Part 7 out of 7
permitted, by express command of the Prince, to stay a considerable
time in the upper conning-tower, from which the Imperial Admiral
directed the battle, and the deliberate calmness of the supreme
commander, steadily pursuing his object, had filled him with
unshaken confidence in a victory for the German fleet, in spite of
the numerical superiority of the English.
Ever since Heideck had heard the news of Edith Irwin's death from
Brandelaar, all purely human feelings and sensations that connected
him with life had died in his heart. He was no longer anything but
the soldier, whose thoughts and efforts were filled exclusively
with anxiety for the victory of his country's arms. All personal
experiences were completely forgotten as if they had taken place
ten years ago. At this moment, when the existence or extinction of
nations was at stake, his own life was of so little importance to
him that he was not even conscious of the foolhardy intrepidity
with which he risked it at every step.
Majestic and powerful, sending forth death-dealing flashes from her
turrets and portholes, the Wittelsbach had hitherto proceeded on
her way, not heeding the wounds which the enemy's shot had
inflicted in her hull. An almost thankful feeling for the glorious
ship which carried him arose in Heideck's breast.
"You do honour to the great name you bear," he thought. Through
smoke and steam he looked up at the conning-tower, where he knew
the Prince-Admiral was. Then he saw it no more, for suddenly a
thick, black cloud overspread his eyes. He had only felt a slight
blow in his breast, but no pain. He tried to lift his hand to the
place where he had been hit, but it sank powerlessly. It seemed as
if he were being turned round in a circle by an invisible hand.
Thousands of fiery sparks shot up suddenly from the dark cloud--the
night closed completely round him--deep, impenetrable night, and
still, solemn silence.
Major Hermann Heideck had found a hero's death.
. . . . . . .
A torpedo-boat that had been summoned by signal hurried up at full
speed to the Admiral's flagship which was lying on her side. A
broadside torpedo had struck the Wittelsbach; and although there
was no fear of her sinking, it was impossible for operations to be
directed from her any longer.
Regardless of the danger it involved, the Prince-Admiral had
himself and his staff transferred by the torpedo-boat to the
Zahringen, on which his flag was at once hoisted.
. . . . . . .
The progress of the engagement had hitherto been favourable to the
German fleet to a surprising extent. Its losses were considerably
less than those of its numerically far superior enemy, and its
ships, with few exceptions, were still able to fight and manoeuvre.
But as yet, considering the strength of the ships still at the
enemy's disposal, it was too early to speak of a decision in favour
of the German fleet. Although the clever manoeuvre of the German
squadron had frustrated the intended attack of the English, and
inflicted very considerable losses upon them, it might still be
possible for Sir Percy Domvile to atone for his mistake and to bind
the capricious fortune of war to his flag.
The same frightful scenes which Major Heideck had witnessed on
board the Wittelsbach had also taken place on the other German
battleships and cruisers. Blood flowed in rivers, and, if the
murderous engagement continued much longer, the moment could not be
far off when it would no longer be possible to fill the gaps caused
by death in the ranks of the brave crews. A few luckily-aimed
English torpedoes, and no genius in the supreme command, no heroism
on the part of the captains, officers, and crew would have been
able to avert disaster from the German arms.
Then, suddenly a fresh, apparently very powerful squadron, was
sighted from the south-west, which, if it had proved to be a
British reserve fleet, must have decided the victory at once in
favour of the English.
The moments that passed until the question was definitely settled
were moments of the keenest suspense and excitement for those on
board the German vessels. The relief was so much the greater when
it was seen to be no fresh hostile force, but Admiral Courtille's
squadron, advancing at full speed, just at the right moment to
decide the issue.
