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"Of course the industrial life of the country has to go on," said Yeovil;
"no one could criticise Gorla if she interested herself in organising
cottage industries or anything of that sort, in which she would be
helping her own people. That one could understand, but I don't think a
cosmopolitan concern like the music-hall business calls for personal
sacrifices from young women of good family at a moment like the present."

"It is just at a moment like the present that the people want something
to interest them and take them out of themselves," said Cicely
argumentatively; "what has happened, has happened, and we can't undo it
or escape the consequences. What we can do, or attempt to do, is to make
things less dreary, and make people less unhappy."

"In a word, more contented," said Yeovil; "if I were a German statesman,
that is the end I would labour for and encourage others to labour for, to
make the people forget that they were discontented. All this work of
regalvanising the social side of London life may be summed up in the
phrase 'travailler pour le roi de Prusse.'"

"I don't think there is any use in discussing the matter further," said

"I can see that grand supper-party not coming off," said Joan

Ronnie looked anxiously at Cicely.

"You can see it coming on, if you're gifted with prophetic vision of a
reliable kind," said Cicely; "of course as Murrey doesn't take kindly to
the idea of Gorla's enterprise I won't have the party here. I'll give it
at a restaurant, that's all. I can see Murrey's point of view, and
sympathise with it, but I'm not going to throw Gorla over."

There was another pause of uncomfortably protracted duration.

"I say, this is a top-hole omelette," said Ronnie.

It was his only contribution to the conversation, but it was a valuable


Herr Von Kwarl sat at his favourite table in the Brandenburg Cafe, the
new building that made such an imposing show (and did such thriving
business) at the lower end of what most of its patrons called the
Regentstrasse. Though the establishment was new it had already achieved
its unwritten code of customs, and the sanctity of Herr von Kwarl's
specially reserved table had acquired the authority of a tradition. A
set of chessmen, a copy of the Kreuz Zeitung and the Times, and a slim-
necked bottle of Rhenish wine, ice-cool from the cellar, were always to
be found there early in the forenoon, and the honoured guest for whom
these preparations were made usually arrived on the scene shortly after
eleven o'clock. For an hour or so he would read and silently digest the
contents of his two newspapers, and then at the first sign of flagging
interest on his part, another of the cafe's regular customers would march
across the floor, exchange a word or two on the affairs of the day, and
be bidden with a wave of the hand into the opposite seat. A waiter would
instantly place the chessboard with its marshalled ranks of combatants in
the required position, and the contest would begin.

Herr von Kwarl was a heavily built man of mature middle-age, of the blond
North-German type, with a facial aspect that suggested stupidity and
brutality. The stupidity of his mien masked an ability and shrewdness
that was distinctly above the average, and the suggestion of brutality
was belied by the fact that von Kwarl was as kind-hearted a man as one
could meet with in a day's journey. Early in life, almost before he was
in his teens, Fritz von Kwarl had made up his mind to accept the world as
it was, and to that philosophical resolution, steadfastly adhered to, he
attributed his excellent digestion and his unruffled happiness. Perhaps
he confused cause and effect; the excellent digestion may have been
responsible for at least some of the philosophical serenity.

He was a bachelor of the type that is called confirmed, and which might
better be labelled consecrated; from his early youth onward to his
present age he had never had the faintest flickering intention of
marriage. Children and animals he adored, women and plants he accounted
somewhat of a nuisance. A world without women and roses and asparagus
would, he admitted, be robbed of much of its charm, but with all their
charm these things were tiresome and thorny and capricious, always
wanting to climb or creep in places where they were not wanted, and
resolutely drooping and fading away when they were desired to flourish.
Animals, on the other hand, accepted the world as it was and made the
best of it, and children, at least nice children, uncontaminated by grown-
up influences, lived in worlds of their own making.

Von Kwarl held no acknowledged official position in the country of his
residence, but it was an open secret that those responsible for the real
direction of affairs sought his counsel on nearly every step that they
meditated, and that his counsel was very rarely disregarded. Some of the
shrewdest and most successful enactments of the ruling power were
believed to have originated in the brain-cells of the bovine-fronted
Stammgast of the Brandenburg Cafe.

