The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
THE COUSIN FROM BERLIN
The studio of Julio Desnoyers was on the top floor, both the stairway and the elevator stopping before his door. The two tiny apartments at the back were lighted by an interior court, their only means of communication being the service stairway which went on up to the garrets.
While his comrade was away, Argensola had made the acquaintance of those in the neighboring lodgings. The largest of the apartments was empty during the day, its occupants not returning till after they had taken their evening meal in a restaurant. As both husband and wife were employed outside, they could not remain at home except on holidays. The man, vigorous and of a martial aspect, was superintendent in a big department store. . . . He had been a soldier in Africa, wore a military decoration, and had the rank of sub-lieutenant in the Reserves. She was a blonde, heavy and rather anaemic, with bright eyes and a sentimental expression. On holidays she spent long hours at the piano, playing musical reveries, always the same. At other times Argensola saw her through the interior window working in the kitchen aided by her companion, the two laughing over their clumsiness and inexperience in preparing the Sunday dinner.
The concierge thought that this woman was a German, but she herself said that she was Swiss. She was a cashier in a shop--not the one in which her husband was employed. In the mornings they left home together, separating in the Place d'Etoile. At seven in the evening they met here, greeting each other with a kiss, like lovers who meet for the first time; and then after supper, they returned to their nest in the rue de la Pompe. All Argensola's attempts at friendliness with these neighbors were repulsed because of their self-centredness. They responded with freezing courtesy; they lived only for themselves.
The other apartment of two rooms was occupied by a single man. He was a Russian or Pole who almost always returned with a package of books, and passed many hours writing near the patio window. From the very first the Spaniard took him to be a mysterious man, probably a very distinguished one--a true hero of a novel. The foreign appearance of this Tchernoff made a great impression upon him--his dishevelled beard, and oily locks, his spectacles upon a large nose that seemed deformed by a dagger-thrust. There emanated from him, like an invisible nimbus, an odor of cheap wine and soiled clothing.
When Argensola caught a glimpse of him through the service door he would say to himself, "Ah, Friend Tchernoff is returning," and thereupon he would saunter out to the stairway in order to have a chat with his neighbor. For a long time the stranger discouraged all approach to his quarters, which fact led the Spaniard to infer that he devoted himself to alchemy and kindred mysteries. When he finally was allowed to enter he saw only books, many books, books everywhere--scattered on the floor, heaped upon benches, piled in corners, overflowing on to broken-down chairs, old tables, and a bed that was only made up now and then when the owner, alarmed by the increasing invasion of dust and cobwebs, was obliged to call in the aid of his friend, the concierge.
Argensola finally realized, not without a certain disenchantment, that there was nothing mysterious in the life of the man. What he was writing near the window were merely translations, some of them ordered, others volunteer work for the socialist periodicals. The only marvellous thing about him was the quantity of languages that he knew.
"He knows them all," said the Spaniard, when describing their neighbor to Desnoyers. "He has only to hear of a new one to master it. He holds the key, the secret of all languages, living or dead. He speaks Castilian as well as we do, and yet he has never been in a Spanish-speaking country."
Argensola again felt a thrill of mystery upon reading the titles of many of the volumes. The majority were old books, many of them in languages that he was not able to decipher, picked up for a song at second-hand shops or on the book stands installed upon the parapets of the Seine. Only a man holding the key of tongues could get together such volumes. An atmosphere of mysticism, of superhuman insight, of secrets intact for many centuries appeared to emanate from these heaps of dusty volumes with worm-eaten leaves. And mixed with these ancient tomes were others red and conspicuous, pamphlets of socialistic propaganda, leaflets in all the languages of Europe and periodicals--many periodicals, with revolutionary titles.
Tchernoff did not appear to enjoy visits and conversation. He would smile enigmatically into his black beard, and was very sparing with his words so as to shorten the interview. But Argensola possessed the means of winning over this sullen personage. It was only necessary for him to wink one eye with the expressive invitation, "Do we go?" and the two would soon be settled on a bench in the kitchen of Desnoyers' studio, opposite a bottle which had come from the avenue Victor Hugo. The costly wines of Don Marcelo made the Russian more communicative, although, in spite of this aid, the Spaniard learned little of his neighbor's real existence. Sometimes he would mention Jaures and other socialistic orators. His surest means of existence was the translation of periodicals or party papers. On various occasions the name of Siberia escaped from his lips, and he admitted that he had been there a long time; but he did not care to talk about a country visited against his will. He would merely smile modestly, showing plainly that he did not wish to make any further revelations.
