I’ve started giving serious thought to Persia. Why not really get down to subduing the Bakhtiai? I’ll transfer to the Caucasian Army, order myself a crimson Chokha and become a resident at the court of some restive Khan; by the end of the war, I shall have a marvellous collection of Persian miniatures to add to my glory. After all, my great weakness is for exotic painting.
The political tide is turning in our favour: America, incensed by Germany’s announcement of unlimited warfare, has broken off diplomatic relations and is openly declaring in favour of the Allies. What joy!
Yesterday evening I arrived in Kislovodsk to receive medical treatment. I was glad to get out of Petrograd. First of all, I was feeling very poorly, and, secondly, we’ve descended into such a cesspit of late that things have become truly nauseating. The lies are so widespread and compulsive that it’s simply unbearable. There are, it would seem, no honest people left. The Duma is full of lies, so are the ministers, and the newspapers even more so – in a word, everyone is lying without restraint or conscience. This orgy of mendacity makes living arduous and inspires pity for one’s Motherland. She will certainly be no better off for all this. But how Nicky is to grapple with these lies I simply do not know. It must be hard for him during these times.
In measures aimed at alleviating the shortage of milk in the capital, a committee headed by the ombudsman for food supply in the city of Petrograd has unanimously ruled to ban the production and sale of milk and cream chocolates.
The existing capitalist system is doomed. Its injustice is so glaring that only ignorance and tradition could lead wage-earners to tolerate it. And I also feel no doubt that the new order will be either some form of Socialism or a reversion to barbarism and petty war such as occurred during the barbarian invasion.
A week later Lord Milner, accompanied by Lord Revelstoke and George Clerk, came to Moscow… There was a reception at the Town Duma at which he had to make a speech and to present Chelnokoff with the K.C.M.G., which the King had conferred upon him as a reward for his services to the Anglo-Russian entente. There was an Anglo-Russian luncheon, which lasted five hours , and at which various members of the Imperial Duma were determined to deliver their set speeches even at the risk of prolonging luncheon into dinner. The unfortunate Englishman, who understood no Russian and who, doubtless, would have liked to see something of the Kremlin and the ancient city, was chained to his duty from early morning to late night. I cannot congratulate myself on my staff work on this occasion.
And yet the visit was the occasion of one historical meeting. I arranged a private interview between Prince Lvoff and Chelnokoff on the one side and Lord Milner and George Clerk on the other. I acted as interpreter. Prince Lvoff, a quiet, grey-bearded man, tired out with overwork, spoke with great moderation. But lest there should be any doubt as to his views he brought a written memorandum with him. It was a long document, but the gist of it was that, if there was no change in the attitude of the Emperor, there would he a revolution within three weeks.
My duties were not ended when I had put Lord Milner to bed. I had my report to send to the Embassy. There was George Clerk, determined to see something of Moscow by night, and still young enough to sacrifice his sleep to his determination. Enlisting the services of a young Russian millionaire, we took him to a gipsy party – doubtless one of the last of the great gipsy parties celebrated under the monarchy. Goodness knows what it cost. I could not have paid. There were eight of us: four English and four Russians, and as the guest of honour George Clerk had to bear the brunt of the champagne bombardment. My young Russian millionaire did his best. Maria Nikolaievna sang countless "charochki," and with her own hands offered countless bumpers to George Clerk. As a diplomatist he has had many triumphs, but never has he borne himself more bravely than on that last evening in Moscow. He never refused a toast. He drank each one down in the approved Russian manner, and his monocle never moved. Not a hair of his head was ruffled. There was neither flush nor pallor on his cheeks.
In the early hours of the morning Prochoroff, my young millionaire officer, signed the bill and distributed the necessary largesse, and we set off home; my wife, George Clerk, "Jimmie" Valentine and I in one car; Prochoroff and his Russian friends showing the way in another. A quarter of a mile down the road we passed him. He had pulled up beside a policeman and was standing in the road. For George Clerk's edification we stopped to watch. Prochoroff was fumbling in his pockets. He pulled out his purse and handed a rouble to the policeman, who clicked his heels together and saluted. His hand on his sword, Prochoroff drew himself up to his full height. There was a sparkle in his eye, and he looked as though he were about to lead a charge.
"Boje Tsaria Khraneel" he thundered. "God save the Tsar," repeated the policeman. And "bye Jidoff!" (beat the Jews).
We drove on. Prochoroff did not hate the Jews. In so far as he had any political views he was a Liberal. But he would go on with his "God save the Tsar and beat the Jews" refrain all the way home. It was the prescribed ritual. It was the pre-revolutionary tradition.