June 9, 1915 - Potpourri of War
---- 10:15 AM, Rath Museum, Geneva, Switzerland
"Won't you sit down?" The Swiss Red Cross representative was carefully polite to the uniformed KM officer.
"Would you care for some coffee or tea, Captain Schnell?"
"Coffee, if I could, black. I have been enroute all night."
The two men waited the few moments it took for the service set to be brought in, and the steaming fluid poured into shiny silver cups.
"I have here my government's preliminary accounting of the British officers and men that our ships rescued from the North Sea during and after Die Kaiserschlacht, on May 31. My government extends its regrets that more were not recovered, but our ships made every reasonable effort and were under attack for much of the battle."
Yes, of course." The voice was a smooth murmur.
"But," the German officer continued, nodding his head at the other's politeness, "I was instructed personally by Vice-Admiral Baron Letters himself to extend our apologies that our report was not sooner and our condolences to the families of all, especially those who gave their lives for the British Crown."
At the second smooth murmur, Schnell looked the other straight in the eye.
"Sir," said Schnell with a trace of heat, "this is no pro forma exercise. We take very seriously the chivalric duties of war. The British sailors were on over 25 separate ships of ours that returned to port over a period of the better part of a day. Many were sent to hospitals, along with our own wounded, of which it is no secret that there were many. Scores of them were in shock - some still are - and others adamantly refused to give their names or that of their ships. About a dozen gave false names or different ones each time they were questioned. It was that last bit that delayed this report an extra couple days. We feared to mislead families.
"As it is," Schnell continued, noting that he appeared to have at last made some sort of impression on the other," there are likely still errors in what I am about to give you. Admiral Letters instructed me to make it most clear that any such errors are inadvertent and that the lists here represent our good faith effort to render a true, accurate, and complete accounting."
"Please," said the Swiss, "I accept your sincerity. These are terrible times, that's all."
"Yes, terrible times, that can we all accept." Schnell took out one ribbon-tied bundle from his briefcase and placed it on the table between the men. "I have some additional copies," the German added. "Also, I will be glad to answer any questions, from yourself, or from anyone on these premises."
As the Swiss Red Cross representative looked at the summary sheet, his face registered several emotions. The expressions flitted across his countenance too quickly for Schnell to assess. The summary sheet had on its face the following:
394 TBs (about 30)
"Let me repeat myself," Schnell said. Admiral Letters was quite specific. I am to meet and discuss this and related matters with anyone on these premises today who wishes it."
"Hmmm," reflected the Swiss, "do you think there is more that you could add?"
"I am not sure," was his swift reply. "I was there, though."
"You were at Die, er, the battle?"
"Yes, sir." Schnell hid his smile at the other's near slip. "I am the commanding officer of Grosser Kurfurst in the 3rd Battle Squadron. I was in the van and, in fact, my guns put some of those men in the water."
The Swiss was impressed, visibly taken somewhat aback.
"We have here, within this building, several volunteers from nations at war with your own. A couple of them are from Great Britain, with one a former naval officer. Would your gracious offer extend even to them?"
"Yes, the Baron was, as I said, quite specific on these points. You see, we recovered no survivors at all from certain of the ships we destroyed, though we looked most carefully. I would value the opportunity to assure those of His Britannic Majesty of this personally, face-to-face. But, for both our comfort, perhaps another volunteer or two or three from neutral nations could be with us?"
"That certainly seems reasonable," the Swiss agreed, especially, he added to himself, in the face of numbers such as these. "I will be back shortly."
The Baron had predicted that the British volunteers would be unable to
resist, and that the neutrals would include volunteers from the United
States and, perhaps, Italy and/or Greece. When the all-smiles Swiss returned
a few minutes later, Schnell hid his own smile by leaning over to get
out the extra copies - the Baron had done it again.
June 2, 1915 - Potpourri of
War, con't (Ode to the Countess)
---- Between meals, Promenade deck, Imperator, 18" from coffee urn (further in cm.)
The deck chair was a notable invention, thought Captain Hadi, with the way it could recline using any of several notches in the wood frame. He had merrily kept his servants busy trying out all the various positions. The coffee, however, had been a true trial. He slurped the thick fluid a bit distrustfully. Better, it was better than yesterday's. He placed the cup back on the table, and watched skeptically as one servant filled it afresh from the tall silvery vessel. Days. It had taken them days merely to achieve a civilized consistency.
"More sugar," he ordered. The servant nodded vigorously, yellow teeth gleaming, at his master's refined taste and ladled in several more spoonfuls before placing it again within his lord's easy reach.
Another servant approached, braiding his hands in trepidation. He knelt, abjectly, in front of the chair, his head on the deck within convenient reach of Hadi's feet.
"Great One," he whined, "I overheard more, but they speak gibberish, when they speak English at all."
"Tell me," slurrrp, "of this gibberish." One had to be patient with the lower orders.
"It is said that the Countess is from Ireland. They seemed to be discussing revolution."
"Yes, yes, of course, they are revolutionaries, you fool, but how is," slurrrrp, "more sugar I said, you miserable get of a camel, that gibberish?"
"Oh, sire, she flew into a mighty rage, truly she did." The servant sounded awed.
Hadi, no stranger to rages himself, considered how impressed his very own slave sounded.
"Continue," he commanded grandly, but with a frown.
"They were plotting for a Kaiser of Canada, or something like that."
A Kaiser of Canada? Who? Someone on this ship? Or, could they be thinking to make Wilhelm the ruler of part of the British Commonwealth?! Either way, a most ambitious plot! How could she hope to accomplish such a thing? She would need an army of saboteurs and agents provocateur just to begin.
"How many men does she have on this ship?"
"Oh, oh, oh, I do not know. Be merciful! Stay thy wrath, oh, mighty Pasha, I beg thee! But they speak no civilized tongue and, and, and they all look alike!"
True, they really DID all look alike, Hadi agreed, but he kicked at the other's head anyway. Not too hard, just as a reminder that zeal was required. He let the other abase himself for a few minutes while he considered the matter.
"Puissant master, wait, I have more! Her hair IS red, like glowing embers deep in the hearth!" Actually, the slave had known that for some time, but he had long ago learned to keep back morsels such as that for moments such as this.
Hadi paused, but kept his foot poised.
"And today, just after the third call for prayer, her wrath was boundless! But ..."
"But what?" Hadi raised his foot some more.
Oh, oh, Lord, may you ride with green spurs! This wretched excuse for a slave could make almost no sense of it!"
" Almost'?" Hadi growled.
"They were arguing over the proper coat to be worn when catching fish! I swear it on my mother's grave!"
Hadi put his foot back down, his brow furrowed.
"Yes," he said, "these infidels do take matters of the sea most seriously." Of course, of course, it must have been something like wearing the green without completing the Hadj.
The kneeling man knew from long experience that his danger had passed.
"Her rage soared higher than the smoke from this ship and wider than the sea," the servant added in further appeasement, obviously still awed.
Ritual fishing attire, Hadi reflected. A Canadian Kaiser. Truly, a most formidable woman, Hadi Pasha.
[It is just a scene that wrote itself in my head on the way back from Charlottesville Sunday evening.
Enjoy it, if you can.]
jim (Letterstime - Potpourri of War - con't)