Zagreb I

THEY WERE WAITING IN THE RAIN ON THE PLATFORM OF THE real Zagreb, our three friends. There was Constantine, the poet, a Serb, that is to say a Slav member of the Orthodox Church, from Serbia. There was Valetta, a lecturer in mathematics at Zagreb University, a Croat, that is to say a Slav member of the Roman Catholic Church, from Dalmatia. There was Marko Gregorievitch, the critic and journalist, a Croat from Croatia. They were all different sizes and shapes, in body and mind.

Constantine is short and fat, with a head like the best-known satyr in the Louvre, and an air of vine-leaves about the brow, though he drinks little. He is perpetually drunk on what comes out of his mouth, not what goes into it. He talks incessantly. In the morning he comes out of his bedroom in the middle of a sentence; and at night he backs into it, so that he can just finish one more sentence. Automatically he makes silencing gestures while he speaks, just in case somebody should take it into his head to interrupt. Nearly all his talk is good, and sometimes it runs along in a coloured shadow show, like Heine’s Florentine Nights, and sometimes it crystallizes into a little story the essence of hope or love or regret, like a Heine lyric. Of all human beings I have ever met he is the most like Heine: and since Heine was the most Jewish of writers it follows that Constantine is Jew as well as Serb. His father was a Jewish doctor of revolutionary sympathies, who fled from Russian Poland about fifty years ago and settled in a rich provincial town in Serbia and became one of the leaders of the medical profession, which has always been more advanced there than one might have supposed. His mother was also Polish Jewish, and was a famous musician. He is by adoption only, yet quite completely, a Serb. He fought in the Great War very gallantly, for he is a man of great physical courage, and to him Serbian history is his history, his life is a part of the life of the Serbian people. He is now a Government official; but that is not the reason why he believes in Yugoslavia. To him a state of Serbs, Slovenes, and Croats, controlled by a central government in Belgrade, is a necessity if these peoples are to maintain themselves against Italian and Central European pressure on the west, and Bulgarian pressure, which might become in effect Central European pressure, on the east.

Valetta comes from a Dalmatian town which was settled by the Greeks some hundreds of years before Christ, and he has the strong delicacy and the morning freshness of an archaic statue. They like him everywhere he goes, Paris and London and Berlin and Vienna, but he is hall-marked as a Slav, because his charm is not associated with any of those defects that commonly go with it in other races. He might suddenly stop smiling and clench his long hands, and offer himself up to martyrdom for an idea. He is anti-Yugoslavian; he is a federalist and believes in an autonomous Croatia.

Gregorievitch looks like Pluto in the Mickey Mouse films. His face is grooved with grief at the trouble and lack of gratitude he has encountered while defending certain fixed and noble standards in a chaotic world. His long body is like Pluto’s in its extensibility. As he sits in his armchair, resentment at what he conceives to be a remediable injustice will draw him inches nearer to the ceiling, despair at an inevitable wrong will crumple him up like a concertina. Yugoslavia is the Mickey Mouse this Pluto serves. He is ten years older than Constantine, who is forty-six, and thirty years older than Valetta. This means that for sixteen years before the war he was an active revolutionary, fighting against the Hungarians for the right of Croats to govern themselves and to use their own language. In order that the Croats might be united with their free brother Slavs the Serbs, he endured poverty and imprisonment and exile. Therefore Yugoslavia is to him the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Who speaks more lightly of it spits on those sixteen years of sorrow, who raises his hand against it violates the Slav sacrament. So to him Constantine, who was still a student in Paris when the Great War broke out, and who had been born a free Serb, seems impious in the way he takes Yugoslavia for granted. There is the difference between them that there was between the Christians of the first three centuries, who fought for their faith when it seemed a lost cause, and the Christians of the fourth century, who fought for it when it was victorious.

And to Gregorievitch, Valetta is quite simply a traitor. He is more than an individual who has gone astray, he is the very essence of treachery incarnate. Youth should uphold the banner of the right against unjust authority, and should practise that form of obedience to God which is rebellion against tyranny; and it seems to Gregorievitch that Valetta is betraying that ideal, for to him Yugoslavia represents a supreme gesture of defiance against the tyranny of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Only a sorcerer could make him realize that the Austro-Hungarian Empire ceased to be when Valetta was six years old, and that he has never known any other symbol of unjust authority except Yugoslavia.

They are standing in the rain, and they are all different and they are all the same. They greet us warmly, and in their hearts they cannot greet each other, and they dislike us a little because it is to meet us that they are standing beside their enemies in the rain. We are their friends, but we are made from another substance. The rich passions of Constantine, the intense, graceful, selected joys and sorrows of Valetta, and Gregorievitch’s gloomy Great Danish nobility are all cut from the same primary stuff, though in very dissimilar shapes. Sitting in our hotel room, drinking wine, they showed their unity of origin. A door opens, they twitch and swivel their heads, and the movement is the same. When these enemies advance on each other, they must move at the same tempo.

My husband has not met any of them before. I see him transfixed by their strangeness. He listens amazed to Constantine’s beautiful French, which has preserved in it all the butterfly brilliances of his youth, when he was one of Bergson’s favourite students, and was making his musical studies with Wanda Landowska. He falls under the spell of Constantine. He strains forward to hear the perfect phrase that is bound to come when Constantine’s eyes catch the light, and each of his tight black curls spins on his head, and his lips shoot out horizontally, and his hands grope in the air before him as if he were unloosing the neckcloth of the strangling truth. Now Constantine was talking of Bergson and saying that it was to miss the very essence in him to regard him only as a philosopher. He was a magician who had taken philosophy as his subject matter. He did not analyse phenomena, he uttered incantations that invoked understanding. ‘We students,’ said Constantine, ‘we were not the pupils of a great professor, we were the sorcerer’s apprentices. We did strange things that are not in most academic courses. On Sundays we would talk together in the forest of Fontainebleau, all day long sometimes, reconstituting his lectures by pooling our memories. For, you see, in his class-room it was not possible to take notes. If we bent our heads for one moment to take down a point, we missed an organic phrase, and the rest of the lecture appeared incomprehensible. That shows he was a magician. For what is the essential of a spell? That if one word is left out it is no longer a spell. I was able to recognize that at once, for in my town, which is Shabats, there were three houses in a row, and in one house lived my father who was the greatest doctor in our country, and in the next there lived a priest who was the greatest saint in my country, and in the next there lived an old woman who was the greatest witch in my country, and when I was a little boy I lived in the first of these houses and I went as I would into the other two, for the holy man and the witch liked me very much, and I tell you in each of these houses there was magic, so I know all about it as most men do not.’

A line of light ran along the dark map of Europe we all of us hold in our minds; at one end a Serbian town, unknown to me as Ur, peopled with the personnel of fairy-tales, and at the other end the familiar idea of Bergson. My husband, I could see, was enraptured. He loves to learn what he did not know before. But in a minute I could see that he was not so happy. Valetta had said that he was making plans for our pleasure in Yugoslavia, and that he hoped that we would be able to go up into the snow mountains, particularly if we liked winter sports. My husband said he was very fond of Switzerland, and how he enjoyed going over there when he was tired and handing himself over to the care of the guides. ‘Yes, the guides are so good for us, who are over-civilized,’ said Constantine. ‘They refresh us immensely, when we are with them. For they succeed at every point where we fail. We can be responsible for what we love, our families and our countries, and the causes we think just, but where we do not love we cannot muster the necessary attention. That is just what the guides do, with such a wealth of attention that it amounts to nothing comparable to our attention at all, to a mystical apprehension of the whole universe.

‘I will give you,’ he said, ‘an example. I made once a most beautiful journey in Italy with my wife. She is a German, you know, and she worships Goethe, so this was a pilgrimage. We went to see where he had lived in Venice and Rome, and she was so delighted, you cannot believe, delighted deep in herself, so that her intuition told her many things. “That is the house where he lived!” she cried in Venice, jumping up and down in the gondola, and it was so. At length we came to Naples, and we took a guide and went up Vesuvius, because Goethe went up Vesuvius. Do you remember the passage where he says he was on the edge of a little crater, and he slipped? That was much in my wife’s mind, and suddenly it was given to her to know by intuition that a certain little crater we saw was that same one where Goethe had slipped, so before we could stop it she ran down to it. I saw, of course, that she might be killed at any moment, so I ran after her. But so did the guide, though she was nothing to him. And then came the evidence of this mystic apprehension which is given by the constant vigilance of a guide’s life. Just then this crater began to erupt, and the lava burst out here and there and here. But always the guide knew where it was coming, and took us to the left or the right, wherever it was not. Sometimes there was barely time for us to be there for more than a second; that was proved afterwards because the soles of our shoes were scorched. For three-quarters of an hour we ran thus up and down, from right to left and from left to right, before we could get to safety; and I was immensely happy the whole time because the guide was doing something I could not have done, which it is good to do!’

During the telling of this story my husband’s eyes rested on me with an expression of alarm. It was apparent from Constantine’s tone that nothing in the story had struck him as odd except the devotion of the guide to his charges. ‘Are not her friends very dotty?’ he was plainly asking himself. ‘Is this how she wants to live?’ But the conversation took a businesslike turn, and we were called on to consider our plans. We must meet So-and-so and Such-and-such, of course. It became obvious from certain reticences that the strained relations between Croats and Serbs were making themselves felt over our plans. For So-and-so, it appeared, would not meet Such-and-such, and that, it could be deduced, was the reason. Suddenly such reticences were blown away by a very explicit wrangle about Y., the editor of a certain newspaper. ‘Oh, you should meet him, he would interest you,’ said Valetta. ‘Yes, he has a very remarkable mind,’ admitted Constantine. ‘No,’ exploded Gregorievitch. They squabbled for a time in Serbian. Then Gregorievitch shrugged his shoulders and said to us, with heavy lightness, ‘Y. is not an honest man, that is all!’ ‘He is perfectly honest,’ said Valetta coldly. ‘Gregorievitch, you are an impossibilist,’ said Constantine mildly. ‘Let our English guests judge,’ said Pluto grimly.

It appeared that one day some years before, Pluto had rung up Y. and reminded him that next week was the centenary of a certain Croat poet, and asked him if he would like an article on him. Y. said that he would, and Pluto sent an article four columns long, including two quotations concerning liberty. But the article had to be submitted to the censor, who at that particular time and in that particular place happened to be Pluto. He sent it back to Y. cut by a column and a half, including both quotations. Then, if we would believe it, Y. had rung up Pluto on the telephone and been most abusive, and never since then had he accepted one single article from Pluto. ‘Surely,’ said Pluto, immensely tall and grey and wrinkled, ‘he must have seen that I had to do what I did. To be true to myself as a critic I had to write the article as I did. But to be true to myself as a censor, I had to cut it as I did. In which capacity did he hope that I would betray my ideals?’ As he related this anecdote his spectacles shone with the steady glare of a strong man justly enraged.

But that story I could understand. It proceeds not, as might be thought, from incoherence but from a very high and too rigid sense of order. There lingers here a survival of an old attitude towards status that the whole world held, in days which were perhaps happier. Now, we think that if a man takes an office, he will modify it according to what he is as a man, according to his temperament and official standards. But then it was taken for granted that a man would modify his temperament and his ethical standards according to his office, provided it were of any real importance. In the third and fourth centuries Christian congregations were constantly insisting on electing people as bishops who were unwilling to accept the office, perhaps for some such valid reason as that they were not even Christians, but who seemed to have the ability necessary for the semi-magisterial duties of the episcopacy. Sometimes these men were so reluctant that the congregations were obliged to kidnap them and ordain them forcibly. But once they were installed as bishops, they often performed their duties admirably. They had a sense of social structure, they were aware that bishops, who had by then taken over most of the civil administration that the crumbling Roman Empire could no longer handle, must work well if society was not to fall to pieces. Even so Gregorievitch must have been conscious, all his life, of the social value of patriotic poets and, for the last unhappy twenty years, of censors. Therefore it seemed to him that he must do his best in both capacities, not that he should modify his performances to uphold the consistence of his personality. That I could perfectly understand; but it was so late I did not feel able to explain it to my husband, whom I saw, when I forced open my eyelids, undressing slowly, with his eyes set pensively on the window-curtains, wondering what strange city they were going to disclose next day.

Zagreb II

But the morning showed us that Zagreb was not a strange city at all. It has the warm and comfortable appearance of a town that has been well aired. People have been living there in physical, though not political, comfort for a thousand years. Moreover it is full of those vast toast-coloured buildings, barracks and law courts and municipal offices, which are an invariable sign of past occupancy by the Austro-Hungarian Empire; and that always means enthusiastic ingestion combined with lack of exercise in pleasant surroundings, the happy consumption of coffee and whipped cream and sweet cakes at little tables under chestnut trees. But it has its own quality. It has no grand river, it is built up to no climax; the hill the old town stands on is what the eighteenth century used to call ‘a moderate elevation.’ It has few very fine buildings except the Gothic Cathedral, and that has been forced to wear an ugly nineteenth-century overcoat. But Zagreb makes from its featureless handsomeness something that pleases like a Schubert song, a delight that begins quietly and never definitely ends. We believed we were being annoyed by the rain that first morning we walked out into it, but eventually we recognized we were as happy as if we had been walking in sunshine through a really beautiful city. It has, moreover, the endearing characteristic, noticeable in many French towns, of remaining a small town when it is in fact quite large. A hundred and fifty thousand people live in Zagreb, but from the way gossips stand in the street it is plain that everybody knows who is going to have a baby and when. This is a lovely spiritual victory over urbanization.

There was a wide market-place, where under red and white umbrellas peasants stood sturdy and square on their feet, and amazed us by their faces, which are as mobile and sensitive as if they were the most cultivated townspeople. The women wore, and were the first to do so I have ever seen anywhere in the world, neither skirt nor trousers, but two broad aprons, one covering the front part of the body and one the back, and overlapping at the sides, and underneath showed very brave red woollen stockings. They gave the sense of the very opposite of what we mean by the word ‘peasant’ when we use it in a derogatory sense, thinking of women made doltish by repeated pregnancies and a lifetime spent in the service of oafs in villages that swim in mud to the thresholds every winter. This costume was evolved by women who could stride along if they were eight months gone with child, and who would dance in the mud if they felt like it, no matter what any oaf said.

They lived under no favour, however. They all spoke some German, so we were able to ask the prices of what they sold; and we could have bought a sackful of fruit and vegetables, all of the finest, for the equivalent of two shillings: a fifth of what it would have fetched in a Western city. This meant desperate, pinching poverty, for the manufactured goods in the shops are marked at nearly Western prices. But they looked gallant, and nobody spoke of poverty, nobody begged. It was a sign that we were out of Central Europe, for in a German and Austrian town where the people were twice as well off as these they would have perpetually complained. But there were signs that we were near Central Europe. There were stalls covered with fine embroidered handkerchiefs and table linen, which was all of it superbly executed, for Slav women have a captive devil in their flying fingers to work wonders for them. But the design was horrible. It was not like the designs I had seen in other parts of Yugoslavia, in Serbia and Macedonia; it was not even as good as the designs on the dresses of the peasant women who were standing by the stalls, inferior though they were. It was severely naturalistic, and attempted to represent fruit and flowers, and it followed the tradition of Victorian Berlin woolwork. In other words, it showed German influence.

I felt impatient. I was getting no exhilaration out of being here, such as I had hoped for in coming to Yugoslavia. For a rest I went and stood on the steps of the statue in the middle of the square. Looking at the inscription I saw that it was a statue of the Croat patriot, Yellatchitch, and I reflected that if the Croats had not succeeded in cheering me up they had other achievements to their credit. For this is one of the strangest statues in the world. It represents Yellatchitch as leading his troops on horseback and brandishing a sword in the direction of Budapest, in which direction he had indeed led them to victory against the Hungarians in 1848; and this is not a new statue erected since Croatia was liberated from Hungary. It stood in the market-place, commemorating a Hungarian defeat, in the days when Hungary was master of Croatia, and the explanation does not lie in Hungarian magnanimity. It takes the whole of Croatian history to solve the mystery.

The Croats were originally a Slav tribe who were invited by the Emperor Heraclius to free the Dalmatian coast and the Croatian hinterland from the Avars, one of the most noxious pillaging hordes who operated from a centre on the Danube far and wide: they created an early currency crisis by collecting immense tributes in gold, year after year, from all surrounding peoples. That was well on into the decadence of the Western Roman Empire, in the seventh century. They then stayed on as vassals of the Empire, and when its power dissolved they declared themselves independent; and they had their own kings who acknowledged the suzerainty of the Pope. Very little is known about them in those days, except that they were not a barbarous people, but had inherited much of the elaborate Byzantine ritual. The last of their kings was crowned about the time of the Norman Conquest. He left no kin, and civil war followed among the Croat nobles. For the sake of peace they recognized as their sovereign Coloman, King of Hungary, who asserted the triple claim of conquest, election, and inheritance; the last was doubtful, but the other two were fair enough. It is a thing to be noted, the age of legalism in these parts. It is our weakness to think that distant people became civilized when we looked at them, that in their yesterdays they were brutish.

Coloman was crowned Rex Hungariæ Croatiæ atque Dalmatiæ. For two centuries the two kingdoms led an independent and co-equal existence under the same crown. Their peoples were not likely to assimilate. They were racially unrelated: the Hungarians or Magyars are a people of far Asiatic origin, akin to the Finns, the Bulgars, and the Turks, and the Croats are Slav, akin to the Serbs, the Russians, the Poles, and the Czechs. Neither is meek; each is passionately attached to his own language; and the Hungarians are fierce and warlike romantics whereas the Croats are fierce and warlike intellectuals. Nothing could make them sympathetic, but their position in Central Europe made the close alliance of a dual monarchy desirable. But it was not cast-iron. In the fourteenth century Coloman’s line died out, and the Croats would not accept the king elected by the Hungarians but crowned their own choice in Zagreb Cathedral, and the union was restored only after six years, when the Hungarians accepted the Croat King. But the son of that King was Louis the Great, and he was predominantly Hungarian in blood, and more in feeling. The Croats had to take a second place.

