R. H. Bruce Lockhart
"HISTORY FROM THE INSIDE"
WITH the arrival of the German Embassy in Moscow the prospects of a renewal of the war between Germany and Russia began to diminish. The great opportunity for an understanding between the Bolsheviks and the Allies had been in February and March, when the Soviet Government was still uncertain what the Germans would do. By the beginning of May, Lenin's peace policy had made headway even among those Bolsheviks who were most opposed to the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Strangely enough, the Foreign Office, who in February and March had given me no encouragement, now began to show signs of approval. Thus I was urged to do my utmost to secure Bolshevik consent to an Allied military intervention in Russia.
The moment was not so favourable, but it had not entirely passed. There were still certain factors in our favour, of which the most important was the attitude of the German troops in the territory they had occupied. They had set up a bourgeois Russian Government in the Ukraine, whose first action was to restore the land to its former owners. This naturally provoked a peasant revolt which was suppressed with great cruelty. The Bolsheviks and Left-Social-Revolutionaries, who came from the South, were furious and were doing everything they could to stimulate a partisan war against the Germans. The latter could take and hold the towns by their military strength. They never succeeded in controlling the countryside. Moreover, the military support which the Germans had afforded to the White Finns in the Finnish civil war, was another factor to our advantage. Germany seemed to be taking the side of reaction. It was therefore natural that the forces of the Left should turn to us for aid.
Trotsky, too, was still talking of war as though it were inevitable. When I asked him if he would accept Allied intervention, he replied that he had already asked the Allies to make a proposition. He wanted safeguards about non-interference in Russia's internal affairs. I then said that, if the Allies would come to an agreement on this point, could we have a half-hour's conference to draw up a working arrangement. His reply was characteristic: "When the Allies agree among themselves, it is not half-an-hour but a whole day that I shall give you."
It is true that Lenin's views were less satisfactory. He, too, thought that war was inevitable and was in favour of an arrangement with the Allies. But he was determined to fix his own date of inevitability. I saw him for the last time on May the seventh. He informed me frankly that to him it appeared clear that sooner or later Russia would become a battlefield for the two opposing Imperialist groups and that he was determined, for the sake of Russia herself, to prevent this for as long a period as was possible.
Nevertheless, right up to the end of June, there was a reasonable prospect of arriving at a modus vivendi. Unfortunately, although both the British and American Governments made some attempt to play with the idea of Allied intervention with Bolshevik consent, no definite policy was ever formulated. And in Vologda there was M. Noulens, the French Ambassador, intent only on one aim: to have no dealings with the cut-throats who had insulted him. On April 29th we had a meeting of the Allied representatives in my rooms. General Lavergne informed us that M. Noulens was in favour of intervention without Bolshevik consent and without asking for it. The General, who had been at Vologda, admitted that his Ambassador had been unable to advance a single military argument in favour of his proposal. Romei, Riggs and I again affirmed our adherence to a policy of co-operation with the Bolsheviks.
There were, too, minor frictions between the Bolsheviks and ourselves---frictions which played an important part in wrecking the working agreement we sought to achieve. Japanese intervention was one stumbling block. At one moment we would be reporting favourable progress with Trotsky. The next day we would be back to where we were before. The Japanese had landed troops at Vladivostok. Scowls from Trotsky. All privileges to the British stopped. Telegrams to London. And after days of delay the answer would come that the incident was to be regarded as purely local.
Prospects of an agreement were not enhanced by a well-intentioned speech of Mr. Balfour, who declared that the Japanese were coming to help the Russians. In a conversation with Ransome Lenin at once raised the question of "which Russians," and in a shrewd analysis of the problem set out his reasons why Japanese intervention would benefit neither England nor Bolshevik Russia. He typed out his analysis and in his own handwriting added his attestation that it correctly represented his views. I reproduce the document in facsimile with an English translation on another page (1) as a specimen of Lenin's handwriting and (2) as an illustration of the workings of his mind.
Fig. 2. STATEMENT SIGNED BY LENIN
Translation: One of the weakest spots in Balfour's speech is the statement that the Japanese are going to help the Russians. Which Russians? In Russia today there is one power, which by its nature is destined to wage a life and death struggle against the attacks of international Imperialism---that is the Power of the Soviets. The first step, however, of those Russians whom the Japanese intend to "help," as soon as they heard rumours of the advance of the latter, was to demand the abolition of the Soviet Power. Should the Japanese move into Siberia, these same "Russians" whom the Japanese are going to help will demand the abolition of the Soviets throughout the whole of Siberia. What can take the place of the Soviet Power? The only power that can take its place is a bourgeois government. But the bourgeoisie in Russia has proved clearly enough that it can only remain in power with foreign help. If a bourgeois government, supported by outside help, should establish itself in Siberia and Eastern Russia become lost to the Soviet, then in Western Russia the Soviet Power would become weakened to such an extent that it could hardly hold out for long; it would be followed by a bourgeois government, which would also need foreign help. The Power to give this help would, of course, not be England. It is easy to understand what avenues are opened up by this possibility.
I confirm that I really said this in a conversation with Ransome and I give permission for it to be printed.
Another source of trouble was the Czech army which, formed of Czech prisoners, had been fighting for Russia up to the period of the Bolshevik revolution. The Czechs, who were a well-disciplined and fully-armed force, were under the control of French officers. My services, however, were requisitioned to secure their evacuation, presumably because of the privileged position I enjoyed with the Bolshevik Government. The evacuation was no simple matter. Not unnaturally, the Germans protested violently against the presence, on what was now neutral Russian territory, of a large force which was to be used against them. Nevertheless, I succeeded in securing Trotsky's good will, and but for the folly of the French I am convinced that the Czechs would have been safely evacuated without incident. My task was not made easier by the last-minute requests of the British Government to use my influence to persuade Trotsky to divert the Czechs to Archangel. This, too, at a time when General Poole was already in North Russia, advocating a policy of intervention which was subsequently adopted and which never amounted to anything more than an armed intervention against Bolshevism.
Ultimately, the Czechs were the cause of our final breach with the Bolsheviks. How I wish today that President Mazaryk had remained in Russia during this trying period. I am convinced that he would never have sanctioned the Siberian revolt. The Allies would have listened to him, and we should have been spared the crowning folly of an adventure which sent thousands of Russians to their deaths and cost the British taxpayer millions of pounds in money.
The sands were running out. We were drifting rapidly towards the inevitable tragedy. In Moscow, too, I was not alone in receiving no support from home. Robins had lost ground in Vologda. He had a formidable opponent in Summers, the American Consul-General in Moscow, who, married to a Russian of good family, was heart and soul for the old régime. When Summers died suddenly towards the end of April, there were slanderers who declared that he had been poisoned by the Bolsheviks and who looked askance at Robins. The French, too, had put a spoke in Robins's wheel by playing on the American Ambassador's vanity. In his presence a member of the French Embassy had asked who was the American Ambassador ---Francis or Robins---because they always said the opposite of each other. As a result of these intrigues Robins's position became intolerable, and early in May he left Russia in order to make a personal appeal to President Wilson. The night before he left he dined with us. He had been reading Rhodes's fife and after dinner he gave us a wonderful exposition of Rhodes's character. Like Lord Beaverbrook, he possessed in a remarkable degree the talent of extracting exactly what he wanted from everything he read, and dramatising it afterwards in his conversation. He was a great personality and a man of sterling character and iron determination. His departure was a great loss to me. In the almost lone hand I was playing his moral courage had been an immense support.
Lavergne, too, willy-nilly, had been forced to adopt the Noulens policy. Even Romei, who as a soldier preferred action to inaction, was beginning to reach the stage when intervention even without Bolshevik consent seemed better than no intervention at all. At this stage the position was that President Wilson was still opposed to intervention without Bolshevik consent. The French were working vigorously for military support of the anti-Bolshevik forces. The British Foreign Office---I write Foreign Office intentionally, because the British War Office seemed to have a totally different policy---was pressing us hard for an immediate acceptance by the Bolsheviks of Allied military support. Presumably, although I do not think the conditions were ever laid down, they were prepared, in return for this consent, to guarantee to the Bolsheviks complete non-interference in Russia's internal affairs.
Into this gloomy vacuum a ray of hope was suddenly propelled. Trotsky had been more than usually amenable. The Germans had been very aggressive in the South, and he had reacted in the usual belligerent manner. He had been conciliatory about Murmansk and about our stores at Archangel. He had even asked for a British naval mission to reorganise the Russian Fleets and had offered to put an Englishman in charge of the Russian railways. I had telegraphed this news to London and for several days I received no answer. I was not astonished. The telegraph service was erratic, and delays and a break in the sequence of numbers were frequent. Then one evening I received a telegram which was as long as a despatch. I sat up until late into the night deciphering it. It was from Mr. Balfour. I learnt later that he had drafted personally nearly all the telegrams I received in Russia. I have no copy of this telegram. I cannot remember all its details, but its beginning and its end are firmly fixed in my memory. It began: "There are three duties of a diplomatist: one is to make himself persona grata to the government of the country to which he is accredited. In this you have succeeded admirably. The second is to interpret to his own government the policy of the government of the country to which he is accredited. In this you have also been successful. The third is to interpret to the government of the country, to which he is accredited, the policy of his own government. In this it seems to me that you have not been so successful." Then followed a list of British grievances against Bolsheviks. When the list was completed, there was a sudden change. "Since writing this," the telegram went on, "I have received your telegram informing me of Trotsky's request for British naval and technical experts. This is good news. If you can, indeed, persuade Trotsky to resist German penetration, you will have earned the gratitude of your own country and of all humanity."
The telegram, although affording me fresh hope, was a little unkind. Admittedly, I had been unsuccessful in interpreting the policy of His Majesty's Government to the Bolsheviks. But for three months London had given me no indication of its policy or policies. In my reply I referred to my previous telegrams and requested humbly to be supplied with a more precise statement. It was not forthcoming. No naval mission was sent. No Englishman was appointed to the control of the Russian railways. But General Poole and a staff of officers were sent to Archangel and Murmansk.
Altogether May was a hectic and nerve-racking month. It began with an impressive parade of the Red Army on the Red Square. Trotsky took the salute in the presence of the foreign diplomatic representatives. Mirbach watched the review from his motor-car. At first he smiled superciliously. Then he looked serious. He was the representative of the old German Imperialism. There was an unmistakable living force in the ill-clad, unorganised men who marched past him. I was impressed. The bourgeoisie, however, could not read the signs. They were obsessed with a strange story of a miracle which had taken place that day. On the Nikolskaia the Bolsheviks had draped an ikon with red bunting. As soon as they put it up, the cloth was miraculously torn.
On May the sixth the American Ambassador paid a visit of several days to Moscow. I had several interviews with him and liked him. He was a kind old gentleman, who was susceptible to flattery and swallowed any amount of it. His knowledge of anything beyond banking and poker was severely limited. He had a travelling spittoon---a contraption with a pedal---which he took with him everywhere. When he wished to emphasise a point, bang would go the pedal followed by a well-aimed expectoration. During his Moscow visit he was responsible for a story which deserves to rank with Dumas' account of the loving couple plighting their troth under the shade of the "Kliukva"---(cranberry)! One afternoon Norman Armour, the efficient secretary of the American Embassy, came into the Ambassador's room.
"Governor," he said, "would you like to go to the opera tonight?"
"Nope," was the reply, "I think I'll play poker."
"Do come, Governor," said Armour. "You really ought not to miss it. It's Evgenie Onegin."
"Evgenny what?" said the Ambassador.
"Oh! you know," replied Armour, "Pushkin and Chaikovsky." There was a crash from the pedal of the spittoon.
"What!" said the Ambassador ecstatically. "Is Pushkin singing tonight?"
On the seventh of May I had an excitement of a more disturbing nature. At six o'clock in the evening Karachan telephoned to me requesting me to come to see him. He had an extraordinary story to tell. That afternoon a British officer had walked boldly up to the Kremlin gate and had demanded to see Lenin. Asked for his credentials, he had declared that he had been sent out specially by Mr. Lloyd George to obtain first-hand news of the aims and ideals of the Bolsheviks. The British Government was not satisfied with the reports it had been receiving from me. He had been entrusted with the task of making good the defects. He had not seen Lenin but he had been interviewed by Bonch-Brouevitch, a Russian of good family and the closest personal friend of the Bolshevik leader. Karachan wished to know if the man was an impostor. The name of the officer, he said, was "Relli." I was non-plussed, and, holding it impossible that the man could have any official standing, I nearly blurted out that he must be a Russian masquerading as an Englishman or else a madman. Bitter experience, however, had taught me to be prepared for almost any surprise, and, without betraying my amazement, I told Karachan that I would inquire into the matter and let him know the result. That same evening I sent for Boyce, the head of the Intelligence Service, and told him the story. He informed me that the man was a new agent, who had just come out from England. I blew up in a storm of indignation, and the next day the officer came to me to offer his explanation. He swore that the story Karachan had told me was quite untrue. He admitted, however, that he had been to the Kremlin and had seen Bonch-Brouevitch. The sheer audacity of the man took my breath away. I knew instinctively that on this occasion Karachan had adhered strictly to the truth. Now I was faced with the unpleasant and even dangerous task of saving a British agent, who, unless I denied him, might compromise me and for whose safety, although he was in no way subordinate to me, I felt myself in some measure responsible. Although he was years older than me, I dressed him down like a schoolmaster and threatened to have him sent home. He took his wigging humbly but calmly and was so ingenious in his excuses that in the end he made me laugh. Fortunately, I was able to arrange matters with Karachan so that his suspicions were not unduly aroused.
The man who had thrust himself so dramatically into my life was Sidney Reilly, the mystery man of the British secret service and known today to the outside world as the master spy of Britain. My experiences of the war and of the Russian revolution have left me with a very poor opinion of secret service work. Doubtless, it has its uses and its functions, but political work is not its strong point. The buying of information puts a premium on manufactured news. But even manufactured news is less dangerous than the honest reports of men who, however brave and however gifted as linguists, are frequently incapable of forming a reliable political judgment. The methods of Sidney Reilly, however, were on a grand scale which compelled my admiration. We shall hear more of him before my story is ended.
About this time, too, I received a mysterious visit from a tall, clean-shaven Russian. He addressed me as "Roman Romanovitch." I looked at him blankly. As far as I knew, I had never seen him before.
"You do not recognise me?" he said.
"Frankly, no," I replied.
He covered his chin and mouth with his hand. It was Fabrikantoff, a Social-Revolutionary and an intimate friend of Kerensky. The last time I had seen him, he had worn a beard! He was in dire trouble. Kerensky was in Moscow and wanted to leave Russia. The only way he could go was by Murmansk or Archangel. Fabrikantoff had been to see Wardrop, the British Consul-General, in order to obtain the necessary visa. Wardrop had refused to give it without first referring the matter to London. Several days might elapse before the answer came.
There was an immediate opportunity of smuggling Kerensky out with a platoon of Serbian soldiers, who were returning home via Murmansk. Every hour he remained in Moscow exposed him to the danger of betrayal to the Bolsheviks. If the British refused to give him a visa, they might he responsible for his death. What did I propose to do about it?
I made up my mind very quickly. I dared not telephone to Wardrop lest our conversation might be tapped. If he had no authority to give a visa without reference to London, he was not likely to change his mind. I had no time to go to see him. I could not expose Fabrikantoff to the disappointment and even danger of sending him away and asking him to return. I had no authority to give visas. I was an Ishmaelite, to be owned and disowned as the British Government saw fit. I had no certainty that my visa would be accepted by the British authorities at Murmansk. We were living, however, in strange times, and I was prepared to go a long way to avoid endangering the unfortunate Kerensky's life. I therefore took the Serbian passport which Kerensky had procured, wrote out a visa, and sealed my signature with the rubber stamp, which made apology for our official seal. That same evening Kerensky, disguised as a Serbian soldier, left for Murmansk. Not for three days, when I knew he must be safe, did I telegraph to London, reporting my action and my reasons for taking it. I was afraid that the Bolsheviks had a key to our ciphers.
My fears were not entirely groundless. Karachan himself had confessed to me that the Bolsheviks had made every attempt to procure the German ciphers. They had staged a raid on the German courier. He even suggested to me that, if our cipher experts could decipher them, he could furnish me with copies of the German telegrams. I suspect that my own popularity with the Bolsheviks was due to the fact that they knew from my telegrams that I was opposed to any form of intervention without. Bolshevik consent.