Around the wood-panelled walls of the Cafe were set at intervals well-
mounted heads of boar, elk, stag, roe-buck, and other game-beasts of a
northern forest, while in between were carved armorial escutcheons of the
principal cities of the lately expanded realm, Magdeburg, Manchester,
Hamburg, Bremen, Bristol, and so forth. Below these came shelves on
which stood a wonderful array of stone beer-mugs, each decorated with
some fantastic device or motto, and most of them pertaining individually
and sacredly to some regular and unfailing customer. In one particular
corner of the highest shelf, greatly at his ease and in nowise to be
disturbed, slept Wotan, the huge grey house-cat, dreaming doubtless of
certain nimble and audacious mice down in the cellar three floors below,
whose nimbleness and audacity were as precious to him as the forwardness
of the birds is to a skilled gun on a grouse moor. Once every day Wotan
came marching in stately fashion across the polished floor, halted mid-
way to resume an unfinished toilet operation, and then proceeded to pay
his leisurely respects to his friend von Kwarl. The latter was said to
be prouder of this daily demonstration of esteem than of his many coveted
orders of merit. Several of his friends and acquaintances shared with
him the distinction of having achieved the Black Eagle, but not one of
them had ever succeeded in obtaining the slightest recognition of their
existence from Wotan.

The daily greeting had been exchanged and the proud grey beast had
marched away to the music of a slumberous purr. The Kreuz Zeitung and
the Times underwent a final scrutiny and were pushed aside, and von Kwarl
glanced aimlessly out at the July sunshine bathing the walls and windows
of the Piccadilly Hotel. Herr Rebinok, the plump little Pomeranian
banker, stepped across the floor, almost as noiselessly as Wotan had
done, though with considerably less grace, and some half-minute later was
engaged in sliding pawns and knights and bishops to and fro on the chess-
board in a series of lightning moves bewildering to look on. Neither he
nor his opponent played with the skill that they severally brought to
bear on banking and statecraft, nor did they conduct their game with the
politeness that they punctiliously observed in other affairs of life. A
running fire of contemptuous remarks and aggressive satire accompanied
each move, and the mere record of the conversation would have given an
uninitiated onlooker the puzzling impression that an easy and crushing
victory was assured to both the players.

"Aha, he is puzzled. Poor man, he doesn't know what to do . . . Oho, he
thinks he will move there, does he? Much good that will do him. . . .
Never have I seen such a mess as he is in . . . he cannot do anything, he
is absolutely helpless, helpless."

"Ah, you take my bishop, do you? Much I care for that. Nothing. See, I
give you check. Ah, now he is in a fright! He doesn't know where to go.
What a mess he is in . . . "

So the game proceeded, with a brisk exchange of pieces and incivilities
and a fluctuation of fortunes, till the little banker lost his queen as
the result of an incautious move, and, after several woebegone
contortions of his shoulders and hands, declined further contest. A
sleek-headed piccolo rushed forward to remove the board, and the
erstwhile combatants resumed the courteous dignity that they discarded in
their chess-playing moments.

"Have you seen the Germania to-day?" asked Herr Rebinok, as soon as the
boy had receded to a respectful distance.

"No," said von Kwarl, "I never see the Germania. I count on you to tell
me if there is anything noteworthy in it."

"It has an article to-day headed, 'Occupation or Assimilation,'" said the
banker. "It is of some importance, and well written. It is very

"Catholic papers are always pessimistic about the things of this world,"
said von Kwarl, "just as they are unduly optimistic about the things of
the next world. What line does it take?"

"It says that our conquest of Britain can only result in a temporary
occupation, with a 'notice to quit' always hanging over our heads; that
we can never hope to assimilate the people of these islands in our Empire
as a sort of maritime Saxony or Bavaria, all the teaching of history is
against it; Saxony and Bavaria are part of the Empire because of their
past history. England is being bound into the Empire in spite of her
past history; and so forth."

