By Maurice Paléologue
JULY 20-23, 1914
St. Petersburg to Peterhof---The Tsar takes me on his yacht to meet the President of the Republic.---Conversation with His Majesty on the subject of William II.---In Cronstadt Roads.---Arrival of the warship France.---First meeting of the two heads of State.---Banquet at Peterhof.---The Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna.---The Russian Court.---The President of the Republic discusses general politics.---The President's visit to St. Petersburg.---The fortress of SS. Peter and Paul.---At the tomb of Alexander III.---Diplomatic reception at the Winter Palace.---The President's conversation with the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador.---Banquet at the Embassy.---Disorderly strikes in the industrial quarters.---Luncheon at Peterhof.---The Minister of the Court.---At Krasnoïe-Selo camp.---Evening service.---Banquet given in honour of the President and the Tsar by the Grand Duke Nicholas.---The Montenegrin Grand Duchesses.---Review at Krasnoïe-Selo.---Farewell banquet on board the France.---The toasts.---Last meeting of the President and the Tsar.---The French squadron leaves.---I accompany the Tsar on his yacht.---An exchange of impressions.---A sea trip.---Return to St. Petersburg.
Monday, July 20, 1914.
I left St. Petersburg at ten o'clock this morning on the Admiralty yacht and went to Peterhof. Sazonov, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Isvolsky, the Russian Ambassador to France, and General de Laguiche, my military attaché, accompanied me. All four of us had been invited by the Tsar to lunch on the imperial yacht before going to meet the President of the Republic at Cronstadt. The staff of my Embassy, the Russian ministers and Court functionaries will go by rail direct to Peterhof.
The weather was cloudy. Our vessel steamed at high speed between low banks towards the Gulf of Finland. Suddenly a fresh breeze from the open sea brought us a heavy shower, but as suddenly the sun burst forth in his splendour. A few pearl-grey clouds, through which the sun s rays darted, hung here and there in the sky like sashes shot with gold. As far as the eye could reach, in a limpid flood of light the estuary of the Neva spread the immense sheet of its greenish, viscous, changing waters which always remind me of Venice.
At half-past eleven we stopped in the little harbour of Peterhof where the Alexandria, the Tsar's favourite yacht, was lying under steam.
Nicholas II, in the uniform of an admiral, arrived at the quay almost at once. We transferred to the Alexandria. Luncheon was served immediately. We had at least an hour and three-quarters before us until the arrival of the France. But the Tsar likes to linger over his meals. There are always long intervals between the courses in which he chats and smokes cigarettes.
I was on his right, Sazonov on his left and Count Fredericks, Minister of the Court, was opposite us.
After a few commonplaces the Tsar told me of his pleasure at receiving the President of the Republic.
"We shall have weighty matters to discuss," he said.
"I'm sure we shall agree on all points . . . But there's one question which is very much in my mind---our understanding with England. We must get her to come into our alliance. It would be such a guarantee of peace!"
"Yes, Sire, the Triple Entente cannot be too strong if it is to keep the peace."
"I've been told that you yourself are uneasy about Germany's intentions."
"Uneasy? Yes, Sire, I am uneasy although at the moment I have no particular reason to anticipate a war in the immediate future. But the Emperor William and his Government have let Germany get into a state of mind such that if some dispute arose, in Morocco, the East---anywhere---they could neither give way nor compromise. A success is essential at any price and to obtain it they'll risk some adventure."
The Tsar reflected a moment:
"I can't believe the Emperor wants war . . . If you knew him as I do! If you knew how much theatricality there is in his posing! ...
"Perhaps I am doing the Emperor William too much honour in thinking him capable of willing, or simply accepting the consequences of his acts. But if war threatened would he, and could he prevent it? No, Sire, I don't think so, honestly I don't."
The Tsar sat silent and puffed at his cigarette. Then he said in a resolute voice:
"It's all the more important for us to be able to count on England in an emergency. Unless she has gone out of her mind altogether Germany will never attack Russia, France and England combined."
Coffee had just arrived when the French squadron was signalled. The Tsar made me go up on the bridge with him.
It was a magnificent spectacle. In a quivering, silvery light the France slowly surged forward over the turquoise and emerald waves, leaving a long white furrow behind her. Then she stopped majestically. The mighty warship which has brought the head of the French State is well worthy of her name. She was indeed France coming to Russia. I felt my heart beating.
