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Title: Ferdinand of Bulgaria - The Amazing Career of a Shoddy Czar
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by University of California libraries)



                         FERDINAND OF BULGARIA



------------------------------------------------------------------------

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration: Ferdinand the Ambitious gazing from his Euxinograd
Palace across the Black Sea towards Constantinople.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------


  FERDINAND OF
  BULGARIA



  THE AMAZING CAREER OF
  A SHODDY CZAR



  By the Author of
  “THE REAL KAISER”



  LONDON: ANDREW MELROSE, LTD.
  3 YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.
  1916

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CONTENTS

  CHAP.                                 PAGE
        INTRODUCTORY                       9
      I A POT-HOUSE PRINCE                17
     II THE TRAINING OF A TRAITOR         27
    III LEARNING THE ROPES                37
     IV THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING         47
      V THE COMPLEAT BACHELOR             55
     VI THE BROKEN-HEARTED PRINCESS       65
    VII AN APOSTATE BY PROXY              73
   VIII THE BUTCHERED “BISMARCK”          81
     IX THE DEAD HAND                     93
      X WHO ARE THE BULGARIANS?          105
     XI FERDINAND AND HIS CREATURES      115
    XII FERDINAND THE FEMININE           125
   XIII FERDINAND AND THE BULGARIANS     135
    XIV FERDINAND THE AMBITIOUS          147
     XV FERDINAND THE FUTILE             157
    XVI FERDINAND THE FRENCHMAN          167
   XVII FERDINAND THE FAITHLESS          177
  XVIII FERDINAND THE HUN                187
    XIX FERDINAND THE CZAR               197
     XX FERDINAND AND THE BALKAN LEAGUE  207
    XXI FERDINAND THE MARTYR             217
   XXII FERDINAND IN RETIREMENT          227
  XXIII FERDINAND THE FALSE              237
   XXIV KULTUR IN BULGARIA               247
    XXV FERDINAND AND THE FARMER         255
   XXVI FERDINAND AS WAR LORD            263
  XXVII FERDINAND IN EXTREMIS            273

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  INTRODUCTORY



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  INTRODUCTORY

“Who is that evil-looking Dago?” asked an Australian friend; “he looks
as though he had never been outside a horse in his life.”

We were gazing at the procession of royalties who followed the body of
King Edward VII through his mourning capital. The Dago in question was
Ferdinand, Czar of the Bulgarians; and one could not but recognize the
truth of the Colonial’s brutal description.

He wore, it may be remembered, an Astrakan cap and coat; and the day
was a warm one. His fat figure swayed from side to side in the saddle,
and he looked thoroughly frightened of the magnificent horse he
bestrode with so ill a grace. The perspiration dropped down his flabby
cheeks.

He was not in the sort of company where he was calculated to shine. All
around him were princes who would not be seen speaking to him. The
London crowd hardly knew who he was, and betrayed less interest in him
than it would have shown in the latest coloured monarch from the wilds
of Africa.

His bright, shifty eyes turned here and there, vainly seeking something
friendly and familiar. No doubt but Ferdinand made a poor showing on
his last visit to London; the very last, possibly, that he will ever be
allowed to pay to the capital of the British Empire.

But I ventured at the time to predict to my friend from the Antipodes
that he would one day hear a good deal more of Czar Ferdinand than he
had hitherto learned. For though he was then an unconsidered personage
in English-speaking countries, he already enjoyed quite another
reputation upon the Continent of Europe.

I explained that he was half a Frenchman, and that in Paris, where
notabilities are summed up more surely than anywhere else in the wide
world, he was esteemed by no means a negligible quantity.

Berlin, I said, had already put him down as a man with a price, and was
only seeking to find how great was the price that must be paid.
Austria—the new Austria, as represented by the clever heir to the
throne, Franz Ferdinand—still looked askance at him, but was determined
to make him a friend before he should have returned to amity with
Russia.

Russia had against his name the big black cross that is never
obliterated in the secret archives of the White Empire, if the gossips
of the Chancelleries are to be believed. Finally, in the Balkan States,
still the slums of Europe by force of circumstances, he was the man to
whom politicians looked for the next move.

I little guessed what world-shaking consequences were to derive from
that move. But I was able to say enough to my friend to awaken in him a
new interest in the man whom his sturdy Colonialism led him to describe
as an “evil-looking Dago.”

Since then I have seen Ferdinand in varying circumstances, all of which
have tended to increase my interest in him, without in any way adding
to the sum of my liking for him, and all that he represents.

I can see him now, riding into Sofia in triumph, with a wreath of green
leaves around his head, and a band of victorious Bulgarian warriors as
his escort. It was the first time Sofia had ever really acclaimed him,
and he looked almost human as he acknowledged the ringing plaudits of a
people that was wont to turn away its face as he rode by.

I remember him, too, in Paris; at Longchamps the day of the Grand Prix.
The elaborate precautions made that day by the police to prevent any of
those untoward incidents of which he has lived in dread for a quarter
of a century spoiled the whole day for the Parisians. It was impossible
to move about the lawn without encountering cordons of gendarmes,
placed there to afford a wide breathing space for the imitation Czar.

I also saw him at Carlsbad, very much at home among the Austrians, who
are really the people of his choice. He maintained a monstrous state
there, and his comings and goings were as good as any spectacle I have
seen.

And always, wherever I encountered him, I heard stories. They were not
nice stories, for he was the hero of them. But they represented the
Continental opinion that he was distinctly a man of consequence; a man
who would one day bulk big in the world’s history.

All these stories threw a bright light on the character of the supposed
useless fop, who made Bismarck reverse his first contemptuous estimate
of him. The final judgment of the old cynic was that Ferdinand was “a
sharp young fellow.” They confounded entirely the British view of him,
which has recently had to be revised.

For it is only too true that our attitude was that of the Rugby
schoolboy. “We have heard of the Kaiser; and the Czar and the French
President are our good friends. But who on earth is King Ferdinand of
Bulgaria?”

The answer is plain to be read. He is the parvenu of princes, the
outcast among Kings, the Czar of Shoddy. His history and habits, his
ambitions and abilities, his amusements and amours, as far as I have
been able to trace them, are set out in the following chronicle.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  A POT-HOUSE PRINCE


“_The Prince of Bulgaria, if there exists in the world a being
unfortunate enough to take up that position._” —BISMARCK.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER I

  A POT-HOUSE PRINCE


One day in December, 1886, there slouched into Ronacher’s Circus, a
well-known Vienna beer garden, three weary Bulgarian politicians. Some
weeks before they had left Sofia full of importance, and very pleased
with themselves. In their ears were ringing the injunctions of
Stambuloff, the “Bismarck of Bulgaria,” and they were under no kind of
misapprehension as to their mission.

They were to come back with a Prince, and not until they had got one
dare they show their faces in Sofia again. He was to be a presentable
Prince, young, wealthy, a soldier, and, above all, powerfully
connected. It seemed easy enough to them, for they were patriotic
Bulgarians, and thought that all the unoccupied Princes of Europe would
compete for so proud a position as that of Prince of Bulgaria. Possibly
their phantasy was not shared by the wise old man who sent them out on
their mission; for it is recorded that he grinned sardonically as he
saw them go.

From Court to Court they went, hawking the vacant principality and
receiving the most surprising rebuffs. They offered the place to the
Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia, and he refused it with a rude
promptness. Valdemar of Denmark listened to all they had to say, and
said he would write and let them know. His answer was in the negative.
From Prince Carol of Rumania they received a refusal startling in its
emphasis. They rubbed their heads, and decided to try more tentative
measures.

Hither and thither they went, hinting at the great opportunity that
offered for an enterprising young Prince. Their overtures were
everywhere received with a chilliness that was rigid in its iciness.
They thought of grim old Stambuloff waiting at home for news, and
trudged manfully on to another Court. Soon they realized that they were
the laughing-stock of Europe.

So they found their way to Vienna, which was as near home as they dared
to venture, and determined to spend a little time in a well-earned
vacation from the task of Prince-hunting. Their steps were guided to
the famous beer garden by a very pleasant acquaintance they had made in
the Austrian pleasure city; and there they rested, well content with a
cool drink and a friendly chat.

And while they rested, there came on the scene a Major Laabe, to whom
they were introduced by their Viennese friend, who was a smooth-spoken
individual of slightly Jewish appearance. Major Laabe was an individual
of quite another type, a dashing Austrian cavalry officer who knew
everybody and everything. He was sympathetic to the travel-worn
Bulgars, and over a bottle or two of wine they confided to him their
mission, and its lack of result.

It was then that the Major sprang to his feet and slapped his deerskin
riding breeches of spotless white in pure amazement and joy. “Why,” he
cried, “I know the very man you want; and by a strange coincidence he
is here on this very spot. He is Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha,
grandson of Louis Philippe of France, and cousin of every crowned head
in Europe. He is a prime favourite of both the Emperor of Austria and
the Czar of Russia. And, my boys, don’t say I told you so, but he is as
rich as Crœsus.”

Grekoff, Galtcheff, and Stoiloff—such were the names of the three
simple Bulgars—looked at one another with glistening eyes. It seemed
too good to be true. “Come along with me,” urged the genial Major, “and
be presented to him. He’s just in here,” and he led the way to the
billiard-room.

There the eyes of the three men from Sofia fell upon a tall young man
of twenty-six, who with a billiard cue in his hand, was walking round
the table with a gait that was curious in its mincing affectation. He
was clad in the uniform of an Austrian sub-lieutenant, and was really
quite a beautiful thing in the way of princes.

His face was remarkable for its length, and for the cruel hook that
marked the prominent nose. The eyes were bright with intelligence, the
lips thin and set tight. And in his right eye he wore a monocle with a
gilt rim, a rarer embellishment to a young man in those days than in
these. As they watched him he posed for the shot—a difficult cannon—and
made it with infinite skill and appearance of ease. Then moving to take
his place for another shot, he let the monocle fall from his eye and
turned and faced them squarely. But even then they noticed that he did
not look at them.

Introductions were made, and soon the five men were seated at a table
by a quiet bar, with opened bottles before them. In less than half an
hour the three Bulgarians were offering this young exquisite the post
which all the young princes of Europe had refused in quick succession,
and he was staring at them through his monocle with a regard in which
shyness and impudence were blended.

At heart he was furious. He had been waiting for this offer for weeks.
He and his mother had talked of nothing else. But these clods from the
least civilized of the Balkan States had ignored him; had actually been
unaware of his existence. So, as they eagerly set out the advantages of
their offer, and pressed for its instant acceptance, he smiled
sardonically, and framed the words of his answer.

When he delivered it, it filled them with dismay. Very quietly he
expressed his sense of the honour they had done him, and of his own
unworthiness for so important a post. Then he reminded them that the
Powers of Europe must be consulted before he could safely accept. With
remarkable cunning he made them feel that, should he accept, he would
be doing them a favour. Then he dismissed them, greatly abashed.

Some months later, however, they were received at the Coburg palace in
Vienna, and overwhelmed with flatteries by his clever old mother.
Difficulties were discussed, their power to make the offer questioned,
and a great show of wealth and influence, both of which the Princess
Clementine certainly possessed, was made. Eventually an arrangement was
reached whereby Stoiloff should visit the Princess’s country palace at
Ebenthal, bringing with him two influential Bulgarians of the mission,
Vinaroff and Popoff.

This last was a stern old warrior and a keen judge of men. Ferdinand
received them in a gorgeous reception-room, surrounded already by the
state of a reigning prince. By a writing-table near the window sat the
keen-faced old woman who had spent half her life to fulfil her ambition
of seating her son upon a throne.

The ordeal was almost too much for Ferdinand. He stood there, affecting
the ease he had acquired in his pilgrimages through the Courts of
Europe. But old Popoff could smell the perfume with which he reeked,
and could see the nervous trembling of his hands as he sought to evade
his warrior eye. But for the inspiring presence of his mother,
Ferdinand might have thrown away the chance for which his boyhood and
young manhood had been spent. But he got through somehow; the offer was
made and accepted, conditionally upon the consent of the Powers being
given to it.

Then Ferdinand entered upon an experience as strange and disheartening
as that of the men who had sought him out to make him prince. He found
everywhere that the proposal was received with a surprised distaste.
Not all his mother’s tact and influence could make anybody look upon
the choice with a favourable eye. The only encouragement he got—if it
was encouragement—came from Bismarck, whose advice to his predecessor
arose in his mind at this crisis in his affairs.

“Take it!” said the cynical old Prussian to Alexander of Battenberg.
“It will at least be a pleasant reminiscence.”

Three weeks passed, and Stambuloff began to demand his prince most
urgently. The argument about waiting for the consent of the Powers was
ignored by the Statesman. Ferdinand was warned in unmistakable terms
that the offer was only open for a few more days. He must come now, or
never. Then, forgetting all his protestations that he would only accept
if the Powers endorsed the choice of Bulgaria, Ferdinand went.

He went with a cant phrase in his mouth; he has spouted miles of such
stuff in the quarter-century and more that has since elapsed. But this
first piece of cant that fell from the lips of the new prince caused
the Courts of Europe to smile and the Chancelleries to chuckle.

“I regard it as my sacred duty to set foot at the earliest possible
moment on the soil of my new country.”

Thus the Pot-house Prince, who bargained for a principality in a beer
garden, and who was introduced to the first of his new subjects in a
billiard-room through the mediation of a Jewish moneylender and a needy
Austrian man-about-town.

But Ferdinand did not care; he had got the job which had been dangled
before his eyes since first he could remember. He had fulfilled his
mother’s dearest wish, and got his foot in among the Rulers of Europe.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  THE TRAINING OF A TRAITOR


“_He lived in an atmosphere of womanly luxury, so that sweet perfumes
and pretty flowers became necessaries of life to him._”



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER II

  THE TRAINING OF A TRAITOR


Ferdinand owed his principality to his mother, Princess Clementine of
Orleans, the youngest and cleverest daughter of the French King Louis
Philippe. He owed also his capacity for filling the position to the
training bestowed upon him by that truly remarkable woman. It was a
peculiar training, for he was trained to fill a hypothetical throne.
Make a king of him, was his mother’s motto, and the kingdom is sure to
turn up some day.

Clementine of Orleans was one of the stormy petrels of European inner
politics. “The Czar’s nightmare, the Austrian Emperor’s bogey, and
Bismarck’s sleeping draught” had been the epigrammatic description of
the rôle she played, thrown off after deep consideration by an English
diplomatist who worked out his impromptus very thoroughly.

She had married Prince Augustus of Saxe-Coburg Kohary, and by the
Kohary hangs a tale. It was supposed by the vulgar to be an additional
title, but it really was an excrescence on the Saxe-Coburg appellation,
tacked on in return for some millions in hard cash. The original Kohary
was a swindling army contractor whose name in England would be Cohen.
He had made untold wealth by a system of army contracting which has its
feeble imitators at the present day, and he cherished high ambitions
for his pretty daughter Tony.

She, and her wealth, attracted the notice of that poverty-stricken
prince, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, grandfather of Bulgaria’s elect. The
wedding and the dowry were arranged, and the condition exacted by the
man of millions was that the Kohary should appear in the princely
title. So it was; though Prince Augustus, at the instigation of his
spouse Clementine, dropped the Cohen as soon as he conscientiously
could. But there it was, and when, many years afterwards, Ferdinand of
Bulgaria was able to address a deputation of Jewish merchants in their
native Yiddish, gossips recalled a circumstance which explained why he
was the only European ruler who could claim such an accomplishment.

[Illustration: Ferdinand’s Mother, Princess Clementine, at the age of
82.]

But the Princess Clementine moved in a circle that had the discernment
to see that the brand of Kohary was not upon her. She bore rather the
stamp of the Bourbons, and to the very last of her extreme old age
preserved the aristocratic air that became a daughter of Louis
Philippe. She inherited immense wealth, and knew how to take care of
it. Two passions possessed her in her life. The first was to restore
the monarchical line in France, and to that end she plotted skilfully
and unsuccessfully. The other was to realize in the person of her
youngest son a prophecy that affected her most profoundly when it was
delivered, and obtained a greater hold upon her with each succeeding
year of her life.

The prophecy was delivered by a very old and unsightly gipsy woman who
cajoled the Princess into permitting an inspection of her hand. The
sybil declared that one of the sons of Clementine would one day reign a
crowned king. The forecast was in accordance with the ambition and
training of this remarkable woman, who at once decided that Ferdinand,
the youngest and brightest of her boys, must be the instrument of its
fulfilment.

She had sat at the feet of the most astute statesmen of her time, and
had earned the appellation of “a Talleyrand in petticoats.” Those who
knew her best believed fondly that she was beyond all delusions; they
learned their error when they found what schemes she was cherishing for
the unlovable Ferdinand. She set her heart upon a throne for him,
though what throne she could not even dimly discern.

The kind of education this boy received from the sparkling, cynical,
witty Frenchwoman can be imagined. Every step of his career is eloquent
of the lessons he learned, and of how well he learned them. She taught
him that love was a weak passion, since it gave some clinging woman the
right to impose herself as a burden upon a strong man. She taught him
the value of influential friends, and how to take any amount of
snubbing from any one who might eventually be of use to him.

From Court to Court of Europe she dragged him at an age when most boys
are immersed in manly sports and the hard regime of ordinary education.
He became the most accomplished young prince in all Europe in the
matter of modern languages, though by a strange oversight she never
caused him to learn Bulgarian. He knew everybody, and was seen
everywhere. Not one of his great pack of relatives escaped his
acquaintance; she insinuated to them, one and all, that in his case the
claims of consanguinity could not be overlooked.

She inspired in him a feminine horror of being deceived. To this day he
dreads that possibility more than anything else, save only
assassination. No better training in the art of deception could
possibly be devised than to keep a youth constantly on the look-out for
deception. At a comparatively early age Ferdinand became a past master
in all the arts of simulation and deceit.

The masculine side of his education was neglected. He never learned to
play games like other boys; he never learned the ordinary
accomplishment of princes, the mastery of a horse. He lived in an
atmosphere of womanly luxury, so that sweet perfumes and pretty flowers
became necessaries of life to him.

He was by nature a fop. All the arts of dandyism were practised by him,
his clothes affected his gait. He flitted from Court to Court, and the
more formal the Court the greater his admiration for it. Display was to
him a part of kingship; one of the most tangible and real attributes of
royalty.

Thus, although he had not the most remote hope of legitimate succession
to a throne, at twenty he was possessed of a complete theory of
kingship. His mother, who appraised the whole world at its most just
value, and could discriminate between the instant value of a King of
England and a Czar of Russia, gave to him the undiscriminating worship
that she denied to any other human being, even in a fractional degree.
But there was no sign of the throne for which he had been so carefully
trained.

Therefore, at the age of twenty Ferdinand had to join the Austrian Army
as a sub-lieutenant. He was no soldier by nature, and his training had
unfitted him for the vocation in a marked degree. He had inherited a
nervous disposition, that made the occupation selected for him a
lifelong misery. His first commission was in a cavalry regiment, but
his execrable horsemanship soon caused him to be transferred to a foot
regiment. It was as a lieutenant of Jaegers that he was apparelled on
that memorable day when the tired Bulgarian envoys first saw him in the
Vienna beer garden.

The clever old woman and the calculating young man had been expecting
them. The net was spread and richly baited from the millions of
Clementine. All that money and cunning could do to win him the vacant
princedom had been done. The result has already been told.

His mother trained Ferdinand for a throne, and her influence and her
wealth made for him the opportunity. As his story is unfolded, we shall
see her continually at his elbow, prompting him in all the tangled
affairs of his statecraft. Her love for him never waned, and to the
last he was the object of adoration of the most sophisticated woman
that ever adorned a Court in Europe.

Her death deprived him of the best counsellor and the most powerful
friend that such a prince has ever been known to possess. The gap it
left in his councils will be illustrated in the course of this
narrative. She died in her beloved Vienna in February, 1907, at the age
of eighty-nine. Her three sons, Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Augustus
son-in-law of the deposed Emperor of Brazil, and Philip, son-in-law of
King Leopold of the Belgians, stood at her bedside as she passed away.

The thing she had lived to bring about had not yet come to pass.
Ferdinand made himself Czar of the Bulgarians in 1908. The poor old
Princess died just a year too soon.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  LEARNING THE ROPES


“_The position is not particularly brilliant, but where is a better one
to be found? I am a reigning Prince_.” —FERDINAND OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER III

  LEARNING THE ROPES


When Ferdinand found it was his “sacred duty” to occupy the vacant
Principality without loss of time, he disguised himself and fled from
Vienna. His initial disguise was that of a Viennese cab-driver, but he
changed several times before he arrived in Sofia disguised as a
Bulgarian general. He has lived a substantial portion of his life in
various disguises since that day.

If one had any pity to spare for such a malignant creature, one might
almost pity him his first experiences in Bulgaria. The Bulgars did not
know him, but his reputation had preceded him from the mouth of that
Popoff who had inspected him so critically in the reception-room of his
mother’s summer palace. The envoys were bombarded with questions on
their return, and those most responsible for the choice mustered up
enough courage to describe him as “most diplomatic.”

This was hardly what the Bulgars had been led to expect, and the wise
men noted that Popoff held his speech. This led to direct questions,
and Popoff let out his opinion. “Pah!” says he, “scented like a civet.”
And the Bulgarians, who make scent but do not use it, never forgot the
description.

Ferdinand had been elected to fill the shoes of a prince who had been
kidnapped for his virtues and abilities. The dashing Alexander of
Battenberg is a popular hero of his people, a warrior Prince whom the
rough Bulgarian peasants could understand and love. There comes to take
his place a finicking, fine gentleman with an eyeglass in his eye, who
shows up in the capital for the first time in a general’s uniform, but
riding in a carriage. As a matter of fact, he was in such a state of
nervous terror that it would not have been safe to let him mount a
horse.

And what a country for such an exquisite to rule! Bulgaria in 1915 is
bad enough, but words fail to paint the primitive savagery of the
country in 1887. Sofia, the capital, was little more than a glorified
village, and the new Prince bumped hideously over the ruts in the
streets as his carriage passed to the palace. Nearly twenty years
later, one of the most tactful great ladies of Europe, wishing to pay
Ferdinand a compliment on the great improvement wrought in his capital
since his accession, said sweetly:

“I do love Sofia, the railway makes it so easy to run over to Vienna
for a little gaiety.”

But even that reason for leaving Sofia did not exist when this cuckoo
Prince first drove down its main street.

Bulgarian was one of the few languages his mother had not added to his
list of accomplishments, and his hope that his perfect French would
carry him through triumphantly was only partly justified. He found many
of the most important men of State knew no language but their own, and
these he failed to comprehend as completely as they him.

The motley races of this Principality were of all colours and creeds.
Bulgars, Serbians, gipsies, Turks, Circassians, Jews, Armenians,
Tartars, Russians, Rumanians, Albanians, then as now, were all huddled
together cheek by jowl. They were all as strange to him as would have
been a race of Maoris. But if he felt any misgivings about his new rôle
in life he did not display them. Indeed, he was ready with a cant
explanation of his acceptance of the responsibility, and of his flight
from Vienna in an ignoble guise.

“I did not seek the Bulgarian crown. It was offered to me with the
assurance that I could do much good in the country. The mission was a
noble one, and I accepted it.”

His idea of Royalty was centred in the stateliest pageants of the most
formal Courts of Europe. He had had a wide experience of Courts, and
knew exactly the extreme of outward show that was employed to hedge the
greatest monarchs of Christendom. He established a ceremonial that
outdid them all. It was Ferdinand’s way of asserting his own importance
in a principality where the Prince was treated like an idle and
worthless schoolboy.

For Bulgaria had a real ruler, in spite of the kidnapping of its first
prince and the appointment of a half-pay lieutenant to take his place.
He was a little, fat, dirty man, the son of an innkeeper named
Stambuloff. One can measure Bulgarian character by the stamp of the
greatest man Bulgaria has yet produced. Stambuloff, the patriot
statesman, was not ashamed to admit that he made Sofia the Bulgarian
capital, because he owned large holdings of land there, and could reap
a fortune from the circumstance.

And before his coronation as Prince of Bulgaria Ferdinand had a
sufficing taste of the mastery of this overlord who ruled his new
subjects with a rod of iron. The Prince had designed his own coronation
robe, a tasteful garment in purple and ermine that became him
marvellously. Nicely scented, and jewelled in admirable taste, he
encountered his Prime Minister, who was smoking a black cigar that
smelt like the burning of old boots—what the Americans call a cooking
cigar—and displayed a liberal portion of Bulgarian soil under his long
finger-nails.

Stambuloff looked him over with a loud snort. “I cannot, and will not,
be seen with you, if you don’t take that rubbish off,” he shouted; and
then as a malicious afterthought added: “Why not spend the money on a
trusty body-guard?” And the ruffian laughed aloud as Ferdinand went
livid in his gorgeous purple and ermine robe. For it was an open secret
that Bulgaria held no terror for Ferdinand to compare with his fear of
assassination.