Between May 15th and May 23rd. Cromie came down twice from St. Petersburg to confer with me. He was anxious about the Black Sea Fleet, which, owing to the German advance along the Black Sea coast, was now in imminent danger of capture. Together we went to see Trotsky. During Cromie's visit I had several interviews with the Red Minister for War, and, although he was now full of suspicions against the Allies, he was reassuring about the Fleet and not unfriendly. After several days of negotiation he informed me that he had given orders for the destruction of the Black Sea Fleet. A little later it was, in fact, blown up. This was the last interview I ever had with Trotsky. From now onwards his door was to be shut against me.
The next day---May the 24th---was young Tamplin's twenty-first birthday, and we gave him a dinner at Strefina, the restaurant outside the city, where Maria: Nikolaievna and her Tsiganes held their court. By what means I do not know, the place had escaped the vigilance of the Bolshevik authorities, and we were able to relax to our hearts' content. We were all a little excited. We felt instinctively that our stay in Russia was coming to an end, and the minor orgy, which I suppose every gipsy party must he called, was a welcome relief to the high tension of the previous weeks. We drank innumerable "charochki," while Maria Nikolaeivna sang to us as she had never sung before. She, too, realised that the days of her reign were numbered. One by one, she went through all our old favourites: "Two Guitars," "Once Again," "To the last Copeck," "Black Eyes."
Po obichaiyu chisto-ruskomu;
Po obichaiyu po-moskovskomu.
Zit nye mozem my bez shampanskavo
E bez penya, bez tziganskayo.
(In the true Russian fashion,
In the manner that is Moscow's.
We cannot live without champagne
Without our songs and our Tziganes.)
The haunting minor chords of the guitars, the deep bass notes of Maria Nikolaievna's glorious voice, the warm stillness of the summer night, the rich fragrance of the lime-trees. How it all comes back to me---like every experience which we cannot repeat.
There was one song which I have never heard from any other lips than Maria Nikolaievna's. In those days it was in tune with my own turbulent soul, and that night I made her repeat it again and again, until at last she laughed and kissed me on both cheeks. It was called "I Cannot Forget" and it began:
They say my heart is like the wind,
That to one maid I can't be true;
But why do I forget the rest,
And still remember only you.
In English idiotic, but sung by Maria Nikolaievna in Russian a throbbing plaint of longing and desire.
We drank deep into the night. Hicks, Tamplin, Garstin, Hill and Lingner went out into the garden at different intervals to cool their heads, until I was left alone. When they returned, they found me sitting at the middle of the table---still erect and very serious and greeting them with a sigh: "Roman Romanovitch patchti pyan"---Roman Romanovitch is almost drunk. It was almost true.
Their return broke the spell. I pulled myself together, and, when the dawn broke, I sent the others home and drove out with Moura to the Sparrow Hills to watch the sun rise over the Kremlin. It came up like an angry ball of fire heralding destruction. No joy was to come with the morning.
The next day I received news from St. Petersburg that General Poole was expected in Archangel that evening. Colonel Thornhill, the former assistant military attaché, had already arrived in Murmansk and had paid a recent visit to St. Petersburg. Although I had heard nothing of these movements from London---indeed, the Foreign Office were still pressing me (1) to secure the consent of the Bolsheviks to Allied military assistance and (2) to expedite the departure of the Czech Army from Russia---it was obvious that the interventionists were gaining ground.
I had further proof of their activities when on the same evening General Lavergne came to our daily meeting. He brought with him an invitation for me to go to Vologda to see the Allied ambassadors. Mr. Francis and Mr. Noulens wished to see if we could not co-ordinate our views and find a common formula.
Although I was scarcely in a position to refuse, I accepted with some reluctance. My visit to Vologda was to have an all-important influence on my career. Yet, although I realise today that it. would have been better for me if I had remained in Moscow, this journey into the wilderness was a valuable experience.
Vologda itself was a sleepy provincial town with almost as many churches as inhabitants. As a connecting link with Moscow it was as useless as the North Pole. Its only advantage as a retreat for the Allied representatives was its proximity to Moscow.
On my arrival I called on M. Noulens, who received me with every mark of friendliness. After a short preliminary discussion I went off to dine with the American Ambassador, who was comfortably lodged in an old club-house and who was to be my host during my stay. The serious business was to be left until the next day.
My evening with the Americans had the merit of being amusing as well as instructive. Mr. Francis was a charming host. At his house I met the Japanese Chargé d'Affaires, the Brazilian Minister, and the serious and still perturbed Torretta. We sat up late into the night, but Russia figured hardly at all in our conversation. From Francis I gathered that President Wilson was strongly opposed to Japanese intervention. Otherwise, he did not seem to have any decided views about Russia. Knowledge of Russian politics he had none. The only political entry in my diary for that evening is the laconic note: "Old Francis doesn't know a Left Social-Revolutionary from a potato." To do him justice, he made no pretence of professing to understand the situation. He was as simple and as fearless as a child, It never entered his head that he himself was in any personal danger. At dinner he asked me a few questions about life in Moscow. I answered him with commendable brevity, and the rest of the meal was devoted to chaffing the Brazilian Minister. This gentleman was the one joy of Vologda. I hope he is still alive and that he is still serving his country. He had reduced the art of diplomacy to a simple formula: do nothing and promotion and honours are certain. He did his best to live up to his own formula. He slept all day and played cards all night. When the American Ambassador twitted him with doing no work, he turned the tables by wagering that his telegram bill was higher than the American's. His statement was correct. True it is that since February, 1917, he had sent only one telegram to his government. But it had cost over a thousand pounds. He had translated and telegraphed to Rio the whole of Kerensky's first speech on the revolution! Having proved his case, he then proceeded to justify his philosophy. When he had entered the service as a young attaché, he had been full of zeal. He had gone to London as second secretary. He had worked strenuously on a report on the Brazilian coffee trade with England. He had made certain recommendations. His reward had been a reduction in rank and a transfer to the Balkans. When later he was transferred to Berlin, he resumed his zeal and furnished his government with an admirable report on technical education in Germany. Once again he suffered a reduction in rank. Then wisdom came to him. Zeal had obviously no place in diplomacy, and he made up his mind to do nothing in future to remind his government of his existence. From that moment his diplomatic career had been one long triumph and his promotion had been as regular as clockwork. The formula is not so absurd as the layman may imagine. It has stood more than one British diplomatist in good stead.
As soon as dinner was over, Francis began to fidget like a child who wishes to return to its toys. His rattle, however, was a deck of cards, and without loss of time they were produced. The old gentleman was no child at poker. We played late, and, as usually happens when I play with Americans, he took my money.
The next day I lunched with the French Ambassador. There was nothing childish about M. Noulens. If he played poker, he played without cards. Politics---and politics viewed from the narrow, logical angle of a Frenchman---was his only game. General Lavergne had given him a copy of the report we had drafted on the military needs of the situation. It was based on the supposition that the Bolsheviks would give their consent to our intervention. Together we discussed the report. M. Noulens was flatteringly congratulatory. He agreed with the report. He had only one amendment to make. If the Bolsheviks would not give their consent, we must intervene without their consent. He advanced many arguments in support of this new formula. He referred to the critical situation on the Western Front. He quoted telegrams from the French General Staff. The war would be lost or won on the Western Front. And the French General Staff insisted on the necessity of some diversion in Russia, which would prevent the Germans from transferring more troops from the East. It was essential that the various Allied representatives in Russia should present a united front. Dissensions in Allied policy had been the chief cause of delay in achieving victory. He would go far to obtain unity. He would accept our formula. He hoped I would agree to his amendment. I looked at Lavergne. I knew he had already capitulated. Romei had not come to Vologda, but he, too, had been subjected to pressure from Italian headquarters. As a soldier he was not likely to stand out against his own General Staff. I was alone. Robins had left. Sadoul, the French Robins, had been side-tracked. M. Noulens had taken away his right of telegraphing direct to Albert Thomas. Feverishly I tried to summarise my own position in my mind. Perhaps I could still pull off a big coup with Trotsky. Perhaps M. Noulens was cleverer than I realised. I was in a corner. If I refused to agree, M. Noulens would go ahead with his own policy. He would carry the Italians, the Japanese, and even Francis with him. If I consented, at least I should escape the stigma of having stood out against the united opinion of all the other Allied representations. I capitulated.
In the blazing sunshine we walked across to the Ambassadors' meeting. Francis was in the chair, but Noulens dominated the proceedings. He was, in fact, the only Allied representative in Vologda who knew his own mind. He was at one with us regarding the number of troops that would be required for a successful intervention. Even with regard to the Czech Army, which was then stretched like a serpent from the Volga to Siberia, he was strangely conciliatory. We discussed this question from all its angles and decided that the Czechs should be evacuated as soon as possible. After the meeting I said good-bye to M. Noulens. He was all smiles and affability. When, twenty-four hours later, I arrived in Moscow, I was met by Hicks with the news that there had been a serious clash in Siberia between the Bolsheviks and the Czechs. How the clash had arisen is unclear to me to this day. The report from the French officers, who were accompanying the Czechs, stated that the Bolsheviks, yielding to German demands, had tried to disarm the Czechs. The Czechs resisted and were now continuing their journey by the force of their own arms. The Bolsheviks maintained that at the instigation of the French the Czechs had made an unprovoked attack on the local Bolshevik authorities and had taken the law into their own hands. From which side the provocation came will probably remain a matter of dispute for all time. Nevertheless, what the result of this affair was to be was quite clear. The first plank in the platform of the interventionists had been laid.
I found Moscow in a state of siege. The Czech diplomatic council had been arrested. Numerous counter-revolutionaries had been rounded up and put in prison. The newspapers had been suppressed. There was an urgent request from Chicherin, begging me to use my influence to settle the Czech incident amicably. There was also a telegram from Cromie urging me to come to St. Petersburg to see one of General Poole's officers who was arriving the next day.
I spent the next afternoon in interviewing Chicherin and Karachan. In the absence of details of what was happening in Siberia we were unable to make much headway about the Czech incident. That the Bolsheviks were anxious to settle the affair amicably was evident, but, as I had no time to receive instructions from London, I could only promise to do my best. My interview, however, left me with one clear impression. The suspicions of the Bolsheviks were now fully aroused. They were, As I had always believed, accurately informed about the activities of the French. They knew that General Poole had arrived in North Russia. Already they had a shrewd idea that the Czechs were to be the vanguard of an anti-Bolshevik intervention. I gave them the only answer I could: that the British Government's offer of military aid against Germany was still open. Chicherin laughed bitterly. The Allies were siding with the counter-revolutionaries. There was no choice for the Bolsheviks.
They would oppose Allied intervention against Russia's wish in the same way as they would oppose German intervention.
The same evening, having decided that I could just afford the time, I left for St. Petersburg. There I saw Cromie and McGrath, the English officer who had come out with General Poole. In one sense McGrath was reassuring. Some weeks before, Trotsky, in a moment of depression, had suggested that I was merely a tool, used by the British Government to keep the Bolsheviks quiet while it was preparing an anti-Bolshevik coup. At the time I had been furiously indignant. Now I was perturbed. McGrath, however, set my mind at rest. The intervention plan, he said, was not very far advanced, and England had no policy at all as far as Russia was concerned. Nothing would be decided until Poole reported home.
If there was a negative comfort in this statement, McGrath gave me several shocks. Poole himself was in favour of intervention. Thornhill, who was at Murmansk, was a rabid interventionist. Moreover, Lindley, who had been our Chargé d'Affaires when I arrived in St. Petersburg, was coming out again. This could mean only one thing. London had no confidence in me. I returned to Moscow in a state of dejection, aggravated by the humiliation that all St. Petersburg should know of Lindley's pending arrival before my own Government had thought fit to inform me of the fact.
On my return to Moscow I found instructions from London regarding the Czech affair and the same afternoon, together with my French and Italian colleagues, I went to the Russian Foreign Office. The proceedings were severely formal. Chicherin's room was long and bare of any furniture except the desk in the middle. We sat on wooden chairs facing him and Karachan. One by one, we read out our protests. Mine was the strongest. I told the two Commissars that for months I had done my best to bring about an understanding with the Allies, but that they had always put me off with evasions. Now, after promising a free exit to the Czechs, who had fought for the Slav cause and who were going to France to continue the fight against a foe, who was still the Bolshevik enemy as well as ours, they had yielded to German threats and had wantonly attacked those who had always been their friends. I was instructed by my Government to inform them that any attempt to disarm the Czechs, or to interfere with them in any way, would be regarded as an act inspired by Germany and hostile to the Allies.
The Bolsheviks listened to our protests in silence. They were scrupulously polite. Although they had a case, they made no attempt to argue it. Chicherin, looking more like a drowned rat than ever, stared at us with mournful eyes. Karachan seemed stupidly bewildered. There was a painful silence. Every one was a little nervous and none more than myself, whose conscience was not quite clear. Then Chicherin coughed. "Gentlemen," he said, "I have taken note of what you said." We shook hands awkwardly and then filed out of the room.
Our protest had made a profound impression. Months afterwards, when I was in prison, Karachan told me that both he and Chicherin had been completely surprised by the vehemence of my language. Their first suspicions of me had dated from that day. The suspicions were well-founded. Almost before I had realised it I had now identified myself with a movement which, whatever its original object, was to be directed, not against Germany, but against the de facto government of Russia.
I must explain the motives which had driven me into this illogical situation. For four and a half months I had opposed Japanese intervention and, indeed, every kind of intervention which had not received the sanction of the Bolsheviks. I had little faith in the strength of the anti-Bolshevik Russian forces and none at all in the feasibility of reconstituting an Eastern front against Germany. Moreover, I had been in close touch with the Czech Council. The Czech Army, whose revolt had brought matters to a head, was composed of war-prisoners. They were Slavs, who, although technically Austrian subjects, had deserted in their thousands to the Russians at the beginning of the war. They bore no love to the Tsarist régime, which had always refused to recognise their separate nationality. They were democrats by instinct, and their sympathies were with the Russian Liberals and the Social-Revolutionaries. They were not likely to co-operate smoothly with the Tsarist officers, who supplied the main strength to the armies of the anti-Bolshevik Generals.
Why then had I given my adherence to a policy which seemed to hold out little promise of success and which was to expose me to widespread accusations of inconsistency? Although I desire to be strictly truthful, the answer is not easy. Fortunate indeed are the traditionalists who accept the existing order of society in their cradle, and who solve every political problem by the simple formula of "these men are my friends and those my enemies." I could not see the situation in this light. I had been sent back to Russia mainly in order that I might keep the British Government informed about the real state of affairs. That task I had tried to fulfil to the best of my ability. I had no special sympathy for the Bolsheviks, nor did the numerous accusations of pro-Bolshevism augment unduly the obstinacy with which I strove to maintain an objective and unbiased view of the situation. At the same time, I could not help realising instinctively that, behind its peace programme and its fanatical economic programme, there was an idealistic background to Bolshevism which lifted it far above the designation of a mob movement led by German agents. For months I had lived cheek by jowl with men who worked eighteen hours a day and who were obviously inspired by the same spirit of self-sacrifice and abnegation of worldly pleasure which animated the Puritans and the early Jesuits. If to realise that I was living in a movement which was likely to assume even greater proportions in history than the French revolution was to be pro-Bolshevik, then I am entitled to the label of pro-Bolshevism. I knew from my wife's telegrams---later, they were to be confirmed from other sources ---that my views were unpalatable to the British Government. I ought to have resigned and come home. Today, I should have been enjoying the reputation of a prophet who had predicted the various phases of the Russian revolution with remarkable accuracy.
I did not do so. It would be easy for me to say that my first duty was to my country, that, when my country had decided on another policy, I had no right to oppose it, and that to resign in the middle of the war would have been equivalent to deserting my post in the face of the enemy. I do not plead these excuses. They were not my motives. Three months later, when I was in prison, Karl Radek wrote a letter to Arthur Ransome in which he described me as a "carrièriste," who, when he had seen that his own policy had no chance of being accepted, sought feverishly to regain the favour of his employers. This, too, although nearer the mark, is an unfair accusation. The motives for my conduct were two. Subconsciously, although I did not put the question to myself at the time, I was unwilling to leave Russia because of Moura. The other motive---and it was the all-compelling one, of which I was fully conscious---was that I lacked the moral courage to resign and to take a stand which would have exposed me to the odium of the vast majority of my countrymen.