The state of affairs was now changed at one stroke so completely to
the disadvantage of the English, that a British victory had become
an impossibility. The intervention of the French squadron, still
perfectly intact, consisting of ten battleships, ten large and ten
small cruisers, was bound to bring about the annihilation of the
English fleet. The English Admiral was quickwitted enough to gauge
the situation correctly, as soon as he had recognised the
approaching ships as the French fleet and assured himself of the
enemy's strength. The orders given to form again for an attack
were succeeded by fresh signals from the English flagship, ordering
a rapid retreat. The English Admiral, regarding the battle as
definitely lost, considered it his duty to save what could still be
saved of the fleet under his charge. Before the French could
actively intervene the English fleet steamed away at full speed to
Thundering hurrahs on all the German ships acclaimed the victory
announced by this retreat. The boats of the torpedo division and
some swift cruisers were ordered to keep in touch with the fleeing
The French Admiral in command had gone on board the flagship
Zahringen to place himself and his squadron under the command of
the Prince-Admiral and to come to an arrangement as to the further
joint operations of the combined fleets. For there was no doubt
that the victory ought to be utilised at once to the fullest
extent, if it were really to be decisive.
Deeply moved, the Prince embraced Admiral Courtille, and thanked
him for appearing at the critical moment. The French Admiral,
however, excused himself for intervening so late. "I was obliged,"
said he, "to wait till it was night and steer far out to the south-
west before I could turn north; I had to do this, so as to be able
to break through Prince Louis of Battenberg's blockading squadron
without being seen, under cover of night."
Meanwhile, the scouts sent after the enemy had returned with the
information that the English fleet had altered its course and
appeared making for the Thames. Further pursuit was impossible, as
the English Admiral had detached some ships, for which the German
cruisers were not a match.
Previous arrangements had been made for transferring the dead and
wounded to the ships signalled to for the purpose, and were carried
out without great difficulty, the sea being now calmer. Now that
the fearful battle had ceased, for the first time the crews became
fully conscious of the horrors they had passed through. The rescue
of the wounded showed what cruel sacrifices the battle had
demanded. It was a difficult and melancholy task, which made many
a sailor's heart beat with sorrow and compassion. The dead were
for the most part horribly mangled by the splinters of the shells
which had caused their death, and the injuries of the wounded, for
whom the surgeons on board had, of course, only been able to
provide first aid in the turmoil of battle, were nearly all so
severe, that they could only be moved slowly.
After the German ships had signalled that they were again ready for
action, those which had the dead and wounded on board, together
with the German ships put out of action and the captured English
ships, were ordered to make for Antwerp. The combined Franco-
German fleet, under the supreme command of the Prince-Admiral,
resumed its voyage in the direction of the mouth of the Thames.
AT HAMPTON COURT
The long rows of windows in Hampton Court Palace were still a blaze
of light, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour. The double
post of the royal uhlans before the entrance was still busy, for
the unceasing arrival and departure of officers of rank of the
three allied nations demanded military honours. Immediately after
the naval engagement at Flushing, so disastrous to the English, a
large French army and some regiments of the Russian Imperial Guard
had landed at Hastings and were now quartered at Aldershot, on the
best of terms with the French and the German troops who had marched
from Scotland. The Prince-Admiral's headquarters had been removed
to Hampton Court, whose silent, venerable, and famous palace became
suddenly the centre of stirring military and diplomatic life.
Any further serious military operations were hardly considered, for
the supposition that the landing of large hostile armies would
practically mean the end of the campaign, had proved correct.
In the resistance which bodies of English troops had attempted to
offer to the French advance on London, the volunteers had clearly
shown their bravery and patriotic devotion; but had been unable to
check the victorious course of their better-led opponents.
Accordingly, an armistice had been concluded for the purpose of
considering the terms of peace offered by England, even before the
German troops advancing from Scotland had had the opportunity of
taking part in the land operations.