For a few minutes there was a prodigious din in the harbour; the guns of the ships and the shore batteries firing, the crews cheering, the Marseillaise answering the Russian national anthem, the cheers of thousands of spectators who had come from St. Petersburg on pleasure boats and so forth.
At length the President of the Republic stepped on board the Alexandria. The Tsar received him at the gangway.
As soon as the presentations were over the imperial yacht steered for Peterhof. Seated in the stern the Tsar and the President immediately entered into conversation, I should perhaps say a discussion, for it was obvious that they were talking business, firing questions at each other and arguing. As was proper it was Poincaré who had the initiative. Before long he was doing all the talking, The Tsar simply nodded acquiescence, but his whole appearance showed his sincere approval. It radiated confidence and sympathy.
Before long we were at Peterhof. Through its magnificent trees and sparkling fountains, Catherine II's favourite residence appeared above a long terrace from which a foaming cascade poured its majestic waters.
At a sharp trot our carriages ascended the drive leading to the palace entrance. At every bend we had a fleeting glimpse of some fresh vista, a line of statues, fountains or terraces. Though the detail is somewhat meretricious one scents something of the keen and delicious atmosphere of Versailles in the balmy, sunlit air.
At half-past seven there was a banquet in the Empress Elizabeth room.
Thanks to the brilliance of the uniforms, superb toilettes, elaborate liveries, magnificent furnishings and fittings, in short the whole panoply of pomp and power, the spectacle was such as no court in the world can rival. I shall long remember the dazzling display of jewels on the women's shoulders. It was simply a fantastic shower of diamonds, pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topaz, beryls---a blaze of fire and flame.
In this fairy milieu Poincaré's black coat was a drab touch. But the wide, sky-blue ribbon of St. Andrew across his breast increased his importance in the eyes of the Russians. And then it was soon seen that the Tzar was listening to him with the closest and most sympathetic attention.
During dinner I kept an eye on the Tsaritza Alexandra Feodorovna opposite whom I was sitting. Although long ceremonies are a very great trial to her she was anxious to be present this evening to do honour to the President of the allied Republic. She was a beautiful sight with her low brocade gown and a diamond tiara on her head. Her forty-two years have left her face and figure still pleasant to look upon. After the first course she entered into conversation with Poincaré who was on her right. Before long however her smile became set and the veins stood out in her cheeks. She bit her lips every minute. Her laboured breathing made the network of diamonds sparkle on her bosom. Until the end of dinner, which was very long, the poor woman was obviously struggling with hysteria. Her features suddenly relaxed when the Tsar rose to propose his toast.
The imperial speech was received in a composed silence, for it was the reply which was most eagerly awaited. Poincaré spoke without notes instead of reading his speech as the Tsar had done. Never had his diction been more clear, lucid and pointed. What he said was only the stale and formal official verbiage but in his mouth the words acquired a remarkable wealth of meaning and authority. The effect was quite marked on that audience, brought up as it was in the traditions of despotism and the discipline of courts. I'm sure that of those decorated functionaries more than one thought: "That's how an autocrat should talk."
After dinner the Tsar held a levee. The general eagerness to be presented to Poincaré showed he had been a success. Even the German clique, the ultra-reactionary group, sought the honour of an introduction to the President.
At eleven o'clock a procession was formed. The Tsar conducted the President of the Republic to his room.
There Poincaré kept me in conversation a few minutes. We exchanged impressions, and very good they were.
When I returned to St. Petersburg by rail at a quarter to one in the morning, I heard that this afternoon the principal factories went on strike---for no reason and on a signal from no one knows where. There have been collisions with the police at several points. My informant knows the working-class quarters well and tells me that the movement has been instigated by German agents.
Tuesday, July 21, 1914.
The President of the Republic has spent to-day visiting St. Petersburg.