"The writer of the article has not studied history very deeply," said von
Kwarl. "The impossible thing that he speaks of has been done before, and
done in these very islands, too. The Norman Conquest became an
assimilation in comparatively few generations."

"Ah, in those days, yes," said the banker, "but the conditions were
altogether different. There was not the rapid transmission of news and
the means of keeping the public mind instructed in what was happening; in
fact, one can scarcely say that the public mind was there to instruct.
There was not the same strong bond of brotherhood between men of the same
nation that exists now. Northumberland was almost as foreign to Devon or
Kent as Normandy was. And the Church in those days was a great
international factor, and the Crusades bound men together fighting under
one leader for a common cause. Also there was not a great national past
to be forgotten as there is in this case."

"There are many factors, certainly, that are against us," conceded the
statesman, "but you must also take into account those that will help us.
In most cases in recent history where the conquered have stood out
against all attempts at assimilation, there has been a religious
difference to add to the racial one - take Poland, for instance, and the
Catholic parts of Ireland. If the Bretons ever seriously begin to assert
their nationality as against the French, it will be because they have
remained more Catholic in practice and sentiment than their neighbours.
Here there is no such complication; we are in the bulk a Protestant
nation with a Catholic minority, and the same may be said of the British.
Then in modern days there is the alchemy of Sport and the Drama to bring
men of different races amicably together. One or two sportsmanlike
Germans in a London football team will do more to break down racial
antagonism than anything that Governments or Councils can effect. As for
the Stage, it has long been international in its tendencies. You can see
that every day."

The banker nodded his head.

"London is not our greatest difficulty," continued von Kwarl. "You must
remember the steady influx of Germans since the war; whole districts are
changing the complexion of their inhabitants, and in some streets you
might almost fancy yourself in a German town. We can scarcely hope to
make much impression on the country districts and the provincial towns at
present, but you must remember that thousands and thousands of the more
virile and restless-souled men have emigrated, and thousands more will
follow their example. We shall fill up their places with our own surplus
population, as the Teuton races colonised England in the old
pre-Christian days. That is better, is it not, to people the fat meadows
of the Thames valley and the healthy downs and uplands of Sussex and
Berkshire than to go hunting for elbow-room among the flies and fevers of
the tropics? We have somewhere to go to, now, better than the scrub and
the veldt and the thorn-jungles."

"Of course, of course," assented Herr Rebinok, "but while this desirable
process of infiltration and assimilation goes on, how are you going to
provide against the hostility of the conquered nation? A people with a
great tradition behind them and the ruling instinct strongly developed,
won't sit with their eyes closed and their hands folded while you carry
on the process of Germanisation. What will keep them quiet?"

"The hopelessness of the situation. For centuries Britain has ruled the
seas, and been able to dictate to half the world in consequence; then she
let slip the mastery of the seas, as something too costly and onerous to
keep up, something which aroused too much jealousy and uneasiness in
others, and now the seas rule her. Every wave that breaks on her shore
rattles the keys of her prison. I am no fire-eater, Herr Rebinok, but I
confess that when I am at Dover, say, or Southampton, and see those dark
blots on the sea and those grey specks in the sky, our battleships and
cruisers and aircraft, and realise what they mean to us my heart beats
just a little quicker. If every German was flung out of England
to-morrow, in three weeks' time we should be coming in again on our own
terms. With our sea scouts and air scouts spread in organised network
around, not a shipload of foodstuff could reach the country. They know
that; they can calculate how many days of independence and starvation
they could endure, and they will make no attempt to bring about such a
certain fiasco. Brave men fight for a forlorn hope, but the bravest do
not fight for an issue they know to be hopeless."

"That is so," said Herr Rebinok, "as things are at present they can do
nothing from within, absolutely nothing. We have weighed all that
beforehand. But, as the Germania points out, there is another Britain
beyond the seas. Supposing the Court at Delhi were to engineer a
league - "

"A league? A league with whom?" interrupted the statesman. "Russia we
can watch and hold. We are rather nearer to its western frontier than
Delhi is, and we could throttle its Baltic trade at five hours' notice.
France and Holland are not inclined to provoke our hostility; they would
have everything to lose by such a course."

