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expedition to the ends of the earth of a company of indi-
viduals whose motives were mixed and whose abilities
were in most cases mediocre.

What was my annoyance and astonishment when I
boarded the ship for Liverpool the next morning to hear
from a reporter of the New York Times who came to
see me before sailing, that I had telephoned from Washing-
ton a full column of eulogy of the Ford peace ship in
the form of an interview ! I had done nothing of the sort.
I had never had the telephone to my lips all the time I
was in Washington. I had, moreover, travelled all night
from Washington to be in time for my steamer the next
morning. Someone had telephoned in my name !

Like the dove from the ark the gallant ship set sail
with flying pennant ; but in a little while crept back to
port with drooping wing, dragging in her wake broken
spirits and bedraggled reputations. Mr. Ford left before
the end of the tour. The domineering Rosika became
too much for him. The greatest discontent amongst the
passengers throughout the tour was felt owing to the
inaccessibility of Mr. Ford, who could never be reached
without a permit from Frau Schwimmer. " Whenever
we tried to reach him," said one woeful and malicious
pressman, " we found him entirely surrounded by
Rosika ! "

With the memory of this experience surging up I
grew thoughtful as I looked at the little card in my hand.
I made a cautious response to the smiles of the Hun-
garian woman Minister. Of course, I talked to her.
Her new position interested us all. I asked her how she
liked being a diplomat. She told us a sorry tale of
treachery and espionage. The drawers of her bureau
had been rifled, her telegrams opened before they reached
her or altered when she sent them out. Everything had
been done to make her position impossible. We were
sorry and indignant till we heard that she had appointed
these scoundrels herself and had made the mistake of


The Second International

having recalled many of the old Hungarian officials who
had possessed a genuine desire to help her.

Some of these men had declined to go, and their side
of the story was of shameless expenditure, unbridled
personal extravagance at the cost of a poverty-stricken
little state, mangled by the war and the peace, and suf-
fering incredible penury. They spoke, it may be with
malice, of an expensive automobile, costly furs, cut
flowers and extravagant rooms, ah 1 paid for by her un-
happy Government, bankrupt and despairing. The
Bolshevik Revolution occurred a few days later.

She was recalled after a few weeks of office, having
committed a number of political indiscretions involving
the reputation with the Allies of at least one innocent
and unsuspecting tool. This unfortunate lady was
ignominiously returned to her native country.

Frau Schwimmer is of middle age and middle height,
with masses of crisp wavy black hair slightly tinged
with grey. She wears large gold-rimmed spectacles,
and has a hard, aggressive manner and a loud, dominating
voice. In speaking she uses her hands a great deal,
the forefinger of the right hand playing a conspicuous
part in the enforcing of her points. She has a quick
intelligence with a brilliant surface cleverness, is sar-
castic and voluble, good natured and easy going. She
has temperament, but is without stability. She is cruel
in her thoughtlessness, but, like her race, has a deep sense
of loyalty to her family. She is genuinely devoted to
the cause of feminism.

Another visitor to the International I feel constrained
to do more than mention was Mr. Oswald Garrison Villard,
editor of the New York Nation and a lifelong friend of
President Wilson. Mr. Villard has a rich inheritance
from each side of his family. He is the descendant on
the father's side of one of the famous German revolu-
tionaries who fled to America in 1848. His mother is


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

the daughter of William Lloyd Garrison of anti-slavery

During the visit to America, to which I have already
referred, I met Mr. Villard and Mr. George Foster Peabody
in the lobby of the House of Representatives in Albany.
They apologized for not being able to attend the meeting
of the State Legislators I was to address, as they were
engaged on business connected importantly with the
propaganda for keeping America out of the war. " Mr.
Villard has just seen President Wilson they are life-
long and intimate friends, you know and he has the
impression that enormous pressure is being put upon
the President by a section interested in dragging this
country into the war. We are very unhappy about it,"
said Mr. Peabody.