The morning after the return of Julio Desnoyers, while Argensola was talking on the stairway with Tchernoff, the bell rang. How annoying! The Russian, who was well up in advanced politics, was just explaining the plans advanced by Jaures. There were still many who hoped that war might be averted. He had his motives for doubting it. . . . He, Tchernoff, was commenting on these illusions with the smile of a flat-nosed sphinx when the bell rang for a second time, so that Argensola was obliged to break away from his interesting friend, and run to open the main door.
A gentleman wished to see Julio. He spoke very correct French, though his accent was a revelation for Argensola. Upon going into the bedroom in search of his master, who was just arising, he said confidently, "It's the cousin from Berlin who has come to say good- bye. It could not be anyone else."
When the three came together in the studio, Desnoyers presented his comrade, in order that the visitor might not make any mistake in regard to his social status.
"I have heard him spoken of. The gentleman is Argensola, a very deserving youth."
Doctor Julius von Hartrott said this with the self-sufficiency of a man who knows everything and wishes to be agreeable to an inferior, conceding him the alms of his attention.
The two cousins confronted each other with a curiosity not altogether free from distrust. Although closely related, they knew each other very slightly, tacitly admitting complete divergence in opinions and tastes.
After slowly examining the Sage, Argensola came to the conclusion that he looked like an officer dressed as a civilian. He noticed in his person an effort to imitate the soldierly when occasionally discarding uniform--the ambition of every German burgher wishing to be taken for the superior class. His trousers were narrow, as though intended to be tucked into cavalry boots. His coat with two rows of buttons had the contracted waist with very full skirt and upstanding lapels, suggesting vaguely a military great coat. The reddish moustachios, strong jaw and shaved head completed his would- be martial appearance; but his eyes, large, dark-circled and near- sighted, were the eyes of a student taking refuge behind great thick glasses which gave him the aspect of a man of peace.
Desnoyers knew that he was an assistant professor of the University, that he had published a few volumes, fat and heavy as bricks, and that he was a member of an academic society collaborating in documentary research directed by a famous historian. In his lapel he was wearing the badge of a foreign order.
Julio's respect for the learned member of the family was not unmixed with contempt. He and his sister Chichi had from childhood felt an instinctive hostility toward the cousins from Berlin. It annoyed him, too, to have his family everlastingly holding up as a model this pedant who only knew life as it is in books, and passed his existence investigating what men had done in other epochs, in order to draw conclusions in harmony with Germany's views. While young Desnoyers had great facility for admiration, and reverenced all those whose "arguments" Argensola had doled out to him, he drew the line at accepting the intellectual grandeur of this illustrious relative.
During his stay in Berlin, a German word of vulgar invention had enabled him to classify this prig. Heavy books of minute investigation were every month being published by the dozens in the Fatherland. There was not a professor who could resist the temptation of constructing from the simplest detail an enormous volume written in a dull, involved style. The people, therefore, appreciating that these near-sighted authors were incapable of any genial vision of comradeship, called them Sitzfleisch haben, because of the very long sittings which their works represented. That was what this cousin was for him, a mere Sitzfleisch haben.
Doctor von Hartrott, on explaining his visit, spoke in Spanish. He availed himself of this language used by the family during his childhood, as a precaution, looking around repeatedly as if he feared to be heard. He had come to bid his cousin farewell. His mother had told him of his return, and he had not wished to leave Paris without seeing him. He was leaving in a few hours, since matters were growing more strained.
"But do you really believe that there will be war?" asked Desnoyers.
"War will be declared to-morrow or the day after. Nothing can prevent it now. It is necessary for the welfare of humanity."
Silence followed this speech, Julio and Argensola looking with astonishment at this peaceable-looking man who had just spoken with such martial arrogance. The two suspected that the professor was making this visit in order to give vent to his opinions and enthusiasms. At the same time, perhaps, he was trying to find out what they might think and know, as one of the many viewpoints of the people in Paris.
"You are not French," he added looking at his cousin. "You were born in Argentina, so before you I may speak the truth."
"And were you not born there?" asked Julio smiling.
The Doctor made a gesture of protest, as though he had just heard something insulting. "No, I am a German. No matter where a German may be born, he always belongs to his mother country." Then turning to Argensola--"This gentleman, too, is a foreigner. He comes from noble Spain, which owes to us the best that it has--the worship of honor, the knightly spirit."
The Spaniard wished to remonstrate, but the Sage would not permit, adding in an oracular tone:
"You were miserable Celts, sunk in the vileness of an inferior and mongrel race whose domination by Rome but made your situation worse. Fortunately you were conquered by the Goths and others of our race who implanted in you a sense of personal dignity. Do not forget, young man, that the Vandals were the ancestors of the Prussians of to-day."
Again Argensola tried to speak, but his friend signed to him not to interrupt the professor who appeared to have forgotten his former reserve and was working up to an enthusiastic pitch with his own words.