Many of us think that monarchy is more stable than a republican form of government, and that there is a special whimsicality about modern democracies. We forget that stable monarchies are the signs of genius of an order at least as rare in government as in literature or music, or of stable history. Monarchy without these conditions is whimsical to the point of mania. The stock was not fruitful as among commoners, perhaps because princesses were snatched as brides before puberty lest others make the useful alliance first; and in no rank does stock breed true and merit follow merit. If on a king’s death he should leave an idiot heir or none, the nobles would send, perhaps far away, to a man whose fame lay in violence, in order to avoid war among themselves. He would rule them with the coldness of an alien, and it might be that in his loins there was working this genetic treachery, to leave them masterless at his death. He was in any case sure to be afflicted with the special malady of kings, which was poverty; the reluctance we feel about paying income tax is only the modern expression of a human incapacity to see the justice of providing for corporate expenses which is as old as the species itself. Here his alien blood made itself felt. Terrified of his insecure position in a strange land, he asked little of the nobles and came down like a scourge on the peasants, and was tempted to plunder them beyond need and without mercy. That is to say, he demanded certain sums from the nobles and made no provisions for social justice which prevented the nobles from wringing them out of the peasants and keeping their private treasures intact. There was the still graver danger that the king’s alien blood would let him make contracts to their disadvantage with foreign powers. This danger was very grave indeed. For though there is a popular belief that negotiations to take the place of warfare are a modern invention, nothing could be further from the truth. The Middle Ages were always ready to lay down the sword and sign an agreement, preferably for a cash payment. An alien king was always particularly likely to sell a slice of his lands and people for a sum that would shore up his authority.

It is not comfortable to be an inhabitant of this globe. It never has been, except for brief periods. The Croats have been peculiarly uncomfortable. Louis the Great was a Frenchman, one of the house of Anjou; he married Elizabeth, a Slav, the daughter of a Bosnian king. When Louis died he left two daughters, and nearly all Hungary and Dalmatia recognized as their queen the elder, Mary, who was to govern under the regency of her mother. But certain Croatian and Hungarian barons were against her, and called to the throne her father’s cousin, King Charles of Naples. It is to be noted that these Croatian barons were a strange and ungodly lot, with so little care for their people and, indeed, so little resemblance to them that they might be guessed to be alien. This whole territory had been devastated again and again by Asiatic invaders, and it is supposed that many of these nobles were the descendants of various roving brigands, men of power, who had seized land from the exhausted population as the invaders receded; some of them were certainly by origin Italian, German, and Goth, and in some cases themselves Asiatic. King Charles was crowned King of Hungary and Croatia, and four years afterwards was assassinated by the widow Elizabeth. He was succeeded by his son, Ladislas, a fantastical adventurer. He was faced by Elizabeth and her daughter, Mary, and her betrothed, another alien, Sigismond of Luxembourg, a son of the Emperor Charles of Germany, for whom they desired the crown. Thereafter for fifty years the country agonized under these aliens, who were, however, inevitable at this phase of history. The people screamed with pain. They were tortured, imprisoned, famined; and their national soul was violated. Ladislas, though he had never been crowned, sold Dalmatia to the Republic of Venice for a hundred thousand ducats; and though Sigismond was eventually crowned, he was never in a position to assert his legal rights and recover his possessions. This meant that an enormous number of warlike, thriftless, bucolic intellectuals fell under the control of a community of merchants; and that the Croats of Croatia were thereafter the more helpless against Hungary by this division from their Dalmatian brothers.

Sigismond bore the Croats a grudge, because certain of their nobles had aided Ladislas against him. There was then and thereafter no separate coronation for Croatia. She had to be satisfied with a separate diploma inaugurale, a document setting forth the king’s oath to his subjects and the privileges he intended to give them. But it is to be observed that she had to be satisfied. Dismembered as she was, she still had enough military power to make her able to bargain. Only as time went on these things mattered less. From the south-east the Turks pressed on and on. In 1453 they took Constantinople. In 1468 they were threatening the Dalmatian coast. Thereafter the Croats and the Hungarians were engaged in a perpetual guerrilla warfare to defend their lands. In 1526 the Hungarians fought the Turks in the battle of Mohacs, without calling on the Croats for aid, out of pride and political cantankerousness among the nobles. They were beaten and the King killed. Now Croatia was quite alone. It had to fall back on Austria, which was then governed by Ferdinand of Habsburg, and it offered him the throne on a hereditary basis.

The Germans have always hated the Slavs. More than that, they have always acted hatefully towards them. Now the Croats began to learn this lesson. Croatia was ruined economically, because the Turks were to its north-east, its east, and its south-east, so the Croats were at Austria’s mercy. Austria used her power to turn them into the famous Military Confines, where the whole male population between the ages of sixteen and sixty were treated as a standing army to defend the Austrian Empire. They were given certain privileges which were chiefly legal fictions; but for the very reason that they were isolated from the rest of Europe they lingered in the legalistic Middle Ages and enjoyed these fictions. They were sunk in wretched poverty. At the end of the sixteenth century there was a peasants’ rising, which was suppressed with the greatest cruelty conceivable. The leader was killed at a mock coronation. The crown set on his head was of white-hot iron. Thereafter, between Austrian tyranny and Turkish raids, the Croats lived submissively, until 1670, when a number of the Croat nobles formed a conspiracy against the Habsburgs. It is curious to observe that these aliens, noted before for their indifference to the interests of their people, had in the years of misfortune grown truly nationalist. They were discovered and beheaded; and their lands were given to Austrian and Italian families, to whom the peasants were simply brute beasts for exploitation.

Meanwhile there developed among the Croats one of the most peculiar passions known in history: a burning, indestructible devotion to the Habsburgs. Because of the historic union with Hungary they sent their Ban, which is to say their Governor, to sit in the Hungarian Diet, while it sat in exile and when it sat again in Budapest, after the Turks had been driven out. But they had their independence; they ratified separate treaties, and nobody said them nay. They used this power to put the Habsburgs firmly on the throne. When Charles VI had no son he put forward the Pragmatic Sanction, which declared that the house of Habsburg could inherit through the female line, and gave the succession to his daughter Maria Theresa. If this had been resisted by the highly militarized state of Croatia other parts of the Empire might have followed suit; but the Croats eagerly accepted. They received a characteristic return. The aristocracy of Hungary was lawless and disobedient, after a hundred and fifty years of demoralization under Turkish rule. Maria Theresa tore up the constitution to please them, and put Croatia under them as a slave state: not as regnum socium, not as a companion state, but as partes adnexæ, annexed territory. Since the Croatian nobles had been destroyed there was now nobody to lead a revolt. The imported aristocracy felt a far greater kinship with the Hungarians of their own class than with the peasants on their lands.

So the eighteenth century went by with the Croats enslaved by Hungary, and their passion for Austria idiotically stable. The increasing incapacity of the Habsburgs led to the crisis of 1848. Among other follies Francis I and Metternich had the unhappy idea of closing the Hungarian Diet for fourteen years, an oppressive act which had raised Hungarian national feeling to fever point. It oddly happened that inherent in Hungarian nationalism was a contempt and loathing for all nationalist sentiments felt by any other people in all conceivable circumstances. This is proved by their extraordinary attitude to the language issue. It infuriated them that they should be forced to speak German and should not be allowed to speak their own language, Magyar; but they were revolted by the idea that any of their neighbours, the Croats, Serbs, or Slovaks, should speak their own language, or indeed anything but Magyar. The famous Hungarian patriot, Lajos Kossuth, showed vehemence on this point that was simply not sane, considering he had not one drop of Hungarian blood in his veins and was purely Slovak. When he took charge of the Nationalist Party he announced it as part of his programme to destroy the identity of Croatia. He declared he would suppress the Croatian language by the sword, and introduced an electoral bill which omitted the name of Croatia and described her departments as Hungarian counties.

The Croats showed their love and trust in Austria once more. They sent a deputation to Vienna to ask the Emperor Ferdinand for divorce from Hungary and direct subordination to the Habsburgs, and to suggest that a young officer named Yellatchitch should be appointed Ban of Croatia. The Emperor behaved with the fluttering inefficiency of the German tourists on the train. He was on the eve of a cataclysm in European history. He was surrounded by revolutionary Viennese, by discontented Czechs, by disloyal Hungarians; the only faithful subjects within sight were the Croats. But he hesitated to grant the deputation its requests, and indeed would have refused them had it not been that certain persons in court circles had taken a liking to Yellatchitch. After Yellatchitch was appointed he spent six months in organizing anti-Hungarian feeling throughout Croatia, and then in September 1848 he marched across the frontier at the head of fifty thousand Croat soldiers and defeated a Hungarian army that was hurrying to Austria to aid the Viennese revolutionaries against the Habsburgs. Nobody has ever said that the Hungarians were not magnificent fighters, but this time the Croats were at least as good, and they had the advantage of meeting an adversary under an insane leader. They did not even have to go on holding the Hungarians at bay, for Kossuth was inspired to the supreme idiocy of formally announcing that the Habsburgs were deposed and that he was ruler of Hungary. Up till then the programme of the revolutionaries had simply been autonomy within the Austrian Empire. This extension meant that Russia felt bound to intervene. Those who fear Bolshevist Russia because of its interventions in the affairs of other countries, which are so insignificant that they have never been rewarded with success, forget that Tsarist Russia carried foreign intervention to a pitch that has never been equalled by any other power, except the modern Fascist states, and that she held it as her right to defend the dynastic principle wherever it was threatened. Kossuth’s proclamation meant that the Tsar immediately poured a hundred and eighty thousand Russians into Hungary. By summer-time in 1849 Kossuth was a fugitive in Turkey.

Yellatchitch and the Croats had saved the Austrian Empire. They got exactly nothing for this service, except this statue which stands in Zagreb market-square. The Habsburgs were still suicidal. They were bent on procuring the dissolution of their Empire, on raping time and begetting on her the Sarajevo assassination. Instead of giving the Croats the autonomy they demanded they now made them wholly subject to the central government, and they freed them from Magyarization to inflict on them the equal brutality of Germanization. And then, ultimately, they practised on them the supreme treachery. When the Dual Monarchy was framed to placate Hungary, the Croats were handed over to the Hungarians as their chattels. I do not know of any nastier act than this in history. 1 It has a kind of lowness that is sometimes exhibited in the sexual affairs of very vulgar and shameless people: a man leaves his wife and induces a girl to become his mistress, then is reconciled to his wife and to please her exposes the girl to some public humiliation. But, all the same, Austria did not forget 1848 and Lajos Kossuth. It left the statue there, just as a reminder. So the Croat helots stood and touched their caps to their Hungarian masters in the shadow of the memorial of the Croat General who led them to victory against a Hungarian army. That is the strangest episode of sovereignty I have ever chanced upon in any land.

Well, what did all this story mean to the people in Croatia, the people I was looking at, the people who had been selling me things? I had come to Yugoslavia because I knew that the past has made the present, and I wanted to see how the process works. Let me start now. It is plain that it means an amount of human pain, arranged in an unbroken continuity appalling to any person cradled in the security of the English or American past. Were I to go down into the market-place, armed with the powers of witchcraft, and take a peasant by the shoulders and whisper to him, ‘In your lifetime, have you known peace?‘ wait for his answer, shake his shoulders and transform him into his father, and ask him the same question, and transform him in his turn to his father, I would never hear the word ’Yes,‘ if I carried my questioning of the dead back for a thousand years. I would always hear, ’No, there was fear, there were our enemies without, our rulers within, there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death.‘

And they had no compensation in their history, for that never once formed a historic legend of any splendid magnitude. It was a record of individual heroism that no nation could surpass, but it had never shaped itself into an indestructible image of triumph that could be turned to as an escape from present failure. The Croats have always been superb soldiers; but their greatest achievements have been merged in the general triumphs of the armies of the Habsburgs, who were at pains that they should never be extricated and distinguished, and their courage and endurance were shown most prodigious in engagements with the Turks which were too numerous and too indecisive to be named in history or even preserved with any vividness in local tradition. The only outstanding military victory to their credit was the rout of the Hungarians commemorated by Yellatchitch’s statue, and this might as well have been a defeat. Again we must go for an analogy to the sexual affairs of individuals. As we grow older and see the ends of stories as well as their beginnings, we realize that to the people who take part in them it is almost of greater importance that they should be stories, that they should form a recognizable pattern, than that they should be happy or tragic. The men and women who are withered by their fates, who go down to death reluctantly but without noticeable regrets for life, are not those who have lost their mates prematurely or by perfidy, or who have lost battles or fallen from early promise in circumstances of public shame, but those who have been jilted or were the victims of impotent lovers, who have never been summoned to command or been given any opportunity for success or failure. Art is not a plaything, but a necessity, and its essence, form, is not a decorative adjustment, but a cup into which life can be poured and lifted to the lips and be tasted. If one’s own existence has no form, if its events do not come handily to mind and disclose their significance, we feel about ourselves as if we were reading a bad book. We can all of us judge the truth of this, for hardly any of us manage to avoid some periods when the main theme of our lives is obscured by details, when we involve ourselves with persons who are insufficiently characterized; and it is possibly true not only of individuals, but of nations. What would England be like if it had not its immense Valhalla of kings and heroes, if it had not its Elizabethan and its Victorian ages, its thousands of incidents which come up in the mind, simple as icons and as miraculous in their suggestion that what England has been it can be again, now and for ever? What would the United States be like if it had not those reservoirs of triumphant will-power, the historical facts of the War of Independence, of the giant American statesmen, and of the pioneering progress into the West, which every American citizen has at his mental command and into which he can plunge for revivification at any minute? To have a difficult history makes, perhaps, a people who are bound to be difficult in any conditions, lacking these means of refreshment. ‘But perhaps,’ said my husband, ‘it does not matter very much.’

Zagreb III

But it matters. He saw, before we went to bed that night, that what happened to these people matters a great deal. As we stood on the steps of the statue there came towards us Constantine, treading delicately among the pigeons that cover all the pavement in the market-square where there are not stalls. He brought his brows together in censure of two of these pigeons which, in spite of the whirling traffic all around them, had felt the necessity to love. ‘Ah, les Croates!’ he murmured, shaking his head; and as we laughed he went on, ‘And I can see that you two also are thinking of committing a misdemeanour of taste. Not so gross, but still a misdemeanour. You are thinking of going up to look at the Old Town, and that is quite wrong. Up there are villas and palaces, which must not be seen in the morning. In the evening, when the dusk is sentimental, we shall go and peer through the gateways and you shall see colonnades and pediments more remote than those of Rome, because they are built in the neo-classical style that was the mode in Vienna a hundred to a hundred and fifty years ago, and you shall see our little Slav contribution, for in the walled garden before the house we will see iron chairs and tables with nobody sitting at them, and you will recognize at a glance that the person who is not sitting there is straight out of Turgeniev. You cannot look at Austria as it was the day before yesterday, at us Slavs as we were yesterday, by broad daylight. It is like the pigeons. But come to the Cathedral, which is so beautiful that you may see it now or any other time.’

So we went up the steep street into the Cathedral Square, and looked for a time at the Archbishop’s palace, with its squat round towers under their candle-extinguisher tops, and then went through the Cathedral’s nineteenth-century false front into the dark and stony plant forms of the Gothic interior. It has been cut about as by a country dressmaker, but it has kept the meditative integrity of darkness considering light, the mathematical aspiration for something above mathematics, which had been the core of its original design, and at that moment it housed the same intense faith that had built it. This was Easter Eve; the great cross had been taken down from the altar and lay propped up before the step, the livid and wounded Christ wincing in the light of the candles set at His feet. It was guarded by two soldiers in the olive uniform of the Yugoslavian Army, who leaned on their rifles as if this was a dead king of earth lying in state. As I looked at them, admiring the unity enjoyed by a state which fights and believes it has a moral right to fight, and would give up either fighting or religion if it felt the two inconsistent, I saw that they were moved by a deep emotion. Their lips were drawn outward from their clenched teeth, they were green as if they were seasick. ‘Are they tired? Do they have to guard the cross for a long time?’ I asked cautiously. ‘No,’ said Constantine, ‘not for more than an hour or two. Then others come.’ ‘Then they are really looking like that,’ I pressed, ‘because it is a great thing for them to guard the dead Christ?’ ‘Certainly,’ he replied. ‘The Croats are such Catholics as you never did see, not in France, not in Italy; and I think you ask that question because you do not understand the Slavs. If we did not feel intensely about guarding the dead Christ we should not put our soldiers to do it, and indeed they would not do it if we put them there, they would go away and do something else. The custom would have died if it had not meant a great deal to us.’ For a long time we watched the wincing Christ and the two boys with bowed heads, who swayed very slightly backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, like candle-flame in a room where the air is nearly still. I had not been wrong. In Yugoslavia there was an intensity of feeling that was not only of immense and exhilarating force, but had an honourable origin, proceeding from realist passion, from whole belief.

We were to learn after that something about the intellectual level of Croatia. In a restaurant beside the Cathedral people awaited us for lunch: a poet and playwright, author of dramas much larger than life, larger even than art, which make Othello seem plotless and light-minded, who looks like Mr Pickwick, and his wife, who had the beauty of a Burne-Jones, the same air of having rubbed holes in her lovely cheeks with her clenched knuckles. They looked up at us absently, said that they had found the poems of Vaughan the Silurist in an anthology of English poems and thought him one of the greatest poets, and, while ordering us an immense meal of which goose-liver and apple sauce were the centrepiece, threw over us the net of an extremely complicated conversation about literature. ‘We think,’ said the playwright, ‘that the greatest writers of recent times are Joseph Conrad, Maxim Gorki, and Jack London.’ We blenched. We thought that in fact these people could have no taste, if they could think both Vaughan and Jack London great. We were wrong. The playwright was actually a real poet, and he did not expect anything but poetic forms to satisfy the highest canons of art. Writers like Shaw and Wells and Péguy and Gide did not seem to him artists at all: they wrote down what one talks in cafés, which is quite a good thing to do if the talk is good enough, but is not serious, because it deals with something as common and renewable as sweat. But pure narration was a form of great importance, because it gathered together experiences that could be assimilated by others of poetic talent and transmuted into higher forms; and he liked Conrad and Jack London and Maxim Gorki because they were collecting experiences which were rare, which they had investigated thoroughly by undergoing them themselves, and which they had tested with an abnormal sensitiveness. But the playwright and his wife had been wondering whether Conrad was not in a class alone, because of the feeling of true tragedy that ran through his works. It never blossomed into poetry, but was it not so definitely the proper subject matter of poetry that he might claim to be, so to speak, on the commissariat of the poetic army?

