The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Vicente Blasco Ibanez
Part 3 out of 8
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"But the nations will defend themselves," he protested to his
cousin. "Victory will not be such a very simple thing as you
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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 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
"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
IN WHICH APPEAR THE FOUR HORSEMEN
The two friends now lived a feverish life, considerably accelerated
by the rapidity with which events succeeded each other. Every hour
brought forth an astonishing bit of news--generally false--which
changed opinions very suddenly. As soon as the danger of war seemed
arrested, the report would spread that mobilization was going to be
ordered within a few minutes.
Within each twenty-four hours were compressed the disquietude,
anxiety and nervous waste of a normal year. And that which was
aggravating the situation still more was the uncertainty, the
expectation of the event, feared but still invisible, the distress
on account of a danger continually threatening but never arriving.
History in the making was like a stream overflowing its banks,
events overlapping each other like the waves of an inundation.
Austria was declaring war with Servia while the diplomats of the
great powers were continuing their efforts to stem the tide. The
electric web girdling the planet was vibrating incessantly in the
depths of the ocean and on the peaks of the continents, transmitting
alternate hopes and fears.
Russia was mobilizing a part of its army. Germany, with its troops
in readiness under the pretext of manoeuvres, was decreeing the
state of "threatened war." The Austrians, regardless of the efforts
of diplomacy, were beginning the bombardment of Belgrade. William
II, fearing that the intervention of the Powers might settle the
differences between the Czar and the Emperor of Austria, was forcing
the course of events by declaring war upon Russia. Then Germany
began isolating herself, cutting off railroad and telegraphic
communications in order to shroud in mystery her invading forces.
France was watching this avalanche of events, temperate in its words
and enthusiasm. A cool and grave resolution was noticeable
everywhere. Two generations had come into the world, informed as
soon as they reached a reasonable age, that some day there would
undoubtedly be war. Nobody wanted it; the adversary imposed
it. . . . But all were accepting it with the firm intention of
fulfilling their duty.
During the daytime Paris was very quiet, concentrating the mind on
the work in hand. Only a few groups of exalted patriots, following
the tricolored flag, were passing through the place de la Concorde,
in order to salute the statue of Strasbourg. The people were
accosting each other in a friendly way in the streets. Everybody
seemed to know everybody else, although they might not have met
before. Eye attracted eye, and smiles appeared to broaden mutually
with the sympathy of a common interest. The women were sad but
speaking cheerily in order to hide their emotions. In the long
summer twilight, the boulevards were filling with crowds. Those
from the outlying districts were converging toward the centre of the
city, as in the remote revolutionary days, banding together in
groups, forming an endless multitude from which came shouts and
songs. These manifestations were passing through the centre under
the electric lights that were just being turned on, the processions
generally lasting until midnight, with the national banner floating
above the walking crowds, escorted by the flags of other nations.
It was on one of these nights of sincere enthusiasm that the two
friends heard an unexpected, astonishing piece of news. "They have
killed Jaures!" The groups were repeating it from one to another
with an amazement which seemed to overpower their grief. "Jaures
assassinated! And what for?" The best popular element, which
instinctively seeks an explanation of every proceeding, remained in
suspense, not knowing which way to turn. The tribune dead, at the
very moment that his word as welder of the people was most
needed! . . .
Argensola thought immediately of Tchernoff. "What will our
neighbors say?" . . . The quiet, orderly people of Paris were
fearing a revolution, and for a few moments Desnoyers believed that
his cousin's auguries were about to be fulfilled. This
assassination, with its retaliations, might be the signal for civil
war. But the masses of the people, worn out with grief at the death
of their hero, were waiting in tragic silence. All were seeing,
beyond his dead body, the image of the country.
By the following morning, the danger had vanished. The laboring
classes were talking of generals and war, showing each other their
little military memorandums, announcing the date of their departure
as soon as the order of mobilization should be published. "I go the
second day." "I the first." Those of the standing army who were on
leave were recalled individually to the barracks. All these events
were tending in the same direction--war.
The Germans were invading Luxembourg; the Germans were ordering
their armies to invade the French frontier when their ambassador was
still in Paris making promises of peace. On the day after the death
of Jaures, the first of August, the people were crowding around some
pieces of paper, written by hand and in evident haste. These papers
were copies of other larger printed sheets, headed by two crossed
flags. "It has come; it is now a fact!". . . It was the order for
general mobilization. All France was about to take up arms, and
chests seemed to expand with a sigh of relief. Eyes were sparkling
with excitement. The nightmare was at last over! . . . Cruel
reality was preferable to the uncertainty of days and days, each as
long as a week.
In vain President Poincare, animated by a last hope, was explaining
to the French that "mobilization is not necessarily war, that a call
to arms may be simply a preventive measure." "It is war, inevitable
war," said the populace with a fatalistic expression. And those who
were going to start that very night or the following day were the
most eager and enthusiastic.--"Now those who seek us are going to
find us! Vive la France!" The Chant du Depart, the martial hymn of
the volunteers of the first Republic, had been exhumed by the
instinct of a people which seek the voice of Art in its most
critical moments. The stanzas of the conservative Chenier, adapted
to a music of warlike solemnity, were resounding through the
streets, at the same time as the Marseillaise:
La Republique nous appelle.
Sachons vaincre ou sachons perir;
Un francais doit vivre pour elle.
Pour elle un francais doit mourir.
The mobilization began at midnight to the minute. At dusk, groups
of men began moving through the streets towards the stations. Their
families were walking beside them, carrying the valise or bundle of
clothes. They were escorted by the friends of their district, the
tricolored flag borne aloft at the head of these platoons. The
Reserves were donning their old uniforms which presented all the
difficulties of suits long ago forgotten. With new leather belts
and their revolvers at their sides, they were betaking themselves to
the railway which was to carry them to the point of concentration.
One of their children was carrying the old sword in its cloth
sheath. The wife was hanging on his arm, sad and proud at the same
time, giving her last counsels in a loving whisper.
Street cars, automobiles and cabs rolled by with crazy velocity.
Nobody had ever seen so many vehicles in the Paris streets, yet if
anybody needed one, he called in vain to the conductors, for none
wished to serve mere civilians. All means of transportation were
for military men, all roads ended at the railroad stations. The
heavy trucks of the administration, filled with sacks, were saluted
with general enthusiasm. "Hurrah for the army!" The soldiers in
mechanic's garb, on top of the swaying pyramid, replied to the
cheers, waving their arms and uttering shouts that nobody pretended
Fraternity had created a tolerance hitherto unknown. The crowds
were pressing forward, but in their encounters, invariably preserved
good order. Vehicles were running into each other, and when the
conductors resorted to the customary threats, the crowds would
intervene and make them shake hands. "Three cheers for France!"