There was perhaps one other more creditable motive. In my conceit I imagined that, if the Allies were bent on a military intervention in Russia, my special knowledge of the Russian situation would be of some value in aiding them to avoid the major pitfalls. I knew the Bolsheviks more intimately than any Englishman knew them at that time. I had had my finger on the pulse of events in Russia since January. The clamjamfery of military experts, who from outside were screaming for intervention and who regarded the Bolsheviks as a rabble to be swept away with a whiff of grape shot, was deprived by its geographical situation of that knowledge. Having gone over to intervention, I did my best to ensure that it would have at least some chance of success. To the last I opposed the theory that the "loyal" Russians were capable of overthrowing the Bolsheviks even if supported by Allied munitions and money and led by Allied officers. To the last I insisted on the need for large Allied forces, without which the whole scheme was bound to fail. I even devised a special formula: that the support which we would receive from the "loyal" Russians would be in direct proportion to the number of troops we sent ourselves. For all the good I did I might have saved my breath for my own porridge. My volte-face had discredited me with everybody. The interventionists looked on me as an obstinate young mule, who had at last come over to their way of thinking. I was an obstacle which had been successfully removed. My views could now be safely disregarded. The Bolsheviks shared Radek's opinion of me. I had fallen between two stools. To this day I have suffered from my tumble. To the Bolsheviks I am the incarnation of counter-revolution. To the interventionists I am still the pro-Bolshevik, who wrecked their plans!
THE intervention itself did not take place until August 4th. The two months from June to August were a purgatory, during which our position gradually deteriorated. And, as a result of the increased danger which now threatened them, the Bolsheviks tightened up their discipline.
On June 10th "Benji" Bruce arrived in Moscow. He had come to fetch his bride, the beautiful and charming Karsavina. He brought me a large bundle of mail and my first real news from England. There was a letter from George Clerk, then Head of the War Department in the Foreign Office. It was full of nice things. Indeed, he and Colonel Kisch, who was then at the War Office, are almost the only senior officials who have been generous us enough to sympathise with my attitude and to admit that my estimate of the situation had not been far wrong. Bruce, however, left me with no illusions regarding my unpopularity in England during the period of my so-called pro-Bolshevism. He informed me that in March I had nearly been recalled.
He stayed only twelve hours in Moscow, but, in spite of the news he brought me, his visit was like a breath of wind coming over the desert. After being shut off from the world for five months I was thrilled by his account of the situation in England and on the Western front. Karsavina and he had a nightmare of adventure before reaching Murmansk. They had to travel without a Bolshevik permit. My powers to help them had ceased.
June was a dreary month. Perhaps because my conscience was uneasy, I lived in an atmosphere of suspicion. Trotsky would have no more dealings with us, and, although I continued to see Chicherin, Karachan, and Radek almost daily, we avoided the real issue in our conversations. With the alteration in the political attitude of the Bolsheviks came a change in our material position. We found it increasingly difficult to obtain supplies of fresh meat and vegetables. Without the tinned rations supplied to us by the American Red Cross mission, we should have fared badly.
Through Hicks I increased my contact with the anti-Bolshevik forces. As far as we were concerned, they were represented in Moscow by an organisation called the "Centre," which was subdivided into two wings of Left and Right, and by the League of the Regeneration of Russia founded by Savinkoff. There were constant bickerings between the two organisations. The Centre was in close touch with the White Army in the South. The White generals regarded Savinkoff with suspicion. Indeed, about this period I received a letter from General Alexeieff in which he stated that he would sooner co-operate with Lenin and Trotsky than with Savinkoff or Kerensky. Both organisations were agreed on one point only. They wanted Allied aid and Allied money. I saw one or two of the leaders, notably Peter Struve, a brilliant intellectual, who at one time had been a Socialist and had helped Lenin to frame his first Communist manifesto, and Michael Feodoroff, a former Assistant Minister. Both were men of fine character. Both were unswervingly loyal to the Allies. I was, however, very guarded in my conversations with them. As far as I knew officially, the British Government had not yet decided on intervention. Until the decision was brought to my notice I gave no support to the Whites either in cash or in promises.
In this my attitude differed from that of the French, who, as I knew from their own admission, were supplying funds to Savinkoff. Their promises, too, were extravagant. The Whites were led to believe that Allied military support would be forthcoming in decisive strength. The figure generally mentioned was two Allied divisions for Archangel and several Japanese divisions for Siberia. Encouraged by these hopes, the anti-Bolshevik forces began to increase their activities. On June 21st, Volodarsky, the Bolshevik Commissar for Press Affairs in St. Petersburg, was assassinated on his return from a meeting at the Obuchoff Works. The Bolshevik reply was swift. In his speech to the St. Petersburg Soviet, Uritski, the head of the local Cheka, made a violent attack on England in which he accused the English of organising the dead Commissar's murder. The next day Schastny, the Commander-in-Chief of the Baltic Fleet, who had been a prisoner in the Kremlin, was condemned to death and shot. At the trial Trotsky distinguished himself by the violence of his language. The Terror was beginning.
I went to see Chicherin to protest against Uritsky's accusation. He put me off with semi-apologetic explanations. It was deplorable, but what else could we expect if we insisted on infringing on Russia's neutrality? Russia wanted only to be left alone and to enjoy the fruits of her dearly-bought peace. He was amusing about Trotsky, who, with his back to the wall, was always wanting to fight somebody and was now advocating strong measures against the Allies. "It is strange," said Chicherin, "how the military idea has gone to Trotsky's head. In March Lenin had to use his influence to prevent Trotsky from declaring war on Germany. Now it is Lenin's cool brain which is holding Trotsky back from declaring war on the Allies."
Although the intervention appeared to be hanging fire, our stay in Moscow seemed near its end. None of us was very happy. Dennis Garstin had already left us. He had been ordered to join General Poole at Archangel. He, too, had to leave clandestinely owing to the difficulty in securing a Bolshevik pass for him. He went with a sad heart. He would have liked to remain with us to the end. Poor boy! He was one of the first victims of the intervention. Still, we were not without optimism. Believing that the Allies would land in force, we were convinced that the Bolsheviks would be unable to offer a serious resistance. Even Ransome, whose opposition to intervention without Bolshevik consent had remained constant, told us that "the show was over" and began to make preparations to leave. Before we ourselves were to be allowed to depart we were to have our fill of excitement.
One extraordinary adventure during this period was the murder of Count Mirbach, the German Ambassador. This assassination, accompanied as it was by an internal revolt against the government, was the most dramatic political murder of modern times. As I myself was an uncomfortable eye-witness of the attempted coup d'état, I give my own account of the affair in full detail.
To understand the situation, the reader must remember that after the Bolshevik revolution in November, 1917, the extreme wing of the Russian Social-Revolutionary Party joined hands with the Bolsheviks and co-operated with them in the formation of the new Government. They received a few posts in the various Commissariats, retained their places in the Soviets, and were strongly represented in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, which, when the Congress of Soviets is not sitting, is the supreme legislative and executive power of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. For the first eight months of its existence the Soviet Government was, in fact, a coalition.
As a party the Left Social-Revolutionaries were quite as extreme as the Bolsheviks in their hatred of capitalism and Imperialism. They were therefore as violent as the Bolsheviks in their denunciation of the Allies. In internal politics, while they differed from the Bolsheviks on agrarian questions, they upheld the Soviet system and supported the Bolsheviks in the prosecution of the civil war. Two members of the party, Colonel Muravieff. an ex-police officer, and Lieutenant Sablin, the son of the proprietor of the Korsh Theatre in Moscow, were during the first period of the Bolshevik régime the most successful military commanders of the new Government.
Unlike the Bolsheviks, however, the Left Social-Revolutionaries were not prepared to go to any lengths in their desire for peace. They had been opposed to the Brest-Litovsk Peace and, although they retained their representatives in the government, had never accepted it. They drew most of their support from the Ukraine, which had been occupied by the Germans, and the Germans were hard task-masters who had installed a dummy reactionary Russian Government and restored the land to the Russian landowners.
The Left Social-Revolutionaries had not accepted this situation and ever since the peace they had carried on a violent partisan war in the Ukraine against both the Russian landlords and the German troops of occupation. By both sides this miniature warfare was conducted with appalling cruelty. Goaded almost to despair by the sufferings of their compatriots in the Ukraine, the Left Social-Revolutionaries protested vigorously against the servile attitude of the Bolsheviks before the Germans and denounced the Bolshevik Commissars as Mirbach's lackeys. As even the official Press had to admit, almost daily, some fresh German breach of the Brest Treaty, considerable point was given to the caustic comments on the cringing tone of Chicherin's mild protests and the barely civil replies of the German Ambassador.
The real difference between the two Russian Government Parties was that the Left Social-Revolutionaries regarded Germany as the chief menace to the revolution. The Bolsheviks or rather Lenin, for he alone saw clearly in this confused atmosphere, were determined to do nothing which might endanger the fragile fabric of their peace. They were now more afraid of Allied intervention than of further aggression by the Germans. The two parties were of course at heart both anti-German and anti-Entente. The situation, however, was not without its comic side. While the Bolsheviks were publicly denouncing the activities of the Left-Social-Revolutionaries in the Ukraine, they were supplying them secretly with the funds for their partisan warfare against the Germans.
There was one other grievance which further divided the two Parties. Among the peasants the chief supporters of the Left Social-Revolutionaries were the Kulaks. Partly in order to strengthen their own position in the country, and partly to obtain more grain, the Bolsheviks had organised so-called Poverty Committees, composed of poorer peasants, who were encouraged to attack the richer Kulaks and to seize their grain.
Here obviously were dissensions which were bound to come to a head. Secretly, the Left Social-Revolutionaries began to prepare fantastic plans for the overthrow of the Bolshevik Government and for a renewal of the war with Germany. By July 4th, the opening day of the Fifth All-Russian Congress, the political situation was ripe for the inevitable explosion.
For this Congress the Left Social-Revolutionaries had made special preparations. In spite of Bolshevik manipulation at the elections, they succeeded in returning about one-third of the 800 delegates present, and for the first time since November, 1917, the Bolsheviks were confronted, in their own carefully hedged-in Parliament, with a real official opposition.
The Congress took place in the Moscow Opera House. In the parterre, where once sat the "balletomanes" and the richly bejewelled ladies of the Moscow plutocracy, now are ranged the official delegates: on the right, facing the stage, the Bolshevik majority, composed mainly of soldiers in khaki; on the left the Left Social-Revolutionary opposition, whose brawny arms and loose shirts proclaim their village origin.
On the high stage, from which Chaliapin first gave his immortal rendering of Boris, now sit the members of the Central Executive Committee---a motley gathering of about one hundred and fifty intellectuals with a strong predominance of Jews.
At a long table across the front of the stage is the Presidium, with Sverdloff, the President, in the centre. A Jew so dark that he might almost be suspected of "colour," his black beard and his fierce black eyes make him look like some modern incarnation of the Spanish inquisitors. On his left are Afanasieff, the Secretary of the Central Executive Committee, an insignificant young Jew with nervous twitching eyes, and Nakhamis, the editor of the Izvestia, and better known to the public under the pseudonym of Stekloff. At this table, too, sits Zinovieff, the President of the St. Petersburg Commune. Clean-shaven and with an enormous forehead, he looks as intelligent as he is reputed to be. On the right of Sverdloff sit the Left Social-Revolutionary leaders: Kamkoff, Karelin, both young Jews, clean-shaven, well dressed, and clearly of the intellectual class; Cherepanoff; and at the extreme end Maria Spiridonova, the thirty-two-year-old leader of the Party. Very simply dressed, her dark hair brushed smoothly back over her head, and with pince-nez with which she toys continuously, she looks for all the world like Olga, the schoolmistress, in Tchekov's "Three Sisters." In 1906, while still a girl, she had made herself famous by her assassination of Lujinovsky, the notorious Councillor of the Government Administration of Tamboff. She had been selected by her Party to carry out this terroristic act, and in the middle of winter she waited for Lujinovsky on the platform of the station at Borisogliebsk and fired on him with a revolver as he stepped out of the train. Her shots were successful, but an attempt to end her own life failed, and she was dragged from the platform and later raped by the Cossack soldiery. She had been condemned to death, but, yielding to a strong plea for mercy on account of her age, the Tsar had changed her sentence to one of penal servitude for life. The earnest, almost fanatical, expression in her eyes shows that her sufferings have affected her mind. She is more hysterical than practical, but her evident popularity with her own followers shows that she is still one of the few sentimental figures of the revolution.
Behind the Presidium table in serried rows are ranged the other members of the Central Executive Committee. Here are to be found the real Bolshevik leaders and the chief Commissars. They are present in full force from Trotsky to Krylenko, the scowling, twitching Public Prosecutor. Only Derjinsky and Peters are absent. These grim exponents of Bolshevik justice have no time for Congresses. Lenin, too, is late as usual. He will slip in later, quietly, unobtrusively, but at the opportune moment.
In the boxes and galleries all around are the friends and supporters of the various delegates. Admission is by ticket only, and every entrance, every corridor, is guarded by groups of Lettish soldiers, armed to the teeth with rifle, pistol, and hand grenade. In the great Imperial box are the representatives of the official Press. I take my place in the large parterre box on the right hand of the stage, together with Lavergne, Romei, and the other members of the Allied Missions. Just above us are the representatives of the German, Turkish and Bulgarian Embassies. Fortunately for our enjoyment of the spectacle, we are not face to face.
From the first the atmosphere is charged with electricity. The opening day is devoted to speeches by minor delegates. The speeches are on strictly party lines. The three great crimes are the Brest-Litovsk peace, the. Poverty Committees and the death sentence. The Left Social-Revolutionaries denounce all three. They support their denunciation of the Peace Treaty with blood-curdling accounts of the German atrocities in the Ukraine. The Bolsheviks are on the defensive.
The real battle comes on the second day, when the heavy artillery on both sides is engaged. It is opened by Sverdloff, who wisely anticipates the Left Social-Revolutionary attack. He admits the horrors of the German occupation, but pleads that Russia is too weak to fight. He is less successful in his defence of the Poverty Committees. He scores a point over the Left Social-Revolutionary attitude towards the death sentence. The Left Social-Revolutionaries, he says, protested against the death sentence on Admiral Schastny. At the same time they have co-operated closely with the Bolsheviks in the Extraordinary Commissions. One of their members is Vice-President of the Moscow Cheka, which has carried out numerous death sentences without any trial. Are they, then, to understand that the Left Social-Revolutionaries are against the death sentence in cases of trials but in favour of it when there is no trial? He resumes his seat amidst laughter and Bolshevik applause.
Spiridonova then rises, and from her first words one realises that this is no ordinary Congress, that today the Bolsheviks and the Left Social-Revolutionaries have come to the parting of the ways. She is obviously nervous. Her delivery, too, is monotonous, but, as she warms to her subject, she acquires a hysterical passion which is not unimpressive. Her attack is concentrated on the Poverty Committees. With pride she refers to the fact that her whole life has been dedicated to the welfare of the peasants. Keeping time to the rhythm of her sentences with an up-and-down movement of the right arm, she bitterly attacks Lenin. "I accuse you," she says, addressing Lenin, "of betraying the peasants, of making use of them for your own ends, and of not serving their interests." She appeals to her followers: "in Lenin's philosophy," she shrieks, "you are only dung---only manure." Then, working up to an hysterical peroration, she turns on the Bolsheviks: "Our other differences are only temporary, but on the peasant question we are prepared to give battle. When the peasants, the Bolshevik peasants, the Left Social-Revolutionary peasants, and the non-party peasants, are alike humiliated, oppressed and crushed---crushed as peasants ---in my hand you will still find the same pistol, the same bomb, which once forced me to defend..." The end of the sentence is drowned in a wild torrent of applause. A Bolshevik delegate in the parterre hurls an indecent insult at the speaker. Pandemonium ensues. Brawny peasants stand up in their seats and shake their fists at the Bolsheviks. Trotsky pushes himself forward and tries to speak. He is howled down, and his face blenches with impotent rage. In vain Sverdloff rings his bell and threatens to clear the theatre. Nothing seems more certain than that he will have to carry out his threat. Then Lenin walks slowly to the front of the stage. On the way he pats Sverdloff on the shoulder and tells him to put his bell away. Holding the lapels of his coat, he faces the audience---smiling, supremely self-confident. He is met with jeers and cat-calls. He laughs good-humouredly. Then he holds up his hand, and with a last rumble the tumult dies. With cold logic he replies point by point to the criticisms of the Left Social-Revolutionaries. He refers with gentle sarcasm to their illogical and frequently equivocal attitude. His remarks produce another storm of interruption. Again Sverdloff becomes excited and grasps his bell. Again Lenin raises his hand. His self-confidence is almost irritating. Then, swaying slightly forward as he accentuates his points, but with strangely little gesticulation, he proceeds as calmly as though he were addressing a Sunday-School meeting. To the taunts of servility towards the Germans he replies that the Left Social-Revolutionaries, in wishing to renew the war, are carrying out the policy of the Allied Imperialists. Coldly and without a trace of sentiment he defends the Brest Treaty, points out how bitter a humiliation it has been, but underlines the grim doctrine of necessity. He almost exaggerates the difficulties of the present situation, praises the courage of those who are fighting the battle of Socialism, counsels further patience, and promises a reward for that patience in a glowing picture of the future, when war-weariness must inevitably produce a revolution in all countries. Gradually the sheer personality of the man and the overwhelming superiority of his dialectics conquer his audience, who listen spell-bound until the speech ends in a wild outburst of cheering, which, although many of the Left Social-Revolutionaries must know of the preparations for the morrow, is not confined to the Bolsheviks.