The conclusion of peace, eagerly desired by all the civilised
nations of the world, might be considered assured, although, no
doubt, its final ratification would be preceded by long and
difficult negotiations. The idea, mooted by the German Imperial
Chancellor, of summoning a general congress at the Hague, at which
not only the belligerents, but all other countries should be
represented, had met with general approval, since all the states
were interested in the reorganisation of the relations of the
Powers. But the settlement of the preliminaries of peace was
necessarily the business of the belligerents, and it was for this
purpose that the German Imperial Chancellor, Freiherr von
Grubenhagen, the French Foreign Minister, M. Delcasse, and the
Russian Secretary of State, M. de Witte, accompanied by Count
Lamsdorff, and a full staff of officials and diplomatic assistants,
had met at Hampton Court Palace.
The preliminary negotiations between these statesmen and the
English plenipotentiaries, Mr. Balfour, Prime Minister and First
Lord of the Treasury, and the Marquis of Londonderry, Lord
President of the Privy Council, were carried on with restless
eagerness. But the strictest silence in regard to their results up
to the present was observed by all who had taken part in them.
The conduct of the Prince-Admiral was an obvious proof that the
military leaders were not inactive, in spite of the commencement of
peace negotiations. Although he took no part in the diplomatic
proceedings and simply occupied himself with military affairs, not
only every minute of the day, but a good part of the night, was
spent by him in work and discussions with his staff officers, with
the chief officers of the land forces, and with the chief
commanders of the allied Franco-Russian army. Everyone was full of
admiration for the Prince's never-failing vigour and indefatigable
power of work; his tall, slender, Teutonic form, and fair-bearded
face, with the quiet, clear sailor's eyes, never failed to impress
all who came in contact with him. Only his imperial brother, who
held in his hand all the threads of political action, could rival
the Prince in the traditional Hohenzollern capacity for work at
this important time.
It was close on midnight when, after a long and lively
consultation, the French general, Jeannerod, left the Prince's
study. No sooner had the door closed behind him than the adjutant
on duty, with an evident expression of astonishment in the sound of
his voice, announced: "His Excellency the Imperial Chancellor,
Frieherr von Grubenhagen."
The Prince advanced to the middle of the room to meet his visitor
and shook him heartily by the hand.
"I thank Your Excellency for granting me an interview with you to-
day, although it is so late and you are overwhelmed with work. I
had a special reason for wishing to confer with you, which you will
understand when I tell you that all kinds of rumours have reached
me as to exaggerated demands on the part of our allies. My
previous attitude will have shown you that I have no intention of
interfering in diplomatic negotiations, or even exercising my
influence in one direction or another. I feel that I am here not
as a statesman, but simply as a soldier; and for that very reason I
think you can speak the more openly to me. I have been told that
the complete annihilation of England is intended as indispensable
to the conditions of peace."
The Chancellor, whose manly, determined face showed no signs of
exhaustion, notwithstanding his almost superhuman labours, looked
frankly at the Prince and shook his head.
"Your Royal Highness has been incorrectly informed. Neither we nor
our allies have the intention of annihilating England. Certainly
we are all fully agreed that this fearful war must not be waged in
vain, and that the reward must correspond with the greatness of the
sacrifice at which it has been purchased."
"And to whom is the reward to fall?"
"To all the nations, Your Royal Highness. It would have been a sin
to kindle this universal conflagration had it not been taken for
granted that its refining flames would prepare the ground for the
happiness and peace of the world. For centuries Great Britain has
misused her power to increase her own wealth at the cost of others.
Unscrupulously she grabbed everything she could lay hands on, and,
injuring at every step important and vital interests of other
nations, she challenged that resistance which has now shattered her
position as a power in the world. The happiness of the peoples can
only be restored by a peace assured for years, and only a just
division of the dominion of the earth can guarantee the peace of
the world. Therefore England must necessarily surrender an
essential part of her possessions over sea. Russia wants the way
free to the Indian Ocean, for only if she has a sufficient number
of harbours open all the year round will the enormous riches of her
soil cease to be a lifeless possession. And France--"
"Let us keep to Russia first, Your Excellency. Has the Russian
Government already formulated its demands?"