The pedestrians, escaping between the wheels of the automobiles were
laughing and good-naturedly reproaching the chauffeur with, "Would
you kill a Frenchman on his way to his regiment?" and the conductor
would reply, "I, too, am going in a few hours. This is my last
trip." As night approached, cars and cabs were running with
increasing irregularity, many of the employees having abandoned
their posts to take leave of their families and make the train. All
the life of Paris was concentrating itself in a half-dozen human
rivers emptying in the stations.
Desnoyers and Argensola met in a boulevard cafe toward midnight.
Both were exhausted by the day's emotions and under that nervous
depression which follows noisy and violent spectacles. They needed
to rest. War was a fact, and now that it was a certainty, they felt
no anxiety to get further news. Remaining in the cafe proved
impossible. In the hot and smoky atmosphere, the occupants were
singing and shouting and waving tiny flags. All the battle hymns of
the past and present were here intoned in chorus, to an
accompaniment of glasses and plates. The rather cosmopolitan
clientele was reviewing the European nations. All, absolutely all,
were going to enroll themselves on the side of France. "Hurrah! . . .
Hurrah!" . . . An old man and his wife were seated at a table
near the two friends. They were tenants, of an orderly, humdrum
walk in life, who perhaps in all their existence had never been
awake at such an hour. In the general enthusiasm they had come to
the boulevards "in order to see war a little closer." The foreign
tongue used by his neighbors gave the husband a lofty idea of their
"Do you believe that England is going to join us?" . . .
Argensola knew as much about it as he, but he replied
authoritatively, "Of course she will. That's a sure thing!" The
old man rose to his feet: "Hurrah for England!" and he began
chanting a forgotten patriotic song, marking time with his arms in a
spirited way, to the great admiration of his old wife, and urging
all to join in the chorus that very few were able to follow.
The two friends had to take themselves home on foot. They could not
find a vehicle that would stop for them; all were hurrying in the
opposite direction toward the stations. They were both in a bad
humor, but Argensola couldn't keep his to himself.
"Ah, these women!" Desnoyers knew all about his relations (so far
honorable) with a midinette from the rue Taitbout. Sunday strolls
in the suburbs of Paris, various trips to the moving picture shows,
comments upon the fine points of the latest novel published in the
sheets of a popular paper, kisses of farewell when she took the
night train from Bois Colombes in order to sleep at home--that was
all. But Argensola was wickedly counting on Father Time to mellow
the sharpest virtues. That evening they had taken some refreshment
with a French friend who was going the next morning to join his
regiment. The girl had sometimes seen him with Argensola without
noticing him particularly, but now she suddenly began admiring him
as though he were another person. She had given up the idea of
returning home that night; she wanted to see how a war begins. The
three had dined together, and all her interest had centred upon the
one who was going away. She even took offense, with sudden modesty,
when Argensola tried as he had often done before, to squeeze her
hand under the table. Meanwhile she was almost leaning her head on
the shoulder of the future hero, enveloping him with admiring gaze.
"And they have gone. . . . They have gone away together!" said the
Spaniard bitterly. "I had to leave them in order not to make my
hard luck any worse. To have worked so long . . . for another!"
He was silent for a few minutes, then changing the trend of his
ideas, he added: "I recognize, nevertheless, that her behavior is
beautiful. The generosity of these women when they believe that the
moment for sacrifice has come! She is terribly afraid of her
father, and yet she stays away from home all night with a person
whom she hardly knows, and whom she was not even thinking of in the
middle of the afternoon! . . . The entire nation feels gratitude
toward those who are going to imperil their lives, and she, poor
child, wishing to do something, too, for those destined for death,
to give them a little pleasure in their last hour . . . is giving
the best she has, that which she can never recover. I have sketched
her role poorly, perhaps. . . . Laugh at me if you want to, but
admit that it is beautiful."
Desnoyers laughed heartily at his friend's discomfiture, in spite of
the fact that he, too, was suffering a good deal of secret
annoyance. He had seen Marguerite but once since the day of his
return. The only news of her that he had received was by letter. . . .
This cursed war! What an upset for happy people! Marguerite's
mother was ill. She was brooding over the departure of her son, an
officer, on the first day of the mobilization. Marguerite, too, was
uneasy about her brother and did not think it expedient to come to
the studio while her mother was grieving at home. When was this
situation ever to end? . . .
That check for four hundred thousand francs which he had brought
from America was also worrying him. The day before, the bank had
declined to pay it for lack of the customary official advice.
Afterward they said that they had received the advice, but did not
give him the money. That very afternoon, when the trust companies
had closed their doors, the government had already declared a
moratorium, in order to prevent a general bankruptcy due to the
general panic. When would they pay him? . . . Perhaps when the war
which had not yet begun was ended--perhaps never. He had no other
money available except the two thousand francs left over from his
travelling expenses. All of his friends were in the same
distressing situation, unable to draw on the sums which they had in
the banks. Those who had any money were obliged to go from shop to
shop, or form in line at the bank doors, in order to get a bill
changed. Oh, this war! This stupid war!
In the Champs Elysees, they saw a man with a broad-brimmed hat who
was walking slowly ahead of them and talking to himself. Argensola
recognized him as he passed near the street lamp, "Friend
Tchernoff." Upon returning their greeting, the Russian betrayed a
slight odor of wine. Uninvited, he had adjusted his steps to
theirs, accompanying them toward the Arc de Triomphe.
Julio had merely exchanged silent nods with Argensola's new
acquaintance when encountering him in the vestibule; but sadness
softens the heart and makes us seek the friendship of the humble as
a refreshing shelter. Tchernoff, on the contrary, looked at
Desnoyers as though he had known him all his life.
The man had interrupted his monologue, heard only by the black
masses of vegetation, the blue shadows perforated by the reddish
tremors of the street lights, the summer night with its cupola of
warm breezes and twinkling stars. He took a few steps without
saying anything, as a mark of consideration to his companions, and
then renewed his arguments, taking them up where he had broken off,
without offering any explanation, as though he were still talking to
himself. . . .
