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grows up; "time is always something of a narcotic you know. Things seem
absolutely unbearable, and then bit by bit we find out that we are
bearing them. And now, dear, I'll fill up your notification paper and
leave you to superintend your unpacking. Robert will give you any help
you want."

"What is the notification paper?" asked Yeovil.

"Oh, a stupid form to be filled up when any one arrives, to say where
they come from, and their business and nationality and religion, and all
that sort of thing. We're rather more bureaucratic than we used to be,
you know."

Yeovil said nothing, but into the sallow greyness of his face there crept
a dark flush, that faded presently and left his colour more grey and
bloodless than before.

The journey seemed suddenly to have recommenced; he was under his own
roof, his servants were waiting on him, his familiar possessions were in
evidence around him, but the sense of being at home had vanished. It was
as though he had arrived at some wayside hotel, and been asked to
register his name and status and destination. Other things of disgust
and irritation he had foreseen in the London he was coming to - the
alterations on stamps and coinage, the intrusive Teuton element, the
alien uniforms cropping up everywhere, the new orientation of social
life; such things he was prepared for, but this personal evidence of his
subject state came on him unawares, at a moment when he had, so to speak,
laid his armour aside. Cicely spoke lightly of the hateful formality
that had been forced on them; would he, too, come to regard things in the
same acquiescent spirit?




CHAPTER III: "THE METSKIE TSAR"


"I was in the early stages of my fever when I got the first inkling of
what was going on," said Yeovil to the doctor, as they sat over their
coffee in a recess of the big smoking-room; "just able to potter about a
bit in the daytime, fighting against depression and inertia, feverish as
evening came on, and delirious in the night. My game tracker and my
attendant were both Buriats, and spoke very little Russian, and that was
the only language we had in common to converse in. In matters concerning
food and sport we soon got to understand each other, but on other
subjects we were not easily able to exchange ideas. One day my tracker
had been to a distant trading-store to get some things of which we were
in need; the store was eighty miles from the nearest point of railroad,
eighty miles of terribly bad roads, but it was in its way a centre and
transmitter of news from the outside world. The tracker brought back
with him vague tidings of a conflict of some sort between the 'Metskie
Tsar' and the 'Angliskie Tsar,' and kept repeating the Russian word for
defeat. The 'Angliskie Tsar' I recognised, of course, as the King of
England, but my brain was too sick and dull to read any further meaning
into the man's reiterated gabble. I grew so ill just then that I had to
give up the struggle against fever, and make my way as best I could
towards the nearest point where nursing and doctoring could be had. It
was one evening, in a lonely rest-hut on the edge of a huge forest, as I
was waiting for my boy to bring the meal for which I was feverishly
impatient, and which I knew I should loathe as soon as it was brought,
that the explanation of the word 'Metskie' flashed on me. I had thought
of it as referring to some Oriental potentate, some rebellious rajah
perhaps, who was giving trouble, and whose followers had possibly
discomfited an isolated British force in some out-of-the-way corner of
our Empire. And all of a sudden I knew that 'Nemetskie Tsar,' German
Emperor, had been the name that the man had been trying to convey to me.
I shouted for the tracker, and put him through a breathless
cross-examination; he confirmed what my fears had told me. The 'Metskie
Tsar' was a big European ruler, he had been in conflict with the
'Angliskie Tsar,' and the latter had been defeated, swept away; the man
spoke the word that he used for ships, and made energetic pantomime to
express the sinking of a fleet. Holham, there was nothing for it but to
hope that this was a false, groundless rumour, that had somehow crept to
the confines of civilisation. In my saner balanced moments it was
possible to disbelieve it, but if you have ever suffered from delirium
you will know what raging torments of agony I went through in the nights,
how my brain fought and refought that rumoured disaster."

The doctor gave a murmur of sympathetic understanding.