"We are going to witness great events," he continued. "Fortunate are those born in this epoch, the most interesting in history! At this very moment, humanity is changing its course. Now the true civilization begins."
The war, according to him, was going to be of a brevity hitherto unseen. Germany had been preparing herself to bring about this event without any long, economic world-disturbance. A single month would be enough to crush France, the most to be feared of their adversaries. Then they would march against Russia, who with her slow, clumsy movements could not oppose an immediate defense. Finally they would attack haughty England, so isolated in its archipelago that it could not obstruct the sweep of German progress. This would make a series of rapid blows and overwhelming victories, requiring only a summer in which to play this magnificent role. The fall of the leaves in the following autumn would greet the definite triumph of Germany.
With the assurance of a professor who does not expect his dictum to be refuted by his hearers, he explained the superiority of the German race. All mankind was divided into two groups--dolicephalous and the brachicephalous, according to the shape of the skull. Another scientific classification divided men into the light-haired and dark-haired. The dolicephalous (arched heads) represented purity of race and superior mentality. The brachicephalous (flat heads) were mongrels with all the stigma of degeneration. The German, dolicephalous par excellence, was the only descendant of the primitive Aryans. All the other nations, especially those of the south of Europe called "latins," belonged to a degenerate humanity.
The Spaniard could not contain himself any longer. "But no person with any intelligence believes any more in those antique theories of race! What if there no longer existed a people of absolutely pure blood, owing to thousands of admixtures due to historical conquests!" . . . Many Germans bore the identical ethnic marks which the professor was attributing to the inferior races.
"There is something in that," admitted Hartrott, "but although the German race may not be perfectly pure, it is the least impure of all races and, therefore, should have dominion over the world."
His voice took on an ironic and cutting edge when speaking of the Celts, inhabitants of the lands of the South. They had retarded the progress of Humanity, deflecting it in the wrong direction. The Celt is individualistic and consequently an ungovernable revolutionary who tends to socialism. Furthermore, he is a humanitarian and makes a virtue of mercy, defending the existence of the weak who do not amount to anything.
The illustrious German places above everything else, Method and Power. Elected by Nature to command the impotent races, he possesses all the qualifications that distinguish the superior leader. The French Revolution was merely a clash between Teutons and Celts. The nobility of France were descended from Germanic warriors established in the country after the so-called invasion of the barbarians. The middle and lower classes were the Gallic-Celtic element. The inferior race had conquered the superior, disorganizing the country and perturbing the world. Celtism was the inventor of Democracy, of the doctrines of Socialism and Anarchy. Now the hour of Germanic retaliation was about to strike, and the Northern race would re-establish order, since God had favored it by demonstrating its indisputable superiority.
"A nation," he added, "can aspire to great destinies only when it is fundamentally Teutonic. The less German it is, the less its civilization amounts to. We represent 'the aristocracy of humanity,' 'the salt of the earth,' as our William said."
Argensola was listening with astonishment to this outpouring of conceit. All the great nations had passed through the fever of Imperialism. The Greeks aspired to world-rule because they were the most civilized and believed themselves the most fit to give civilization to the rest of mankind. The Romans, upon conquering countries, implanted law and the rule of justice. The French of the Revolution and the Empire justified their invasions on the plea that they wished to liberate mankind and spread abroad new ideas. Even the Spaniards of the sixteenth century, when battling with half of Europe for religious unity and the extermination of heresy, were working toward their ideals obscure and perhaps erroneous, but disinterested.
All the nations of history had been struggling for something which they had considered generous and above their own interests. Germany alone, according to this professor, was trying to impose itself upon the world in the name of racial superiority--a superiority that nobody had recognized, that she was arrogating to herself, coating her affirmations with a varnish of false science.
"Until now wars have been carried on by the soldiery," continued Hartrott. "That which is now going to begin will be waged by a combination of soldiers and professors. In its preparation the University has taken as much part as the military staff. German science, leader of all sciences, is united forever with what the Latin revolutionists disdainfully term militarism. Force, mistress of the world, is what creates right, that which our truly unique civilization imposes. Our armies are the representatives of our culture, and in a few weeks we shall free the world from its decadence, completely rejuvenating it."
The vision of the immense future of his race was leading him on to expose himself with lyrical enthusiasm. William I, Bismarck, all the heroes of past victories, inspired his veneration, but he spoke of them as dying gods whose hour had passed. They were glorious ancestors of modest pretensions who had confined their activities to enlarging the frontiers, and to establishing the unity of the Empire, afterwards opposing themselves with the prudence of valetudinarians to the daring of the new generation. Their ambitions went no further than a continental hegemony . . . but now William II had leaped into the arena, the complex hero that the country required.