This does not mean that when the war broke out Mr
Villard took neither side. His sympathies were pro- Ally
and anti-German ; but he hated the whole bad business of
the war and desired to end it quickly. The severe terms
of the Armistice and the startling conduct of the Paris
Conference caused him to react favourably towards the
Bolshevik Government. But from various reactions,
he has come to the settled conviction of the need for the
revision of the Peace Treaties, and for the establishment
of some kind of international political organization like
the League of Nations for the securing of permanent
peace on the earth.

Mr. Villard is not unlike Mr. A. G. Gardiner, the pop-
ular one-time editor of the Daily News. Both men are
tall and fair, both fresh complexioned and blue eyed.
Both have the same political ideals ; though I imagine
a distinction inoffensive to both men might be made in
expressing the view that Mr. Villard's passionate hatred
of the wrong causes him to swing more violently to the
right or to the left and back again whenever he delivers
himself up to the dominion of his warm-hearted and
generous emotions.


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I met Mr. Villard in the Hotel Continental in Paris
first, and persuaded him to come to Berne. There we
dined together at the Vienna Cafe.

Berne is the famous capital of Switzerland. It is a
lovely old city with quaint fountains and coloured houses.
It is beautifully situated on a ridge of hills, with snow-
covered Alpine ranges in the distance, the Jungfrau,
handsome and conspicuous, in the middle. The swift
river girdles the town, gleaming blue and green in the
valley below.

There are stately new buildings in Berne, and a fine
market square. There is the monument of the Inter-
national Postal Union, a globe encircled by female figures
clasping hands, representing the various races ; and there
is the bear pit with its fascinating shaggy inhabitants ;
but place all the attractions of Berne in one scale and the
Wiener Cafe in the other, and the balance will sink in
favour of the cafe, at least for those unhappy human
beings compelled by the misfortunes of their country or
the tragic circumstances of the Great War to spend their
enforced exile in the restricting circumstances of a small
Swiss city.

To the Wiener Cafe daily went these men and women
to eat the food so renowned for its cooking. Where was
such delicious coffee to be found in Berne ? Where was
there a greater variety of well-cooked and properly
seasoned dishes ? The wine was a glory. The Hungarian
gipsy band played bewitching music, and brought home
near enough for tears to those who came from the lands
of the East.

But the Wiener Cafe drew men and women from the
four corners of the earth for something more than its
good food and glowing wines. They came for talk, to
meet fellow exiles and entertain interesting strangers ;
to discuss the terrible march of events ; to debate political
theories ; to escape loneliness ; to hear gay music, and ;
forget their sorrows in congenial fellowship.

Mr. Rinner of the Wiener Cafe radiated a welcome

A Political Pilgrim in Europe

from his whole portly person. The waiters, always smiling
and efficient, served you as if it were their great privilege
to do so and not, as in so many English cafes, as though
they were conferring a favour upon you. You never felt
constrained to eat so fast that you choked in an effort
to get out of the place as quickly as possible. You stayed
hours if you desired to read or to play cards or chess. A
second portion of every dish could be had if wanted
without any further charge. All sorts of delightful odd
corners, softly cushioned and conveniently partitioned,
furthered conversation, and supplied a certain amount of
privacy, contrasting favourably with the square horse-
box appearance of so many eating houses in other
places. And this is a typical good-class European

I made my first acquaintance with the Wiener Cafe
as the guest of Mr. Rudolf Kommer. Mr. Norman
Angell and Mr. J. R. Macdonald were of the party.
We talked for hours of the day's happenings at the Con-
ference, and reviewed the prospects of an early peace
now rapidly vanishing into thin air. All the time there
came through the glass partition the tantalizing strains
of the 'cello and violin playing Hungarian dances. I
had hoped to see as well as hear these gipsy musicians.
And so it happened. The door opened and in they came
to give us a private performance.

Smiling, bowing, they drew near to the table, almost
bending over it, playing softly, sweetly, merrily, the ex-
pression of their faces interpreting the song. They had
never studied a note of music. They played solely by
ear. Yet they had caught the magic spirit of music,
the soul and the rhythm of it. Their bodies swayed in
time with the song. Their intimate black eyes invited
to the dance. Our feet tapped time to their swaying
forms. It was utterly joyous, abandoned, divine ! I
hear it now :
" Nimm Zigeuner deine Geige, lass sehn was du kannst."