"These demands are the essential outcome of the military situation;
they culminate in the cession of British India to Russia. Whatever
else our Eastern neighbour may strive to gain, is intended to
ensure the peace of Europe more than her own aggrandisement. The
standing danger which threatens the peace of Europe from the stormy
corner of the old world, the Balkan Peninsula, must be finally
removed. A fundamental agreement has been arrived at between the
Powers concerned that the Russian and Austrian spheres of influence
in the Balkans are to be defined in such a manner that a definite
arrangement of affairs in the Balkan States will be the result.
There is talk of an independent Kingdom of Macedonia, under the
rule of an Austrian archduke. The equivalent to be given to the
Russian Empire as a set-off to this increase of the power of
Austria will have to be finally settled at the conference at the
Hague. But in any case the dangers which threaten the peace of
Europe from Bulgaria, Servia, and Montenegro will be effectually
obviated for the future."
"But are you not afraid that the Sultan will resist such an
agreement, by which Turkey is essentially the sufferer?"
"The Sultan will have to yield to the force of circumstances. We
must not forget, Your Royal Highness, that Turkey has hitherto
retained her European possessions more from the lack of unanimity
among the great Powers than any consecrated rights of the Porte.
The unceasing troubles in Macedonia have shown that the Sultan has
neither the power nor the intention to give the Balkan countries
under his rule a government corresponding to the demands of modern
civilisation. If the Porte loses the support it has hitherto
received from England, the Sultan is at the same time deprived of
all possibility of serious resistance."
"And what is arranged about Egypt?"
"Egypt is the prize of victory for France; but only what she can
justly claim on the ground of a glorious history will be restored
to her. The sovereignty of the Sultan, which is a mere formality,
will remain. But England's present position in Egypt--certainly
with a definite limitation--will henceforth fall to France."
"And what is the limitation?"
"It will be administered, not by France alone, but by an
international commission, appointed by all the Powers, under the
presidency of France, in the place of the present English
administration. The first condition is that England must cede all
her financial claims and her Suez Canal shares to the allied
Powers. These financial sacrifices will at the same time be part
of the war indemnity which England will have to pay."
"Does France raise no further claims?"
"France is the more satisfied with the results of this war, since
an annexation of Belgium to the French Republic is very probable.
Germany, however, claims the harbour of Antwerp, which we have
occupied since the beginning of the war."
"If I am correctly informed, was it not suggested that Aden should
fall to France or be neutralised?"
"The idea was certainly mooted, but the allied Powers have decided
to leave Aden to England. On the other hand, England will have to
pledge herself to raise no obstacles which would render the
construction and working of the Bagdad railway illusory. The
harbour of Koweit on the Persian Gulf, the south-eastern terminus
of this railway, must remain the uncontested possession of Turkey."
"And Gibraltar? It raised a storm of indignation in England, when
the report suddenly spread that the cession of this fortress would
"And yet the English Government will have to submit, for the
surrender of Gibraltar is an indispensable condition on the part of
"It is impossible to rase this natural fortress."
"It would suffice if the English garrison were withdrawn, and all
the fortifications dismantled. Gibraltar will cease to exist as a
fortress, and will be restored to Spain on definite conditions.
However, as it is not the intention of the allies completely to
destroy English influence in the Levant, Malta will continue to
form part of the British Empire. Thus England retains in the
Mediterranean the most important point d'appui for her fleet."
"It will not be easy to get the English Government to accept these
conditions. But you have not yet spoken of the demands of Germany-
-Antwerp does not touch England's interests directly."
"The policy of the German Government will culminate in ensuring
settled commercial and political relations with England and her
colonies and the rounding off of our own colonial possessions. We
therefore demand Walfish Bay for German South-West Africa, the only
good harbour, which, at the present time, being English, is closed
to our young South African Colony. Besides this, we must insist
upon the East African districts, which we gave up in exchange for
Heligoland, being restored to us. This serious mistake in German
policy must be rectified; for the abandonment of the Protectorate
of Zanzibar to England was a blow, which not only paralysed the
zeal of our best colonial friends, but also depreciated the value
of our East African Colonies."