"Lamprecht, my master, has pictured his greatness. It is tradition and the future, method and audacity. Like his grandfather, the Emperor holds the conviction of what monarchy by the grace of God represents, but his vivid and modern intelligence recognizes and accepts modern conditions. At the same time that he is romantic, feudal and a supporter of the agrarian conservatives, he is also an up-to-date man who seeks practical solutions and shows a utilitarian spirit. In him are correctly balanced instinct and reason."
Germany, guided by this hero, had, according to Hartrott, been concentrating its strength, and recognizing its true path. The Universities supported him even more unanimously than the army. Why store up so much power and maintain it without employment? . . . The empire of the world belongs to the German people. The historians and philosophers, disciples of Treitschke, were taking it upon themselves to frame the rights that would justify this universal domination. And Lamprecht, the psychological historian, like the other professors, was launching the belief in the absolute superiority of the Germanic race. It was just that it should rule the world, since it only had the power to do so. This "telurian germanization" was to be of immense benefit to mankind. The earth was going to be happy under the dictatorship of a people born for mastery. The German state, "tentacular potency," would eclipse with its glory the most imposing empire of the past and present. Gott mit uns!
"Who will be able to deny, as my master says, that there exists a Christian, German God, the 'Great Ally,' who is showing himself to our enemies, the foreigners, as a strong and jealous divinity?" . . .
Desnoyers was listening to his cousin with astonishment and at the same time looking at Argensola who, with a flutter of his eyes, seemed to be saying to him, "He is mad! These Germans are simply mad with pride."
Meanwhile, the professor, unable to curb his enthusiasm, continued expounding the grandeur of his race. From his viewpoint, the providential Kaiser had shown inexplicable weakenings. He was too good and too kind. "Deliciae generis humani," as had said Professor Lasson, another of Hartrott's masters. Able to overthrow everything with his annihilating power, the Emperor was limiting himself merely to maintaining peace. But the nation did not wish to stop there, and was pushing its leader until it had him started. It was useless now to put on the brakes. "He who does not advance recedes";--that was the cry of PanGermanism to the Emperor. He must press on in order to conquer the entire world.
"And now war comes," continued the pedant. "We need the colonies of the others, even though Bismarck, through an error of his stubborn old age, exacted nothing at the time of universal distribution, letting England and France get possession of the best lands. We must control all countries that have Germanic blood and have been civilized by our forbears."
Hartrott enumerated these countries. Holland and Belgium were German. France, through the Franks, was one-third Teutonic blood. Italy. . . . Here the professor hesitated, recalling the fact that this nation was still an ally, certainly a little insecure, but still united by diplomatic bonds. He mentioned, nevertheless, the Longobards and other races coming from the North. Spain and Portugal had been populated by the ruddy Goth and also belonged to the dominant race. And since the majority of the nations of America were of Spanish and Portuguese origin, they should also be included in this recovery.
"It is a little premature to think of these last nations just yet," added the Doctor modestly, "but some day the hour of justice will sound. After our continental triumph, we shall have time to think of their fate. . . . North America also should receive our civilizing influence, for there are living millions of Germans who have created its greatness."
He was talking of the future conquests as though they were marks of distinction with which his country was going to favor other countries. These were to continue living politically the same as before with their individual governments, but subject to the Teutons, like minors requiring the strong hand of a master. They would form the Universal United States, with an hereditary and all- powerful president--the Emperor of Germany--receiving all the benefits of Germanic culture, working disciplined under his industrial direction. . . . But the world is ungrateful, and human badness always opposes itself to progress.
"We have no illusions," sighed the professor, with lofty sadness. "We have no friends. All look upon us with jealousy, as dangerous beings, because we are the most intelligent, the most active, and have proved ourselves superior to all others. . . . But since they no longer love us, let them fear us! As my friend Mann says, although Kultur is the spiritual organization of the world, it does not exclude bloody savagery when that becomes necessary. Kultur sanctifies the demon within us, and is above morality, reason and science. We are going to impose Kultur by force of the cannon."
Argensola continued, saying with his eyes, "They are crazy, crazy with pride! . . . What can the world expect of such people!"
Desnoyers here intervened in order to brighten this gloomy monologue with a little optimism. War had not yet been positively declared. The diplomats were still trying to arrange matters. Perhaps it might all turn out peaceably at the last minute, as had so often happened before. His cousin was seeing things entirely distorted by an aggressive enthusiasm.
Oh, the ironical, ferocious and cutting smile of the Doctor! Argensola had never known old Madariaga, but it, nevertheless, occurred to him that in this fashion sharks must smile, although he, too, had never seen a shark.
"It is war," boomed Hartrott. "When I left Germany, fifteen days ago, I knew that war was inevitable."