‘No,’ said my husband suddenly, ‘Conrad has no sense of tragedy at all, but only of the inevitable, and for him the inevitable was never the fulfilment of a principle such as the Greek ananke, but a deroulement of the consequences of an event.’ An example of this, he said, is the story ‘Duel’ in A Set of Six, in which the original event is commonplace, bringing no principle whatsoever into play, and the inevitable consequences are so far-reaching that they are almost ludicrous. But there is no factor involved that might come into operation, that indeed must come into operation so generally in human affairs that as we identify it we feel as if a new phase of our destiny has been revealed to us. The playwright’s wife said that this was true but irrelevant. To her there was a sense of tragedy implied in Conrad’s work not by factual statement but by the rhythm of his language. ’Tchk! Tchk!‘ said Constantine. ’A great symphony must have its themes as well as the emotional colour given by its orchestration. And listen ...‘ He said the sense of inevitability in a work of art should be quite different from the scientific conception of causality, for if art were creative then each stage must be new, must have something over and above what was contained in the previous stages, and the connexion between the first and the last must be creative in the Bergsonian sense. He added that it is to give this creativeness its chance to create what is at once unpredictable and inevitable that an artist must never interfere with his characters to make them prove a moral point, because this is to force them down the path of the predictable. ’Yes, that is what Tolstoy is always doing,‘ said the playwright, ’and all the same he convinces us he is a great artist.‘ ’I feel he is not a great artist,‘ I said, ’I feel he might have been the greatest of all artists, but instead chose to be the second greatest of renegades after Judas.‘ ’I, too!‘ said the poet, who had just sat down at the table. ’I, too!‘

The bottles thick about us, we stayed in the restaurant till it was five o‘clock. We were then discussing Nietzsche’s attitude to music. At eight we were back in the same restaurant, dining with an editor leader of the Croat party which is fighting for autonomy under a federal system, and his wife. Valetta was there, but Constantine was not. The editor, though he himself was a Serb by birth, would not have sat down at the same table with an official of the Yugoslavian Government. And Gregorievitch was not there, not only for that reason, but because he would not have sat down at the same table as the editor, whom he regarded as evil incarnate. He had come in for a glass of brandy that evening, and on hearing where we were to spend the evening he had become Pluto dyspeptic, Pluto sunk in greenish gloom, caterpillar-coloured because of the sins of the world. Yet this editor also would have died for the Slav cause, and had indeed undergone imprisonment for its sake before the war. He is still facing grave danger, for he was running his movement from the point of view of an English pre-war liberal, who abhorred all violence, and he not only attacked the Yugoslavian Government for the repressive methods it used against Croatia, but also those Croats who used violence against the Government and who accepted Hungarian and Italian support for terrorism. He does not mind thus risking the loss of his only friends. He is a great gentleman, an intellectual and a moralist, and has carved himself, working against the grain of the wood, into a man of action.

As we talked of the political situation there ran to our table a beautiful young Russian woman, who could be with us only half an hour because she was supervising a play of hers about Pushkin which had been put on at the National Theatre a few nights before and was a failure. She brought the news that this amazing Easter had now produced a blizzard. On her golden hair and perfect skin and lithe body in its black dress snowflakes were melting, her blood running the better for it; and failure was melting on her like a snowflake also, leaving her glowing. ‘They are hard on my play!’ she cried, choked with the ecstatic laughter of Russian women. ‘Ce n’est pas bien, ce n‘est pas mal, c’est mediocre!‘ The editor, smiling at her beauty and her comet quality, tried to upbraid her for her play. The drama, he said, was a great mystery, one of the most difficult forms of art. All men of genius have tried their hand at a play at some time, and he had read most of them. These people, I realized, could make such universal statements. Both the editor and his wife knew, and knew well, in addition to their native Serbo-Croat, English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Latin, and Greek.

Nearly all these dramas, the editor continued, were bad. The drama demanded concentration on themes which by their very nature tempted to expansion, and only people with a special gift for craftsmanship could handle this problem. And one enormously increased this difficulty if, as she had done, one chose as one’s theme a great man, for what could be more obstinately diffused than the soul of a great man? Often, indeed, the soul of a great man refused to be reduced to the terms necessary even for bare comprehension. And especially was this true of Pushkin. Which of us can understand Pushkin? At that the editor and the editor’s wife and Valetta and the Russian all began to talk at once, their faces coming close together in a bright square about the middle of the table. The talk had been in French, it swung to Serbo-Croat, it ended in Russian. My husband and I sat tantalized to fury. We knew Pushkin only by translation; we found Evgenye Onegin like something between Don Juan and Winthrop Mackworth Praed, and we liked his short stories rather less than Nathaniel Hawthorne’s; and obviously we are wrong, for because of limitations of language we are debarred from seeing something that is obvious to unsealed eyes as the difference between a mule and a Derby winner.

But the Russian stood up. She had to go back to the theatre to supervise the crowd that in the last scene of the play wept outside Pushkin’s house while he was dying. It was plainly the real reason that she was leaving us, and not an excuse. There was nothing more indicative of the high level of culture among these people than their capacity to discuss the work of one amongst them with complete detachment. But before she went she made a last defence. For a short time she had found herself united in experience with Pushkin, and even if that union covered only a small part of Pushkin, it was worth setting down, it might give a clue to the whole of him. Looking past her at her beauty, in the odd way that men do, the editor said, though only to tease her, ‘Experience indeed! Are you sure you have enough experience? Do you think you have lived enough to write?’ She answered with an air of evasion suggesting that she suspected she might some day have a secret but was too innocent to know what it was, though she was actually a married woman at the end of her twenties, if not in her early thirties: ‘I will not argue that, because the connexion between art and life is not as simple as that!’ But then her face crinkled into laughter again, ‘Sometimes the connexion between art and life is very close! Think of it, there is a woman in the crowd in this last scene whose cries always give a lead to the others and have indeed given the end of the play much of its effect, they are always so sad. The audience cannot hear the words the actors in the crowd are using, they only catch the accent of the whole sentence. And as this woman has caught the very accent of anxious grief, I listened to what she had to say. And she was crying, “Oh, God! Oh, God! Let Pushkin die before the last bus leaves for my suburb!”’ She turned from us laughing, but turned back again: ‘That’s something I don’t like! There is a mockery inherent in the art of acting, the players must make everybody weep but themselves; if they don’t weep they must jeer inside themselves at the people who do weep!’ She shuddered, wishing she had never written the play, never had tried her luck in the theatre, a child who had chosen the wrong birthday treat. She brushed the sadness from her mouth and went away, laughing. This, so far as talk was concerned, was a representative day in Zagreb.


‘This is a very delightful place,’ said my husband the next morning. It was Easter Sunday, and the waiter had brought in on the breakfast-tray dyed Easter eggs as a present from the management, and we were realizing that the day before had been wholly pleasant. ‘Of course, Austria did a lot for the place,’ said an Englishman, a City friend of my husband‘s, who was staying in the hotel and had come to have breakfast. ’I suppose so,‘ said my husband, and then caught himself up. ’No, what am I saying? It cannot be so, for this is not in the remotest degree like Austria. Austrians do sit in cafés for hours, and they talk incessantly, but they have not this raging polyglot intellectual curiosity, they have not this way of turning out universal literature on the floor as if it were a ragbag, which indeed it is, and seeking for a fragment that is probably not there, but is probably part of an arcanum of literature that exists only in their own heads. In cultured Vienna homes they often give parties to hear the works of great writers read aloud: only a few months ago I spent an evening at the house of a Viennese banker, listening to the poems of Wildgans. But it would be impossible to read aloud to a party of Yugoslavs, unless one bound and gagged the guests beforehand.‘

There came into the room Constantine and Gregorievitch, who was still a little cold to us because of the company we had kept on the previous night. ‘What has Austria done for you?’ asked my husband. ‘Nothing,’ said Constantine; ‘it has not the means. What can a country without history do for a people with a glorious history like the Serbs?’ ‘I was talking of Croatia,’ said my husband. Gregorievitch said anxiously, as if he had been detecting himself looking in the mirror, ‘The answer stands.’ ‘But the Austrians have their history,’ objected my husband. ‘No,’ said Gregorievitch, ‘we are its history. We Slavs in general, we Croats in particular. The Habsburgs won their victories with Czechs, with Poles, and, above all, with Croats. Without us the Austrians would have no history, and if we had not stood between them and the Turks, Vienna would now be a Moslem city.’ The Englishman laughed, as if a tall story that knew its own height had been told. Gregorievitch looked at him as if he had blasphemed. ‘Is it a little thing that only yesterday it was decided that Europe should not be Islamized?’ he asked. ‘What does he mean?’ asked the Englishman. ‘That the Turks besieged Vienna in 1683 and were turned back,’ said my husband, ‘and that if they had not been turned back it is possible that they would have swept across all Europe.’ ‘Is that true?’ asked the Englishman. ‘Yes,’ said my husband. ‘But it’s not yesterday,’ said the Englishman. ‘To these people it is,’ said my husband, ‘and I think they are right. It’s uncomfortably recent, the blow would have smashed the whole of our Western culture, and we shouldn’t forget that such things happen.’ ‘But ask them,’ said the Englishman, ‘if Austria did not do a lot for them in the way of sanitary services.’ Gregorievitch looked greenly into the depths of the mirror as if wondering how he showed not signs of gaiety but signs of life under the contamination of these unfastidious English. ‘Your friend, who showed no emotion at the thought of the spires of Vienna being replaced by minarets, doubtless would expect us to forgive the Austrians for building oubliettes for our heroes so long as they built us chalets for our necessities. Are you sure,’ he said, speaking through his teeth, ‘that you really wish to go to hear mass at the village of Shestine? It is perhaps not the kind of expedition that the English find entertaining?’

We drove through a landscape I have often seen in Chinese pictures: wooded hills under snow looked like hedgehogs drenched in icing sugar. On a hill stood a little church, full to the doors, bright inside as a garden, glowing with scarlet and gold and blue and the unique, rough, warm white of homespun, and shaking with song. On the women’s heads were red handkerchiefs printed with yellow leaves and peacocks’ feathers, their jackets were solidly embroidered with flowers, and under their white skirts were thick red or white woollen stockings. Their men were just as splendid in sheepskin leather jackets with applique designs in dyed leathers, linen shirts with fronts embroidered in cross-stitch and fastened with buttons of Maria Theresa dollars or lumps of turquoise matrix, and homespun trousers gathered into elaborate boots. The splendour of these dresses was more impressive because it was not summer. The brocade of a rajah’s costume or the silks of an Ascot crowd are within the confines of prudence, because the rajah is going to have a golden umbrella held over him and the Ascot crowd is not far from shelter, but these costumes were made for the winter in a land of unmetalled roads, where snow lay till it melted and mud might be knee-deep, and showed a gorgeous lavishness, for hours and days, and even years had been spent in the stuffs and skins and embroideries which were thus put at the mercy of the bad weather. There was lavishness also in the singing that poured out of these magnificently clad bodies, which indeed transformed the very service. Western church music is almost commonly petitioning and infantile, a sentiment cozening for remedy against sickness or misfortune, combined with a masochist enjoyment in the malady, but this singing spoke of health and fullness.

The men stood on the right of the church and the women on the left. This is the custom also in the Orthodox Church, and it is reasonable enough. At a ceremony which sets out to be the most intense of all contacts with reality, men and women, who see totally different aspects of reality, might as well stand apart. It is inappropriate for them to be mixed as in the unit of the family, where men and women attempt with such notorious difficulty to share their views of reality for social purposes. From this divided congregation came a flood of song which asked for absolutely nothing, which did not ape childhood, which did not pretend that sour is sweet and pain wholesome, but which simply adored. If there be a God who is fount of all goodness, this is the tribute that should logically be paid to Him; if there be only goodness, it is still a logical tribute. And again, the worship, like their costume, was made astonishing by their circumstances. These people, who had neither wealth nor security, nor ever had had them, stood before the Creator, and thought not what they might ask for but what they might give. To be among them was like seeing an orchard laden with apples or a field of ripe wheat, endowed with a human will and using it in accordance with its own richness.

This was not simply due to these people’s faith. There are people who hold precisely the same faith whose worship produces an effect of poverty. When Heine said that Amiens Cathedral could have been built only in the past, because the men of that day had convictions, whereas we moderns have only opinions, and something more than opinions are needed for building a cathedral, he put into circulation a half-truth which has done a great deal of harm. It matters supremely what kind of men hold these convictions. This service was impressive because the congregation was composed of people with a unique sort of healthy intensity. At the end we went out and stood at the churchyard gate, and watched the men and women clumping down a lane to the village through the deep snow, with a zest that was the generalized form of the special passion they had exhibited in the church. I had not been wrong about what I had found among the Yugoslavs.

‘Are they not beautiful, the costumes of Croatia?’ asked Gregorievitch, his very spectacles beaming, his whole appearance made unfamiliar by joy. ‘Are they not lovely, the girls who wear them, and are not the young men handsome? And they are very pious.’ ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘I have never heard a mass sung more fervently.’ ‘I do not mean that,’ he said irritably, ‘I meant pious in their Croat patriotism.’ It appeared that the inhabitants of Shestine wore these wonderful clothes not from custom but from a positive and virile choice. They would naturally wear ordinary Western European clothes, as most other peasants round Zagreb do, but they are conscious that the great patriot Anton Starchevitch is buried in the graveyard of their church, and they know that to him everything Croatian was precious. We went and stood by his tomb in the snow, while Gregorievitch, taller than ever before though not erect, hung over its railings like a weeping willow and told us how Starchevitch had founded the Party of the Right, which defied both Austria and Hungary and attempted to negotiate his country back to the position of independence it had enjoyed eight hundred years before. ‘It was Starchevitch’s motto, “Croatia only needs God and the Croats,” ’ said Gregorievitch. ‘For thirty years when the glamour and wealth and triumphant cruelty of nineteenth-century Hungary might have tempted us young Croats to forget our country, he made us understand that if we forgot the tradition of our race we lost our souls as if by sin.’ We were conscious of the second coat that lies about a snow-covered world, the layer of silence; we smelt the wood-smoke from the village below. ‘As a child I was taken to see him,’ said Gregorievitch, his voice tense as if he were a Welsh evangelist; ‘we all drew strength from him.’ Constantine, looking very plump and cosy, announced, ‘His mother was a Serb.’ ‘But she had been received at the time of her marriage into the True Church,’ said Gregorievitch, frowning.

We moved away, and as Constantine and I stepped into the snow-drifts of the lane we passed three men, dark as any Hindu, carrying drums and trumpets. ‘Ohe! Here are the gipsies,‘ said Constantine, and we smiled at them, seeing pictures of some farm kitchen crammed with people in dresses brighter than springtime, all preparing with huge laughter to eat mountains of lamb and pig and drink wells of wine. But the men looked at us sullenly, and one said with hatred, ’Yes, we are gipsies.‘ Both Constantine and I were so startled that we stopped in the snow and gaped at each other, and then walked on in silence. In the eastern parts of Yugoslavia, in Serbia and in Macedonia, the gipsies are proud of being gipsies, and other people, which is to say the peasants, for there are practically none other, honour them for their qualities, for their power of making beautiful music and dancing, which the peasant lacks, and envy them for being exempt from the necessities of toil and order which lie so heavily on the peasant; and this has always been my natural attitude to those who can please as I cannot. It was inconceivable to both Constantine and myself that the gipsies should have thought we held them in contempt or that we should have expressed contempt aloud if we had felt it.

The whole world was less delightful. The snow seemed simply weather, the smell of the wood-smoke gave no pleasure. ‘I tell you, Central Europe is too near the Croats,’ said Constantine. ‘They are good people, very good people, but they are possessed by the West. In Germany and Austria they despise the gipsies. They have several very good reasons. The art of the gipsies commands no respect, for the capitalist system has discredited popular art, and only exploits virtuosos. If I go and play Liszt’s scaramoucheries very fast, thump-thump-thump and tweedle-tweedle-tweedle, they will think more of it than the music those three men play, though it is perfectly adapted to certain occasions. Also the gipsies are poor, and the capitalist system despises people who do not acquire goods. Also the West is mad about cleanliness, and the gipsies give dirt its rights, perhaps too liberally. We Serbs are not bourgeois, so none of these reasons make us hate the gipsies, and, believe me, our world is more comfortable.’

I looked back at the gipsies, who were now breasting the hill, huddled under the harsh wind that combed its crest. Life had become infinitely poorer since we left church. The richness of the service had been consonant with an order of society in which peasants and gipsies were on an equal footing and there was therefore no sense of deprivation and need; but here was the threat of a world where everybody was needy, since the moneyed people had no art and the people with art had no money. Something alien and murderous had intruded here into the Slav pattern, and its virtue had gone out of it.

Two Castles

Yes, the German influence was like a shadow on the Croat World. We were to learn that again the next day. Gregorievitch had arranged to take us on Easter Monday into the country, with Constantine and Valetta and some young Croat doctors. It is a sign of the bitterness felt by the Croats against the Serbs that because we were in the company of Constantine and Gregorievitch, who were representatives of the Yugoslavian ideas, very few Croats would meet us: and Valetta, who came to see us because of an existing friendship with me, was slightly embarrassed by the situation, though he concealed it. These Croat doctors were ready to come with us, because it was our intention to visit first a castle belonging to a great Hungarian family who still used it as a residence for a part of the year, and then to go on to another castle, once owned by the same family, but now used as a sanatorium for tuberculosis by a Health Insurance Society. This gave them a professional excuse. But it snowed all through the night of Easter Sunday, and we woke to an Arctic morning, so we telephoned to ask Valetta and these doctors to come all the same and have breakfast, though the expedition would obviously have to be cancelled. They came and proved to be delightful young men, graduates of Zagreb University, with hopes of post-graduate work in Vienna and Berlin and Paris, and we were having a pleasant conversation over our coffee and boiled eggs when the door opened and Gregorievitch came in, and we saw that we had done wrong.

