Where Do We Stand?

'Where do we stand with the Bulgarians?' I ask my friend, X…'Neither here, nor there.''What do you mean?…''What, don't you see?''I don't actually… for, as you said: neither here, nor there means we don't stand at all, and it stands to reason that we must stand somehow.''Not really; what I mean is that it's neither good nor bad. Haven't you read the papers?''I have; but I have to confess that from newspapers I understand even less than from what you're saying.''Now, how could that be? Must be because you're not used to reading them properly. Let's read them together.'My friend then takes out a bundle of newspapers from his pocket and we begin to read them most carefully. "All sort of rumours could be heard all over town yesterday and last night, one more alarming than the other, about what was going on at the Dobrudja border.Reliable sources have it that gangs of Bulgarians have crossed the border and skirmished with the Romanian outposts. We've been unable so far to evaluate the outcome of these clashes that have reportedly been quite fierce. What we can, however, state is that these bloody fights must have left a lot of injured on both sides. The government cannot keep silent anymore! The government must speak! The government cannot leave the country in this terrible anxiety in which it has been thrown by the lack of encouraging news from the battlefield." '… crossed the border… skirmished… fierce clashes… bloody fights… injured… battlefield… Well, then,' says I, 'then we don't stand good.''Wait,' says my friend X… 'Read this.'I read: "We wish to once again point to our readers how reliable certain news on some alleged conflicts along the Dobrudja border between Bulgarian gangs and our army is. Here is what we have received from the very scene, from a most trustworthy person, who would be incapable of altering the truth: 'Several groups of Bulgarians, workers in possession of valid passports, went to the Ostrov post in order to cross the border. Somebody very impressionable must have witnessed the scene and then dashed to inform the Romanian military authorities, exaggerating the event no doubt, as any such impressionable person would do. Those Bulgarians were perfectly peaceful people… Everything here is peace and quiet!'" 'Ah,' says I sighing with relief, 'if they were unarmed workers with valid passports, and if everything is peace and quiet – then it's all right!' My friend X smiled at my credulity and started reading: "The news we're receiving from the border has grown more and more alarming. Silistra is the stage of unimaginable military fervour. Colonel Dandaneski and Sarafoff give insane speeches to the regular troops and the gangs of revolutionaries, the latter numbering, it seems, almost 50,000 people. We should be expecting these madmen currently ruling Bulgaria to strike any minute now. Let us be ready!" 'I see,' I say gloomy. 'The Bulgarian government, however wise they may want to be, can no longer control the aggressive tendencies of Dandaneski and the chauvinist mad fury of Sarafoff… Then it's quite clear, we stand bad!''Or maybe not,' says X and gives me something else to read: "From an authorised source we've come in the possession of the information that in Eastern Bulgaria, i.e. the region neighbouring the Dobrudja border, and especially in the Varna County, the peasants have started the revolution because they're being threatened to be deprived of share cropping. The peasants are furious and ready to fight to the end. Our correspondent gives us as almost certain the information that Prince Ferdinand's palace in Euxinograd is just about to be pulled down and set on fire by the revolted peasants. That is why the Prince did not stop in Sofia but set presently off to Varna." 'I couldn't care less for Prince Ferdinand's palace,' says I. 'And if we're at it, I can't say I'm sorry… A peasant revolution in our enemies' country cannot harm us; quite on the contrary… Then we stand all right!''Not quite. Let's read on.' "A newspaper from Budapest that we received this morning claims that a person from Prince Ferdinand's entourage has declared in an interview that, judging by the current state of affairs in Bulgaria, the war is inevitable." 'Good heavens!' I exclaim.But my friend X, moving on to another column, goes on: "The Austrian papers claim that, no matter how tense the relations between the two young neighbouring countries may have got, it is very likely that this regrettable conflict will be resolved peacefully." 'Wonderful!''Hang on!' "Cannons are continuously being brought in to Silistra… Everything leads us to the conclusion that the Bulgarians, who meant a revolt in Macedonia to break out, realising that their intentions have been revealed, are trying now to hasten the denouement of their plot, setting everything on fire earlier than anyone might have expected. Actually, Karaveloff, one of their ministers, said: 'However improbable it may seem, a war could always be possible.'" 'Then what else do you need? It's an official declaration… We stand bad!''Not just yet!'And he goes on: "Three Bulgarian boats with explosives…" 'It's bad!' "The over-excitement of the Bulgarian rural population on the eve of the revocation of share cropping is no doubt one explanation for the deployment of armed forces on the other bank of the Danube. The Bulgarian government takes advantage of the conflict with Romania to call to arms its reservists, who in the previous peasant revolution actually led the rebels." 'Good!' "Our correspondent wires us that he's being prevented from sending his telegrams. There's terrible turmoil in Silistra, Arab-Tabia, and Ostrov. It's become impossible to cross to the Bulgarian bank without getting shot." 'Bad!' "I'm going to Silistra and Arab-Tabia today." 'Good!' "The Bulgarians won't let the ship into town." 'Bad!' "In Sofia – panic… The Romanian legation in danger…" 'Bad!' "The day before yesterday, I saw in Sofia Mrs Mişu, our diplomatic agent's wife, walking with her children through the town." 'Good!' "The Romanians in Sofia are scared to death… They don't dare go out and see to their business…" 'Bad!' "In an atmosphere of great solemnity and in the presence of Mr Mişu, our diplomatic agent to the Bulgarian government, yesterday opened the courses of the Romanian primary school in Sofia." 'Good,' says I.'Well?' X asks.'Well!' I answer.'Is it not that, from what we've had so far, we stand neither good nor bad, which means neither here nor there?''Indeed it is!' I answer.

by I. L. Caragiale (1852-1912)