Copyright
Thomas Barclay.

The sands of fate; dramatised study of an imperial conscience, a phantasy online

. (page 7 of 11)
Online LibraryThomas BarclayThe sands of fate; dramatised study of an imperial conscience, a phantasy → online text (page 7 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


VoN BiJLow

And suppose Bulgaria and Turkey find you out
in time, and Enver and the German officers are
kidnapped before you secure your occupation.



146 The Sands of Fate [n.

General von Bernhardi

They are too stupid and lazy to do anything so
original.

Von BiJLOw

And the Reichstag and the money-bags ?

General von Bernhardi

The money-bags will burst with plenty for a
fait accompli. I must go. Au revoir. [Exit.

Von BiJLow
What do you think of Bernhardi's policy.''

Chancellor

lam afraid he's right in one respect. We were
like a bulb which was being squeezed. And now
lateral grips are forcing us into a policy we did
not originally contemplate and, instead of getting
our ports on the North Sea, we shall become an
Asiatic power.

Von BiJLow

You don't seriously mean we may annex our
allies ?

Chancellor

I'm afraid it can't be helped. It's the only thing
we can do. Besides, it's more natural than it looks.
It will be a great blessing to Austria, Serbia, and
Bulgaria to be properly administered by competent
Prussian officials, and as for Turkey, we are quite
as able to govern her as England is to govern India.



II.] Missing Links 147

Von Bulow

That 's what we Ve come to. The very Decalogue
has gone into the melting-pot. But . . . que voulez-
vous ? Qui veut la fin veut les moyens. And all this is
done in the name of patriotism !

Chancellor
The patriotism is genuine enough.

VoN BiJLOw

Yes, just as a thief can be genuinely attached to
his booty. I prefer our older indifference to pa-
triotism. By the by, you know what Heine said of
a German's patriotism in his time.''

Chancellor

No.

Von BiJLOw

He said a Frenchman loved his country as he
loved his mistress — at her feet one day, abusing
her another, jealously watching her virtue, sus-
picious, trusting and distrusting her, loving her,
hating her, everything by turns. The Englishman
loved his country as he did his wife — a solid, sub-
stantial affection without passion; she was there
at the head of his table and had to be respected as
a part of himself. The German loved his country
with the devotion men felt for their grandmothers.

Chancellor
You, surely, prefer Bernhardi's patriotism to that!



148 The Sands of Fate [n.

Enter the Professor.

Von Bulow

Not when it takes the form of dragging his coun-
tr>^'s reputation in the mud. We're speaking of
Bernhardi.

Professor

I don't think you do him justice when you say
that. EngHsh writers at the beginning of the nine-
teenth century wrote in the same style — Pasley,
for instance. I could show you whole passages in
his book which you would fancy Clausewitz,
Treitschke, or Bernhardi had copied almost to the
wording. We are going through the same phase of
development at the beginning of the twentieth
century as the English at the beginning of the
nineteenth. Bernhardi is merely a belated writer in
a belated age. There is a painful lack of political
subtlety in the present age.

VoN BiJLOW

Subtlety has never been a quality of statesman-
ship. In statesmanship a man has to play the part
of the artist who is given a dead man's picture to
finish. Besides, by the time he is in a position to
emancipate his policy from superannuated tradi-
tions, he is sick of his master or his master's sick of
him.

Professor
Is there no remedy?



II-] Missing Links i49

Von Bulow

None! The only great statesmen or diplomatists
I have ever come across have been discovered with
as great an indifference to class and training as
poets.

Professor

I wonder whether this war Is not going to play
the part misfortune plays In the life of the indi-
vidual.

Von BiJLow

"The lessons of adversity" — but If It destroys
our trade and our Industry?

Professor

I don't think It will do that. The only war which
was not followed by an immense revival was the
"Thirty Years' War," which killed off such a pro-
portion of the populations of the countries con-
cerned that new generations had to grow up before
Industrial progress could be resumed.

Von Bulow
And this war, what mortality!

Professor

Bad as It Is, it Is not yet a mortality of coming
generations as the "Thirty Years' War" was. The
women are there, and their mental and practical
qualities have been stimulated by the war. After
ail, the life of a nation depends on its women.



150 The Sands of Fate [11.

Von BiJLOw

Professor, you don't surely propose that we shall
have to permit polygamy?