"Then," continued Yeovil, "I reached the small Siberian town towards
which I had been struggling. There was a little colony of Russians
there, traders, officials, a doctor or two, and some army officers. I
put up at the primitive hotel-restaurant, which was the general gathering-
place of the community. I knew quickly that the news was true. Russians
are the most tactful of any European race that I have ever met; they did
not stare with insolent or pitying curiosity, but there was something
changed in their attitude which told me that the travelling Briton was no
longer in their eyes the interesting respect-commanding personality that
he had been in past days. I went to my own room, where the samovar was
bubbling its familiar tune and a smiling red-shirted Russian boy was
helping my Buriat servant to unpack my wardrobe, and I asked for any back
numbers of newspapers that could be supplied at a moment's notice. I was
given a bundle of well-thumbed sheets, odd pieces of the Novoe Vremya,
the Moskovskie Viedomosti, one or two complete numbers of local papers
published at Perm and Tobolsk. I do not read Russian well, though I
speak it fairly readily, but from the fragments of disconnected telegrams
that I pieced together I gathered enough information to acquaint me with
the extent of the tragedy that had been worked out in a few crowded hours
in a corner of North-Western Europe. I searched frantically for
telegrams of later dates that would put a better complexion on the
matter, that would retrieve something from the ruin; presently I came
across a page of the illustrated supplement that the Novoe Vremya
publishes once a week. There was a photograph of a long-fronted building
with a flag flying over it, labelled 'The new standard floating over
Buckingham Palace.' The picture was not much more than a smudge, but the
flag, possibly touched up, was unmistakable. It was the eagle of the
Nemetskie Tsar. I have a vivid recollection of that plainly-furnished
little room, with the inevitable gilt ikon in one corner, and the samovar
hissing and gurgling on the table, and the thrumming music of a balalaika
orchestra coming up from the restaurant below; the next coherent thing I
can remember was weeks and weeks later, discussing in an impersonal
detached manner whether I was strong enough to stand the fatigue of the
long railway journey to Finland.

"Since then, Holham, I have been encouraged to keep my mind as much off
the war and public affairs as possible, and I have been glad to do so. I
knew the worst and there was no particular use in deepening my
despondency by dragging out the details. But now I am more or less a
live man again, and I want to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of what
happened. You know how much I know, and how little; those fragments of
Russian newspapers were about all the information that I had. I don't
even know clearly how the whole thing started."

Yeovil settled himself back in his chair with the air of a man who has
done some necessary talking, and now assumes the role of listener.

"It started," said the doctor, "with a wholly unimportant disagreement
about some frontier business in East Africa; there was a slight attack of
nerves in the stock markets, and then the whole thing seemed in a fair
way towards being settled. Then the negotiations over the affair began
to drag unduly, and there was a further flutter of nervousness in the
money world. And then one morning the papers reported a highly menacing
speech by one of the German Ministers, and the situation began to look
black indeed. 'He will be disavowed,' every one said over here, but in
less than twenty-four hours those who knew anything knew that the crisis
was on us - only their knowledge came too late. 'War between two such
civilised and enlightened nations is an impossibility,' one of our
leaders of public opinion had declared on the Saturday; by the following
Friday the war had indeed become an impossibility, because we could no
longer carry it on. It burst on us with calculated suddenness, and we
were just not enough, everywhere where the pressure came. Our ships were
good against their ships, our seamen were better than their seamen, but
our ships were not able to cope with their ships plus their superiority
in aircraft. Our trained men were good against their trained men, but
they could not be in several places at once, and the enemy could. Our
half-trained men and our untrained men could not master the science of
war at a moment's notice, and a moment's notice was all they got. The
enemy were a nation apprenticed in arms, we were not even the idle
apprentice: we had not deemed apprenticeship worth our while. There was
courage enough running loose in the land, but it was like unharnessed
electricity, it controlled no forces, it struck no blows. There was no
time for the heroism and the devotion which a drawn-out struggle, however
hopeless, can produce; the war was over almost as soon as it had begun.
After the reverses which happened with lightning rapidity in the first
three days of warfare, the newspapers made no effort to pretend that the
situation could be retrieved; editors and public alike recognised that
these were blows over the heart, and that it was a matter of moments
before we were counted out. One might liken the whole affair to a snap
checkmate early in a game of chess; one side had thought out the moves,
and brought the requisite pieces into play, the other side was hampered
and helpless, with its resources unavailable, its strategy discounted in
advance. That, in a nutshell, is the history of the war."