"And at this very minute, they are shouting with enthusiasm the same
as they are doing here, honestly believing that they are going to
defend their outraged country, wishing to die for their families and
firesides that nobody has threatened."
"Who are 'they,' Tchernoff?" asked Argensola.
The Russian stared at him as though surprised at such a question.
"They," he said laconically.
The two understood. . . . THEY! It could not be anyone else.
"I have lived ten years in Germany," he continued, connecting up his
words, now that he found himself listened to. "I was daily
correspondent for a paper in Berlin and I know these people.
Passing along these thronged boulevards, I have been seeing in my
imagination what must be happening there at this hour. They, too,
are singing and shouting with enthusiasm as they wave their flags.
On the outside, they seem just alike--but oh, what a difference
within! . . . Last night the people beset a few babblers in the
boulevard who were yelling, 'To Berlin!'--a slogan of bad memories
and worse taste. France does not wish conquests; her only desire is
to be respected, to live in peace without humiliations or
disturbances. To-night two of the mobilized men said on leaving,
'When we enter Germany we are going to make it a republic!' . . . A
republic is not a perfect thing, but it is better than living under
an irresponsible monarchy by the grace of God. It at least
presupposes tranquillity and absence of the personal ambitions that
disturb life. I was impressed by the generous thought of these
laboring men who, instead of wishing to exterminate their enemies,
were planning to give them something better."
Tchernoff remained silent a few minutes, smiling ironically at the
picture which his imagination was calling forth.
"In Berlin, the masses are expressing their enthusiasm in the lofty
phraseology befitting a superior people. Those in the lowest
classes, accustomed to console themselves for humiliations with a
gross materialism, are now crying 'Nach Paris! We are going to
drink champagne gratis!' The pietistic burgher, ready to do
anything to attain a new honor, and the aristocracy which has given
the world the greatest scandals of recent years, are also shouting,
'Nach Paris!' To them Paris is the Babylon of the deadly sin, the
city of the Moulin Rouge and the restaurants of Montmartre, the only
places that they know. . . . And my comrades of the Social-
Democracy, they are also cheering, but to another tune.--'To-morrow!
To St. Petersburg! Russian ascendency, the menace of civilization,
must be obliterated!' The Kaiser waving the tyranny of another
country as a scarecrow to his people! . . . What a joke!"
And the loud laugh of the Russian sounded through the night like the
noise of wooden clappers.
"We are more civilized than the Germans," he said, regaining his
Desnoyers, who had been listening with great interest, now gave a
start of surprise, saying to himself, "This Tchernoff has been
"Civilization," continued the Socialist, "does not consist merely in
great industry, in many ships, armies and numerous universities that
only teach science. That is material civilization. There is
another, a superior one, that elevates the soul and does not permit
human dignity to suffer without protesting against continual
humiliations. A Swiss living in his wooden chalet and considering
himself the equal of the other men of his country, is more civilized
than the Herr Professor who gives precedence to a lieutenant, or to
a Hamburg millionaire who, in turn, bends his neck like a lackey
before those whose names are prefixed by a von."
Here the Spaniard assented as though he could guess what Tchernoff
was going to say.
"We Russians endure great tyranny. I know something about that. I
know the hunger and cold of Siberia. . . . But opposed to our
tyranny has always existed a revolutionary protest. Part of the
nation is half-barbarian, but the rest has a superior mentality, a
lofty moral spirit which faces danger and sacrifice because of
liberty and truth. . . . And Germany? Who there has ever raised a
protest in order to defend human rights? What revolutions have ever
broken out in Prussia, the land of the great despots?
Frederick William, the founder of militarism, when he was tired of
beating his wife and spitting in his children's plates, used to
sally forth, thong in hand, in order to cowhide those subjects who
did not get out of his way in time. His son, Frederick the Great,
declared that he died, bored to death with governing a nation of
slaves. In two centuries of Prussian history, one single
revolution--the barricades of 1848--a bad Berlinish copy of the
Paris revolution, and without any result. Bismarck corrected with a
heavy hand so as to crush completely the last attempts at protest--
if such ever really existed. And when his friends were threatening
him with revolution, the ferocious Junker, merely put his hands on
his hips and roared with the most insolent of horse laughs. A
revolution in Prussia! . . . Nothing at all, as he knew his
Tchernoff was not a patriot. Many a time Argensola had heard him
railing against his country, but now he was indignant in view of the
contempt with which Teutonic haughtiness was treating the Russian
nation. Where, in the last forty years of imperial grandeur, was
that universal supremacy of which the Germans were everlastingly
boasting? . . .
Excellent workers in science; tenacious and short-sighted
academicians, each wrapped in his specialty!--Benedictines of the
laboratory who experimented painstakingly and occasionally hit upon
something, in spite of enormous blunders given out as truths,
because they were their own . . . that was all! And side by side
with such patient laboriosity, really worthy of respect--what
charlatanism! What great names exploited as a shop sample! How
many sages turned into proprietors of sanatoriums! . . . A Herr
Professor discovers the cure of tuberculosis, and the tubercular
keep on dying as before. Another labels with a number the
invincible remedy for the most unconfessable of diseases, and the
genital scourge continues afflicting the world. And all these
errors were representing great fortunes, each saving panacea
bringing into existence an industrial corporation selling its
products at high prices--as though suffering were a privilege of the
rich. How different from the bluff Pasteur and other clever men of
the inferior races who have given their discoveries to the world
without stooping to form monopolies!
"German science," continued Tchernoff, "has given much to humanity,
I admit that; but the science of other nations has done as much.
Only a nation puffed up with conceit could imagine that it has done
everything for civilization, and the others nothing. . . . Apart
from their learned specialists, what genius has been produced in our
day by this Germany which believes itself so transcendent? Wagner,
the last of the romanticists, closes an epoch and belongs to the
past. Nietzsche took pains to proclaim his Polish origin and
abominated Germany, a country, according to him, of middle-class
pedants. His Slavism was so pronounced that he even prophesied the
overthrow of the Prussians by the Slavs. . . . And there are
others. We, although a savage people, have given the world of
modern times an admirable moral grandeur. Tolstoi and Dostoievsky
are world-geniuses. What names can the Germany of William II put
ahead of these? . . . His country was the country of music, but the
Russian musicians of to-day are more original than the mere
followers of Wagner, the copyists who take refuge in orchestral
exasperations in order to hide their mediocrity. . . . In its time
of stress the German nation had men of genius, before Pan-Germanism
had been born, when the Empire did not exist. Goethe, Schiller,
Beethoven were subjects of little principalities. They received
influence from other countries and contributed their share to the
universal civilization like citizens of the world, without insisting
that the world should, therefore, become Germanized."