Professor

No, not exactly, but Nature has her own ways
of righting things, and all the laws of empires are
mere switches against a stone wall when they come
up against the great facts of Nature. War, more-
over, may operate as a rest for the intelligence. It
employs little more than the latent instincts of
earlier stages in development, from the treachery
of the Australian savage, through all the stages of
more or less primitive men: bestiality, blood-lust,
cruelty, theft, and so on, — instincts which, having
lain so long dormant, seem, when awakened, to
overflow with accumulated energy. While war
lasts, the higher faculties, on their side, seem to lie
dormant and accumulate energy. This tallies with
historical experience. After nearly every great war
there has been an outburst of intelligence and art
and literature.

VoN BULOW

That's a very ingenious explanation. Professor,
just the opposite of the usual one, but I quite agree
with you that history has been too much detached
from mental physiology. Climate, natural re-
sources, soil, the direction of navigable rivers are all
working out or creating problems, but the fixed
denominator in the history of mankind must al-
ways be man's character. I see your point, Pro-
fessor.



II.] Missing Links 151

Professor

And that is just the element of which least ac-
count is taken. That these lower instincts, which
are awakened in war, are merely dormant, or over-
lain by a stratum of higher mentality, is shown by
the fact, which is not yet appreciated, that the
growth of the individual is a succession of different
stages in the development of his species, if not of
vertebrates in general. So that every individual has
already passed through the stage to which, in war-
time, he reverts. But here am I, lecturing you, our
greatest statesman.

VoN BULOW

Lecturing! Why, Professor, you are giving me
ideas for statesmanship, and statesmen need them
badly. ^^An nescis, magistery quantilla prudentia
regitur orbis ? "

Professor

Nor will that observation ever grow less time-
honored.

VoN BuLOW

; "iV?7 novi sub sole .'"

Enter Ballin.

Chancellor

Oh, I am glad to see you, Ballin. I could not get
you on the telephone. His Majesty has sent word
that he wants to see you to-night.



152 The Sands of Fate [n.

Ballin

The Professor here, whom I met Unter den Lin-
den, told me His Majesty wanted me, so I came
along. Well, Excellency, what news from the front?

Chancellor
Oh, the usual thing.

Baixin
Any prospect of peace?

Chancellor
Not the remotest.

Ballin

And mediation?

Chancellor

Impossible. [Ballin surprised.

Oh, no. I am not against it, but it's impossible.
Germany can only accept it as a victorious bellig-
erent, and her enemies are not defeated and
would n't listen to it.

Professor

In the Russo-Japanese War, Russia would not
listen to mediation even after the battle of Muk-
den, because she did not consider herself beaten,
though the Japanese were victorious and were
ready to accept it. If she had accepted, she might
have spared herself this war.



II.] Missing Links 153

Ballin

I think the Germans, If they knew the hopeless-
ness of the struggle on both sides, are too reason-
able not to understand that we have to choose
between evils.

Chancellor

I am sorry I can't discuss the matter with you
just now. But if you, Mr. Ballin, will draw a pre-
sentment of the position as you view it, I feel sure
His Majesty would give it the attention he always
gives to your view.

Ballin

I have just received a letter from Dernburg.
Some passages may Interest you.

[Takes voluminous document out of his
pocket, unfolds it, finds pages. Reading:

"The war has solved several problems.

" I. That England has the supremacy of the
sea and can keep it by bottling us up. Ger-
many's geographical position we can't change,
and unless we had not only the mouths of the
Rhine and the Scheldt, but also Dunkirk,
Boulogne, Havre, Cherbourg, and half a dozen
other places, besides possession of the great
Belt and the Sound, we could not play a part
at sea which would rival that of England. So
we had better give up that idea once for all,
have done with it, and try for something else.

"2. The present war has been a failure — a
failure for us, in spite of our victories. Its new



154 The Sands of Fate [n.

methods paralyse one another, and, apart from
the first advantages, which may be gained by
surprise, it serves no purpose in Western Eu-
rope. France thought she could get back Al-
sace by war — she has failed. England thought
she could destroy the German navy by war —
she has failed. Germany thought she could
get a colonial Empire by war — she has failed.
Austria thought she could get the mastery in
the Balkans by war — she has failed. Russia
thought she could arrest the outbreak of Rev-
olution and the break-up of the Empire of the
Czars — she has failed and her defeat may
accelerate their downfall. And all these fail-
ures will have made us all bankrupt. That is
the net result down to now, and there is no
chance of betterment for any of the parties."

Professor

Thank God! [The Chancellor surprised.

(With emphasis). Yes, you will think I am a
"little German" or a Pro-Englander.