Yeovil was silent for a moment or two, then he asked:

"And the sequel, the peace?"

"The collapse was so complete that I fancy even the enemy were hardly
prepared for the consequences of their victory. No one had quite
realised what one disastrous campaign would mean for an island nation
with a closely packed population. The conquerors were in a position to
dictate what terms they pleased, and it was not wonderful that their
ideas of aggrandisement expanded in the hour of intoxication. There was
no European combination ready to say them nay, and certainly no one Power
was going to be rash enough to step in to contest the terms of the treaty
that they imposed on the conquered. Annexation had probably never been a
dream before the war; after the war it suddenly became temptingly
practical. Warum nicht? became the theme of leader-writers in the German
press; they pointed out that Britain, defeated and humiliated, but with
enormous powers of recuperation, would be a dangerous and inevitable
enemy for the Germany of to-morrow, while Britain incorporated within the
Hohenzollern Empire would merely be a disaffected province, without a
navy to make its disaffection a serious menace, and with great tax-paying
capabilities, which would be available for relieving the burdens of the
other Imperial States. Wherefore, why not annex? The warum nicht? party
prevailed. Our King, as you know, retired with his Court to Delhi, as
Emperor in the East, with most of his overseas dominions still subject to
his sway. The British Isles came under the German Crown as a Reichsland,
a sort of Alsace-Lorraine washed by the North Sea instead of the Rhine.
We still retain our Parliament, but it is a clipped and pruned-down
shadow of its former self, with most of its functions in abeyance; when
the elections were held it was difficult to get decent candidates to come
forward or to get people to vote. It makes one smile bitterly to think
that a year or two ago we were seriously squabbling as to who should have
votes. And, of course, the old party divisions have more or less
crumbled away. The Liberals naturally are under the blackest of clouds,
for having steered the country to disaster, though to do them justice it
was no more their fault than the fault of any other party. In a
democracy such as ours was the Government of the day must more or less
reflect the ideas and temperament of the nation in all vital matters, and
the British nation in those days could not have been persuaded of the
urgent need for military apprenticeship or of the deadly nature of its
danger. It was willing now and then to be half-frightened and to have
half-measures, or, one might better say, quarter-measures taken to
reassure it, and the governments of the day were willing to take them,
but any political party or group of statesmen that had said 'the danger
is enormous and immediate, the sacrifices and burdens must be enormous
and immediate,' would have met with certain defeat at the polls. Still,
of course, the Liberals, as the party that had held office for nearly a
decade, incurred the odium of a people maddened by defeat and
humiliation; one Minister, who had had less responsibility for military
organisation than perhaps any of them, was attacked and nearly killed at
Newcastle, another was hiding for three days on Exmoor, and escaped in
disguise."

"And the Conservatives?"

"They are also under eclipse, but it is more or less voluntary in their
case. For generations they had taken their stand as supporters of Throne
and Constitution, and when they suddenly found the Constitution gone and
the Throne filled by an alien dynasty, their political orientation had
vanished. They are in much the same position as the Jacobites occupied
after the Hanoverian accession. Many of the leading Tory families have
emigrated to the British lands beyond the seas, others are shut up in
their country houses, retrenching their expenses, selling their acres,
and investing their money abroad. The Labour faction, again, are almost
in as bad odour as the Liberals, because of having hob-nobbed too
effusively and ostentatiously with the German democratic parties on the
eve of the war, exploiting an evangel of universal brotherhood which did
not blunt a single Teuton bayonet when the hour came. I suppose in time
party divisions will reassert themselves in some form or other; there
will be a Socialist Party, and the mercantile and manufacturing interests
will evolve a sort of bourgeoise party, and the different religious
bodies will try to get themselves represented - "

Yeovil made a movement of impatience.