The effect on the Left Social-Revolutionaries, however, is only temporary. Lenin is followed by Kamkoff, a brilliant orator who lashes himself into a passion of fury. His is a fighting speech, and I marvel at his foolhardiness. He spares no one. His peroration is magnificent in its dramatic emotion. He turns towards the box in which the Germans are sitting. "The dictatorship of the proletariat," he thunders, "has developed into a dictatorship of Mirbach. In spite of all our warnings the policy of Lenin remains the same, and we are become, not an independent Power, but the lackeys of the German Imperialists, who have the audacity to show their faces even in this theatre."
In an instant the Left Social-Revolutionaries are on their feet shouting and shaking their fists at the German box. The theatre rings with roars of: "Down with Mirbach! Away with the German butchers! Away with the hangman's noose from Brest!" Hurriedly Sverdloff rings his bell and declares the session closed, and in a fever of excitement the delegates stream from the hall.
One incident gives me cause for reflection. During Kamkoff's speech a French intelligence officer in our box applauds fiercely. His attitude is typical of that of many of my Allied colleagues. They cannot realise that to both Bolsheviks and Left Social-Revolutionaries foreign intervention, whether by Germany or by the Allies, means counter-revolutionary intervention. When our own intervention took place it received no support from the Left Social-Revolutionaries.
The debate which had ended so dramatically on the evening of the fifth of July was not destined to be resumed on the Saturday afternoon of the sixth. The Congress, indeed, reassembled, but the Bolshevik leaders were absent. The stage revolution of yesterday had been transferred to the streets and to the barricades.
I went to the Opera House at four o'clock. It was a hot and sultry afternoon, and the atmosphere of the theatre was like a Turkish bath. The parterre was filled with delegates, but many of the seats on the platform were vacant. There was no Trotsky, no Radek. By five o'clock most of the other Bolshevik members of the Central Executive Committee had disappeared. The box allotted to the representatives of the Central Powers was empty. There was, however, a considerable number of Left Social-Revolutionaries including Spiridonova. She looked calm and composed. There was nothing in her manner to betray the fact that her Party had already decided to put its whole existence to the supreme test of war.
Yet this was what had happened, although it was some time before we realised the truth. At six o'clock Sidney Reilly came into our box with the news that the Theatre was surrounded by troops and that all exits were barred. He had only the vaguest idea of what had occurred. He knew, however, that there had been fighting in the streets. Something had gone wrong. Our apprehension was not diminished by a loud explosion in the corridor above us. A careless sentry had dropped a hand grenade. Fearful that the Bolsheviks might search them before they were allowed to leave the Theatre, Reilly and a French agent began to examine their pockets for compromising documents. Some they tore up into tiny pieces and shoved them down the lining of the sofa cushions. Others, doubtless more dangerous, they swallowed. The situation was too tense for us to appreciate its comic side, and, deciding that in this case inaction was the best policy, we sat down to await the denouement with as brave a show of patience as we could assume.
Finally, at seven o'clock we were relieved by Radek, who gave us the whole story. The Left Social-Revolutionaries had assassinated Mirbach, hoping thereby to provoke Germany into restarting the war. Headed by Sablin and Alexandrovitch, the Vice-President of the Cheka, they had planned to arrest the Bolshevik leaders during the Congress in the Theatre. Instead, they themselves had been caught in the trap which they had set for their opponents.
The story of their coup d'état may be told in a few words. At a quarter to three on the Saturday afternoon a motor-car with two men drove up to the German Embassy in the Denejni Pereulok. The Embassy itself was guarded by a detachment of Bolshevik troops. The occupants of the car, however, had no difficulty in obtaining an entrance, for they were provided with special passes signed by Alexandrovitch in his capacity as Vice-President of the Cheka. A man named Blumkin, who for months had lived in the room next to me in my hotel, was the chief actor in the ensuing tragedy. Himself an official of the Cheka, he was received immediately by Riezler, the Councillor of the German Embassy. He informed Riezler that he must see Mirbach personally. The Cheka had discovered an Allied plot for the assassination of the German Ambassador. In view of Blumkin's credentials and the seriousness of his information, Dr. RiezIer himself took him into Count Mirbach's presence. When the Count asked him how the assassins proposed to act, Blumkin took a Browning from his pocket, replied, "Like this," and emptied his pistol into the body of the unfortunate Ambassador. Then, leaping out of an open window, he hurled a hand grenade behind him in order to make doubly sure, and escaped.
In the meantime the Left Social-Revolutionaries had assembled such troops as they could persuade to support them in the Pokroysky Barracks. They included one unit of two thousand men, who had been bought over by Popoff, an agent of the Cheka, some disaffected soldiers from other regiments, and a few hundred sailors from the Black Sea Fleet. For an hour they enjoyed a slight success. They arrested Derjinsky. They captured the telegraph office. Then, however, their imagination failed them., and, beyond sending out telegrams all over the country to announce the success of their coup d'état, they did nothing. Towards evening they made a half-hearted attempt to approach the Opera House, but, finding it already surrounded by a strong detachment of Bolshevik forces, they retired to their headquarters. So feeble was their military effort that the vast majority of the Moscow population never realised until the next day that an attempted revolution was in progress.
In the meantime Trotsky had not been idle. He had called in two Lettish regiments from the suburbs. He had assembled his armoured cars. Within a few hours the Left Social-Revolutionary troops, opposed by overwhelming strength, laid down their arms. Some of the leaders escaped. Alexandrovitch, however, was caught at the Kursk railway station and promptly shot. The Social-Revolutionary delegates in the Opera House were arrested without even a protest. The revolution, which was conceived in a theatre, ended in the same place.
The only effect of this opera bouffe of the Left Social-Revolutionaries was to strengthen the hands of the Bolsheviks and the peace party. The repercussion in the country was insignificant. A few days later Muravieff, the commander-in-chief of the Bolshevik forces on the Volga, attempted to move his troops against Moscow. By this time, however, the failure of the coup d'état in Moscow was known, and he was arrested by his own men. He ended his life dramatically by shooting himself in the presence of the Simbirsk Soviet. Spiridonova and Cherepanoff were imprisoned in the Kremlin, where, later, I was to be their companion in misfortune. Blumkin, the assassin, escaped. Most of the rank and file, in order to save themselves from reprisals, went back on their leaders, condemned their action, and were re-admitted into the Bolshevik fold.
This miserable affair, which should have been an object-lesson to the Allies in the sense that it proved beyond all doubt that Russia would do almost anything to avoid fighting either the Germans or the Allies, had certain reactions both on our own position and that of the Germans. The German Government was furious, but, convinced now of the certainty of Allied intervention, it did not declare war on the Bolsheviks. It demanded the right to send a battalion of German soldiers to guard its Moscow Embassy, but, when the Bolsheviks refused this request, it confined its action to a diplomatic protest. The reaction in our own case was more comic. Two days after Mirbach's murder Radek came to see me and informed me that the Bolshevik Government wished to place a guard at my disposal. There was a broad grin on his face. He knew what my reply would be. I told him to put his guard where the Khyber Pass veteran had put the workhouse Christmas pudding. It was almost the last laugh we had together.
Our situation was, in fact, none too pleasant. During the Congress Lindley had arrived at Vologda, and his first telegram to me was vaguely alarming. It gave me, however, no indication either of policy or of the date of our intervention. The attempted counter-revolution was already uncomfortably near. Savinkoff, egged on by French assurances of Allied help, had seized Yaroslavl, and Yaroslavl was between Moscow and Archangel, our only port of exit. Incidentally, Trotsky accuses me in his Autobiography of having fermented and financed the Yaroslavl affair. This is wholly untrue. Never at any time did I furnish Savinkoff with financial aid. Still less did I encourage him in any action he took. Trotsky, too, had issued an order that all French and British officers were to be refused travelling passes on account of their counter-revolutionary activities. Although technically this ukase did not apply to my mission, I knew that in practice there would be no difference. Moreover, there was great delay in the telegraph service to England, and I was never sure when this source of communication would be cut off from us altogether.
On the evening of July 17th I received from Karachan the official intimation of the murder of the Tsar and his family at Ekaterinburg. I believe that I was the first person to convey the news to the outside world. The only first-hand evidence of this crime that I can give concerns the official attitude of the Bolshevik Government. My own impression is that, alarmed by the approach of the Czech troops, who had now turned in their tracks and were at open war with the Bolsheviks, the local Soviet had taken the law into its own hands, and that the approval of the Central Government was subsequent. Certainly, there was no question of disapproval or disavowal. In its leading articles the Bolshevik Press did everything it could to justify the murder and reviled the Tsar as a tyrant and a butcher. It announced that it would begin immediate publication of his diaries. Later, a few instalments were published. All that they revealed was that the Emperor was a devoted husband and a loving father. When it was seen that their effect was to win sympathy for the Tsar, the instalments were stopped. Karachan, it is true, professed to be shocked and pleaded extenuating circumstances. He advanced the theory that the menace of Allied intervention was the direct cause of the Emperor's death. I am bound to admit that the population of Moscow received the news with amazing indifference. Their apathy towards everything except their own fate was complete, yet symptomatic of the extraordinary times in which we were living.
While this stark tragedy was taking place at Ekaterinburg, a drama, rich in its comic situations, was being enacted at Vologda. The Bolsheviks had sent Radek to this Allied Elysium in a last attempt to persuade the Allied Ambassadors to come to Moscow. Perhaps they were animated by a genuine desire to come to an amicable settlement. It is more probable that, realising that intervention was now inevitable, they desired to hold the Ambassadors in Moscow as hostages. For this delicate task they had chosen the Bolshevik Puck, and, if his effort failed, he richly satisfied his own sense of humour. He appeared before the Ambassadors with his revolver. He argued, cajoled, and even threatened. He interviewed them jointly and singly, but the Ambassadors stood firm. Then, in the evening, he went to the local telegraph office and gave an account of the failure of his mission by direct wire to Chicherin.
His joy-ride in Arcady had an amusing sequel. I received a word-for-word report of the Radek-Chicherin direct wire conversation from one of our secret agents. The document was so obviously genuine that the American Consul-General in Moscow sent a translation of it to his Ambassador. Without reading it, Francis put it in his pocket and took it to the Ambassadors' Daily Conference. "Gentlemen," he said, "I have received an interesting document from Moscow. It is Radek's account of his negotiations with ourselves. I shall read it to you." Fumbling with his pince-nez, he began: "Ambassador Francis is a stuffed shirt-front." It was only too true, but, coming from the Ambassador's lips, it was a little startling. Richer jests followed, and the climax came with the closing sentence: "Lindley is the only man who has any sense. He practically admits that he considers Noulens' behaviour childish in the extreme." Sir Francis Lindley has faced many difficult situations with unfailing courage and equanimity. I doubt, however, if he has ever felt quite so awkward as at that moment.
There was to be one more comedy before the final tragedy. On July 22nd an official British Economic Mission, composed of Sir William Clark, now British High Commissioner in Canada, Mr. Leslie Urquhart, Mr. Armistead, and Mr. Peters of the Commercial Diplomatic Service, arrived in Moscow. They had come to discuss the possibilities of trade relations with the Bolsheviks. Their arrival staggered me. As far as I knew---and I had no certain knowledge---our intervention was only a matter of days. The Czech army was now advancing towards the West. It had taken Simbirsk and was then besieging Kazan. The Czechs were our Allies. In so far as we were supporting them we were supporting war against the Bolsheviks. Savinkoff, too, was holding Yaroslavl, and Savinkoff was being financed by the French. Moreover, at that very moment, British troops must have been on their way to Archangel. Yet here was a British Economic Mission in Moscow breathing peace and commercial treaties to the Bolsheviks. Was there ever a more Gilbertian situation? Could I be surprised when, later, the Bolsheviks accused me of Macchiavellian duplicity and supplemented their denunciation of my crimes with well-documented references to Albion's perfidy? Alas! here was no guile or treachery. It was merely another example of one department in Whitehall not knowing what the other was doing. I took Sir William Clark to see Chicherin and Bronsky, the Trade Commissioner. I cannot say that I enjoyed the interview. Nor did I learn much from the English visitors. Sir William Clark knew nothing of the Allies' plans regarding Russia. Urquhart, who had mining interests in Siberia, was a convinced interventionist. I was glad when, after two days of abortive negotiations, they left for St. Petersburg. Had they stayed twelve hours longer, they might have been detained indefinitely.
The next day, with startling suddenness came the news that the Allied Embassies had left Vologda and had fled to Archangel. Although they issued a futile statement to the effect that their departure was not to be regarded as a rupture, the Bolsheviks rightly interpreted it as the prelude to intervention. Their flight, carried out without a word of warning to the Allied Missions in Moscow, left me in an unenviable position. All too clearly I saw that the role of hostages, which had originally been destined for the Ambassadors, would now be reserved for us. Together with my French, American, and Italian colleagues I went to see Chicherin in order to feel our way. He was studiously polite and obviously anxious to avoid any act which would put the blame for any rupture of relations on the Bolsheviks. He pressed us to remain in Moscow and assured us that, whatever happened, we should be allowed to leave whenever we wanted to go. We gave a non-committal answer. We were still without any official intimation from our governments. We took it for granted that the Allies had decided to land troops. We assumed that they would land in force at Archangel, Murmansk, and Vladivostok. We knew nothing for certain.
It was, however, clear that our own position in Moscow was no longer tenable, and I returned to my room to take the preliminary steps for our departure. The next few days were the most miserable of my whole stay in Russia. Moura had left Moscow some ten days before in order to visit her home in Esthonia. Owing to the fighting on the Czech and Yaroslavl fronts travelling on the railways was now strictly controlled. I could not communicate with her. It. seemed any odds on my having to leave Russia without seeing her again. For four days and nights I never slept. For hours on end I sat in my room playing patience and badgering the unfortunate Hicks with idiotic questions. There was nothing we could do, and in my despair my self-control left me and I abandoned myself to the gloomiest depression. Then on the afternoon of July 28th my telephone rang. I picked up the receiver. Moura herself was speaking. She had arrived in St. Petersburg after six days of terrible adventure, during which she had crossed the no-man's land between Esthonia and Russia on foot. She was leaving that night for Moscow.
The reaction was wonderful. Nothing now mattered. If only I could see Moura again, I felt that I could face any crisis, any. unpleasantness the future might have in store for me.
THE sequence of events was now to be swift. On the day after Moura's return General Eichhorn, the German Commander-in-Chief in Russia, was assassinated at Kieff. A young Moscow student called Donskoi, who was a member of the Social-Revolutionary Party, had carried out this act of terror. He had hired a cab and, passing the General, had hurled a bomb at him with fatal effect. I was sitting with Chicherin and Karachan when the news was conveyed to them by telephone. They made no concealment of their joy---especially Chicherin, who turned to me and said: "You see what happens when foreigners intervene against the wishes of the people." Their glee shocked me. My reason should have told me that in Bolshevik eyes the general was an oppressor, whose murderer was to be regarded as a liberator in just the same manner as bourgeois children are taught to admire Jaël or Brutus. To the Bolsheviks German generals and English generals were in the same category as soon as they set foot on Russian soil. They were the agents of counter-revolution and therefore outside the law. Both Allies and Germans, however, made the mistake of regarding Russia solely in the light of their own conflict. At the German court-martial of Donskoi two days later the first two questions asked of the prisoner were: "Do you know Lockhart? Do you know the Head of the English mission in Moscow?"
On August the first we received notice to leave our hotel. It had been requisitioned for the General Council of Russian Trades Unions. The Bolsheviks were showing their horns. No longer were we worthy of special consideration. Fortunately, I succeeded in obtaining occupation of my old flat in the Khliebny Perculok, and we were able to avoid an awkward predicament. On August the fourth Moscow went wild with excitement. The Allies had landed at Archangel. For several days the city was a prey to rumour. The Allies had landed in strong force. Some stories put the figure at 100,000. No estimate was lower than two divisions. The Japanese were to send seven divisions through Siberia to help the Czechs. Even the Bolsheviks lost their heads and, in despair, began to pack their archives. In the middle of this crisis I saw Karachan. He spoke of the Bolsheviks as lost. They would, however, never surrender. They would go underground and continue the struggle to the last.
