“There you are, then,” she declared triumphantly. “The whole thing is her responsibility.”
“I do not quite go so far as that,” he protested. “You see, the world is governed by great natural laws. As a snowball grows larger with rolling, so it takes up more room. As a child grows out of its infant clothes, it needs the vestments of a youth and then a man. And so with Germany. She grew and grew until the country could not hold her children, until her banks could not contain her money, until she stretched her arms out on every side and felt herself stifled. Germany came late into the world and found it parcelled out, but had she not a right to her place? She made herself great. She needed space.”
“Well,” Philippa observed, “you couldn’t suppose that other nations were going to give up what they had, just because she wanted their possessions, could you?”
“Perhaps not,” he admitted. “And yet, you see, the immutable law comes in here. The stronger must possess—not only the stronger by arms, mind, but by intellect, by learning, by proficiency in science, by utilitarianism. The really cruel part, the part I was thinking of then, as I looked out across the sea, is that this crude and miserable resort to arms should be necessary.”
“If only Germans themselves were as broad-minded and reasonable as you,” Philippa sighed, “one feels that there might be some hope for the future!”
“I am not alone,” he assured her, “but, you see, all over Germany there is spread like a spider’s web the lay religion of the citizen —devotion to the Government, blind obedience to the Kaiser. Independent thought has made Germany great in science, in political economy, in economics. But independent thought is never turned towards her political destinies. Those are shaped for her. For good or for evil her children have learnt obedience.”
They were descending the hillside now. At their feet lay the little town, black and silent.
“You have helped me to understand a little,” Philippa said. “You put things so gently and yet so clearly. Now tell me, will you not, how it is that you, who are a Swede by birth, are bearing arms for Germany?”
“That is very simple,” he confessed. “My mother was a German, and when she died she bequeathed to me large estates in Bavaria, and a very considerable fortune. These I could never have inherited unless I had chosen to do my military service in Germany. My family is an impoverished one, and I have brothers and sisters dependent upon me. Under the circumstances, hesitation on my part was impossible.”
“But when the war came?” she queried.
He looked at her in surprise.