"Theatrics, and not even good ones at that."
Diederich looked at him and tried to glare like the Emperor.
"I suppose you are one of them yourself."
He could not have explained what he meant by "them". He simply felt that here, for the first time in his life, he had to defend law and order against hostile criticism. In spite of his agitation, he had another look at the man's shoulders; they were not imposing. The bystanders, too, were expressing disapproval. Then Diederich asserted himself. With his huge stomach he pressed the enemy against the wall and battered in his hat. Others joined in pummelling him, his hat fell to the ground, and soon the man himself lay there. As he moved on, Diederich remarked to his fellow combatants:
"That fellow has certainly not done his military service. He hasn't even got scars on his face; he has never fought a duel."
The old gentleman with the side-whiskers and the Iron Cross turned up again and shook Diederich's hand.
"Bravo, young man, bravo!"
"Isn't it enough to make you angry," said Diederich, still panting, "when a fellow tries to spoil our historical moment?"
"You have been in the army?" queried the old gentleman.
"I would have liked nothing better than to stay there," Diederich replied.
"Ah, yes, the Battle of Sedan doesn't happen every day." The old gentleman touched his Iron Cross. "That's what we did!"
Diederich drew himself up and pointed to the Emperor and the subdued crowd.
"That is as good as Sedan!"
"Hm, hm," said the old gentleman.
"Allow me, sir," cried someone, waving a notebook. "We must publish this story. A touch of atmosphere, y'understand? I suppose it was a damned radical you bashed?"
"Oh, a mere trifle"—Diederich was still panting. "As far as I am concerned this would be the time to go straight for the enemy at home. We have our Emperor with us."
"Fine," said the reporter as he wrote: "In the wildly agitated throng people of all classes were heard expressing their devoted loyalty and unshakable confidence in His Majesty."