But even the fear of assassination could not scare him off his uneasy
throne. “Mon Dieu!” said he. “As they leave me here I will remain. The
position is not particularly brilliant, but where is a better one to be
found? I am a reigning prince. I have a pretty good civil list, and
rather pleasant shooting. I might as well be here as anywhere else.”
There, you see, is the real Ferdinand, with his habitual cant phrases
laid aside for once.

And he soon found an occupation that pleased him infinitely, and filled
in the gaps of his time very pleasantly while he was making
acquaintance with the language and customs of Bulgaria. He occupied
himself with the organization of such a secret police service as has
disgraced no other country in the nineteenth century. The ranks of this
precious service were recruited from handy foreigners who had
established themselves in Bulgaria for some time. In that service
promotion was rapid—provided that the agent was a good and trustworthy
assassin.

He paid these worthies out of his own pocket, and their work was the
constant espionage on all the leading men of Bulgaria. Thus he got
acquainted with all the peccadilloes of the men who governed the
country for him, while they despised the scented dandy who came among
them with such show of royal state.

Where real misbehaviour could not be discovered, imaginary offences
were invented in plenty, and Ferdinand soon had evidence against every
man of any importance in his realm. How he made use of these secret
dossiers can well be imagined. Those most guilty were made his tools by
threats of exposure and punishment, and he gathered around him the
support of the worst blackguards in Bulgaria.

This work provided congenial employment for the young Prince, who had
been nurtured on the morals of Machiavelli and the traditions of
Talleyrand. His spies made Sofia the most uncomfortable city for the
stranger that Europe possessed, but the habitués of the place paid
little heed to his army of Mouchards. For even before the coming of
Ferdinand, the customs of the Bulgarian capital were nothing very nice.

And thus Ferdinand learned the language of his subjects, and added his
own little improvements to their customs and traditions. But there was
something that worried him beyond the boundaries of his principality,
and as it worried his devoted mother even more, it soon began to occupy
the whole of his attention.

For the Powers of Europe would not recognize his appointment as Prince
of Bulgaria.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING


“_What! My nephew Ferdinand! But it is so long since I have seen you
that, like the Powers, I did not recognize you_.” —DUC D’AUMALE.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER IV

  THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING


When Ferdinand was elected Prince of Bulgaria by the Sobranje, and
signed the Constitution, no one of the Powers of Europe recognized his
sovereignty. On the other hand, the Sultan of Turkey declared his
position illegal within a week of his signing the Constitution, and
none of his Royal relatives and supposed backers disputed the attitude
of the Turk.

Now to be King in one’s own country, even if outsiders do not recognize
the kingship, is at least a position of importance. And, more common
still, to be recognized as king by the whole world when the kingship is
bounded by the mere title is at least honorific. But Ferdinand, having
accepted a position as reigning Prince, was not recognized as Prince
outside his own realm, and had only those attributes of Royalty in
Bulgaria which he chose to assume for himself. The real ruling was done
by a fat, cross man, who treated him with open contempt.

The position was an intolerable one for Ferdinand, and for his proud
mother as well. Together they plotted how they might end it, and for
years left no stone unturned to obtain recognition from the Powers of
Europe. They knew the way quite well; it was only necessary that one
Great Power should recognize his position, and the rest would follow as
a matter of course.

Behold our Ferdinand, then, flitting from Court to Court of Europe in
search of a friendly lead.

Austria seemed to him and his mother the most likely place, but the
Emperor Francis Joseph proved a stiffer obstacle than they had reckoned
for. When he was earnestly approached on the subject, the Emperor gave
an uncompromising refusal couched in the most compromising terms.
“Besides being an Emperor, I am also an honest man; and I deal only
with honest men.”

Then he swung to the other extreme of the pendulum, and paid his court
to Russia. The result of this manœuvre was a blunt intimation that he
must not even seek a pretext for paying a visit to Petrograd. There
were many reasons why Russia should desire to keep him among the
outsiders, and the religious one was among the most obvious. Ferdinand
was a superstitious, if not a devout, Roman Catholic, ruling a people
whose official religion was the Orthodox Church. He had been refused
allegiance by the head of the Bulgarian Church, the Patriarch Clement,
who had suffered imprisonment in consequence.

With a sigh, mother and son admitted there was small hope at present of
Russia.

Then they turned hopeful eyes on England. He had a sentimental claim
upon Queen Victoria, as a Coburg Prince who was born in the very year
in which the Prince Consort died. Be sure, this little sentimental
memory was kept alive by the astute Princess Clementine. As a small
boy, he wrote childish letters in the best English he could muster, and
at frequent intervals. As a man, he employed to her his best bedside
manner, which few old ladies could resist, and which impressed her so
strongly that at his wedding she described him as an “enjoleur”—a
beguiler. Wherefore he has since borne the nickname of the “Fat
Charmer.”

But he got very little out of shrewd Queen Victoria, except a present
of a pug dog, of which he made a great fuss. He had it fattened beyond
even the stoutness and wheeziness of the ordinary pug, and declared
that it was his mascot. Whenever he entertained English notabilities,
he made a point of speaking with affectionate reverence of “Her Most
Gracious,” as he used to call her. And, as he pronounced the words, a
tender moisture obscured his light blue eyes, and just enough huskiness
gave them a reverential flavour that was most impressive.

His worldly mother entertained greater hopes of King Edward, then
Prince of Wales. The pair used to lay in wait for him at Marienbad,
where our late King regarded them in the same light as the mineral
water—unpleasant, but part of the cure. He entertained them and was
entertained, but those who knew him most intimately could not master
their smiles when any significance was attached to this complaisance.
Tactful and wise as he ever was, our King Edward gave no offence, but
raised no hopes.

He even went to Constantinople, where he had to wear a red fez as a
symbol of the Sultan’s overlordship.

Paris, too, saw a great deal of him through these years of seeking
recognition. Each year he spent some time in the French capital,
behaving in an effusive manner, that on one occasion nearly involved
him in a sound kicking. His mother still had great influence in the
city of her birth, but it was the wrong kind of influence for
Ferdinand. He was more admired than liked by the French, who were the
first to appreciate the real nature of his character.

It was in Paris that he incurred the snub that made him vow that he
would never set foot in the city again; and part of the bitterness was
contained in the fact that the snub was administered by his own uncle,
the Duc d’Aumale. He had left the opera, and betook himself to a very
exclusive café for some of those good things of life which he knows
well how to appreciate. Amid the brilliant company assembled, he
noticed the Duc d’Aumale, whom he approached familiarly, holding out
his hand with easy confidence.

The old nobleman looked at him curiously, as at a stranger whom he had
never before seen.

“What, uncle, don’t you know me?” he cried. “It is I, your nephew
Ferdinand.”

“What! My nephew Ferdinand! But it is so long since I have seen you
that, like the Powers, I did not recognize you.”

So Ferdinand wandered from one Court to another, seeking the friendly
lead, and meeting with nothing but much sly laughter. At home in
Bulgaria he knew better than to expect any sympathy. His strong man
Stambuloff was intent in holding off Russia on one side and Turkey on
the other, with a watchful eye between whiles on Austria. He did not
care whether the Prince of Bulgaria were recognized or not, so long as
Bulgaria itself remained intact and progressive.

Sometimes he interfered with Ferdinand’s schemes when they seemed to
him to endanger his own. For instance, Ferdinand, on some pretext or
other of state, sought to impose himself on the Court at Petrograd at a
time most inconvenient for Stambuloff. The innkeeper’s son warned the
Coburg Prince most promptly that if he crossed the frontier outwards he
would most certainly not be allowed to cross it on the return journey.
So Ferdinand stayed in Sofia.

Then Clementine had an inspiration; Ferdinand, now a bachelor in the
thirties, must marry. A good marriage would give him strong enough
influence in some particular direction to force the recognition which
was now her whole reason for continuing to exist.

Whereupon the Fat Charmer set out on a new pilgrimage. Ferdinand in
search of a wife.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  THE COMPLEAT BACHELOR


“_Ferdinand is like the traditional British sailor: he has a wife in
every one of his ports of refuge._” —STAMBULOFF.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER V

  THE COMPLEAT BACHELOR


The young Prince Ferdinand had received almost daily lessons from his
mother on the part that women were apt to play in his life. She, the
Princess Clementine, his own mother, shrank from no sacrifice when
advancing his pursuit of some vacant throne. She held no claim to
consideration as compared to the great life object she set before him
and herself. And she was determined that no woman breathing should live
to become a hindrance to the quest.

Imagine, then, what teaching Ferdinand received, when still an innocent
child, about women from the lips of one of the cleverest women that
ever lived. No illusions for him, no charming boyish enthusiasm for
angels of earth. He had it drilled into him at every hour of the day
that for the benefit of great princes like him all women existed—yes,
even his own mother. Women were to be courted, wheedled, used, seduced;
but not honoured. No tender feeling was ever to enter his mind in
connexion with a woman, for that way led to the path of self-sacrifice.
And Ferdinand must sacrifice others, never himself.

The weaker side of feminine character was exposed to him by many an
object lesson, for the young Ferdinand was brought up in an atmosphere
almost essentially feminine. At sixteen he was more cynical about the
sex than many a roué of sixty. The doctrine of woman’s eternal pursuit
of the male had been so drummed into his ears that he regarded
everything in petticoats as a prospective burden upon himself. He told
himself everlastingly that he must allow no tender feeling for any
woman to occupy his mind, else he would be saddled with a burden for
life.

He went from capital to capital with his mother, glancing appraisingly
at women of every degree in life, and having his premature adventures
with the precautions and blasé indifference of a tired man of the
world. He formed a style of conversation for feminine company, in which
a brilliant form of double meaning predominated. He wielded his weapon
so skilfully that a pure woman, even an understanding one, had no
defence against it. The other kind were dazzled by the proficiency of
this mere youth in innuendo of the vilest kind, wrapped up so skilfully
that even the most alert mind hesitated before its ambiguities.

[Illustration: At the age of 22.]

[Illustration: At the Coronation of Czar Alexander III.]

[Illustration: At the time of his election as Prince of Bulgaria.]

[Illustration: At the opening of the first Sobranje.]

He shocked, but he also captivated; and he was firm in never himself
becoming a captive. He soon earned the reputation he sought, he was
credited with being as fickle as he was successful in love affairs. He
left behind him in the capitals of Europe a trail of broken hearts and
broken promises; and his mother approved the firmness of his procedure.
She never had to accuse him of one generous impulse, where women were
concerned. In this matter he was her devoted pupil.

So he came to the throne of Bulgaria with no encumbrances at all; no
favourite to offend the ladies of the Bulgarian Court, no dancer in a
gorgeous villa very near the Palace. The rôle of a bachelor Prince
suited him admirably, and he settled down at Sofia and Varna in that
capacity.

Of course, there were scandals. The Prince wished above all things to
become possessed of the secrets of the most powerful of his subjects.
What better way of worming them out than by means of a love affair with
a wife here or a sister there? It was so easy afterwards, when the
required information had been gained, to explain that his passion had
been simulated and that the lady had deceived herself. Then affairs of
State would call Ferdinand to Paris or Carlsbad, where there was fresh
wooing to be done. In the meantime the little affair at Sofia had time
to blow over.

But chickens have a habit of coming home to roost, even in the palaces
of princes. The very real indifference which Ferdinand displayed to all
women when his end had been won was well calculated to arouse the
deepest sentiment in the minds of some of the sex. He had more
difficulty in shaking off some of his conquests than he had ever
expected, and remote as the city of Sofia is, and undesirable to women
of the gay world, he could not escape the attentions of his infatuated
cast-offs even there.

In some cases the result was expensive to a Prince who inculcated
generosity in others by refusing any display of it on his own part. In
at least one instance, an adventure begun lightly enough by him ended
in a tragedy which cast a shadow on the throne itself. Ferdinand owns
large estates in Hungary, where he loves to go for hunting expeditions,
under the title of Count Murany, a favourite alias of his. In Budapest
he encountered and wooed Anne Simon, one of the most beautiful
actresses of her day, and a great favourite in the Hungarian capital.

Ferdinand ended the adventure after his approved style, leaving the
lady with a jeer at her credulity, and a compliment at the high art of
her tragic acting. The passionate gipsy woman pursued him to Sofia, and
refused to be shaken off. Soon her claim upon the bachelor prince, and
the open eagerness with which she pressed it, became the scandal of
Sofia.

The task of getting rid of her he confided to his aide-de-camp, Captain
Boitscheff, who bungled the business sorely. Anne Simon raised such
violent objection and resistance to the peaceful abduction which the
aide-de-camp had planned that he lost his temper. Next day the dead
body of the actress was found in a mean street of Sofia, disfigured by
knife wounds.

Anne Simon had many friends, including some at the Austrian Court, and
Ferdinand’s pursuit of her had been a matter of notoriety in Hungary.
Sofia, then as now, teemed with Austrian Secret Service men, and the
whole story was known to the Emperor within three days of the tragedy.
Francis characterized Ferdinand as a felon, with whom no decent person
could associate. He went further, and demanded the arrest and trial of
the captain.

The latter took refuge in the palace itself, and was dragged to prison
from the very table of his princely patron. The trial was a stern one,
and as the evidence was indisputable he was sentenced to death. The
sentence was commuted by Ferdinand to imprisonment for life, and that
sentence the aide-de-camp is still nominally serving. But he entertains
his friends at elaborate luncheon parties, and may be seen in the box
of the theatre or in any gay resort of Sofia that may happen to attract
him. His name has not been removed from the Bulgarian army list, and
every one knows that his sentence of imprisonment is a long-played
farce.

So for eight years, Ferdinand played the congenial rôle of the bachelor
Prince. His character was well known to his own subjects, though he
contrived to prevent the worst of the stories against him from general
circulation in Europe. The methods he employed were cynically
effective. A prominent gutter journalist of his capital accused him in
print of sins unmentionable here, and compared to which the conduct I
have sketched is mere youthful indulgence. Ferdinand put him on the
pension list and closed his mouth forever.

His predecessor, Prince Alexander of Battenberg, had married an
actress, and as long as he lived, Ferdinand had nothing to fear from
rival aspirants to his throne. But the time came when that unhappy
Prince paid the debt of his bravery and his rash virtues; and the death
of Alexander pointed attention to the fact that there was no heir to
the throne on which Ferdinand was now firmly seated.

Clementine said it was time that he married, and, like a dutiful son,
Ferdinand set off with her in search of a princess. All the
humiliations he had previously endured were as nothing compared to the
slights heaped upon the Fat Charmer in search of a wife.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  THE BROKEN-HEARTED PRINCESS


“_If any woman ever died of a broken heart, it was the Princess Marie
Louise of Bulgaria._” —“SVOBODA.”



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER VI

  THE BROKEN-HEARTED PRINCESS


We have seen Ferdinand waiting for a Crown to turn up. We have seen him
striving vainly for a friendly lead to recognition as a Sovereign
Prince by the Powers of Europe. Now this Micawber among Monarchs is
revealed as waiting anxiously and servilely for a suitable bride to
appear. And in the search for a wife he endured the most poignant
humiliations that have overtaken even him in a long life spent in
eating dirt.

Ambitious Clementine wished him to espouse a princess who would not
only furnish an heir to the throne, but would bring influence to his
palace, and help materially in the long quest for recognition. But the
princesses of Europe, and the advisers who guided their choice of a
consort, looked with disdain upon the princely parvenu. Queen Victoria,
who was amused at his flattering speech and grand airs, drew the line
at an alliance with a prince whose tenure of the throne was so doubtful
as that of Ferdinand’s.

That he may have expected; but the conduct of the smaller kingdoms
filled him with surprise and resentment. He might not aspire anywhere,
and the fact was conveyed to him in a fashion so unmistakable that he
was at the utmost pains to conceal his deep chagrin.

Finally a match was made for him by his mother. The victim was a dear
little meek soul, a devout Catholic, and one of the gentlest spirits of
her time—Princess Marie Louise of Parma, a niece of the Comte de
Chambord. She was remarkably beautiful in a tiny way, with
reddish-brown hair, large blue eyes, and a simple dignity that won all
hearts.

The wedding took place at Lianore, in Lucca, and old Stambuloff paid
the Princess the rare compliment of leaving his close watch on the
affairs of Bulgaria long enough to attend the wedding. He was charmed
with the sweet, pleasant girl of twenty-three, and in a message to her
father declared “Bulgaria will honour and watch over her.” As far as he
could, he kept the promise he made on that occasion.

[Illustration: Princess Marie Louise of Bulgaria]

Stambuloff was just as anxious to see Ferdinand wedded as was
Clementine. “We want a dynasty,” he urged on Ferdinand, “and our
enemies want you to remain a bachelor. As long as you are unmarried you
are in danger of assassination, and we are in danger of anarchy. When
you are once married and possessed of a son and heir, they will not try
to kill you. But even if you are assassinated, it won’t matter to us
then.” It was frankness of this kind which endeared his Premier to
Ferdinand.

The Sultan Abdul had the grace to telegraph congratulations to
Ferdinand on the occasion of his marriage. “You have strengthened the
Bulgarian Principality,” he declared, with other courteous phrases, all
of which Ferdinand read as a reminder of his state of vassalage.

The Duke of Parma made one condition of importance when giving his
consent to the wedding. He insisted that the children of the marriage
should be baptized into the Catholic Church, and should be brought up
in that faith. Ferdinand himself was a Catholic, if he was anything at
all, and the condition was therefore the more reasonable. But the
official religion of Bulgaria is, of course, the Orthodox Church, and
the masses are bigoted in their adherence to that faith.

The real difficulty lay in an article of the Bulgarian Constitution
that provided that the heir to the throne must be baptized according to
the rites of the Orthodox Church. This difficulty was met by Stambuloff
in his own downright fashion. He annulled it, to the horror of the
Bulgarian Churchmen, and made the marriage possible.

The Princess won the hearts of her new subjects from the very moment of
her arrival in Bulgaria. She had the sympathetic notion to enter the
Principality attired in the costume of an ordinary Bulgarian woman, and
it became her girlish beauty charmingly. Her frank unaffected interest
in all she saw, her gracious acceptance of the little gifts, and the
somewhat boorish homage paid her on her journey, gave her a reputation
that preceded her to Sofia. She retained the instant popularity she won
till the day of her death six years later. She was as much loved in
Bulgaria as Ferdinand was detested.

The treatment accorded her by her husband, almost from the day of her
wedding, was well calculated to shrivel such a gentle soul, and to
extinguish the spark of life in so frail a frame. The absurd formality
of his Court imposed upon her tasks that wearied her almost to
unconsciousness. She had nothing in common with her crafty, ambitious
husband, who had taken her into a nightmare land where assassination
and worse horrors lurked perpetually in the dark corners of the
magnificent palaces she occupied.

Four children she bore him in six years. Once she left him, as a
protest against the shameless breach of the conditions under which she
consented to wed him. During that period of separation her friends and
relatives made public details of the torture of her married life that
left Ferdinand’s callous nature exposed to the full gaze of the world.

It was told how, in order to punish one of her favourite Court ladies
for some indiscretion of speech, Ferdinand rose to his feet, and
remained standing for over an hour. This imposed a standing posture
upon the whole of the Court, including the Princess, who had but lately
become a mother. The whole Court looked on in horror as this fragile
flower grew whiter and whiter in her robes of State, maintaining
herself in an upright position with the acme of physical effort.

Unheeding her sufferings, Ferdinand held grimly on, and when she
finally fell fainting into the arms of one of her ladies, watched her
removal from the chamber with unmoved grimness. That is only one among
thousands of instances of refined cruelty alleged against him and
credited by his subjects. Little wonder that as he drove through the
streets of Sofia the people turned away their faces, unwilling even to
look upon so mean-spirited a domestic tyrant.

I shall presently give the details of the blasphemous breach of faith
that caused her to leave him, and nearly brought about his
excommunication at the hands of the Pope. In the end she was persuaded
to return to him, but she did not long survive the reunion. She never
rose after the death-birth of her fourth child, the Princess Nadejda,
and terminated her unhappy life at the age of thirty.

The real cause of her death was the blow inflicted upon her gentle
piety when Ferdinand caused the infant Prince Boris, the heir to the
throne, to forswear the faith of his ancestors on both sides at an age
when the very meaning of the ceremony was hidden from the child. It was
a step which Ferdinand had not even dared to take in his own person.
Advantageous as adherence to the Orthodox Church could be to him, his
superstitious fears prevented him from the blasphemy he imposed upon a
child of three. Let us examine his reasons and excuses for the crime
which broke the heart of the unhappy Princess Marie Louise of Parma.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  AN APOSTATE BY PROXY


“_It is my duty to lay on the altar of the Fatherland the greatest and
heaviest of sacrifices._” —FERDINAND OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER VII

  AN APOSTATE BY PROXY


Boris Tirnovski, heir to the throne of Bulgaria, was christened in the
Roman Catholic faith, according to the terms of the wedding contract,
which had necessitated an amendment of the Bulgarian Constitution. But
the ceremony gave a fresh offence to Russia, the nation which is
champion of the Orthodox Church, and which was at that time the Power
from which Ferdinand had most to hope.

Even when this christening took place he had in his mind an act which
would be even a more effective conciliation to Russia than the original
christening of his heir in the Orthodox faith would have been. He
determined to make the child renounce the faith of his fathers, and
embrace the official religion of Bulgaria.

The way to this apostasy was smoothed by a mission to Petrograd,
undertaken by the ex-Metropolitan Clement, whom Stambuloff put in gaol
for refusing allegiance to Ferdinand. That Catholic Prince gave the
rebellious prelate strong encouragement in his mission, and received
him on his return with the honours usually accorded to a victorious
general. Then followed the important step of re-amending the
Constitution.

In a letter to the Czar Ferdinand announced his intention of
re-baptizing little Boris in the Orthodox faith, and the Czar, having
negotiated the matter through Clement, graciously consented to be the
godfather of the infant apostate. “For the Czar’s condescension the
Prince will submit to any humiliation,” said Stambuloff once, and this
event proved how rightly he had estimated the Prince whom he had
created.

In a proclamation to the Bulgarian people, that is terrible in its
terms of slavery, he announced that the Czar had not only graciously
consented to become the godfather to the heir, but that he had
“manifested his goodwill to our nation by renewing with it the
political relations that had been interrupted.” Then he organized a
great national raree-show at Tirnovo, the ancient capital of Bulgaria,
where the re-christening took place on February 26.

Tirnovo was crowded with Russians of all degrees for the occasion, and
for their benefit were organized the throngs of Bulgarian peasants in
national costume who paraded the streets singing the old Bulgarian
folk-songs, and displaying the entwined banners of the two countries.
These good folk danced the old Bulgarian dances, which they had just
learned with an immensity of labour, in the market-place of the ancient
city, and then sang the Russian National Anthem in conjunction with
their own.

The ceremony in Tirnovo Cathedral was a pitiful business. The poor
little heir to the throne, not yet three years of age, was torn from
the arms of his mother, who protested with all the force of which her
character was capable, and dressed all in white for the baptism. He
stood all alone at the altar, a pathetic, uncomprehending little
figure, and was made to renounce the faith in which he had been
christened.

So Ferdinand committed apostasy by proxy. The official representative
of the Czar-godfather, who was accorded royal honours in Tirnovo that
day, afterwards described the ceremony as “a blasphemous mockery and an
exhibition of political legerdemain.” But Ferdinand cared little for
what was said of him. The Sobranje voted to the heir to the throne a
sum of £20,000, and the old accusation that he was leading the nation
from Orthodoxy to Catholicism was for ever stilled.

Having appeased Russia and confirmed the ancient religion of his
subjects in the person of the heir to the throne, Ferdinand was to reap
the benefit of his perjury by receiving the long-awaited recognition of
his sovereign Lord Abdul the Damned. The Red Sultan issued a firman,
recognizing him as Prince of Bulgaria, with the title of Royal
Highness, and as Governor-General of Eastern Rumelia.

Meantime the young mother had fled, taking her second son with her. She
made her way, almost dead with grief, to her ancestral home, where she
claimed the protection of her father. Enraged by Ferdinand’s open
violation of the wedding contract, the Duke of Parma espoused her cause
with all the vigour of which he was capable, and received the full
support of the Church.

Ferdinand was most anxious to end the scandal, and to coax the Princess
back to Sofia. With that end in view he obeyed a summons issued by Pope
Leo XIII, which, as a good Catholic, he would have had some difficulty
in ignoring. Strong in the virtue of his princely rank, and in the
dignity of a recent interview with the Sultan of Turkey, a Pagan
potentate, in which Ferdinand sported the red fez of vassaldom,
Ferdinand made his way to Rome with a quiet confidence in his own
rectitude and his mother’s influence.

He entered the Vatican for his interview with every appearance of
smirking self-satisfaction. The interview was but a short one; it
lasted only a few minutes, but much can happen in a few minutes. No
other man was present, and there is no record of what took place at the
meeting.

But when Ferdinand sneaked out of the presence, abashed and humiliated,
and fled from Rome with no word; when months passed before he entirely
recovered the jauntiness of his demeanour, it needs no great quality of
imagination to guess that he received a notable rebuke. For some years
he endured the stern displeasure of Rome, and the ban, almost amounting
to excommunication was only lifted many years later at the strongly
expressed wish of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian
throne, whose assassination was the signal for the great world conflict
in which we are still engaged.