The certainty with which he said this dissipated all Julio's hope. Moreover, this man's trip, on the pretext of seeing his mother, disquieted him. . . . On what mission had Doctor Julius von Hartrott come to Paris? . . .
"Well, then," asked Desnoyers, "why so many diplomatic interviews? Why does the German government intervene at all--although in such a lukewarm way--in the struggle between Austria and Servia. . . . Would it not be better to declare war right out?"
The professor replied with simplicity: "Our government undoubtedly wishes that the others should declare the war. The role of outraged dignity is always the most pleasing one and justifies all ulterior resolutions, however extreme they may seem. There are some of our people who are living comfortably and do not desire war. It is expedient to make them believe that those who impose it upon us are our enemies so that they may feel the necessity of defending themselves. Only superior minds reach the conviction of the great advancement that can be accomplished by the sword alone, and that war, as our grand Treitschke says, is the highest form of progress."
Again he smiled with a ferocious expression. Morality, from his point of view, should exist among individuals only to make them more obedient and disciplined, for morality per se impedes governments and should be suppressed as a useless obstacle. For the State there exists neither truth nor falsehood; it only recognizes the utility of things. The glorious Bismarck, in order to consummate the war with France, the base of German grandeur, had not hesitated to falsify a telegraphic despatch.
"And remember, that he is the most glorious hero of our time! History looks leniently upon his heroic feat. Who would accuse the one who triumphs? . . . Professor Hans Delbruck has written with reason, 'Blessed be the hand that falsified the telegram of Ems!'"
It was convenient to have the war break out immediately, in order that events might result favorably for Germany, whose enemies are totally unprepared. Preventive war was recommended by General Bernhardi and other illustrious patriots. It would be dangerous indeed to defer the declaration of war until the enemies had fortified themselves so that they should be the ones to make war. Besides, to the Germans what kind of deterrents could law and other fictions invented by weak nations possibly be? . . . No; they had the Power, and Power creates new laws. If they proved to be the victors, History would not investigate too closely the means by which they had conquered. It was Germany that was going to win, and the priests of all cults would finally sanctify with their chants the blessed war--if it led to triumph.
"We are not making war in order to punish the Servian regicides, nor to free the Poles, nor the others oppressed by Russia, stopping there in admiration of our disinterested magnanimity. We wish to wage it because we are the first people of the earth and should extend our activity over the entire planet. Germany's hour has sounded. We are going to take our place as the powerful Mistress of the World, the place which Spain occupied in former centuries, afterwards France, and England to-day. What those people accomplished in a struggle of many years we are going to bring about in four months. The storm-flag of the Empire is now going to wave over nations and oceans; the sun is going to shine on a great slaughter. . . .
"Old Rome, sick unto death, called 'barbarians' the Germans who opened the grave. The world to-day also smells death and will surely call us barbarians. . . . So be it! When Tangiers and Toulouse, Amberes and Calais have become submissive to German barbarism . . . then we will speak further of this matter. We have the power, and who has that needs neither to hesitate nor to argue. . . . Power! . . . That is the beautiful word--the only word that rings true and clear. . . . Power! One sure stab and all argument is answered forever!"
"But are you so sure of victory?" asked Desnoyers. "Sometimes Destiny gives us great surprises. There are hidden forces that we must take into consideration or they may overturn the best-laid plans."
The smile of the Doctor became increasingly scornful and arrogant. Everything had been foreseen and studied out long ago with the most minute Germanic method. What had they to fear? . . . The enemy most to be reckoned with was France, incapable of resisting the enervating moral influences, the sufferings, the strain and the privations of war;--a nation physically debilitated and so poisoned by revolutionary spirit that it had laid aside the use of arms through an exaggerated love of comfort.
"Our generals," he announced, "are going to leave her in such a state that she will never again cross our path."
There was Russia, too, to consider, but her amorphous masses were slow to assemble and unwieldy to move. The Executive Staff of Berlin had timed everything by measure for crushing France in four weeks, and would then lead its enormous forces against the Russian empire before it could begin action.
"We shall finish with the bear after killing the cock," affirmed the professor triumphantly.
But guessing at some objection from his cousin, he hastened on--"I know what you are going to tell me. There remains another enemy, one that has not yet leaped into the lists but which all the Germans are waiting for. That one inspires more hatred than all the others put together, because it is of our blood, because it is a traitor to the race. . . . Ah, how we loathe it!"
And in the tone in which these words were uttered throbbed an expression of hatred and a thirst for vengeance which astonished both listeners.
"Even though England attack us," continued Hartrott, "we shall conquer, notwithstanding. This adversary is not more terrible than the others. For the past century she has ruled the world. Upon the fall of Napoleon she seized the continental hegemony, and will fight to keep it. But what does her energy amount to? . . . As our Bernhardi says, the English people are merely a nation of renters and sportsmen. Their army is formed from the dregs of the nation. The country lacks military spirit. We are a people of warriors, and it will be an easy thing for us to conquer the English, debilitated by a false conception of life."
