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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Kaiser's Pilgrimage

page 20

The Kaiser's Pilgrimage

There is one salient characteristic of the Kaiser's that shouts down every other. He is thoroughly consistent. And so is the Devil. It runs in their family to be consistent.

The Kaiser first displayed this strong trait of character to the wondering, ignorant gaze of the stupified inhabitants of Palestine when he galloped callously through the Holy places some years before the War.

Now, to put it mildly, the programme had necessitated months of preparation. Gangs of peasants were torn away from the peaceful cultivation of their little plots of land in order to mend and make roads fit for His Imperial Majesty to tread. Part of the ancient "City Wall" near the Jaffa Gate was actually torn down, as " The Ali Highest" was to enter the City by a new way. A temporary pier was erected at the Haifa Bay, as the landing at Jaffa was too uncertain and dangerous for such a personage. Musical preparations were rife all over the land. School children everywhere struggled with recitations and songs of welcome for the great Majesty. And as for the Turkish Band, Berlin sent out special tunes of German Imperial classic for it to mangle, "Behold Thy King Cometh", was one. Yet still more did the programme require. All fowls and huge quantities of food stuffs were bought, or merely commandeered (which never means buying in Turkey), and stored for the entertainment of the Emperor's retinue. Buildings were rushed up in order to receive his consecration, notably a church in the Holy City of Jerusalem, and an orphanage at Bethlehem for Armenian children who had survived the awful massacres just then over.

Im short, all that could be conceived of for the comfort and pleasure of William was brought into being, and the Great Day arrived. So did he. He landed at the new Haifa pier. The programme included elaborate plans for his daily movements whereby he might be received and bowed unto as befitted his Royal rank. One of the new roads made by forced night and day labour led to Nazareth and Tiberias. But alas! the weather alone could not be prepared, and an unusually blasting khamseen blew all over the land. The Kaiser was frightened. What could the intense furnace heat of that reception have suggested to him? In any case, William said, "No, I cannot carry out the programme; it is too hot".

A long, unavoidable drive from Haifa to Jerusalem, the programme next indicated. William went bravely through it till, finally, one golden afternoon, the Holy City of the Knights Templars broke upon his view. He was a Knight—whether he had forgotten this or not, one cannot say—but the Sultan had not, for prancing just outside the city walls was a noble Arab steed, the gift of this loyal Turkish friend. His Majesty then donned a huge white silk kaffia or scraf, fastened it to his helmet by a golden eagle, and allowed it to flow down from thence over his august person right on to the horse's back. A true Crusader he made. That part of the Jerusalem programme was quite attractive. The rest was not. One morning he was due at a service at 9o' clock at the Lutheran Church, Bethlehem; at 10 he was to visit the Church of the Nativily; at 10.30 the longed-for consecration of the Armenian Orphanage was due, and at 11.15 the Knights of St. John, including three sent out from England specially by the Prince of Wales, were to give him a Royal reception at the British Ophthalmic Hospital of the Knights of St. John. But this was altogether too fagging for an All Highest.

Now, large pink cards printed in golden letters had arrived from Berlin, inviting the English missionaries at Bethlehem to worship in the Church with William: "Ladies to wear white, with their national colours somewhere visible; gentlemen, unimportant," The day arrived. Three Britishers and the American Consul sat close together in the Lutheran Church, waiting with a packed audience for William's glorious coming. He came at last, with a concious importance bristling all over him. The Empress preceded him through the Church, which wonderful bit of delicacy surprised the natives
The Turkish Band.

The Turkish Band.

exceedingly. The service finally being over, all the pastors (and there were many) of the German flock were paraded out on the housetop before their one great Head Pastor. His Serene Highness spake. Intently did the humble pastors listen and store up their memory with the golden utterances. When he finished they all cried "Hoch!"

Then all the crowds of Europeans and natives hurried off to the Orphanage to see the consecration, and the pastors hurried into their robes to be ready to receive William at the gate. In the meantime, the Empress and he went to the Church of the Nativity. This he rushed through as rapidly as physically possible, evenc dashingunexpect-edly in behind the scenes, where only "High Priests" were allowed. There was an element of suspicion and foresight in that act, of course, but all thought it was pure interest at the time.

Then he mounted his Crusader steed again and galloped off. The Empress entered her carriage and drove straight to the Orphanage. Here all was ready for the august benediction.

Everybody waited and waited, but no William arrived. The Empress became agitated. "Why doth My Lord delay his coming"? said she. A cup of tea was offered her, as refreshments were ready against the Great Arrival. Yet he came not. Twelve o'clock came instead, and it was decided that the head pastor from Berlin should see what he could do towards blessing the place, and the ceremony was performed.

But what had happened to the All Highest? Everywhere flags waved in the breeze, and the city was gay. The Knights of St. John, including those from England, and the British Consul, all arrayed in their robes and feathered hats, stood at the British Ophthalmic Hospital, waiting. The sun was broiling hot, but still they stood, patiently watching the road that leads from Bethlehem. Presently a party of horsemen appeared. All sprang into position in order to-receive the All Highest as befitted him. They lined the hot white road outside the Hospital, drawn up in tense expectancy. Alas! what had happened? The shock was awful. William and his retinue galloped straight on. He went directly to his camp, threw himself down on a chair, and complained of—heat. That was all. Now, William would not "go to Jericho."' It was down on the programme, but that was neither here nor there. A beautiful road had been made from Jerusalem to Jericho, but that was no attraction. The great Bedouin Arab Sheikhs from Abu Dis arrived, resplendent in every Bedouin glory of horse and attire, to conduct Willie to Jericho; but Willie was obdurate.

The Sheikhs' Arab steeds swirled round and round; the Sheikhs begged hard. Tremendous preparations, incurring great expense, had been made. Yet Willie said, "No". The Head Sheikh sat disconsolate in Willie's tent. Willie was touched. He arose, majestically unbuckled his Imperial sword, and handed it to Sheikh Abu Dis, with these memorable words: "I cannot go to Jericho, it is too hot there. But take this sword, and when my son comes, wield it in his service." And the poor villagers all the way from Jerusalem to Jericho waited in vain.

The Kaiser was to have embarked from the specially constructed pier at Haifa. He did no such thing. Why should he journey back all the way from Jerusalem merely because it was on the-programme? So he went to Jaffa instead,, waited there for the sea to calm down, showered his blessing in unlimited quantities upon the peasants of the German Colonies there, and finally embarked from the Jaffa landing, the danger of which had necessitated the building of the Haifa pier originally.