Czarism had committed atrocities. Tchernoff knew that by
experience, and did not need the Germans to assure him of it. But
all the illustrious classes of Russia were enemies of that tyranny
and were protesting against it. Where in Germany were the
intellectual enemies of Prussian Czarism? They were either holding
their peace, or breaking forth into adulation of the anointed of the
Lord--a musician and comedian like Nero, of a sharp and superficial
intelligence, who believed that by merely skimming through anything
he knew it all. Eager to strike a spectacular pose in history, he
had finally afflicted the world with the greatest of calamities.
"Why must the tyranny that weighs upon my country necessarily be
Russian? The worst Czars were imitators of Prussia. Every time
that the Russian people of our day have attempted to revindicate
their rights, the reactionaries have used the Kaiser as a threat,
proclaiming that he would come to their aid. One-half of the
Russian aristocracy is German; the functionaries who advise and
support despotism are Germans; German, too, are the generals who
have distinguished themselves by massacring the people; German are
the officials who undertake to punish the laborers' strikes and the
rebellion of their allies. The reactionary Slav is brutal, but he
has the fine sensibility of a race in which many princes have become
Nihilists. He raises the lash with facility, but then he repents
and oftentimes weeps. I have seen Russian officials kill themselves
rather than march against the people, or through remorse for
slaughter committed. The German in the service of the Czar feels no
scruples, nor laments his conduct. He kills coldly, with the
minuteness and exactitude with which he does everything. The
Russian is a barbarian who strikes and regrets; German civilization
shoots without hesitation. Our Slav Czar, in a humanitarian dream,
favored the Utopian idea of universal peace, organizing the
Conference of The Hague. The Kaiser of culture, meanwhile, has been
working years and years in the erection and establishment of a
destructive organ of an immensity heretofore unknown, in order to
crush all Europe. The Russian is a humble Christian, socialistic,
democratic, thirsting for justice; the German prides himself upon
his Christianity, but is an idolator like the German of other
centuries. His religion loves blood and maintains castes; his true
worship is that of Odin;--only that nowadays, the god of slaughter
has changed his name and calls himself, 'The State'!"
Tchernoff paused an instant--perhaps in order to increase the wonder
of his companions--and then said with simplicity:
"I am a Christian."
Argensola, who already knew the ideas and history of the Russian,
started with astonishment, and Julio persisted in his suspicion,
"Surely Tchernoff is drunk."
"It is true," declared the Russian earnestly, "that I do not worry
about God, nor do I believe in dogmas, but my soul is Christian as
is that of all revolutionists. The philosophy of modern democracy
is lay Christianity. We Socialists love the humble, the needy, the
weak. We defend their right to life and well-being, as did the
greatest lights of the religious world who saw a brother in every
unfortunate. We exact respect for the poor in the name of justice;
the others ask for it in the name of charity. That only separates
us. But we strive that mankind may, by common consent, lead a
better life, that the strong may sacrifice for the weak, the lofty
for the lowly, and the world be ruled by brotherliness, seeking the
greatest equality possible."
The Slav reviewed the history of human aspirations. Greek thought
had brought comfort, a sense of well-being on the earth--but only
for the few, for the citizens of the little democracies, for the
free men, leaving the slaves and barbarians who constituted the
majority, in their misery. Christianity, the religion of the lowly,
had recognized the right of happiness for all mankind, but this
happiness was placed in heaven, far from this world, this "vale of
tears." The Revolution and its heirs, the Socialists, were trying
to place happiness in the immediate realities of earth, like the
ancients, but making all humanity participants in it like the
"Where is the 'Christianity of modern Germany? . . . There is far
more genuine Christian spirit in the fraternal laity of the French
Republic, defender of the weak, than in the religiosity of the
conservative Junkers. Germany has made a god in her own image,
believing that she adores it, but in reality adoring her own image.
The German God is a reflex of the German State which considers war
as the first activity of a nation and the noblest of occupations.
Other Christian peoples, when they have to go to war, feel the
contradiction that exists between their conduct and the teachings of
the Gospel, and excuse themselves by showing the cruel necessity
which impels them. Germany declares that war is acceptable to God.
I have heard German sermons proving that Jesus was in favor of
"Teutonic pride, the conviction that its race is providentially
destined to dominate the world, brings into working unity their
Protestants, Catholics and Jews.
"Far above their differences of dogma is that God of the State which
is German--the Warrior God to whom William is probably referring as
'my worthy Ally.' Religions always tend toward universality. Their
aim is to place humanity in relationship with God, and to sustain
these relations among mankind. Prussia has retrograded to
barbarism, creating for its personal use a second Jehovah, a
divinity hostile to the greater part of the human race who makes his
own the grudges and ambitions of the German people."
Tchernoff then explained in his own way the creation of this
Teutonic God, ambitious, cruel and vengeful. The Germans were
comparatively recent Christians. Their Christianity was not more
than six centuries old. When the Crusades were drawing to a close,
the Prussians were still living in paganism. Pride of race,
impelling them to war, had revived these dead divinities. The God
of the Gospel was now adorned by the Germans with lance and shield
like the old Teutonic god who was a military chief.
"Christianity in Berlin wears helmet and riding boots. God at this
moment is seeing Himself mobilized the same as Otto, Fritz and
Franz, in order to punish the enemies of His chosen people. That
the Lord has commanded, 'Thou shalt not kill,' and His Son has said
to the world, 'Blessed are the peacemakers,' no longer matters.
Christianity, according to its German priests of all creeds, can
only influence the individual betterment of mankind, and should not
mix itself in affairs of state. The Prussian God of the State is
'the old German God,' the lineal descendant of the ferocious
Germanic mythology, a mixture of divinities hungry for war."
In the silence of the avenue, the Russian evoked the ruddy figures
of the implacable gods, that were going to awake that night upon
hearing the hum of arms and smelling the acrid odor of blood. Thor,
the brutal god with the little head, was stretching his biceps and
clutching the hammer that crushed cities. Wotan was sharpening his
lance which had the lightning for its handle, the thunder for its
blade. Odin, the one-eyed, was gaping with gluttony on the
mountain-tops, awaiting the dead warriors that would crowd around
his throne. The dishevelled Valkyries, fat and perspiring, were
beginning to gallop from cloud to cloud, hallooing to humanity that
they might carry off the corpses doubled like saddle bags, over the
haunches of their flying nags.