The Doctor paused and then added: "We are counting on the internal corruption of our enemies, on their lack of unity. God will aid us by sowing confusion among these detested people. In a few days you will see His hand. Revolution is going to break out in France at the same time as war. The people of Paris will build barricades in the streets and the scenes of the Commune will repeat themselves. Tunis, Algiers and all their other possessions are about to rise against the metropolis."
Argensola seized the opportunity to smile with an aggressive incredulity.
"I repeat it," insisted Hartrott, "that this country is going to have internal revolution and colonial insurrection. I know perfectly well what I am talking about. . . . Russia also will break out into revolution with a red flag that will force the Czar to beg for mercy on his knees. You have only to read in the papers of the recent strikes in Saint Petersburg, and the manifestations of the strikers with the pretext of President Poincare's visit. . . . England will see her appeals to her colonies completely ignored. India is going to rise against her, and Egypt, too, will seize this opportunity for her emancipation."
Julio was beginning to be impressed by these affirmations enunciated with such oracular certainty, and he felt almost irritated at the incredulous Argensola, who continued looking insolently at the seer, repeating with his winking eyes, "He is insane--insane with pride." The man certainly must have strong reasons for making such awful prophecies. His presence in Paris just at this time was difficult for Desnoyers to understand, and gave to his words a mysterious authority.
"But the nations will defend themselves," he protested to his cousin. "Victory will not be such a very simple thing as you imagine."
"Yes, they will defend themselves, and the struggle will be fiercely contested. It appears that, of late years, France has been paying some attention to her army. We shall undoubtedly encounter some resistance; triumph may be somewhat difficult, but we are going to prevail. . . . You have no idea to what extent the offensive power of Germany has attained. Nobody knows with certainty beyond the frontiers. If our foes should comprehend it in all its immensity, they would fall on their knees beforehand to beg for mercy, thus obviating the necessity for useless sacrifices."
There was a long silence. Julius von Hartrott appeared lost in reverie. The very thought of the accumulated strength of his race submerged him in a species of mystic adoration.
"The preliminary victory," he suddenly exclaimed, "we gained some time ago. Our enemies, therefore, hate us, and yet they imitate us. All that bears the stamp of Germany is in demand throughout the world. The very countries that are trying to resist our arms copy our methods in their universities and admire our theories, even those which do not attain success in Germany. Oftentimes we laugh among ourselves, like the Roman augurs, upon seeing the servility with which they follow us! . . . And yet they will not admit our superiority!"
For the first time, Argensola's eyes and general expression approved the words of Hartrott. What he had just said was only too true--the world was a victim of "the German superstition." An intellectual cowardice, the fear of Force had made it admire en masse and indiscriminately, everything of Teutonic origin, just because of the intensity of its glitter--gold mixed with talcum. The so-called Latins, dazed with admiration, were, with unreasonable pessimism, becoming doubtful of their ability, and thus were the first to decree their own death. And the conceited Germans merely had to repeat the words of these pessimists in order to strengthen their belief in their own superiority.
With that Southern temperament, which leaps rapidly from one extreme to another, many Latins had proclaimed that in the world of the future, there would be no place for the Latin peoples, now in their death-agony--adding that Germany alone preserved the latent forces of civilization. The French who declaimed among themselves, with the greatest exaggeration, unconscious that folks were listening the other side of the door, had proclaimed repeatedly for many years past, that France was degenerating rapidly and would soon vanish from the earth. . . . Then why should they resent the scorn of their enemies. . . . Why shouldn't the Germans share in their beliefs?
The professor, misinterpreting the silent agreement of the Spaniard who until then had been listening with such a hostile smile, added:
"Now is the time to try out in France the German culture, implanting it there as conquerors."
Here Argensola interrupted, "And what if there is no such thing as German culture, as a celebrated Teuton says?" It had become necessary to contradict this pedant who had become insufferable with his egotism. Hartrott almost jumped from his chair on hearing such a doubt.
"What German is that?"
The professor looked at him pityingly. Nietzsche had said to mankind, "Be harsh!" affirming that "a righteous war sanctifies every cause." He had exalted Bismarck; he had taken part in the war of '70; he was glorifying Germany when he spoke of "the smiling lion," and "the blond beast." But Argensola listened with the tranquillity of one sure of his ground. Oh, hours of placid reading near the studio chimney, listening to the rain beating against the pane! . . .
"The philosopher did say that," he admitted, "and he said many other very different things, like all great thinkers. His doctrine is one of pride, but of individual pride, not that of a nation or race. He always spoke against 'the insidious fallacy of race.'"