The Princess never recovered from that blow. In course of time she was
induced to return to her husband, bringing with her the child Cyril.
But now she was a drooping flower, with no hope of ever reviving. She
walked through the weary round of her Court duties, and bore two
daughters to the father who had made of his son and heir an apostate.
She only lived one day after the birth of the second girl, when this
gentle woman died of her wrongs.

But Ferdinand was satisfied. He had made his peace with Russia, and the
Red Sultan called him Royal Highness. He was now on the side of the
clerical plotters of his kingdom, and wore the hall-mark of Bulgarian
ecclesiasticism. He even talked of giving his own open adherence to the
Orthodox Church, though this has never been done.

In the meantime he had provided an Orthodox heir to the throne, and by
the act had mitigated the dread of assassination that had for so long
hag-ridden him. For assassination was ever the terror that haunted
Ferdinand’s mind. He lived for ever with the dread spectre at his
elbow, and he had reason for his dread. For, as we shall now see,
assassination was a familiar political weapon in Bulgaria before the
arrival of Ferdinand, who can claim credit for remarkable improvements
upon the crude methods in vogue before his era of subsidized slaughter.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  THE BUTCHERED “BISMARCK”


“_If any ordinary citizen of any State had been so incriminated as
Prince Ferdinand has been, the man would have been arrested._”
—“VOSSISCHE ZEITUNG.”



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER VIII

  THE BUTCHERED “BISMARCK”


The outstanding instance of Ferdinand’s intimacy with the grosser forms
of assassination is the murder of Stepan Stambuloff, “the Bismarck of
the Balkans.” This gross little being was a forceful, sturdy, fat man,
who sprung from an innkeeper of Tirnovo; whence Ferdinand’s favourite
name for him—the Tapster. He had been trained to the Bar, and was the
foremost advocate of his day in Sofia.

He was almost the foremost conspirator as well, and played a prominent
part in the series of rebellions against the Turkish rule which
eventually resulted in the creation by Russia of the Principality of
Bulgaria, and in the election of Alexander of Battenberg to the throne.
His imagination was caught by the dream of the Greater Bulgaria created
by the Treaty of San Stefano, and abrogated by the Berlin Conference
before it had been actually called into being.

Stambuloff was a typical Bulgarian, coarse, vulgar, violent, and
crafty. But he was a patriotic Bulgarian as well; and in his alert mind
the danger arising from a benevolent Russia was more acute than that
arising from a hostile Turkey. He it was who called Ferdinand to the
throne to hold at bay the Russian influence; and to his Bulgarian mind
the disfavour in which Ferdinand’s acceptance of the throne had landed
him was one of his chief qualifications.

The first meeting of the pair took place upon a little steamer on which
Ferdinand was stealing into his new principality by way of the river
Danube. They discovered differences at their very first encounter, but
the differences were then more important to the Prince than to the
statesman. Ferdinand was loth to take Stambuloff into his counsels, and
endeavoured to place Stoiloff, who was a member of the deputation which
had selected him for Bulgaria, in the position of Prime Minister. But
all attempts to form a Ministry were unavailing, and Ferdinand was
forced to send for Stambuloff, and for the next six years the Tapster
reigned supreme in Bulgaria.

The relations between the two, strained on their first meeting, went
steadily from bad to worse as time wore on. Stambuloff was far from
impressed by the statecraft which his Prince had imbibed at his
mother’s knee, and treated him from the first as a silly schoolboy.
Ferdinand’s love of ceremony and state was marked out by him for the
most contemptuous treatment; he loved to make the state with which the
Prince surrounded himself appear ridiculous and mean.

Ferdinand’s concern about recognition by the Powers was a mere nothing
to Stambuloff; it provided a means for playing Russian intrigue off
against Turkish hostility, and therefore Stambuloff welcomed it. In a
word, he was for Bulgaria, while Ferdinand was only concerned with the
interests and the prestige of the Prince of the Bulgarians.

While Ferdinand was settling down in Sofia, and learning the language
and corrupting the politicians through his band of spies, he endured
the arrogance and authority of Stambuloff patiently enough. But after
four years of this he began to strive for some way of ridding himself
of his too-powerful Minister. Then began a series of attempts upon the
life of Stambuloff, which he evaded by coincidences that were
remarkable in their effectiveness.

For instance, in 1891, he was walking home from his club with his
friend and colleague, M. Beltcheff, and passed three men at a well-lit
corner. Shortly afterwards he changed to the other side of his friend,
and they had not walked a score of yards in this order when Beltcheff
fell pierced by the bullets of assassins. As Stambuloff ran for the
nearest guardhouse, a cry of “Stambuloff is dead” fell on his ears,
convincing him that the bullets were intended for him. The murderers
remain unpunished to this day. In the next year, the Bulgarian agent,
Dr. Vulkovich, was stabbed in the street, in circumstances which point
to another mistake by the assassins of the Prince. Once more the
murderers, who were well known, contrived to escape punishment.

But men who offended Ferdinand at this time had a way of falling into
trouble with mysterious assassins. The case of Dr. Takeff is much in
point. Takeff was a journalist who had commented in offensive terms,
even for Sofia, upon the extravagance of the Court. Shortly afterwards
he was riding near Sofia with the poet Aleko Constantinoff, and the
pair changed seats. Again the assassins found the wrong man by reason
of this accident, and poor Constantinoff suffered for the writings of
his friend. But, as the official Press of Sofia remarked, his death was
due to his keeping bad company, and his murderers were never punished.

The double attempt to kill Stambuloff aroused popular sympathy with the
Minister, who had become detested because of the rigour with which he
suppressed conspiracies, and because of the severity of the taxes in
which the progressive policy he instituted involved Bulgaria, and to
which are due the great improvements for which Ferdinand gets the
credit. Experience had also warned Stambuloff, who instituted
precautions which made attempts on his life difficult of execution.
Ferdinand then began to scheme in order to force his resignation. In
this he was abetted by the pro-Russian group of politicians in Sofia,
but their schemes fell down before the imperturbability of the Prime
Minister. But a severe blow was dealt at Stambuloff’s influence when he
revised the Constitution to permit the wedding with Princess Marie
Louise to take place.

He encountered strong opposition, not only in the Sobranje, where the
clerical party was very strong, but also with his own Ministerial
colleagues. It was the sternest struggle of his career; and after
winning the fight he declared to one of his friends that he felt like
Jacob felt after wrestling with God. Thereafter a powerful political
group plotted with the Prince to force the resignation of Stambuloff.

The head of the most outrageous of the plots was Major Petroff, against
whom the Premier obtained incriminating evidence of the most
sensational description. He also obtained proof that his Prince was
implicated deeply in this plot. The scheme was for the Major, with a
band of firebrands, to rush into the Council Chamber where the Premier
and the Prince were conferring, and to offer Stambuloff the choice
between instant resignation or instant death. The discovery of this
plot caused Stambuloff to write to Ferdinand in the following terms:

“Your Highness has not learnt in seven years to know me if you think I
can be forced into signing anything. You might cut off my hands and
feet, but you could never compel me to do what I now do voluntarily and
of my own free will. Here is my resignation... and I warn you, Sire,
that if you treat our new Minister as you have treated me, your throne
is not worth a louis.”

But Ferdinand refused to accept the resignation proffered in these
terms, and waited until a domestic quarrel in which Major Savoff
(afterwards Bulgaria’s most celebrated General) was involved, and
caused Stambuloff to publish a private letter, a line of conduct which
the Prince characterized as “base.” This adjective again drew a
resignation from Stambuloff.

Mr. Herbert Vivian, who was in Sofia at the time, vividly describes the
closing scenes between Premier and Prince. The latter’s fête day was
the occasion of a party at the palace: “Stambuloff sat in an outer
room, glittering with decorations like a Christmas tree and smoking a
big, bad cigar. After some sulky small-talk he slouched away out of the
palace—a gross breach of etiquette. Some courtier mentioned this to the
Prince; he shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘I did not know he had been
asked.’”

Two days later, on May 30, 1894, Stambuloff was summoned to the
presence of Ferdinand, who coldly accepted his resignation. An attempt
to patch up the quarrel ended in a riot outside the palace gates, in
which the rival factions cried “Down with Stambuloff,” and “Down with
Ferdinand.” The fallen Minister walked through the crowd, and was
struck and spat upon as he passed to his home. Arrests were made, but
they were entirely supporters of Stambuloff, many of whom were not
concerned in the disgraceful scene.

From that day forward Stambuloff was kept a prisoner in his own house.
His property was sequestrated, and only by the kind offices of friends
was he able to save his furniture from an execution for debt. The
assassins of his friends were allowed to walk the streets of Sofia
unmolested, but the ex-Premier was refused permission to leave the city.

Time and time again Stambuloff said openly that Ferdinand meant to have
him murdered, and nobody was so rash as to dispute the truth of the
prophecy. The police agents who were posted at his house, nominally to
protect him, were in reality his gaolers. In bitter enmity to Ferdinand
Stambuloff gave an interview to the _Frankfort Zeitung_, which resulted
in his prosecution for criminal libel against Ferdinand. The trial
dragged on, and efforts were once more made to get Stambuloff out of
Bulgaria. Medical evidence was forthcoming that his health demanded the
change, and all Bulgarians wished him to go. But Ferdinand would not
permit it.

In July, 1895, the _Mir_, an official newspaper, published an article
stating that it would be a patriotic deed to tear Stambuloff’s flesh
from his bones. Within two days the ex-Premier was driving home from
his club with his friend Petkoff, when he was attacked by three
ruffians with knives. Petkoff fell to the ground and could render no
assistance; and the wretches had Stambuloff at their mercy. With their
knives they hacked his prostrate body until it lost almost all human
semblance.

That night Ferdinand was at the theatre at Carlsbad, laughing with an
unusual gaiety. He found time to send a hypocritical message of
sympathy to the widow of the dead statesman, and directed that floral
offerings should be sent to the funeral; message and flowers were alike
refused. A few days later the _Svoboda_ (_Liberty_) openly accused
Ferdinand of direct and full responsibility for the murder of
Stambuloff, an accusation which is supported by such a mass of evidence
as would hang any man, prince or commoner, in a community such as our
own. But it must be remembered that Ferdinand loves flowers, is kind to
animals, and wept when he saw the first Bulgarian wounded in the Balkan
War.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  THE DEAD HAND


“_Wherever you are, in your goings out and your comings in, the blood
of Stambuloff will be with you; in your home, among your family, in
church and in office, the shadow of Stambuloff will follow you, and
will leave you in the world never more._” —“SVOBODA.”



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER IX

  THE DEAD HAND


In a little house in Sofia lives the widow of Stambuloff, once the most
brilliant and beautiful woman in Sofia, now a withered crone who
continues to live on for a cherished purpose. Her most treasured
possession is the withered hand of a dead man; the hand of Stambuloff,
the Bismarck of the Balkans. The woman and the dead hand wait Christian
burial until the day when vengeance shall have been exacted from his
murderer, Ferdinand, Czar of Bulgaria.

The evidence that fixes the moral guilt for the murder upon Ferdinand
is unassailable. It was not adduced after the crime, but months before
it took place. In an interview published at the beginning of 1895, the
victim told the _Cologne Gazette_ from his own mouth the manner and the
very place of his death. For months beforehand the _Svoboda_, the
Sofiote organ of the Stambulovists, had warned the Government what
would take place, and declared that when it happened the moral guilt
would lie upon the Prince and his Ministers.

On the day after the murder, the paper accused the Prince of the moral
guilt of the crime in unmistakable words that still ring through Europe
when the death of Stambuloff is recalled.

“Who are the murderers of Stambuloff?” the _Svoboda_ asked. “Who took
the life of such a man as Bulgaria will never see again? Who lifted the
yataghan against him?

“They are officially unknown, but all Bulgaria knows them. For the last
seven months we have repeatedly and openly declared that the Government
was keeping the assassins of Beltcheff and Vulkovitch to murder
Stambuloff. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Natchevitch, has given
some of these men posts under Government, and daily receives them in
his house.

“Whoever struck the blow, the moral murderers are the Prince and his
Government, who refused to allow Stambuloff to leave Sofia, and so gave
an opportunity to their assassins.

“The blood of Bulgaria’s finest patriot cries aloud for vengeance. Two
days ago the official journal, the _Mir_, called upon its friends to
tear the flesh from the bones of M. Stambuloff. Its orders have been
executed.”

Stambuloff was murdered in July, 1895. At the beginning of that year
the following remarkable interview with him was published by the
_Cologne Gazette_:

“I cannot help thinking that something serious is in the air.
Everything takes time. I hear from my friends that things have reached
a head. If I must fall, my friends will not desert my wife and my
children. I do not grudge my enemies that triumph.

“In influential circles care will be taken that telegrams are sent from
all Bulgaria denouncing the murderers, but expressing in the liveliest
terms the satisfaction of ‘the people’ at being freed for ever from
‘the tyrant’ and ‘the adulterer.’

“When the attempt on my life—to which Beltcheff fell a victim—was being
planned, all Sofia knew of it. The Chief of Police and his people
remained in blissful ignorance. To-day, too, numbers of people are
aware of the impending attempt on my life, and my friends—and friends I
have, thank God, everywhere—are more shrewd than the police.

“I cannot give you names, but my information is to be trusted. The
former Chief of Police, Ilija Lukanoff, a man of honour and great
ability, who is very sincerely devoted to me, and who has even to-day
very extensive connexions with home circles, came to me yesterday. He
was quite excited, this grave, reserved man.

“He wished to go to the Prince, and acquaint him with everything.
‘Ilija,’ I said to him, ‘it would be the stupidest thing that you could
do. Don’t you see that the murderers have the strongest support?’

“We know for an absolute fact that in Netschuinar, a suburb of Sofia,
there is a band which is being drilled in the use of arms. We know that
these people—Beltcheff’s murderers are among them—have taken an oath to
murder me.

“The gang of which I have been speaking consists of Rosareff, Hala,
Arnaut, Tufektschieff, and some others. Tufektschieff has been
sentenced at Constantinople to fifteen years’ hard labour for the
murder of Vulkovitch. Nevertheless he goes about here in safety.

“Velikoff and the other culprits are now at the head of affairs.
Stoiloff is nowhere obeyed. Why therefore should not the ‘tyrant,’ the
‘vampire,’ the ‘adulterer’ be assassinated?”

After the appearance of that interview the British agent at Sofia made
a determined attempt to obtain from Ferdinand permission for Stambuloff
to leave Sofia. He was not successful. All surrounding Ferdinand knew
that he laid his plans to be out of Sofia when the blow should fall,
and that he would send his sympathy, rejected by the widow, from
Carlsbad.

“If that fox should send a wreath, do not let it enter the house,”
moaned Stambuloff on his bed of agony. They were his dying words. His
right hand, slashed off by his vile butchers, remains, as I have said,
unburied to this day. For twenty years the Lesser Czar has walked under
the shadow of that dead hand; has walked so warily that the horrid
death for which his enemies destine him has not yet overtaken him.

For Ferdinand had taken his precautions long ere he had his enemy done
to death by hired braves. He knew he was going to a land where the
knife played an important part in affairs of State. “In our future
dominions,” wrote the Count de Grenoud, who accompanied him on this
journey in disguise to Bulgaria to assume the purple, “people are
assassinating each other. I wonder if we shall reach Bulgaria safe and
sound?”

It was a consideration which affected Ferdinand powerfully while on the
journey; so powerfully that he shook with fright at his first greeting
by his future subjects. But he had already taken elaborate precautions
against a death with the idea of which he was already familiar.

His interest in chain armour, displayed whenever any fine specimen was
brought under his notice, was not merely the enthusiasm of the
antiquarian. For years he wore a suit of it under his clothing; for all
I know, he wears it still. His craft has not so far failed him that he
has become careless of his life.

The apartment at the palace at Sofia which he calls _mon fumoir_ (my
den) has walls of steel and a door that can be hermetically fastened by
a spring operated from the writing desk. A series of secret signals,
known only to the trusted men who surround him, ensures that this door
shall only be opened to the men who are safe; or, rather, to the men
with whom Ferdinand is safe.

The shadow of the dead pursues him to Euxinograd, where the most
elaborate precautions are taken throughout the neighbourhood whenever a
royal visit is in progress. He is a haunted man even in his hunting
quarters at the monastery of Rilo, where the whole district is policed
by the monks in anticipation of the arrival of the kingly sportsman.

His travels abroad are marvels of precaution. Ask the Scotland Yard
men, whose duty it is to look after foreign potentates in this country,
who is the fussiest and most timid man they ever encountered, and an
unanimous vote will be cast for the Czar of Shoddy. In Paris he and his
suite are even more solicitous; their precautions, as I have once
before related, spoiled the pleasure of a Grand Prix crowd at
Longchamps, when the Czar of Bulgaria condescended to visit that former
scene of gaiety and gambling.

In Austria he is little better, and in Germany he is more fidgetty than
ever. But it is when he has visited Russia that his precautions become
portentous to the very degree of the ludicrous. He fancies, this scion
of the Bourbons, that the conspirators will call in the aid of science
and slay him with microbes. The very word disease makes him blench and
fly for safety.

Thus on the journey from Sofia to Petrograd, in 1909, he was informed
that the Grand Duke Nicholas had been deputed to meet and welcome him,
but would be compelled to see less of him than he would like, because
his nephew was down with scarlet fever, and although uncle and nephew
were not residing together, the Grand Duke visited him regularly.

Ferdinand meditated anxiously over this ominous message, and then
requested as a great favour that some other Grand Duke, further removed
from the infectious ills to which even royalties are subject, should
meet him; whereupon the Grand Duke Constantine was appointed. Then the
Czar of Bulgaria was tranquillized, and everything went smoothly for a
time.

But after a day or two spent in the Russian capital Ferdinand was
shocked to learn that, whereas the nephew of the Grand Duke Nicholas
was suffering from scarlet fever in another house, the Grand Duke
Constantine’s own children, who lived with him under the same roof,
were suffering from genuine diphtheria, which everybody knows is far
more malignant.

In the course of the next day Ferdinand was suffering from an imaginary
pain in the throat, and made such a fuss about it that the whole
Russian Court was convulsed with merriment. He sought the first excuse
for returning to Sofia, and only breathed freely when safe again under
the care of his trusted Court physician.

Ferdinand ought to be inured to threats of assassination, for not a
week passes but he gets threatening letters by the post. But the
receipt of a bottle labelled “typhus bacilli” never fails to make him
livid with fear. The sight of men cleaning off from the palace walls
drawings of himself suffering hideous deaths—Ferdinand is easy to draw,
and it is a favourite students’ amusement—always sets him chattering
with rage.

But there are traits in his character which overrule this fear of
assassination, strong as it is within him, and cause him to hang on to
his threatened throne, though he does so in fear and trembling. What
those characteristics are will presently be made plain; meanwhile, it
will be well to consider what country it is that he rules, where the
leading statesman can predict successfully the manner and place of his
own assassination without causing any surprise.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  WHO ARE THE BULGARIANS?


“_Bulgaria is a country where atrocities are perpetrated._”—“THE TIMES.”



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER X

  WHO ARE THE BULGARIANS?


Less than a hundred years ago a small Russian army, campaigning against
the Turks between the Balkans and the Danube, discovered a race of
people who spoke a language almost identical with their own, and who
possessed Slavonic features and customs. This discovery was made in a
region which for centuries was believed to be given over to Greeks and
Turks. It came as a shock to the Russians to find that the supposed
extinct race of the Bulgars had survived through the five hundred years
that separated them from any historical mention.

Then was revived the story of ancient Bulgaria and its ambitious Czars,
who threatened the Greeks at the very gates of Byzantium a century
before the Turk came to Europe. The newly-discovered race was descended
from the very desperadoes of the old one; from the brigands who had
fled to the sternest hills and there preserved their racial
characteristics from the onslaught of the proselytizing Ottoman.

Five hundred years had left them just five hundred years behind in
civilization. They were the same barbarians who had gouged out their
enemies’ eyes and hamstrung their own wives for barrenness when the
Turks broke through the walls of Constantinople. They were rude,
primitive peasants, a dour, disagreeable race that inhabited the
gloomiest portion of Europe, and had never learned how to smile.

When Bulgaria was one of the great Powers of central Europe the
inhabitants had the custom, when a child was born, of gathering around
the cradle and moaning in unison. It was their way of expressing
sympathy with the new arrival for the hard luck of being born into
Bulgaria.

The story of their wars with the Byzantine Greeks is one long record of
nameless horrors. One of the best-remembered incidents is that of the
punishment inflicted upon a captured host of Bulgars by the Byzantine
Emperor, Basil II. He put out both eyes of all except every hundredth
man, and to him he left one eye, so that he might lead his blind
fellows back to their defeated Czar.

Time after time the Bulgar Czars organized the Balkan Slavs into a
composite band, with the object of wresting Byzantium from the Greeks
and founding a new Slavonic Empire of the Orient. Time after time they
were checked in their forward sweep at those very lines of Chatalja
where Ferdinand and his modern Bulgarians were brought to a standstill
by the stubborn Turk in 1913.

Then came the Turk, and swept aside both Greek and Bulgar. In the
fastnesses of the stern mountains the scum of the Bulgarian population
hid and multiplied, in time to return to the tilling of the land. All
that had been fine in the old race had disappeared. It had either been
absorbed by the Turk and his demand for janissaries and harem women, or
it had found its way to self-extinction in the monasteries with which
the gloomy land was well furnished.

There remained only a race of peasants, without a history or
traditions; a race over which five hundred years passed without
altering or softening one feature or one barbarous custom. It was a
race without a nobility or even a landed gentry; a race without a
literature except a string of homicidal folk-songs which embody the
spirit in which the Emperor Basil treated the conquered and captive
Bulgars.

The Russians found them and recognized them as fellow-Slavs—Slavs with
much the same original habits and characteristics, but with none of the
refining influences common even to the Russians of the reign of Ivan
the Terrible. It was natural that Russia, with her hatred of Turkey,
should sympathize with this race, near of kin, but suffering sorely
from arrested development. Thenceforward Bulgaria had an abettor in her
struggle against the domination of the Turk.

The methods by which the Bulgarians resisted Turkish tyranny and
rapacity were no better and no worse than their way of striving for a
new Empire of the Orient five hundred years before. Their conspiracies,
their incursions into non-Bulgarian territory, their skirmishes with
the infidel at their gates, were simply a revival of the old
eye-gouging methods of their mighty Czars of the Middle Age.

But they had the knack of getting sympathy. In England, which followed
Russia in her discovery of this race, reputedly extinct, there was no
credit given to the thought that a Bulgarian could do anything wrong.
When the London newspapers wrote of Bulgarian atrocities, they meant
atrocities committed by Turks in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian reprisals were
known only to the rare travellers who had penetrated into the heart of
the Balkans, and who, after making close acquaintance with the habits
of the natives, failed to discriminate between a throat-cutting
executed by a Christian Slav and a similar bit of work by a heathen
Turk.

Very slowly indeed has recognition been forced of the fact that while
the perpetrators of Bulgarian atrocities were hireling Turks of the
lowest class, and not to be compared with the brave soldiers who
compose the bulk of the Turkish Army, the Bulgarian comitadjis, with
their cowardly cruelties, were fairly representative of the average
Bulgarian soldier when at war.

What more evidence is required than the telegram sent by King
Constantine from the field of battle to his Prime Minister, instructing
him to protest against the atrocities of the Bulgarian soldiery. It is
dated July, 1913, and reads:—“Protest in my name to the representatives
of the civilized Powers against these monsters in human form, and
declare before the whole civilized world that I shall be compelled to
take vengeance in order to inspire terror into these monsters, and to
make them reflect before they commit any more such crimes.”

Thus Tino the Undecided on his quondam Allies, who from time immemorial
were held by the Greeks to be barbarians pure and simple. The taxes of
Stambuloff and the sophistication of Ferdinand may have sufficed to
convert Sofia from a city of sewers and filthy mosques to a modern
capital with electric light and tramways, gardens, museums and broad
boulevards, but a quarter of a century has not changed the heart or the
outlook of a single Bulgarian peasant.

The whole of Bulgarian literature, until the last twenty years, was
comprised in those folk-songs which have perpetuated the Bulgarian
spirit and nationality. Chief among them are the lays of the heroes,
and upon these heroes the character of the Bulgarian peasant of to-day
is modelled. One of these heroes, having been bantered by his drinking
companions on account of an unnoticed blemish on the fairness of his
lady, goes home and kills her for the fault. Another drags his mother
round the house by the hair of the head because he came home
unexpectedly and found no meal prepared for him. A third, who had
killed his paramour because she was losing her beauty, was gently
chidden by his mother, who represented that the victim would have done
good work in the scullery.

In short these heroes, whose exploits are sung in every village of
Bulgaria to-day, are as unmitigated a lot of cruel scoundrels as ever
constituted a comitadji band. Foremost among them is the national hero
Marko, whose extensive drinking bouts are the only stories that can
make a Bulgarian smile. Among his nobler exploits are the abduction of
a Turkish princess, who bores him so unutterably that he has her killed
by his band. She had contrived his escape from captivity, and upon this
charming legend is built up the Bulgarian tradition of gratitude.