"German religiosity," continued the Russian, "is the disavowal of
Christianity. In its eyes, men are no longer equal before God.
Their God is interested only in the strong, and favors them with his
support so that they may dare anything. Those born weak must either
submit or disappear. Neither are nations equal, but are divided
into leaders and inferior races whose destiny is to be sifted out
and absorbed by their superiors. Since God has thus ordained, it is
unnecessary to state that the grand world-leader is Germany."
Argensola here interrupted to observe that German pride believed
itself championed not only by God but by science, too.
"I know that," interposed the Russian without letting him finish--
"generalization, inequality, selection, the struggle for life, and
all that. . . . The Germans, so conceited about their special
worth, erect upon distant ground their intellectual monuments,
borrowing of the foreigner their foundation material whenever they
undertake a new line of work. A Frenchman and an Englishman,
Gobineau and Chamberlain, have given them the arguments with which
to defend the superiority of their race. With the rubbish left over
from Darwin and Spencer, their old Haeckel has built up his doctrine
of 'Monism' which, applied to politics, scientifically consecrates
Prussian pride and recognizes its right to rule the world by force."
"No, a thousand times no!" he exclaimed after a brief silence. "The
struggle for existence with its procession of cruelties may be true
among the lower species, but it should not be true among human
creatures. We are rational beings and ought to free ourselves from
the fatality of environment, moulding it to our convenience. The
animal does not know law, justice or compassion; he lives enslaved
in the obscurity of his instincts. We think, and thought signifies
liberty. Force does not necessarily have to be cruel; it is
strongest when it does not take advantage of its power, and is
kindly. All have a right to the life into which they are born, and
since among individuals there exist the haughty and the humble, the
mighty and the weak, so should exist nations, large and small, old
and young. The end of our existence is not combat nor killing in
order that others may afterwards kill us, and, perhaps, be killed
themselves. Civilized peoples ought unanimously to adopt the idea
of southern Europe, striving for the most peaceful and sweetest form
of life possible."
A cruel smile played over the Russian's beard.
"But there exists that Kultur, diametrically opposed to
civilization, which the Germans wish to palm off upon us.
Civilization is refinement of spirit, respect of one's neighbor,
tolerance of foreign opinion, courtesy of manner. Kultur is the
action of a State that organizes and assimilates individuals and
communities in order to utilize them for its own ends; and these
ends consist mainly in placing 'The State' above other states,
overwhelming them with their grandeur--or what is the same thing--
with their haughty and violent pride."
By this time, the three had reached the place de l'Etoile. The dark
outline of the Arc de Triomphe stood forth clearly in the starry
expanse. The avenues extended in all directions, a double file of
lights. Those around the monument illuminated its gigantic bases
and the feet of the sculptured groups. Further up, the vaulted
spaces were so locked in shadow that they had the black density of
Upon passing under the Arch, which greatly intensified the echo of
their footsteps, they came to a standstill. The night breeze had a
wintry chill as it whistled past, and the curved masses seemed
melting into the diffused blue of space. Instinctively the three
turned to glance back at the Champs Elysees. They saw only a river
of shadow on which were floating rosaries of red stars among the two
long, black scarfs formed by the buildings. But they were so well
acquainted with this panorama that in imagination they mentally saw
the majestic sweep of the avenue, the double row of palaces, the
place de la Concorde in the background with the Egyptian obelisk,
and the trees of the Tuileries.
"How beautiful it is!" exclaimed Tchernoff who was seeing something
beyond the shadows. "An entire civilization, loving peace and
pleasure, has passed through here."
A memory greatly affected the Russian. Many an afternoon, after
lunch, he had met in this very spot a robust man, stocky, with
reddish beard and kindly eyes--a man who looked like a giant who had
just stopped growing. He was always accompanied by a dog. It was
Jaures, his friend Jaures, who before going to the senate was
accustomed to taking a walk toward the Arch from his home in Passy.
"He liked to come just where we are now! He loved to look at the
avenues, the distant gardens, all of Paris which can be seen from
this height; and filled with admiration, he would often say to me,
'This is magnificent--one of the most beautiful perspectives that
can be found in the entire world.' . . . Poor Jaures!"
Through association of ideas, the Russian evoked the image of his
compatriot, Michael Bakounine, another revolutionist, the father of
anarchy, weeping with emotion at a concert after hearing the
symphony with Beethoven chorals directed by a young friend of his,
named Richard Wagner. "When our revolution comes," he cried,
clasping the hand of the master, "whatever else may perish, this
must be saved at any cost!"
Tchernoff roused himself from his reveries to look around him and
say with sadness:
"THEY have passed through here!"
Every time that he walked through the Arch, the same vision would
spring up in his mind. THEY were thousands of helmets glistening in
the sun, thousands of heavy boots lifted with mechanical rigidity at
the same time; horns, fifes, drums large and small, clashing against
the majestic silence of these stones--the warlike march from
Lohengrin sounding in the deserted avenues before the closed houses.
He, who was a foreigner, always felt attracted by the spell exerted
by venerable buildings guarding the glory of a bygone day. He did
not wish to know who had erected it. As soon as its pride is
flattered, mankind tries immediately to solidify it. Then Humanity
intervenes with a broader vision that changes the original
significance of the work, enlarges it and strips it of its first
egotistical import. The Greek statues, models of the highest
beauty, had been originally mere images of the temple, donated by
the piety of the devotees of those times. Upon evoking Roman
grandeur, everybody sees in imagination the enormous Coliseum,
circle of butcheries, or the arches erected to the glory of the
inept Caesars. The representative works of nations have two
significations--the interior or immediate one which their creators
gave them, and the exterior or universal interest, the symbolic
value which the centuries have given them.