The Second International

Our host crowned the evening's enjoyment with stories
of the old cafe's famous habitues. At the very table
where we were seated Lenin in exile had discussed his
political philosophy with admirers and doubters through
a summer's night. In the chair I occupied the volatile
and relentless Trotsky had lounged and gossiped. The
charming, exuberant Prince Windischgraetz and his
beautiful wife had frequently supped there. Crownless
kings and exiled grand dukes had played their less danger-
ous game at the bridge-table in the corner. Poets and
philosophers, journalists of all nations, destroyers of old
states and architects of new, propagandists of the old
order and spies of the new, lovely women of scandalous
reputation, virtuous and sober citizens of Berne, delegates
to international conferences, travellers to Paris held up on
the way, connoisseurs of good beer all found their way
to this famous house of good cheer and joyous fellowship,
and have helped Herr Rinner and the Gipsy Primas to
make of it to thousands a memory of rich delight or of
the haunting sorrow which is akin to joy.

When shall I see the Wiener Cafe again ? I ask myself.
And I know that I shall never see it as it was in those days
of the war and the peace. All the old friends are gone.
Even the gipsy band has fled. Perhaps there remain a
few political exiles in Berne who find their way to the
cafe occasionally. It may be that Dr. Ludwig Bauer,
that amiable giant who eats at a sitting enough for four
ordinary men and washes it down with incredible quan-
tities of beer, calls occasionally to play a game of cards
with a fellow- journalist, or to write his daily article in
the little back room reserved for honoured and familiar
guests. I do not know. All I know is that I have but
to close my eyes and listen, and through the windows
are wafted softly the strains from the gipsy band :

" Nimm Zigeuner deine Geige, lass sehn was du kannst,
Schwarzer Teufel spiel und zeige wie dein Bogen tanzt."


I HAVE written a great deal about the annoyance and
discomfort to which the traveller abroad was put in the
days immediately following the Armistice; I have said
nothing about the performance which had to be gone
through before the journey could actually be begun.
Some day sanity will be restored to the government of
these affairs ; but as a matter of purely historic interest
a record of this business will be very amusing.

The Executive Committee of the Union of Demo-
cratic Control (of Foreign Politics) was holding its weekly
meeting, when a letter arrived from Dr. de Jong van
Beek en Donk, the secretary of the Dutch Peace Society,
inviting the Union to send delegates to the League of
Nations Conference which it was proposed to hold in
Berne early in March, 1919. It was strongly felt that no
opportunity of forming international connexions should
be missed. One member after another was pressed to go.
Nobody but myself appeared to be free to do so. I had
only just returned from Switzerland and the International.
The journey home had been full of discouragement and
fatigue. I was asked if I would very much mind the
trouble and weariness of a second long journey soon. I
said I had not the slightest objection to the journey, but
that the thought of the passport business was rather
daunting. It was agreed that someone in the office
should do all that for me, and on that understanding I
agreed to go.

But the condition was not fulfilled. It could not be.
Passport formalities are personal matters and only in the


The League of Nations Conference

rarest circumstances can they be gone through by proxy.
I had immediately to set about the task myself, and a
terrific task it was. The date was already February 27.
The Conference was timed to begin on March 3. Two
days of that time I knew would be consumed in the
journey itself. That left two for the business of pre-
paration. I knew no human being at that time who had
accomplished this in less than a week. Generally three
weeks was looked upon as a fairly satisfactory minimum
of time for this work.

The following was the routine for a would-be traveller
to Switzerland in the early days of 1919.

To get a passport you filled in a long form requiring
answers to all sorts of impertinent questions about
yourself and your immediate ancestors, including offen-
sive queries about your personal appearance ! You had
to attach to the form a photograph of a particular sort
and size. This had to be endorsed, and your passport
signed by a magistrate or some other worthy person who
knew you, and who would guarantee your character and
the truthfulness of your replies. Two other persons of
recognized social position and personal rectitude had to
permit the use of their names as guarantors. You handed
the completed passport form to the clerk at the passport
office, and were generally told to call again in three or
four days. The urgency of my case inspired me to
enclose a letter to the chief passport officer in the fond
hope of considerate treatment ; which to my surprise
was granted to me. I remember that my appeal fell
into the hands of an extremely considerate and courteous