Before leaving Peterhof he was in conference with the Tsar. They discussed seriatim all the questions on the diplomatic tapis at the moment: the strained relations between Greece and Turkey; the intrigues of the Bulgarian Government in the Balkans; the Prince of Wied's arrival in Albania; the application of the Anglo-Russian Agreements in Persia; the political orientation of the Scandinavian States, etc. They concluded their review with the problem of the Austro-Serbian dispute, a problem which becomes more worrying every day owing to the arrogant and mysterious attitude of Austria. Poincaré has insisted with great force that the only way of saving the peace of the world is an open discussion between all the Great Powers, taking care that one group is not opposed to another. "It's the method that served us so well in 1913," he said. " Let's try it again . . .!" Nicholas II entirely agreed.
At half-past one I attended the President at the imperial quay near to Nicholas Bridge. The Naval Minister, the Prefect of Police, the Commander of the Fortress and the municipal authorities were there to receive him.
In accordance with the old Slav rites Count Ivan Tolstoy, the Mayor of the capital, offered him bread and salt.
Then we mounted our carriages to visit the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul which is the Bastille and the St. Denis of the Romanovs. As tradition decrees the President laid a wreath on the tomb of Alexander III, father of the alliance.
Escorted by the Guard Cossacks, whose scarlet tunics flamed in the sunshine, our carriages passed along the Neva at a smart trot.
A few days ago, when I was settling with Sazonov the final details of the President's visit he had said to me with a smile:
"The Guard Cossacks have been told off to escort the President. You see what a fine figure they'll cut! They're splendid fellows, fearful fellows. Besides they're dressed in red. I rather think Monsieur Viviani does not dislike that colour."
I had replied
"No, he doesn't dislike it but his artistic eye doesn't enjoy it thoroughly except when it's next to white and blue."
In their scarlet tunics these long-haired, bearded and bristly Cossacks are certainly a formidable sight. When our carriages disappeared with them through the gateway of the fortress a spectator with a turn for irony, or a lover of historical antitheses. might well have asked whether it was not to the State Prison that they were conducting these two certificated and avowed "revolutionaries," Poincaré and Viviani, not to mention myself, their accomplice. The moral contradiction in terms, the tacit paradox in the background of the Franco-Russian Alliance, has never struck me more forcibly.
At three o'clock the President received the deputations of the French colonies in St. Petersburg and throughout Russia. Some of them had come from Moscow, Kharkov, Odessa, Kiev, Rostov, Tiflis. In presenting them to Poincaré 1 could say with perfect sincerity:
"Their eagerness to come and greet you in no way surprises me. Every day I see practical proofs of the fervent and pious love of the French colonies in Russia for their distant homeland. In no province of our old France, Monsieur le Président, will you find better Frenchmen than those here before you."
At four o'clock the procession was reformed to take the President to the Winter Palace where a diplomatic levee was to be held.
We received an enthusiastic welcome all along the route. The police had arranged it all. At every street corner a group of poor wretches cheered loudly under the eye of a policeman.
At the Winter Palace it was a full-dress occasion.
Etiquette required that the Ambassadors should be introduced one by one to the President who had Viviani on his left.
It was my function to present my foreign colleagues.
The first to enter was the German Ambassador, Count Pourtalès, doyen of the Corps Diplomatique. The President received him with the greatest affability. He asked him about the French origin of his family, his wife's relationship to the Castellanes, a motor tour which the Count and Countess were proposing to make through Provence and particularly Castellane, etc. Not a word of politics.
I next presented my Japanese colleague, Baron Motono, whom Poincaré knew in Paris in the old days. Their conversation was short but not without importance. In a few words the principle of the accession of Japan to the Triple Entente was formulated and virtually agreed.
After Motono I introduced my English colleague, Sir George Buchanan. Poincaré assured him that the Tsar was determined to show himself most conciliatory in the Persian question and added that the British Government must ultimately realize the necessity of transforming the Triple Entente into a Triple Alliance.
His conversation with the ambassadors of Italy and Spain was merely superficial.
At last there appeared my Austro-Hungarian colleague, Count Szapary, a typical Hungarian nobleman, dressed to perfection. For two months he has been away from St. Petersburg at the bedside of his invalid wife and son. He came back unexpectedly yesterday. I inferred from his sudden return that the Austro-Serbian difference is getting more acute; there is going to be a rupture and the ambassador must be at his post to play his part in the dispute and take his share of responsibility. I told Poincaré what I thought and he replied:
"I'll try and clear up this business."