Such legends are “the gems of our literature,” says Slaveikoff, the
Bulgarian poet. The fact that for five hundred years they have been the
only Bulgarian literature accounts for the circumstance that Ferdinand
was called to rule over a race whose ethics were those of the
fourteenth century, and fairly barbarous ones at that.

The land inhabited by this survival of mediæval barbarity is the
ancient Scythia, the Siberia of the Roman Empire. From time immemorial
it has been the cockpit of Eastern Europe, a land given over to
slaughter and an infinite succession of dark deeds. It has taken on the
aspect of its history, and the traveller through its gloomy plains and
forbidding mountains can well sympathize with the culprits of ancient
Rome, who were banished from smiling Italy to this frowning solitude.

The liberation by Russia of the Bulgarians from the Turkish yoke and
from Ottoman exactions gave a stimulus to the primary producing
industries. Land which had never been scratched since the earliest
times was put to the plough, and proved fertile as the cornland on the
borders of the Black Sea is fertile. The Bulgarians have improved their
long-deferred opportunity, and prosperity has followed the act of
liberation. It is a primitive prosperity, and a prosperity upon which
the ambition of Bulgarian rulers has cast a heavy tax.

At the present time the Bulgarian is emerging from the peasant stage.
The leading men of the country are the educated sons of peasants, with
the habits of peasants. The traditional simplicity of their class is a
convenience to such men, and they have made a fetish of it. Among them
has rapidly grown up a military caste, and a bureaucratic caste as
well. Both have thriven in the hot-house atmosphere created by
Ferdinand, with his ostentatious Court and his extensive secret service.

But the soul of Bulgaria is a peasant soul, brutalized by 500 years of
repression and stagnation. The Bulgarians are a race apart, even among
the Balkan peoples. They have a significant phrase when they talk of a
journey beyond their own confines; they say they are going “into
Europe.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND AND HIS CREATURES


“_When I went to Bulgaria, I decided that if there were to be
assassinations, I should be on the side of the assassins._”—FERDINAND
OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XI

  FERDINAND AND HIS CREATURES


Just as the Bulgarians say they are going into Europe when they leave
Bulgaria, Ferdinand decided that he was quitting Europe and
civilization when he entered his new kingdom. He went with his mind
fixed on thoughts of assassination; and turning to account the course
of Machiavelli on which he had been reared, he decided that the
assassins could be made the servant of the Prince. He has himself
confessed that his initial resolve was to have the assassins on his
side.

Between the resignation of Prince Alexander and the election of Prince
Ferdinand, Stambuloff had ruled as dictator, and with the arrival of
Ferdinand the situation was only nominally altered. Ferdinand was
Prince, but Stambuloff ruled the country. To remedying this state of
affairs Ferdinand exercised all his craft, and his mother, the Princess
Clementine, all her wealth.

The secret police of the country, like all its other services, were
controlled by Stambuloff, and it became necessary for Ferdinand to
organize a secret service of his own, paid out of his own pocket. The
purpose to which this service was applied was not to detect crime and
conspiracy, but to gain for Ferdinand information to the detriment of
the principal men around him.

While he was so employed the energies of Stambuloff were concentrated
in crushing a widespread conspiracy against Ferdinand, which had been
conceived even before he arrived in Sofia. The ringleader in this was
Major Panitza, an old friend and fellow-conspirator with Stambuloff in
the days when Bulgaria was not yet a country with a separate existence.
Panitza was a bluff, jolly fellow, afflicted with the complaint known
to our American cousins as “slack jaw.” Consequently he was able to
boast about the cafés of Sofia that the new Prince would soon be
overthrown or killed, without much attention being paid to his talk.

But Stambuloff was alert, and found that Panitza had really organized a
plot which was backed by quite half the officers in the Bulgarian Army,
and that risings were arranged in several important centres at the same
time. The method to be employed with Ferdinand was to seize him, and
offer him the choice between instant resignation or sudden death.
Nobody doubted which choice the new Prince would make.

Stambuloff had Panitza arrested by two of the other ringleaders of the
plot, who had to perform this task in the presence of a band of men
loyal to Stambuloff. A list of officers implicated was obtained, and
precautions were taken that completely foiled the conspiracy.

That night a dramatic scene was enacted at a ball given at the Palace,
possibly one of the most surprising entertainments ever offered, even
by a Balkan ruler. Two hundred officers were bidden, and of these
seventy were implicated in the plot. The Prince knew of their guilt,
and they knew that he knew.

He stood to receive them in his glittering uniform. On one side of him
stood his mother, a picture of aristocratic, frigid scorn. On the other
stood Stambuloff, his face set in a cynical, mocking smile. As each of
the culprits advanced, the furious Prince rolled his eyes to his
mother, who gazed at the trembling man with cold, inscrutable rage,
while the “Tapster” made no attempt to hide his derisive triumph.

It was a trying evening for the plotters. Whenever two or three
gathered together to discuss the situation, they became aware of the
presence of mysterious guests at the ball. They were shadowed and
harassed, and knew not what might be the end of that evening. To their
great relief they were allowed to depart unhindered.

Panitza was tried and sentenced to death. None thought the sentence
would be carried out, Panitza least of all. He relied on his ancient
comradeship with Stambuloff; and besides, it was recognized on all
sides that he was a mere figurehead in the conspiracy. But Ferdinand
insisted, and after his usual fashion rushed off to Carlsbad before the
sentence was carried out. “He had Panitza shot in order to leave for
Carlsbad the same day,” said Stambuloff to the _Cologne Gazette_.

Of course, the whole of the odium of this execution attached itself to
Stambuloff. This enabled Ferdinand to gather round him many of the men
who were spared, and who hated Stambuloff, both for the death of
Panitza, and for the derision with which he treated them as
unsuccessful plotters. With true Machiavellian craft, Ferdinand
represented to these men that the whole blame for the severe repressive
measures taken lay with Stambuloff.

Among the dishonest plotting toadies he attached to his person was the
man Natchevitch, who goes down in Bulgarian history under the
well-earned designation of Beelzebub. A bankrupt merchant, he attached
himself to Ferdinand by reason of his lack of scruple and his capacity
for eating dirt. He was soon installed at the Court as one of the chief
among the useful toadies the Prince maintained around him.

Among his intimates were three brothers named Tufektschieff, all of
whom were implicated in that attempt to murder Stambuloff, which ended
in the death of his friend Beltcheff. One of them was arrested, but the
other two escaped. The arrested man was handled by Stambuloff’s agents
in such a manner that he died in prison—in plain English he died under
torture rather than betray his associates. I have said, I think, that
the customs of Bulgaria were those of the Middle Ages.

Another brother was concerned in the murder of Dr. Vulkovitch at
Constantinople, where he was sentenced to fifteen years’ hard labour
for the crime. He fled back to Sofia and remained in hiding till the
fall of Stambuloff, when he moved openly about the city under the
protection of Natchevitch, who had now become Minister of Foreign
Affairs. In equal security lived a number of other men, whose
complicity in both these murders was a matter of notoriety.

Stambuloff, after his quarrel with Ferdinand and his imprisonment in
his own house, gave an interview to the _Frankfurter Zeitung_, in which
the character of Ferdinand was delineated with scathing accuracy. When
Ferdinand read it the story of Henry II and Thomas à Becket rose to his
mind. The ready tool Natchevitch was present, and throwing down the
paper he cried, “Will no one rid me of this gutter-snipe?”

Henry, when his sinister order was carried out, confessed his sin in
the sight of the English people by a penance more remarkable than any
made by a monarch in the pages of history. His barefoot pilgrimage to
the tomb of the murdered Archbishop was probably made in genuine sorrow
for a petulant wish, repented before its suggestion had been carried
into effect. It is like Ferdinand to repeat the crime and to omit the
atonement.

The creatures he employed to perpetrate his crimes remain unpunished to
this day. They were permitted to organize bands to desecrate the grave
of Stambuloff, while yet it was lying open to receive the mangled body
of the statesman. And Ferdinand, from the safety of Carlsbad, dared to
send expressions of sympathy and a wreath to the bereaved woman, who
had lived for months in the shadow of the impending crime.

His creatures lived to murder Stambuloff’s friend Petkoff. They lived
to wax fat in idleness in the cafés of Sofia; some of them are alive at
this day. Their deeds are known and they make no concealment of them.
For Ferdinand is on their side. Well has he kept his wise vow to be on
the side of the assassins.

Not that he would stoop to assassination himself. He is always absent
in Carlsbad when any of this vile work is in train. He himself has a
sensitive disposition that revolts at all deeds of violence and
bloodshed. As we shall see, he cannot even bear to see a dumb animal
suffer.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE FEMININE


“_If ever I feel tired or depressed, I have only to look at a bunch of
violets to become myself again._”—FERDINAND OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XII

  FERDINAND THE FEMININE


M. Joseph Reinach, the French publicist, whose articles signed Polybe
in the _Paris Figaro_ have been rightly estimated as among the most
informative contributions to the public knowledge of European politics,
long maintained a private correspondence with Ferdinand. The letters of
the ruler of Bulgaria, written in his own handwriting and signed “The
Good European,” are masterpieces of hypocrisy and elaborate double
dealing.

Their tortuous insincerity does not suffice to conceal one outstanding
fact, revealed by the character of the handwriting itself. The thin,
delicate sloping letters, the rich perfumed note-paper, the exquisite
neatness of the correspondence expose the feminine soul of the man who
has commanded so many murders.

An admirer has credited him with “an almost exaggerated delicacy of
mind,” and the evidence brought in support of the statement at least
proves that his amusements, his recreations, his antipathies, and many
of his occupations are those of a well-brought-up woman of the princely
class.

Old Major Popoff, when he met him for the second time, was received by
the Prince reclining on a gorgeous couch. In his hand was a perfect
Malmaison carnation which he sniffed approvingly; he even condescended
to point out to the rough old Bulgarian the exquisite formation of the
petals. The visitor was able to grasp two points in the appearance of
his new monarch. His hair had been elaborately curled and prinked. And
the ruler of Bulgaria wore corsets.

But Ferdinand was too much devoted to the good things of life to retain
the corsets permanently, and they were laid aside as his girth rapidly
increased. As his ambrosial locks receded from his forehead, he
transferred his affections to his beard, which began existence as a
neat little “imperial” in the early days of his reign. It has now
become a torpedo creation to which a highly-paid expert devotes the
whole of his time, spending hours in the consideration of its proper
training and nurture.

[Illustration: Ferdinand in his uniform as Admiral of the Fleet.]

[Illustration: Ferdinand in the national costume of Bulgaria.]

This beard goes well with his favourite costumes. One of them is the
Bulgarian national costume, which he has elaborated into a creation of
fine linen and silks, with many a feminine touch in bright colours and
delicate trimmings. The other is that of an admiral of the Bulgarian
Navy, in which he was wont to receive British visitors of distinction,
as being peculiarly suitable to the honour of a great Naval Power.
Needless to say that Ferdinand becomes atrociously seasick if ever he
trusts himself out of sight of land.

But Ferdinand’s talent for designing costumes is so remarkable that he
excited the envy and admiration of the most celebrated of Parisian man
milliners, who was privileged to witness him at work with his silks and
velvets. This artist has ever since cherished a malignant wish that the
long-expected reverse might overtake the Bulgarian Czar, and that cruel
fate might at the same time deprive him of his extensive inheritance.
In that case, real scope might be found for his remarkable talents, and
the women of the world would be the happier because of a Bulgarian
revolution.

I have already told of the disgust of Stambuloff at the Prince’s
coronation creation of purple velvet and ermine. That is only one of
the many triumphs Ferdinand has achieved with rich stuffs and anxious
thought. He now has a special costume of his own design, suitable to
every feast and holy day.

Thus for the Easter feast he prepared a long mantle of crimson velvet
of the order of St. Alexander, to mark the fact that he was a younger
son. On St. George’s Day, April 23, he sports a robe of blue velvet
slashed with silver; for in Bulgaria this day is the fête day of the
military order of bravery, in which Ferdinand takes high rank.

These creations are the result of many anxious days spent in his
assassin-proof den, surrounded by his tame birds and the modest wild
flowers from which he draws inspiration. His boyish hobbies were for
flowers and birds, and with the mature man these tastes have become a
veritable passion. His aviaries are reputed the finest in the world,
and he can still occupy himself with the woes of a pet canary when all
Europe is bathed in blood, and his rough adopted people are dying by
tens of thousands.

The flower gardens he has installed at his Palaces of Varna and
Euxinograd are veritable wonders. Trees and plants from every clime
have been acclimatized under the warm sun and in the virgin soil of
rude Bulgaria. In his Japanese garden he has reproduced the ponds and
terraces of the Orient, and by a miracle of care has bred the
butterflies of far Japan in the same environment, so that they hover
among the Japanese blooms and complete the resemblance.

This is only one among the thousand wonders he has contrived with
birds, beasts and insects. He is at his best when showing these
beauties with unaffected enthusiasm. It is then he tells his visitors
how, when his compeers were deep in the drill-book and the practice of
arms, he devoted his hours to the study of natural history and botany,
and the cultivation of a sensitive soul.

Ruder monarchs have played coarse jests upon that sensitive spirit, and
have merited a well-earned and long-treasured resentment. For instance,
at a time of great anxiety to Ferdinand, when the world looked very
black, and a kind word meant so much, he was greatly cheered by the
announcement that his sovereign lord, the Sultan of Turkey, was sending
him a royal present as a mark of goodwill.

Ferdinand waited anxiously for the present, but it came not. Instead
there came the announcement that the Red Sultan was ransacking his
Empire for a steed worthy of such a Prince. Ferdinand winced, for his
horses had to be chosen with some care. His personal preference was for
the little native ponies of Bulgaria; when he was mounted on one of
these he had not so far to fall. Still, a present was a present, and he
waited with eager expectation.

At the end of five weary months, the envoy from Yildiz was announced.
With every show of pomp he had the present conducted to the royal mews,
where it was received by Ferdinand in person with all the ceremony
which he knew how to initiate. The wrappings were removed from the
present, and there stood the most wretched old screw that ever
disgraced a Constantinople cab. Casting one glance of fury at the
brute, Ferdinand fled, and next day the Sultan’s present was sent to
the Zoo.

Even a more hideous outrage upon Ferdinand’s delicacy of mind was
perpetrated by the Kaiser, who has none of that commodity to spare, and
is given to practical jokes of the kind that Captain Marryat describes
as being usual in the Navy a century ago. Ferdinand and the Kaiser were
both guests at Brunswick Castle, when the incident occurred.

The time was spring, and it was a delicious moonlight evening. In the
grounds of the castle the nightingales were singing voluptuously, and
Ferdinand was wearing for the first time a pair of white silk smalls
which became him to perfection. He leaned out of the castle window,
surveyed the moonlit beauty, and listened to the raptures of the bird
of spring. All the young girl in him rose to the surface, and he
abandoned himself to the moment and its romance.

And while his shoulders were heaving with true Coburg emotion and love
of nature, there crept behind him the Kaiser. The broad back and the
roll of fat on the neck were irresistible. Down came the mailed fist
with a resounding thwack, and with something hardly distinguishable
from a scream Ferdinand faced his tormentor.

Furious and scarlet with passion he grasped the identity of his
assailant. He summoned to the occasion all the dignity of the Bourbons.
“I pray Your Majesty to refrain from practical jokes,” he said, and
withdrew, refusing to be conciliated. The pair next met in London at
the funeral of King Edward, but the Bulgarian monarch refused either to
forgive or forget. The very sight of William caused him to growl like a
sullen bear, though the Kaiser persistently ignored his resentment.

The twain are now “glorious allies,” but the Kaiser may live to learn
that a Bourbon “forgets nothing.”

Of course Ferdinand is as kind to animals as the average village
butcher. His British biographer remarks that “certain forms of
so-called ‘sport’ still tolerated in this country would horrify him. He
has a constitutional horror of anything savouring of cruelty.”

For instance, a Turkish fisherman not far from his Euxinograd Palace
captured a Black Sea seal, and exhibited it at so much a head in the
Port of Varna. Ferdinand heard the news with a disgust he did not
attempt to conceal. For a day he brooded over the sufferings of the
poor sea creature, and his birds and flowers did not suffice to soothe
his ruffled sensitiveness to pain inflicted on a dumb creature. Finally
he ordered his car and drove down to the port, where he purchased the
captive for £24, and ordered it to be set free in the sea. Then he
returned to Euxinograd and recovered his equanimity by smelling violets
and gazing at cyclamens.

One can well imagine that such a king would shrink from the sight of
bloodshed. It is recorded that, at the beginning of the first Balkan
war, it was his sad duty to look upon the first Bulgarian wounded as
they came into Stara Zagora. The sight reduced him to bitter tears, and
on his bended knees he implored Heaven to spare him any further sight
of battle. It is only fair to state that he has not since tempted
Providence, but has held studiously aloof from all scenes of carnage,
though unhappily at the head of an army in the field. And when the
sights of war have come unpleasantly near him, with true maidenly
sensibility he has invariably turned away his head.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND AND THE BULGARIANS


“_I am the rock, against which the waves beat in vain; I am as the oak
in the forest._”—FERDINAND OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XIII

  FERDINAND AND THE BULGARIANS


I have laid some stress upon the primitive boorishness of the
Bulgarians as a race, and upon the essential effeminacy of the Prince
who, for lack of a better, was called to the throne of this new
principality. The contrast is necessary in order that it may be shown
by what means Ferdinand established dominion over a people which has
always despised and loathed him, and how he has been able to falsify
the confident estimate of the shrewdest observers in Europe, and retain
for over a quarter of a century a position for which no one would at
any time have given a year’s purchase.

The key to Bulgarian character was maintained by the Bulgarians
themselves to be simplicity. In Bulgaria there were no inherited
titles, no formalities, no niceties of social intercourse. Like many a
man who is incapable of refinement and courtesy of manner, the
Bulgarians, by exaggerating their defects, produced the impression of
blunt honesty and straightforwardness. They prided themselves on their
Spartan simplicity, and were for ever talking about it.

Their boastings about their lack of ceremoniousness gave Ferdinand the
clue to the weak spot in the Bulgarian character. He knew that the
truly simple and unaffected man is not even aware of the virtue of his
simplicity; that there can be no such thing as a conscious sincerity in
such matters. And Ferdinand, the most artificial product of the Courts
of Europe, deliberately chose that his Bœotian subjects should be a
foil to his own elegances.

He began, even in his bachelor days, by establishing a Court ruled by
the stiffest formality. This ceremony was doubled when he married, just
as his civil list was increased from £20,000 to £40,000 a year. In the
little city of Sofia, which even now does not boast 100,000
inhabitants, he maintained a household and a state which rivalled that
of the Kaiser himself, and far exceeded that of any other reigning
House of Europe.

His exits and entries were preceded by a band of gorgeously uniformed
attendants, who backed before him waving wands of glittering whiteness.
Court etiquette of an exacting severity was devised and scrupulously
exacted. The Bulgarians derided this ceremony openly and on every
occasion. But they conformed to it.

Really they were deeply impressed.

Ferdinand contrived a number of orders with brilliant decorations; they
had had nothing of the kind in Bulgaria before his coming. Hardly a
year passed but he added a new order to the list, and conferred on his
toadies the glittering decoration it carried. The simple Bulgarians
mocked at these orders, and made endless jokes about them. But there
was keen competition for the decorations, and no respectable Sofiete
can afford to be without one. Moreover, no decorated Bulgarian ever
fails to wear the little button which marks him as decorated properly
and jewelled in every hole.

A few of the titles of the courtiers surrounding Ferdinand may be
specified, in order to show how elaborate is the state maintained among
this simple peasant people. We have the Chancellor of Bulgarian Orders,
the Chief of the Secret Cabinet, and two Secretaries, the Grand-Almoner
of the Prince of Tirnovo, the Court Marshal, the Major-Domo, the
Director of the Civil List, the Master of Ceremonies, the Court
Physician, the Master of the Horse, the Inspector of Cavalry, the
Attaché to the Queen, Mistress of the Robes, Court Poetess, Grand
Mistress of the Court, Commandant of the Palace, and such a host of
attachés and aides-de-camp as was never dreamt of outside a German
Court of the eighteenth century.

All this monstrous ceremony served a double purpose with Ferdinand. It
impressed the Bulgarians, who could not themselves go the pace, but had
the secret snobbish admiration for such things always found among
people who profess to regard simplicity as the chief among virtues. It
further gave him a reason for taking offence at breaches of Court
etiquette, and allowed him to penalize people against whom he could
furbish up no other complaint.

Thus Stambuloff was continually infringing the rules of the Court. The
Prime Minister, who had enjoyed a large income as the first advocate in
Bulgaria, drew from his grateful country the salary of £500 for
controlling its destinies in the teeth of an ungrateful Prince and an
inappreciative people. To him the formal Court and the sinful waste it
involved was really a source of offence. His open disregard for the
childish forms it was sought to impose upon him was soon made a source
of offence by the King, and even by the meek little Princess Marie
Louise.

The effect of this regal extravagance was felt not only in Sofia
itself, but throughout Bulgaria. Ferdinand was pleased to travel widely
in his principality, and with some considerable elaboration of
ceremony. The little municipalities he honoured with his visits had to
prepare a ruinous hospitality in advance. A visit from the Prince
beggared a community and left it bankrupt for years. Ferdinand ate up
little villages like a locust, and earned the deep detestation of the
impoverished peasants.

But he impressed them at the same time. And so he gained his object, he
established a moral ascendency over the boors, who professed an
exaggerated simplicity, and bowed down before ceremonies which made
them look ridiculous, and extravagances which impoverished them.

The needs of the country, when Ferdinand accepted the throne, were many
and essential. Roads and railways had to be built to develop the
nascent agricultural industry which has been the mainstay of Bulgarian
national life. The work was taken in hand by Stambuloff, whose plans
for the progress of the country, even more than his foreign policy,
reveal him as the statesman that his admirers have always proclaimed
him. His policy of internal development entailed heavy taxation, under
which the country groaned, and which earned him, more than anything
else, the title of Tyrant, which Ferdinand thrust upon him.

With his fall the policy of internal development was brought to a
standstill, but the taxation continued. Ferdinand employed much of the
money in the creation of a capital city worthy of such a Prince and
such a Court. He set about the creation of a new Sofia, taking as his
motto “Expense is no object.” A modern city was run up with a celerity
and elaboration that reminded visitors of the creation of Johannesburg.

M. Alexandre Hepp, the enthusiastic French biographer of Ferdinand,
almost exhausts his enthusiasm in recounting the marvels of this
recreation of an old city. “It seems like a new city imposed upon one
already renewed,” he writes. “Every time I visit it I find something
added—a monument, a museum, a park, a government office, a bank, an
hotel, a factory, a theatre, or a school. New boulevards and streets,
wide, well-paved, planted with trees, lined with kiosques, cross and
re-cross. Lions and eagles ornament the new bridges. Electricity
flares, the tramcars roar, motor-cars dash about. Near the statue to
the Czar Liberator, designed by Zocchi, rears the finished structure of
the great cathedral Newski, built at a cost of £1,000,000 raised by
public subscription. Great markets are rising from their foundations.”
And so on.

All this work was done under the personal supervision of Ferdinand
himself. “Behind a corner window of the palace,” writes Mr. John
Macdonald, who has produced an English biography of Czar Ferdinand,
which only falls short in enthusiasm of the ecstasies of M. Hepp,
“overlooking the highway, is the Czar’s private study, where he often
works till the first hour or two of the morning. Piles of street plans,
of monumental drawings, of designs for the splendid park and gardens,
with their new palace, have been examined behind that corner window.”

The sophistication of the Bulgarians having been begun by the creation
of this fine city in the midst of the gloomy plains of Bulgaria,
Ferdinand continued it by the creation of a powerful military caste.

The dominant note of Sofia is military; there are gay uniforms at every
turn. “With their great grey cloaks in the Russian style,” writes M.
Hepp, “their white helmets and immaculate gloves, or buckled in their
long frogged tunics, with their swords swinging by silken sabretaches,
the officers present a fine appearance. They swarm at the new Army Club
and at the restaurant of the Red Crab.”

The new Sofia, too, has produced a citizen class which already disdains
the peasant simplicity which was the hall-mark of the Bulgarian nation
in the time of Stambuloff. They affect fine manners and wit, they try
to smile where the old-time Bulgar was a gloomy churl. These parvenu
niceties are ostentatious, and sit but ill upon people to whom they are
far from natural; they are accompanied by much chatter about art, for
Sofia has already produced its clan of “intellectuals.”

But Ferdinand has maintained his distance with the new Bulgarians as
with the old. To be hooted at the theatre by a mob of students is no
rare experience with him; it drives every vestige of colour from his
flabby cheeks. But he will not stoop to conciliate, even in Sofia. His
predecessor was a frank young man, who made himself adored by the
Bulgarians by meeting them openly and making their life his own. He won
love, but no semblance of respect.

