The situation, then, in this field (the very names of which have such great moral effects upon the French and the German minds) was, by the 2nd of September, as follows:—
The French had suffered in the first considerable action of the war a disaster. They had lost their foothold in the annexed provinces. They had put the capital of French Lorraine, Nancy, in instant peril. They had fallen back from the Vosges. They were beginning, with grave doubts of its success, a counter-offensive, to keep the enemy, if possible, from entering Nancy. They had lost thousands of men, many colours, and scores of guns, and all Germany was full of the news.
The foundation of the Germanic plan upon the Eastern front at the origin of the war was, as we have said, the holding up of Russia during her necessarily slow mobilization, while the decisive stroke was delivered in the West.
That is the largest view of the matter.
In more detail, we know that the main part of this task was entrusted to the Austro-Hungarian forces. The German forces had indeed entered and occupied the west fringe of Russian Poland, seizing the small industrial belt which lies immediately east of Silesia, and the two towns of Czestochowa and Kalish—the latter, in the very centre of the bend of the frontier, because it was a big railway depot, and, as it were, a gage of invasion; the former, both because the holding of one line demanded it (if Kalish and the industrial portion were held), and because Czestochowa being the principal shrine of the Poles, some strange notion may have passed through the German mind that the presence therein of Prussian officers would cajole the Poles into an action against Russia. If this were part of the motive (and probably it was), it would be a parallel to many another irony in the present campaign and its preliminaries, proceeding from the incapacity of the enemy to gauge the subtler and more profound forces of a civilization to which it is a stranger.
[Illustration: Sketch 67.]
This local German move was almost entirely political. The main task, as I have said, was left to the Austrians farther south; and, proceeding to further detail, we must see the Austrians stretched in a line from near the middle Carpathians past the neighbourhood of Tomasow towards Tarnow, and this line distinctly divided into two armies, a northern and a southern. The two met in an angle in front of the great fortress of Przemysl. The northern, or first, army faced, as will be seen, directly towards the Russian frontier. It was the operative wing; upon its immediate action and on the rapidity of the blow it was to deliver depended the success of this first chapter in the Eastern war.
[Illustration: Sketch 68.]