Nigel glanced at his companion curiously but without speech. The car pulled up in Downing Street. The two men descended and found everything made easy for them. In two minutes they were in the presence of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Mervin Brown was at his best in the interview to which he had, as a matter of fact, been looking forward with much trepidation. He received Prince Shan courteously and reproached him for not having paid him an earlier visit. To the latter’s request that Nigel might be permitted to be present at the discussion, he promptly acquiesced.
“Lord Dorminster and I have already had some conversation,” he said, “bearing upon the matter about which I desire to talk to you.”
“I have found his lordship,” Prince Shan declared, “one of the few Englishmen who has any real apprehension of the trend of events outside his own country.”
The Prime Minister plunged at once into the middle of things.
“Our national faults are without doubt known to you, Prince Shan,” he said. “They include, amongst other things, an over-confidence in the promises of others; too great belief, I fear, in the probity of our friends. We paid a staggering price in 1914 for those qualities. Lord Dorminster would have me believe that there is a still more terrible price for us to pay in the future, unless we change our whole outlook, abandon our belief in the League of Nations, and once more acknowledge the supremacy of force.”
“Lord Dorminster is right,” Prince Shan pronounced. “I have come here to tell you so, Mr. Mervin Brown.”
“You come here as a friend of England?” the latter asked.
“I come here as one who hesitates to become her enemy,” was the measured reply. “I will be perfectly frank with you, sir. I came to this country to discuss a project which, with the acquiescence of China and Japan, would have resulted in the humiliation of your country and the gratification of Germany’s eagerly desired revenge.”
“You believe in the existence of that sentiment, then?” the Prime Minister enquired.
“Any one short of a very insular Englishman,” the Prince replied, “would have realised it long ago. There is a great society in Germany, scarcely even a secret society, pledged to wipe out the humiliations of the last great war. Lord Dorminster tells me that you are to-day without a secret service. For that reason you have remained in ignorance of the mines beneath your feet. Germany has laid her plans well and carefully. Her first and greatest weapon has been your sense of security. She has seen you contemplate with an ill-advised smile of spurious satisfaction, invincible France, regaining her wealth more slowly than you for the simple reason that half the man power of the country is absorbed by her military preparations. France is impregnable. A direct invasion of your country is in all probability impossible. Those two facts have seemed to you all-sufficient. That is where you have been, if I may say so, sir, very short-sighted.”