"If I understand you correctly, Your Excellency, your policy is
directed towards setting Germany's colonial efforts on a firmer
"I certainly regard this as one of the most important demands of
our time. We must recover what the policy of the last centuries
has lost by neglect. At the same time that Your Royal Highness's
great ancestor waged war for seven years for a mere strip of land--
for tiny Silesia, the far-seeing policy of England succeeded, at a
smaller sacrifice, in getting possession of enormous tracts of
territory far larger in their whole extent than the entire
continent of Europe."
"But for centuries England has been a naval power, and obliged to
direct her efforts to the acquisition of colonies over sea."
"And what was there to prevent Prussia, centuries ago, from
becoming a naval power that should command respect? It was our
misfortune that the mighty ideas and far-seeing plans of the great
Elector were frustrated by the inadequate means at his disposal.
Had his successors continued what he had begun, Great Britain's
power would never have been able to reach such a height. We should
have secured in time, in previous centuries, our due share of the
parts of the world outside Europe."
The Prince looked thoughtfully before him. After a brief silence
the Imperial Chancellor continued--
"Your Royal Highness may have heard that the Netherlands are firmly
resolved, in the interest of self-preservation, to be incorporated
with the German Empire as a federal state, like Bavaria, Saxony,
Wurtemburg, Baden, and the other German states, after the Franco-
German War. The rich and extensive Dutch colonies would then also
become German colonies; that is to say, they would enter into the
political union of the other German colonies while remaining under
the administration of Holland. Our intention of repairing the
wrong done by England to the Boers has made a very good impression
on the Dutch population. The Boer states will enter into the same
relation to us in which they stood to England before the Boer War,
and their independence will be restored to them."
"Meaning self-government with the recognition of German supremacy.
Certainly, they are kinsmen of the Dutch. But, my dear Baron, will
not the German people be alarmed at the consequences of an
extension of our possessions over sea? Larger colonial possessions
necessitate a larger fleet. Think of the struggle which the allied
Governments had to carry through Parliament even a modest increase
in the German fleet!"
"I am not so much afraid of this difficulty, for the German people
have learnt the value of the fleet. We have got beyond the
tentative stage, and have paid enough for our experience. We must
hold fast what we possess and recover what we have lost during the
last decades through the unfortunately unbusiness-like spirit of
our foreign policy. Then the German people will have renewed
confidence in our colonial policy."
"But how will you raise the sums necessary to make our fleet strong
"Our negotiations with the friendly Governments of France and
Russia are a proof that in these states, just as in the German
people, there is a desire for a diminution of the land army; there
is an equally strong feeling in Italy and Austria. The people
would break down under the burden if the expenses for the army were
increased, if we diminish our land army we shall have the means to
increase our naval forces. Now, after a victorious war, the moment
has come when the whole Continent can reduce its enormous standing
armies to a footing commensurate with the financial capacities of
its people. The external enemy is conquered; we must not think of
conjuring up the internal enemy by laying excessive burdens on all
"You spoke just now of the unbusiness-like spirit of our foreign
policy. How is this reproach to be understood?"
"Quite literally, Your Royal Highness! The bargain which gave up
Zanzibar to get Heligoland would never have been possible if our
diplomacy had shown the same far-sightedness and intelligence as
the English in economic questions, which I can only designate by
the honourable title of a 'business-like spirit.' This business-
like spirit is the mainspring of industry and agriculture, of trade
and handicrafts, as of all industrial life generally, and it is
necessary that this business-like spirit should also be recognised
in our ministries as the necessary condition for the qualification
to judge of the economic interests of the people. In this respect
our statesmen and officials and our industrial classes can learn
more from our vanquished enemy than in anything else. England owes
her greatness to being 'a nation of shopkeepers,' while our
economic development and our external influence has been hindered
more than anything else by the contempt with which the industrial
classes have been treated amongst us up to the most recent times.