Warned by the experience and the fate of Alexander, Ferdinand has
always continued to treat every Bulgarian with the utmost reticence.
For them there are no confidences; none of the graces of the Fat
Charmer are expended upon winning the hearts of Bulgarians. He prefers
to be detested, to be feared, to excite a puzzled antipathy.

And there is the secret of the long reign of a Prince over whom the
shadow of assassination and the dread of deposition have floated ever
since his first appearance in Sofia. The Bulgarians despise what they
understand, they have a contempt for those who stoop to please them.
They keep a regard for Ferdinand because he treats them as an inferior
race; in their heart of hearts they are proud to be ruled by this fine
product of two races who, in the words of one of their own writers,
“combines German steadiness with French dash.”

A nobler race would have sent Ferdinand packing long ago; he knew the
measure of their boorishness, and turned it to his own account with a
craft that cannot be denied him. And so Ferdinand has escaped
assassination and deposition for more than a quarter of a century.

What ambitions he has begotten, and what schemes he has launched in
that period, we shall now see.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE AMBITIOUS


“_I drink to Czar Ferdinand, the heir to Constantine._”—SOME FUDDLED
YANKEE SCRIBE.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XIV

  FERDINAND THE AMBITIOUS


In the summer of 1892 there was a notable sight in the Bavarian city of
Munich. The richest goldsmith of the city of breweries displayed in his
window a crown, sceptre, orb and sword, which he had made to the order
of the Prince of Bulgaria. The rich jewels with which the regalia were
decked were the family gems of the Princess Clementine, who had
presented them to her pet son, in anticipation of the recognition by
the Powers which both fondly believed to be imminent.

But the anticipation was not realized, and Ferdinand had not even the
money to pay the goldsmith for his work. A lawsuit was initiated
against him, and at the same time the aggrieved tradesman displayed the
jewels in his shop window, where they drew a daily crowd. To stop the
scandal the Princess Clementine stepped in and footed the bill; and the
jewels were stored at her Ebenthal Palace until such time as they
should be needed—not, as a matter of fact, until after her death.

The story illustrates the long-cherished ambition of the Bulgar Czar to
reign supreme in his own realm; but that, after all, is perhaps a
comprehensible ambition for the grandson of Louis Philippe and the
descendant of Francis I. But the extent of the ambitions of the lesser
Czar is not grasped by those who think that his ambitions are bounded
by his wish to rule as the recognized sovereign of that Greater
Bulgaria which was set up by Russia through the treaty of San Stefano.
Ferdinand’s dreams are wilder by far than those wide boundaries would
justify.

In the grounds of his Euxinograd Palace at the port of Varna is a
little hill, from the crest of which can be obtained a spacious view
across the Black Sea. On the summit the Prince caused to be erected a
throne, and to this spot he would daily repair when spending his
leisure at Euxinograd. Seated on this throne he would sit for hours
gazing over the calm waters toward Constantinople; looking inscrutably
out toward the Byzantium which was for so long the centre of Eastern
power and the capital of the Empire of the East.

Not long before the outbreak of the great war he employed a well-known
Vienna specialist in heraldry and genealogy to trace his descent, and
to endeavour to link up his family with that of the ancient Bulgarian
Czars. All things are possible to a Vienna specialist with a royal
commission, and it is not surprising to learn that the antiquarian was
entirely successful.

Ferdinand, it appears, traces his descent, in common with the Kaiser,
to Philip of Hohenzollern, who married a descendant of the Byzantine
Emperor Alexius Comnenus. Now Alexius had as wife Irene, who was
daughter of Maria, the only daughter of the Bulgarian Czar Samuel. What
better claim, then, than that of Ferdinand, not only to the Czardom of
Bulgaria, but to imperial sway in the new Eastern realm of which the
modern Byzantium must inevitably be the capital.

Indeed Constantinople has gained a hold of his fertile imagination that
may account for the supreme and audacious treachery of his conduct
during the past few years. He dreams, this Prince of a pot-house, of
erecting his throne in the city which he last visited wearing the red
fez of vassalage. The dream is no new one. When the great assembly had
gathered at Tirnovo to witness the apostasy of the infant Boris,
Ferdinand’s uncle, the witty old Duc d’Aumale, ventured on some
satirical congratulations. “I congratulate you, Ferdinand,” he said,
“your son is now orthodox, it will be your turn next.”

But Ferdinand, wrapped in his megalomania, failed to detect the
jocularity. “I have been thinking about this for some time,” he
answered earnestly; “I have fixed my baptism in a church, and in
circumstances, which will certainly reconcile you to my act.”

“And where, and under what circumstances will it happen?”

“It will take place at St. Sophia, under the thunder of Bulgarian guns.”

This conversation, it must be remembered, took place soon after the
fall of Stambuloff and the murder of that strong man, which removed
from the path of Ferdinand the only obstacle in Bulgaria to the
unchecked attainment of his wishes in that country. It is to be borne
in mind as the predominating motive in all his acts from that time
forward. It shaped his foreign policy, and affords the sole key to his
method of dealing with the internal affairs of Bulgaria.

As I shall make clear later, it was the motive which caused him to form
with his neighbours the Balkan League, ostensibly to free the
Christians in Macedonia and Thrace from Turkish oppression. The real
motive became apparent after the battle of Lule Burgas, when the Turks
fled before the victorious Bulgarians.

When the Turks finally came to bay at the lines of Chatalja, a peace
whereby the Allies would have gained all they ostensibly sought was
offered by Kiamil Pasha. Ferdinand, without consulting his Allies,
rejected it; and against the wish of his Army Council began the attack
of Chatalja, which proved so disastrous to the Bulgarian arms.

Speaking in the Sobranje in 1914, the Bulgarian delegate Kosturoff
said, “As was shown later on, the only purpose was to enter
Constantinople. The ambition, the boundless ambition, was to place the
Cross on the Mosque of St. Sophia, in order that history should some
day write, ‘Simeon came once beneath the walls of Constantinople, but
the Greek women broke his head there. It was Czar Ferdinand who entered
Constantinople as victor.’”

This ambition of Ferdinand’s, to possess Constantinople and make it the
capital of a new Bulgarian Empire, has only to be grasped to enable the
reader to gain a full comprehension of the policy which has thrown
Ferdinand into the field of battle on the side of the Central Powers,
and allied the Bulgarians in arms with their ancient and hereditary
enemies the Turks. It must be remembered that the difficulty of
disposing of Constantinople when the Turks shall have been deprived of
its possession has remained for nearly a century the sole reason why
the crescent still floats over the minarets of Stamboul. The inevitable
end of Ottoman rule in Europe, though hastened by the fatal blunder
which threw Turkey into the fray with the Teuton races, was none the
less inevitable in the sight of all thinking men long before the first
Balkan war.

Men all over Europe conceived a new Eastern Empire, which was to spring
from the union of the Christian races in the Balkans. It was to have
its centre in Constantinople, the centre of a beneficent rule, where
all the Balkan States were working to a common end to remove from their
countries the reproach that is held in the oft-repeated phrase, the
“Plague-spot of Europe.”

Russia saw it as the triumph of the Slav race. France saw the Latin
idea conquering Teuton “kultur.” Great Britain dreamed of the victory
of Christianity over the heathen. And all the time Ferdinand stood by
his throne at Euxinograd, and dreamed and schemed and plotted. Races
and creeds alike were of no account to Ferdinand, the man of no race
who had committed apostasy in the person of his own infant son. He, the
fop, the scented darling of French drawing-rooms, saw himself the heir
to Constantine, the successful imitator of the great Bulgarian Czars
Samuel and Simeon. They were stopped only at the walls of
Constantinople; but Ferdinand did not plan to stop there.

That insane ambition governed every step he has taken for fifteen
years. It brought him and Bulgaria perilously near to annihilation in
the Balkan wars. It made treaties for him the veriest scraps of paper.
It moulded his conduct and dictated his alliances.

How he has conducted the Bulgarian people along the path which leads
away from their racial ties as well as from the obligations imposed
upon them by their indebtedness for their very existence as a nation
will shortly be told.

But first it will be interesting to know something more of the man who
is obsessed by this wild ambition, always unattainable, but rendered
doubly unattainable now by the deeds of men more ambitious, more
unscrupulous, and a hundred times more powerful than he.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE FUTILE


“_The Prince is undoubtedly a clever man; but he wastes his cleverness
on petty matters._”—STAMBULOFF.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XV

  FERDINAND THE FUTILE


The tradition that great monarchs are many-sided men has no warmer
adherent than Ferdinand of Bulgaria, who is ever ready to exemplify it
in his own person. To those who are familiar with his pursuits and
amusements, his method of spending his days constitutes a most cruel
parody upon the thousand different avocations of his “glorious ally”
the Kaiser. But the Kaiser, as I have had occasion to show elsewhere,
is in many respects a remarkable and successful man, who makes
practical use of his wide store of information. Ferdinand’s alleged
serious occupations are a daily round of sheer futilities.

For instance, some portion of the Kaiser’s day was always spent in
reading a selection of Press cuttings carefully chosen for him, and by
this means he was able to keep abreast with current news, commerce,
inventions, and art. Ferdinand is also a close student of newspapers,
which he studies with the sole object of reading what is written about
himself. When he finds anything that displeases him, he tears up the
offending news-sheet into little pieces, swearing most savagely.

When he first went to Bulgaria, there was great destruction of
newspapers by him, for it was hard to find a paper that could say
anything good about him. Indeed, it is recorded that his mother,
Princess Clementine, wept tears of pure joy when for the first time she
saw an appreciative account of her darling in an important French daily.

Stambuloff annoyed the Prince beyond all forgiveness by his early
comments on this weakness. “Do not read so many papers,” he used to
say, “but study public affairs. Get a French or English colonel to
teach you the elements of military knowledge, so that you may be able
to understand your War Minister.” But Ferdinand’s egotism caused this
excellent if blunt counsel to be rejected; and to this day he is unable
really to understand his War Minister.

After a time he evolved a fine method of seeing nice things about
himself in the papers. Any one can do it, especially a reigning Prince.
The art lies in being very kind to journalists—of a certain type. Once
Ferdinand had mastered this art; which is colloquially known as
“squaring the Press”—no Prince got so many favourable notices as he. He
was just as confidential and communicative to a foreign journalist as
he was reticent and baffling to a Bulgarian notable.

Yet Ferdinand, among other qualifications, is the easiest monarch to
interview in all Europe, and is almost as accessible as some of the
dusky princes of Afric’s sunny interior. The scene is usually _mon
fumoir_, and begins with the exhibition of a sketch of the Czar’s
predecessor, Prince Alexander of Battenberg—“Bulgaria’s hero,” says
Ferdinand with becoming emotion.

Then there is the stuffed eagle which Ferdinand shot himself “with a
valorous gunshot,” as M. Hepp says. And the little silver truck in
which he keeps the first spadeful of earth dug up by himself to
commemorate the opening of the railway line to Burgas. You must see
that, and the golden keys of the Palace, as they were presented to him
on the day he did his “sacred duty,” and set foot on Bulgarian soil.

Then he rings an electric bell, to show how clever Prince Cyril has
fitted out the Palace with these marvels, laying all the wires himself.
All his children are bidden to cultivate useful hobbies, the Bulgarian
Czar will tell you, very much after the manner of Mr. Subbubs when he
has lured you to Lonelitown for a week-end.

Thus, as an American scribe who had endured the process told me,
Ferdinand “pulls domestic stuff on you.” He actually told one
American—and his newspaper printed it—that his fondness for his
children had saved his life from the vile assassin. According to
Ferdinand, he was playing with his young children peacefully in the
palace garden, when a Stambulovist emissary crept stealthily behind him
with a dagger. But the rough man was so touched at the sight of this
proud Bourbon playing with his innocent children just like any ordinary
man, that he wiped away a tear, threw down his yataghan, and fled,
sorely pricked by his conscience.

With some of his visitors Ferdinand affects the martyr, and tells how
badly he is misunderstood, and how shamefully he is misrepresented.
With others he is the genial man-of-the-world, and tells stories that
involve the laying of his forefinger on the side of his long
dishonourable nose—a favourite trick of his when he displays any
portion of his stock of knowingness. To others again he tells stories
of his kindness to animals.

On this count let me quote the beautiful anecdote of “The Prince and
the Sparrow,” as touchingly related by M. Hepp, who had it from the
mouth of this kind-hearted monarch.

One day, when Ferdinand was out walking, he found a poor little
sparrow, which had fallen right in his path. He took it up in his hand,
cherished it, and carried it with him to the Palace, where he gave
orders that it should be carefully tended.

Some time later he was sitting at Council surrounded by his ministers,
engrossed in serious affairs of State. At this juncture the thought of
the poor little sparrow occurred to him. He rang for an attendant, and
demanded instant news of the sad little cripple.

It is not astonishing, says M. Hepp, that with such a charm of
sensibility the Prince attracts to him all shrinking souls.

Now read another instance of his charming sensibility, for the truth of
which I can vouch, though Ferdinand himself has never related the
story, to my knowledge.

Animated by a sense of duty, he set out to see the tomb of his uncle,
the Prince de Joinville, at Eu, near Paris. But when, with his Grand
Chamberlain, he reached the mortuary chapel, he found the door locked.
The priest, it was explained, had gone away and taken the key with him.
Should it be sent for? “No, no; don’t trouble,” said Ferdinand,
immensely relieved, “let us go and get some lunch.” This they did, and
the subject of dead uncles was not referred to, even over the coffee.

Naturally Ferdinand dabbles in the fine arts. He does wonderful things
with a camera, and plays the piano most beautifully. Once he composed
the libretto of an opera, and took some part in the arrangement of the
music. When I think that the people of Sofia had to listen to that
opera, my conscience smites me for some of the harsh things I have
written about the Bulgarians. They have done wrong, certainly; but they
have suffered. I have read that libretto, and I know.

Another much-vaunted accomplishment of the Shoddy Czar is his skill as
an engine-driver. He is said to be quite at his best on the foot-plate
of a locomotive. I remember what a commotion there was on the
boulevards one summer evening when the news went round that Ferdinand
was approaching Paris dressed as an engine-driver, and actually driving
the locomotive of the train which was bearing him to the City of Light.
What a rush there was to the railway station, and what a gang of secret
police! But the Bulgarian Prince had dismounted from the cab at
Abbeville, and indulged in a wash and a brush-up before he reached the
city.

On another occasion, when he was staying at Bad-Neuheim, he asked
permission to drive a train to Frankfort and back, and this was
granted. There was quite a crowd to greet him when the journey was
finished, but his beaming face was all clouded when a sarcastic lady
stepped forward and handed him a bouquet inscribed with the simple word
“Bravery.” The best way out of the ridiculous situation that he could
devise was to hand the flowers to the real engine-driver, with the
remark, “This lady has confused you with me, my friend.”

On another occasion he was telling some journalist of his skill on the
engine-plate, and this man, wishing to please him, remarked that the
accomplishment was a useful one, and might one day save his life. It
was a tactless remark to make to a man of sensibility.

“I am sorry I have no locomotive now,” he growled, “to escape from such
silly remarks.”

Yet it is difficult to imagine any use for what appears to be the
nearest thing to a manly accomplishment he possesses. Unless he wants
to run away from somewhere, his engine driving is hardly likely to be
of any benefit to himself or anyone else.

It is a futile accomplishment, as nearly all his occupations and
amusements are futile. Compared with such a king as our own, who does
an immense amount of hard, useful work, in an unassuming way; or even
with the Kaiser, who makes a lot of fuss, but certainly gets a good
deal done, this Ferdinand is surely a make-believe monarch.

He sits in his thug-proof den, surrounded by his photographs and his
absurd silver model of a railway truck and other trumpery, and allows
it to be understood that his labours of State keep him up to all hours
of the morning. But the net result of his labours is a new fête dress
for himself, some fault-finding with the garden plans of a landscape
expert, or something equally useless.

With the exception of the expensive capital, Bulgaria remains as
Stambuloff left it. He claims, this shoddy Czar, that he has worked
unremittingly to improve a semi-barbarous kingdom; while he has been
engaged in the most trifling and useless occupations. Beyond
ministering to his own inordinate vanity, and scheming darkly to some
one else’s disadvantage, all his occupations are as childishly futile
as those I have described.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE FRENCHMAN


“_It is a Prince entirely French, by tradition, by instinct, by
aspiration, and by talent who was the founder of Bulgaria, and is
to-day its King._”—M. ALEXANDRE HEPP.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XVI

  FERDINAND THE FRENCHMAN


One of the lessons that Great Britain has been compelled to learn in
the last two years is that its respected citizen, Mr. Black, purveyor
of meat, is in reality none other than that dangerous alien Herr
Schwartz, the maker of German sausages. Our gallant allies of France
have been apt to wonder at the laggard hesitation of us British in
learning and applying this lesson. Yet when the history of the great
war comes to be written frankly and fully, it may well be revealed that
one of the hardest knocks delivered to the allied cause was due to the
incurably optimistic idea prevailing among Frenchmen in the highest
places that Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg Cohen was really Ferdinand de Bourbon.

It is nothing to their discredit. To the very last most of us clung to
the idea that the Kaiser was really an Englishman, though he did little
to foster that idea, and his upbringing, his speeches and his behaviour
were shining testimony to the contrary. Ferdinand, on the other hand,
had an upbringing that was essentially characteristic of the old
France; not that new France which fills the whole civilized world with
delight and admiration. He has constantly posed as French in culture,
in sympathy and in aim. France early took him to its generous arms, and
there is every excuse for the French trusting in his blandishments; the
generous spirit of France is incapable of crediting that any man of
French extraction could stoop to such perfidy as Ferdinand has
displayed.

If France was open to the accusation of degeneracy half a century ago,
the fact was largely due to the method of educating its boys. The
supreme irony of fate has exacted this compensation for the horrors
inflicted by Germany upon stricken France in 1870, that the full
measure of punishment now impending over the Hunnish race is the result
of these infamies. The new France is the outcome of that disaster, and
the new Frenchman of to-day, steeled to patient endurance, yet fighting
with all the dash of his ancestors, is the result of wiser methods of
education.

But Ferdinand was brought up as one of the degenerate Frenchmen of the
past age. At fifteen he knew more of the dark side of life than any
hardened man of the world ought to know. At twenty he was a loathsome
young beast, whose only admirer was his doting mother. She was a
daughter of France, and everywhere surrounded herself and her son with
the historic objects she had inherited from her great French ancestors.

When Ferdinand crossed his Rubicon and ventured on that hazardous
journey in disguise to Sofia, against the wish of all the European
Powers, his companions on the voyage were gallant and adventurous young
Frenchmen. The elegant Court he formed in Bulgaria was redeemed from
absurdity by the grace, wit and refinement of these companions and
their successors. The first champions of Ferdinand, and his apologists
through good and evil, have been the French.

I have referred many times in this chronicle to the French biographer
of Ferdinand, the enthusiastic M. Hepp. He has written so charmingly
and with such obvious and honest sincerity of this Hun in French
clothing that it is impossible to overlook his work. It represents
current French opinion of the Bulgarian Czar, who, up to the very last
moment, contrived to deceive even such keen-eyed publicists as M.
Reinach.

The amazing confidences Ferdinand has made to M. Hepp are set out in
this surprisingly intimate biography, in which one long chapter is
devoted to proving Ferdinand’s possession by the French sentiment.

The first time that the Prince invited his biographer to dinner was on
a very picturesque occasion. They were travelling together to Roumelia
to take part in the rose harvest and festival at the scent farms of
Kazanlik. The luxury of the train by which they travelled was
extravagant. Blue velvet upholstered the ordinary compartments, the
sleeping carriages were furnished in silk of turquoise tint, the
dining-saloon was a mass of blue flowers in baskets. Rightly was it
called the Blue Train.

Seated opposite Ferdinand in the midst of all this azure pomp, the
writer was suddenly brought face to face with a fresh emotion. On every
fork and spoon, on every piece of the massive silver plate was engraved
the French leur-de-lis. They marked the descent of the Bulgarian royal
couple; the Prince as grandson of Louis Philippe, the Princess Marie
Louise as granddaughter of Charles X.

Even more moving to his biographer was a scene enacted by Ferdinand
when his mother lay awaiting burial and the mock Frenchman was dressing
for the funeral. He was assuming all his decorations—German ones—when
the Duc de Luynes was announced. “Come in,” cried Ferdinand, and as the
Duc entered he unbuttoned his waistcoat and threw it back. There next
his heart blazed the broad red ribbon of the French Legion of Honour,
once worn by Louis Philippe himself.

Later Ferdinand was entitled to wear that ribbon, but this clandestine
assumption of it was a piece of theatrical sentiment, justly calculated
to tickle the sensibilities of the most level-headed Frenchman. As M.
Hepp narrates, he afterwards told the story to three intimates, very
Parisian and sceptical, and the hardest of them all was constrained to
turn away his head and wipe his eyes.

It is interesting to note how Ferdinand played upon this French
sympathy, and how adroitly he made use of it. From Paris he arranged
the reconciliation with Russia which followed the conversion of Prince
Boris to the Orthodox faith, and France was the first country to fête
him in the ceremonious way his heart yearned for.

“At the Élysée,” writes Mr. John Macdonald, “the successor of the
French kings and emperors royally entertained the Orleanist Prince who
was so successfully introducing French culture and manners into a
semi-Oriental land; or almost royally, for the Prince was as yet only
half a king. Semi-royal honours only could be accorded to the Prince of
Bulgaria; half a gala at the Opera, half a military manœuvre, and so
on.”

But to Ferdinand half a loaf was indeed better than no bread. When he
demanded royal honours prior to a visit to England for the funeral of
Queen Victoria he was bluntly told he could not have them. Therefore he
decided to stay away. France, however, did her best for Ferdinand.

He paid his debts in a characteristic manner. For the reorganization of
the Bulgarian Army he went to France, and there borrowed money,
equipment and military advisers. The French artillery enabled the
Bulgarians to score so heavily over the Turks in their first
encounters, and what of generalship the Bulgarian leaders possess is
undoubtedly due to their French tuition. The Bulgarian Black Sea fleet
was of French organization, and its first admiral was a French naval
officer named Pichon.

If further evidence was needed that Ferdinand wore a golden French
heart under his hereditary German and Austrian decorations, as he wore
his illicit ribbon of the Legion of Honour, let me tell you one more
story from the collection of the excellent M. Hepp.

It was July 14, the anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, and
Ferdinand had asked to his Varna Palace M. Bourgarel, the French
Minister at Sofia, and the faithful Hepp. They dined in the open air at
the foot of Mount Vitosch. Suddenly, from behind a thicket, there rose
the strains of the Marseillaise, while Ferdinand, rising to his feet,
shouted “Vive la France!”

Yes, France felt very sure of Ferdinand, and Bulgaria could always
count upon warm friendship in Paris, and wherever French influence was
felt. His perfidy was not suspected till nearly the end of 1914 when M.
Joseph Reinach, who had maintained a long correspondence with him ever
since their first meeting in 1906, began to form suspicions. He framed
a letter to Ferdinand on February 11, 1915, to the effect that he had
to express the uneasiness he was feeling, and which all the French
friends of Bulgaria and its Czar felt at recent news.

Ferdinand, in a letter signed “The Good European,” his usual signature
in this correspondence, told him not to believe the news, adding, “My
sentiments remain unchanged.” Even then he was bargaining with the
enemies of France to betray the cause of the Entente and of the small
nations!

The Bulgarian treaty with Germany was signed on July 17, but on August
15 Ferdinand’s Minister, M. Dobrovitch, was writing to Paris expressing
false hopes of a future Russian success, and holding out elusive
promises that Bulgaria would intervene on the side of the Allies.

“A more shameful comedy has never been enacted,” writes M. Reinach, in
concluding the story of Ferdinand’s final rupture with the country
which he claimed was dearest of all to him, the country of his mother
and of his own upbringing.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE FAITHLESS


“_Ingratitude is the only unforgivable sin._”—OLD BULGARIAN PROVERB.

“_Ferdinand is a clever man, but not to be trusted._”—KING EDWARD VII.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XVII

  FERDINAND THE FAITHLESS


In the chief square of Sofia, near the Newski Cathedral, stands a great
statue, the work of the Bulgarian sculptor Zocchi. It is erected to the
Russian Czar, Alexander the Second, “the Czar Liberator.” A similar
statue has been erected in the ancient Bulgarian capital of Tirnovo. In
every peasant hut in Bulgaria a portrait of the same benefactor is
hung; sometimes it disputes wall space with pictures of Gladstone and
Lord Salisbury. These are some of the outward signs that Bulgaria has
allowed a despicable foreigner to lead them into the deadliest
ingratitude, and to make them pay their debt for national existence by
the basest perfidy of which a whole nation has ever been guilty.

When the Russians discovered the survival of the ancient Bulgarians
they found a race of hopeless outcasts, groaning under a Turkish
tyranny that has its recent parallel in the Turkish treatment of the
Christian Armenians. Later, when the most enterprising Bulgarians
sought to free themselves from this intolerable oppression, the only
means open to them were those resorted to by outlaws and murderers.
They became modern Robin Hoods, without any of the elementary decency
which characterized the behaviour of that legendary English hero.