"There are other forces in the world that might be arrayed against us,"
argued the banker; "the United States, Japan, Italy, they all have

"Does the teaching of history show you that it is the strong Power, armed
and ready, that has to suffer from the hostility of the world?" asked von
Kwarl. "As far as sentiment goes, perhaps, but not in practice. The
danger has always been for the weak, dismembered nation. Think you a
moment, has the enfeebled scattered British Empire overseas no undefended
territories that are a temptation to her neighbours? Has Japan nothing
to glean where we have harvested? Are there no North American
possessions which might slip into other keeping? Has Russia herself no
traditional temptations beyond the Oxus? Mind you, we are not making the
mistake Napoleon made, when he forced all Europe to be for him or against
him. We threaten no world aggressions, we are satiated where he was
insatiable. We have cast down one overshadowing Power from the face of
the world, because it stood in our way, but we have made no attempt to
spread our branches over all the space that it covered. We have not
tried to set up a tributary Canadian republic or to partition South
Africa; we have dreamed no dream of making ourselves Lords of Hindostan.
On the contrary, we have given proof of our friendly intentions towards
our neighbours. We backed France up the other day in her squabble with
Spain over the Moroccan boundaries, and proclaimed our opinion that the
Republic had as indisputable a mission on the North Africa coast as we
have in the North Sea. That is not the action or the language of
aggression. No," continued von Kwarl, after a moment's silence, "the
world may fear us and dislike us, but, for the present at any rate, there
will be no leagues against us. No, there is one rock on which our
attempt at assimilation will founder or find firm anchorage."

"And that is - ?"

"The youth of the country, the generation that is at the threshold now.
It is them that we must capture. We must teach them to learn, and coax
them to forget. In course of time Anglo-Saxon may blend with German, as
the Elbe Saxons and the Bavarians and Swabians have blended with the
Prussians into a loyal united people under the sceptre of the
Hohenzollerns. Then we should be doubly strong, Rome and Carthage rolled
into one, an Empire of the West greater than Charlemagne ever knew. Then
we could look Slav and Latin and Asiatic in the face and keep our place
as the central dominant force of the civilised world."

The speaker paused for a moment and drank a deep draught of wine, as
though he were invoking the prosperity of that future world-power. Then
he resumed in a more level tone:

"On the other hand, the younger generation of Britons may grow up in
hereditary hatred, repulsing all our overtures, forgetting nothing and
forgiving nothing, waiting and watching for the time when some weakness
assails us, when some crisis entangles us, when we cannot be everywhere
at once. Then our work will be imperilled, perhaps undone. There lies
the danger, there lies the hope, the younger generation."

"There is another danger," said the banker, after he had pondered over
von Kwarl's remarks for a moment or two amid the incense-clouds of a fat
cigar; "a danger that I foresee in the immediate future; perhaps not so
much a danger as an element of exasperation which may ultimately defeat
your plans. The law as to military service will have to be promulgated
shortly, and that cannot fail to be bitterly unpopular. The people of
these islands will have to be brought into line with the rest of the
Empire in the matter of military training and military service, and how
will they like that? Will not the enforcing of such a measure enfuriate
them against us? Remember, they have made great sacrifices to avoid the
burden of military service."

"Dear God," exclaimed Herr von Kwarl, "as you say, they have made
sacrifices on that altar!"


Cicely had successfully insisted on having her own way concerning the
projected supper-party; Yeovil had said nothing further in opposition to
it, whatever his feelings on the subject might be. Having gained her
point, however, she was anxious to give her husband the impression of
having been consulted, and to put her victory as far as possible on the
footing of a compromise. It was also rather a relief to be able to
discuss the matter out of range of Joan's disconcerting tongue and
observant eyes.

"I hope you are not really annoyed about this silly supper-party," she
said on the morning before the much-talked-of first night. "I had
pledged myself to give it, so I couldn't back out without seeming mean to
Gorla, and in any case it would have been impolitic to cry off."