If you were prepared to wait on the chance that your
business would come soon, you were given a number
which was called out in its turn. By sitting incredible
hours without food, unless you were wise enough to bring
sandwiches, it was just possible that your number might
be called unexpectedly and your business gone through
quickly. Most people grew impatient, or could spare


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

only an hour or two and left. They had to take a new
number and a similar chance next day ; with probably
similar ill-luck. It was of the first importance to " stick
it out." Then when the magic number you held was
called, you paid your fee of five shillings and went your

After you received your passport you proceeded to
the Swiss Legation for a visum. You had to fill in two
forms here and attach a photograph to each of them.
You were required to sign a paper stating you were not
a Bolshevik, and had no dealings with them. You were
obliged to provide a letter from the organization on
whose business you were travelling. On the occasion
of my third application I had to bring a certificate of
health and a banker's letter stating that I was a person
of substance not likely to become a charge on the Swiss
Exchequer ! Another five shillings and the visum became

The next business was a British Military permit.
This, I think, you had for nothing. But you filled in two
more forms, attached two more photographs and waited
long, weary hours for the calling of your number before
you got it. I waited five hours on this occasion, and
stood the whole of the time !

Lastly there was the Military Permit from the French
to be obtained by suffering the same ghastly torments.
For this eight shillings was the market price !

I regard it as one of the exploits of my life that I got
through all this disgusting business in two days. I
could not have done it but for the good fortune that
threw me into the hands of considerate officials and for
my own British pertinacity. As it was I came out of
the French office in Bedford Square only five minutes
before the office closed !

So I started by the usual early morning train to
Folkestone, tired but triumphant, and feeling that the
nuisances ahead of me, calculated to ruin more tempers
and create more racial antagonisms than half a century


The League of Nations Conference

of war, were light by comparison with that whirling rush
from photographer to guarantor, from guarantor to pass-
port office, from passport office to doctor, from doctor to
banker, from banker to Legation, from Legation to
Permit offices, with the endless filling of forms and the
interminable aching hours of waiting which I had endured
before the journey could begin.

It was a madwoman's rush across sea and land. The
Paris train was nearly two hours late. The Gare du
Nord and the Gare de Lyon are on opposite sides of Paris.
The wildest scrimmage for taxis took place. My lucky
star being still in the ascendant, I secured one, hurled
myself across Paris like a lunatic and, like a maniac,
tossed myself and my bag into the Belgarde portion of the
Geneva express as the train was actually signalled to leave !

There was no empty seat in the whole of the train.
I had a first-class ticket, but I passed the night in the
corridor sitting on the end of my suit-case. French
trains are always super-heated. There had been no time
for food in Paris. Hunger, thirst and sleeplessness made
that night memorable to me. And as I have already
shown, Geneva was not the end. There was the long
wait in the city and the seven hours' journey to Berne
to follow the sleepless night from Paris to Belgarde.
But it is marvellous what can be done and endured if one
is only determined enough. I drove up to the Belle Vue
Hotel at ii o'clock on the evening of March 2 ; and the
Conference was due to begin the following morning.
My two fellow delegates of the Peace Council were still
in London, although they began the passport business
days before I knew that I was to be a delegate ; but they
yielded to the fatal temptation to leave after waiting for
a short time, returning at intervals to the office, instead
of seeing the thing through.

I had been in my room just long enough to turn the
key in the lock when the telephone bell rang vigorously :


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

" Hallo, Mrs. Snowden ! " came the cheerful voice of a
friend. " I have just seen your name in the hotel register.
But this is wonderful ! Come and have coffee at the
Vienna Cafe."