It is of the highest importance that the reader should understand Gregorievitch. If it were not for a small number of Gregorievitches the eastern half of Europe (and perhaps the other half as well) would have been Islamized, the tradition of liberty would have died for ever under the Habsburgs, the Romanoffs, and the Ottoman Empire, and Bolshevism would have become anarchy and not a system which may yet be turned to many uses. His kind has profoundly affected history, and always for the better. Reproachfully his present manifestation said to us, ‘Are you not ready yet?’ We stared up at him, and my husband asked, ‘But is not the weather far too bad?’ He answered, ‘The sun is not shining, but the countryside will be there all the same, will it not? And the snow is not too deep.’ ‘Are you sure?’ my husband asked doubtfully. ‘I am quite sure,’ answered Gregorievitch. ‘I have rung up a friend of mine, a general who has specialized in mechanical transport, and I have told him the make of our automobiles, and he is of the opinion that we will be able to visit both castles.‘

There, as often before and after, Gregorievitch proved that the essential quality of Slavs is not, as might be thought, imagination. He is characteristically, and in an endearing way, a Slav, but he has no imagination at all. He cannot see that the factual elements in an experience combine into more than themselves. He would not, for example, let us go to the theatre at Zagreb. ‘No, I will not get you tickets,’ he said with a repressed indignation, like a brawl in a crypt, ‘I will not let you waste your money in that way. Since you cannot follow Serbo-Croat easily even when it is spoken slowly, and your husband does not understand it at all, what profit can it be for you to go to our theatre?’ He envisaged attendance at a play as an attempt to obtain the information which the author has arranged for the characters to impart to the audience by their words and actions; and that the actions could be used as a basis for guesswork to the words, that the appearance of the actors, the inflections of their voices, and the reactions they elicited from the audience, could throw light not only on the play but the culture of which it was a part was beyond his comprehension. So now he conceived of an expedition to the country as being undertaken for the purpose of observing the physical and political geography of the district, and this could obviously be pursued in any climatic conditions save those involving actual physical discomfort. Nevertheless the Slav quality of passion was there, to disconcert the English or American witness, for it existed in a degree which is found among Westerners only in highly imaginative people. As he stood over us, grey and grooved and Plutoish, he palpitated with the violence of his thought, ‘These people will go away without seeing the Croatian countryside, and some day they may fail Croatia for the lack of that knowledge.’ His love of Croatia was of volcanic ardour; and its fire was not affected by his knowledge that most of the other people who loved Croatia were quite prepared, because he favoured union with the Serbs, to kill him without mercy in any time of crisis.

We rose, abashed, and filed out to the automobiles; and indeed at first the weather was not too bad. We went out of the town in a light drizzle, passing a number of women who were hurrying to market. They wore red kerchiefs on their heads, red shawls and white skirts, and carried red umbrellas in one hand, while with the other they pulled their skirts high over their red woollen stockings, so high that some showed their very clean white drawers of coarse linen edged with elaborate broderie anglaise. There was a Breughel-like humour about their movements, as if they were stylizing their own struggles with nature; their faces showed that there was nothing brutish about them. This was very marked among the old women. Slavs grow old more beautifully than the people of other races, for with the years their flesh clings closer to the bone instead of sagging away from it. This ribbon of laughing peasants ran beside us in an unbroken comic strip, right out into the country, where they exercised their humour with extreme good temper, for the automobiles raised fans of liquid mud on each side of them, and everyone we met had to jump some distance into deep snow to keep their clothes dry and clean. But they all made a joke of it. In one village, where the plaster houses were all painted a deep violet which was given great depth and vibrancy by the snow and the grey sky, a lovely young girl laughingly put her umbrella in front of her and mocked us and herself with clownish gestures that were exquisitely graceful and yet very funny.

Then we saw nobody on the roads. The snow began to fall thickly and to lie. People at the door of a cottage smiled, waved, shivered theatrically, and banged the door. We passed through a broad valley paved with the dark glass of floods. In the driving snow a birch wood looked like a company of dancing naked nymphs. Then there was another Chinese landscape of wooded hills furred with snow, that went on for a long time; they were unwinding the whole scroll for us to see. Here and there the scroll was damaged. The painting of the woods stopped abruptly, and we could see nothing but the silk on which the artist worked; the hills were hidden, and there was nothing but the mist. Sometimes it parted and we saw a gross-towered, butter-coloured Schloss. They told us what Austrian or Hungarian family had lived there, and what it was now: a textile factory, a canning plant, a convalescent home.

It grew colder. We stopped in a little town and went into the hotel, and warmed ourselves with plum brandy, which is the standard odd-time drink in Yugoslavia. The landlord spoke to us proudly of the place, telling us they had a beautiful memorial to some Croat patriots in the market-place, and that not far away they had found the skeleton of a prehistoric man. We said that we knew how that had happened. The poor man had been taken for a nice drive in the country by Gregorievitch. This delighted Gregorievitch; it was pathetic to see how pleased he was because the young Croats could lay aside their hatred of Yugoslavia and joke with him for a little. He was very happy indeed when, because he had pretended to be aggrieved, we drank another round of plum brandies to his honour. Then we started out again, into hillier country where the snow was still deeper. At the top of a hill our automobile stuck in a snowdrift. Peasants ran out of a cottage near by, shouting with laughter because machinery had made a fool of itself, and dug out the automobile with incredible rapidity. They were doubtless anxious to get back and tell a horse about it.

Thereafter the snow was so thick on the wooded hills that the treetrunks were mere lines and the branches were finer than any lines drawn by a human hand. No detail was visible in the houses of the villages at the base of the hills. They were blocks of soft black shadow edged with the pure white fur of the snow on the roofs. Above the hills there was a layer of mist that drew a dull white smudge between this pure black-and-white world and the dark-grey sky. There was no colour anywhere except certain notes of pale bright gold made by three things. So late was this snowfall that the willows were well on in bud; their branches were too frail to carry any weight of snow, and the buds were too small to be discernible, so each tree was a golden-green phantom against the white earth. There were also certain birds that were flying over the fields, bouncing in the air as if they were thrown by invisible giants at play; their breasts were pale gold. And where the snow had been thickest on the banks of the road it had fallen away in a thick crust, showing primroses. They were the same colour as the birds’ breasts. Sometimes the road ran over a stream, and we looked down on the willows at its edge. From this aspect the snow their green-gold branches supported looked like a white body prostrate in woe, an angel that had leaped down in suicide from the ramparts of the sky.

We saw no one. Once a horse, harsh grey against a white field, gave way to that erotic panic peculiar to its species, which rolls the eye not only in fear but enjoyment, that seeks to be soothed with an appetite revealing that it plainly knows soothing to be possible, and pursues what it declares it dreads. It leaped the low hedge and fled along the road before us; and out of a farm on the further side of the field there ran a man, splendid in a sapphire sheepskin jacket, who remembered to close the door behind him as carefully as if it were not merely an extreme of temperature he were shutting out, but an actual destroying element of fire. When he caught the horse and dragged it off the road, our chauffeur shouted our thanks and regrets to him; but he made no answer. He stood still with the horse pressing back its head against his shoulder, in voluptuous exaggeration of its distress, and from the contraction of the man’s brows and his lips it could be seen that he was barely conscious of the situation which he was remedying, and could think of nothing but the intense cold. To the eye the world seemed unified by the spreading whiteness of the snow, yet actually each horse, even each person, was shut off from all others in an abnormal privacy by this pricking, burning icy air.

We passed through a village, still as midnight at midday, and stoneblind, every door and window closed. ‘Think of it,’ said Valetta; ‘in all those cottages there are sitting nothing but dukes and duchesses, barons and baronesses.’ The peasants here had received an emperor handsomely when by the stupidity of his nobles he had found himself tired and wounded and humpy and alone after a day’s hunting, and he ennobled the whole village by patents of perfect validity. And a little further on was our journey’s end. We got out of the automobile and found ourselves at a lodge gateway with extravagant stables behind it, and what were recognizably ‘grounds’ beyond, the kind of grounds that were made in England during the nineteenth century after the Georgian and Regency schools of landscape gardening, shrubby and expensive and futile; these sloped to the base of an extremely steep sugar-loaf hill which had something like Balliol on the top of it. As we gaped a mist swooped on us and all was suddenly veiled by the whirling confetti of a gentle snowstorm. Not unnaturally, nobody was about.

‘What can have happened to them all?’ asked Gregorievitch. He went and pounded on the door of the porter’s lodge, and when an astonished face appeared at the upper windows he demanded, ‘And where is Nikolai? Why is Nikolai not here to meet us?’ ‘He is up at the castle,’ said the porter; ‘he did not think you would be coming.’ ‘Thought we were not coming!’ exclaimed Gregorievitch. ‘What made him think we were not coming?’ It had distressed him very much to find that Valetta and the Croats and my husband and I seemed unable to grasp the common-sense point of view that if one wanted to see a castle one went and saw it, no matter what the weather, since the castle would certainly be there, no matter what the weather; but he had excused it because we were by way of being intellectuals and therefore might be expected to be a little fanciful. Here, however, were quite simple people who were talking the same sort of nonsense. He said testily, ‘Well, we will go up and find him for ourselves.’ We climbed the sugar-loaf hill by whimsically contrived paths and stone steps, among fir trees that were striped black and white like zebras, because of the branches and the layer of white snow that lay on each of them, while the porter, who was now invisible to us through the snow, cried up to the castle, ‘Nicolai! Nikolai! They have come!’ I was warm because I was wearing a squirrel coat, but all the men were shaking with cold, and we were all up to our knees in snow. At last we came to a walk running round some ramparts, and Nikolai, who was a very handsome young peasant with golden hair and blue eyes framed by long lashes, dropped the broom with which he had been trying to clear a path for us and ran towards Gregorievitch, crying, ‘How brave you are to make such a journey in this weather!’ ‘Lord above us,’ said Gregorievitch, ‘what does everybody mean? Open the door, open the door!’

When the door was opened the point of this fierce Arctic journey proved to be its pointlessness. For indeed there was nothing in the castle to match the wildness of the season, of the distraught horses and the wavering birds, of Gregorievitch and his people. A fortress six hundred years old had been encased in a vast building executed in that baronial style which owed so much more to literary than to architectural inspiration, having been begotten by Sir Walter Scott; and though the family which owned it had been unusually intelligent, and free-minded to the point of being Croatian patriots, their riches had brought them under the cultural influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. So there were acres of walls covered from floor to ceiling with hunting trophies. These never, in any context, give an impression of fullness. I remembered the story of the old Hungarian count who was heard to mutter as he lay dying, ‘And then the Lord will say, “Count, what have you done with your life?” and I shall have to say, “Lord, I have shot a great many animals.” Oh, dear! Oh, dear! It doesn’t seem enough.’ Nobody but the fool despises hunting, which is not only a pleasure of a high degree, but a most valuable form of education in any but a completely mechanized state. Marmont, who was one of Napoleon’s most intelligent marshals, explains in his memoirs that he was forced to hunt every day from two o‘clock to nightfall from the time he was twelve, and this put him into such perfect training that no ordeal to which he was subjected in all his military career ever disconcerted him. But as a sole offering to the Lord it was not enough, and it might be doubted if this was the right kind of hunting. These trophies spoke of nineteenth-century sport, which was artificial, a matter of reared beasts procured for the guns by peasants, and so essentially sedentary that the characteristic sportsman of the age, commemorated in photographs, had a remarkable paunch.

There was also a clutterment of the most hideous furniture of the sort that was popular in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the second half of the nineteenth century, walloping stuff bigger than any calculations of use could have suggested, big in accordance with a vulgar idea that bigness is splendid, and afflicted with carving that made even the noble and austere substance of wood ignoble as fluff. It would have been interesting to know where they had put the old furniture that must have been displaced by these horrors. One of the most beautiful exhibitions in Vienna, the Mobiliendepot, in the Mariahilfestrasse, was composed chiefly of the Maria Theresa and Empire furniture which the Emperor Franz Josef and the Empress Elizabeth banished to their attics when they had refurnished their palaces from the best firms in the Tottenham Court Road.

There were also a great many bad pictures of the same era: enormous flushed nudes which would have set a cannibal’s mouth watering; immense and static pictures showing what historical events would have looked like if all the personages had been stuffed first; and one of the family had over-indulged in the pleasures of amateur art. She herself had been a woman of enormous energy; a fashionable portrait painter had represented her, full of the uproarious shire-horse vitality common to the women admired by Edward VII, standing in a pink-satin ball dress and lustily smelling a large bouquet of fat roses in a massive crystal vase, apparently about to draw the flowers actually out of the water by her powerful inhalations. This enormous energy had covered yards of the castle walls with pictures of Italian peasant girls holding tambourines, lemon branches, or amphoræ, which exactly represented what is meant by the French word ‘niaiserie.’

There were also some portraits of male members of the family, physically superb, in the white-and-gold uniform of Hungarian generals, solemnized and uplifted by the belief that they had mastered a ritual that served the double purpose of establishing their personal superiority and preserving civilization as they knew it; it was as pathetic to see them here as it would be to go into the garret of a starving family to see the picture of some of its members who had been renowned on the stage as players of kings and emperors. It might be said that though all these things were poor in themselves, they represented a state superior to the barbaric origins of Croatian society. But it was not so, for the family portraits which depicted the generations of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries showed people with their heads held high by pride and their features organized by intelligence, set on canvas by artists at least as accomplished and coherent in vision as the painters of our Tudor portraits. They gave documentary proof that German influence had meant nothing but corruption.

The corruption was profound. I left my companions at one point and turned back to a bedroom, to look again from its windows on an enchanting view of a little lake, now a pure sheet of snow, which lay among some groves below the sugar-loaf hill. I found Gregorievitch sitting on the window-sill, with his back to the view, looking about him at the hideous pictures and furniture with a dreamy and absorbed expression. ‘It would be very pleasant to live this way,’ he said, without envy, but with considerable appetite. This was the first time I had heard him say anything indicating that he had ever conceived living any life other than his own, which had been dedicated to pain and danger and austerity; and I could be sure that it was not the money of the people who lived in the castle, not the great fires that warmed them or the ample meals they ate, it was their refinement that he envied, their access to culture. I had never thought before what mischief a people can suffer from domination by their enemies. This man had lived his whole life to free Croatia from Hungarian rule; he had been seduced into exalting Hungarian values above Croatian values by what was an essential part of his rebellion. He had had to tell himself and other people over and over again that the Hungarians were taking the best of everything and leaving the worst to the Croats, which was indeed true so far as material matters were concerned. But the human mind, if it is framing a life of action, cannot draw fine distinctions. He had ended by believing that the Hungarians had had the best of everything in all respects, and that this world of musty antlers and second-rate pictures and third-rate furniture was superior to the world where peasants sang in church with the extreme discriminating fervour which our poets envy, knowing themselves lost without it, and wore costumes splendid in their obedience to those principles of design which our painters envy, knowing themselves lost without instinctive knowledge of them.

On the way to the sanatorium the party was now more silent. The young men were hungry, we had all of us wet feet, the sky threatened more snow, and the houses were now few and widely scattered. We could understand enough to realize that it was worrying them a little that if the automobiles broke down we should have a long distance to walk before we found shelter. Nobody, however, seemed to blame Gregorievitch. It was felt that he was following his star.

It was not till after an hour and a half that we arrived at the sanatorium, which was a fine baroque castle set on a hill, once owned by the same family which had owned the other castle, but now abandoned because the lands all around it had been taken away and given to peasant tenants under the very vigorous Agrarian Reform Scheme which the Yugoslavian Government put into effect after the war. This visit was less of an anticlimax than the other, for here was the real Slav quality. As we came to the gates a horde of people rushed out to meet us, and as my husband, who finds one of his greatest pleasures in inattention, had never grasped that this castle had been converted into a sanatorium, he believed them to be the family retainers, and wondered that such state could be kept up nowadays. But they were only the patients. They rushed out, men and women and children, all mixed together, some wearing ordinary Western costume, and some in peasant costume; some of the men wore the Moslem fez, for the Health Insurance Society which manages the sanatorium draws its members from all over Yugoslavia. They looked strangely unlike hospital patients. There was not the assumption of innocence which is noticeable in all but the wilder inmates of an English institution, the tramps and the eccentrics; not the pretence that they like starched sheets as a boundary to life, that the authority of doctors and nurses is easy to accept and reasonable in action, that a little larking is the only departure from hospital routine they could possibly desire, that they were as Sunday-school children mindful of their teachers. These people stood there, dark, inquisitive, critical, our equals, fully adult.

This was, of course, partly due to their racial convictions. Many of them came from parts of Yugoslavia where there is still no trace of a class system, where there are only peasants. They had therefore not the same sense that in going into hospital a worker placed himself in the hands of his superior, and that he must please him by seeming undangerous. But also, as it appeared when he went into the doctor’s room, the theory of illness was not the same as in a Western European hospital. We found there the superintendent, who was a Serb though long resident in Croatia and pro-Croat in politics, and his three Croat assistants who all had an oddly unmedical air to English eyes. I do not mean that they looked unbusinesslike; on the contrary, each of them had a sturdy air of competence and even power. But there was in their minds no vista of shiny hospital corridors, leading to Harley Street and the peerage, with blameless tailoring and courtesy to patients and the handling of committees as subsidiary obligations, such as appears before most English doctors. There was no sense that medical genius must frustrate its own essential quality, which is a fierce concentration on the truth about physical problems, by cultivating self-restraint and a conventional blankness which are incompatible with any ardent pursuit. These people had an air of pure positiveness which amounted to contentiousness. They might have been bull-fighters.