Argensola recalled his philosophy word for word. Culture, according to Nietzsche, was "unity of style in all the manifestations of life." Science did not necessarily include culture. Great knowledge might be accompanied with great barbarity, by the absence of style or by the chaotic confusion of all styles. Germany, according to the philosopher, had no genuine culture owing to its lack of style. "The French," he had said, "were at the head of an authentic and fruitful culture, whatever their valor might be, and until now everybody had drawn upon it." Their hatreds were concentrated within their own country. "I cannot endure Germany. The spirit of servility and pettiness penetrates everywhere. . . . I believe only in French culture, and what the rest of Europe calls culture appears to me to be a mistake. The few individual cases of lofty culture that I met in Germany were of French origin."
"You know," continued Argensola, "that in quarrelling with Wagner about the excess of Germanism in his art, Nietzsche proclaimed the necessity of mediterraneanizing music. His ideal was a culture for all Europe, but with a Latin base."
Julius von Hartrott replied most disdainfully to this, repeating the Spaniard's very words. Men who thought much said many things. Besides, Nietzsche was a poet, completely demented at his death, and was no authority among the University sages. His fame had only been recognized in foreign lands. . . . And he paid no further attention to the youth, ignoring him as though he had evaporated into thin air after his presumption. All the professor's attention was now concentrated on Desnoyers.
"This country," he resumed, "is dying from within. How can you doubt that revolution will break out the minute war is declared? . . . Have you not noticed the agitation of the boulevard on account of the Caillaux trial? Reactionaries and revolutionists have been assaulting each other for the past three days. I have seen them challenging one another with shouts and songs as if they were going to come to blows right in the middle of the street. This division of opinion will become accentuated when our troops cross the frontier. It will then be civil war. The anti-militarists are clamoring mournfully, believing that it is in the power of the government to prevent the clash. . . . A country degenerated by democracy and by the inferiority of the triumphant Celt, greedy for full liberty! . . . We are the only free people on earth because we know how to obey."
This paradox made Julio smile. Germany the only free people! . . .
"It is so," persisted Hartrott energetically. "We have the liberty best suited to a great people--economical and intellectual liberty."
"And political liberty?"
The professor received this question with a scornful shrug.
"Political liberty! . . . Only decadent and ungovernable people, inferior races anxious for equality and democratic confusion, talk about political liberty. We Germans do not need it. We are a nation of masters who recognize the sacredness of government, and we wish to be commanded by those of superior birth. We possess the genius of organization."
That, according to the Doctor, was the grand German secret, and the Teutonic race upon taking possession of the world, would share its discovery with all. The nations would then be so organized that each individual would give the maximum of service to society. Humanity, banded in regiments for every class of production, obeying a superior officer, like machines contributing the greatest possible output of labor--there you have the perfect state! Liberty was a purely negative idea if not accompanied with a positive concept which would make it useful.
The two friends listened with astonishment to this description of the future which Teutonic superiority was offering to the world. Every individual submitted to intensive production, the same as a bit of land from which its owner wishes to get the greatest number of vegetables. . . . Mankind reduced to mechanics. . . . No useless operations that would not produce immediate results. . . . And the people who heralded this awful idea were the very philosophers and idealists who had once given contemplation and reflection the first place in their existence! . . .
Hartrott again harked back to the inferiority of their racial enemies. In order to combat successfully, it required self- assurance, an unquenchable confidence in the superiority of their own powers.
"At this very hour in Berlin, everyone is accepting war, everyone is believing that victory is sure, while HERE! . . . I do not say that the French are afraid; they have a brave past that galvanizes them at certain times--but they are so depressed that it is easy to guess that they will make almost any sacrifices in order to evade what is coming upon them. The people first will shout with enthusiasm, as it always cheers that which carries it to perdition. The upper classes have no faith in the future; they are keeping quiet, but the presentiment of disaster may easily be conjectured. Yesterday I was talking with your father. He is French, and he is rich. He was indignant against the government of his country for involving the nation in the European conflict in order to defend a distant and uninteresting people. He complains of the exalted patriots who have opened the abyss between Germany and France, preventing a reconciliation. He says that Alsace and Lorraine are not worth what a war would cost in men and money. . . . He recognizes our greatness and is convinced that we have progressed so rapidly that the other countries cannot come up to us. . . . And as your father thinks, so do many others--all those who are wrapped in creature comfort, and fear to lose it. Believe me, a country that hesitates and fears war is conquered before the first battle."
Julio evinced a certain disquietude, as though he would like to cut short the conversation.
"Just leave my father out of it! He speaks that way to-day because war is not yet an accomplished fact, and he has to contradict and vent his indignation on whoever comes near him. To-morrow he will say just the opposite. . . . My father is a Latin."