In England the merchant has always stood higher in the social scale
than the officer and official. Amongst us he is looked upon almost
as a second-class citizen compared with the other two. What in
England is valued as only a means to an end is regarded by us as an
end in itself. The spirit of that rigid bureaucracy, of which
Prince Bismarck has already complained, is still unfortunately with
few exceptions the prevailing spirit in our Empire, from the
highest to the lowest circles; the lack of appreciation of the
importance of economic life is the cause of the low esteem in which
the industrial classes are held. The sound business-like spirit,
which pervades all English state life, cuts the ground from under
the feet of Social Democracy in England, while with us it is
gaining ground year by year. I am convinced that our German people
have no need to fear Social Democracy, for in reforming social
cancers those who govern are of more importance than those who are
"There may be much that is true in what you say, Herr Chancellor.
But the extension of our colonial possessions will, first and
foremost, benefit trade, and the merchant will naturally become of
greater importance with us. There is already talk of great
plantation societies to be started with enormous capital."
"It is just against the formation of these societies that I intend
to exert my whole influence, Your Royal Highness. We could commit
no more fatal error than to allow the state-privileged speculation
in landed property, which has produced such unwholesome fruits in
the old civilised states, to exist in our colonies. Real property
must be no object of speculation, it must remain the property of
the state. Agriculture belongs to the classes, who at the present
time suffer most from economic depression. Nothing but an increase
of the protective duties can preserve the agricultural population
from the threatening danger of economic ruin. Increase of
protective duty will bring with it increased profit, combined with
a further increase in the value of land, which is also an article
of traffic. Then the increase of land values will at the same time
create an increase of the rents to be obtained from landed
property, and for this reason I cannot help fearing that, in spite
of an increase of protective duties, agriculture will have to
suffer in the next generation from the further increase in the
value of land and the higher rents that will be the result.
"In our colonies we must not fall into the same error that has
produced the socialist question in modern civilised states. The
earth belongs to those creatures who live on it and by it in
accordance with a higher law than human imperfection has framed.
Therefore the soil of our earth must be no object of traffic. Its
growth is inseparable from that of the body of the state. I dare
not hope that it will be allotted to me or my contemporaries to
solve this question, yet I shall never tire of using all my
influence to prevent at least a false agrarian policy in our young
colonies. Injustice dies from its results, for injustice breeds
its own avenger. Mankind committed a fatal wrong in permitting the
land that supported them to become an object of speculation. This
noxious seed brings noxious fruits to light. It must be the
highest task of all governments to carry out land reform--the great
problem that decides the destiny of a world--by all possible
legislative measures. Now that, in all human probability, peace is
assured, now that external dangers no longer threaten the existence
of our Empire, there is nothing to exonerate us from the serious
and sacred obligation to commence the greatest and most powerful
work of reform that humanity can undertake. Then our path will
lead us--from the conquest of nations to self-conquests."
At this moment the door of the room opened, and a royal messenger,
introduced by the adjutant on duty, handed the Prince a letter
decorated with the imperial crown and the initial of the imperial
The first glimmer of dawn entered the open window, and through the
tops of the venerable trees of Hampton Court Park was heard a
mysterious rustling and whispering, as if they were talking of the
wonderful changes of fortune, of which they had been the mute
witnesses since the remote days of their youth.
The blue eyes of the Hohenzollern Prince were shining proudly,
while they scanned the imperial missive. For a few moments a deep
silence prevailed. Then the Prince turned to the Imperial
"It will be a great day for us, Your Excellency! His Majesty the
Emperor will enter London at the head of the allied armies. Peace
is assured. God grant that it may be the last war which we shall
have to wage for the future happiness of the German nation!"