"All these things that you forecast," he said, "must take time,
considerable time; is this nightmare, then, to go on for ever?"

"It is not a nightmare, unfortunately," said the doctor, "it is a
reality."

"But, surely - a nation such as ours, a virile, highly-civilised nation
with an age-long tradition of mastery behind it, cannot be held under for
ever by a few thousand bayonets and machine guns. We must surely rise up
one day and drive them out."

"Dear man," said the doctor, "we might, of course, at some given moment
overpower the garrison that is maintained here, and seize the forts, and
perhaps we might be able to mine the harbours; what then? In a fortnight
or so we could be starved into unconditional submission. Remember, all
the advantages of isolated position that told in our favour while we had
the sea dominion, tell against us now that the sea dominion is in other
hands. The enemy would not need to mobilise a single army corps or to
bring a single battleship into action; a fleet of nimble cruisers and
destroyers circling round our coasts would be sufficient to shut out our
food supplies."

"Are you trying to tell me that this is a final overthrow?" said Yeovil
in a shaking voice; "are we to remain a subject race like the Poles?"

"Let us hope for a better fate," said the doctor. "Our opportunity may
come if the Master Power is ever involved in an unsuccessful naval war
with some other nation, or perhaps in some time of European crisis, when
everything hung in the balance, our latent hostility might have to be
squared by a concession of independence. That is what we have to hope
for and watch for. On the other hand, the conquerors have to count on
time and tact to weaken and finally obliterate the old feelings of
nationality; the middle-aged of to-day will grow old and acquiescent in
the changed state of things; the young generations will grow up never
having known anything different. It's a far cry to Delhi, as the old
Indian proverb says, and the strange half-European, half-Asiatic Court
out there will seem more and more a thing exotic and unreal. 'The King
across the water' was a rallying-cry once upon a time in our history, but
a king on the further side of the Indian Ocean is a shadowy competitor
for one who alternates between Potsdam and Windsor."

"I want you to tell me everything," said Yeovil, after another pause;
"tell me, Holham, how far has this obliterating process of 'time and
tact' gone? It seems to be pretty fairly started already. I bought a
newspaper as soon as I landed, and I read it in the train coming up. I
read things that puzzled and disgusted me. There were announcements of
concerts and plays and first-nights and private views; there were even
small dances. There were advertisements of house-boats and week-end
cottages and string bands for garden parties. It struck me that it was
rather like merrymaking with a dead body lying in the house."

"Yeovil," said the doctor, "you must bear in mind two things. First, the
necessity for the life of the country going on as if nothing had
happened. It is true that many thousands of our working men and women
have emigrated and thousands of our upper and middle class too; they were
the people who were not tied down by business, or who could afford to cut
those ties. But those represent comparatively a few out of the many. The
great businesses and the small businesses must go on, people must be fed
and clothed and housed and medically treated, and their thousand-and-one
wants and necessities supplied. Look at me, for instance; however much I
loathe coming under a foreign domination and paying taxes to an alien
government, I can't abandon my practice and my patients, and set up anew
in Toronto or Allahabad, and if I could, some other doctor would have to
take my place here. I or that other doctor must have our servants and
motors and food and furniture and newspapers, even our sport. The golf
links and the hunting field have been well-nigh deserted since the war,
but they are beginning to get back their votaries because out-door sport
has become a necessity, and a very rational necessity, with numbers of
men who have to work otherwise under unnatural and exacting conditions.
That is one factor of the situation. The other affects London more
especially, but through London it influences the rest of the country to a
certain extent. You will see around you here much that will strike you
as indications of heartless indifference to the calamity that has
befallen our nation. Well, you must remember that many things in modern
life, especially in the big cities, are not national but international.
In the world of music and art and the drama, for instance, the foreign
names are legion, they confront you at every turn, and some of our
British devotees of such arts are more acclimatised to the ways of Munich
or Moscow than they are familiar with the life, say, of Stirling or York.
For years they have lived and thought and spoken in an atmosphere and
jargon of denationalised culture - even those of them who have never left
our shores. They would take pains to be intimately familiar with the
domestic affairs and views of life of some Galician gipsy dramatist, and
gravely quote and discuss his opinions on debts and mistresses and
cookery, while they would shudder at 'D'ye ken John Peel?' as a piece of
uncouth barbarity. You cannot expect a world of that sort to be
permanently concerned or downcast because the Crown of Charlemagne takes
its place now on the top of the Royal box in the theatres, or at the head
of programmes at State concerts. And then there are the Jews."