The confusion was indescribable. On the day after the landing I went to see Wardrop, our Consul-General, who had established his office in the Yusupoff Palace close to the Red Gates. While I was talking to him, the Consulate-General was surrounded by an armed band. It was composed of agents of the Cheka. They sealed up everything, and every one in the building was put under arrest except Hicks and myself. The special pass I had received from Trotsky still held good. This raid had an amusing aspect. While the Cheka agents were cross-examining our Consular officials downstairs, our intelligence officers were busily engaged in burning their ciphers and other compromising documents upstairs. Clouds of smoke belched from the chimneys and penetrated even downstairs, but, although it was summer, the Cheka gentlemen noticed nothing untoward in this holocaust. As we were to learn later, the Cheka was terrifying but far from clever.
At the same time a similar raid was carried out on the French Mission and Consulate-General. Although the Italians and Americans were left alone, this outrage (it is true that in Bolshevik eyes our landing at Archangel was also an outrage against international law) could not be ignored, and the next day we all went to Chicherin to give formal notice of the rupture of relations and to demand our passports. Chicherin did not actually refuse. He seemed overwhelmed by the situation and made his usual plea for time. The unfortunate Chicherin was, indeed, sorely harassed. Only that morning he had received a similar visit from Helfferich, who had succeeded Count Mirbach as German Ambassador. Helfferich, too, seemed to treat the Allied intervention as a serious menace to the Bolsheviks. He had no intention of sharing Count Mirbach's fate or of being caught in Moscow when the Allied troops marched in. The same night he took the train for Berlin, leaving only a small staff to carry on in Moscow.
Deserted now by both the Allies and the Germans, the Bolsheviks seemed to be in a hopeless position. The Czech army had captured Kazan, and, although the Bolsheviks had retaken Yaroslavl from Savinkoff's Russians, they seemed incapable of offering any serious opposition to the large Allied force which was supposed to be advancing from Archangel. For forty-eight hours I deluded myself with the thought that the intervention might prove a brilliant success. I was not quite sure what we should be able to do when we reached Moscow. I could not believe that a bourgeois Russian government could be maintained in Moscow without our aid. Still less did I believe that we could persuade any considerable number of Russians to renew the war with Germany. In the circumstances the intervention was bound to assume an anti-Bolshevik rather than anti-German character. It was therefore likely that our occupation of Moscow would last indefinitely. But, with the adequate forces, which I assumed we had at our disposal, I had no doubt of our being able to reach the Russian capital.
Disillusionment was to follow swiftly. On August 10th the Bolshevik newspapers splashed their front page with headlines announcing a great Russian naval victory over the Allies at Archangel. I regarded this report as a joke or at best, as a feeble attempt on the part of the Bolsheviks to stimulate the courage of their own followers. But that afternoon, when I saw Karachan, I had misgivings. His face was wreathed in smiles. The dejection of the previous days had gone, and his relief was too obvious to be put down to play-acting. "The situation is not serious;" he said. "The Allies have landed only a few hundred men."
I smiled sceptically. Later, I was to discover that his statement was only too true. The naval victory was a myth. The Bolsheviks had sunk an Allied barge in the Dvina. But the account of the strength of the Allied forces was literally correct. We had committed the unbelievable folly of landing at Archangel with fewer than twelve hundred men.
It was a blunder comparable with the worst mistakes of the Crimean War. In the chaotic state of Russia it was obvious that, if intervention was to be a success, it must start well. It had begun as badly as it could, and no individual gallantry could ever repair that initial mistake. The plan of the pro-interventionist Russians was to hold the line of the Volga with the Czechs and to join up with the Allies in the North and with Generals Alexeieff and Denikin in the South. The latter had been advised to proceed via Tsaritzin to Samara, while it was hoped that the Allies would be able to advance almost unopposed to Vologda and Viatka. The weakness of our landing force in the North resulted in the loss of the Volga line and in the temporary collapse of the anti-Bolshevik movement in European Russia.
All my worst fears were speedily justified.
In the absence of a strong lead from the Allies the various counter-revolutionary groups began to quarrel and bicker among themselves. The accuracy of my dictum that the support we would receive from the Russians would be in direct proportion to the number of troops we sent ourselves was speedily proved. The broad masses of the Russian people remained completely apathetic.
The consequences of this ill-conceived venture were to be disastrous both to our prestige and to, the fortunes of those Russians who supported us. It raised hopes which could not be fulfilled. It intensified the civil war and sent thousands of Russians to their death. Indirectly, it was responsible for the Terror. Its direct effect was to provide the Bolsheviks with a cheap victory, to give them a new confidence, and to galvanise them into a strong and ruthless organism. To have intervened at all was a mistake. To have intervened with hopelessly inadequate forces was an example of paralytic half-measures, which in the circumstances amounted to a crime. Apologists for this policy maintain that it served a useful purpose in preventing Russia from falling into the hands of Germany and in detaching German troops from the Western Front. By June, 1918, there was no danger of Russia being overrun by Germany. The effect of the intervention on the German situation in the West was insignificant. The fact remains that, whatever may have been the intentions of the Allied Governments, our intervention was regarded by those Russians who supported it as an attempt to overthrow Bolshevism. It failed, and, with the failure, our prestige among every class of the Russian population suffered.
Karachan's optimism was a bitter disillusionment, but now that the intervention had begun I had to do my best to aid it. My efforts during August were concentrated (1) on securing our own departure and (2) on furnishing financial assistance to the Russians who were supporting us.
As far as our own departure was concerned, we had reached a deadlock. Chicherin had assumed an attitude which was typical of Bolshevik diplomatic finesse. Of course we could have our passports. We could leave as soon as we liked. But where did we intend to go? The Germans were in control in Finland. The Turks were in Constantinople. He did not suppose we should like to make the long "trek" to the Afghan or Persian frontiers. Yet these seemed the only exits.
I cut short this long rigmarole. "What about Archangel?" I asked. He washed his hands apologetically. "The English counter-revolutionaries are at Archangel," he said. "We cannot let you go there." We seemed to be checkmated. It was only too likely that we should be held in Moscow as hostages. There was only one hope: that the Finnish-German bourgeois Government would guarantee us a safe conduct through Finland. We put ourselves in the hands of the diplomatic representatives of the neutral Powers, who at once began negotiations with the Finnish and German Governments.
I took advantage of this period of waiting to supply financial aid to the pro-Ally organisations, who were badly in need of funds. For weeks the French had furnished this aid single-handed, and my refusal to co-operate in this work had been a sore point with Alexeieff's and Denikin's political representatives. Now that we had reached an open rupture with the Bolsheviks, I contributed my share. Although the banks were closed and all dealings in foreign exchange illegal, money was easily available. There were numerous Russians with hidden stores of roubles. They were only too glad to hand them over in exchange for a promissory note on London. To avoid all suspicion, we collected the roubles through an English firm in Moscow. They dealt with the Russians, fixed the rate of exchange, and gave the promissory note. In each transaction we furnished the English firm with an official guarantee that it was good for the amount in London. The roubles were brought to the American Consulate-General and were handed over to Hicks, who conveyed them safely to their destined quarters.
Apart from this excitement the days passed drearily. There was almost no other work that we could do. With the exception of a small pocket code for emergency messages we had destroyed all our ciphers and all our documents. We had a daily meeting of the Allied representatives at the American Consulate-General, which was now our safest refuge. For, strangely enough, although the United States had associated itself with this landing at Archangel, the Bolsheviks showed no animosity against the Americans. Their name was always excluded from the official protests against the alleged atrocities by the French and British troops in North Russia. They were never mentioned in the violently anti-French and anti-British articles in the Moscow press.
We made plans for our departure---the negotiations with the Finnish and German Governments were proceeding slowly but not unsatisfactorily. At considerable expense the French kept a train waiting with steam up so that we might leave without a moment's delay. From the British in St. Petersburg we were completely cut off. Through the Dutch Legation I sent Cromie a message informing him that I could do nothing to help him and that he had better conduct his own negotiations for the departure of himself and the other British officials. I had several discussions with Reilly. who had decided to remain on in Moscow after our departure.
It was an extraordinary situation. There had been no declaration of war, yet fighting was proceeding on a front stretching from the Dvina to the Caucasus. We were unable to leave Moscow, yet our liberty of action inside the city was almost unrestricted. On the other hand, we knew little of what was going on outside. All that seemed clear was that the Bolsheviks were holding their own.
We struggled successfully against dejection. We dined with the French, and they with us, and played bridge. We renewed our unsuccessful encounters with the Americans at poker. Here I must pay my tribute to Poole, the American Consul-General, and to Wardwell, the head of the American Red Cross Mission. They would have had little difficulty in arranging their own departure. Yet they stood solidly by us to the end.
In the afternoons we had strenuous football matches at the British Consulate-General. There was one historic encounter between the British and the French, for which even General Lavergne, complete in shirt, military riding breeches, braces, and military boots, turned out. He performed prodigies of valour, his silver hair sparkling gaily in the August sun. Sadoul, the French Socialist deputy, who was afterwards to join the Bolsheviks, kept goal. As there was no referee, the charging was terrific. The French had several heavy-weights, and, shod as we were with tennis-shoes, we suffered several casualties. The result, however, was the same as at Waterloo---this time without the aid of the Germans, and, the victory clinched, we carried the General off the field to toast his health in Russian beer. It was the last game of football I ever played.
A few days after this international contest---on the 15th of August, to be exact---I received a visit which was to cause international diversions of a more serious nature. I was lunching in my flat when the bell rang and my man announced two Lettish gentlemen. One was a short, sallow-faced youth called Smidehen. The other, Berzin, a tall, powerfully-built man with clear-cut features and hard, steely eyes, called himself a colonel. He was, in fact, in command of one of the Lettish regiments which formed the Pretorian Guard of the Soviet Government. Smidehen brought a letter from Cromie. Always on my guard against agents-provocateurs, I scrutinised the letter carefully. It was unmistakably from Cromie. The handwriting was his. The text referred to a previous communication, which I had addressed to him through the Swedish Consul-General. The expression that he was making his own arrangements to leave Russia and hoped "to bang the 'dore' before he went out" was typical of this very gallant officer. Above all, the spelling was his. No forger could have faked this, for like Prince Charles Edward, Frederick the Great, and Mr. Harold Nicolson, poor Cromie could not spell. The letter closed with a recommendation of Smidehen as a man who might be able to render us some service.
I asked the two men what they wanted. Berzin did most of the talking. He explained that, while the Letts had supported the Bolshevik revolution, they could not fight the Bolsheviks' battles indefinitely. Their one ambition was to return to their own country. As long as Germany was powerful this was impossible. On the other hand, if the Allies, as now seemed likely, were to win the war, it was clear that the Allies and not Germany would have the final word regarding the future of Latvia. They were therefore determined not to put themselves wrong with the Allies. They had no intention of fighting against General Poole's forces at Archangel. If they were sent to that front, they would surrender. Could I arrange matters with General Poole so that they would not be shot down by the Allied troops?
It was an interesting and plausible proposal. It would have to be considered seriously, but, before holding out any encouragement, I wanted to consult my colleagues. I told the two conspirators that, while I understood their reluctance to fight against the Allies, I was not in a position to help them. I was not in touch with General Poole. Moreover, I was expecting to leave Russia at any moment. Their best plan would be to send their own messenger to General Poole. In this connection I Might be able to assist them. I arranged for them to call on me at the same time the next day.
That afternoon I thrashed out the whole matter with General Lavergne and M. Grenard, the French Consul-General and subsequently French Minister to Jugoslavia. We decided that, while we must be very careful not to compromise our own position in any way, it was probable that the Letts had no desire to fight against the Allies. There could be little harm in encouraging them to send a messenger to General Poole. We would assist them in this matter. As the negotiations for our own departure were now nearing a happy conclusion, we would put them in touch with Sidney Reilly, who was staying on. Reilly could keep an eye on their movements and stimulate their reluctance to oppose our troops. The next day I saw the two Letts, gave them a paper saying "please admit bearer, who has an important communication for General Poole, through the English lines," and put them in touch with Reilly.
Two days later Reilly reported that his negotiations were proceeding smoothly and that the Letts had no intention of being involved in the collapse of the Bolsheviks. He put forward a suggestion that after our departure he might be able, with Lettish help, to stage a counter-revolution in Moscow. This suggestion was categorically turned down both by General Lavergne, Grenard, and myself, and Reilly was warned specifically to have nothing to do with so dangerous and doubtful a move. Reilly then went "underground"---that is, into hiding, and, until he escaped to England, I never saw him again.
For another fortnight our enforced idleness continued. Our departure, so the neutral diplomatists informed us, was now decided in principle. The actual date would be fixed at any moment. We packed our clothes, deciding rightly that we should have to travel light, and with heavy heart I resigned myself to the abandonment of all the belongings in my flat---my collection of Oriental books, my furniture, and my wedding presents. One night we went out to "Streilna" to say good-bye to Maria Nikolaievna, our gipsy queen. "Streilna" had been closed, but we found her in her "dacha" close by. She wept over us copiously, sang a few of our favourite songs to us in a low voice, which was scarcely louder than a whisper, and, kissing me on both cheeks, begged us to remain with her. She saw tragedy ahead of us. She would disguise us, hide us and feed us, and arrange for our departure to the South. Her advice, as sound as it was well meant, could not be taken. She came to the gate to see us off, and we said good-bye beneath the giant firs of the Petrovsky Park with the harvest moon casting ghostly shadows around us. It was an eerie and emotional farewell. We never saw her again. Vaguely I heard that she died a few years ago in poverty.
The tragedy which she had foreseen came with a pistol shot. On Friday, August 30, Uritsky, the head of the St. Petersburg Cheka, was murdered by a Russian Junker called Kennegeisser. The next evening a Social-Revolutionary, a young Jewish girl called Dora Kaplan, fired two shots point-blank at Lenin as he was leaving Michelson's factory, where he had been speaking at a meeting. One bullet penetrated the lung above the heart. The other entered the neck close to the main artery. The Bolshevik leader was not dead, but his chances of living were at a discount.
I received the news within half-an-hour of the actual shooting. It could hardly fail to have serious consequences, and, with a premonition of our impending fate, Hicks and I sat up late, discussing in low whispers the events of the day and wondering how they would affect our own unenviable situation.
We went to bed at one o'clock, and, worn out by months of strain, I slept soundly. At three-thirty a.m. I was awakened by a rough voice ordering me to get up at once. As I opened my eyes, I looked up into the steely barrel of a revolver. Some ten armed men were in my room. One man, who was in charge, I knew. He was Mankoff, the former commandant of Smolny. I asked him what this outrage meant. "No questions," he answered gruffly. "Get dressed at once. You are to go to Loubianka No. 11." (Loubianka No. 11 was the headquarters of the Moscow Cheka.) A similar group of Cheka agents was dealing with Hicks, and, while we dressed, the main body of the invaders began to ransack the flat for compromising documents. As soon as we were ready, Hicks and I were bundled into a car and, with a gunman on each side of us, were driven off to the Cheka headquarters. There we were put into a square small room, bare of all furniture except a rough table and a couple of plain wooden chairs.
After a long wait I was taken along a dark corridor. The two gunmen who accompanied me stopped before a door and knocked. A sepulchral voice said: "Come in," and I was brought into a long, dark room, lit only by a hand lamp on the writing table. At the table, with a revolver lying beside the writing-pad, was a man dressed in black trousers and a white Russian shirt. His black hair, long and waving as a poet's, was brushed back over a high forehead. There was a large wrist watch on his left hand. In the dim light his features looked more sallow than ever. His lips were tightly compressed, and, as I entered the room, his eyes fixed me with a steely stare. He looked grim and formidable. It was Peters. I had not seen him since the day he had accompanied Robins and myself on our tour of inspection of the Anarchists' strongholds.
"You can go," he said to the two gunmen, and then there was a long silence. At last he turned his eyes away and opened his writing folder. "I am sorry to see you in this position," he said. "It is a grave matter." He was scrupulously polite, but very serious. I asked for information, pointing out that I had come to Moscow on the invitation of the Soviet Government and that I had been promised full diplomatic privileges. I made a formal protest against my arrest and demanded to speak to Chicherin.
He ignored my protests. "Do you know the Kaplan woman?" I did not, but I decided that in the circumstances it was better to answer no questions. I repeated as calmly as I could that he had no right to question me.