After a few words of sympathy on the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the President asked Szapary:
"Have you any news of Serbia? "
"The judicial enquiry is proceeding," Szapary replied coldly.
"Of course I'm anxious about the results of this enquiry, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur. I can remember two previous enquiries which did not improve your relations with Serbia ... Don't you remember ... the Friedjung affair and the Prochaska affair?"
Szapary replied in a dry tone:
"Monsieur le Président, we cannot suffer a foreign government to allow plots against our sovereignty to be hatched on its territory!"
In a more than conciliatory tone Poincaré endeavoured to point out that in the present state of public feeling in Europe every government should be twice as cautious as usual.
"With a little good will this Serbian business is easy to settle. But it can just as easily become acute. Serbia has some very warm friends in the Russian people. And Russia has an ally, France. There are plenty of complications to be feared!"
Then he thanked the ambassador for his call. Szapary bowed and went out without a word.
When we three were alone again Poincaré said:
"I'm not satisfied with this conversation. The ambassador had obviously been instructed to say nothing . . . Austria has a coup de théâtre in store for us. Sazonov must be firm and we must back him up. . ."
We then went to the next room where the ministers of the minor powers were in line in order of seniority.
As he was pressed for time, Poincaré passed swiftly down the line shaking hands with each minister in turn. Their disappointment could be read in their faces. Each was hoping he would make some substantial and veiled observation on which he could make a long report to his government. The President only stopped to speak to the Serbian minister, Spalaikovitch, for whom he had a few words of sympathy.
At six o'clock a visit to the French Hospital where the President laid the first stone of a public dispensary.
At eight o'clock banquet at the Embassy. Ninety-six covers. The Embassy has been entirely renovated and looks very fine. The Garde-Meuble National has let me have a splendid series of gobelins, including Natoire's Triumph of Mark Antony and the Triumph of Mardocheus, ---superb decoration for my banqueting-hall. Last, but not least, the Embassy was carpeted with roses and orchids.
The guests arrived, each more resplendent than the last. Their selection has put me on the rack owing to all the rivalries and jealousies life at Court involves. The question of seating has been an even more difficult problem. But I've received such excellent assistance from my secretaries that dinner and the evening passed off without a hitch.
Promptly at eleven o'clock the President withdrew. I accompanied him to the City Hall where the Petersburg Duma was giving a soirée to the officers of the French squadron. It is the first time that the head of a foreign state has honoured a Municipal Council's reception with his presence so his reception was exceedingly warm.
At midnight the President returned to Peterhof by water.
The violent demonstrations continued to-day in the industrial quarters of St. Petersburg. This evening the Prefect of Police assured me that the agitation had been stopped and that work will resume to-morrow. He has also confirmed the fact that among the arrested leaders several notorious agents in the German espionage service have been identified. From the point of view of the Alliance the incident gives one food for thought.
Wednesday, July 22, 1914.
At midday the Tsar gave a luncheon in Peterhof Palace to the President of the Republic and the officers of the French squadron. No ladies were present, not even the Tsaritsa. We sat down at small tables for ten to twelve covers. It was very hot outside but cool, sweet breezes wafted through the open windows from the leafy shade and fountains and cascades of the park.
I was at the same table as the Tsar and the President with Viviani, Admiral Le Bris (commanding the French squadron), Goremykin, President of the Council, Count Fredericks, Minister of the Court, Sazonov and Isvolsky.
I was on Viviani's left and he had Count Fredericks on his right.
Count Fredericks, who will soon be seventy-seven, is the very personification of court life. Of all the subjects of the Tsar none has received more honours and titles. He is Minister of the Imperial Court and household, aide-de-camp to the Tsar, cavalry general, member of the Council of Empire, Chancellor of the Imperial Orders, Head of his Majesty's Cabinet and military establishment, etc. He has passed the whole of his long life in palaces and ceremonies, in carriages and processions, under gold lace and decorations. In virtue of his functions he takes precedence of the highest dignitaries of the empire and he knows all the secrets of the imperial family. In the Tsar's name he dispenses all the favours and gifts, all the reproofs and punishments. The grand dukes and grand duchesses overwhelm him with attentions for he it is who controls their households, hushes up their scandals and pays their debts. For all the difficulties of his task he is not known to have an enemy, such is his charm of manner and tact. He was also one of the handsomest men of his generation, one of the finest horsemen, and his successes with women were past counting. He has kept his lithe figure, his fine drooping moustache and his charming manners. From a physical and moral point of view he is the ideal type for his office, the supreme arbiter of the rites and precedences, conventions and traditions, manners and etiquette.
