifices. Being reminded of what it would mean to have war again she said: "What matters the leaves and twigs that fall, provided the tree remains standing."
There has been a very bitter feeling in Servia against the Austrians since 1908. In that year Austria had trampled under foot her sacred treaties and by brute force annexed Bosnia and Herzegovnia, Servia's neighbors, and had threatened the very existence of Servia herself. In the streets of Belgrade, their capital city, on that occasion there was a vast demonstration held almost in silence and every Servian pledged to do or die at his country's call. They well knew that a conflict was coming. In that war they had done a noble part but when it came to the settlement Austria practically refused to allow Servia an Adriatic port and other advantages she had justly earned.
From that day until the world war broke out, Austria backed and assisted by German secret agents, tried to stir up Albania and Bulgaria against Servia. Turkey too was only waiting for a chance to plunder this country. But worst of all and greatest of all, Servia had the audacity to block the Kaiser's Berlin to Bagdad railway scheme which was to go through Belgrade.
Now the time had arrived when something must be done to provoke a war with Servia and annihilate her. The self-appointed world ruler of Germany had decreed it. As he was dictating the policy of Austria she must find some excuse to do the job. Then came the fateful day, July 29, 1914. On that day the Crown Prince of Austria and his wife were assassinated at Sarajevo by a Servian youth.
Not a thing was done openly for twenty-four days. At once on the assassination of the Austrian Grown Prince, the Kaiser called in his war lords and financiers and other great men of his coterie. He asked if all were ready for war. The army and navy men said they were ready instantly. The financiers said they could be ready in two weeks. They were told to get ready. While this was being done the Kaiser with the Austrian war lords worked out a plan by which the act of this Servian youth could be laid upon the nation and be made an excuse for war. So on the twenty-fourth day after the assassination came the ultimatum from Austria. It came as a thunderclap out of a clear sky.
The little country was only allowed forty-eight hours to concede the unheardof demands. Diplomats tried to get Austria to extend the time, but she refused to do so. Sir Edward Grey of England led in an effort to bring about arbitration after Austria had declared war, and he all but succeeded for Austria and Servia both agreed to submit their differences to arbitration and Russia agreed to this. But just here Germany openly butted in and declared that she would not arbitrate anything and thus the war went on until it had involved nation after nation and practically the whole world was into it either directly or indirectly.
When the declaration of war came to Servia, their old king was in bad health and was at a sanitarium. He had appointed his son to the regency. But at the word of war, old King Peter left the watering-place and started for the front. With flag in hand he came to the troops and addressed the men saying: "Soldiers, your old king has come to die with you; if there be any who are afraid let him turn back." It is easy to imagine the result. Not one of them turned back, and they easily routed the enemy and swept all before them. But the story of these terrible years can only be mentioned. The year 1914 was a year of victory for the Servians. But later on came the tremendous reverses, the awful typhus fever and the heroic retreat over the mountains. This retreat is one of the saddest and yet one of the most heroic pages of history. Finally France was able to come to the rescue and the Servians found a refuge on the island of Corfu. Had it not been for France the Servian nation would have been all but annihilated.
While Servia has never made a contribution to civilization as has Belgium, she has played such a noble part that she will always have a large place in the heart of mankind. She has kept the Turk from invading Europe for centuries and it is hard to realize just what that means. The Turk has always been a plunderer and has cursed everything he touched. But his cup of iniquity has been filled to overflowing and the death rattle is in his throat.
Providence has thus used Servia in a most wonderful way. Her great vision has been a united country with all the Servians included, where they can work out their own problems and live in peace and harmony. These people are devoutly religious, most of them belonging to the Greek Orthodox church. They have great respect for learning. They are a most hospitable people and any foreigner is always made a welcome guest. They are well read in history but have never been favorably inclined toward either German education or language. They admire and love the French and invited the French Government to open a school in Belgrade. They have their own literature and folklore, their own popular music and national songs. The following are some of their bright proverbs of which they have a great many:
"It is better to serve a good man than to give orders to a bad man.
"It is better to suffer injustice than to commit it.
"It is better to die honestly than to live dishonestly.
"It is better to have a good reputation than a golden belt.
"As long as a man does not dishonor himself no one can dishonor him.
"Debt is a bad companion.
"He who wishes to rest when he is old must work when he is young.
"The lie has short legs.
"An earnest work is never lost.
"The unjustly acquired wealth never reaches the third generation.
"A kind word opens the iron door.
"God sometimes shuts one door that he may open a hundred other doors.
"It is better to weep with the wise than to sing with the fool.
"In the forest a tree leans upon tree, in a nation a man leans on man.
"Where there is no fear of God there is no shame of man.
"Where there is no wife there is no home.
"Where the devil cannot cause mischief he sends an old woman and she does it.
"Work as if you are to live a hundred years, pray to God as if you were to die tomorrow."
A WORLD-FAMOUS LAND—PALESTINE
The most fascinating and lureful land on the globe is the little country we call Palestine. Since it was wrested from the unspeakable Turk during the world war, the eyes of the world have been focused upon it to a greater degree than ever. It is the dearest spot to civilization. From it have gone the greatest and most powerful influences for good that ever affected humanity. It produced the one great character which is today the great center of history. The date of his birth is the recognized beginning of the greatest era in the history of mankind. The calendars of the world have been changed by the Galilean carpenter.
Palestine is less than one-eighth as large as Wisconsin. Smaller than Greece or Italy or England or even Belgium, it has a greater history perhaps than all these combined. The book it produced is the foundation of history, literature and law. The hills and valleys, mountains and rivers are hallowed by the memory of him who wore the crown of thorns. The writer of these lines will never forget the tender memories aroused when standing on the sacred spots in this world-famous land.
The man who said: "Palestine is the world in a nutshell," told the exact truth. Between snow-capped Mount Herman on the north, which is ten thousand feet above the ocean, and the Dead Sea on the south, which is thirteen hundred feet below the level of the ocean, are found all the zones and climates that can be found on the globe. The geologist finds here not only all the formations of rock found on the earth, but all the geological periods and ages. The botanist finds here about all the plants, shrubs and flowers; the zoologist finds most all the animals and the ornithologist finds most all the birds, while the ichthyologist finds all the fishes.
It used to be thought that there was at least one exception to the above named rule: that there was at least one type of fish that could not be found in Palestine. The exception was a type of fish found by David Livingstone in an inland lake in tropical Africa. Nature has provided the male of this peculiar fish with a large head and made him the protector of the school of little fishes when they are first hatched out so that in time of danger he opens his gills and the little ones swim into his mouth where they will be safe. The habit is unheard of and unparalleled among any fish in the world, so it is said. While for years it was supposed that this family of fish was found only in tropical Africa, yet some years ago one of this very type of fish was caught in the sea of Galilee.
It was the privilege of the writer to visit Palestine some years ago with a converted Jew as a guide. We fell in together on an Italian steamship on the way from Italy to Egypt. On account of the bubonic plague which was raging in Egypt at the time we were thrown together again unexpectedly, leaving Egypt on the same ship bound for Syria. We were quarantined together on a ship in a Syrian harbor and became so well acquainted that he was persuaded to act as my guide through Palestine.