"Where is Reilly?" was his next question. Again I made the same answer.
Then he produced a paper from his folder. It was the pass to General Poole which I had given to the Letts. "Is that your writing?" he asked.
Yet again I replied with studious politeness that I could answer no questions.
He made no attempt to bully me. He fixed me again with a long stare. "It will be better for you if you speak the truth," he said.
I made no reply. Then he rang a bell, and I was taken back to Hicks. Again we were left alone. We hardly spoke and, when we did, we talked trivialities. We realised that our conversation was likely to he overheard. I had only the vaguest idea of what had happened. It was obvious, however, that the Bolsheviks were trying to link us up with the attempt on Lenin's life. This manoeuvre did not disconcert me. The attempt on Lenin might be an indirect consequence of Allied intervention, but we had had nothing to do with it. I was more uneasy about the mention of Reilly's name and the production of my pass to Poole. I guessed that here had been a hitch somewhere and that my two Lettish visitors were agents-provocateurs.
As, holding the lapels of my coat, I tried to review the situation in my mind, I suddenly felt in my breast pocket a note-book, which contained in cryptic form an account of the moneys I had spent. The Cheka agents had ransacked my flat-they were probably searching it at that moment, but they had not thought of searching the clothes we had put on when we were arrested. The note-book was unintelligible to any one except myself. But it contained figures, and, if it fell into Bolshevik hands, they would find some means of rendering it compromising. They would say that the figures represented movements of Bolshevik troops or moneys I had spent on fomenting counter-revolution. That note-book preyed on my mind. How was I to be rid of it? We might he searched at any moment. In the circumstances there seemed only one solution to the problem. I asked permission of our four sentries to go to the lavatory. It was granted, but the affair was not so simple. Two gunmen accompanied me to the door, but, when I started to close it, they shook their heads. "Leave it open," they said and took up their stand in front of me. It was an embarrassing moment. "Should I take the risk or not?" Fortunately, the decision was made for me by the insanitary conditions of the place. There was no paper. The walls were smeared with stains of human excrement. As calmly as I could, I took out my note-book, tore out the offending pages and used them in the manner in which the circumstances dictated. I pulled the plug. It worked, and I was saved.
I went back to Hicks and sat down to wait. At six in the morning a woman was brought into the room. She was dressed in black. Her hair was black, and her eyes, set in a fixed stare, had great black rings under them. Her face was colourless. Her features, strongly Jewish, were unattractive. She might have been any age between twenty and thirty-five. We guessed it was Kaplan. Doubtless, the Bolsheviks hoped that she would give us some sign of recognition. Her composure was unnatural. She went to the window and, leaning her chin upon her hand, looked out into the daylight. And there she remained, motionless, speechless, apparently resigned to her fate, until presently the sentries came and took her away. She was shot before she knew whether her attempt to alter history had failed or succeeded.
At nine o'clock in the morning Peters himself came in and informed us that we could go home. We were discharged. We heard afterwards that he had been uncertain how to act and had telephoned to Chicherin for instructions. Chicherin had protested against our arrest.
It was Sunday morning and it was raining. We found an old "droschke" and, tired and dejected, we made our way home. The flat was all upside down. The cook and our two men servants had disappeared. Moura, we learnt from the porter downstairs, had been taken off to the Cheka.
On the way home we had bought a paper. It was full of bulletins about Lenin's condition. He was still unconscious. There were, too, violent articles against the bourgeoisie and against the Allies. But there was no mention of our arrest, no effort to incriminate us in the assassination of Uritsky or the attempt on Lenin.
After a bath and a shave I went round to the Dutch Legation to see Oudendyke, the Dutch Minister, who was now in charge of our interests. He was a little man who had spent most of his life in China. His wife was English, and he spoke our language perfectly. I found him in a state of great agitation. There had been a terrible tragedy in St. Petersburg. On the same day as I had been arrested, a band of Cheka agents had burst into our Embassy there. The gallant Cromie had resisted the intrusion and, after killing a commissar, had been shot down at the top of the staircase. All British officials in St. Petersburg had been arrested.
With a sinking feeling in my heart I went to find Wardwell. I was anxious about Moura and my servants and hoped that he would be able to secure their release. He promised to do his best, and his quiet assurance did much to restore my self-control. He had been unable to see Chicherin, but had been promised an interview for the next day. He, too, was unaware of what lay behind these arrests. He supposed that, as a result of the attempt on Lenin's life, the Bolsheviks had lost their heads. He was afraid that the threat of a Red Terror, which now filled the newspapers, would soon be put into execution.
As I walked back to my flat, I was struck by the emptiness of the streets. Such people as went about their business did so with quick steps and furtive glances. The street corners were guarded by little groups of soldiers. A new fear was abroad. In forty-eight hours the whole atmosphere of the city had changed. The next day, unable to bear the suspense about Moura's fate any longer, I went down to the Foreign Office and demanded to see Karachan. I was received at once. Avoiding all political discussion, I went straight to the point. Whatever grievances the Bolsheviks might have against me, it was inhuman that they should seek to hit at me through the arrest of Moura. I appealed to his decency and begged him to release her. He promised to do what he could. It was my thirty-first birthday, and I spent it alone with Hicks, who prepared us a meal of coffee, black bread, and sardines.
On the Tuesday we read the full tale of our iniquities in the Bolshevik Press, which excelled itself in a fantastic account of a so-called Lockhart Plot. We were accused of having conspired to murder Lenin and Trotsky, to set up a military dictatorship in Moscow, and by blowing up all the railway bridges to reduce the populations of Moscow and St. Petersburg to starvation. The whole plot had been revealed by the loyalty of the Lettish garrison, whom the Allies had sought to suborn by lavish gifts of money. The whole story, which read like a fairy-tale, was rounded off with a fantastic account of my arrest. I had been surprised, it was stated, at a conspirators' meeting. I had been taken to the Cheka and, as soon as my identity was established, I had been immediately released. An equally fantastic story described the events in St. Petersburg. Cromie's murder was depicted as a measure of self-defence by the Bolshevik agents, who had been forced to return his fire. Huge headlines denounced the Allied representatives as "Anglo-French Bandits," and in their comments the leader-writers shrieked for the application of a wholesale terror and of the severest measures against the conspirators.
At first I was inclined to regard this outburst as a typical Bolshevik attempt (1) to excuse their murder of Cromie, which I felt sure they had never intended, and (2) to galvanise their own supporters and to strike terror into the heart of would-be counter-revolutionaries in Moscow itself. Reilly, whose name figured largely in the plot, had disappeared. Unless he had completely lost his head, the whole story was a tissue of fantastic invention.
I found that Poole, the American Consul-General, took a more serious view of the conspiracy. He was inclined to regard Reilly as an agent-provocateur, who had staged this plot for the benefit of the Bolsheviks. One account of the conspiracy mentioned a project whereby Lenin and Trotsky were not to be murdered but were to be led through the streets of Moscow in their shirts. This fantastic proposal could have emanated only from Reilly's fertile imagination. I laughed at Poole's fears. Later, I was to know much more of Reilly than I did at that time, but my estimate of his character did not alter. He was then in his forty-sixth year. He was a Jew with, I imagine, no British blood in his veins. His parents came from Odessa. His real name was Rosenblum. The name of Reilly he had taken from the second name of his first wife's father, an Irishman called Callahan. How he became a British subject I do not know to this day. Prior to the war he had spent most of his time in St. Petersburg, where he had earned considerable sums of money as a commission agent in various forms of business. He was a man of great energy and personal charm, very attractive to women and very ambitious. I had not a very high opinion of his intelligence. His knowledge covered many subjects, from politics to art, but it was superficial. On the other hand, his courage and indifference to danger were superb. Moreover, Captain Hill, his associate in his dangerous plan to remain on in Moscow after our departure, was a man whose loyalty was beyond suspicion. He was as brave and as bold as Reilly. He spoke Russian just as well. If there had been any double-crossing by Reilly, Hill would hardly have failed to detect it. Ridiculous as this story was, I found nevertheless that through Poole it had gained some credence in England. When two months later I reached London, I had to go bail with the Foreign Office for Reilly's bona fides when, after a series of hair-breadth escapes this remarkable man succeeded in making his way to Bergen. I did so without the slightest hesitation.
But, although I never questioned Reilly's loyalty to the Allies, I was not sure---indeed, I am not sure to this day how far he had gone in his negotiations with the Letts. He was a man cast in the Napoleonic mould. Napoleon was his hero in life and at one time he possessed one of the finest collections of Napoleonana in the world. He saw himself being left alone in Russia, and the prospect of playing a lone hand may have inspired him with a Napoleonic design. In conversation afterwards he always denied most of the Bolshevik allegations. His own theory was that Berzin and the other Letts, whom he saw, were at first sincere in their desire to avoid fighting against the Allies. When they realised that the Allied intervention was not serious, they went back on him and betrayed him to save their own skins. Be this as it may, the so-called Allied plot was to have serious consequences for all of us.
Reilly's subsequent career was curious. On his return to England, he speedily established himself with Mr. Churchill and the advocates of post-war intervention, and went to South Russia as a British agent with Deniken's forces. When that venture ended in disaster, Reilly allied himself with Savinkoff, who was then besieging the statesmen of England and France with requests for support for his so-called "Green" movement Reilly, who was a lavish spender, exhausted his financial re sources on Savinkoff. He became hard up and, in a last desperate endeavour to re-establish his fortunes, set out for Russia in 1926 on some counter-revolutionary scheme alleged to be. organised by ex-guards-officers. His subsequent fate is not known with certainty. The Bolsheviks announced that he had been shot while trying to cross the Finnish frontier. Such evidence as is available would seem to prove that he walked into a Bolshevik trap, that his guards officers, whom he met abroad were really Cheka agents, and that he was taken to a dacha outside Moscow and then shot.
After this long digression, which contains the whole truth, so far as I know it, about the so-called Lockhart Plot, I must. return to my own situation in Moscow. The account of the Allied conspiracy had appeared in the Russian papers of September 3rd. In spite of the serious nature of the allegations I was left at liberty throughout that day. I discovered later that there was considerable difference of opinion in Bolshevik official circles regarding the procedure to be observed towards me. There were several Commissars who were not prepared to swallow the whole of the Cheka's story without some dilution. The next day I determined to approach Karachan again in order to make a last appeal for Moura, who was still in prison. He was not unfriendly. I told him that the story in the Soviet Press was a tissue of lies, and he laughed good-humouredly. "Now you know," he said, "what we have to put up with from your newspapers." He was, however, not very hopeful about Moura, and, deciding on desperate remedies, I made up my mind to approach Peters himself. I walked up from the Russian Foreign Office to the Loubianka and asked to see him. My request caused some excitement and much whispering among the guards in the entrance hall. It took me half-an-hour to gain admission and still longer to obtain access to Peters. When he received me, I tackled him at once about Moura. I told him that the conspiracy story was a fake and that he knew it. Even if there were a grain of truth in it, Moura knew nothing about it. I begged him to release her at once. He listened to me patiently and promised that my assurance of her innocence would receive every consideration. Then he looked me straight in the face. "You have saved me some trouble," he said. "My men have been looking for you for the last hour. I have a warrant for your arrest. Your French and English colleagues are already under lock and key." This last statement was not strictly accurate. Some of them had avoided capture by what was to prove the one comic expedient in our ignominious situation. But this I shall recount later. As far as I myself was concerned. this time I was to be a prisoner in all seriousness.
MY term of imprisonment lasted for exactly one month. It may be divided into two periods: the first, which lasted five days and was marked by discomfort and fear; the second, which lasted for twenty-four days and may be described as a period of comparative comfort accompanied by acute mental strain.
In Loubianka No. 11, a former insurance company's office, I was kept in a room which was used for the registration and preliminary examination of minor criminals. It had three windows, two of which looked on to an inside courtyard. It was furnished with a table, four wooden chairs, and an old broken-down sofa, on which, if I was fortunate, I was sometimes allowed to sleep. Generally, I slept on the floor. The real hardship, however, was that the room was never empty, never dark. Two sentries were on guard all the time. The work of the minor Commissars, who used the room, never ceased by night or day. Most of these men were Letts or Russian sailors. Some of them were not unfriendly. They regarded me with a kind of detached interest, spoke to me occasionally, and gave me the Izvestia to read. Others again were surly and hostile. At night Peters would send for me, and I would have to go through a kind of bantering cross-examination. I cannot say that he treated me unfairly. The want of sleep was a severe strain, and for that reason I found his midnight questions trying. They were mostly urgent appeals to tell him the whole truth in my own interests. He would inform me that my colleagues had confessed (one French agent did write an anti-Ally letter which was published in the Bolshevik Press), and he would urge me to do the same if I wished to avoid being handed over to the Revolutionary tribunal. He was, however, neither brutal nor even impolite. As between prisoner and gaoler, our relations were pleasant. He himself was married to an Englishwoman whom he had left in England. He seemed interested in my romance with Moura. Occasionally, too, he would come into my room and ask if I were being properly fed. The food---tea, thin soup, and potatoes---was not sustaining, but I made no complaint. On the second day, he brought me two books to read: Wells's "Mr. Britling Sees It Through" and Lenin's "State and Revolution." My one comfort was the official Bolshevik newspapers, which my gaolers took a propagandist joy in supplying to me. Certainly, as far as my own case was concerned, they were far from reassuring. They were still full of the Lockhart Plot. They contained numerous resolutions, passed by workmen's committees, demanding my trial and execution. They gave, too, full prominence to foreign comment on the plot. The German Press, in particular, did itself proud. During the war it had suffered much from similar accusations of undiplomatic conduct, notably, in the von Papen case, and now it made the most of our alleged misdemeanours, which were described as the most scandalous in the history of diplomacy. There were, too, discouraging reports of Bolshevik victories over the Czechs and the Allies and still more fearsome accounts of the Terror, which was now in full force. It was not these details which relieved my anxiety. From the first day of my captivity I had made up my mind that, if Lenin died, my own life would not be worth a moment's purchase. Only one thing could save me: an overwhelming victory of the Allied armies in France. Knowing the Bolshevik passion for peace at almost any price, I felt that such a victory might moderate the Bolshevik attitude towards us. And the Izvestia, to my relief, contained both bulletins of Lenin's health and news from the Western Front. Both were comforting. By September the sixth Lenin was pronounced to be out of danger. In the West the Allied advance was meeting with real success.
From Peters I learnt that my colleagues had been herded together in the Butirky prison. I alone had been singled out for solitary confinement. It was an additional strain.
Two macabre incidents marked the period of my detention in the "Cheka." On the third day a bandit was brought into my room. He was a tall, powerful fellow not more than twenty-five. I was a silent witness of his cross-examination, which was very different from anything I had experienced at Peters's hands. At first he laughingly asserted his innocence. No man was a more loyal supporter of the Soviet régime than he. No man had observed the decrees more scrupulously. The accusations of banditry and smuggling, with which he had been confronted, were the acts of counter-revolutionaries, who were seeking to destroy him. He made a brave show, but the Commissar paid no attention. With relentless reiteration he repeated his question: "Where were you on the night of August 27th?" The bandit blustered, became confused, lied, and, when he saw that the Commissar knew he had lied, began to weep and plead for mercy. The Commissar laughed and scribbled something on a piece of paper. He tossed it to the sentry, while the bandit still grovelled before the table. The sentries tapped him on the shoulder, and in an instant his manner changed. Realising that his doom was sealed, he sprang to his feet, hurled one sentry against the wall, and made a dash for the door. One of the Bolsheviks put his foot out, and the bandit fell sprawling on the floor. He was seized and, still scuffling and shouting curses at his captors, was dragged out of the room.
The second incident, more terrifying in its effect upon my nerves, took place on my last day in Loubianka No. 11. I was reading in the afternoon, when Peters came into the room. I went over with him to the window to talk. When he had a free moment, he liked discussing England, the war, capitalism and revolution. He told me strange tales of his experiences as a revolutionary. He had been in prison in Riga in Tsarist days. He showed me his nails as a proof of the torture which he had undergone. There was nothing in his character to indicate the inhuman monster he is commonly supposed to be. He told me that he suffered physical pain every time he signed a death sentence. I believe it was true. There was a strong streak of sentimentality in his nature, but he was a fanatic as far as the clash between Bolshevism and Capitalism was concerned, and he pursued his Bolshevik aims with a sense of duty which was relentless.