They were bull-fighters, of course. The bull was tuberculosis. The formalities of our reception were got over in a minute. Had I been visiting a sanatorium in England cold and with wet feet I would have had to go to the matron’s room, and time would have been wasted. Here we shook hands, hurried to the radiators, sat down on them, took off our shoes, and pressed our stocking soles against the warm iron, while the doctors talked their tauromachy around us. Did we know that tuberculosis was the scourge of Southern Slavs? It had to be so, because the country was being rapidly industrialized. Peasants came to the town blankly ignorant of hygiene, drawn by wages that looked high on paper and were in fact far too low to buy proper housing or clothing; and there was still so little hospital treatment that a tuberculosis case was as likely as not to remain untreated and spread infection. And this was not because they were Balkans. They said that with a sudden leap of fire to their eyes, which could be understood by anyone who has heard Germans or Austrians use the adjective ‘Balkan,’ with a hawking excess of gross contempt. We English, they said, had had just as much tuberculosis at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

I have acquired, painfully enough, some knowledge of sanatoria; and looking round me as they talked, I could see that in a way this sanatorium was frightful and, in another, most excellent. The first door we opened showed us the anachronistic character of the building in which it had been installed. We stepped suddenly into the opaque darkness, the inconquerable midday chill, of the family chapel, with a gilt and bosomy baroque Virgin and half a dozen cherubs ballooning above the altar, and two of the family gaunt in marble on their tombs. A congregation of nuns, each a neat little core to a great sprawling fruit of black-and-white robes, swivelled round on their knees to see who the intruders might be, and the Mother Superior, with a gesture of hospitality completely in consonance with the air of the presiding Virgin behind the altar, ceased the chanting of the service until we had ended our visit. Such a gesture had probably not been made in Western Europe for three hundred years. I do not believe it is easy to convert to hospital use a seventeenth-century castle built on three stories round an immense courtyard, with immensely high rooms and floors of stone and marble, and to staff it with people so much in accord with that same century that to them everything on the margin of hygiene, the whole context of life in which the phrase of science appears, must have been wholly incomprehensible.

But the place was clean, fantastically clean, clean like a battleship. There at least was something that an English hospital authority would have had to approve; perhaps, however, the only thing he could. The patients within doors were shocking to Western theories as they had been when they had met us out of doors on our arrival. They were evidently preocupied with the imaginative realization of their sickness, and no one was attempting to interfere with them in their pleasure. This was a visiting day; and in what had been the grand drawing-room of the ladies of the castle, a large apartment adorned with sugary, Italianate, late nineteenth-century murals representing the islands of the blest, women sat holding their handkerchiefs to their lips with the plangent pathos of la dame aux camélias, and men assumed the sunrise mixed with sunset glamour of the young Keats, while their families made no attempt to distract them from these theatrical impersonations but watched with sympathy, as audiences should. The patients who had no visitors were resting; and when we went into the wards they were lying on their beds, the quilts drawn over their mouths, the open windows showing a firmament unsteadily yet regularly cleft by the changing stripes of snowfall. Shivering, they stared at us, their eyes enormous over the edges of their quilts, enjoying at its most dramatic the sense of the difference between our health and their disease; and indeed in the dark beam of their hypnotic and hypnotized gaze the strangeness of their plight became newly apparent, the paradox of the necessity which obliged them to accept as a saviour the cold which their bodies believed to be an enemy, and to reject as death the warmth which was the known temperature of life. The doctors beside us appeared to take for granted this atmosphere of poetic intensity, and made none of the bouncing gestures, none of the hollow invocations to optimism which in England are perpetually inflicted on any of the sick who show consciousness of their state. The tolerance of these doctors, indeed, was wide. As we passed along a corridor overlooking the courtyard, there trembled, in one of the deep recesses each window made in the thickness of the wall, a shadow that was almost certainly two shadows, fused by a strong preference. ‘Yes,’ said the superintendent, ‘they sometimes fall in love, and it is a very good thing. It sometimes makes all the difference, they get a new appetite for living, and then they do so well.’ That was the answer to all our Western scruples. The patients were doing so well. Allowed to cast themselves for great tragic roles, they were experiencing the exhilaration felt by great tragic actors. It was not lack of control, lack of taste, lack of knowledge that accounted for permission of what was not permitted in the West. Rather was it the reverse. Our people could not have handled patients full of the dangerous thoughts of death and love; these people had such resources that they did not need to empty their patients of such freight.

The doctors themselves were living richly. They were enjoying the sense of power which comes to the scientist when he applies his knowledge to a primitive people. They talked of the peasants as of beautiful and vigorous animals that have to be coaxed and trapped and bludgeoned into submitting to the treatment which will keep alive the flame in their bodies without which they will have neither beauty nor vigour. So, of course, do any colonial administrators; but these doctors cared for loveliness with the uncorrupted eye of an unmechanized race, and though they were divided from the patients by the gulf that divides a university graduate from a peasant, that gulf was bridged by the consciousness that they all were Slavs and that their forbears had all been peasants together. Each of these doctors was a magician who was working his spells to save his father and his mother. It is this same situation, I imagine, which is responsible for the peculiar enthusiasm shown by officials engaged in the social services in Soviet Russia. This is often regarded as a specific effect of a Communist regime, but it could certainly be matched all over the Balkans, in all the Baltic provinces that were formerly under the Tsardom, and in Turkey. The old and the new sometimes make an intoxicating fusion. These doctors were enchanted with their X-ray department and their operating theatre where they had a pretty record of successful collapses of the lung, and they were enchanted, too, when they hurried us down the corridors, down a staircase of stone so old that it was black as iron, and through a door of wood so old that it shone as glass, to a vast kitchen, obscure in its great vaulted roof, glowing near the fires which were roaring like the night wind in a forest. At long tables half as thick as tree-trunks, pretty nuns in white robes put the last touches to that state of order which women make twice a day after meals and live only to unmake. The prettiest one of all we found in a store-room half the size of my flat in London, standing by a table covered with the little sweet biscuits made of nuts and meringue and fine pastry which are loved in every Slav country. We caught her eating one. She swallowed it in a gulp, and faced out the men’s roar of laughter in the most serene confusion imaginable, smiling, with some tiny crumbs caught in the fair down on her upper lip. It was then that somebody remembered that our dinner was ready for us.

We were taken up to the doctors’ mess and set before a further exhibition of antique plenty. There was a river of plum brandy somewhere near, it seemed. Then, to begin with, there was a platter of cold meat such as I never expected to eat in my life again. There was sucking-pig so delicate that it could be spread on bread like butter, and veal and ham and sausage and tongue, all as superb in their austerer way, and slabs of butter and fat cheese. Then there were pancakes, stuffed with chopped steak and mushrooms and chickens’ livers, and then spring chicken served with a border of moist and flavoursome rice on a bed of young vegetables, and it appeared that there was also a river of white wine near by. And then there was a compote of quinces, cherries, and peaches, served with a stack of little biscuits, like the one we had found the pretty nun eating. We ate and drank enormously. Valetta said in my ear, ‘You really must eat, you know. They will think you dislike their food if you do not. It is our Slav custom to give our guests too much to eat, as a kind of boastfulness, and of course out of good-will, and the guests show how strong they are by eating it. We are really a very primitive people, I am afraid.’ I did not complain, and we ate without interruption, save when a nun put her head round the door, and with round eyes cried out an announcement. The superintendent spoke to one of the younger doctors, who took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, and ran from the room at the double. ‘Two of the patients have been talking politics,’ explained the superintendent; ‘it is not allowed, but sometimes they do it. However it is not really serious, they have no weapons. But go on eating, go on eating. All our food is raised on the land belonging to the sanatorium or round it, and prepared by our good nuns. And mind you, the patients have the same food as you are having. This is a feast for distinguished visitors, of course, but at all times we give them plenty, for it is cheap and we have no need to skimp it.’ ‘Yes,’ said another of the doctors, waving his glass at me, ‘we send the patients home five and ten and fifteen kilos heavier.’

Here was the authentic voice of the Slav. These people hold that the way to make life better is to add good things to it, whereas in the West we hold that the way to make life better is to take bad things away from it. With us, a satisfactory hospital patient is one who, for the time being at least, has been castrated of all adult attributes. With us, an acceptable doctor is one with all asperities characteristic of gifted men rubbed down by conformity with social standards to a shining, cornerless blandness. With us, a suitable hospital diet is food from which everything toxic and irritant has been removed, the eunuchized pulp of steamed fish and stewed prunes. Here a patient could be adult, primitive, dusky, defensive; if he chose to foster a poetic fantasy or personal passion to tide him over his crisis, so much the better. It was the tuberculosis germ that the doctor wanted to alter, not the patient; and that doctor himself might be just like another man, provided he possessed also a fierce intention to cure. To him the best hospital diet would be that which brought the most juices to the mouth; and there was not the obvious flaw in the argument that one might think, for the chicken and the compote were the standard dishes of any nursing-home, but these were good to eat. One of the doctors raised his glass to me; I raised my glass to him, enjoying the communion with this rich world that added instead of subtracting. I thought of the service at Shestine, and its unfamiliar climate. The worshippers in Western countries come before the altar with the desire to subtract from the godhead and themselves; to subtract benefits from the godhead by prayer, to subtract their dangerous adult qualities by affecting childishness. The worshippers at Shestine had come before the altar with a habit of addition, which made them pour out the gift of their adoration on the godhead, which made them add to themselves by imaginative realization the divine qualities which they were contemplating in order to adore. The effect had been of enormous, reassuring natural wealth; and that was what I had found in Yugoslavia on my first visit. I had come on stores of wealth as impressive as the rubies of Golconda or the gold of Klondike, which took every form except actual material wealth. Now the superintendent was proposing the health of my husband and myself, and when he said, ‘We are doing our best here, but we are a poor country,’ it seemed to me he was being as funny as rich people who talk to their poor relations about the large amount they have to pay in income tax.

‘But since they have this Slav abundance here and at Shestine,’ I wondered, ‘why have I had so little enjoyment of it since I arrived?’

But my attention was caught by a crack that had suddenly begun to fissure the occasion. The superintendent had been telling my husband and me what pleasure he had in welcoming us to Croatia, when Gregorievitch had leaned across the table and corrected him. ‘To Yugoslavia,’ he said in the accents of a tutor anxious to recall his pupil to truth and accuracy. There fell a silence. ‘To Yugoslavia,’ he repeated. Severity still lived in his brows, which he brought together by habit. But his eyes were stricken; so does an old dog look when it hopes against hope that the young master will take him out on a walk. After another silence, the superintendent said, ‘Yes, I will say that I welcome them to Yugoslavia. Who am I, being a Serb, to refuse this favour to a Croat?’ They all laughed kindly at Gregorievitch after that; but there had sounded for an instant the authentic wail of poverty, in its dire extreme, that is caused by a certain kind of politics. Such politics we know very well in Ireland. They grow on a basis of past injustice. A proud people acquire a habit of resistance to foreign oppression, and by the time they have driven out their oppressors they have forgotten that agreement is a pleasure and that a society which has attained tranquillity will be able to pursue many delightful ends. There they continue to wrangle, finding abundant material in the odds and ends of injustices that are left over from the period of tyranny and need to be tidied up in one way or another. Such politics are a leak in the community. Generous passion, pure art, abstract thought, run through it and are lost. There remain only the obstinate solids which cannot be dissolved by argument or love, the rubble of hate and prejudice and malice, which are of no price. The process is never absolute, since in all lands some people are born with the inherent sweetness which closes that leak, but it can exist to a degree that alarms by the threat of privation affecting all the most essential goods of life; and in Croatia I had from time to time felt very poor.

Zagreb IV

There is no end to political disputation in Croatia. None.

Because we were walking near the vegetable market we trod on a mosaic of red and green cabbage leaves, orange peel, and grey stone. I directed the attention of Valetta and Constantine to its beauty, and I even became ecstatic over it; but I could not distract them from their heavy sense of disagreement. I had to admit that the experience I was offering them was perhaps insufficiently interesting, so when I found myself in front of a cage where a grey-and-pink parrot sat before a card index of destinies, I was glad to cry, ‘Let us have our fortunes told!’ But Constantine and Valetta each looked at the bird with eyes smouldering with hope that the other would have no future whatsoever. So I put in my dinar and the bird picked out a card; and when I gave it to Valetta, he burst out laughing and threw it back to me. ‘Oh, wise bird! It says, “You are surrounded by the wrong friends, you must get rid of them at once!” ’ He waved his cap and went laughing through the crowd. ‘Till you have obeyed, it is good-bye!’ he cried over his shoulder; and then suddenly grave, lest we should think he had really turned against us, he said, ‘And I shall come to see you tonight, about seven.’

They had quarrelled all through lunch. We had spent the morning going round the sights of the town with a Croat lady and Constantine, and over the soup we told Valetta how much we had liked her; and Constantine exploded: ‘I did not like her. She is not a true Slav. Did you hear what she told you when you were at the Health Co-operative Society Clinic? She said that all such things were very well looked after in the Austrian times. Yes, and she said it regretfully.’ ‘Well, it was so,’ said Valetta. ‘Yes, it was so,’ said Constantine, ‘but we must not regret it. No true Slav would regret it. That is to say no true human being would say it, for if a true human being is a Slav, he knows that to be a Slav is what is important, for that is the shape which God has given him, and he should keep it. The Austrians sometimes pampered you, and sometimes the Hungarians, so that each should play you off against the others. Benefits you get so are filth, and they spoil your shape as a Slav. It is better to have nearly nothing at all, and be a freeman with your brother Slavs.’ He paused, but Valetta was silent and went on eating. ‘Do you not think it is better?’ Constantine asked him. He nodded slightly. ‘Well, if you do not feel that strongly you can feel nothing at all!’ said Constantine a little louder. ‘Oh, yes, I feel it strongly,’ said Valetta, quite softly, and then, more softly still, ‘It would be much better for us to be freemen with our brother Slavs.’

For a moment Constantine was satisfied and went on eating. Then he threw down his knife and fork. ‘What is that you are saying? It would be better ... You mean it is not so?’ ‘I mean it is not quite so,’ said Valetta. ‘How is it not so?’ asked Constantine, lowering his head like a bull. Valetta shrugged his shoulders. Constantine collapsed quite suddenly, and asked pathetically, ‘But are we not brothers, we Croats and Serbs?’ ‘Yes,’ said Valetta. He was speaking softly, not, as a stranger might have thought, out of guile, but out of intense feeling. He was quite white. ‘But in Yugoslavia,’ he said painfully, ‘it is not so. Or, rather, it is as if the Serbs were the elder brother and we Croats the younger brother, under some law as the English, which gives the elder everything and the younger nothing.’ ‘Oh, I know what you think!’ groaned Constantine. ‘You think that all your money goes to Belgrade, and you get hardly anything of it back, and we flood your country with Serb officials, and keep Croats out of all positions of real power. I know it all!’

‘You may know it all,’ said Valetta, ‘but so do we: and it is not a thing we can be expected to overlook.’ ‘I do not ask you to overlook it,’ said Constantine, beginning to roar like a bull, ‘I ask you to look at it. You did not have the spending of your money before, when you were under Hungary. All your money was sent to Budapest to landlords or to tax-collectors, and you got some railways, yes, and some hospitals, yes, and some roads, yes, but not costing one-half of your money, and you got also Germanization and Magyarization, you got the violation of your soul. But now you are a part of Yugoslavia, you are a part of the kingdom of the South Slavs, which exists to let you keep your soul, and to guard that kingdom we must have an army and a navy to keep Hungary and Italy in their places, and we must give Serbia many things she did not have because Serbia was fighting the Turk when you were standing safe behind us, and we must do much for Bosnia, because the Hungarians did nothing there, and we must do everything for Macedonia, because the Turks were there till 1912, and we must drain marshes and build schools and make military roads, and it is all for you as well as for us, but you will not see it!’

‘Yes, I see it,’ said Valetta, ‘but if you want to found a strong and civilized Yugoslavia you should have brought the Serb schools up to the Croat level instead of bringing the Croat schools down to Serb level.’ ‘But now you show you see nothing at all,’ wailed Constantine; ‘it is a question of money! It is more important that one should have good schools everywhere than that part of the country should have very good schools. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. What good is it to you in Croatia that your boys and girls can read the Hindustani and paint like Raphael if the young men in Macedonia go bang-bang all night at whoever because they do not know anything else to do?’ ‘We might feel more confidence that our money went to build schools in Macedonia if it did not go through Belgrade,’ said Valetta. ‘You must forgive us for fearing that a great deal of it sticks in Belgrade.’ ‘Of course it sticks in Belgrade!’ said Constantine, his voice going high, though it is low by nature. ‘We must make a capital. We must make a capital for your sake, because you are a South Slav! All Western Europeans despise us because we have a little capital that is not chic. They are wrong, for there is no reason why we should have a big capital, for we are a peasant state. But you must give these people what they want, and they are like children, it is the big shining thing that impresses them. Do you not remember how before the war the Austrian Ministers treated us like dirt, because Vienna is a place of baroque palaces and we had nothing but our poor town that had a Turkish garrison till fifty years ago, though it meant nothing, for at the appointed time we came down on them like a hammer on nutshells?’

‘If it were only ministries and hotels that were being built in Belgrade, we Croats might approve,’ said Valetta, ‘but we understand that there are many private houses which are being built for people who have been connected with politics.’ ‘It is not true, I swear it is not true,’ cried Constantine. ‘Are you telling me,’ asked Valetta, ‘that all Serb officials are honest?’ Constantine rocked in his seat. ‘I am all for chonesty,’ he said, giving the h its guttural sound, ‘I am a very chonest man.’ And that is true: during his life he has had the unquestioned administration of much money, and never has one penny stuck to his fingers. ‘And I admit,’ he continued heavily, ‘that in our Serbia there are sometimes people who are not chonest. But how could we do? There are not enough people in our country to take on the administration, so many of us were killed in the war. Ninety per cent,’ he wailed, ‘ninety per cent of our university students were killed in the war.’ And that, too, I learned afterwards, is true. ‘Then why do you not draw on us Croats for officials?’ asked Valetta. ‘There are many Croats whom nobody in the world would dare to call untrustworthy.’ ‘But how can we let you Croats be officials?’ spluttered Constantine. ‘You are not loyal!’ ‘And how,’ asked Valetta, white to the lips, ‘can we be expected to be loyal if you always treat us like this?’ ‘But I am telling you,’ grieved Constantine, ‘how can we treat you differently till you are loyal?’