"There are many in the land, or at least in London," said Yeovil.

"There are even more of them now than there used to be," said Holham. "I
am to a great extent a disliker of Jews myself, but I will be fair to
them, and admit that those of them who were in any genuine sense British
have remained British and have stuck by us loyally in our misfortune; all
honour to them. But of the others, the men who by temperament and
everything else were far more Teuton or Polish or Latin than they were
British, it was not to be expected that they would be heartbroken because
London had suddenly lost its place among the political capitals of the
world, and became a cosmopolitan city. They had appreciated the free and
easy liberty of the old days, under British rule, but there was a stiff
insularity in the ruling race that they chafed against. Now, putting
aside some petty Government restrictions that Teutonic bureaucracy has
brought in, there is really, in their eyes, more licence and social
adaptability in London than before. It has taken on some of the aspects
of a No-Man's-Land, and the Jew, if he likes, may almost consider himself
as of the dominant race; at any rate he is ubiquitous. Pleasure, of the
cafe and cabaret and boulevard kind, the sort of thing that gave Berlin
the aspect of the gayest capital in Europe within the last decade, that
is the insidious leaven that will help to denationalise London. Berlin
will probably climb back to some of its old austerity and simplicity, a
world-ruling city with a great sense of its position and its
responsibilities, while London will become more and more the centre of
what these people understand by life."

Yeovil made a movement of impatience and disgust.

"I know, I know," said the doctor, sympathetically; "life and enjoyment
mean to you the howl of a wolf in a forest, the call of a wild swan on
the frozen tundras, the smell of a wood fire in some little inn among the
mountains. There is more music to you in the quick thud, thud of hoofs
on desert mud as a free-stepping horse is led up to your tent door than
in all the dronings and flourishes that a highly-paid orchestra can reel
out to an expensively fed audience. But the tastes of modern London, as
we see them crystallised around us, lie in a very different direction.
People of the world that I am speaking of, our dominant world at the
present moment, herd together as closely packed to the square yard as
possible, doing nothing worth doing, and saying nothing worth saying, but
doing it and saying it over and over again, listening to the same
melodies, watching the same artistes, echoing the same catchwords,
ordering the same dishes in the same restaurants, suffering each other's
cigarette smoke and perfumes and conversation, feverishly, anxiously
making arrangements to meet each other again to-morrow, next week, and
the week after next, and repeat the same gregarious experience. If they
were not herded together in a corner of western London, watching each
other with restless intelligent eyes, they would be herded together at
Brighton or Dieppe, doing the same thing. Well, you will find that life
of that sort goes forward just as usual, only it is even more prominent
and noticeable now because there is less public life of other kinds."

Yeovil said something which was possibly the Buriat word for the nether
world. Outside in the neighbouring square a band had been playing at
intervals during the evening. Now it struck up an air that Yeovil had
already heard whistled several times since his landing, an air with a
captivating suggestion of slyness and furtive joyousness running through
it.

He rose and walked across to the window, opening it a little wider. He
listened till the last notes had died away.

"What is that tune they have just played?" he asked.

"You'll hear it often enough," said the doctor. "A Frenchman writing in
the Matin the other day called it the 'National Anthem of the fait
accompli.'"




CHAPTER IV: "ES IST VERBOTEN"


Yeovil wakened next morning to the pleasant sensation of being in a
household where elaborate machinery for the smooth achievement of one's


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