Russia from the very outset recognized the claims imposed upon her by
racial and religious affinity to the Bulgarians. How generously she
paid that obligation may be read in the terms of the treaty of San
Stefano. The Powers of Europe saw fit to revise the terms of that
treaty, and Britain’s sympathy for small and oppressed people ensured
that the nation so revived by Russia should not be blotted out of
existence.

The Bulgaria created by the treaty of Berlin was a small and
unimportant Principality. Its aggrandisement has been effected by
innumerable breaches of that compact, one of which was the very
assumption by Ferdinand of the throne. For that reason the new Prince,
as I have already told, was not recognized by the Powers, and his
vanity made their recognition all important to him.

The policy of Stambuloff, who then guided the destinies of Bulgaria,
was to free the young State from any preponderance of Russian
influence. Adherence to that policy would have delayed the recognition
Ferdinand sought, and for that elementary reason he betrayed
Stambuloff, and became morally guilty of his assassination. By
contriving the apostasy of his heir, he so far placated Russia that his
position was recognized. From that time forward he always professed the
most profuse gratitude to the great Slav Power to which he owed his
place and Bulgaria owed its very existence.

Is there any need to elaborate the sordid treachery of his conduct? As
a bachelor Prince his life was not worth a day’s purchase at any time.
In order that he might marry, Stambuloff had the Constitution amended,
thereby earning an unpopularity with the Church party which contributed
largely to his fall. He had already made himself detested by the army
because of the severity with which he crushed out the plots against the
life of his ungrateful Prince.

The services he had rendered to Ferdinand were made the weapons of his
undoing. Dismissed, impoverished and persecuted with the vilest
charges, Stambuloff was imprisoned in Sofia until such time as his
murder could be contrived. And while his minister’s unavenged blood was
yet warm this monster of ingratitude was concluding with the dead man’s
enemies a pact in which blasphemy and treachery played equal parts. For
the patronage of Russia he caused a child of three to become an
apostate from the faith in which he had been baptized, and broke the
heart of his gentle Princess.

That he lived to betray the friendship for which he paid such an
infamous price will be made abundantly clear. In the meantime
Bulgaria’s lip service to Russia is worth considering.

“We find Russian graves scattered all over our country,” wrote the
_Mir_ at the time of Stambuloff’s fall. “The men who rest in them shed
their blood for us. But where are the English, Italian, Austrian,
German graves?”

When Ferdinand entered Bulgaria and was received in Sofia, the
Metropolitan Bishop reminded him of the national debt, after a few
words of personal welcome, saying, “This people is grateful to Russia,
who made immense sacrifices for our deliverance, and to whom we owe our
liberty and independence. Do not then forget these sacrifices, and use
your best efforts to re-establish relations between Russia and
Bulgaria—to reconcile the Liberator and the liberated.”

A quarter of a century later the _Mir_ was writing: “The healthiest
minds among the Bulgarian people, realizing that they were freed by
Russia in the name of the same idea which at this moment is creating a
great Slav Empire, are conscious of the existence of a bond of blood,
but are unable to act in accordance with it.”

They were unable, because Ferdinand had made it impossible. How he had
done this is explained by M. Buroff, once a minister and a leading
Bulgarian publicist. In the _Almanac of the National Party_, for 1915,
he explains that the Court gave strong support to all opposition to
Russia. All other views lead their holders to persecution and
dismissal. In the Army “the higher the rank held by an officer, the
more dependent he is upon his expressed hatred of Russia. It is the
means by which officers may secure the dignity of generalship. It is
from the Court that this poison spreads as if by some mysterious
agency.”

How widespread this poison was, and how effectively Ferdinand had
broken all ties that should have bound Bulgaria to the great Mother of
the Slav races was recognized in Russia. The fact provoked an outburst
from the Russian poet Andreef, which might well have shamed a less
cynical people to some revolt against a king so monstrously treacherous.

“The Slav world is stricken with shame, and turns its eyes earthward
whenever the name Bulgarian is mentioned, in the same way as an
honourable family is ashamed of the unworthy member. You Bulgars have a
Slav heart but German brains, and your tongue, like that of the snake,
is split in twain.... If the Germans keep you fastened like sheep
within the fold while your brothers’ blood is being spilled, or if your
shepherds lead you along the pathway of treachery and you, like other
belligerents, commence to banish the Russians from Bulgaria, then first
of all, take from your midst the monument of Alexander’s tomb—he who
freed you—for he also was a Russian.”

M. Joseph Reinach, who was first introduced to Ferdinand by King Edward
VII, and who maintained a correspondence with him, has declared that
when the time comes for the final publication of the documents relative
to the Bulgarian treachery, they will furnish an example of disloyalty
and treachery unexampled in the records of the chancellery.

“I am very sure,” adds this authority, “that if the Russians, instead
of being conquered in Poland and Galicia, had won, the Czar of the
Bulgarians would have treated with the Triple Alliance instead of
betraying his past and his honour in selling his armies to the Germans.”

“Russia was trusting, and I myself was deceived into believing with
Shakespeare, that there is no such thing as an utterly bad man. The
Serbians have a proverb which explains Russia’s blind faith in the
Shoddy Czar. ‘A woman who has wet-nursed a calf loves it like her own
child.’ So Russia loved Bulgaria, a circumstance which makes Bulgaria’s
crime more detestable still.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE HUN


“_There is nothing I detest as much as a German._”—THE PRINCESS
CLEMENTINE.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XVIII

  FERDINAND THE HUN


When Ferdinand first rode through the streets of Sofia in a carriage,
wearing the uniform of a Bulgarian general, there was an ominous murmur
in the Bulgarian crowd that rose and swelled to a hoarse cry of
“Schwaba.” It was as if a French crowd had cried “Boche” or an English
mob had roared “Hun.” Austrian rank and French pretence did not blind
the Bulgarians at the very outset; they knew they had to do with one of
the detested Schwaba, a Hun of the Huns.

Do what he might, Ferdinand could not lift the reproach among the race
he chooses to call his adopted people. To them, now as ever, he is the
Hun. In normal times they turn away their heads as the Schwaba drives
by; when he has done anything special to annoy them they gather under
his palace windows and yell, “Down with the modern Nero.” No wonder
Ferdinand prefers to spend the major portion of his time in the country
at Euxinograd, or on the Coburg-Cohen estates in Hungary, where, as the
Count of Murany, he is fond of assuring his visitors that he is now in
his “second Fatherland.”

When he dismissed Stambuloff, he remarked, “Henceforth I mean to govern
as well as to rule.” It was much what the Kaiser said when he got rid
of Bismarck, but Ferdinand had a counsellor of greater experience than
any of those who were called to the assistance of William II when
Bismarck had been humiliated. He had always his wise old mother at his
elbow, the shrewdest and most disinterested adviser that any princeling
was ever blessed with. And, by following the advice of his mother, he
contrived to convert his very temporary occupation of the Bulgarian
throne into a permanency unexpected in any of the European
Chancelleries.

Ferdinand was aided in his scheme of governing Bulgaria by the very
mixed state of the political parties in that country. Of these parties
there are no less than ten, a circumstance which in itself is most
favourable to the underhand methods which are a second nature to the
man who calls himself the Czar of the Bulgarians. But the foreign
policy of this parvenu principality involved the exercise of an
immensity of tact and discretion, and Ferdinand found the experience,
the ability and the connexions of his mother more than invaluable; they
were indispensable.

It must be said for him that he followed implicitly the instructions of
this counsellor in petticoats, even in the matter of his marriage. She
enabled him to play off the influence of Russia against the growing
pretensions of Austria, and to keep Bulgaria in a position to benefit,
whatever the differences between the pair might be.

But princesses cannot live for ever, not even such fine and wise old
ladies as the Princess Clementine. In 1907 she died, and among the many
mourners who gathered at her graveside there was no one who had such
good cause to regret her loss as the son whom she had put on a throne,
and kept there in the face of the most discouraging circumstances.

Just at this time there was a new and potent influence making itself
felt in Austria. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne, had
recovered all the influence he had lost by his chivalrous adherence to
his morganatic bride. She too, by the exercise of the wonderful
qualities that had won her the whole-souled love of this remarkable
man, had gained the admiration and esteem of the aged Emperor. The
influence of the heir to the throne ran through all the affairs of
Austria, and it was Ferdinand’s lot to come under that powerful
influence at the very time when he was deprived of his loving and
long-tried adviser, the woman who had shaped his life to success.

Austria to-day remains the sole Power of Europe where the old order
still reigns. But in the year 1907 the old Emperor, and the Council
chamber where he presided, was swayed by the most remarkable exemplar
of the new order that Europe then knew. Abler than the Kaiser, and
equally as ambitious and unscrupulous politically, Franz Ferdinand had
formed schemes for the aggrandisement of Austria equally as
far-reaching as those which William had initiated for the expansion of
Germany.

While the Kaiser was dreaming of world politics, the Archduke was
maturing schemes to turn the Adriatic into an Austrian lake. They
included the disappearance of such States as Serbia and Montenegro, and
threatened in the same way the existence of Bulgaria. The extinction of
the dual kingdoms in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the creation of a
military and naval power equal in might to Germany itself, were all
parts of the ambitious design of this man.

His silent power, the mysterious but pervading influence he exercised
in all parts of the Austrian Empire, his rapid marshalling of all the
ablest men of the country to his side, deeply impressed Ferdinand, who
was in the closest touch with Austrian affairs. His visits to Vienna
became more frequent, and the Count de Murany and Franz Ferdinand spent
much time together.

At this time Ferdinand decided to marry once more, and as his mother
was no longer there to control his choice, it fell upon a German bride,
who was of the Lutheran faith. The Princess Eleonore of Reuss-Koestritz
was worthy of a better man than Ferdinand of Bulgaria. At this time she
was nearly fifty years of age, and her most memorable exploit had been
her devoted service to the Russian wounded in the war with Japan. That
service to humanity she has since amplified by Red Cross work among the
wounded Bulgarians that entitles her to the respect and admiration of
the whole world.

Her brother, Prince Henry of Reuss, had been one among the many princes
to whom the Bulgarian throne had been offered in vain before that scene
in an Austrian beer garden took place, as related in the opening
chapter of this narrative. The connexion was very valuable to
Ferdinand; in fact, it was a proof of his rise in life that such a
house and such a Princess would condescend to him.

But the religious question again rose to trouble the Bulgarian Prince.
He was himself a Catholic; the State religion of Bulgaria was the
Orthodox Church, and the bride was a Lutheran. So he devised no less
than three wedding ceremonies. The first was a “civil” ceremony, which
took place at Gera, the capital of the State of Reuss. Then the pair
went off to Coburg, where they were married according to the rites of
the Roman Catholic Church in the Cathedral of St. Augustine. A return
to Gera was necessary for the Lutheran ceremony in the Chapel of
Osterstein castle. Then, at last, Ferdinand considered himself well and
truly married.

But once more he was in trouble with the Pope, Pius X, who succeeded
that Leo XIII who gave him such a dressing down for the apostasy of his
infant heir. This Pope would have nothing to do with him, and it was
said in the best informed circles was preparing an edict of
excommunication for his continued impiety, culminating in this marriage
with a Protestant. But Ferdinand was now to reap the benefit of his
friendship with Franz Ferdinand; the heir to the Austrian Empire
interceded for him, and the blow was averted.

When Ferdinand took his German bride to Sofia, he was again received
with hoots and yells of “Schwaba,” but he did not care. It is only
right to say that the greeting was not aimed at the lady, whom the
Bulgarians soon took into their favour. She has since been a good
mother to the Bulgarian Royal children, and a kind and humane queen to
the suffering soldiers of Bulgaria.

But the satisfaction of Ferdinand was not due to any anticipation of
these things. What pleased him was that at last he was invited to
Schonbrun to meet the old Austrian Emperor. The attitude of Francis
Joseph had always been such as to make Ferdinand repeat the anxious
question of Mr. Dick Swiveller, when a meeting was in question. “Is the
Old Min friendly?” he might well have asked when the invitation was
conveyed to him by Franz Ferdinand. For the aged Emperor had called him
a “felon” and other uncomplimentary things, and sternly refused to have
anything to do with him. Small wonder if Ferdinand was anxious about
his reception.

But he took his bride to Schonbrun, and the influence of the Austrian
heir was shown by the fact that the “Old Min” was indeed friendly. He
toasted Ferdinand and his bride in glowing terms that created a mild
sensation throughout Europe. This Ferdinand was pleased, in a
subsequent interview, to attribute to his own great merits. “The
welcome accorded me by the Emperor Francis Joseph, and his cordial
toast,” he said, “were, I venture to say, the deserved reward of the
work which I had in more than twenty years accomplished in Bulgaria.
They were in no degree the declaration of any compact.” Ferdinand has
always been a good denier.

It was a great stroke for Ferdinand. A little while afterwards
Stancioff, his Foreign Minister, was able to boast with truth in the
Sobranje that—

“Honours generally reserved for independent sovereigns are now rendered
to the Prince of Bulgaria. The Great Powers are represented here by
their ministers plenipotentiary. While our army is esteemed abroad, its
Commander-in-Chief (the Prince) holds honorary rank in the armies of
foreign States. Our Government is faithful to its international
engagements, and is desirous of developing intercourse with other
peoples.” And so on. And all the time Ferdinand was the vassal of the
Sultan of Turkey.

But not for much longer. For now the Young Turks rose and tore the Red
Sultan from the throne, and Ferdinand was able to give a practical
demonstration of the meaning of the strange friendliness of the “Old
Min.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE CZAR


“_With pride and thanksgiving I accept the title of Bulgarian Czar
offered me by the nation and the Government._”—FERDINAND OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XIX

  FERDINAND THE CZAR


The Young Turk revolution could only have been viewed by Ferdinand, and
by his master, Franz Ferdinand, as a serious blow to their schemes of
aggrandisement in the Balkans. Their whole pretext for interference was
supplied by the oppression of the Christian nations in Thrace,
Macedonia and Albania by the minions of the Red Sultan. And now the Red
Sultan was no more a Sultan, and the new Sultan was put into power with
the mission of remedying the grievances of these Christian subjects of
Turkey.

Ferdinand was still a vassal Prince, and by the terms of the Treaty of
Berlin bound to remain a vassal Prince. The Provinces of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, by the terms of the same treaty, only existed under the
protection of the Austrian Empire. If the new Turkish administration
should prove honest and successful, the schemers would be hard put to
it for an excuse for the interference they had planned.

But excuses are easily found by men like Ferdinand of Bulgaria. The new
Turkish Ministry gave a dinner in Constantinople to the representatives
of the Great Powers. Naturally they left out M. Gueschoff, the
Bulgarian political Agent in Constantinople, who was nothing but the
servant of Turkey’s own vassal. But Ferdinand took offence at this
slight, and seizing a section of the Orient Express railway, promptly
proclaimed Bulgaria’s independence of Turkey.

In the same moment Austria took possession in full of the provinces of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the breach of the Treaty of Berlin thus
became a huge one. The full nature of the plot was revealed when
Germany, which was bound like all the other Powers signing the treaty
to insist on its observance, backed the position of Austria and
Bulgaria. In the words of the Kaiser, Germany stood by “in shining
armour.” The prospect of a world struggle, since realized, was afforded
to a startled civilization. But it was averted, and the schemers
carried out their plan successfully.

[Illustration: The poorest of royal horsemen, Ferdinand enters Sofia as
Czar for the first time, with two men at the head of his horse for the
purpose of controlling it.]

On October 5, 1908, Ferdinand rode into the ancient Bulgarian capital
of Tirnovo, incidentally falling off his horse in the process, and was
crowned Czar of Bulgaria, the regalia to which allusion has been made
in the course of this narrative having been taken out of pawn and
furbished up for the occasion. The happy peasantry danced the national
dances once more, and the streets of the city afforded a spectacle
seldom seen off the stage of the luxurious musical comedy theatres of
the pre-war era.

The Coronation ceremony took place in the Church of the Forty Martyrs,
and afterwards Ferdinand walked to the Hissar, or castle of the old
Czars of Bulgaria. No more perilous riding for him that day! And there,
in the hall where Czar Simeon and the rest of them used to feast—and
plan to gouge out the eyes of the Byzantine Greeks—he read the
following bombastic proclamation:—

“By the will of our never-to-be-forgotten Liberator and the great
kindred Russian nation, aided by our good friends and neighbours the
subjects of the King of Rumania, by the Bulgarian heroes on February
18, 1878, chains of slavery were broken by which for so many centuries
Bulgaria, once a great and glorious Power, was bound. From that time
till to-day, for full thirty years, the Bulgarian nation, preserving
the memory of those who had laboured for its freedom and inspired by
their tradition, has worked incessantly for the development of its
beautiful country, and under my guidance and that of the departed
Prince Alexander, has made it a nation fit to take an equal place in
the family of civilized peoples, and endowed with gifts of cultural and
economic progress.

“While proceeding on this path nothing should arrest the progress of
Bulgaria, nothing should hinder her success. Such is the desire of the
nation, such its will.

“Let that desire be fulfilled! The Bulgarian nation and its chief can
have but one sentiment, one desire.

“Practically independent, the nation was impeded in its normal and
peaceful development by certain illusions and formal limitations, which
resulted in a coldness of relations between Turkey and Bulgaria. I and
the nation desire to rejoice in the political development of Turkey.
Turkey and Bulgaria, free and independent of each other, may exist
under conditions which will allow them to strengthen their friendly
relations and to devote themselves to peaceful internal development.

“Inspired by the sacred purpose of satisfying national requirements and
fulfilling the national desire, I proclaim, with the blessing of the
Almighty, Bulgaria—united since September 6, 1885—an independent
kingdom. Together with the nation I firmly believe that this act will
meet with the approbation of the Great Powers.”

Then Ferdinand gave the signal and the beauty chorus obliged once more
with the national dances. At last he was Czar of the Bulgarians.

It must have been disheartening to such a whole-souled friend of
liberty and progress to find “the great kindred Russian nation” was
very angry at his duplicity, and accused him of an arrangement with
Austria. This he denied most emphatically, as I have told, and in an
amazing Press interview explained what a misunderstood man he was. He
said:—

“The mission which I am fulfilling here in the Balkans must be
thoroughly understood. I have devoted myself entirely to the people
which I adopted twenty-two years ago. It possesses wonderful virtues.
It is sober, hard-working, proud, jealous of its independence and
freedom. A nation from which is recruited the admirable and large army
that you have seen, and which cheerfully bears the military burdens
imposed upon it by necessity, is one of the strong nations, with a fine
future before it.

“But the Bulgarian, after so many years of servitude, barely liberated
as he is from the Mussulman yoke, still remains concentrated in
himself. He has not learned to look outside his country. All his
universe is contained between his mountains, the Black Sea, and the
Danube. It is I who do duty for him as the watchman, who is incessantly
scanning the distant horizon. It is I who pick up for him rumours from
abroad, who communicate his aspirations, his desires, and legitimate
claims to the foreigner. I am like the lung which breathes the outside
air for him, and which assimilates for him the refreshing breezes which
come from the rest of the world. Owing, above all, to its Sovereign,
Bulgaria does not remain isolated and shut up in herself, and she
constitutes a portion of the European family.”

This was Ferdinand’s way of conveying to the Liberator nation of Russia
that, having got all he could expect from that source, he had taken up
with new friends. The Watchman “scanning the distant horizon” had
discerned the effort that the German nations were preparing to snatch
the mastery of Europe, and had thrown in the lot of the people he had
so kindly adopted with the pirates. But Russia, then and for long
afterwards, was unable to believe that his perfidy was as complete as
recent events have proved it.

Russia continued to exert itself for the freedom of the Slav peoples
from the Turk; for the Young Turk proved to be still the same old Turk,
and the bitter cry of Macedonia was not stilled by the departure of
Abdul the Damned into exile.

The theft of Bosnia and Herzegovina had brought the Austrians right
down on to the border of poor little Serbia, which needed immediate
protection from the ambitious schemes of the heir to the throne, as
much as the Serbians outside Serbia itself needed help against the
persecuting Turk. In such circumstances it was the task of Russia to
unite the Balkan nations by a treaty which would make them mutually
defensive against their foes, and it was such a treaty that Ferdinand
was presently called upon by his Ministers to sign.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND AND THE BALKAN LEAGUE


“_May God preserve Bulgaria from the consequences._”—FERDINAND OF
BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XX

  FERDINAND AND THE BALKAN LEAGUE


The independent kingdom of Bulgaria occupied a very different position
in the eyes of the Powers to that of the vassal Principality. Soon
Ferdinand began to feel some of the disadvantages of greatness, and to
recognize the responsibilities he had incurred by his coup with
Austria. He had incurred the suspicion of Russia and Rumania on the one
side, and the enmity of Serbia on the other, while Turkey was only
biding its time to avenge his share in the breaking of the Berlin
Treaty.

The new régime in Turkey was no better than the old, and the atrocities
in Macedonia continued, Bulgarian and Turkish bands vying with one
another in cruelty and oppression. Russia’s remedy for this state of
things was a league of the Balkan States for mutual defence, and
eventually all except Rumania were induced to come to an agreement. In
this agreement the protecting hand of Russia obtained for Serbia a
measure of protection from Austria equivalent to that guaranteed to
Bulgaria against the vengeful Turk.

Thus in the treaty between Serbia and Bulgaria it was agreed that for
purposes of mutual defence Bulgaria must put into the field at least
200,000 men, and Serbia not less than 150,000. Article 3 of the
military convention between these two nations stipulated “If
Austria-Hungary attacks Serbia or sends her army into the Sandjak of
Novi-Bazar, Bulgaria engages herself to declare war upon Austria at
once, and to send into Serbia an army which shall not be less than
200,000 soldiers strong, and which, in association with the Serbian
army, shall engage in offensive and defensive operations against
Austria-Hungary.”

Now Ferdinand wanted an alliance against Turkey, but not an alliance
against Austria. When this treaty was presented to him by his Ministers
for signature he demurred, and sent it back for the deletion of the
offending clause. But Russia was firm, and threatened to withdraw her
support of the alliance unless the clause protecting Serbia against
Austria were included. Then Ferdinand signed; and throwing down the pen
dramatically exclaimed—

“May God preserve Bulgaria from the consequences!”

The treaty was signed on February 29, 1912.

Then Ferdinand prepared his coup against Turkey without further loss of
time. The pretext for the mobilization of the Bulgarian army, which was
ordered on October 5, 1912, was the “massacre” of Kochana, a town in
Macedonia, close to the Bulgarian border. It began with a bomb
explosion contrived by Ferdinand’s own emissaries, and followed with
reprisals on both sides.

Then Ferdinand ordered the mobilization of the army, and issued a
proclamation in his very best style. Here are some extracts:—

“The tears of the Balkan slave and the groaning of millions of
Christians could not but stir our hearts, the hearts of their kinsmen
and co-religionists, who are indebted for our peaceful life to a great
Christian Liberator, and the Bulgarian nation has often remembered the
prophetic words of the Czar Liberator, ‘The work is begun, it must be
carried through.’

“I bring to the cognisance of the Bulgarian nation that war is
declared. I order the brave Bulgarian army to march on the Turkish
territory; at our sides, and with us will fight, for the same object
against a common enemy, the armies of the Balkan States allied to
Bulgaria—Serbia, Greece and Montenegro. And in this struggle of the
Cross against the Crescent, of liberty against tyranny, we shall have
the sympathy of all those who love justice and progress.... Forward,
may God be with you.”

Then they danced the national dances and sang the national songs in the
streets of Sofia, and carefully rehearsed shouts were raised of “Long
live our heroic Czar!”

It is not within the compass of this narrative to enter into the
details of the first Balkan war. The Bulgarian army fought as might
have been expected, with a savage bravery. The behaviour of its
soldiery eclipsed the worst exploits of the Huns in Belgium. These
peasants were only one generation more advanced in civilization than
the eye-gouging heroes of the old Czars, and nothing could restrain
them.

They beat the Turks at Kirk Kilisse and Lule Burgas, and pursued the
flying enemy, by Ferdinand’s order, to the very lines of Chatalja. They
laid siege to Adrianople, and had he not interfered, would have soon
entered that city and butchered the bulk of its Turkish inhabitants.
But Ferdinand preferred to be away at Carlsbad when any butchery was
going on, and interfered, so that the capture of the city was delayed
until a strong Serbian force came on the scene, and hastened its
surrender.

The Greeks, as is well known, made straight for Salonica, of which
important port they took possession. The Montenegrins did wonders on
the Adriatic coast, while the Serbians were equally successful in their
sphere of the war; and, as I have said, helped to bring about the fall
of Adrianople.

But Ferdinand’s attempt to force a way to Constantinople failed, and
the Bulgarian army got a severe handling at the lines of Chatalja. On
November 1, Ferdinand had rejected a peace proposal from Turkey,
without communicating it to his Allies; but by the end of the year he
was trying to make peace with Turkey, again without his Allies. The
fall of Adrianople in March brought to a head the disagreement of the
Allies about the division of the conquered territory.