It is an absolute deadlock; and the statement of it filled the heart with desolation. Constantine pushed away his plate and said, ‘Valetta, I will tell you what is the matter with you.‘ ’But we can see nothing the matter with either of you,‘ I intervened. ’After we left you at the Health Co-operative Clinic the Croat lady took us to the Ethnographical Museum. What genius you Slav peoples have! I have never seen such a wealth of design, provoked by all sorts of objects always to perfection. A dress, an Easter egg, a butter-churn.‘ I knew that my intervention was feeble, but it was the best I could do. I find that this always happens when I try to interrupt Slavs who are quarrelling. They draw all the energy out of the air by the passion of their debate, so that anything outside its orbit can only flutter trivially. ’I will tell you what is the matter with you,‘ repeated Constantine, silencing me with his hand. ’Here in Croatia you are lawyers as well as soldiers. You have been good lawyers, and you have been lawyers all the time. For eight hundred years you have had your procès against Hungary. You have quibbled over phrases in the diploma inauguraleof your kings, you have wrangled about the power of your Ban, you have sawed arguments about regna socia and partes adnexœ, you have chattered like jackdaws over your rights under the Dual Monarchy, you have covered acres of paper discussing the Hungaro-Croatian compromise. And so it is that you are now more lawyers than soldiers, for it is not since the eighteenth century that you have fought the Turks, and you fought against the Magyars only a little time. But now we are making Yugoslavia we must feel not like lawyers but like soldiers, we must feel in a large way about the simple matter of saving our lives. You must cast away all your little rights and say that we have a big right, the right of the Slavs to be together, and we must sacrifice all our rights to protect that great right.‘

Valetta shrugged his shoulders once more. ‘What have you against that?’ roared Constantine. ‘I will tell you what is the matter with you. You are an intellectual, you are all intellectuals here in the bad sense. You boast because Zagreb is an old town, but that it is a great pity for you. Everywhere else in Serbia is a new town, and though we have novelists and poets and all, they have now been in no town not more than not one generation.’ (This is good Serbian grammar, which piles up its negatives.) ‘So what the peasant knows they also know. They know that one must not work against, one must work with. One ploughs the earth that would not be ploughed, certainly, but one falls in with the earth’s ideas so much as to sow it with seed in the spring and not in the winter or in the summer. But in the town you do not know that, you can go through life and you can work against all, except the motor car and the railway train and the tram, them you must not charge with your head down, but all other things you can. So you are intellectuals. The false sort that are always in opposition. My God, my God, how easy it is to be an intellectual in opposition to the man of action! He can always be so much cleverer, he can always pick out the little faults. But to make, that is more difficult. So it is easier to be a critic than to be a poet.’ He flung down a fork suddenly. ‘But I should say it is easier to be a bad critic. To be a good critic you must make sometimes and know how it is in your own self to make well or badly. That is why I am a great critic. I am also a great poet. But you are not poets, you Croats, you do not make. You are always little and clever, you are always in opposition winning points as if it were a game.’ He flung himself on his jam pancakes like a hungry lion, then, with his mouth full, roared again, ‘All of you in Zagreb are the same. I have been in the cafés every night and the Croats all say to me, “It is disgusting, the trade pact you in Belgrade have made with Italy!” And who are the Croats, who took Italian help to kill our King, who are howling always that your peasants are so poor, to attack us if we swallow our pride and for the sake of getting the peasants a little money make a trade pact with the Italians? Ach, in all your little ways you are very terrible.’

For a time Valetta did not answer. It is a considerable part of the Croat argument that Croats do not shout in restaurants and do not speak at all with their mouths full. ‘You would say we were well governed here?’ he asked presently. ‘You would say that nobody is arrested without cause and thrown into prison and treated barbarously? You would say that nobody has been tortured in Croatia since it became Yugoslavia?’ He was trembling, and such sick horror passed across his face that I am sure he was recollecting atrocities which he had seen with his own eyes, at which his own bowels had revolted. Constantine nearly cried. ‘Ah, God! it is their fault,’ he pled, indicating my husband and myself with his thumb. ‘These English are hypocrites, they pretend you govern people without using force, because there are many parts of the Empire where they govern only people who want to be governed. It is not necessary to use force in Canada and Australia, so they pretend that there is the general rule, though in India where the people do not want to be governed many people are beaten and imprisoned. And for that I do not blame the English. It must be done if one race has to have power over another; that is why it is wrong for one race to have power over another, and that is why we must have a Yugoslavia, a self-governing kingdom of the South Slavs, and why we should make all possible sacrifices for Yugoslavia.’ ‘I see the argument,’ said Valetta; ‘we are to let Serbs torture us Croats, because under Yugoslavia we are not to be tortured by the Italians and Hungarians.’ ‘Oh, God! Oh, God!’ cried Constantine, ‘I am glad that I am not a Croat, but a Serb, for though I myself am a very clever man, the Serbs are not a very clever people; that has not been their business, their business has been to drive out the Turks and keep their independence from the Austrians and the Germans, so their strong point is that they can open doors by butting them with their heads. Believe me, in such a position as ours—that is more important. But, my God, my God, do you know what I feel like doing when I talk to you Croats? I feel like rolling up my coat and lying down in the middle of the street, and putting my head on my coat, and saying to the horses and motor cars, “Drive on, I am disgusted.” What is so horrible in this conversation is that you are never wrong, but I am always right, and we could go on talking like this for ever, till the clever way you are never wrong brought death upon us.’ ‘Some have died already,’ said Valetta.

Zagreb V

The rest of the afternoon was to prove to us that Constantine was to some extent right, and that the Croat is weakened by Austrian influence as by a profound malady.

When Valetta had left us in front of the parrot’s cage, Constantine said, ‘Now we must hurry, for we have two things to do this afternoon. We must see the treasury of the Cathedral and then we must go to the dancer who has promised to dance for us in her apartment.’ He walked beside us very glumly, looking at the pavement, and then burst out: ‘I do not know why you trouble yourself with that young man, he is not of importance, he is quite simply a Croat, a typical Croat.’ After a silence we came to the square in front of the Cathedral. He burst out again: ‘They do appalling things and they make us do appalling things, these Croats. When God works through the Croats He works terribly. I will tell you what once happened in the war. There was a hill in Serbia that we were fighting for all night with the Austrian troops. Sometimes we had it, and sometimes they had it, and at the end we wholly had it, and when they charged us we cried to them to surrender, and through the night they answered. “The soldiers of the Empire do not surrender,” and it was in our own tongue they spoke. So we knew they were our brothers the Croats, and because they were our brothers we knew that they meant it, and so they came against us, and we had to kill them, and in the morning they all lay dead, and they were all our brothers.’

Just then, the face of the Cathedral rose pearly-brown above us. Constantine tiptoed to the sacristan and said that we wanted to see the treasury, and there began a scurrying quest for the key. A sacristan in ordinary breeches and shirt-sleeves was carrying away the tubs of oleanders that had decorated the altar during Easter. His face was pursed with physical effort and an objection to it, and the oleander branches waved about him like the arms of a vegetable Sabine. ‘They are a long time seeking the key,’ said Constantine wearily, leaning against a pillar and looking up to its high flowering. ‘I would not have you think that the Croats are not good people. All Slavs are good people. They were the best soldiers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. All, all said so, on all the fronts. Hey, what is this?’ A priest had come to say that the key had had to be sent for, that it would come soon. He then ran towards a little door through which five or six other people ran constantly during the next quarter of an hour, on errands connected with the finding of the key. ‘Now I as a Serb do not think it is as important that the key should be found quickly as you English would do,’ said Constantine, ‘but I would point out to you that in Zagreb also the key is not found in the quick English tempo. Yet I am sure that here they say to you all day, “We are not as the Serbs in Belgrade, here we are businesslike, we do things as they are done in Vienna,”’ And it was true. So they had said to us constantly in the banks and hotels and museums.

At last a priest came with the key in his hand, and took us up a stone staircase to the treasury which had an enormous safe-door, affixed after the theft of a tenth-century ivory diptych, which was discovered some years later in the museum at Cleveland, Ohio. The safe-door took quite a long time to open, it was so very elaborate. Then the priest went in and immediately ran out with a chalice of which he was evidently very proud, though it was not very distinguished late sixteenth-century work. For some reason all Croat priests both in Croatia and Dalmatia have a special liking for dull Renaissance work. Byzantine work they value for its antiquity only, and its lavish use of precious metals, and medieval work they usually despise for its uncouthness. The priest was quite ecstatic about this chalice, which he put down on a little rickety table on the landing outside the treasury, and made us stand and admire it for some time. Then he said that we must see the jewelled mitre of a sixteenth-century bishop, and he showed us into the treasury. After we had looked at the silver we were shown the diptych, which is pleasing but not satisfying, because it lacks spaciousness. The figures are the right hieroglyphics; they could spell out a magic message, but they do not, because they are so crowded it is like a poem printed with the words run together. We were shown also the sham diptych which was substituted by the thief for the real one so that the theft went undetected for some days. This was a surprising story, for though the copy reproduced all the details of the original, it was with such infidelity, such falsity of proportion and value, that the two were quite unlike in effect. It is possible that the copy was carved in some centre of craftsmanship, perhaps in Italy, by somebody who had never seen the original but worked from a photograph.

While we were discussing this the priest uttered a sharp cry and ran out of the room, while Constantine burst into laughter. He explained, ‘He has remembered that he has left the chalice on the table outside.’ I said, ‘But why do you laugh? It is a thing that any of us might have done.’ ‘But it is not,’ said Constantine. ‘Your husband would not have done it at all, because he is English. You might or might not have done it, because you are a woman, and so of course you have no very definite personality. But I would have been sure to do it, and the priest was sure to do it. But because I am a Serb I know I am sure to do it, while because he is a Croat he thinks he is like a German or an Englishman and will not do it. Of course I must laugh. It is the same funny thing as about the key.’

When the priest came back he showed us the illuminated Psalters and Bibles; and in one of them we fell on the record of what is always pleasing, a liberal and humanist soul which found perfect satisfaction and a refuge from troubled times in the Church. On the margins of his holy book he painted towns set on bays where it would be good to swim, meadows where spring had smiled four hundred years and was not tired, and rosy nudes with their flesh made sound by much passive exercise. We would have thought that the man who painted so was at ease with the world had we not turned a page and found proof that he was nothing of the kind. With unbroken sweetness but in perplexed misery, he painted a hunter lying asleep in the woods and peopled the glades with his dream. The hunter is spitted before a lively fire by hinds who sniff in the good roasting smell, while hares chase hounds lather-mouthed with fright and cram their limp bodies into baskets, and by every stroke of the brush it is asked, ‘What are blue seas and the spring and lovely bodies so long as there are pain and cruelty?’ He spoke to us for one second out of the past and instantly returned there, for the priest preferred that we look at his vestments rather than at his books. ‘And indeed they are very beautiful,’ said Constantine. They were of embroidered damask and stamped velvet, for the most part of Italian provenance, some as old as the sixteenth century. ‘But how poor they look!’ I said. ‘You are hard to please,’ he said. ‘No, I am not,’ I said, ‘but compared to the design we saw in the Ethnographical Museum these seem so limited and commonplace.’

I was not flattering Constantine. These designs on the vestments were of that Renaissance kind which, if one sees them in a museum and tries to draw them, distress one by their arbitrariness. They partake neither of naturalism nor of geometrical pattern; they often depict flowers set side by side to make harmonies of colour and united by lines whose unpleasant lack of composition is disguised by those harmonies. The designs in the Slav embroideries are based on sound line, on line that is potent and begets as it moves, so that in copying it the pencil knows no opposition; it is, as Constantine would say, ‘working with.’ Also the Slav designs have great individuality while keeping loyal to a defined tradition, whereas the Italian designs follow a certain number of defined models. ‘You are right,’ said Constantine benignly. ‘We are a wonderful people. That is why we want to be Slavs and nothing else. All else is too poor for us. But now we must go to the dancer; she is having the accompanist specially for us, so we must not be late.’

The dancer lived on the top floor of a modern apartment house. The blond floor of her practice room shone like a pool under the strong light from the great windows, and though her accompanist had not yet come, she was swaying and circling over it like a bird flying low over the water, as swallows do before rain. She turned at the end of the room and danced back to greet us. She had that vigorous young beauty that seems to carry its keen cold about with it. Her eyes were bright and her cheeks glowed as if she were not really here, as if she were running on her points up the cornices of a snow peak to a fairy ice-palace. She had the most relevant of beauties for her trade, the bird foot that born dancers have, that Nijinsky had to perfection. Before she got to us she stopped and pointed to a gilded laurel wreath that hung on the wall. As she pointed with her right hand her left heel moved a thought backwards, and the result was perfection. I went up and looked at the wreath and found that she had been awarded it at some Berlin dance festival. ‘That is why we have come,’ said Constantine; ‘she won the second prize at the great Folk-Dance Festival. It is a great honour.’

My husband said, ‘Please tell her we think her dress most beautiful. Is it a Croatian peasant dress?’ ‘Ach, no!’ said Constantine. ‘But no, my God, I am wrong, it is.’ He went down on his knees and looked at the skirt. It was of white linen embroidered with red and white flowers of a very pure design. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it is a Croatian peasant girl, but she has adapted it to Western ideas. She has made it much lighter. Well, we shall see. Here comes the accompanist.’ We watched the girl’s feet move like nothing substantial, like the marks on eddying water. Her skirts flowed round her in rhythms counter to the rhythms of her feet, and, smiling, she held out her hands to invisible partners to share in this dear honourable drunkenness. Out of the air she conjured them till they ,were nearly visible, frank and hearty fellows that could match her joke with joke, till shyness came and made all more delicate, and for a second all laughter vanished and she inscribed on the air her potentiality for romance. Her head and bosom hung backwards from the stem of her waist like a flower blown backwards, but for fear that this wind blow too strongly she called back the defence of laughter, and romped again.

When she stopped we all applauded; but as soon as she went away to change her dress Constantine said to me, ‘It is terrible, is it not?’ ‘Yes, it is very shocking,’ I said, ‘but I thought it must be so from her dress.’ My husband said, ‘I do not know what you mean. It seems to me we have been watching a very accomplished dance of little or no imaginative distinction, but I cannot understand why anybody should consider it as shocking.’ ‘No, of course you cannot understand, but your wife can, because she has been in Serbia and Macedonia, and she knows how it is natural for a Slav woman to dance. She knows that with us a woman must not dance like this. It does not go with any of our ideas. A woman must not spring about like a man to show how strong she is and she must not laugh like a man to show how happy she is. She has something else to do. She must go round wearing heavy clothes, not light at all, but heavy, heavy clothes, so that she is stiff, like an icon, and her face must mean one thing, like the face of an icon, and when she dances she must move without seeming to move, as if she were an icon held up before the people. It is something you cannot understand, but for us it is right. Many things in our culture accord with it.’ ‘Is this something that is taken for granted and spoken about, or have you just thought of it?’ asked my husband. ‘I have just thought of putting it like this,’ said Constantine, laughing, ‘but that is nothing against it, for I am a demoniac man like Goethe, and my thoughts represent the self-consciousness of nature. But indeed your wife will tell you it is so.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘he is right. They shuffle round as if they were dead, but somehow it looks right.’

When the dancer came back she was committing a worse offence against Slav convention. It happens that Lika, which is a district of Dalmatia, in the Karst, that is to say on the bare limestone mountains, breeds a kind of debonair Highlander, rather hard to believe in, so like is he to the kind of figure that a Byron-struck young lady of the early nineteenth century drew in her album. The girl’s dress was a principal-boy version of this, a tight bodice and kilt of oatmeal linen, with a multicoloured sporran, and she wore the typical male Lika head-dress, a cap with an orange crown, a black rim, and a black lock of fringe falling over the ear and nape of the neck on the right side. It suited her miraculously, and her legs were the shape of perfection. But the rhythm of her dance was very quick and springing; it was in fact a boy’s dance, and she danced it as a girl wanting to emphasize that she was a girl by performing a characteristically male process. She ended standing on the tips of her toes, with her left hand on her hip and her right forefinger touching her chin, her eyebrows raised in coyness; there was never anything less androgynous.

But the attempt to juggle with the two aspects of human sexuality was not the reason why this dance was distressing in its confusion. It was a distress not new to me—I have felt it often in America. I have at times felt suddenly sickened when a coloured dancer I have been watching has used a step or gesture that belongs to ‘white’ dancing; even if the instant before they had been wriggling in an imitation sexual ecstasy and passed into a dull undulation of the Loie Fuller sort or the chaste muscular bound of a ballet movement, the second seemed more indecent than the first, and I have often experienced the same shock when I have seen white dancers borrow the idiom of coloured dancers. There is nothing unpleasant in the gesture known as ’cherry-picking,‘ provided it is a Negro or Negress who performs it; the dancer stands with feet apart and knees bent, and stretches the arms upwards while the fingers pull an invisible abundance out of the high air. But it is gross and revolting, a reversion to animalism, when it is performed by a white person. That same feeling of inappropriateness amounting to cultural perversion afflicted me slightly when I saw this girl’s first dance, more severely when I saw her second, and to a painful degree in the third, which she did to show us that she could do more than mere folk-dances. It was that cabaret chestnut, the dance of the clockwork doll, which is an imaginative cliché of the stalest sort, never again to be more amusing than the riddle ’When is a door not a door?‘ And this was the most excruciating rendering of it that I have ever seen. This Croat girl was so noble a creature that when she did a silly thing she looked far sillier than the silly do. At the end of her dance she ran across the shining floor and stood with her bare arm resting on the golden wreath, her reflection broken loveliness at her feet. ’Some day I will make them give me the first prize,‘ she laughed. ’The poor little one,‘ said Constantine, ’she should be like an icon, your wife will tell you.‘

Zagreb VI

We went up the hill and looked at the archaic statues on the porch of St. Mark’s Church, which is a battered old spiritual keep that has been built and rebuilt again and again since the thirteenth century. ‘This old square is the heart of the town,’ said Constantine. ‘Zagreb is the heart of Croatia, and St. Mark’s Square is the heart of Zagreb, and I think that only once did it fall, and then to the Tartars, to whom all fell. But now they have renamed it the Square of Stefan Raditch, after the great leader of the Croat Peasant Party, who was shot in the Belgrade Parliament in 1928. Here in Croatia they say we Serbs did it, they say our King Alexander plotted it,’ said Constantine, his voice rising to a wail, ‘but it is not so. He was shot by a mad Montenegrin deputy whom he had accused of corruption. The Montenegrins are a Homeric people, they do not understand modern life; they think that if a man attacks your honour you kill him, and it is well. But the Croats do not know that, for they will never travel; they have no idea of going any further than Dalmatia. And why would King Alexander want to kill Raditch? He knew very well that if Raditch were killed the Croats would go mad and would make with the Italians and the Hungarians to kill him also. And so they did. And that is a thing to remember when the King is blamed for suspending the constitution. Always King Alexander knew that he would be killed. It is proof of the lack of imagination of all you English liberals that you forget that a man’s policy is a little different when he knows he is going to be killed.’