"Why impolitic?" asked Yeovil coldly.

"It would give offence in quarters where I don't want to give offence,"
said Cicely.

"In quarters where the fait accompli is an object of solicitude," said

"Look here," said Cicely in her most disarming manner, "it's just as well
to be perfectly frank about the whole matter. If one wants to live in
the London of the present day one must make up one's mind to accept the
fait accompli with as good a grace as possible. I do want to live in
London, and I don't want to change my way of living and start under
different conditions in some other place. I can't face the prospect of
tearing up my life by the roots; I feel certain that I shouldn't bear
transplanting. I can't imagine myself recreating my circle of interests
in some foreign town or colonial centre or even in a country town in
England. India I couldn't stand. London is not merely a home to me, it
is a world, and it happens to be just the world that suits me and that I
am suited to. The German occupation, or whatever one likes to call it,
is a calamity, but it's not like a molten deluge from Vesuvius that need
send us all scuttling away from another Pompeii. Of course," she added,
"there are things that jar horribly on one, even when one has got more or
less accustomed to them, but one must just learn to be philosophical and
bear them."

"Supposing they are not bearable?" said Yeovil; "during the few days that
I've been in the land I've seen things that I cannot imagine will ever be

"That is because they're new to you," said Cicely.

"I don't wish that they should ever come to seem bearable," retorted
Yeovil. "I've been bred and reared as a unit of a ruling race; I don't
want to find myself settling down resignedly as a member of an enslaved

"There's no need to make things out worse than they are," protested
Cicely. "We've had a military disaster on a big scale, and there's been
a great political dislocation in consequence. But there's no reason why
everything shouldn't right itself in time, as it has done after other
similar disasters in the history of nations. We are not scattered to the
winds or wiped off the face of the earth, we are still an important
racial unit."

"A racial unit in a foreign Empire," commented Yeovil.

"We may arrive at the position of being the dominant factor in that
Empire," said Cicely, "impressing our national characteristics on it, and
perhaps dictating its dynastic future and the whole trend of its policy.
Such things have happened in history. Or we may become strong enough to
throw off the foreign connection at a moment when it can be done
effectually and advantageously. But meanwhile it is necessary to
preserve our industrial life and our social life, and for that reason we
must accommodate ourselves to present circumstances, however distasteful
they may be. Emigration to some colonial wilderness, or holding
ourselves rigidly aloof from the life of the capital, won't help matters.
Really, Murrey, if you will think things over a bit, you will see that
the course I am following is the one dictated by sane patriotism."

"Whom the gods wish to render harmless they first afflict with sanity,"
said Yeovil bitterly. "You may be content to wait for a hundred years or
so, for this national revival to creep and crawl us back into a semblance
of independence and world-importance. I'm afraid I haven't the patience
or the philosophy to sit down comfortably and wait for a change of
fortune that won't come in my time - if it comes at all."

Cicely changed the drift of the conversation; she had only introduced the
argument for the purpose of defining her point of view and accustoming
Yeovil to it, as one leads a nervous horse up to an unfamiliar barrier
that he is required eventually to jump.

"In any case," she said, "from the immediately practical standpoint
England is the best place for you till you have shaken off all traces of
that fever. Pass the time away somehow till the hunting begins, and then
go down to the East Wessex country; they are looking out for a new master
after this season, and if you were strong enough you might take it on for
a while. You could go to Norway for fishing in the summer and hunt the
East Wessex in the winter. I'll come down and do a bit of hunting too,
and we'll have house-parties, and get a little golf in between whiles. It
will be like old times."

Yeovil looked at his wife and laughed.

"Who was that old fellow who used to hunt his hounds regularly through
the fiercest times of the great Civil War? There is a picture of him, by
Caton Woodville, I think, leading his pack between King Charles's army
and the Parliament forces just as some battle was going to begin. I have
often thought that the King must have disliked him rather more than he
disliked the men who were in arms against him; they at least cared, one
way or the other. I fancy that old chap would have a great many

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Online LibrarySakiWhen William Came → online text (page 4 of 12)