The professor looked at his watch. He must go; there were still many things which he had to do before going to the station. The Germans living in Paris had fled in great bands as though a secret order had been circulating among them. That afternoon the last of those who had been living ostensibly in the Capital would depart.
"I have come to see you because of our family interest, because it was my duty to give you fair warning. You are a foreigner, and nothing holds you here. If you are desirous of witnessing a great historic event, remain--but it will be better for you to go. The war is going to be ruthless, very ruthless, and if Paris attempts resistance, as formerly, we shall see terrible things. Modes of offense have greatly changed."
Desnoyers made a gesture of indifference.
"The same as your father," observed the professor. "Last night he and all your family responded in the same way. Even my mother prefers to remain with her sister, saying that the Germans are very good, very civilized and there is nothing to apprehend in their triumph."
This good opinion seemed to be troubling the Doctor.
"They don't understand what modern warfare means. They ignore the fact that our generals have studied the art of overcoming the enemy and they will apply it mercilessly. Ruthlessness is the only means, since it perturbs the intelligence of the enemy, paralyzes his action and pulverizes his resistance. The more ferocious the war, the more quickly it is concluded. To punish with cruelty is to proceed humanely. Therefore, Germany is going to be cruel with a cruelty hitherto unseen, in order that the conflict may not be prolonged."
He had risen and was standing, cane and straw hat in hand. Argensola was looking at him with frank hostility. The professor, obliged to pass near him, did so with a stiff and disdainful nod.
Then he started toward the door, accompanied by his cousin. The farewell was brief.
"I repeat my counsel. If you do not like danger, go! It may be that I am mistaken, and that this nation, convinced of the uselessness of defense, may give itself up voluntarily. . . . At any rate, we shall soon see. I shall take great pleasure in returning to Paris when the flag of the Empire is floating over the Eiffel Tower, a mere matter of three or four weeks, certainly by the beginning of September."
France was going to disappear from the map. To the Doctor, her death was a foregone conclusion.
"Paris will remain," he admitted benevolently, "the French will remain, because a nation is not easily suppressed; but they will not retain their former place. We shall govern the world; they will continue to occupy themselves in inventing fashions, in making life agreeable for visiting foreigners; and in the intellectual world, we shall encourage them to educate good actresses, to produce entertaining novels and to write witty comedies. . . . Nothing more."
Desnoyers laughed as he shook his cousin's hand, pretending to take his words as a paradox.
"I mean it," insisted Hartrott. "The last hour of the French Republic as an important nation has sounded. I have studied it at close range, and it deserves no better fate. License and lack of confidence above--sterile enthusiasm below."
Upon turning his head, he again caught Argensola's malicious smile.
"We know all about that kind of study," he added aggressively. "We are accustomed to examine the nations of the past, to dissect them fibre by fibre, so that we recognize at a glance the psychology of the living."
The Bohemian fancied that he saw a surgeon talking self-sufficiently about the mysteries of the will before a corpse. What did this pedantic interpreter of dead documents know about life? . . .
When the door closed, he approached his friend who was returning somewhat dismayed. Argensola no longer considered Doctor Julius von Hartrott crazy.
"What a brute!" he exclaimed, throwing up his hands. "And to think that they are at large, these originators of gloomy errors! . . . Who would ever believe that they belong to the same land that produced Kant, the pacifist, the serene Goethe and Beethoven! . . . To think that for so many years, we have believed that they were forming a nation of dreamers and philosophers occupied in working disinterestedly for all mankind! . . ."
The sentence of a German geographer recurred to him: "The German is bicephalous; with one head he dreams and poetizes while with the other he thinks and executes."
Desnoyers was now beginning to feel depressed at the certainty of war. This professor seemed to him even worse than the Herr Counsellor and the other Germans that he had met on the steamer. His distress was not only because of his selfish thought as to how the catastrophe was going to affect his plans with Marguerite. He was suddenly discovering that in this hour of uncertainty he loved France. He recognized it as his father's native land and the scene of the great Revolution. . . . Although he had never mixed in political campaigns, he was a republican at heart, and had often ridiculed certain of his friends who adored kings and emperors, thinking it a great sign of distinction.
Argensola tried to cheer him up.
"Who knows? . . . This is a country of surprises. One must see the
Frenchman when he tries to remedy his want of foresight. Let that
barbarian of a cousin of yours say what he will--there is order,
there is enthusiasm. . . . Worse off than we were those who lived
in the days before Valmy. Entirely disorganized, their only defense
battalions of laborers and countrymen handling a gun for the first
time. . . . But, nevertheless, the Europe of the old monarchies
could not for twenty years free themselves from these improvised