Ballin {reading)

"One fancies at a distance that the whole of
Europe is mad. When I lie awake with nothing
to hear but the steady throb of the great city,
I can hardly realise that there are millions of
men engaged in a gigantic work of murder,
that they are hurling at each other tons and
tons of huge pieces of metal, over miles of
God's earth, tearing up the patient soil which
is only waiting to yield food and raiment, kill-



II.] Missing Links 155

ing brave men in the prime of life and born for
their country's glory, men who are the chief
asset in every country's wealth, one another's
producers and consumers — it seems to me so
pitiful that men should not have more intelli-
gence than not to see that every man they kill
is an impoverishment of the world and a source
of distress to the innocent. Then I think of all
the kind people I know in these different coun-
tries, — yet they are carrying on a work of de-
struction against each other with a bitterness
such as the world has never before witnessed.
I ask who is responsible for this colossal mis-
take, this artificial loosening on mankind of all
the calamities it has ever undergone, and all
for no good whatsoever to anybody."

Professor

Of course, Dernburg must not say such things in
Germany. You had better warn him. In America
people are not maddened as they have become
here. Here, nobody will listen to anything that
suggests peace. Nothing but the destruction of the
British Empire, annexation of Belgium, and an
indemnity that will cripple France for a century
will please our "men in the street." And if you ex-
press the slightest doubt as to feasibility, you are
damned as a pro-Englander. They are all mad.
Still, one must make allowances. The majority in
all countries is composed of men whose minds be-
come easily unbalanced, and in times of emotion
their feelings burst through their thin intellectual
shell. ~



156 ' The Sands of Fate [11.

Ballin

Besides, whatever place we get will be of no use,
unless it secures us against war for a generation at
least.

Professor

There is only one guarantee for the peace ot
Europe.

Ballin
What is that.?

Professor

I dare hardly express it while the world Is gravi-
tating towards oligarchic despotism. [^ pause.

It is the supremacy of parliamentary institu-
tions.

Ballin

They have proved a source of weakness.

Professor

Just for that reason their supremacy Is a check.
They are a check in the prosecution of war, —
true, — but for the same reason they 're a check on
those who engineer it. Hasty decisions are neces-
sarily more or less speculative. Among Individuals
the risk merely exposes the one party to losing to
another and, in the event, the community loses
nothing. A mistake of statesmanship involves the
whole community. Parliamentary government is a
safeguard against hasty decisions.



II.] Missing Links i57

Ballin

Only, of course, to the extent to which parHa-
mentary control reaches.

Professor

Of course. Both a Foreign Relations Committee
and a second Chamber with powers of delaying
final decisions are requisite. Government without
them is practically as great a danger to peace as
Cossack or Prussian absolutism.

Enter Von Etting.

t VoN Etting

Gentlemen! His Majesty wishes to see the Chan-
cellor alone. He has just arrived.

[Exeunt all save Von Etting and the Chan-
cellor.

Enter the Kaiser.

Kaiser

Sit down, Bethmann.

[Looks over correspondence on his desk. Pause.

1 had a long talk with Biilow this morning, and
have just seen Jagow. It looks all very bad. An-
other of your mistakes, Bethmann. You thought
England would not stir.

[The Chancellor looks distressed.

{Walking up and dozvn the room.) Italy is in a
quandary. I don't see how she is going to extric"^
herself from her obligations. Provided she keeps



158 The Sands of Fate [n.

her promise to us, her intervention . . . But I have
no faith in Burian. He's a Magyar. No Magyar
can be trusted to work for us. [Pause.

Do you know all about Burian?

Chancellor

No, Sir, not more than from having met him
when he came here in February.

Kaiser

How, in God's name, are you going to manage
him without knowing more of him than that.^* A
statesman, especially a clever one like Burian,
wants a lot of study. Do you know anything about
his political education and antecedents?

Chancellor

Not much, Sir.

Kaiser

There is no guile about you, Bethmann. And it
is difficult to say harsh words to you. But, frankly,
you are not a political genius.

Chancellor
A4y resignation is in your hands. Sir.

Kaiser

It's no use talking about resignations now. Your
resignation now would do you little honour and me
none. [Pause.

Well, I'll post you up in Burian. He has the



11.] Missing Links 159

art of holding his tongue. Neither you nor I have
that. {Laughing lugubriously.) More's the pity.
He is a silent man, not because he is a fool who
has nothing to say. He has a great deal to say
when he thinks it desirable to say it, but with the
pack of idiots around him — except Esterhazy —
I suppose he has got back Esterhazy — Do you
know Esterhazy?

Chancellor

No, Sir.

Kaiser

God in heaven! [Pause.

Well, Esterhazy was Aehrenthal's right-hand
man — his wife's English — and he led us a devil
of a dance in the Bosnia-Herzegovina affair. Aeh-
renthal, Burian, and Esterhazy made an anti-Ger-
man trio. Aehrenthal was half a Czech and his wife
a Magyar, and the others were both Magyars. We
beat them with the aid of England.