As we were talking, a motor van---a kind of "Black Maria" ---pulled up in the courtyard below, and a squad of men, armed with rifles and bandoliers, got out and took up their places in the yard. Presently, a door opened just below us, and three men with bowed heads walked slowly forward to the van. I recognised them instantly. They were Sheglovitoff, Khvostoff, and Bieletsky, three ex-Ministers of the Tsarist régime, who had been in prison since the revolution. There was a pause, followed by a scream. Then through the door the fat figure of a priest was half-pushed, half-carried, to the "Black Maria." His terror was pitiful. Tears rolled down his face. His knees rocked, and he fell like a great ball of fat on the ground. I felt sick and turned away. "Where are they going?" I asked. "They are going to another world," said Peters drily. "And that man," he said, pointing to the priest, "richly deserves it." It was the notorious Bishop Vostorgoff. The ex-Ministers formed the first batch of the several hundred victims of the Terror who were shot at that time as a reprisal for the attempted assassination of Lenin.
That same night Peters sent for me. "Tomorrow," he said, "we are sending you to the Kremlin. You will be alone and you will be more comfortable." In my presence he rang up the Commandant of the Kremlin. "Are Citizen Lockhart's rooms ready?" he asked peremptorily. The answer was obviously in the negative. "Never mind," said Peters, "give him Bieletsky's." Bieletsky was one of the ex-Ministers who had been shot that afternoon. The allusion seemed ominous. The Kremlin was reserved only for the most unfortunate political prisoners. Hitherto, not one had left it alive.
I was taken to the Kremlin on the evening of September 8th. I was placed in an apartment in the Kavalarieski Korpus. My new quarters were clean and comfortable. They consisted of a small hall, a sitting room, a diminutive bedroom, a bath. room---alas! without a bath---and a tiny kitchen. The rooms in former days had served as a flat for one of the Ladies-in-Waiting. Unfortunately, the windows on both sides opened on to corridors, so that I had no fresh air. Unfortunately, too, I was not alone, as Peters had promised I should be. I had a companion in misfortune, the Lett, Smidehen, who was the cause of all our troubles and who was alleged to be my accomplice and agent. We spent thirty-six hours together, during which we were afraid to exchange a word. Then he was taken away. I never heard what happened to him. To this day I do not know whether he was shot or whether he was handsomely rewarded for the part he had played in unmasking the "great conspiracy." There was one other drawback to my new prison. On both sides of my quarters I had sentries: one for each window. They were changed every four hours, and, as each change had to come into my rooms to certify that I was there, I was woken up every night at ten, two and six.
My sentries were mainly Letts, but there were also Russians, Poles and Hungarians. I had also an old man---a former servant of the Kremlin---who did my rooms. He was as kind as he dared to be, but our conversation was limited and confined strictly to requests for the Bolshevik newspapers and for hot water for my samovar. From the Izvestia I learnt that the Allied Governments had sent a fierce Note to the Bolsheviks, demanding our immediate release and holding them separately and jointly responsible for our safety. By way of reprisal England had arrested Litvinoff and thrown him into prison. Chicherin had replied to this protest with a note which set out our alleged misdeeds at great length, but which contained an offer to let us go free in exchange for Litvinoff and other arrested Russians in France and England. Chicherin's offer was to some extent reassuring. As, however, other sections of the official newspaper continued to announce that I was to be tried for my life, I was still far from certain of my release and even of my personal safety.
My food in the Kremlin was the same as in Loubianka No. 11---soup, tea and potatoes. Peters apologised for it, stating that it was the same as that supplied to himself and his assistants. From what I had observed during my stay in the Cheka headquarters, his statement was true.
One of my first acts, after my arrival in the Kremlin, was to write to Peters on behalf of Moura and my staff. Once again my appeal was to his sense of decency. I told him my staff was in no way responsible for anything I might or might not have done. As far as Moura was concerned, I asked him what satisfaction he could have in making war on women. On the third day he came to see me. He informed me that in all probability I should be handed over to the Revolutionary Tribunal for trial. He had, however, released Moura. What was more, he had given her permission to bring me food, clothes, books and tobacco. Provided it was written in Russian and given to him open, he offered to take a note from me to her. At the same time he gave instructions to the Commandant of the Kremlin that I was to have two hours' exercise daily in the open air. He was in a magnanimous mood. Lenin was now well on the way to recovery. The news from the Bolshevik front was excellent. The Bolsheviks had recaptured Uralsk from the Czechs. Kazan was on the eve of capitulation.
Peters was true to his word. That afternoon I had concrete proof of Moura's release in the form of a basket with clothes, books, tobacco, and such luxuries as coffee and ham. There was, too, a long letter from her. Of course it contained no news of any sort, but it arrived sealed. It was not to be read by the prying eyes of my guards. Peters himself had stamped it with the official seal of the Cheka with a footnote signed in his own bold handwriting: "Please deliver this letter in sealed form. It has been read by me. Peters." This strange man, whose interest I had somehow aroused, was determined to show me that a Bolshevik could be as chivalrous in small matters as any bourgeois.
The clothes and the food---but especially the clothes---were a real boon. I had not taken off my suit or washed or shaved for six days. I was not to be relieved of my anxiety for another fortnight. Only the night before, Krylenko, the Public Prosecutor, had spoken at a meeting and, amid loud cheers, had announced that the Allied conspirators were to be tried by him and that the criminal Lockhart would not escape his proper punishment. From now on, however, my prison life was to be tolerably comfortable.
Naturally, time lay heavy on my hands. Gradually, however, I evolved a kind of routine, which made the day pass more happily. As soon as I was dressed, I sat down to play a Chinese patience. (With my clothes and books Moura had enclosed a pack of cards.) I played a kind of game with myself. With Celtic superstition I said to myself that, if I did not get it out, the day would end in disaster. It was an unhealthy excitement in which I gambled my life against the cards. Fortunately, for my peace of mind, I never failed to get the patience out. Some days, however, it was late in the afternoon before I succeeded.
My card-playing ended, I read. The books I read during my three weeks in the Kremlin included: Thucydides, Renan's "Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse," Ranke's "History of the Popes," Schiller's "Wallenstein," Rostand's "L'Aiglon," Archenholtz's "History of the Seven Years' War," Beltske's "History of the War in Russia in 1812," Sudermann's "Rosen," Macaulay's "Life and Letters," Stevenson's "Travels with a Donkey," Kipling's "Captains Courageous," Wells's "The Island of Doctor Moreau," Holland Rose's "Life of Napoleon," Carlyle's "French Revolution" and Lenin and Zinovieff's "Against the Current." I was a serious young man in those days.
The preparation of my meals was another pastime. After luncheon there was my walk in the Kremlin grounds. My first walk was on September 11th. It was the day on which the Bolsheviks recaptured Kazan, and the Kremlin was a riot of flags and red bunting. In the early days of the Bolshevik régime the Kremlin was a fortress to which visitors were rarely, if ever, admitted. Even at the time of my friendliest relations with the Bolsheviks I had never crossed its threshold. My interviews with Lenin, Trotsky, Chicherin and the other Commissars had always been outside its walls. Now I was able to see the changes which had taken place since the October revolution. The giant monument to Alexander the Second on the parade ground had been dragged down from its huge pedestal. The cross which marked the spot where the Grand Duke Serge had been blown up had been removed.
My sentry on that first day was a Pole. He walked beside me with loaded rifle and was talkative and not unfriendly. He informed me that he had frequently accompanied the Tsarist ex-Ministers on their walks and that few prisoners who entered the Kremlin came out alive. The betting among his comrades was two to one that I would be shot.
On the whole, my sentries were decent, sensible fellows, who made no attempt to jeer at me. During my whole period of captivity I struck only one really nasty one---a sour-faced curmudgeon, who swore at England, cursed me as an assassin, and refused to allow me even to send a message to the Commandant. He was a Hungarian. The Letts were the best. Most of them were contemptuous of the Russians, whom they regarded as inferiors. One Lett informed me that, if Russia could have put a million non-Russian troops into the trenches, she could not have failed to win the war. Every time the Letts advanced, he said, they were let down by the Russians, who failed invariably to support them. He despised, too, the dirt and laziness of the Russian troops. On the other hand, he had a wholesome respect for the Bolshevik leaders, whom he regarded as super-men.
Not all my sentries were Bolsheviks. They were divided into three classes: first, the ardent Communists, who convinced one by their sincerity and by their devotion to their cause. Of these there were not many. Secondly, the sheep who went with the crowd-Bolshevik today, Menshevik tomorrow. And, thirdly, ---and these were the most numerous---the sceptical, who believed that in Russia anything was possible and everything bad. All, however, were convinced that the revolution had come to stay.
Even those Letts who were anxious to return to Latvia laughed at the possibility of a successful counter-revolution. To them counter-revolution meant the restoration of the land to the land-owners.
These walks were a welcome relief to the monotony of my existence. They kept me from thinking about myself and, although at first I could not refrain from indirect questions to my guards regarding my own fate, the answers I received soon discouraged further attempts to satisfy my morbid curiosity. Every day during my walk I paid a visit to a little church built in the wall of the Kremlin. It had a little garden round it and a famous ikon called "Our Lady of Unexpected Joy." Before the war, inspired by the attractiveness of the title, I had written a short story about it, which was published in the Morning Post. Now it was to be for three weeks the shrine of my daily prayers.
After my first week in the Kremlin Karachan came to see me. He was reticent about my own case. He, too, hinted a public trial was inevitable. He also informed me that René Marchand, a member of the French Mission, had furnished the Bolsheviks with full proofs of an Allied meeting at the American Consulate-General. At this meeting the Allied representatives had discussed such measures as blowing up railway bridges and cutting off Moscow and St. Petersburg from their sources of food supplies. He had given, so Karachan said, a full list of the names of those who were present. I laughed. Most of my conversations with Karachan were conducted in a tone of airy persiflage. "That beats the Times," I said. "Believe me or not, as you like, this is another invention of your Cheka."
"It is true," he replied. "We shall publish the letter in a day or two. Fortunately for you," he added with a grin, "you do not seem to have been present." The story was more or less true. Marchand had thrown in his lot with the Bolsheviks. After the war he returned to France and joined the French Communist Party. He renounced his Communism in 1931.
Karachan also gave me news of the war and of the outside world. The neutral diplomatists had issued a violent protest against the Terror, from which I deduced that they were working to secure our release. The Allied forces were making no progress in Russia. The Bolsheviks had registered further successes against the Czechs and the Russian counter-revolutionary forces. On the other hand, the Allies were driving back the Germans in the West. Austria and Bulgaria were on the verge of collapse. He admitted that the Allies might now win the war.
This was good news indeed. It was further stressed by the disclosure of the real object of Karachan's visit. He had come to ascertain my views regarding the terms on which England would be prepared to abandon her intervention and to make peace with Russia. The Bolsheviks were prepared to offer an amnesty to all counter-revolutionaries who would accept the régime, and a free exit out of Russia to the Czechs and to the Allies. Obviously, if the Bolsheviks were ready to discuss peace terms with the Allies, they were not going to shoot me. On the other hand, the Allies were not likely to listen to any proposals of this nature. On the whole, my hopes were raised by this visit. Lenin, Karachan informed me, was now able to sit up and to take nourishment.
The week from September 14th to September 21st was wet and miserable, and on two days I was unable to have my daily walk. I still received my daily messages and my daily supply of luxuries from Moura. She sent me, too, a fountain-pen and several note-books, and I amused myself by writing bad verse and by keeping a strictly non-committal diary of my prison life. I had, however, no more Bolshevik visitors and no news, and, as I was sleeping badly, I underwent a fresh period of pessimism.
Spiridonova, who was imprisoned in the same corridor as myself, I saw often. We never spoke, although we greeted each other solemnly when we passed on our daily walks. She looked ill and nervous, with great dark lines under her eyes. She was clumsily and very carelessly dressed, but might have been quite pretty when young.
Another prisoner, whom I met occasionally on my walks, was General Brusiloff. He had had an accident to his leg an walked with difficulty with the aid of a stick. My diary states that "he looked ill, haggard, and very old and that he had a sly, foxy face." Yet another prisoner was Sablin the former, Soviet Commander, who had played a leading part in the Left Social-Revolutionary attempted coup d'état in July. Good-looking, with an attractive smile and blue eyes, he looked little more than a boy.
The eminence of their prisoners evidently caused some amusement to our guards. One day my sentry piloted me to the shrine where formerly had stood the statue of Alexander II and with pride pointed out to me a sentence roughly chiselled on the side of the huge pedestal. The words, carved by one of our sentries, ran as follows: "Here the Red Army soldiers of the 9th Lettish Rifles had the honour of walking with Brusiloff, Lockhart, Spiridonova and Sablin." The word honour was in inverted commas. I reflected with grim morbidness that this was the only statue except a tombstone on which my name was likely to figure.
On the 21st of September Karachan came to see me again. He was in high fettle over the Bolshevik successes on the Volga. The Red Army had captured Simbirsk and Buinsk and was now full of confidence. He brought me copies of The Call---a Bolshevik news-sheet, printed in English, which was to be distributed by airplanes among the English troops on the Archangel and Murmansk fronts. It contained a lurid account of the so-called Allied Plot. My name figured largely in it, and to my other crimes was now added the charge of having concocted a false treaty between Germany and Russia as a means of inducing the Allied troops to fight against the Bolsheviks.
The account, so the paper said, read "like a tale from the Arabian Nights." I pointed this passage out to Karachan and congratulated him on the aptness of the simile. It was a fine example of imaginative fiction. Karachan, who knew the circumstances of my arrest in every detail, smiled blandly. "Your Government," he said, "is supporting the war against the revolution. Every kind of irregularity has been committed by Allied agents in this country. You have become the symbol of these irregularities. In a clash between two world forces the individual has to suffer."
The next day I received a surprise visit from Peters. He brought Moura with him. It was his birthday (he was thirty-two), and, as he preferred giving presents to receiving them, he had brought Moura as his birthday treat. In more senses than one this was the most thrilling moment of my captivity. Peters was in a reminiscent mood. He sat down opposite me at the small table near the back wall and began to talk of his life as a revolutionary. He had become a Socialist at the age of fifteen. He had suffered exile and persecution. I listened only fitfully. Moura, who was standing behind Peters and in front of me, was fiddling with my books, which stood on a small side table surmounted by a long hanging mirror. She caught my eyes, held up a note, and slipped it into a book. I was terrified. A slight turn of his head, and Peters could see everything in the mirror. I gave the tiniest of nods. Moura, however, seemed to think that I had not seen and repeated the performance. My heart stopped beating, and this time I nodded like an epileptic. Fortunately, Peters noticed nothing or else Moura's shrift would have been short. Although he gave me no news about my own fate beyond saying that preparations were being made for my trial, he treated me in every other respect with great courtesy, questioned me several times about my treatment by my sentries and asked me if I were receiving Moura's letters regularly and if I had any complaints to make. Then, excusing himself on account of pressure of work for the shortness of his visit and promising to bring Moura again, he left me. Moura and I had hardly exchanged a word, but already I felt a new hope. It was as if I had left the world and come back to it again. As soon as they had gone, I rushed to the book ---it was Carlyle's French Revolution---and took out the, note. It was very short---six words only: "Say nothing---all will be well." That night I could not sleep.
Fig. 3. BOLSHEVIK NEWS-SHEET, PRINTED IN ENGLISH
The next day Peters came again. His second visit explained his first. This time he was accompanied, not by Moura, but by Asker, the Swedish Consul-General, a man of great charm and high ideals, who had laboured night and day to secure our release. Peters went straight to the point. The neutral diplomatists had expressed concern about my fate. They had been much perturbed by rumours that I had been shot, that I was being subjected to Chinese torture. He had therefore brought the Swedish Consul-General in order that he might persuade himself by the proof of his own eyes (1) that I was alive, and (2) that l was being well-treated. My conversation with Asker was restricted. We had to talk in Russian, and his knowledge of the language was limited. Moreover, he was not allowed to discuss my case with me. Having satisfied himself that I was not being starved or tortured, he managed to say that everything possible was being done on my behalf, and then he left.
On the following morning the Bolshevik Press broadcast a statement that, while the bourgeois Press throughout the world was spreading rumours of the terrible tortures to which I was being subjected, I myself had denied them and had admitted to the Swedish Consul-General that I was being treated with every courtesy.