"This Arch," continued Tchernoff, "is French within, with its names
of battles and generals open to criticism. On the outside, it is
the monument of the people who carried through the greatest
revolution for liberty ever known. The glorification of man is
there below in the column of the place Vendome. Here there is
nothing individual. Its builders erected it to the memory of la
Grande Armee and that Grand Army was the people in arms who spread
revolution throughout Europe. The artists, great inventors, foresaw
the true significance of this work. The warriors of Rude who are
chanting the Marseillaise in the group at the left are not
professional soldiers, they are armed citizens, marching to work out
their sublime and violent mission. Their nudity makes them appear
to me like sans-culottes in Grecian helmets. . . . Here there is
more than the glory and egoism of a great nation. All Europe is
awake to new life, thanks to these Crusaders of Liberty. . . . The
nations call to mind certain images. If I think of Greece, I see
the columns of the Parthenon; Rome, Mistress of the World, is the
Coliseum and the Arch of Trajan; and revolutionary France is the Arc
The Arch was even more, according to the Russian. It represented a
great historical retaliation; the nations of the South, called the
Latin races, replying, after many centuries, to the invasion which
had destroyed the Roman jurisdiction--the Mediterranean peoples
spreading themselves as conquerors through the lands of the ancient
barbarians. Retreating immediately, they had swept away the past
like a tidal wave--the great surf depositing all that it contained.
Like the waters of certain rivers which fructify by overflowing,
this recession of the human tide had left the soil enriched with new
and generous ideas.
"If THEY should return!" added Tchernoff with a look of uneasiness.
"If they again should tread these stones! . . . Before, they were
simple-minded folk, stunned by their rapid good-fortune, who passed
through here like a farmer through a salon. They were content with
money for the pocket and two provinces which should perpetuate the
memory of their victory. . . . But now they will not be the
soldiers only who march against Paris. At the tail of the armies
come the maddened canteen-keepers, the Herr Professors, carrying at
the side the little keg of wine with the powder which crazes the
barbarian, the wine of Kultur. And in the vans come also an
enormous load of scientific savagery, a new philosophy which
glorifies Force as a principle and sanctifier of everything, denies
liberty, suppresses the weak and places the entire world under the
charge of a minority chosen by God, just because it possesses the
surest and most rapid methods of slaughter. Humanity may well
tremble for the future if again resounds under this archway the
tramp of boots following a march of Wagner or any other
They left the Arch, following the avenue Victor Hugo. Tchernoff
walking along in dogged silence as though the vision of this
imaginary procession had overwhelmed him. Suddenly he continued
aloud the course of his reflections.
"And if they should enter, what does it matter? . . . On that
account, the cause of Right will not die. It suffers eclipses, but
is born again; it may be ignored and trampled under foot, but it
does not, therefore, cease to exist, and all good souls recognize it
as the only rule of life. A nation of madmen wishes to place might
upon the pedestal that others have raised to Right. Useless
endeavor! The eternal hope of mankind will ever be the increasing
power of more liberty, more brotherliness, more justice."
The Russian appeared to calm himself with this statement. He and
his friends spoke of the spectacle which Paris was presenting in its
preparation for war. Tchernoff bemoaned the great suffering
produced by the catastrophe, the thousands and thousands of domestic
tragedies that were unrolling at that moment. Apparently nothing
had changed. In the centre of the city and around the stations,
there was unusual agitation, but the rest of the immense city did
not appear affected by the great overthrow of its existence. The
solitary street was presenting its usual aspect, the breeze was
gently moving the leaves. A solemn peace seemed to be spreading
itself through space. The houses appeared wrapped in slumber, but
behind the closed windows might be surmised the insomnia of the
reddened eyes, the sighs from hearts anguished by the threatened
danger, the tremulous agility of the hands preparing the war outfit,
perhaps the last loving greetings exchanged without pleasure, with
kisses ending in sobs.
Tchernoff thought of his neighbors, the husband and wife who
occupied the other interior apartment behind the studio. She was no
longer playing the piano. The Russian had overheard disputes, the
banging of doors locked with violence, and the footsteps of a man in
the middle of the night, fleeing from a woman's cries. There had
begun to develop on the other side of the wall a regulation drama--a
repetition of hundreds of others, all taking place at the same time.
"She is a German," volunteered the Russian. "Our concierge has
ferreted out her nationality. He must have gone by this time to
join his regiment. Last night I could hardly sleep. I heard the
lamentations through the thin wall partition, the steady, desperate
weeping of an abandoned child, and the voice of a man who was vainly
trying to quiet her! . . . Ah, what a rain of sorrows is now
falling upon the world!"
That same evening, on leaving the house, he had met her by her door.
She appeared like another woman, with an old look as though in these
agonizing hours she had been suffering for fifteen years. In vain
the kindly Tchernoff had tried to cheer her up, urging her to accept
quietly her husband's absence so as not to harm the little one who
"For the unhappy creature is going to be a mother," he said sadly.
"She hides her condition with a certain modesty, but from my window,
I have often seen her making the dainty layette."
The woman had listened to him as though she did not understand.
Words were useless before her desperation. She could only sob as
though talking to herself, "I am a German. . . . He has gone; he
has to go away. . . . Alone! . . . Alone forever!" . . .
"She is thinking all the time of her nationality which is separating
her from her husband; she is thinking of the concentration camp to
which they will take her with her compatriots. She is fearful of
being abandoned in the enemy's country obliged to defend itself
against the attack of her own country. . . . And all this when she
is about to become a mother. What miseries! What agonies!"
The three reached the rue de la Pompe and on entering the house,
Tchernoff began to take leave of his companions in order to climb
the service stairs; but Desnoyers wished to prolong the
conversation. He dreaded being alone with his friend, still
chagrined over the evening's events. The conversation with the
Russian interested him, so they all went up in the elevator
together. Argensola suggested that this would be a good opportunity
to uncork one of the many bottles which he was keeping in the
kitchen. Tchernoff could go home through the studio door that
opened on the stairway.
The great window had its glass doors wide open; the transoms on the
patio side were also open; a breeze kept the curtains swaying,
moving, too, the old lanterns, moth-eaten flags and other adornments
of the romantic studio. They seated themselves around the table,
near a window some distance from the light which was illuminating
the other end of the big room. They were in the shadow, with their
backs to the interior court. Opposite them were tiled roofs and an
enormous rectangle of blue shadow, perforated by the sharp-pointed
stars. The city lights were coloring the shadowy space with a
Tchernoff drank two glasses, testifying to the excellence of the
liquid by smacking his lips. The three were silent with the
wondering and thoughtful silence which the grandeur of the night
imposes. Their eyes were glancing from star to star, grouping them
in fanciful lines, forming them into triangles or squares of varying
irregularity. At times, the twinkling radiance of a heavenly body
appeared to broaden the rays of light, almost hypnotizing them.
The Russian, without coming out of his revery, availed himself of
another glass. Then he smiled with cruel irony, his bearded face
taking on the semblance of a tragic mask peeping between the
curtains of the night.
