Once, one evening in the heat of summer, when the Grand Duchess Tatiana and I sat on the window-sill of my room on the second floor, reading aloud and trying to get a little air (it was after five, and we were never allowed out a second time), a sudden voice outside bellowed " Take away your mugs (roja), or I shall fire."
We looked out in surprise, and saw the sentry pointing his rifle at us, shouting furiously
" Don't you know that you must shut the window ? "
" But it is always allowed," I said, " it is so stifling."
" Obey orders ! " he shouted, " or I shall fire."
It is a satisfaction for Britain in these terrible times that no share of the responsibility for these events rests on her. She is not the Jonah in this storm. The part taken by our country in this conflict, in its origin, and in its conduct, has been as honourable and chivalrous as any part ever taken in any country in any operation. See more
We might imagine from declarations which were made by the Germans, aye! and even by a few people in this country, who are constantly referring to our German comrades, that this terrible war was wantonly and wickedly provoked by England - never Scotland - never Wales - and never Ireland.
Wantonly provoked by England to increase her possessions, and to destroy the influence, the power, and the prosperity of a dangerous rival.
There never was a more foolish travesty of the actual facts. It happened three years ago, or less, but there have been so many bewildering events crowded into those intervening years that some people might have forgotten, perhaps, some of the essential facts, and it is essential that we should now and again restate them, not merely to refute the calumniators of our native land, but in order to sustain the hearts of her people by the unswerving conviction that no part of the guilt of this terrible bloodshed rests on the conscience of their native land.
What are the main facts? There were six countries which entered the war at the beginning. Britain was last, and not the first.
Before she entered the war Britain made every effort to avoid it; begged, supplicated, and entreated that there should be no conflict.
I was a member of the Cabinet at the time, and I remember the earnest endeavours we made to persuade Germany and Austria not to precipitate Europe into this welter of blood. We begged them to summon a European conference to consider.
Had that conference met arguments against provoking such a catastrophe were so overwhelming that there would never have been a war. Germany knew that, so she rejected the conference, although Austria was prepared to accept it. She suddenly declared war, and yet we are the people who wantonly provoked this war, in order to attack Germany.
We begged Germany not to attack Belgium, and produced a treaty, signed by the King of Prussia, as well as the King of England, pledging himself to protect Belgium against an invader, and we said, "If you invade Belgium we shall have no alternative but to defend it."
The enemy invaded Belgium, and now they say, "Why, forsooth, you, England, provoked this war."
It is not quite the story of the wolf and the lamb. I will tell you why - because Germany expected to find a lamb and found a lion.
Petrograd. The reception of the Root mission by the Russian press has been most curious. Such newspapers as the Novoe Vremya, belonging to the Right, confine themselves to statements made by Mr. Root and publish on the mission, but the Bulletin of the Council of Workmen’s and Soldiers’ Delegates has not yet printed one line on the mission, apparently maintaining an attitude of such strict reserve as will not bind them to a definite line of action in the future.
In the past, among the officers there were always a few insolent ones, foppish and rude, but now we are seeing something terrible: they munch on nuts and apples and smirk like street urchins. I feel differently towards officers than towards the “well-fed bourgeoisie ". They should have some “polish” and be properly brought up. Otherwise the result is an abomination.
We finished our kitchen garden some time ago and it is now in splendid condition. We have every imaginable kind of vegetable, and five hundred cabbages. The servants, too, have made a garden on their side of the palace, where they can cultivate what they like. We went to help them dig it — the Czar too. To occupy our leisure now that we have finished our work on the garden, we have asked and obtained permission to cut down the dead trees in the park, so we go from place to place, followed by a guard which moves when we move. We are beginning to be quite skilful woodcutters. This will give us a supply of wood for next winter.
For aristocrats brought up on duels, a revolution is always a duel. Whether you are fighting for the beautiful lady of monarchy or the beautiful lady of revolution, you are still fighting for a beautiful lady.
On the subject of political events: I have the impression, which grows stronger and stronger all the time, that our entire revolution will ultimately turn out to be a colossal piece of German provocation. We have already been defeated by Germany, and the overthrow of the autocracy was the last piece of bacon fat that tempted us into the mousetrap.