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When next the sun sets behind the heights of Malmo, the chiefs of two States stand on the bridges of their respective ships and look round, get their officers to look, calculate, and look again. Each of them might easily reckon that the threatened complications in Europe were calling the other home, so that their courses might quite possibly cross each other. At the same hour the France was bearing her President through the North Sea to Dunkirk, and the Hohenzollern was carrying the Kaiser to Kiel. Each heart was beating in anticipation of war, each knew that the air around him was quivering with the electric waves, above in their cabins their wireless officers heard the stammer of speech in foreign tongues—but, alas! all was safely enciphered. Nevertheless, on board the hostile ships they made some attempts at deciphering; then they gave it up.
The two rulers on their ships weighed the course of destiny of these days. The Frenchman was torn between contradictory feelings; he admits himself that he wanted revanche; consequently he was bound to hope that war would be forced on him; yet he could not but fear the devastation bound to fall on his own homeland, Lorraine, and, as he was not in a position to attack, he must prefer that any German plans should be postponed until 1917. And yet he had spoken plainly enough, the last time only yesterday, to the Tsar.
The Kaiser’s feelings were swayed, as was inevitable with a vacillating nature such as his, by moods and circumstances; surrounded for weeks at a time only by soldiers and other persons who had studied him for years past, and had been freshly oiled, like the ship’s engines, before starting, by their instigators in Berlin; breathing the atmosphere of “an Admiral of the Atlantic Ocean,” and hearing not a single outspoken word of political warning; even more entirely out of touch with all classes of the people than when at home; and, to crown all, honestly infuriated by the murder of his friend — what could he think but what the following notes show, written in his own hand on board the Hohenzollern during his July trip, on the margin of the latest despatches:
Report from Vienna in which the Ambassador speaks of Berchtold’s endeavours to find demands that it would be wholly impossible for Serbia to accept. Note by the Kaiser: “Evacuate the Sandjak! Then the row would be on at once! Austria must absolutely get that back, in order to prevent the Serbs from gaining the sea-coast!”
Tisza wanted them to act “like gentlemen,” thereby interfering with Berchtold’s plans. Note by the Kaiser: “To murderers, after what has happened! Rubbish! . . . It was like this at the time of the Silesian wars: I am against all councils of War and conferences, since the more timid party always has the upper hand. Frederick the Great”
Emil Ludwig, July ’14