"I wonder what those men up there are thinking!" he muttered. "I
wonder if any star knows that Bismarck ever existed! . . . I wonder
if the planets are aware of the divine mission of the German
And he continued laughing.
Some far-away and uncertain noise disturbed the stillness of the
night, slipping through some of the chinks that cut the immense
plain of roofs. The three turned their heads so as to hear
better. . . . The sound of voices cut through the thick silence
of night--a masculine chorus chanting a hymn, simple, monotonous
and solemn. They guessed at what it must be, although they could
not hear very well. Various single notes floating with greater
intensity on the night wind, enabled Argensola to piece together
the short song, ending in a melodious, triumphant yell--a true
C'est l'Alsace et la Lorraine,
C'est l'Alsace qu'il nous faut,
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
A new band of men was going away through the streets below, toward
the railway station, the gateway of the war. They must be from the
outlying districts, perhaps from the country, and passing through
silence-wrapped Paris, they felt like singing of the great national
hope, that those who were watching behind the dark facades might
feel comforted, knowing that they were not alone.
"Just as it is in the opera," said Julio listening to the last notes
of the invisible chorus dying away into the night.
Tchernoff continued drinking, but with a distracted air, his eyes
fixed on the red cloud that floated over the roofs.
The two friends conjectured his mental labor from his concentrated
look, and the low exclamations which were escaping him like the
echoes of an interior monologue. Suddenly he leaped from thought to
word without any forewarning, continuing aloud the course of his
"And when the sun arises in a few hours, the world will see coursing
through its fields the four horsemen, enemies of mankind. . . .
Already their wild steeds are pawing the ground with impatience;
already the ill-omened riders have come together and are exchanging
the last words before leaping into the saddle."
"What horsemen are these?" asked Argensola.
"Those which go before the Beast."
The two friends thought this reply as unintelligible as the
preceding words. Desnoyers again said mentally, "He is drunk," but
his curiosity forced him to ask, "What beast is that?"
"That of the Apocalypse."
There was a brief silence, but the Russian's terseness of speech did
not last long. He felt the necessity of expressing his enthusiasm
for the dreamer on the island rock of Patmos. The poet of great and
mystic vision was exerting, across two thousand years, his influence
over this mysterious revolutionary, tucked away on the top floor of
a house in Paris. John had foreseen it all. His visions,
unintelligible to the masses, nevertheless held within them the
mystery of great human events.
Tchernoff described the Apocalyptic beast rising from the depths of
the sea. He was like a leopard, his feet like those of a bear, his
mouth like the snout of a lion. He had seven heads and ten horns.
And upon the horns were ten crowns, and upon each of his heads the
name of a blasphemy. The evangelist did not say just what these
blasphemies were, perhaps they differed according to the epochs,
modified every thousand years when the beast made a new apparition.
The Russian seemed to be reading those that were flaming on the
heads of the monster--blasphemies against humanity, against justice,
against all that makes life sweet and bearable. "Might is superior
to Right!" . . . "The weak should not exist." . . . "Be harsh in
order to be great." . . . And the Beast in all its hideousness was
attempting to govern the world and make mankind render him homage!
"But the four horsemen?" persisted Desnoyers.
The four horsemen were preceding the appearance of the monster in
The seven seals of the book of mystery were broken by the Lamb in
the presence of the great throne where was seated one who shone like
jasper. The rainbow round about the throne was in sight like unto
an emerald. Twenty-four thrones were in a semicircle around the
great throne, and upon them twenty-four elders with white robes and
crowns of gold. Four enormous animals, covered with eyes and each
having six wings, seemed to be guarding the throne. The sounding of
trumpets was greeting the breaking of the first seal.
"Come and see," cried one of the beasts in a stentorian tone to the
vision-seeing poet. . . . And the first horseman appeared on a
white horse. In his hand he carried a bow, and a crown was given
unto him. He was Conquest, according to some, the Plague according
to others. He might be both things at the same time. He wore a
crown, and that was enough for Tchernoff.
"Come forth," shouted the second animal, removing his thousand eyes.
And from the broken seal leaped a flame-colored steed. His rider
brandished over his head an enormous sword. He was War. Peace fled
from the world before his furious gallop; humanity was going to be
And when the third seal was broken, another of the winged animals
bellowed like a thunder clap, "Come and see!" And John saw a black
horse. He who mounted it held in his hand a scale in order to weigh
the maintenance of mankind. He was Famine.
The fourth animal saluted the breaking of the fourth seal with a
great roaring--"Come and see!" And there appeared a pale-colored
horse. His rider was called Death, and power was given him to
destroy with the sword and with hunger and with death, and with the
beasts of the earth.
The four horsemen were beginning their mad, desolating course over
the heads of terrified humanity.
Tchernoff was describing the four scourges of the earth exactly as
though he were seeing them. The horseman on the white horse was
clad in a showy and barbarous attire. His Oriental countenance was
contracted with hatred as if smelling out his victims. While his
horse continued galloping, he was bending his bow in order to spread
pestilence abroad. At his back swung the brass quiver filled with
poisoned arrows, containing the germs of all diseases--those of
private life as well as those which envenom the wounded soldier on
The second horseman on the red steed was waving the enormous, two-
edged sword over his hair bristling with the swiftness of his
course. He was young, but the fierce scowl and the scornful mouth
gave him a look of implacable ferocity. His garments, blown open by
the motion of his wild race, disclosed the form of a muscular
Bald, old and horribly skinny was the third horseman bouncing up and
down on the rawboned back of his black steed. His shrunken legs
clanked against the thin flanks of the lean beast. In one withered
hand he was holding the scales, symbol of the scarcity of food that
was going to become as valuable as gold.
The knees of the fourth horseman, sharp as spurs, were pricking the
ribs of the pale horse. His parchment-like skin betrayed the lines
and hollows of his skeleton. The front of his skull-like face was
twisted with the sardonic laugh of destruction. His cane-like arms
were whirling aloft a gigantic sickle. From his angular shoulders
was hanging a ragged, filthy shroud.