My interview with Asker was not altogether satisfactory. The fact that he was not allowed to discuss my own case with me depressed me. If I was no longer afraid for my life, the probability of a public trial and of a long term of imprisonment impressed itself more strongly than ever on my mind. My apprehensions were increased by the publication in the Izvestia the next morning of the disclosures of Marchand, the French agent. It took the form of an open letter to Poincaré and denounced in strong terms the counter-revolutionary activities of the Allied agents in Russia. Although my name was not mentioned in the letter and although I had never had any connection with the activities which had turned Marchand against his own country, the Bolshevik Press seized on this opportunity to rake up all the mud they could against me. Once again I was denounced as the instigator of everything true or untrue and as the arch-criminal of diplomacy. I suppose I should have felt flattered. I was by far the youngest of the Allied representatives. Yet I had been singled out for solitary confinement in the Kremlin, and my name had figured in every newspaper as the ring-leader of the Allied representatives. Doubtless, the Bolshevik attitude, so different in public and in private towards myself, was determined solely by reasons of policy. I had known them more intimately than any other allied representative. I had opposed intervention almost to the end. It was necessary that they should do their best to discredit in advance any evidence I might bring against them. The American officials, who were far more deeply implicated in Marchand's disclosures than I was, escaped not only arrest but all abuse. The Bolsheviks knew that President Wilson, who was a historian and who therefore remembered Napoleon, was very luke-warm in his attitude towards the Russian policy of the Allies. They were determined to do nothing to prejudice that attitude.
The weather at this period was very trying. There were days when the sun shone and when the temperature was as high as in July. These were days of hope. There were other days when the wind blew and the rain beat down mercilessly on the Kremlin walls. Winter was already in the air, and the cold and the damp added to my depression. My diary tells me that my nerves, which hitherto had stood the strain of these strenuous months remarkably well, were beginning to suffer.
On September 26th Karachan came to see me again. He was, as always, courteous and affable. We had a further discussion about the Allied situation in Russia and the possibility of opening up negotiations for peace. He informed me that the question of my trial had now been settled. It was not to take place. He assumed that eventually I should be set free.
When he had gone, I sat down and translated into blank verse the Tell Soliloquy from Schiller: "Through this deserted valley must he pass."
Two days later Peters came in with Moura. It was six o'clock on a Saturday evening. He was dressed in a leather jacket and khaki trousers. An enormous Mauser pistol was strapped to his side. There was a broad grin on his face. He told me that I was to be set free on Tuesday. He would allow me to go home for two days to pack. I thanked him, and then he looked at me rather sheepishly, put his hand into his pocket, and pulled out a packet. "I have a favour to ask of you," he said. "When you reach London, will you give this letter to my English wife?" At the same time he gave me a signed photograph of himself and showed me some snapshots of his wife. Almost before I could say, "Of course I will," he drew back. "No," he said, "I shan't trouble you. As soon as you're out of here, you'll blaspheme and curse me as your worst enemy." He seemed incapable of crediting any bourgeoisie with feelings of humanity towards the proletariat.
I told him not to be a fool and to give me the letter. Politics apart, I bore him no grudge. I would remember his kindness to Moura all my life. I took the letter. Later, of course, I delivered it. Then he began to talk, first, about politics and the plot. He admitted openly in front of Moura that the Americans were as greatly compromised in this business as any one else. (Since my arrest an American agent had been detected with plans, concealed in a hollow walking-stick, of the disposition of the Red Army.) He confessed that the evidence he had been able to collect against me was not very damaging. I was either a fool or very clever. "I don't understand you," he said. "Why are you going back to England? You have placed yourself in a false position. Your career is finished. Your Government will never forgive you. Why don't you stay here? You can be happy and make your own life. We can give you work to do. Capitalism is doomed anyway."
I shook my head, and he went away, wondering. He could not understand how I could leave Moura. He left her alone with me.
The reaction was wonderful. Although, except during the first few days before it was clear that Lenin was going to recover, I was not really afraid that I should be shot, the strain had been severe, and I had never been sure that some little straw would not change everything against me. We laughed and cried alternately. Then we settled down to talk. There was so much to tell---a whole month's gap during which I had heard nothing of the outside world, of my colleagues, of Moura herself.
It was an incoherent, disjointed conversation, interrupted by numerous digressions, but little by little I pieced together the whole story. Moura had been in the women's prison. My colleagues and a goodly number of the French had been incarcerated in the "Butirky." Wardwell, the American, had been heroic. He had wrung concessions from the Bolsheviks. Daily he had fed all the Allied prisoners and Moura as well with his own provisions. He had not lessened her alarm by telling her that I was to be shot. For ten days there had been great anxiety about my fate. My solitary confinement had baffled the neutral diplomatists. There had been a terrible scene between the Dutch Minister and Chicherin, during which both men lost their tempers. The Dutch Minister was persuaded that I was going to be shot and had telegraphed his conviction to London. The British Government had replied with a menacing Note to the Bolsheviks. The whole situation seemed hopeless until Lenin was able to take a hand in affairs. After he recovered consciousness, his first remark, it was said, was: "Stop the Terror." Gradually, the hot-heads on both sides cooled down, and out of chaos a scheme had been evolved whereby we were to be exchanged for Litvinoff and other Bolsheviks in England. There had been a long hitch before an agreement could be reached. The British Government, who had arrested Litvinoff, were not prepared to trust the Bolsheviks. They would not allow Litvinoff to leave English soil until I had crossed the Russian frontier.
For days the negotiations were side-tracked in this cul-de-sac. I had foreseen this difficulty when I had first read of the proposal in the Izvestia. I knew that the Bolsheviks cared little about Litvinoff, but much about their own prestige. The only way to deal with them successfully in a matter like this was to take them at their word. They would act up to it. Treated like bandits, they would behave as bandits. I realised that the British Government would prefer the bandit treatment. This was precisely what had happened. Fortunately, Rex Leeper, who advised Mr. Balfour during the negotiations, understood Bolshevik psychology. He persuaded Mr. Balfour to agree to let Litvinoff leave London at the same time as I left Moscow, and Mr. Balfour, in the face of the opposition of the majority of the Cabinet, took his advice. The Swedes and Norwegians had now taken charge of the negotiations. We were to be allowed to cross the Russian frontier as soon as Litvinoff and his party reached Bergen.
During this exciting month there had been one episode in connection with our imprisonment which had made all Russia laugh. When the mass arrest of the Allied representatives began, half-a-dozen officials, including Hicks and Grenard, the French Consul-General, had taken refuge in the American Consulate-General, which since the rupture of relations had been taken over by the Norwegian Minister. Officially it was not the Norwegian Legation.
The Bolsheviks soon tracked down the missing Allied officials. They wanted to arrest them. At the same time, disturbed by the consequences of their raid on the British Embassy in St. Petersburg, they had no wish to create another breach of the law of nations. They would be correct. They would not infringe diplomatic extra-territoriality. But they would force the refugees to surrender by starving them out.
The Norwegian Legation was a large house with a small dower house, where the besieged Allies slept, and a large garden. It occupied the whole space between two side streets, and both sides were entirely exposed to the public view. The Bolsheviks surrounded the place with troops, allowed no one to enter the gates, and shut off the water-supply and the electric light. Every day half Moscow assembled in the streets to see the fun. But the Allies never surrendered. They took their exercise daily in the garden. Whenever it rained, they rushed out with bath tubs to collect the drops. So far from looking starved, they seemed to have grown fatter. They held out to the end.
The bath-tubs were, in fact, make-believe. The dower house cellars contained the stores of the American Red Cross: bully beef, milk, biscuits, butter, candles, tobacco. In cutting off the water-supply the Cheka had forgotten one tap, which was apparently connected with another main. Ample supplies of food, clean and well-furnished quarters, and poker, played by night behind heavily draped windows so as not to destroy the Bolshevik delusion, made the lot of the besieged more comfortable than that of their other colleagues in misfortune.
That night, when Moura left me, I sat up late, smoking and reviewing the situation. After the first joy of relief had evaporated, my feelings changed to a deep depression. My whole future seemed without hope. My nerve had gone. Now that I was to be set free, or rather to be sent out of Russia, I did not want to go. I found myself coming back again and again to Peters's proposal that I should remain in Russia with Moura. I gave it more consideration than the English reader may imagine. It was not so madly impossible as it seemed. Sadoul and Pascal, a young French officer of almost saint-like character, had accepted a similar proposal. There was Marchand. These men were not wilful traitors. Like most of us, they had been influenced by a cataclysm which they realised would shake the world to its foundations. There were moments when I asked myself what I should do if I had to choose between the civilisation of Wall Street and the barbarism of Moscow. Now, however, I was not a free agent. I had become the centre of a miniature world storm---a something over whose body two world systems had been wrangling. I could never be a Bolshevik. At this stage, when the telegraph wires of half Europe had been working to secure my release, I could not forego my official obligations.
The decision left me helpless and indifferent. Some time before, an American newspaper, in criticising American diplomacy in Russia, had compared the American Ambassador unfavourably with the "cold, experienced Lockhart with his calculated and relentless pursuit of British interests." What a satire it now seemed on my conduct! How futile were the personal wishes of the individual in this maelstrom of international conflict!
Moura herself was wonderful. She was ill. She had a temperature of over 100, but she made no complaint. She accepted the parting with Russian fatalism. She knew that there was no other way.
For two more days I was kept in the Kremlin. Moura was with me from morning till sundown. Together we packed my belongings: my books, the pack of patience cards, the notes and letters---some of them written on Cheka notepaper---which she had sent me. We talked mainly of the past, avoiding as far as possible all discussion of the future.
On Tuesday, October 1st, Karachan came to see me and to say good-bye. He told me that we were to leave the next day. At three that afternoon I was released and taken back under escort to my flat. A sentry was posted at the door, and I was informed that I was under "house arrest."
The flat was in a sad state. Since my second arrest it had been occupied by a Cheka guard. I discovered that my pearlstuds, my links, my new waterproof and a considerable sum of money had disappeared. The soldiers, too, had drunk all our wine and appropriated our supplies of provisions. In their search for compromising documents they had taken out the linings of my chairs and sofa. They had even probed the wall-papers. Yet in the closed typewriter in my study I found a piece of paper, which had escaped their attention and mine. It bore the words: "I hereby certify that the firm of ----- is good for the sum of . . ." Fortunately, the secretary, who had been typing, had gone no farther.
Although I was not allowed to go out, there was no ban on visitors. That evening Asker came to see me. He had been the most efficient and level-headed of all the neutral representatives. He told me that at one moment I had been in serious danger of being shot. I thanked him as best I could. He was a splendid type of Swede, and to him more than to any one else we owed our release. Wardwell, too was another whose efforts on our behalf left us with a debt we could never repay. Later, when we returned to England, the British Government conferred the Knighthood of the Order of St. Michael and St. George on the neutral ministers who had conducted the negotiations for our release. I was able to secure for Wardwell, who as an American could not accept an Order, a piece of silverplate with an inscription conveying the gratitude of the British Government for his services on our behalf.
Yet another visitor was Liuba Malinina, the niece of Chelnokoff. She informed me that she had become engaged to "Hickie," who was still beleaguered in the Norwegian Legation. Could I secure his freedom for an hour the next day in order that she might marry him?
I promised to do what I could, and later in the evening, when Peters came in to say good-bye, I put the question to him in the half-joking, half-sentimental way which I knew would appeal to him. He was amused. "No one but a mad Englishman," he said, "would make a request of this nature at a time like this. Nothing is impossible to such a race. I'll have to see what I can do." He did, and "Hickie" and Liuba were duly married the next day.
The Wednesday of our departure was a busy day. There was a letter from Peters apologising for the theft of my belongings and enclosing compensation, which I returned with a polite note of thanks. There were long conversations with Asker about the control of British interests and about the protection of British subjects in Moscow. At six o'clock in the evening the sentry was taken away from my front hall, and at nine-thirty Asker came with his motor-car to take me to the station. There I found my French and English colleagues, most of whom had been taken straight from prison to the train. The train itself was drawn up at a siding outside the station. As I walked down the line, I wondered vaguely whether my colleagues would blame me for all they had endured. Every one was strangely silent and subdued. The train was in charge of a platoon of Lettish soldiers, who were to conduct us to the frontier. Their presence created an atmosphere of restraint. I think we all felt that until we were out of Russia we could not breathe freely. There were a few friends to see us off: Moura, Wardwell, and some Russian relations of the newly-married Mrs. Hicks. There was nothing tense or dramatic about our farewell. There was the usual Russian hitch about the time of our departure, and we were kept waiting for several hours. In the cool, starlit night Moura and I discussed trivialities. We talked of everything except ourselves. And then I made her go home with Wardwell. I watched her go until she had disappeared into the night. Then I turned into my dimly-lit carriage to wait and to be alone with my thoughts. It was nearly two in the morning before our train, with many snorts and several false starts, steamed slowly out of the station.
The end, however, was not yet. After skirting St. Petersburg---the Izvestia declared that our train had been diverted lest the infuriated populace should tear us limb from limb---we reached Bieloostroff, the Russo-Finnish frontier station, on the Thursday evening. Our rejoicings were premature. There was no Finnish train to meet us. The commander of our Lettish escort had received the strictest orders not to allow us to proceed until he had received definite confirmation of Litvinoff's arrival at Bergen. There was no news of Litvinoff. There was nothing to do but wait.
These three days at Bieloostroff seemed more trying than my imprisonment. Now that everything was over, I had given a free rein to my depression. We were cooped up in a dingy, unheated train. We had provisions for several days but not for longer. Although I had no real fears that the Bolsheviks would change their mind and take us back to Moscow, the possibility of a hitch could not be excluded. As the delay dragged itself out, nerves became strained and tempers frayed. There were even hot-heads who counselled making a dash by night across the narrow strip of no-man's land.
For me personally the nights were the worst ordeal. Now I could hardly sleep at all. I talked with Lavergne and Hicks. Rather feebly we tried to justify ourselves, repeating all the old arguments and consoling ourselves with the reflection that, if the Allies had only taken our advice, they would not have landed themselves in such a mess. I think we all realised that in any circumstances intervention would have been a mistake. We foresaw clearly that we should be blamed and that both the generals and the politicians would shelter themselves behind the excuse that they had been badly informed.
Mostly, however, I walked the platform by myself. I wanted to be alone. I dreaded the home-coming and the questions I should have to face. Fortunately, the weather was fine, and under the star-lit Northern sky I must have walked for miles. Hope was dead in my heart. I had no illusions about my reception at home. For a few days I should figure in the front page of the news. There would be newspaper men and photographers. I should be received by the Crown Princess of Sweden, by the King, by Mr. Balfour. There would be relief at my escape. Had anything happened to me, there would have been unpleasant complications and perhaps some twinges of consciences in Whitehall. Then I should be laid on the shelf. My knowledge, at that time unique, of a complicated situation would be allowed to go to rust. There is no one more quickly neglected than the man on the spot whose policy has become discredited. And my policy was already discredited in the eyes both of the pro-Bolsheviks and of the interventionists. My future was not pleasant to contemplate, and I subjected my conscience to a severe cross-examination. Months before, when we had had a slight altercation about a question of principle, Moura had described me as "a little clever, but not clever enough, a little strong, but not strong enough, a little weak. but not weak enough." Peters himself had described me as the man of the "zolotaia sevidina"---the man of the golden mean---and had despised me. It seemed then, it seems today, a fair definition of my character. And now I had left her. My cup of unhappiness was full.
If these were my inmost thoughts, I had to keep a brave face in public. The piece had to be played through to the end. There were some forty or fifty French and English on the train. We had to keep on good terms with the Lettish commander and endeavour to induce him to expedite our departure. To keep our spirits up, I organised a great series of test matches between the French and ourselves at pitch and toss. We played the series out with the platform for our pitch and with the Lettish soldiers and the Russian station officials as our crowd. They became almost as excited as we did. And, doubtless, to them the sight of a silver-haired French general bending down on his knee on the platform and measuring the distance between the various rouble pieces with a pocket-handkerchief was thrilling. If they thought us mad, they became quite human, and it would have required little persuasion to induce the Lettish commander to take a hand in the game himself. He refused, but there was obvious reluctance in his refusal. Perhaps he was afraid that Moscow might consider his participation unproletarian. England, or rather Scotland, won the series. In my Presbyterian youth I had played the game diligently on the Scottish Sabbath, and, like the curate in the music-hall song, who "won three out of four 'cause he'd played it before," we were the more experienced players.
The end of the test matches saw the end of our troubles. As we were picking up our coins, the commander came up with a telegram in his hand. Everything was in order. The Finnish train was ready, and we were to leave immediately. He also brought us the Russian newspapers from St. Petersburg. They were full of great news. Bulgaria had collapsed and had signed an armistice. Austria was a suppliant for peace. The Hindenburg line in the West had been broken. On my companions the news acted like a tonic. Most of them regarded their departure as a happy release, as a nightmare that had been swallowed up in a glorious morning. They could look forward to the future with a new hope. In my heart there was no elation. My physical body was going forward, but my thoughts were back in Moscow and in the country which I was leaving---probably for ever.
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