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   Chapter 13 No.13

The Wisdom of Father Brown By G. K. Chesterton Characters: 9828

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03

Mariette's communications by wireless were very brief, and on the second day of the revolution Gisela went by special train to Berlin. It was the King's own train, and always ready to start. The engineer and fireman avowed themselves "friends of the revolution," but they performed their duties with two armed women in the cab and fifty more in the car behind the engine.

The cities through which Gisela passed, as well as the small towns and wayside villages, presented a uniform appearance: smoking ruins in the outlying sections which had been devoted to the war factories, and streets deserted save for women sentries. One or two of the smaller towns had burned, owing to lack of fire brigades. The food trains destined for the front, which had been moved out of danger before the general destruction, were being systematically unloaded, and a portion of the contents doled out to thousands of emaciated men, women, and children. The rest would be as methodically returned to the warehouses.

Gisela arrived in Berlin half an hour before the Kaiser.

The city was as dark as interstellar space and she would have been forced to spend the night in the Anhalt Bahnhof if Mariette had not met her. They walked from the station, keeping close to the walls of the silent houses and entering Unter den Linden from the Friedrichstrasse. There was not a sound but the high whirr of airplanes keeping guard over a city that seemed stifled in the embrace of death, its life current switched off by the proudest achievement of its pestilent laboratories.

Mariette did not take the trouble to lower her hard incisive voice as she told her sister the brief story of the revolution in Berlin.

"I left not a loophole for failure. Two minutes before the bells rang every policeman on duty was shot dead from a doorway or window. The police offices and stations were blown up. There is not a policeman alive in Berlin. I also ordered the garrisons blown up. Both the police and the garrisons here were too strong. I dared not risk an encounter. Criticize me if you will. It is done."

"But the Emperor, the General Staff?" Gisela was in no mood to waste a thought upon means, nor even upon accomplished ends. "If they left Pless at once they should have been here before this."

"They did not leave Pless at once. When they began to send out questions by wireless after they found their telephone and telegraph wires cut, they were kept quiet for several hours by soothing messages sent by our women in Breslau and nearer towns. An abortive uprising of a handful of starving Socialists! Even when their fliers went out they could learn nothing because they dared not land even at Breslau; high-firing guns threatened them everywhere. All they could report was that the streets were full of armed women, which, of course, the General Staff took as an unseemly joke. But toward night a soldier who had managed to escape from Breslau came staggering into Great Headquarters with information that penetrated even that composite Prussian skull: the women of Germany had risen en masse and effected a revolution. Of course they refused to believe the worst-that every ounce and inch of war material had been destroyed; and the entire Staff, escorted by a thousand troops-all they had on hand-started for Berlin. They did not omit to wireless in both directions for troops to march on Berlin at once; but, needless to say, these messages were deflected. As the tracks were torn up they were obliged to travel by automobile, and as the bridges over the Kloonitz Canal and the Oder tributaries had been blown up, they were unable to ameliorate what must have been an apoplectic impatience. No doubt a few of them are dead. Of course their progress has been watched and reported every hour, but they have not been molested. We want them here. Only their small air squadron has been shot down."

They felt their way along Unter den Linden by the trees and entered the Opernplatz. Two biplanes awaited them before the arsenal. There were lights in the great pile of the Hohenzollerns across the bridge. Uneasy spirits prowled there, no doubt, but none of the women of the Imperial family had made any attempt to escape, accepting the assurances of the revolutionists that no harm should come to them, and, knowing nothing of the thorough methods taken to reduce the army to impotence, awaited with what patience they could muster-and royal women are the most patient in the world-the invincible troops that must come within a day or two to their rescue.

