Wiebel paused and Diederich clicked his heels:
"—has told me things which are not yet ripe for publication. Suffice it to say that His Majesty's statement yesterday, that the grumblers should kindly shake the dust of Germany from the soles of their feet, was a damned serious warning."
"Is that a fact? Do you really think so?" said Diederich. "Then it is the devil's own luck that I have to leave His Majesty's service just at this moment. I would have done my duty against the enemy inside Germany. One thing I do know, the Emperor can rely upon the army."
During those cold, damp days of February 1892, he went about the streets expecting great events. Along Unter den Linden something was happening, but what it was could not yet be seen. Mounted police stood guard at the ends of the streets and waited. Pedestrians pointed to this display of force. "The unemployed!" People stood still to watch them approaching. They came from a northerly direction, marching slowly in small sections. When they reached Unter den Linden they hesitated, as if lost, took counsel by an exchange of glances, and turned off toward the Emperor's palace. There they stood in silence, their hands in their pockets, while the wheels of the carriages splashed them with mud, and they hunched up their shoulders beneath the rain which fell on their faded overcoats. Many of them turned to look at passing officers, at the ladies in their carriages, at the long fur coats of the gentlemen hurrying from Burgstrasse. Their faces were expressionless, neither threatening nor even curious: not as if they wanted to see, but as if they wanted to be seen. Others never moved an eye from the windows of the palace. The rain trickled down from their upturned faces. The horse of a shouting policeman drove them on farther across the street to the next corner—but they stood still again, and the world seemed to sink down between those broad hollow faces, lit by the livid gleam of evening, and the stern walls beyond them which were already enveloped in darkness.
"I do not understand," said Diederich, "why the police do not take more energetic measures. That is certainly a rebellious crowd."
"Don't you worry," Wiebel replied, "they have received exact instructions. Believe me, the authorities have their own welldeveloped plans. It is not always desirable to suppress at the outset such excrescences on the body politic. When they have been allowed to ripen, then a radical operation can be performed."
The ripening process to which Wiebel referred increased daily, and on the twenty-sixth it was completed. The demonstrations showed that the unemployed were now more conscious of their objective. When they were driven back into one of the northern streets they overflowed into the next, and before they could be cut off, they surged forward again in increasing numbers. The processions all met at Unter den Linden, and when they were separated they ran together again. They reached the palace, were driven back, and reached it again, silent and irresistible, like a river overflowing its banks. The traffic was blocked, the stream of pedestrians was banked up until it flowed over slowly into the flood which submerged the square; into this turbid, discoloured sea of poverty, rolling up in clammy waves, emitting subdued noises and thrusting up, like the masts of sunken ships, poles bearing banners: "Bread! Work!" Here and there a more distinct rumbling broke out of the depths: "Bread! Work!" Swelling above the crowd it rolled off like a thunder cloud: "Bread! Work!" The mounted police attacked, the sea foamed up and subsided, while women's voices rose shrilly like signals above the uproar: "Bread! Work!"