" Thank you, no," I replied. " I'm almost dead with
fatigue. If anybody tries to keep me out of bed for five
minutes, I'll denounce him to the police as a Bolshevik
spy ! I'll see you in the morning. Good night." Swiss
beds are soft and white and very comfortable. In ten
minutes I was snugly curled up in one of the best of them,
for the first and only time in my life grateful for the Con-
tinental habit of unpunctuality. " That Conference is
timed to begin at ten, but I am quite sure it will be
eleven," was the last muttered thought as I fell soundly

The sun was streaming in at the window when I awoke
the next morning. I sprang out of bed and pulled back
the curtain. Thick snow lay on the ground and reflected
dazzlingly the light from the sun. The sky was a bright
blue and without a cloud. Again the telephone bell
rang. " There are two young ladies to see you, madam.
Shall I ask them to wait ? " asked the hotel clerk. " No,
send them up and the coffee," I said, scrambling back
into bed and wondering who on earth it could be. Two
minutes later there followed the waiter into the room
two pale girls about twenty years of age with soft, shy

" We have come to give you a welcome to the Con-
ference and to ask you if you will be good enough to speak
at the opening session. Dear Mrs. Snowden, we know
how tired you must be, but it is so wonderful that you
are here. Do please come and say a few words of greet-
ing to us. It will make us so happy and we are very
miserable." They were starved girls from Munich.

" Of course," I said. " If you will leave me now, I
will be with you in half an hour." And they left looking
very pleased.

This Conference was not so large as the International.


The League of Nations Conference

There were several of the Socialists present ; but, gener-
ally speaking, the Congress was different in its personnel
and in the character of those present. It was more
bourgeois in appearance. I do not say that with the
intention of reflecting upon its quality in any offensive
way. I have not the hatred of the bourgeois because
he is a bourgeois, which animates some Socialists. I am
not sure, indeed, what the word means precisely in the
mouths of some people I know. As used by many it
appears to mean a man who wears a clean collar and cuts
his hair short ; or a woman who speaks in a soft voice
and wears a pretty dress. With such persons, educated
manners, courtesy in debate, destroy a Socialist's
bona fides ; whilst well-cut ringer nails and a pair of
white cuffs positively mark him down as a " social
traitor." I am not joking. I am stating a literal fact.
With these solemn idiots the bourgeois is a man who
keeps his family respectable and goes to church on Sunday.
He is a man who retains some affection for the old-
fashioned virtues of industry and thrift. There is, for
them, a bourgeois morality, a bourgeois mentality, a
bourgeois faith. Radek writes of the necessity of de-
stroying the bourgeois institutions of religion, the
family and private property. Lenin jeers at the bourgeois
idea of liberty. To be middle-class is to be bourgeois,
even if you have to work hard for a living. To take a
pride in clean table-linen is bourgeois. To delight in
a daily bath is bourgeois. And to be bourgeois is to
be condemned by this class of " superior " person in
Socialist circles. It is all so very silly and so very young !
The delegates to the League of Nations Conference
were in the main professional people, lawyers, professors,
doctors, teachers, journalists. One or two were aristo-
cratically connected Count Max Montgelas, for instance
and there were two or three generals. But the same
features marked this Conference as the other. The Ger-
man and the Austrian delegates looked hungry and ill-
nourished. All that I have said of the German Socialists


A Political Pilgrim in Europe

the dry grey skin stretched tightly over the bones, the
bloodshot eyes, the pale lips, the thin nervous hands
was true of the men and women who confronted me as I
spoke on that glorious March morning. It was a very
pitiful sight and told eloquently of what the German
people had had to endure up to the time their rulers
fled before the indignant revolutionaries.

I was very happy to have arrived in time to give the
greetings from the two organizations I represented, the
National Peace Council and the Union of Democratic
Control, and to be able to promise them the presence in
a few days of my two colleagues, Miss Joan Fry and
Mrs. Charles Roden Buxton.

Miss Joan Fry is one of the daughters of the late Sir
Edward Fry. She is an active member of the Society of
Friends. She came to the Conference to testify to her
foreign friends of the same religious persuasion as her-
self the solidarity with themselves of the like-minded
women and men of Great Britain. She made several
speeches of deep spiritual power which were well received
by the delegates.

Mrs. Charles Roden Buxton, the daughter of the late
Professor Jebb, is also a Quaker. She has two very
lovely children whom she adores, and the knowledge of
Europe's suffering children moved her to come to Berne,

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Online LibraryEthel SnowdenA political pilgrim in Europe → online text (page 5 of 23)