Down in the town we sat and drank chocolate in a café, till Constantine said, ‘Come you must go. You must not keep Valetta waiting.’ Since he was staying in the same hotel as we were, and he looked tired, I said, ‘Come back with us.’ But he would not. ‘I will come later,’ he said, and I am sure he was afraid of meeting Valetta in the lounge and having to admit that Valetta wanted to see us but not him. The Serb, though he seems tough and insensitive, is sometimes childishly hurt by Croat coldness. Some French friends of mine who once attended an international congress of some sort at Zagreb were in the company of a Serb, a middle-aged diplomat, when somebody came into the room with the news that the Croat hospitality committee was not going to ask the Serb delegates to the banquet which was going to terminate the proceedings. The Serb diplomat burst into tears. This story is the sadder because every Croat, who thinks of the Serb as the gendarme who tortures him, would disbelieve it.

When we got to our hotel we found Valetta waiting for us, and we took him up to our room and drank plum brandy, pleased to see him again though we had seen him so recently. He stood by the window, pulled the curtains apart, and grimaced at the snow that fell aslant between us and the electric standards. ‘What a terrible Easter we have given you!’ he laughed, and raised his glass to his lips, smiling on us with the radiance that is usually the gift of traitors, but means nothing in him but kindness and good faith. He went on to apologize for the violence with which he had spoken at lunch-time. ‘I could not help it,’ he said. ‘I know that Constantine is a wonderful man, but he is all for Belgrade, and you will understand how we are bound to feel about that. I am so afraid that as you are just passing through the country, you will not see what we Croats have to suffer. Of course everything is better since 1931, when the King gave us back some sort of constitution; and since the King died it has improved still further. But it is still terrible.

‘You cannot think,’ he said, as we all gathered round the fire with our glasses on our knees, ‘what the censorship here is like. Do you know that that little pamphlet about the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, which was a kind of three-cornered debate between Stalin and Shaw and Wells, has been suppressed? Think of the absurdity of it! Of course that hardly matters, for it is imported and it could not be called an epoch-making work, but what does matter is that our own great people are persecuted. You have heard of X. Y.? He is a dramatist, and he is really by far the greatest living writer we have. But he is a Communist. Well, never can we see his plays at our theatre. They simply will not let them be performed. And it matters not only for us, but for him, because he is miserably poor. And he is not allowed to make money any way, for when some people arranged for him to give a lecture here in one of our big halls and had sold all the tickets, the police prevented it twenty-four hours before, on the ground that if there were a riot in the hall they could not undertake to keep order. Now, that is sheer nonsense. We Croats might riot about all sorts of things, but we would not riot because X. Y. was giving a lecture. And really, I am not exaggerating, all this means that the great X. Y. is starving.’

‘But wait a minute,’ said my husband. ‘Is it only the Yugoslavian Government that did not want X. Y. to speak? Is there not a chance that the Croat Clerical Party was also rather anxious that he shouldn’t?’ Valetta looked uncomfortable. ‘Yes, it is so,’ he said. ‘They would be against any Communist, wouldn’t they?’ pressed my husband. ‘And they would be in favour of a strict censorship, wouldn’t they?’ ‘Yes,’ said Valetta. ‘Then when you fight for free speech and a free press, you Croats are not only fighting the Serbs, you are also fighting your own Clerical Party?’ ‘That is so,’ agreed Valetta; and he added sadly, ‘Our Clerical Party is very violent.’ There he was guilty of an understatement. The Croatian Clerical Party is not a force that can easily be regarded as proceeding from God. It is a party with a long pedigree of mischief-makers, for it descends from the nineteenth-century Party of the Right, which was led by Anton Starchevitch, and its successor, the Party of Pure Right, which was led by Dr. Josef Frank. Both these parties were violently bigoted in their pietism, and professed the most vehement antagonism to the Jews (which implied antagonism to liberalism) and to the Orthodox Church (which, as all Serbs are Orthodox, implied antagonism to the Serbs).

There is to be noted, as evidence against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the neurotic quality of its rebels. It is as if the population were so drugged and depleted that they never raised their voice unless they were stung by some inner exasperation. It has been mentioned that Kossuth, the Magyar patriot and scourge of the Slavs, was himself pure Slovak and had no Magyar blood in his veins. Even so, Starchevitch, who loathed the Serbs, was himself, as Constantine had told us beside his grave, born of a Serb mother, and Dr. Frank, whose anti-Semitism was frenzied, was a Jew. Such Slav patriots as these were meat and drink to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who hated her Slav subjects. They made it easy for her to rule according to that counsel of Hell, Divide et impera. The famous Ban Khuen-Héderváry, whose rule of Croatia was infamously cruel, made a point of granting the Serb minority in Croatia special privileges, so that the Croats would be jealous of them, and there was thus no danger of Serbs and Croats joining together in revolt against Hungarian rule.

The state of mind this produced in the populace can be read in one of the numerous trials that disgraced the Austro-Hungarian Empire so far as Croatia was concerned from the beginning of the twentieth century till the war. This was the famous ‘Agram trial’ (Agram was the Austrian name for Zagreb) which arraigned fifty-three Serbs of Croatia for conspiracy with the free Serbs of Serbia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The charge was flagrant nonsense, cooked up by the Ban, Baron Rauch, a stupid brute, and Count Aehrenthal, the Austrian Foreign Minister, who belonged to the company of Judas and Fouché; but for evidence they never had to turn to Austrians or Magyars. Nearly all the two hundred and seventy witnesses brought by the prosecution, who were nearly all flagrantly perjured, were Croats. They were all willing to swear away the lives of their fellow-Slavs to the authorities they hated; yet there is no difference between Croats and Serbs except their religion.

The Croat Clerical Party, therefore, has always worked with a motive power of anti-Serb hatred, which naturally created its material. The Serbs retorted with as bad as they got, and the Orthodox Church showed no example of tolerance to the Roman Catholics. The greatest of nineteenth-century Slav patriots of the pacific sort, Bishop Strossmayer, once announced his intention of visiting Serbia, and the Serbian Government had to make the shameful confession that it could not guarantee his personal safety. But the greatest stimulus to anti-Serb feeling has lain outside Croatia, in the Roman Catholic Church itself. During the last sixty years or so the Vatican has become more and more Ultramontane, more and more predominantly Italian in personnel; and since the war of 1914 it has become more and more terrified of Communism. Can the Roman Catholic Church really be expected to like Yugoslavia?—to like a state in which Croats, who used to be safely amalgamated with Catholic Austrians and Hungarians, are outnumbered by Orthodox Serbs, who are suspected of having no real feeling of enmity towards Bolshevist Russia?

There are two indications, one small and one massive, of the Roman Catholic attitude to Yugoslavia. In all Slav countries there have been for many years gymnastic societies for young Slavs, called ‘Sokols,’ or ‘The Hawks,’ after an original made in Czechoslovakia, where boys and girls are given physical training and instructed in their nationalist tradition and the duties of a patriot. These are, indeed, the models from which the Italian Fascisti copied the Balilla and Avanguardisti. After the war, the Roman Catholic Church started rival societies called ‘The Eagles’ in both Croatia and Slovenia. It is extremely difficult to see what motive there can have been behind this move except to weaken the state loyalty of the Roman Catholic Yugoslavs; the Church could not possibly fear that the Sokols would interfere with the religious views of their members, for the Czech and Croatian Sokols had always been predominantly Catholic. The more important indication of the pro-Italian and anti-Slav attitude of the Roman Catholic Church is her callousness towards the unhappy Slovenes who were incorporated in Italy under the Peace Treaty. These six hundred thousand people are the worst-treated minority in Europe except the German Tirolese. ’Have bugs a nationality when they infest a dwelling? That is the historical and moral position of the Slovenes living within our borders,‘ once said the Popolo d’Italia. The 1929 Concordat which Pope Pius XI signed with Mussolini did not adequately protect the religious rights of the Slav minority, and the Slovenes no longer enjoy the right, which they prized highly, of using the Slovene liturgy in the churches. The Slav so loves his language that this was a gesture of hostility to the Slav soul.

It is, therefore, not sensible to trust the Roman Catholic Croat to like and understand the Orthodox Serb, or even to discourage the artificial hatred that has been worked up between them in the past. ‘Do you not think, Valetta,’ said my husband, ‘that the Belgrade Government knows this, and therefore bargains with the Church, giving it assistance in its anti-Communist campaign on condition that it keeps the anti-Serb and Croatian Separatist Movement within bounds?’ Valetta hesitated. ‘It may be so,’ he said, his long fingers fiddling with the fringe of a cushion. ‘And there is another thing,’ said my husband; ‘there is the present Concordat.’2 He paused. In 1937 all the Serbian parts of Yugoslavia were up in arms because the Government had signed a Concordat with Pope Pius which gave the Roman Catholic Church immense advantages over the Orthodox Church: in any town where the Roman Catholics were in an absolute majority over the Serbs all the schools without exception were to be Roman Catholic; the child of a Roman Catholic mother and an Orthodox father was to be brought up as a Roman Catholic even if the mother were received into the husband’s Church; it was to be far easier for Roman Catholic soldiers to practise their religion than for the Orthodox soldiers, and so on. The terms were so grossly favourable to the Roman Catholics that the Government made it very difficult for the Serb public or for foreigners to obtain the text of the Concordat. ‘Yes,’ sighed Valetta, ‘this wretched Concordat. We none of us want it here, in Croatia, you know.’

‘Yes, I do not think you Croats want it,’ said my husband, ‘but your Church does. And don’t you feel that the Church would never have been able to extort such terms from the Belgrade Government if it had not been able to trade some favours in return? I suspect very strongly that it has said to the Belgrade Government, “If you give us these concessions we will see to it that the Croatian Peasant Party never seriously menaces the stability of the Yugoslavian state.“ ‘ Valetta rocked himself uneasily, ’Oh, surely not, surely not,‘ he murmured. ’But for what other reason can the Belgrade Government have granted this preposterous Concordat?‘ pressed my husband. ’I cannot imagine,‘ said Valetta. ’Oh, I suppose you are right!‘ He rose and went to the window and drew back the curtains, and looked again on the bright snow that drove out of the darkness through the rays of the street lamps.

‘Is it not the tragedy of your situation here,’ suggested my husband, ‘that you Croats are for the first time discovering that your religion and your race run counter to one another, and that you are able to evade that discovery by putting the blame on the constitution of Yugoslavia? The Croats, like all Slavs, are a democratic and speculative people. You lived for long under the Habsburgs, whom you could blame for every interference with individual liberty. Since the great pro-Croat Strossmayer was a Bishop you could even think of the Roman Catholic Church as the arch-opponent of the Habsburgs, and therefore the protector of liberty. Now the Habsburgs are swept away you should see the Roman Catholic Church as it is: not at all democratic, not at all in favour of speculative thought; far more alarmed by the vaguest threat of social revolution than by any actual oppression, provided it is of monarchical or totalitarian origin, and wholly unsympathetic with any need for free expression but its own. You should proceed to the difficult task of deciding whether you can reconcile yourself to this bias of the Church for the sake of the spiritual benefits it confers upon you. But you are postponing this task by letting the Church throw the blame for all its suppressions of free speech and free press on Belgrade.’

‘It is possible that you are right,’ said Valetta, coming back and taking his seat by the fire. ‘Nothing is ever clear-cut here.’ ‘Do you never get down to a discussion of first principles?’ asked my husband. ‘This business of social revolution, how is it regarded by the Croat politicians such as Matchek of the Croat Peasant Party?’ ‘We never speak of such things, it is too soon,’ said Valetta. ‘But if they want to become a separate autonomous canton, surely they must have some idea of the kind of society they want to found?’ ‘No,’ answered Valetta, ‘it is felt that it would be premature to discuss such things. Oh, I know it is wrong and naive and foolish, but that is how our people feel.’

That is how they had always felt, the Croat leaders. There lay on the table a wad of papers which was the result of my efforts, practised over some weeks, to discover what opinions had been held by the greatest of Croat leaders, the murdered Stefan Raditch. Those efforts had been fruitless, except so far as they provided a proof of the essential unity of the Slavs. For Raditch was the spit and image of Tolstoy. He talked nonsense as often as not, but nobody minded; they all listened and felt exalted. It was his habit to speak in parables that were apt to be childish and obscure, and his speeches sometimes lasted for half a day and usually contained matter that was entirely contrary to human experiences; but his audiences adored him as a sage and a saint, and would have died for him. What was peculiarly Croat in him was his appeal to the peasants as a representative of the country as against the town. This was his own invention. Before the war it was possible to meet all the other Croat politicians by frequenting the Zagreb cafés and restaurants, but both Raditch and his brother Anton, who was almost as famous, made it a strict rule never to enter a café or a restaurant. This was to mark themselves off from the bourgeoisie as specifically peasant. This would not have been impressive in any other part of Yugoslavia than Croatia, where alone is there a bourgeoisie which has existed long enough to cut itself off from the peasantry. It would have evoked dislike and impatience in Serbia or Bosnia or Macedonia, where the poorest peasant is accustomed to sit in cafés.

In the minds of his followers Raditch must have sown confusion and little else. He spoke always as if he had a plan by which the Croat peasant was instantly to become prosperous, whereas there is no man in the world, not even Stalin, who would claim to be able to correct in our own time the insane dispensation which pays the food-producer worst of all workers. The only practical step Raditch ever proposed was the abolition of a centralized Yugoslavian Government and the establishment of a federalism which would have left the economic position of the Croat peasant exactly where it was. The rest was a mass of violent inconsistencies. Probably nobody but St Augustine has contradicted himself so often or so violently.

He was pro-Habsburg; at the outbreak of the war he made a superb speech calling on the Croats to defend their Emperor, and his sentiments did not really change after the peace. But he constantly preached that the Croats should form a republic within the kingdom of Yugoslavia, on the grounds that the proletariat was better off in a republic than in a monarchy. Not only was he simultaneously pro-Habsburg and republican, he had friendly correspondence with Lenin and made a triumphal progress through Russia. Though he expressed sympathy with Bolshevist ideas, he had stern race theories, which made him despise many of the inhabitants of the southern parts of Yugoslavia and reproach the Serbs bitterly for admitting to Government posts such people as Vlachs, an ancient and quite respectable shepherd tribe of the Balkans. It is said, however, that he made the visit to Russia not from any ideological motive but because like all Slavs he loved to travel, and though he had lived in Vienna and Berlin and Paris (where he had taken university degrees, for no more than Tolstoy was he a piece of peasantry straight out of the oven) and had visited London and Rome, he had never been in Moscow.

Whatever the reason may have been, the visit did not help him to give a definition to the Croat mind, particularly as shortly afterwards he became a close friend of King Alexander of Yugoslavia, whom he alternately reproached for his interference with Parliamentarianism and urged to establish a military dictatorship. Meanwhile he robbed the Croats of any right to complain that the Serbs refused to let them take any part in the government by ordering the Croat deputies to abstain from taking their seats in the Belgrade Parliament, when the wiser course would have been to leave them as an obstructionist and bargaining body. Some idea of Raditch can be formed by an effort to imagine an Irish politician with Parnell’s personal magnetism, who was at one and the same time an agrarian reformer, a Stuart legitimist, a republican, a Communist sympathizer, an advocate of the Aryan race theory, and a close friend of the King of England, to whom he recommended Liberalism and Fascism as he felt like it, and who withdrew the Irish members from St Stephen’s while himself constantly visiting London. It is no wonder that his party, even under his successor Matchek, has formed only the vaguest programmes.

‘Nothing,’ said Valetta, ‘has any form here. Movements that seem obvious to me when I am in Paris or London become completely inconceivable when I am here in Zagreb. Here nothing matters except the Croat-Serb situation. And that, I own, never seems to get any further.’ ‘But this is something very serious,’ said my husband, ‘for a movement might rush down on you here, say from Germany, and sweep away the Croat-Serb situation and every other opportunity for debate.’ ‘You are perfectly right,’ said Valetta. ‘I know it, I know it very well. But I do not think anything can be done.’ And of course nothing can be done. A great empire cannot bring freedom by its own decay to those corners in it where a subject people are prevented from discussing the fundamentals of life. The people feel like children turned adrift to fend for themselves when the imperial routine breaks down; and they wander to and fro, given up to instinctive fears and antagonisms and exaltation until reason dares to take control. I had come to Yugoslavia to see what history meant in flesh and blood. I learned now that it might follow, because an empire passed, that a world full of strong men and women and rich food and heady wine might nevertheless seem like a shadow-show: that a man of every excellence might sit by a fire warming his hands in the vain hope of casting out a chill that lived not in the flesh. Valetta is a clean-cut person; he is for gentleness and kindness and fastidiousness against clod-hopping and cruelty and stupidity, and he would make that choice in war as well as in peace, for his nature is not timid. But he must have something defined that it is possible to be gentle and kind and fastidious about. Here, however, there is none, and therefore Valetta seems a little ghostly as he sits by our hearth; and I wonder if Zagreb is not a city without substance, no more solid than the snow-flakes I shall see next time Valetta strolls to the window and pulls the curtain, driving down from the darkness into the light of the street lamps. This is what the consequences of Austrian rule mean to individual Croats.