Then, according to the treaties which bound the Balkan States, the
differences should have been referred to Russia for arbitration. The
clause of the treaties which imposed this condition is worth quoting:—

“Every difference which may be manifested concerning the interpretation
and execution of any of the stipulations of the treaty, its secret
annex, or military conventions, is to be submitted to the final
decision of Russia as soon as one or other party declares that it is
impossible to reach an agreement with the other party by direct
negotiation.”

But a reference of his claims to Russia was the last thing Ferdinand
wanted. His hesitation at signing the clause protecting Serbia against
Austria had not won him the confidence of Russia, and he feared that he
would not have anything the best of such arbitration. Serbia was now
seeking an outlet to the Adriatic, as the reward for her share in the
fighting, and this ambition was opposed to all Austrian interests.
Ferdinand again began to intrigue with Austria, and to palter with
Russia and his allies. He dismissed his pacific Prime Minister, M.
Gueschoff, and ordered Dr. Daneff to form a ministry. That ministry
resisted arbitration by every means in its power.

Meanwhile Ferdinand was preparing for a treacherous attack upon the
forces of his Allies. The Bulgarian armies were concentrated upon the
Macedonian borders, and secret preparations of great elaboration were
pushed forward.

At midnight on June 29, the Serbians and Greeks along the entire front
were suddenly and violently attacked. As they had not expected this act
of treachery, they were driven back in wild confusion. But they soon
rallied, and at the same time Bulgaria had to submit to an invasion
from the fresh troops of Rumania. Turkey again moved forward, and the
Bulgarians found themselves unable to resist the combination of enemies
against them. Ferdinand was forced to sign the disadvantageous Treaty
of Bucarest.

Thus Ferdinand’s treachery met its due reward. What it cost Bulgaria at
the time will now be related. What it will eventually cost Bulgaria
cannot yet be detailed, but it is certain that the peasant State has
not yet paid a tithe of the price of ranging itself on the side of the
Huns.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE MARTYR


“_If God and my foes grant me life, we shall go on, and my children, my
successors, will follow the road on which I have been the
pioneer._”—FERDINAND OF BULGARIA.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXI

  FERDINAND THE MARTYR


The Treaty of Bucarest was followed in Bulgaria by what Ferdinand, in
an interview with a British newspaper correspondent, pathetically
described as a “schemozzle.” You may remember that among his many
accomplishments a facile use of Yiddish speech takes high rank.

And really, considering how furiously the Bulgarians had fought, and
how freely they shed their blood, it is not surprising that they were
angry with him. All their neighbours had got something substantial,
even Rumania, which had not taken up arms against the Turks. And
Bulgaria was the poorer by a substantial slice of territory extorted
from Ferdinand by his Rumanian neighbours. The Turks had regained
possession of Macedonia, including the city of Adrianople. The Greeks
had the coveted ports of Salonica and Kavalla on the Ægean. The
Serbians, though they had not found their way out to the Adriatic, had
Thrace, and a long railway line from Belgrade through Uskub, with an
outlet through Greek territory to Salonica.

Each of the ten Bulgarian political parties blamed one of the leaders
of another party, but all united in giving chief part of the blame to
Ferdinand himself. And in this, there can be no doubt, they were quite
right.

Ferdinand himself was indeed in a bad way. He had offended Russia
beyond all chance of recovery in her good graces. He had lost every
trick in the game, and his dreams of being crowned in Constantinople
had melted into thin air. In his extremity he turned to his Austrian
friends for sympathy. It was characteristic of him that he should go
off to Vienna disguised as the Count of Murany. He went for advice and
sympathy to his friend Franz Ferdinand. But this astute person refused
to see him. Moreover, the semi-official Press of Vienna came out with a
demand that Ferdinand should be required to leave the Austrian capital.
He was, they said, a dangerous and undesirable visitor. So Ferdinand
went quietly back to Sofia, taking with him a sheaf of Press cuttings
to prove, at any rate, that the Austrians were no friends of his.

There were no national dances to welcome him home. Instead a crowd
assembled under the Palace windows and moaned, “Down with the Balkan
Nero.” And the students had got a pot of tar and a big brush and
scrawled on the Palace walls, in letters two feet long, “TO LET.”

The students had reason to be angry with him. He had never really liked
the students of Sofia, and when the attack on his Allies was made, he
had arranged that a regiment, mainly composed of students and other
advanced thinkers, young men of position in Bulgaria, should be placed
in a position without support where they were sure to be badly cut up.
This had leaked out, and Ferdinand was more unpopular than ever with
the youth and intellect of Sofia. “Down with the Balkan Nero,” they
cried; and Ferdinand shuddered to hear them.

Then it was announced that the King was about to abdicate in favour of
Prince Boris. The latter had borne himself gallantly in the war, and
was popular, compared to his father. The rumour of his impending
resignation made things easier for Ferdinand, and he did not deny that
rumour. He posed as a martyr and a victim of Russian intrigue. And the
curious part of it is that he got people to believe him, and especially
English people.

Ferdinand has always been very polite to foreign journalists, and in
his hour of need this facile courtesy served him well. By this time few
people in this country knew what all the fighting was about, or whether
Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria or Rumania was in the wrong about the second
Balkan war. What they did know was that the Bulgarians had administered
the principal trouncings to the Turk, and had come out of the struggle
worse off than when they entered.

On broad principles it was considered that Ferdinand had been most
unfairly treated. The theory that the Balkan States should be limited
by racial conditions has also prevailed in this country, among such
people as were interested enough to give the matter a single thought.
It is an excellent theory but for the fact that the average Macedonian
peasant prefers to belong to the race which has the strongest band of
murderers in the neighbourhood.

In any case, Ferdinand, who had a keen nose for sympathy, saw that his
treachery could be covered by a sufficient amount of brazen complaining
and posing. If he ever had any thought of abdicating he quickly laid it
aside. He was quick to recognize that the worst that could possibly
happen to him had already happened, and that the Great Powers would see
that Bulgaria was shorn of no more territory. He set diligently to work
to obscure the real facts of the second Balkan war; he has been
obscuring them ever since.

At home he fomented disputes among the party politicians, and managed
to switch them on to a discussion about which the Bulgarians have
written whole libraries of books. He did not care who or what they
blamed; let them only keep on arguing and their fury would spend itself
in words. He was right; they continued to argue about the events of
June, 1913, until they had something more cogent to engage their
attention.

Meanwhile Ferdinand returned to the simple life. He found in his old
hobbies of botany and ornithology a new charm; they took him much into
the country and out of the cries of the enraged students. He added a
new hobby, and interested himself much in animals. Soon an interested
world was informed that he was spending his leisure in taming elephants.

The pro-German party in Bulgaria wished him to strive with his Austrian
and German friends for a revision of the Treaty of Bucarest. Our own
authorities on Balkan questions openly proclaimed that unless that were
done, there was nothing that could save his crown for Ferdinand. The
Sofiote Press began to publish stories of Prince Boris, showing what a
hero he was, and how well fitted to rule in place of his unworthy
father.

But if Ferdinand knows nothing else, he knows how to wait. He had
waited many years for the chance of a Principality. He waited ages to
bring about the downfall of Stambuloff. He waited even longer for the
recognition by the Powers of Europe of his claim to be considered
Prince of Bulgaria; and he waited nearly a quarter of a century to
declare himself Czar of Bulgaria and independent of Turkey. None knows
better than he the virtue of masterly inaction.

From the haven of Euxinograd—“My Sandringham,” as he used to call it
when speaking to British visitors—he followed with interest the storm
that was raging in Sofia. He cultivated sedulously every influence that
was opposed to his old friends and supporters, and threw all his weight
into the growing friendship arising between Bulgaria and Turkey, the
two sufferers from the Balkan wars. His plans were simple enough; he
wished to promote revolutionary outbreaks in Serbian Thrace, and to
foster the Austrian influence in Sofia.

But he acted throughout by means of agents. Ostensibly he was living
the simple life, and posing as an injured and misunderstood monarch.
The fierce winds of controversy in Sofia in which he was made a target
by all the controversialists did not blow upon him. He could see the
storm-clouds thickening in the Balkans, and spent more and more time on
his throne seat on the seashore, looking out to Constantinople.

And while he was living the simple home life at Euxinograd, the storm
at Sofia actually did blow itself out; and the great European storm
burst and carried away all the fastenings of civilization.

But first it will be amusing and instructive to take a peep at him as
the simple farmer and flower-lover, living the family life far away
from the cares of State and the troubles which afflict a monarch who
means to be crowned in the cathedral of St. Sophia at Constantinople.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND IN RETIREMENT


“_His disappearances correspond to the most secret depths of his
soul._”—ALEXANDRE HEPP.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXII

  FERDINAND IN RETIREMENT


Once, in the days when Ferdinand was a sub-lieutenant of Austrian
hussars, the Emperor Franz Joseph stood talking to Kossuth, the
Hungarian statesman, at the window of the palace. As they talked
Ferdinand chanced to pass through the courtyard below, and the Emperor
asked the Hungarian his opinion of the young prince.

“That boy, sire,” said Kossuth, “has a long nose, but it will not be
you who will pull it.”

The prophecy may or may not prove an accurate one, but the personal
observation was inevitable. No one can possibly look at Ferdinand
without being struck by the size and prominence of his nose. “Too
copious for one man,” it has been pronounced, and in the modern gallery
of kings there is certainly no nose like it.

For the rest, the Prince Ferdinand who first affronted the eyes of the
rough Bulgarians was an exquisite, with artificially waved and golden
locks, white hands with long slim fingers, a small waist confined by
obvious corsets, and cold blue eyes that sparkled with self-esteem.

A quarter of a century has not served to modify the dominance of his
all-pervading nose, though it has altered the rest of the man in no
small degree. The long fair moustache and the delicately tended
imperial have given way to a thick crop of grey hair, and a carefully
trimmed and pointed beard. His pinched figure has expanded into a burly
stoutness, his fine hands have gone plump and coarse; he is no longer
the “Prince Charming” of the adventure of 1887; although he still
preserves his personal vanity—for not long ago he had a journalist sent
to gaol for nothing more than making some rude remarks about the length
of his nose. The Ferdinand we are now to see surrounded by his home
influences is a man who affects the manner of a bluff country gentleman.

[Illustration: Ferdinand allows the peasants to kiss his hand.]

Of course it is not possible to speak with any confidence of the manner
of a man so entirely artificial as Ferdinand. He has a separate manner
for every occasion and for every person with whom he comes into
contact. As we have seen, his manner to the Sofiotes is ever one of
aloof and portentous gravity. This pose of the monarch absorbed in the
affairs of State is not an original one. It is copied from the Kaiser,
who has for many years taken the utmost pains to avoid smiling in
public. Not long ago a photographer, to whom the Kaiser was posing,
startled him into a smile by the imperious manner of his instructions.
All the prints made and the negative itself had to be destroyed.

The same pose of a man immersed in matters of superhuman importance has
suited Ferdinand very well in Sofia, and I have shown that it has
served very well to impress the people of that city. But when he was
under a cloud, and forced to remain entirely at his country palaces,
one found him doing the heavy benevolent father of his people, with the
unfortunate Bulgarian peasants as his victims.

The two palaces between which he divided his time were that of Vrana, a
suburb of Sofia where he has an estate at the foot of Mount Vitosch,
and Euxinograd, the “Sandringham” he maintains on the border of the
Black Sea, which was recently shelled with good effect by the Russian
fleet.

Here you might have seen Ferdinand, gotten up in a shooting suit, with
gaiters, thick leather gloves and a heavy stick, walking about the
farms of the peasants and prodding the cattle in the ribs with a
knowing air. Nice clean old peasant women were kept always at hand, to
kiss his finger graciously extended to them, and to impress any foreign
visitor with the urbanity of this monarch, and the good terms on which
he existed with the simple country folk.

Let me quote his English biographer:—

“For the country people the King was a gentleman farmer, knowing
everything about agriculture, tobacco-growing, wine-growing, the state
of the markets, and most pleasant to gossip with. Every village on the
railway line or country road along which the King was coming would turn
out its crowd of people to salute him. In an automobile journey he
would stop to watch or chat with labourers at work in the fields, or at
some hamlet where the teacher took care to have his young folk lined up
in front of their seniors. A pathetic love for childhood is one of the
distinctive traits of Czar Ferdinand’s character.”

One of Ferdinand’s own stories is of a village teacher whom he met
under such circumstances, and whom he graciously invited to come and
see him if ever he visited Sofia. There was a grand levee at the
palace, the story goes, and everybody was attired for the most formal
of Ferdinand’s formal evenings. When the revelry was at its height, a
rough man in baggy brown trousers and a country coat came to the door
and asked to see the King. He was promptly told to go away. But he
refused, and said he had been invited. Then a squabble took place, the
rustic insisting on being allowed an entry.

In the midst of the trouble the King put in an appearance and cordially
greeted his visitor. Shaking him heartily by the hand he led him
through the brilliant throng to his study where he gave him
refreshment. Then he conducted him about the palace, introducing him to
this one and that.

That is a story that Sofia scoffs at, and that is believed by bucolic
Bulgaria. And ninety per cent. of the Bulgarians are essentially
bucolic.

Ferdinand takes the interest in his family that might have been
expected of such a man. He has insisted that each of his four children
shall have a hobby, and is more than a little proud of the electric
bells which Prince Cyril has installed in the Vrana Palace. He alleges
that this feat proves that the younger of his sons has a great
mechanical genius, in which he takes after his father, who can drive a
locomotive to perfection. It is an established theory, therefore, that
eventually Prince Cyril shall succeed his father as Lord High Admiral
of the handful of torpedo craft which constitute the Bulgarian fleet.

The Princesses have been taken in hand by the Czarina, and have
effectually seconded her in the works of mercy that have so occupied
her leisure of recent years. Both are pretty girls resembling their
gentle mother rather than Ferdinand; indeed, there is little
resemblance shown to the Balkan Czar by any of his family.

Ferdinand also goes in for sport in a mild sort of way. One cannot
expect many such remarkable feats as the “valorous” shot that brought
down the eagle which he has had stuffed and mounted in his den. But he
does considerable execution among the little birds along the seashore,
when the dare-devil fit comes upon him. He has also a rooted antipathy
to owls, and will go to the utmost trouble to put one of these birds
out of action.

The reason is a superstitious one. He declares that when any misfortune
is about to overtake him, warning is given by the circumstance of an
owl settling on the flagstaff of his Euxinograd Palace. The fewer owls,
of course, the less opportunity of giving warnings, and so the less
likelihood of misfortune overtaking the Balkan Czar. It is a fine piece
of reasoning, which involves its originator in conduct which in a man
less kind-hearted might almost be accounted as cruelty.

But he makes up for his harshness to owls by a great tenderness to
birds that have bright plumage or sing sweetly. To all such the
Euxinograd estate is a sanctuary, and is consequently the resort of
feathered visitors from the whole country around. They, and the
beautiful collection of caged birds which he maintains, form another
interest to his life at this retreat.

And so, amid his tame peasants and tame birds in the seclusion of his
beautiful gardens, Ferdinand waited for the home storm to blow over,
and for the storm to rise without his kingdom. We understand now that
he knew as well as anyone what was preparing, for he was deep in the
councils of his friend Franz Ferdinand, and not without an inkling of
what was in the mind of his friend’s friend, the Kaiser. The scheme of
these two dark-minded men to attack Russia through Serbia was now in
course of execution.

Ferdinand was still leading the simple life when the world was startled
and horrified by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo. Who
can say where the guilt of that bloody act really lies? Its effect can
be discerned by the most superficial observer. While Franz Ferdinand
lived there was in Austria a rival to the Kaiser in intellect, in force
of character, in the art of concentrating national effort to the
furtherance of his ambitious schemes.

The murder of the heir to the Austrian throne not only afforded a
pretext for the attempt to inflict German predominance upon the face of
Europe; it also removed from the path of Germany the one man who could
have prevented Austria from sinking to the position of Germany’s vassal.

When the murder was done, Ferdinand, as if by a preconceived signal,
returned from his retirement to actual life. He was now prepared to
embark upon his last and greatest treachery, to put into execution
schemes so devious and so dishonourable that all the perfidy of his
early career sinks into insignificance. His part in the drama of 1914
was set and rehearsed; he now appeared on the stage, taking his cue
with a promptitude that speaks volumes for the thoroughness with which
he had been rehearsed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND THE FALSE


“_Bulgaria is the final link in the chain of German Kultur and German
greatness._”—THE KAISER.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXIII

  FERDINAND THE FALSE


The murder of Franz Ferdinand and the ranging of all the Great Powers
of Europe in a struggle for life or death opened up to Ferdinand a new
vista of opportunity. He could see at any rate that opportunities would
soon come his way to retrieve the losses of the second Balkan war. When
Turkey plunged headlong into the quarrel, the opportunities of Bulgaria
were multiplied tenfold, and for the first time in its existence this
newest of European nations occupied a position of great importance by
reason of its geographical position.

To appreciate to the full the real importance of Bulgaria’s position it
is necessary to take a glance at the map of Europe, as it appeared
after the Treaty of Bucarest, and before Europe was convulsed by the
Great War. One quick glance will show that the only European country
with a frontier adjoining that of Turkey in Europe is Bulgaria, and
that it lies like a wedge between the territory of the Central Powers
and that of Turkey.

In a word, a hostile Bulgaria would cut Turkey off from its allies of
Germany and Austria; a neutral Bulgaria would make communication most
difficult; while an allied Bulgaria would permit free passage of goods
and troops between Berlin and Constantinople.

Ferdinand was quick to see the new importance he had assumed in the
struggle of the nations, and eager to push his advantage to the utmost.
From the very outset he was wooed most assiduously by his old friend
Austria, and by Germany through Austria. On the other hand his
traditional friendship with France, and the deep obligation of Bulgaria
to Russia and Great Britain, caused the Allied Powers to regard the
position with some complacency. The hostility of all the Balkan States
to Turkey, and therefore to the Teuton Powers, was assumed, though it
appears to have been recognized from the outset that Ferdinand would
set a price, even upon his neutrality.

But Ferdinand was already committed to a scheme which promised him far
more than he could expect from his French friends and their allies. The
service demanded was no small one, for he had not only to appear in
arms on behalf of the Central Powers when the appointed time came, but
before then he had to destroy the trust of the other Balkan States in
the justice and the cause of the Entente Powers.

To this end it was necessary to retain the confidence of France, Great
Britain, and the Powers allied to them. The task was no easy one, since
his duplicity was a matter of notoriety; and he had need to preserve a
very specious air to cover the real cunning of his plans. How far he
went in his double dealing it is not yet possible to say; but it is
certain that he must have gone to extreme lengths to win the confidence
and trust of the Entente diplomatists in the face of the warnings that
were showered upon them.

The demands he made as the price of his friendship were for concessions
at the expense of his neighbours, Serbia and Greece. Serbia was to
yield 6,000 square miles of that part of Thrace which was wrested from
Turkey in the Balkan war. The demand was an unconscionable one, for in
the territory he wanted was a considerable section of the railway that
linked Belgrade to Salonica, and formed the only outlet that Serbia
possessed to the sea. That link was to be entrusted to the acknowledged
enemy of Serbia, the Czar of Bulgaria.

It is not very pleasant to reflect that Serbia was forced to consent to
this demand by her allies. The use made by Germans of the incident, and
of the pressure that had to be applied to Serbia, was a very deft one.
Rumania and Greece were told that they were mere pawns in the game, and
that the Powers of the Entente would willingly sacrifice them to their
own desire to retain the friendship of Bulgaria.

Greece was soon to have a practical illustration of the German
argument, for Ferdinand, emboldened by his first diplomatic success,
then demanded a strip of Greek territory on the Ægean, including the
Greek seaport of Kavalla. Greece strenuously objected, but was told
that she must give way and that it was only due to Bulgaria. “What did
we tell you?” whispered the Germans in Greek ears, and were justified
of their previous insinuations.

It has never been disclosed whether Ferdinand asked for instant
delivery of this territory, or whether the compliance with his demands
was followed on his part by the signing of a treaty with the Entente
Powers. It would have been like the disregard Ferdinand had always
shown for “scraps of paper” if he had committed Bulgaria to a pact
which he had already broken when it was signed. For at this time, when
by some means he had won the trust of the Entente Powers, he had
actually entered into treaty obligations with their enemies.

Who can measure the duplicity of this man? It is certain that the trust
reposed in him by both sides was very great, and that in the end he was
certain to betray one or the other. That he had already chosen to
betray the Entente is fairly certain, for already the expedition
against the Dardanelles had been launched, and he well knew that its
success would mean the total extinction of his long-cherished scheme
for obtaining possession of Constantinople.

With Germany and Austria, on the other hand, he was dealing with Powers
lavish of their promises. To them, and to Turkey also, a free passage
through Bulgaria had now become vital. They were at a standstill in the
western area of war, and their great effort against Russia was now
expending itself. The only outlet offering was to the east and south,
and to that outlet the assistance of Bulgaria was imperative. So
Germany promised far more than the Entente Powers could give, and
Ferdinand sold himself to the biggest bidder.

It was a dangerous game he played, for the success of the attempt on
the Dardanelles would have made it impossible for him to carry out his
arrangement with his friends the Huns. The failure of that enterprise,
on the other hand, allowed him to break his obligations to the Entente
Powers, after they had strained the loyalty of Serbia, Greece and
Rumania, in trying to meet his demands.

Such was the double treachery of which Ferdinand was guilty in 1914 and
1915. His treaties with the Teuton Powers appear to have been two. The
first was made with Austria in 1913, when he pledged himself to common
action against Serbia with that Power; and so, it may be, paved the way
to the assassination of the heir-apparent to the Austrian throne. The
other was made with Germany in July, 1915, when Ferdinand was
guaranteed Thrace, and a strip of Greek territory along the Ægean,
including the ports of Kavalla and Salonica.

In April of 1915 the Rumanian Minister at Sofia warned his government
that the agreement had been made, and Rumania in its turn warned the
Entente Powers. Later Greece warned the Entente of what was going on at
least twice. In the face of these warnings, the Entente Powers
continued to believe in Ferdinand. The Serbians, who knew his villany,
and were certain that he was casting in his lot with their oppressors,
wished to take the bull by the horns and attack Bulgaria while its
powerful friends were fully occupied with Russia and on the western
front. They were restrained by the Entente Powers; otherwise they would
have altered the whole course of the war.

I repeat that the Entente must have had better assurance than mere
protestations from Ferdinand to have trusted him so implicitly. His
reputation and his past career were for any one to read; yet in face of
all suspicious circumstances he was trusted. M. Joseph Reinach states
that when the documents of the negotiations are published by the
Entente Powers they will constitute a record in baseness and treachery.
For my own part, I conceive that nothing less than a treaty signed by
Ferdinand and his ministers will be brought forward in justification of
the latitude that was allowed to him.

The mobilization of the Bulgarian army was finally ordered upon the
flimsiest of pretexts, and its concentration upon the Serbian frontier,
concurrently with the advance of the German and Austrians upon the
doomed kingdom, follows inevitably. The rest is a matter of recent
history, still an incomplete chapter in the story of the Great War.

One effect of Ferdinand’s intervention was to unite Constantinople with
Berlin, and to make the British evacuation of the peninsula of
Gallipoli a necessity. Thus the Czar of Bulgaria was instrumental in
striking the hardest blow at the prestige of the British arms that has
been inflicted in the memory of living man. He effected it, not by
prowess in the field, but by an act of base and shameless treachery,
which involved his turning his back upon all the nations which he had
extolled as liberating influences, to which Bulgaria owed its very
existence. It involved him in an alliance with Turkey, the Power
against which he had been for a generation declaiming. But it was a
shrewd blow nevertheless, and it will be the fault of Great Britain
itself if the punishment for it is not conceived on a similar scale of
magnitude.

It must not be supposed that Ferdinand stood alone in Bulgaria in this
act of dissimulation and treachery. He acted in connivance with a
ministry which represented a very powerful pro-Hun section of Bulgarian
opinion. For by this time a large section of Bulgaria, embittered by
the reverse of the second Balkan war, had renounced its Slavonic
sympathies, and had openly pronounced for the Kultur of the Kaiser and
his generals and professors.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  KULTUR IN BULGARIA


“_A heroic struggle is being played out before us; the healthy and
mighty German Kultur is fighting the rotten French Culture which, being
sentenced to death, endeavours to induce all the other nations of
Europe to join her._”—DR. PETROFF, OF THE BULGARIAN UNIVERSITY.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXIV

  KULTUR IN BULGARIA


The tragedy of the second Balkan war had bitten deep into the hearts of
most Bulgarians. As I have already related, the terrible disaster which
that war brought upon Bulgaria produced a controversy which only died
down when the Bulgarian Army was once more mobilized to fight for the
Turk against the nation which liberated Bulgaria from Turkish bondage.

In the course of that controversy the argument was elaborated that by
the Treaty of Bucarest Bulgaria had liquidated its old debt to Russia,
and was free to turn and rend its whilom benefactor upon the first
favourable occasion. As Nikoff, one of the foremost controversialists,
put it:

“In 1878 Russia liberated 3,000,000 of our population after having shed
the blood of 150,000 of her sons. In the year 1913 Bulgaria liberated,
at great sacrifices also, 3,000,000 of her population in Macedonia and
Thrace, which Russia took and distributed among her new protégés,
Rumania, Serbia and Greece. And to-day Bulgaria and Russia are quits.
We have paid all our debt to Russia. To-day we can say: We have secured
our own liberty by our own arms.”