The two biplanes flew over to the streets east of the Emperor's palace and hovered just above the house tops until the eyes of Gisela and Mariette, now accustomed to a darkness unpierced by moon or stars, made out a long line of moving blackness in the narrow gloom of the K?niginstrasse. The forward cars entered the palace from the Schlossplatz, and as lights i

mmediately appeared in the courtyards Gisela saw eight or ten men alight stiffly and hurriedly enter the inner portals. The other automobiles ranged themselves in an apparently unbroken line on all sides of the palace. Gisela had amused herself imagining the nervous speculations of those war-hardened potentates and warriors as they crawled through the sinister darkness of the capital-proud witness of a thousand triumphal marches; of the sharp and darting gaze above the guns of the armored cars, expecting an ambush at every corner. How they must hate a situation so utterly without precedent.

Gisela almost laughed aloud as she saw the purple flag, denoting that the Emperor was in residence, run up on the north side of the palace. However, automatic discipline worked both ways.

Once more Berlin was as silent as if at rest for ever under the pall of darkness that seemed to have descended from the dark and threatening sky.

But only for a moment.

Berlin suddenly burst into a blinding glare of light. Unter den Linden from end to end-excepting only the royal palaces-with its long line of imposing public buildings, hotels, and shops, the Kaiser-Franz-Joseph-Platz, the Zeugplatz, the Lustgarten-the Schlossplatz-all the magnificent expanse from the Brandenburg gate to a quarter of a mile beyond the river Spree-had been strung and looped with electric lights, and the scene looked as if touched with a royal fairy's wand. The side streets from the Royal Library and the old Kaiser Wilhelm palace as far as the Schlossbrücke, were also brilliantly illuminated.

And in all these streets and squares women stood in close ranks, silent, phlegmatic women, with pistols in their belts and rifles with fixed bayonets on their shoulders, the steel reflecting the terrific downpour of light with a steady and menacing glitter. These women wore gray uniforms and there were shining Prussian helmets on their heads.

In every window was a double row of women, armed; and the housetops were crowded with them. There were also machine guns on the roofs, pointing downward or toward the roof of the palace.

Mariette laughed. "Theatric enough to please even his taste? Our last tribute. Let us hope he will enjoy it."

A moment later the expected happened. A window of the palace overlooking the great Schlossplatz opened and the Emperor stepped out into the narrow balcony. His uniform was caked with dust and mud and his face was drawn with a mortal fatigue; but as he stood there scowling haughtily down upon that upturned sea of woman's faces, the most singular vision that ever had greeted imperial eyes, he was an imposing figure enough to those who knew that he was the Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Prussia and Alsace-Lorraine, and Emperor in Germany.

It was evident that he had no intention of speaking, but expected this grotesque mob to be overwhelmed by the imperial presence and dissolve.

Frau Kathie Meyers, with the figure of an Amazon and the voice of a megaphone, stepped forth from the ranks and lifted her placid red face to the balcony.

"You will abdicate, William Hohenzollern," she announced in tones that rolled down toward the Brandenburg gate like the overtones of a Death Symphony at the Front. "Germany is a Republic. And the palace is mined. If your soldiers fire one shot from the windows the palace goes up to meet the ghosts of every arsenal and every ammunition factory in what two days ago was the Empire of Germany. Your armies are helpless. You will remain a prisoner within your palace until we have decided whether to deliver you to Great Britain, incarcerate you in a fortress, or permit you to live in exile. It will depend upon the behavior of the army when it returns. If you attempt to leave the palace you will be shot."

The Emperor stared down upon that mass of calm implacable faces, so unmistakably German; not brilliant nor beautiful, but persistent as death, and stamped with the watermark of kultur; stared for a long moment, his gray face twitching, the familiar gray blaze in his eyes. But he turned without a word or even a disdainful gesture and re?ntered the palace, the window closing immediately behind him.

The Amazon addressed the men in the armored automobiles that surrounded the palace.

"Fire upon us if you like. Our ranks are close and you will kill many. But not one of you will live to eat rat sausage tomorrow morning. Now disarm and march to the guard house."

The contemptible little army of the Kaiser, hypnotized as much by the glare as by this solid mass of vindictive females-singly so negligible-shrugged their shoulders, surrendered their arms, and marched off under guard. After all, they would have a blessed rest, however brief, before the great generals sent back a few brigades to execute summary vengeance upon these presumptuous women, who had used their incidental superiority in numbers so basely.

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