Chancellor
Of England, Sir? [Looks surprised.

Kaiser

Yes, Bethmann. England backed the wrong
horse. Like you, she tried to handle the Bosnia-
Herzegovina question on "mathematical lines," as
the Professor would say, drove Austria back into
our arms, and — but you know all that, Bethmann?

Chancellor
Yes, Sir, but I did not think England . . .



i6o The Sands of Fate [n.

Kaiser

No, of course not, Bethmann. You thought we
had all the merit! Not a bit of it. We owed our
success to the bungling of our opponents. That's
the true art of diplomacy; know your man, get the
lie of his weaknesses, watch for them, let him en-
tangle himself in his own net, and then despatch
him! {Laughing.) That's not bad for a crowned
head, is it, Bethmann ^ You ought to be a crowned
head, Bethmann, — you really ought.

[The Chancellor looks perplexed.
Poor old Bethmann ! You must n't mind my
letting off my steam. But beware of Burian. Al-
though a silent man, he has a great deal of personal
magnetism. When he was at Athens he captivated
the whole diplomatic corps, and between captivat-
ing and capturing il n''y a qu'un pas. I am ex-
pecting Jagow — so wait here. I '11 be back in ten
minutes. [Exit.

[The Chancellor walks up and down the
room in evident agitation — looks at des-
patch which is lying open at the edge of the
desk — reads, takes up blue pencil, under-
lines something, continues walking up and
down. Three minutes elapse.

Enter Herr Von Jagow.

Von Jagow
His Majesty flown?



II.] Missing Links i6i

Chancellor

No, he'll be back in less than ten minutes. Well,
Jagow, what do you think of this ?

Von Jagow

I quite expected it. It was a choice of evils. If
Italy had not stood firm against Austria — Austria
would probably have defected. Austria is not a
willing partner in the war. Nor is her Sovereign.

Chancellor
Nor Burian.

Von Jagow

Burian is still a dark horse here.

Chancellor
His Majesty knows all about him.

Von Jagow

Indeed! He was always jealously kept in the
background. I know a good deal about him. As
joint Minister of Finance of Austria-Hungary, he
administered Bosnia-Herzegovina. . . . His ideal
is a powerful and independent Austro-Hungarian
Empire.

Chancellor

And what about the racial difficulties ?

Von Jagow

He thinks they are exaggerated, and that a fed-
eration properly engineered can work quite satis-



1 62 The Sands of Fate [n.

factorily, and even has advantages over a homo-
geneous empire. Remember, he is not a blood-and-
iron statesman, and has, I am afraid, the contempt
of the philosopher for our Prussian pole-axe system
of government.

Chancellor

You speak as if you rather sympathised with
him, Jagow.

Von Jagow {laughing)

I don't know Your Excellency as a blood-and-
iron statesman either.

Chancellor

Good Lord, no. But none of us are, and why we
are engaged in this senseless and hopeless struggle,
God only knows.

Von Jagow
The machine.

Enter the Professor.

Chancellor
Yes, the machine.

Professor {shaking hands with Von Jagow)

Ah, the machine. Have you read "Franken-
stein"?

Both

No.



II.] Missing Links 163

Professor

"Frankenstein" was a conception of Shelley's
wife. A German student working away with the
mysteries of life is able to infuse it into a figure
he has made, with terrible results. It is like a sym-
bolic vision of Germany of to-day. We have in-
fused life into a huge machine, and its wheels and
cables go whirling on and we are too weak and
small 'to stop them. Its huge arms, like those of
Frankenstein's monster, smite us if we go near
them.

Enter the Kaiser.

\The Professor bows, and is about to retire.

Kaiser

Professor, I want to see you later.

[Exit the Professor.

{Going over to Von Jagow and shaking his finger
in mock anger at him.) Jagow, I hear you have used
the word "Peace." [Von Jagow looks guilty.

Yes, Sir. You know that word has been struck
out of the German vocabulary. God, what a pack
of idiots we shall look to posterity! We are all sick
of this senseless war, and all want peace, and,
though we have courage to face every instrument
of torture our engineers have been able to devise,
not one of us has the courage to say, "Enough, let
us stop," which must be the feeling at the bottom
of the heart of every man In Europe who is not an
abject idiot. Wait in Etting's room.

[Exit VoN Jagow.



1^4 The Sands of Fate [ii.

{To the Chancellor.) Have you read that letter
from Dernburg? It is very sensible, is n't it?

Chancellor

Very.