The argument is an ingenious one, but it quite overlooks the point that
the Bulgarian Czar, and not Russia, was the instrument of Bulgaria’s
undoing. But the Bulgarians desired to free themselves not only from
the obligation for their liberty, but from the claims of kinship with
Russia. And here German Kultur came to their aid by an elaborate
demonstration that they were not Slavs at all, but a predominant
semi-Teutonic and Tartar race which had organized the meek Slavs of 500
years ago into a victorious nation, and had persisted long after the
Slav race that lived with them had perished.

For Slav unity this new Bulgarian school therefore proposed to
substitute the theory of German Kultur. As Dr. Ghenadieff writes,
“Slavism is a fatal barrier to our national power and enthusiasm. It is
high time that we emerge from that error and discontinue preaching that
falsehood.”

And Dr. Petroff, of the Bulgarian University, writes, “At this moment
the culturally degenerated and outcast France has, in her struggle
against the powerful German Kultur, barbaric and idiotic Russia for her
ally.”

And the most celebrated of Bulgarian poets, the Tartaro-Bulgar Kyril
Christoff, sings a song of vengeance against Ferdinand’s France—

           When—after our deeds—envy gathered
           Five enemies before our doors;
           When, one after another, the enemies plundered us,
           And the sacred deed was reduced to ashes—
           Soulless and sold, O France, thou wast the first
           To calumniate our martyred people!
           Before our pain thy heart was not moved—
           But thou didst spit in the face of the Crucifix!

Such a state of mind, of course, was diligently fostered in Bulgaria by
Austrians and Germans alike. Soon there were accounts from credible
sources of the massing in Bulgaria of huge stores of German munitions,
and even of German uniforms. Some of these munitions were undoubtedly
intended for the beleaguered Turk, and Bulgaria became notorious for
the ease with which these warlike stores could be smuggled through a
neutral country. Indeed, so openly was the passage made that the word
smuggled is wildly inappropriate.

At this period Bulgaria entertained a new guest, Prince Henry of Reuss.
He had not always been as friendly to his brother-in-law, the Czar of
Bulgaria, as that potentate considered compatible with his own dignity
and peculiar merits. But now he had to complain of no lack of
friendliness on the part of the Lutheran Prince, or of his royal master
who had dispatched him to Sofia.

The Germans at this period were good customers of Bulgaria. The wheat
crop had been a bountiful one, and never had the Bulgarian farmers
received such prices for their harvest. They found that a European war
spelled prosperity for them, though there were signs that the garnering
of the wheat would be followed by one of those grim harvests with which
Bulgaria has recently been only too familiar.

Then German officers appeared in the streets of Sofia in increasing
numbers. They were discernible everywhere, though they made as little
display as possible of their uniforms; and when a German officer
appears in civil garb there must be some deep reason for the
self-denial.

The other signs of German Kultur in Bulgaria were the persistent
anti-Russian campaigns carried on by the chief newspapers, especially
the Government organs.

“If our national duty demands that we should join ourselves to the
enemies of the Russian policy,” wrote Dr. Ghenadieff, “it would be
criminal and treasonable were we to hesitate to do so because of a
souvenir of our liberation, or if, following the example of the
Bohemians, Poles, Croatians, and other pure-blooded Slavs, we delayed
too long before turning our arms against the Russians.... May an end be
finally put to the question of Bulgarian gratitude to Russia.”

Thus the corruption of Bulgaria went on. German money, German officers,
and German arms were poured into the country. The sufferings of Poland,
devastated as the result of its fidelity to Russia, were magnified in
the Bulgarian Press, and the moral for Bulgarians was emphasized with
daily increasing vehemence.

Ferdinand’s part in these proceedings was a characteristic one. He
undertook to conceal from the Powers of the Entente the treachery that
was preparing, and of which he was the chief instigator. At this
period—the middle of August, 1915—he wrote to a correspondent in Paris,
through his political secretary Dobrovitch:—

“The Russians have recently sustained serious defeats, but I am not of
opinion that these will affect the general situation. They now require
time to recuperate, and then, I hope, they will be able to resume the
offensive.

“Bulgaria maintains its neutrality. Will it continue to do so? I think
not. But in any case Bulgaria will not move until Greece and Rumania
have done so. The catastrophes of the last war have taught us to be
prudent, and not to trust to promises.

“I have conveyed your messages to His Majesty the King, who has been
much touched by them, and has charged me to convey his appreciation.”

That letter was written a month after the treaty with Germany had been
signed. In the middle of July the French Minister at Sofia was secretly
informed that Ferdinand had gone on a visit to Berlin. He at once
attempted to get into touch with the King, and was informed that he was
not very well, and was resting at his Vrana estate. He made persistent
attempts to communicate with Ferdinand by telephone, a method always
possible when Ferdinand was professing to be more French than the
French themselves. His every attempt was met with the reply that His
Majesty was indisposed and could not answer the calls.

Photographs have since been obtained which prove beyond all doubt that
Ferdinand was at that time in Berlin, where he had gone to confirm with
the Kaiser the hard and fast arrangement which had been effected
through the agency of the Prince of Reuss.

And now the German officers swarmed openly in the streets of Sofia and
took up their quarters at the Bulgarian war office. The meaning of the
signs and portents could not be mistaken by anybody but a simpleton. It
was common knowledge throughout Bulgaria that their Czar was about to
throw in his lot with the Huns.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND AND THE FARMER


“_It is a policy which will compromise your own dynasty, and may cost
you your head._”—STAMBULIVSKI, A BULGARIAN FARMER.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXV

  FERDINAND AND THE FARMER


Before finally and openly declaring himself on the side of the Huns,
Ferdinand was forced to receive a deputation consisting of five of the
most powerful men in Bulgaria. They were the leaders of five of the ten
parties which divide Bulgarian politics: namely Gueschoff
(Nationalists), Daneff (Progressive Liberals), Malinoff (Democrats),
Zanoff (Radicals), and Stambulivski (Country Party). They had come to
warn him that Bulgaria was opposed to his policy of active intervention
with the Central Powers, and minced no words in fulfilling their task.
They made it abundantly plain that at least half of Bulgaria was
opposed to his action, and that he would suffer such consequences as he
had always dreaded since his arrival in Bulgaria if he persisted in his
folly.

The ball was opened by Malinoff, who was Prime Minister of Bulgaria at
the time when Ferdinand declared himself Czar.

“The policy being conducted by the Government,” he said, “is a policy
of adventure which tends to throw Bulgaria into the arms of Germany,
either spurring her to an attack on Serbia or else forcing upon her a
neutrality which is desired by Germany. This policy is contrary to the
sentiments and the interests of the country, and if the Government
continues along these lines the disturbances which it will provoke will
be very serious. For these reasons, after having appealed to the
Government in vain, we request Your Majesty to call the Chamber
together immediately, and we further ask that a Coalition be called to
guarantee the country against any rash adventure.”

The King listened in silence and made no reply. Then with a nod he
invited Stambulivski to speak. The head of the Agrarian party, a rough
and haughty man, very popular with the masses of the Bulgarian peasants
from whom he has sprung, and who has only recently set aside the
peasant’s costume for the dress of the citizen, rose and addressed the
King with vigour:—

“In the name of the workers in the fields of Bulgaria I wish to add to
the words of my colleague, Malinoff, that the Bulgarians hold you
personally responsible, rather than your Government, for the disastrous
adventure of 1913. If a similar adventure were to be repeated the
catastrophe would this time be beyond remedy. Again the responsibility
would lie with your policy, which is contrary to the well-being of the
country, and the country would not fail to call you to account in
person. In order to make it quite clear what is the wish of your
country I present in writing to Your Majesty its exact expression.”

Next came Zanoff, the uncompromising Radical, who said, “I had sworn I
would never set foot in your palace. If I have come to-day it is
because the interests of the country, higher than my private
principles, have obliged me to do so. What I have to say Your Majesty
can read in this paper which I present in the name of my party.” He
then presented a memorandum similar in content to that of the
Agrarians. The King read this too and continued to keep silent.

Gueschoff, Prime Minister during the first Balkan war, followed:—

“Your Majesty, I, too, declare myself to be fully in agreement with
what Stambulivski has already said. However hard his words may have
seemed, they nevertheless express in their simple, uncultivated
frankness, unacquainted with the formalities of etiquette, our common
thoughts. We, all of us representatives of the Opposition, consider the
present policy contrary to the sentiments and interests of the country,
for, by spurring it on to make common cause with Germany, it brings it
into hostility with mighty Russia, who was our liberator, and the
adventure into which the country will be hurled will cost it its
future. We disapprove in the most absolute manner of this policy, and
we, too, request that the Sobranje be summoned and that a Ministry may
be formed having the co-operation of all parties.”

Dr. Daneff, who succeeded Guesehoff, but resigned when the attack on
Serbia and Greece failed, spoke in the same strain.

Having heard them all the King replied:—

“I have listened to your threatenings, and I will refer them to the
Prime Minister, that he may take cognizance of them and know what to
decide.”

There was an awkward pause, which Ferdinand attempted to fill by
passing some remarks about the crops to Stambulivski. But the attention
of the giant farmer was riveted on something more than agriculture.

“This,” he said, “is not the moment to talk of these things. I say
again to Your Majesty, that the country will not have a policy of
adventure such as cost it so dear in 1913. This policy is, moreover,
yours. Before 1913 we believed you a great diplomatist, but we have
seen what your diplomacy brought us. You have taken advantage of all
the holes in the Constitution to get the direction of the country in
your own hands. Your ministers count for nothing; you alone are the
author of this policy, and you alone will have the responsibility of
it.”

“The policy I have decided to follow,” the King frigidly replied, “is
the one which I consider the best and the most advantageous for the
country.”

“It is a policy which can only lead to disaster,” replied the farmer,
“which will bring about new catastrophes, and will compromise not only
the future of the country, but of your own dynasty, and which may cost
you your head!”

The King measured with his eyes this countryman who spoke such weighty
words.

“Do not trouble yourself about my head. It is an old one. Rather think
of your own,” said the King, with the shadow of a scornful smile, as he
moved away.

But Stambulivski replied: “My head matters little, sire; I am only
thinking of the country’s.”

But Ferdinand chose to disregard the warning. His choice was already
made, and a few days later he was figuring before the world once more
in the uncongenial guise of Ferdinand the War Lord.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND AS WAR LORD


“_Your Majesty’s nation in arms, under the guidance of its illustrious
War Lord, has added one sublime leaf of glory to another in the history
of Bulgaria._”—THE KAISER.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXVI

  FERDINAND AS WAR LORD


The world has recently been treated to the sublime spectacle of a
meeting of the Shoddy Czar and the Bloodstained Kaiser at Nish, the
ancient capital of down-trodden Serbia, where the two monarchs, united
only by the nefarious nature of the enterprise in which they are
engaged, exchanged compliments of a dangerous irony. It was
characteristic of Ferdinand that he should veil his impudent jibe under
the screen of a dead language, and refer to his partner in crime as
“Victor et gloriosus,” which, if it means anything, signifies,
“Conqueror and braggart.”

The Kaiser, for his part, stooped to no such refinement of sarcasm. He
made Ferdinand a field-marshal of the German Army, referring to the
“glorious triumphal march of his nation, under its illustrious War
Lord.” In conferring his new rank upon Ferdinand he said, “I am, with
my army, happy that you, by accepting it, have become ‘One of us.’”

The brutal irony of Wilhelm II was probably accepted by crafty
Ferdinand as one more added to the long list of insults he has received
at the Kaiser’s hands. The Czar of Bulgaria has had all sorts of good
qualities claimed for him by his admirers, but the most servile of his
flatterers has never ventured to claim that he has anything of the
soldier in him. That he neglected the common employment of the youth of
his time and his class for the fascination of the study of nature, and
that military matters roused in him the deepest aversion, is conceded
by friend and foe alike.

He has never been able to understand the elements of military theory or
practice, and as Stambuloff pointed out in the Press interview which
gave him so much offence, he was incapable of understanding his
Minister for War. Add to that the fact that he is a timorous man, and
the whole force of irony contained in the apparent fulsomeness of the
Kaiser’s words can be grasped.

His own Commander-in-Chief, the great General Savoff, summed up his
military qualifications in an interview shortly after the conclusion of
the Treaty of Bucarest, that is a standing testimonial to the Bulgarian
Czar’s soldier-like qualities.

“What can you do,” groaned the Bulgarian soldier, “with a man who
always lives in bodily fear—fear of assassination, fear of disease,
fear of accident? You cannot think what a job it was to keep up our
troops’ enthusiasm for a king who dare not look upon a wounded soldier,
who can never be persuaded to go within a mile of a hospital, who
trembles at the sound of the guns, and hides himself in a railway
carriage, in which he flits from place to place, always keeping as far
as possible from the front.”

This short and forcible summary of Ferdinand’s behaviour in time of war
is only at fault since it falls short of the actual details of his
supreme cowardice. No greater physical coward has existed in modern
times. Fear lives with him always; it is a disease rather than a frame
of mind which stern resolution might overcome. He is sick at the sight
of shed blood, he can no more help trembling at the sound of the cannon
than a timid young girl.

One of my most vivid recollections of him is of a struggle with this
craven fear which took place in the sight of a very considerable crowd.
It happened curiously enough at Brussels, where I saw him in 1910. He
was then, as always, most interested in aviation, and in a weak moment
had engaged to make a flight with the Belgian pilot Delamines. Up to
that time no king had ever ascended in an aeroplane, and Ferdinand was
probably impelled to make his rash engagement by his desire to be the
first monarch to fly.

But when the time came for him to enter the machine, he was possessed
by nothing but fear. One could only sympathize with him, so pitiable a
spectacle was he in his terror. His face was livid, and his thin lips
were ashen grey. His jaunty walk had completely gone, and he tottered
to his seat as though he were going to the gallows.

With a supreme effort he gasped, “I am too fat to fly, but let us fly
nevertheless.” It did not sound jocular, but pathetic. But he was in
for it, and was strapped to his seat. There was a cheer when the
aeroplane rose, and the Czar of Bulgaria, with eyes tightly shut,
soared off. Two circuits of the aerodrome he made and then descended to
earth more dead than alive. A flask was offered him as he dismounted,
and with unaffected joy he drained it, and the colour came back to his
cheeks. The reaction set in, and he was sprightly in his satisfaction
at the feat he had accomplished.

Nothing could have been more evident of his will to do bold things, and
of the craven fear that held him back from his wish. It is not
surprising, therefore, to find that he placed himself at the head of
his army on the outbreak of the Balkan war, and sallied forth against
the Turks determined to do or die. The very first sight of a wounded
Bulgarian soldier killed all the martial fervour in him, and
thenceforward, like the Duke of Plaza Toro,

                   He led his regiments from behind,
                   He found it less exciting.

[Illustration: The first King to fly. Ferdinand with Delamines, at
Brussels, in 1910. _By courtesy of “The Daily Mirror.”_]

The stories of his prowess as Commander-in-Chief of the Bulgarian Army
reveal him as a pitiful mixture of craven cowardice and arrogant
self-sufficiency. He hovered continually on the fringe of the field of
action in his luxurious train, and exercised a restraining influence on
the enterprise of his generals and on the courage of his troops. His
tongue was forever dripping cant phrases about humanity, he was all
composed of compunction as timorous as it was base. But he never lost
sight of his one object in waging war; everything was subordinated to
his overwhelming desire to enter Constantinople at the head of a
victorious army.

The first Balkan war was begun as a war of liberation. In a few months
Ferdinand had converted it into a war of conquest. His punishment was
reaped in the result, for those operations that might reasonably be
ascribed to a desire to rescue the Balkan Christians from the Turkish
yoke were crowned with success; while his attempts at conquest ended in
a humiliating reverse.

The climax of his unworthy terrors came when the Bulgarians were
encamped opposite the Turks at Chatalja, and the uncleanliness and
neglect of both armies resulted in a visitation of cholera. Before that
scourge Ferdinand fled, still insisting on maintaining control of the
operations. But he would receive no message from the infected camp, and
adopted precautions that made the lips of his very toadies curl with
scorn. His timorous precautions prevented his generals from capturing
Adrianople months before that stronghold really fell, while his
explanation that he wished to avoid unnecessary bloodshed deceived no
one. During all this fighting he had to bear the contrast afforded by
his heir, who, to do him justice, bore his part in the war as became a
prince and the heir to a throne.

His experience at the siege of Adrianople afforded him the luxury of a
new terror. At that siege, as the history of warfare will tell, bombs
were for the first time dropped from aeroplanes upon troops and
buildings beneath. The practice appealed to Ferdinand’s lively
imagination, and struck a new terror into his cowardly soul. He lived
in daily dread of an attack from the sky, for the elaborate precautions
he took to avoid any contact with King Death did not cover the risk of
death from above.

The sequel was witnessed when Ferdinand and his Bulgars arrayed
themselves in the Great War on the side of the Teuton Powers and on
that of Bulgaria’s hereditary enemy, Turkey. The haunting dread of an
aeroplane raid upon Sofia was with him night and day. He lost no time
in appealing to the Germans for a Zeppelin to aid the Bulgarian
operations, and his request was granted.

In due course the great airship arrived at Sofia, and its commander
requested from the Czar that he should be given instructions as to what
part of the battle front he should visit. The reply was that for the
present he should remain where he was for the protection of Sofia, that
is, Czar Ferdinand, from the dangers of an air raid. It is pleasant to
reflect that the French aeroplanes came, nevertheless, and did no
little damage to Ferdinand’s capital. Some day, perhaps, we shall know
how the Czar comported himself during their visit.

Such, then, is the military prowess of the man whom the Kaiser
jeeringly termed “an illustrious War Lord.” Not even Ferdinand himself,
with all his marvellous self-sufficiency, could miss the point of that
arrogant sneer. And Ferdinand is a Bourbon, who “remembers nothing and
forgets nothing.” It will be strange if the mighty War Lord does not
one day repent him of jesting so open and ill-timed.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



  FERDINAND IN EXTREMIS


“_I am, with my army, happy that you have become ONE of US_.”—THE
KAISER.



------------------------------------------------------------------------



  CHAPTER XXVII

  FERDINAND IN EXTREMIS


The entry of the Bulgarians into the Great War was sudden, fierce and
effective. They threw themselves with characteristic ardour upon the
Serbians, who, attacked from three quarters at once, defended
themselves sternly. They could not expect to prevail against the
overwhelming odds against them, but they took heavy toll of their
oppressors, and especially of their detested foes the Bulgarians.

The expedition of the Allied Powers from Salonica came too late to save
Serbia, or even appreciably to delay her downfall. Once again the
principal fighting against the French and British troops, who had
advanced from Salonica in the hope of saving the railway to Nish, was
done by the Bulgarians. They were as reckless as they were barbarous in
their fighting, and though they drove the Allies back, they lost out of
all proportion to the damage they inflicted.

Thus in a very few weeks the Bulgarians had gained possession of the
coveted portion of Thrace and Macedonia held by the Serbians, and were
brought to a pause on the Greek frontier. In all this fighting,
needless to say, Ferdinand had taken no part, except to issue some of
those vainglorious proclamations of which samples have been quoted in
previous chapters.

With the Serbians utterly crushed and the Greeks quaking before the
fear of an invasion and of the Allied forces encamped at Salonica, a
period was reached in the Bulgarian operations. Sofia was converted
into a city of mourning, and death was spread through all the Bulgarian
villages. For the third time in a few years the young men of the
country had been decimated.

In the meantime the Germans had converted Sofia into a Prussian barrack
town. There was no longer any concealment; it was only too apparent to
the Bulgarians that the Schwaba had come to stay. The Bulgarian troops
on the Greek frontier had been equipped with German uniforms and German
arms in preparation for the invasion of Greece, the excuse being that
Bulgaria was experiencing a shortage in such equipment.

The Bulgarians also shared the booty of the Serbian cities and farms,
the goods and stock of the conquered Serbians being removed after the
thorough and scientific method employed in the sacking of Belgium. But
there was already a great scarcity of food in Bulgaria, where the
German methods of conservation of supplies by rationing were quickly
introduced.

Already Bulgaria was paying the penalty for interference against her
old friends and benefactors. There were deep murmurs everywhere at the
Teutonizing of the country, at the rations of black bread issued only
to ticket-holders, and at the arrogance of the all-pervading Germans.

Very unwillingly the Bulgars looked forward to the time when they
should be called upon to attack the allied armies in their strong
position at Salonica, and perhaps to force Greece into hostility. That
was not the direction in which they wished to make their next advance,
for their ill-chosen friends the Turks were the victims of their
preference in this respect. Ferdinand was again in a difficult position
with the people whom he had adopted, and must go to his new friends for
help.

He got it in the shape of plentiful German and Austrian honours. He
received the hall-mark of Hundom in September, 1915, when, apropos of
nothing at all, the Kaiser conferred the Iron Cross upon him. But now
he was to be made a field-marshal in both the German and Austrian
armies, and to entertain the Kaiser at a memorable banquet in the
conquered city of Nish.

A remarkable description of that ceremonious meeting has been published
by a journalist who had the hardihood to obtain entry, and depicts the
Kaiser as an aged and broken man, coughing continually, and looking
small and almost pitiful by the side of the burly Ferdinand. In terms
of fulsome insincerity Ferdinand greeted him.

“The world has learned to know with surprise and admiration the
strength of Germany and her allies, and believes in the invincibility
of the German Army under the guidance and leadership of its Kaiser.

“I hope that the year 1916 may bring lasting peace, the sacred fruits
of our victories, a peace which will allow my people to co-operate in
future in the work of Kultur; but, if fate should impose a continuation
of the war, then my people in arms will be ready to do its duty to the
last.

“Ave Imperator, Cæsar et Rex. Victor et Gloriosus es. Nissa antiqua
omnes Orientis populi te salutant redemptorem ferentem oppressis
prosperitatem atque salutem.”

Long live Kaiser Wilhelm!

(Hail Emperor, Cæsar and King. Thou art victor and glorious [Gloriosus
really means braggart]. In ancient Nish all the peoples of the east
salute thee, the redeemer, bringing prosperity and salvation to the
oppressed.)

The Kaiser’s reply was couched in the same strain, and laid special
emphasis upon the fact that the honours conferred by Germany and
Austria upon Ferdinand had made him “One of Us.”

No phrase could have been more expressive. Ferdinand had become, for
the time being, a minor German Prince. He had given over his adopted
people to the German yoke, and Bulgaria had become as much part of
Germany as Bavaria or Saxony. That, and nothing less, was the outcome
of a willing treachery that was prompted by wild dreams of
self-aggrandisement that are doomed never to see fulfilment.

And there, for the present, Ferdinand of Bulgaria must be left.

It is difficult to harmonize his present position with the ambitions
that have principally made his life and career remarkable. Those
ambitions could only be realized by the extinction of the Ottoman Power
in Europe. He has taken up arms against the forces which are pledged to
bring about that consummation. He has linked himself in arms with the
Power he has planned throughout a long reign to despoil. The path
before him is a very obscure and tortuous one even for the Shoddy Czar,
whose word is as valueless as his signature to a solemn pledge.

What inducement can he advance to his people to continue this war, from
which they have nothing more to gain, and which has already involved
them in such heavy loss of life? There can be no other inducement than
the strong constraint imposed by the German forces who have taken
possession of the Balkans. It is dangerous to prophesy with a man so
elusive as Ferdinand, but he appears now to be on the threshold of the
most difficult stage in his career. He has strong enemies within his
own State, and will have to encounter the most bitter opposition from
the open enemies arrayed in arms against him.

Some, at least, of his friends are palpably lukewarm. No genuine tie
could possibly link Turkey with Bulgaria. On the other hand, the just
anger of his enemies is a common motive to ensure his thorough and
lasting punishment. His people may hope, by a timely repentance, to
escape the consequence of their cowardly transgressions; but not so
Ferdinand. He is the supreme offender, and must pay the maximum penalty.

It was not to end in such an _impasse_ that his mother instructed him
in the mysteries of kingcraft, and advised him throughout his early
years of insecurity in Bulgaria. Had she lived, he might have chosen
differently, for Clementine, daughter of France as she was, could never
have endured the supremacy of German influence which Ferdinand’s policy
has brought about. It may well be that her death was the turning-point
in his career, the beginning of a downward march on which one
well-defined stage has already been marked, the reverse of the second
Balkan war.

For many years the influence of the Shoddy Czar has been a malign one.
His character, his training, his ideals, and the barbarism of the
people he governs have made Bulgaria a lasting threat to the peace of
Europe. One of the many good results we may hope to derive from the war
will be the disappearance from the realm of international politics of
so unscrupulous and autocratic a ruler as Ferdinand of Bulgaria.


                                 FINIS.



                                ———————

                    Butler & Tanner Frome and London

------------------------------------------------------------------------

   Transcriber’s notes

1. Silently corrected typographical errors and inconsistencies;
   retained non-standard spelling.

2. Italic text in the original is delimited by _underscores_.





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