And the furious cavalcade was passing like a hurricane over the
immense assemblage of human beings. The heavens showed above their
heads, a livid, dark-edged cloud from the west. Horrible monsters
and deformities were swarming in spirals above the furious horde,
like a repulsive escort. Poor Humanity, crazed with fear, was
fleeing in all directions on hearing the thundering pace of the
Plague, War, Hunger and Death. Men and women, young and old, were
knocking each other down and falling to the ground overwhelmed by
terror, astonishment and desperation. And the white horse, the red,
the black and the pale, were crushing all with their relentless,
iron tread--the athletic man was hearing the crashing of his broken
ribs, the nursing babe was writhing at its mother's breast, and the
aged and feeble were closing their eyes forever with a childlike
"God is asleep, forgetting the world," continued the Russian. "It
will be a long time before he awakes, and while he sleeps the four
feudal horsemen of the Beast will course through the land as its
Tchernoff was overpowered by the intensity of his dramatic vision.
Springing from his seat, he paced up and down with great strides;
but his picture of the fourfold catastrophe revealed by the gloomy
poet's trance, seemed to him very weak indeed. A great painter had
given corporeal form to these terrible dreams.
"I have a book," he murmured, "a rare book." . . .
And suddenly he left the studio and went to his own quarters. He
wanted to bring the book to show to his friends. Argensola
accompanied him, and they returned in a few minutes with the volume,
leaving the doors open behind them, so as to make a stronger current
of air among the hollows of the facades and the interior patio.
Tchernoff placed his precious book under the light. It was a volume
printed in 1511, with Latin text and engravings. Desnoyers read the
title, "The Apocalypse Illustrated." The engravings were by Albert
Durer, a youthful effort, when the master was only twenty-seven
years old. The three were fascinated by the picture portraying the
wild career of the Apocalyptic horsemen. The quadruple scourge, on
fantastic mounts, seemed to be precipitating itself with a realistic
sweep, crushing panic-stricken humanity.
Suddenly something happened which startled the three men from their
contemplative admiration--something unusual, indefinable, a dreadful
sound which seemed to enter directly into their brains without
passing through their ears--a clutch at the heart. Instinctively
they knew that something very grave had just happened.
They stared at each other silently for a few interminable seconds.
Through the open door, a cry of alarm came up from the patio.
With a common impulse, the three ran to the interior window, but
before reaching them, the Russian had a presentiment.
"My neighbor! . . . It must be my neighbor. Perhaps she has killed
Looking down, they could see lights below, people moving around a
form stretched out on the tiled floor. The alarm had instantly
filled all the court windows, for it was a sleepless night--a night
of nervous apprehension when everyone was keeping a sad vigil.
"She has killed herself," said a voice which seemed to come up from
a well. "The German woman has committed suicide."
The explanation of the concierge leaped from window to window up to
the top floor.
The Russian was shaking his head with a fatalistic expression. The
unhappy woman had not taken the death-leap of her own accord.
Someone had intensified her desperation, someone had pushed her. . . .
The horsemen! The four horsemen of the Apocalypse! . . .
Already they were in the saddle! Already they were beginning their
merciless gallop of destruction!
The blind forces of evil were about to be let loose throughout the
The agony of humanity, under the brutal sweep of the four horsemen,
was already begun!
WHAT DON MARCELO ENVIED
Upon being convinced that war really was inevitable, the elder
Desnoyers was filled with amazement. Humanity had gone crazy. Was
it possible that war could happen in these days of so many
railroads, so many merchant marines, so many inventions, so much
activity developed above and below the earth? . . . The nations
would ruin themselves forever. They were now accustomed to luxuries
and necessities unknown a century ago. Capital was master of the
world, and war was going to wipe it out. In its turn, war would be
wiped out in a few months' time through lack of funds to sustain it.
His soul of a business man revolted before the hundreds of thousands
of millions that this foolhardy event was going to convert into
smoke and slaughter.
As his indignation had to fix upon something close at hand, he made
his own countrymen responsible for this insanity. Too much talk
about la revanche! The very idea of worrying for forty-four years
over the two lost provinces when the nation was mistress of enormous
and undeveloped lands in other countries! . . . Now they were going
to pay the penalty for such exasperating and clamorous foolishness.
For him war meant disaster writ large. He had no faith in his
country. France's day had passed. Now the victors were of the
Northern peoples, and especially that Germany which he had seen so
close, admiring with a certain terror its discipline and its
rigorous organization. The former working-man felt the conservative
and selfish instinct of all those who have amassed millions. He
scorned political ideals, but through class interest he had of late
years accepted the declarations against the scandals of the
government. What could a corrupt and disorganized Republic do
against the solidest and strongest empire in the world? . . .
"We are going to our deaths," he said to himself. "Worse than
'70! . . . We are going to see horrible things!"
The good order and enthusiasm with which the French responded to
their country's call and transformed themselves into soldiers were
most astonishing to him. This moral shock made his national faith
begin to revive. The great majority of Frenchmen were good after
all; the nation was as valiant as in former times. Forty-four years
of suffering and alarm had developed their old bravery. But the
leaders? Where were they going to get leaders to march to
victory? . . .
Many others were asking themselves the same question. The silence
of the democratic government was keeping the country in complete
ignorance of their future commanders. Everybody saw the army
increasing from hour to hour: very few knew the generals. One name
was beginning to be repeated from mouth to mouth, "Joffre . . .
Joffre." His first pictures made the curious crowds struggle to get
a glimpse of them. Desnoyers studied them very carefully. "He
looks like a very capable person." His methodical instincts were
gratified by the grave and confident look of the general of the
Republic. Suddenly he felt the great confidence that efficient-
looking bank directors always inspired in him. He could entrust his
interests to this gentleman, sure that he would not act impulsively.
Finally, against his will, Desnoyers was drawn into the whirlpool of
enthusiasm and emotion. Like everyone around him, he lived minutes
that were hours, and hours that were years. Events kept on
overlapping each other; within a week the world seemed to have made
up for its long period of peace.
The old man fairly lived in the street, attracted by the spectacle
of the multitude of civilians saluting the multitude of uniformed
men departing for the seat of war.
At night he saw the processions passing through the boulevards. The
tricolored flag was fluttering its colors under the electric lights.
The cafes were overflowing with people, sending forth from doors and
windows the excited, musical notes of patriotic songs. Suddenly,
amidst applause and cheers, the crowd would make an opening in the
street. All Europe was passing here; all Europe--less the arrogant
enemy--and was saluting France in her hour of danger with hearty
spontaneity. Flags of different nations were filing by, of all
tints of the rainbow, and behind them were the Russians with bright
and mystical eyes; the English, with heads uncovered, intoning songs
of religious gravity; the Greeks and Roumanians of aquiline profile;
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