THE GERMAN EMPEROR
The German Emperor was paying his annual visit to the moors at Springe. But this year he had little time to spare for the noble sport which usually brought him fresh vigour and recreation in the refreshing solitude of the forest. The telegraph was busy without interruption, and statesmen, diplomats, and high officers arrived daily at the hunting-box, and held long conferences with the Emperor. The windows of his study were lit up till late at night, and the early morning generally found the monarch again at his writing-desk.
After a night half spent at work, to-day the yearning for a breath of fresh air had taken the Emperor at early dawn into the silent pine-woods.
A light hoar-frost had fallen during the night, covering the ground with fine white crystals. The shadows of dawn still lingered between the tree-trunks. But in the east a glowing light suffused the pale, greyish-blue sky.
The Emperor directed his gaze in that direction. He halted under a tall, ancient fir-tree, and his lips moved in silent prayer. He asked for counsel and strength from Him who decides the fate of nations, to enable him to arrive at his weighty and difficult decision at this grave crisis. Suddenly, the sound of human voices struck his ear. He perceived two men, evidently unaware of his presence, coming towards him hard by, on the small huntsman’s track in the wood, engaged in lively conversation. The Emperor’s keen huntsman’s eye recognised in one of the two tall gentlemen his Master of Horse, Count Wedel. The other was a stranger to him.
It was the stranger who now said—
“It is a great pleasure to me, at last, to be able to talk to you face to face. I have deeply mourned the rift in our old friendship and fellowship. On my side, the irritation is long since past. I did not wish to enter the Prussian service at that time, because I could not bear the thought of our old, brave Hanoverian army having ceased to exist, and I was angry with you, my dear Ernest, because you, an old Hanoverian Garde du Corps officer, appeared to have forgotten the honour due to your narrower Fatherland. But the generous resolution of the Emperor to revive Hanoverian traditions, to open a new home to our old corps of officers, and to inscribe our glorious emblems upon the flags and standards of these new regiments, has made everything right. I hope the time is not far distant when also those Hanoverians, who still hold aloof in anger, will allow that a war lord of such noble disposition is the chosen shepherd and leader of the universal Fatherland.”
“Well, I have never misjudged you and your iron will. Meanwhile, you have thoroughly made acquaintance with the world, and since you are a merchant prince of Hamburg, I suppose you are the possessor of a large fortune.”
“My life has been both interesting and successful, but I have not got what is best after all. I long for a sphere of activity in keeping with my disposition. I am a soldier, as my forbears have been for centuries before me. Had I entered the Prussian army in 1866, I might to-day be in command, and might perhaps in a short time have the honour to lead my corps into the field under the eyes of our Emperor himself.”