There were days of tension after the ultimatum went to Serbia. The press was very restrained but clearly uneasy, and did not attempt to justify the extravagant tone of the ultimatum. General opinion as to whether the Serbs would fight or not was not very divided, and there were few who did not agree that Serbia was never intended to fight. She was simply to behave herself in future and Austria was to see that she did it. General T was indignant at the ultimatum.
“Berchtold again! Soft-headed fool pooh! There are so many ways of getting what one wants he must just choose this one! This way may really lead to war, and we are not prepared no money, no munitions nothing, nothing! Ach, it’s an awful business! Perhaps Serbia won’t dare to fight … if the Russians back her she will!”
” You surely can scarcely imagine that any country could take such an ultimatum lying down?” I suggested.
” Pooh,” he replied, ” you can’t deny that they’ve always been a thorn in our flesh. But my country is mad mad! Nobody seems to realise what this can lead to. The Serbs are good fighters too. If Russia backs them we’re done for. Na, I must get back to Vienna now, for Walther will have to go if there’s war. Pooh they’re all crazy everywhere.”
Even the Man of Art grew mournful among his rose bushes. He was Croatian and bitterly anti-Austrian.
” Ach, Friiulein ! There are sad days coming, for that wasn’t an ultimatum that went to Serbia it was a declaration of war. The Serbs will fight, Fraulein. I know the race ; they are brave men such as we have in Croatia. Of course they’ll fight. They are real soldiers and have real officers old General Putnik that’s a man ! They’ll beat us, Fraulein, and I’ll have to go and fight against them too against my own race. Bah ! we’re slaves here in Austria.”
” No,” I said, encouragingly, ” I don’t think you’ll have to go. You’re too old.”
” Na, the old ones will have to go too unless I can perhaps get out of it some way. The doctor may not find me fit.”
” I shouldn’t put much hope in that,” I said, as I doubtfully surveyed the large and healthy Man of Art, ” but perhaps your eyesight is defective. It’s a pity for you to go and fight the Serbs when every person thinks that the murder of the Archduke was such a good thing for Austria.”
“Fraulein, you don’t understand, the Archduke was really no friend to Germany that’s why they don’t like him. This country is done it has no life in itself and looks to Germany to save it if ever it’s in trouble. I tell you they’re glad actually glad to have the poor Archduke out of the way. Who knows if Serbia really was behind that murder ! Na, one doesn’t say those things. …”
“And the new Tronfolger ? ”
“He is young and dashing and Germanophile. He’s no favourite with the Slavs.”