At half-past three we left by the imperial train for the camp at Krasnoïe-Selo.
A blazing sun lit up the vast plain, a tawny and undulating plain bounded on the horizon by wooded hills. While the Tsar, the Tsaritsa, the President of the Republic, the grand dukes, grand duchesses and the entire imperial staff were inspecting the cantonments of the troops, I waited for them with the ministers and civil functionaries on an eminence on which tents had been pitched. The élite of Petersburg society were crowded into some stands. The light toilettes of the women, their white hats and parasols made the stands look like azalea beds.
Before long the imperial party arrived. In a four-horse calèche was the Tsaritsa with the President of the Republic on her right and her two elder daughters opposite her. The Tsar was galloping by the side of the carriage, followed by a brilliant escort of the grand dukes and aides-de-camp. They all dismounted and assembled on the low hill dominating the plain. The troops, without arms, were drawn up in serried ranks as far as the eye could reach before the row of tents. The front line ran along the very foot of the hill.
The sun was dropping towards the horizon in a sky of purple and gold. On a sign from the Tsar an artillery salvo signalled evening prayer. The bands played a hymn. Everyone uncovered. A non-commissioned officer recited the Pater in a loud voice. All those men, thousands upon thousands, prayed for the Tsar and Holy Russia. The silence and composure of that multitude in that great plain, the magic poetry of the hour, the vision of the alliance which sanctified everything, gave the ceremony a touching majesty.
From the camps we returned to the village of Krasnoïe-Selo, where the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaïevitch,(1) Commander of the Imperial Guard, G.O.C. the St. Petersburg military area and subsequently generalissimo of the Russian armies, gave a dinner to the President of the Republic and the sovereigns. Three long tables were set in half-open tents around a garden which was in full flower. The beds had just been watered and from them the fresh scent of flowers---a delicious change after the baking day---rose into the warm air.
I was one of the first to arrive. The Grand Duchess Anastasia and her sister, the Grand Duchess Militza, gave me a boisterous welcome. The two Montenegrins burst out, talking both at once:
"Do you realize that we're passing through historic days, fateful days! ... At the review to-morrow the bands will play nothing but the Marche Lorraine and Sambre et Meuse. I've had a telegram (in pre-arranged code) from my father to-day. He tells me we shall have war before the end of the month.... What a hero my father is! . . . He's worthy of the Iliad! Just look at this little box I always take about with me. It's got some Lorraine soil in it, real Lorraine soil I picked up over the frontier when I was in France with my husband two years ago. Look there, at the table of honour: it's covered with thistles. I didn't want to have any other flowers there. They're Lorraine thistles, don't you see! I gathered several plants on the annexed territory, brought them here and had the seeds sown in my garden ... Militza, go on talking to the ambassador. Tell him all to-day means to us while I go and receive the Tsar . . ."
At dinner I was on the left of the Grand Duchess Anastasia and the rhapsody continued, interspersed with prophecies . "There's going to be war . . . There'll be nothing left of Austria . . . . You're going to get back Alsace and Lorraine .... Our armies will meet in Berlin ... Germany will be destroyed . . . ." Then suddenly:
"I must restrain myself. The Emperor has his eye on me."
Under the Tsar's stern gaze the Montenegrin sybil suddenly lapsed into silence.
Thursday, July 23, 1914.
Review at Krasnoïe-Selo this morning. Sixty thousand men took part. A magnificent pageant of might and majesty. The infantry marched past to the strains of the Marche de Sambre et Meuse and the Marche Lorraine.
What a wealth of suggestion in this military machine set in motion by the Tsar of all the Russias before the President of the allied republic, himself a son of Lorraine!
The Tsar was mounted at the foot of the mound upon which was the imperial tent. Poincaré was seated on the Tsaritsa's right in front of the tent. The few glances he exchanged with me showed me that our thoughts were the same.