Zagreb VII

Politics, always politics. In the middle of the night, when there is a rap on our bedroom door, it is politics. ‘It may be a telegram,’ said my husband, springing up and fumbling for the light. But it was Constantine. ‘I am afraid I am late, I am very late. I have been talking in the cafés with these Croats about the political situation of Yugoslavia; someone must tell them, for they are quite impossible. But I must tell you that I will be leaving tomorrow for Belgrade, very early, earlier than you will go to Sushak, for they have telephoned to me and say that I must go back, they need me, for there is no one who works so well as me. I would have left you a note to tell you that, but there was something I must explain to you. I have spoken not such good things of Raditch who was killed and of Matchek who is alive—you had better put on your dressing-gown, for I will be some time explaining this to you—but I want to make you understand that though they are not at all clever men and cannot understand that there must be a Yugoslavia, they are chonest. They would neither of them take money from the Italians and Hungarians. They and their followers would spit on such men as go to be trained in terrorism at the camps in Italy and Hungary. These were quite other men, let me tell you....’

Nevertheless we had woken as early as it was light, and my husband said to me, ‘We have never seen Mestrovitch’s statue of the great Croat patriot, Bishop Strossmayer; it is in the public garden just outside this hotel. Let us go and look at it now.’ So we dressed in the dawn, said ‘Excuse me’ to the charwomen who were scrubbing the hall, and found the Bishop among the dark bushes and drab laurels of the unilluminated morning. But his beauty, even under the handling of one whose preference for rude strength must have been disconcerted by its delicacy, was a light by itself. Mestrovitch had given up his own individuality and simply reproduced the Bishop’s beauty, veiling it with a sense of power, and setting horns in the thick wavy hair, after the manner of Michelangelo’s Moses. I would like to know if Mestrovitch ever saw his model: he probably did, for Strossmayer lived until he was ninety in the year 1905.

This dazzling creature had then completed fifty-six years of continuous heroic agitation for the liberation of the Croats and as the fearless denunciator of Austro-Hungarian tyranny. Because


of his brilliant performances as a preacher and a scholar he was at thirty-four made the Bishop of Djakovo, a see which included a vast stretch of the Slav-inhabited territory of the Empire; and he immediately declared himself as a passionate pro-Croat. It is an indication of the wrongs suffered by the Croats that the revenues of this bishopric were enormous, though the poverty and ignorance of the peasants were so extreme that they shocked and actually frightened travellers. He amazed everyone by spending these enormous revenues on the Croats. While Hungary was trying to Magyarize the Croats by forbidding them to use their own language, and as far as possible deprived them of all but the most elementary education, he financed a number of secondary schools and seminaries for clerics, where the instructions were given in Serbo-Croat; he endowed many South Slav literary men and philologists, both Croats and Serbs, and, what was most important, he insisted on the rights of the Croats and the Slovenes to use the Slav liturgy instead of the Latin. This last was their ancient privilege, for which they had bargained with Rome at the time of their conversion by Cyril and Methodius in the ninth century, when they were a free people. He founded the University of Zagreb, which was necessary not only for educational reasons but to give the Croats a proper social status; for in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, as in Germany and in the United States, graduation at a university has a class value; it is the mental equivalent of a white collar. Since the Croats had a university they could not be despised as peasants. He was able to raise pro-Slav feeling in the rest of Europe, for he was the friend of many distinguished Frenchmen, and he was the admired correspondent of Lord Acton and Mr Gladstone.

In all this lifelong struggle he had the support of no authority. He stood alone. Though Pope Leo XIII liked and admired him, the Ultramontane Party, which wanted to dye the Church in the Italian colours, loathed him because he was one of the three dissentients who voted against the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility. On this matter he was of the same mind as Lord Acton, but was at odds with his nearer Catholic neighbours. These hated him because he defended the right of the Slavs to have their liturgy said in their own tongue. They also found him lamentably deficient in bigotry. When he sent a telegram of brotherly greetings to the head of the Orthodox Church in Russia on the occasion of the millenary of the Slav apostle Methodius, his fellow-Catholics, particularly the Hungarians, raged against this as an insult to the Holy See. The sense of being part of a universal brotherhood, of being sure of finding a family welcome in the furthest land, is one of the sweetest benefits offered by the Roman Catholic Church to its members. He had none of this enjoyment. He had only to leave his diocese to meet coldness and insolence from those who should have been his brothers.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire could not persecute Strossmayer to his danger. The Croats loved him too well, and it was not safe to have a belt of disaffected Slavs on the border of Serbia, the free Slav state. But it nagged at him incessantly. When he went to open the Slav Academy in Zagreb the streets were thronged with cheering crowds, but the Government forbade all decorations and illuminations. It took him fifteen years to force on Vienna the University of Zagreb; the statutes were not sanctioned till five years after the necessary funds had been collected. During the negotiations which settled the terms on which Croatia was to submit to Hungary, after Hungary had been given a new status by Elizabeth’s invention of the Dual Monarchy, Strossmayer was exiled to France. At the height of the trouble over his telegram to the Orthodox Church about Methodius, he was summoned to Sclavonia, a district of Hungary, where the Emperor Franz Josef was attending manoeuvres; and Franz Josef took the opportunity to insult him publicly, though he was then seventy years of age. This was a bitter blow to him, for he loved Austria, and indeed was himself of Austrian stock, and he wished to preserve the Austro-Hungarian Empire by making the Croats loyal and contented instead of rebels who had the right on their side. Again and again he warned the Emperor of the exact point at which his power was going to disintegrate: of Sarajevo. He told him that if the Austrians and Hungarians misgoverned Bosnia they would increase the mass of Slav discontent within the Empire to a weight that no administration could support and the Habsburg power must fall.

But what is marvellous about this career is not only its heroism but its gaiety. Strossmayer was a child of light, exempt from darkness and terror. In person he resembled the slim, long-limbed, and curled Romeo in Delacroix’s Romeo and Juliet, and the Juliet he embraced was all grace. The accounts given by European celebrities of the visits they had to him read richly. The foreigner arrived after a night journey at a small station, far on the thither side of civilization, and was received by a young priest followed by a servant described as ‘a pandour with long moustachios dressed in the uniform of a hussar,’ who put him into a victoria drawn by four dappled greys of the Lipizaner strain which is still to be seen in the Spanish Riding School at Vienna. Twenty-two miles they did in two hours and a half, and at the end, near a small market town, reached a true palace. It was nineteenth-century made, and that was unfortunate, particularly in these parts. There is a theory that the decay of taste is somehow linked with the growth of democracy, but it is completely disproved by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which in its last eighty years grew in fervour for absolutism and for Messrs. Maple of Tottenham Court Road. But there was much here worthy of any palace. There was a magnificent avenue of Italian poplars, planted by the Bishop in his young days; there was a superb park, landscaped by the Bishop himself; there were greenhouses and winter gardens, the like of which the eastward traveller would not see again until he had passed through Serbia and Bulgaria and Roumania and had found his way to the large estates in Russia.

The guest breakfasted by an open window admitting the perfume of an adjacent acacia grove, on prodigious butter and cream from the home farm, on Viennese coffee and rolls made of flour sent from Budapest. Later he was taken to worship in the Cathedral which the Bishop had built, where peasants proudly wearing Slav costumes were hearing the Slav liturgy. Then there was the return to the palace, and a view of the picture gallery, hung with works of art which Strossmayer had collected in preparation for the museum at Zagreb. It is an endearing touch that he confessed he was extremely glad of the imperial opposition which had delayed the foundation of this museum, so that he had an excuse for keeping these pictures in his own home. After an excellent midday dinner the Bishop exhibited his collection of gold and silver crucifixes and chalices of Slav workmanship, dating from the tenth to the fourteenth century, pointing out the high level of civilization which they betokened. Then the Bishop would take the visitor round his home farm. to see the Lipizaner horses he bred very profitably for the market, the Swiss cattle he had imported to improve the local stock, and the model dairy which was used for instructional purposes, and he would walk with him in his deer park, at one corner of which he had saved from the axes of the woodcutters a tract of primeval Balkan forest, within a palisade erected to keep out the wolves which still ravaged that part of the world. Before supper the visitor took a little rest. The Bishop sent up to him a few reviews and newspapers: The Times, La Revue des Deux Mondes the Journal des Economistes, La Nuova Antologia, and so on.

After supper, at which the food and drink were again delicious, there were hours of conversation, exquisite in manner, stirring in matter. Strossmayer spoke perfect German, Italian, Czech, Russian, and Serbian, and a peculiarly musical French which bewitched the ears of Frenchmen; but it was in Latin that he was most articulate. It was his favourite medium of expression, and all those who heard him use it, even when they were such scholars as the Vatican Council, were amazed by the loveliness he extracted from that not so very sensuous language. About his conversation there seems to have been the clear welling beauty of the first Latin hymns. The early Christians and he alike were possessed by an ardour which was the very quality needed to transcend the peculiar limitations of that tongue. It was an ardour which, in the case of Strossmayer, led to a glorious unfailing charity towards events. He spoke of his beloved Croats, of the victories of their cause, of his friendships with great men, as a lark might sing in mid-air; but of his struggles with Rome and the Habsburgs he spoke with equal joy, as a triumphant athlete might recall his most famous contests. His visitors, who had travelled far to reassure him in his precarious position, went home in a state of reassurance such as they had never known before.

This is not a character in life as we know it: it belongs to the world that hangs before us just so long as the notes of a Mozart aria linger in the ear. According to our dingy habit, which is necessary enough, considering our human condition, we regard him with suspicion, we look for the snake beneath the flower. All of us know what it is to be moon-struck by charmers and to misinterpret their charm as a promise that now, at last, in this enchanting company, life can be lived without precaution, in the laughing exchange of generosities; and all of us have found later that that charm made no promise and meant nothing, absolutely nothing, except perhaps that their mothers’ glands worked very well before they were born. Actually such men often cannot understand generosity at all, since the eupeptic quality which is the cause of their charm enables them to live happily without feeling the need for sweetening life by amiable conduct. They often refrain from contemptuous comment on such folly because they have some use for the gifts of the generous, but even then they usually cannot contain their scorn at what seems a crazy looseness, an idiot interference with the efficient mechanism of self-interest. Hence the biographies of charmers are often punctuated by treachery and brutality of a most painful kind. So we wait for the dark passages in Strossmayer’s story. But they do not come.

It appears that he turned on the spiritual world the same joyous sensuality with which he chose chalices, Italian pictures, horses, cattle, coffee, and flowers. He rejected brutality as if it were a spavined horse, treachery as if it had been chicory in the coffee. His epicureanism did not fail under its last and supreme obligation, so much more difficult than the harshest vow of abstinence taken by ascetics: he preferred love to hate, and made sacrifices for that preference. The sole companions left to him were the Croats; for them he had forsaken all others. But he never hesitated to oppose the Croat leaders over certain errors tending to malice and persecution, which sprung up here as they are bound to do in every movement of liberation. Though he risked everything to free the Croats from the dominance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he would not suffer any attempt to raise hatred among the Slavs against the Austrians or the Hungarian peoples; nor did he ever let ill be spoken of the Emperor Franz Josef. Nor, though he was a most fervent propagandist for the Roman Catholic faith, would he have any hand in the movement to persecute the Orthodox Church which set the Croat against the Serb. He set himself another problem of enormous delicacy in his opposition to anti-Semitism, which was here an inevitable growth, since the feudal system kept the peasants bound to the land and thereby gave the Jews a virtual monopoly of trade and the professions. For thirty-six years, smiling, he dared deny his friends all titbits to feed the beast in their bosoms, and lived in peril of making them his enemies, though he loved friendship above all things. Out of the political confusion of Croatia which makes for the endless embitterment and impoverishment I have described, this creature had derived sweetness and well-being.

‘That is one of the most beautiful lives recorded in modern history,’ said my husband. We left the lovely statue smiling under the heavy rain.

On the railway station we found the good Gregorievitch and Valetta waiting to say good-bye to us. They stood side by side on the platform, these two enemies, the early morning rain dripping on their turned-up coat collars. Valetta laughed and wriggled as the drops of water trickled down his neck, but Gregorievitch merely bowed beneath the torrents. ‘Nothing is as it used to be,’ he said stoically; ‘even the seasons are changed.’ We did not wonder that he correlated his political disappointments with the weather. The previous day we had seen him link them with phenomena fated, it might have been imagined, to be connected with absolutely nothing, to be themselves alone.

We had gone, Constantine and my husband and myself, to take tea with Gregorievitch at his little flat on the hill beyond the Cathedral. His apartment and his family were the work of that God whose creations Tchekov described. Gregorievitch’s wife was nearly as tall and quite as thin as he was, and every minute or so she put her hand to her head in a gesture of apprehension so uncontrolled that it disturbed her front hair, which rose in that tangled palisade called a transformation, familiar to us on the brows of nineteenth-century minor royalties, and finally fixed it at an angle of about sixty degrees to her fine and melancholy features. This would have been comic had she not been a creature moulded in nobility, and had it not been probable that that gesture had become a habit in the early days of her marriage, when Gregorievitch was as young as Valetta, and there was a Hungarian Ban in Zagreb, and every knock at the door might mean, and more than once had meant, that police officers had come to arrest him.

There was also a daughter, very short, very plump, very gay, an amazing production for the Gregorievitches. It was as if two very serious authors had set out to collaborate and then had published a limerick. We had heard about her: she wanted to marry a young officer, but could not because Army regulations forbade him to take a bride with a dowry below a certain sum, and the bank in which Gregorievitch had put his savings declared a moratorium. But she laughed a great deal, and wore a dress printed with little yellow flowers. That was not all in the little flat. There was also a small white poodle, which was pretty and neatly clipped, but old and careworn. It barked furiously when we entered; on Sunday afternoon it was evidently accustomed to repose itself and considered visitors a disorderly innovation. Quivering with rage, it watched while we were shown the sitting-room and the little library which opened off it through an arch. These rooms were full of heavy Austrian furniture with stamped leather cushions and embroidered mats, and they were suffused with a curious nostalgia, as if far older people were living in them than was the case. In the library several tables were entirely covered with thousands of typewritten pages: there must have been at least three-quarters of a million words. Gregorievitch told us that this was the typescript of his book on his war experiences, but it was only half finished, and now he had begun to doubt if it was morally justifiable to write it. To make conversation, since everybody was very silent, my husband looked at the bookshelves and seeing that many of the volumes were well worn, said, ‘I suppose you love your books very much?’ Gregorievitch thought for some time and then said, ‘No.’ The conversation dropped again.

‘Ah! Ah! Ah!’ cried Constantine, pointing his forefinger. We all wheeled about and saw that the poodle was relieving itself on the carpet. The poor creature was making the only protest it could concerning its shattered repose; but it must be admitted that the spectacle was extremely obscene, for its froth of white curls over its clipped limbs recalled a ballerina. Gregorievitch and his wife started forward with tragic faces. The dog got up on its hind legs and clung onto Gregorievitch’s hand, barking in weak defiance, putting his case about the sacredness of Sunday afternoon. But Gregorievitch inclined from his great height a face of solemn censure, as if it were a child or even a man who were at fault, while his wife beat the poodle with a small stick which had been brought from the hall by the daughter, who was now no longer laughing. Gregorievitch’s expression reminded me of the words St. Augustine once addressed to a Donatist bishop whom he was persecuting: ‘If you could see the sorrow of my heart and my concern for your salvation, you would perhaps take pity on your own soul.’

The dog was put out into the passage: but the incident could not be considered as ended. There remained in the middle of the carpet the results of its protest. We endeavoured to take the matter lightly, but we found that the Gregorievitches were evidently hurt by our frivolity; it was as if we had chanced to be with them when a son of theirs had returned home drunk or wearing the badge of the Croat Separatist Party, and we had tried to tamper with the horror of the moment by laughter. The atmosphere was tense beyond bearing; so Constantine, who had assumed an air of gravity, walked to the piano in the manner of an official taking charge in an emergency, and played a majestic motet by Bach, which recognizes the fact of tragedy and examines it in the light of an intuitive certainty that the universe will ultimately be found to be reasonable. The Gregorievitches, who had sunk into two armchairs facing each other, sat with their arms and legs immensely extended before them, nodding their heads to the music and showing signs of deriving sober comfort from its message. There entered presently with a brush and dust-pan an elderly servant, in peasant costume, who was grinning from ear to ear at the joke the dog’s nature had played on the gentry.

As she proceeded with her task Constantine passed into the calmer and less transcendental music of a Mozart sonata, suitable to the re-establishment of an earthly decorum; and when she left the room he played a brief triumphal passage from Handel and then rose from the piano. Madame Gregorievitch bowed to him, as if to thank him for having handled a social catastrophe with the tact of a true gentleman, and he acknowledged the bow very much as Heine might have done. She then began to converse with me on general topics, on the exceptionally severe weather and its effect on the social festivities of Zagreb. Meanwhile her husband took mine aside, ostensibly to show him a fine print representing the death of an early Croatian king, but really to murmur in a voice hoarse with resentment that he had owned both the poodle’s father and grandmother, and that neither of them would ever have dreamed of behaving in such a way. ‘Nothing, man or beast, is as it was. Our ideals, think what has happened to our ideals ... what has happened to our patriots....’

But for dear Valetta it is not all politics. He is a man of letters, he is a poet. What he could give the world, if there could only be peace in Croatia! But how is there to be peace in Croatia? It is said by some that it could be imposed overnight, if the Serbs of Yugoslavia could nerve themselves to grant federalism on the Swiss model. That would change the twilit character of Croatian history, it would give the Croats a sense of having at last won a success, it would give their national life a proper form. That, however, could never be a true solution. But supposing Croatia got her independence, and the peasants found they were still poor, surely, there would be a movement towards some form of social revolution; and surely then the bourgeoisie and the conservatives among the peasants would try to hand their country over to some foreign power, preferably Nazi or Fascist, for the sake of stability. Surely, too, the Roman Catholic Church would be pleased enough if Croatia left its union with Orthodox Yugoslavia. And if that happened there would be no more peace in Croatia, for either Gregorievitch or Valetta. They were both true Slavs, and they would neither of them be able to tolerate foreign domination, firstly because it was foreign, and secondly because it was Fascist. Suddenly they looked to me strange and innocent, like King Alexander of Yugoslavia in the first part of the film, as he was in the boat and on the quay at Marseille. I pulled down the window so that I could see them better, my two dear friends who were each other’s enemies, who might yet be united to each other, far more closely than they could ever be to me, by a common heroic fate. Such a terrible complexity has been left by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which some desire to restore; such a complexity, in which nobody can be right and nobody can be wrong, and the future cannot be fortunate.

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