Welcome to Part Six of the latest audio entertainment in our series Tales for Our Time: This prescient yarn was published in 1916 and speaks to us still a century later: Greenmantle by John Buchan.
In tonight's episode, Richard Hannay posing as "Cornelis Brandt" comes face to face with His Imperial Majesty Kaiser Wilhelm II:
He was a little below middle height, and all muffled in a thick coat with a fur collar. He wore a silver helmet with an eagle atop of it, and kept his left hand resting on his sword. Below the helmet was a face the colour of grey paper, from which shone curious sombre restless eyes with dark pouches beneath them. There was no fear of my mistaking him. These were the features which, since Napoleon, have been best known to the world.
I stood as stiff as a ramrod and saluted. I was perfectly cool and most desperately interested. For such a moment I would have gone through fire and water.
'Majesty, this is the Dutchman I spoke of,' I heard Stumm say.
'What language does he speak?' the Emperor asked.
'Dutch,' was the reply; 'but being a South African he also speaks English.'
A spasm of pain seemed to flit over the face before me. Then he addressed me in English...
"Brandt" is eager to volunteer to serve Germany in rousing the Muslim world. The Emperor thanks him:
'That is well,' he said. 'Some Englishman once said that he would call in the New World to redress the balance of the Old. We Germans will summon the whole earth to suppress the infamies of England. Serve us well, and you will not be forgotten.'
Almost exactly a century on, Kaiser Bill's successor, Angela Merkel, would "summon the whole earth" to come and live on welfare in Germany - as the children "we Germans" couldn't be bothered having ourselves. There are deep roots to both the demographic barrenness and the psychological self-loathing of what could once claim to be the world's highest culture. On their encounter at a German railway station as the year turns from 1915 to 1916, His Imperial Majesty is interested to hear that in the Boer War "Brandt" fought under General Smuts. (Once an enemy of the British, Smuts was subsequently, as they sneer here, "bought by England" - although contemporary England now seems to regret the purchase.) That leads to a final question:
'What were your countrymen's losses?' he asked eagerly.
I did not know, but I hazarded a guess. 'In the field some twenty thousand. But many more by sickness and in the accursed prison-camps of the English.'
Again a spasm of pain crossed his face.
'Twenty thousand,' he repeated huskily. 'A mere handful. Today we lose as many in a skirmish in the Polish marshes.'
The Kaiser is not exaggerating. On one of the first days of the Great War - August 22nd 1914 - the French lost over 27,000 soldiers. By the end of the conflict, the German dead numbered over two million. Stalin's famous calculation is that one death is a tragedy but a million is a statistic. Not for less tyrannous societies. The cold statistics of 1914-18 were not just millions of tragedies for individual families but a fatal cancer that ate away Europe's belief in itself and its civilization - from which it has never recovered, with consequences we live with to this day.
While we're annotating, a first-year Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, John Downes, writes:
Hannay and Pienaar in parts 2 and 3 of Greenmantle pretend to be former associates of Maritz. For those listeners who, like me, had not previously heard of Manie Maritz and his South African rebellion of 1914, there's an article about him here.
Thanks, John. Smuts and Maritz both fought against the British in the Boer War. But, while Smuts became a loyal and valued subject of His Britannic Majesty and the only man to serve in the Imperial War Cabinets of both the First and Second World Wars, Colonel Maritz colluded (as we now say) with the Germans in 1914 and was very pro-Nazi (including on the Jew hate) in 1939.
If you're one of that brave band who prefer me in vision, I'll be back with Tucker Carlson tomorrow evening, Thursday, coast to coast across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Hope you'll tune in. And, of course, an hour or so before that we'll be right here with Part Seven of Greenmantle.
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