This evening we had a farewell dinner on the France. The moment it was over the French squadron was to prepare to leave for Stockholm.
The Tsaritsa had made a point of coming with the Tsar. All the grand dukes and grand duchesses were there.
About seven o'clock a momentary squall did some slight damage to the floral decorations of the deck but the table looked very fine all the same. It had indeed a kind of terrifying grandeur with the four gigantic 30 mm. gun raising their huge muzzles above the heads of the guests. The sky was soon clear again; a light breeze kissed the waves; the moon rose above the horizon.
Conversation between the Tsar and the President never ceased.
In the distance the Grand Duchess Anastasia raised her champagne glass towards me more than once, indicating with a sweep of her arm the warlike tackle all about us.
As the second entrée was about to be served a servant brought me a note from Viviani, scribbled on a menu: "Be quick and prepare a communiqué for the press."
Admiral Grigorovitch, Naval Minister, who was next to me, whispered in my ear:
"It seems to me you're not left in peace for a minute!"
I took my own and my neighbour's menus and hastily drew up a note for Havas Agency, using the neutral and empty phraseology suitable for documents of this kind. But to end up I alluded to Serbia in the following terms:
The two governments have discovered that their views and intentions for the maintenance of the European balance of power, especially in the Balkan Peninsula, are absolutely identical.
I sent my note to Viviani who read it and then shook his head at me across the table.
At length the toasts were reached. Poincaré delivered his concluding phrase like a trumpet call:
The two countries have the same ideal of peace in strength, honour and self-respect.
These last words---words to be heard really to be appreciated---were followed by thunderous applause. The Grand Duke Nicholas, the Grand Duchess Anastasia and the Grand Duke Nicholas Michaïlovitch turned flaming eyes upon me.
As we were rising from the table Viviani came up to me:
"I don't much like the last sentence of your note: I think it involves us a little too much in Russia's Balkan policy . . . Wouldn't it be better to leave it out?"
"But you can't publish an official report of your voyage and pretend not to know that there are serious differences, a threat of open conflict between Austria and Serbia. It might even be thought that you were engaged in some scheme here which you dare not mention."
"That's true. Well, give me another draft."
A few minutes later I brought him this version:
The visit which the President of the Republic has just paid to H.M. the Emperor of Russia has given the two friendly and allied governments an opportunity of discovering that they are in entire agreement in their views on the various problems which concern for peace and the balance of power in Europe has laid before the Powers, particularly in the East.
"Excellent !" said Viviani.
We immediately went to discuss the matter with the President of the Republic, the Tsar, Sazonov and Isvolsky. All four unreservedly approved the new draft and I sent it at once to the Havas Agency.
The time for departure was approaching. The Tsar told Poincaré he would like to continue the discussion a few minutes longer.
"Suppose we go on the bridge, Monsieur le President?... It will be quieter."
Thus I found myself alone with the Tsaritsa who asked me to take a chair on her left. The poor lady seemed worn out. With a forced smile she said in a tired tone:
"I'm glad I came to-night ... I was afraid there would be a storm . . . The decorations on the boat are magnificent . . . The President will have lovely weather for his voyage . . . "
But suddenly she put her hands to her ears. Then with a pained and pleading glance she timidly pointed to the ship's band quite near to us which had just started on a furious allegro with a full battery of brass and big drums.
"Couldn't you? . . ." she murmured.
I guessed the cause of her trouble and signalled sharply to the conductor who did not understand but stopped his band at once.
"Thank you, thank you!" sighed the Tsaritsa.
The young Grand Duchess Olga, who was sitting at the other end of the ship with the rest of the imperial family and the members of the French mission, had been observing us for some minutes with an anxious eye. She suddenly rose, glided towards her mother with graceful case and whispered two or three words in her ear. Then addressing me, she continued:
"The Empress is rather tired, but she asks you to stay with her, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, and to go on talking to her."
