I returned to pay the 100 pounds and deliver the photographs, and now that I had been officially “policed” was received with great cordiality and pressed to spend the evening.
Father, mother, grown-up daughters and brother-in-law all assured me that it was not owing to my personal appearance that I had been so coldly received, but that war is war and law is law and that everything must be done as the authorities decree.
Cigars and cigarettes were showered upon me and my glass was never allowed to be empty of Rhine wine. Good food was set before me and the stock generously replenished whenever necessary. It will be remembered that I had come unexpectedly and that I was not being entertained in a wealthy home, and this at a time when the only counter-attack on Germany’s success in the Balkans was an increased amount of stories that she was starving.
Evidently the Schultzs and the Schmidts were not taking all the credit for Germany’s position to themselves. They pointed with pride to a picture of the Emperor adorning one wall and then smiled with satisfaction as they indicated the portrait of von Hindenburg on the wall opposite. One of the daughters wore a huge silver medallion of the same renowned general on her neck. After nearly a year and a half of war these bard-working Germans were proud of their leaders and had absolute faith in them.
But this family had felt the war. One son had just been wounded, they knew not how severely, in France. If some unknown English, soldier on the Yser had raised his rifle just a hairbreadth higher the other son would be sleeping in the blood-soaked soil of Flanders instead of doing garrison duty in Hanover while recovering from a bullet which had passed through his head just under the eyes.
WHEN SKIES WERE BLUE
There was one more passenger, making three, in our first-class compartment in the all-day express train from Cologne to Berlin after it left Hanover. He was a naval officer of about forty-five, clean-cut, alert, clearly an intelligent man. His manner was proud, but not objectionably so.
The same might be said of the manner of the major who had sat opposite me since the train left Dusseldorf. I had been in Germany less than thirty hours and was feeling my way carefully, so I made no attempt to enter into conversation. Just before lunch the jolting of the train deposited the major’s coat at my feet. I picked it up and handed it to him. He received it with thanks and a trace of a smile. He was polite, but icily so. I was an American, he was a German officer. In his way of reasoning my country was unneutrally making ammunition to kill himself and his men. But for my country the war would have been over long ago. Therefore he hated me, but his training made him polite in his hate. That is the difference between the better class of army and naval officers and diplomats and the rest of the Germans.