Kaiser

What's the use of keeping him there? I don't see
the use of any of our diplomacy. If Dernburg can't
do anything, it is beyond achievement. He has
more brains than the whole German diplomatic
corps combined. I should never have listened to
you all.

Chancellor

I hope Your Majesty does not include me.

ICaiser

No, Bethmann, I will do you the justice of say-
ing you backed me. Poor Dernburg! Do you re-
member his first official dinner? I chaffed him
about tucking his serviette round his neck. "What
ho, Dernburg! Going to be shaved?" Poor chap!
I was sorry afterwards. He looked so humiliated.
I remember a great Republican politician before
your time, Bethmann, a clever fellow. We christ-
ened him "Old Hurricane." He could not eat his
soup or blow his nose or cough or sneeze without
making such a racket that we all had to wait till
it was over. I liked him. When I was sounded
about his appointment as Ambassador to Berlin,
however, I had to give way to the objection to his
deplorable manners. Yet that man, like Dernburg,



II.] Missing Links 165

could have doubled up all the diplomatic tribe of
Europe if he had had a tussle with them. What
a huge place trifles like these play in the world!
Except in war-time, Bethmann; war is a wonder-
ful leveller. You don't kill your enemy with line
manners. That's what made Napoleon great. He
cared only for merit. So do I. The English can
afford to keep up the old system of patronage, and
allow themselves the luxury of an alliance between
feudalism and demagogues. We can't, Bethmann.
It has brought England to the brink of ruin. This
war has saved her, reluctant as she has been to al-
low herself to be influenced by merit and ability in
her selection of men. That little devil Jellicoe has
dished us. Tirpitz is like you, Bethmann. You are
both too tall. Tall men are no good in war-time —
their wits are too slow. Good enough for the Staff
in peace-time. Old Fritz had big men to do the
fighting because they were too stupid and slow-
witted to run away, but he took care to put little
devils in command of them — a clever little devil
himself was Old Fritz. By the by, Bethmann, in-
struct Dernburg to come back at once. [Pause.
Is Bulow here?

Chancellor
Yes, Sir.

Kaiser

Send him in. [Exit the Chancellor.

[The Kaiser walks up and down in contem-
plation.



1 66 The Sands of Fate [n.

Enter Prince von Bulow.

I have made up my mind. We must have peace
— not at any price — no — but peace.

Von BiJLow
But if Italy joins the AlUes?

Kaiser

She must not join the Allies. Biilow, you will
have to promise her everything she asks for rather
than let her. Tell Burian I want peace as much as
he does. If Italy goes against us, God only knows
when the war will end. Promise her Trieste, the
Trentino, Valona. What else can she want?

VoN BuLOW
That is already a great deal. Sir.

Kaiser
Won't that satisfy her?

Von BiJLow
None of It is ours to promise, Sir.

Kaiser

Promise It all the same, Biilow, — ' I '11 make Aus-
tria-Hungary agree. Damn her, what right has she
to raise difficulties?

VoN Bulow

Sonnino, Sir, demands immediate performance;
he wants immediate possession.



II-] Missing Links 167

Kaiser

Does he not trust our word? If I say he shall
have it, is n't that enough ? Good God, surely my
word — more than word — my sign manual, Ger-
many's bond, is good enough.

Von Bulow

No, Sir! He thinks we may not be able, or willing,
to fulfil any arrangement made under pressure of
necessity.

Kaiser
God help us!

Von Bulow
Italian public opinion disbelieves our promises.

Kaiser
Italy does not respect her own.

VoN Bulow

That only makes her the more suspicious. Son-
nino will agree to nothing without immediate exe-
cution.

Kaiser

Does he think we shall wriggle out of our engage-
ments after the war is over?

VoN Bulow

I don't think. Sir, he goes so far as that. But
he knows that, when the Powers meet to discuss



1 68 The Sands of Fate [n.

peace, whatever the prehminaries may be, there
are so many interests involved that prehminaries,
engagements, even treaties entered into, pendente
lite, have httle chance of being upheld tels quels.
All will go into the melting-pot, except organised
possession.

Kaiser

But if we gave them possession, how should we
know they would not all the same find a pretext for
not observing the promises they made?

Von Bulow

This mutual distrust, I fear, will cause a dead-
lock.

Kaiser

I can't think matters are so bad as you fear.
Billow. Promise Germany's absolute guarantee of
execution. They can't ask us to have more trust
in them than they have in us.

Von BiJLow

May I ask Your Majesty's instructions for the
alternative case of refusal by Italy?

Kaiser

Separate peace between Austria-Hungary and


1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11

Online LibraryThomas BarclayThe sands of fate; dramatised study of an imperial conscience, a phantasy → online text (page 7 of 11)