I resumed our conversation as she went off with quick, light steps. At that very moment the moon appeared in an archipelago of flaky, slow-moving clouds. The whole Gulf of Finland was lit up. My subject was found for me. I enlarged on the charm of sea voyages. The Tsaritsa listened to me in silence, her gaze vacant and strained, her cheeks livid, her lips motionless and swollen. After ten minutes or so which seemed to me an eternity the Tsar and the President of the Republic came down from the bridge.(2)
It was eleven o'clock. Preparations for the departure were in progress. The guard shouldered arms. Sharp commands rang out. The Alexandria's launch greeted the France. The farewells were said to the strains of the Russian national anthem and the Marseillaise. The Tsar spoke very warmly to the President of the Republic. I myself said goodbye to Poincaré who kindly asked me to call on him in Paris in a fortnight's time.
As I was bowing to the Tsar at the top of the gangway he said to me:
"Will you come with me, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur? We can talk undisturbed on my yacht. You'll be taken straight back to Petersburg."
From the France we transferred to the Alexandria. Only the imperial family accompanied their majesties. The ministers, functionaries, military staffs and my personal staff returned direct to Petersburg in an Admiralty yacht.
It was a splendid night. The milky way stretched, a pure band of silver, into unending space. Not a breath of wind. The France and her escorting division sped rapidly towards the west, leaving behind them long ribbons of foam which glistened in the moonlight like silvery streams.
When the imperial suite was on board Admiral Niloff came to the Tsar for orders. The latter said to me:
"It's a wonderful night. Suppose we go for a sail."
The Alexandria steered for the coast of Finland.
The Tsar made me sit behind him in the stern of the yacht and told me of the conversation he had just had with Poincaré:
"I'm delighted with my talk with the President. We see absolutely eye to eye. I am not less peace-loving than he, and he is not less determined than I to do everything necessary to prevent the cause of peace being compromised. He fears some Austro-German manoeuvre against Serbia and thinks we should reply with the united front of a common diplomatic policy. 1 think the same. We must show ourselves firm and united in our efforts to find possible solutions and the necessary adjustments. The more difficult the situation becomes the more important will unity and firmness become."
"That policy seems to me the essence of wisdom; I'm afraid we shall have to resort to it before long."
"You are still uneasy?"
"Have you any fresh reason for your apprehension?"
"I have at least one---the unexpected return of my colleague Szapary, and the air of cold and hostile reserve he adopted towards the President of the Republic the day before yesterday. Germany and Austria are preparing a shock for us."
"What can they want? A diplomatic success at the expense of Serbia? To score a point off the Triple Entente? . . . No, no; notwithstanding appearances the Emperor William is too cautious to launch his country on some wild adventure, and the Emperor Francis Joseph's only wish is to die in peace."
For a minute he sat in silence, lost in thought as if he were following up some vague line of thought. Then he rose and paced the deck.
Around us the grand dukes were standing waiting for the moment to approach their master who grudgingly dispensed a few commonplaces among them. He called them up in turn and seemed to show them an unrestrained frankness, an affectionate familiarity, as if he wanted them to forget that he usually kept them at a distance and made it a rule never to talk politics with them.
The Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaïevitch, the Grand Duke Nicholas Michaïlovitch, the Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovitch and the Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna came up to me, congratulating themselves and me that the presidential visit had been so supreme a success. In the court code that meant that the sovereign was satisfied.
The Grand Duchesses Anastasia and Militza, "the two Montenegrins," got me in a corner:
"What a glorious speech the President made It was just what wanted saying, just what we've been waiting for so long! Peace in strength, honour and self-respect. Remember those words, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur; they will mark a date in the history of the world . . ."
At a quarter to one the Alexandria dropped anchor in Peterhof bay.
After leaving the Tsar and Tsaritsa I transferred to the escort yacht, Strela, and was taken to Petersburg which 1 reached at half-past two in the morning. As we sailed up the Neva I was thinking of the eager prophecy of the Montenegrin sybils.
1. Born on November 6, 1856. His father, the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholaïevitch, was the third son of the Tsar Nicholas I. He was the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian armies during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
2. To amplify and confirm the nature of the conversations between the President of the Republic and the Tsar on this voyage it is not perhaps superfluous to refer here to the letter which Nicholas II sent to M. Poincaré on May 13. 1916, when M. Viviani was on another visit to Russia:
It has been a great pleasure to see M. Viviani, Keeper of the Seals, again. I had met him before and his visit reminds me of my last interview with you.
At that time all we thought of was the peaceful development of our two countries while the enemy was already plotting against the peace of Europe in the hope of gaining the hegemony of the world . . .
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