She looked up at him, and to his amazement her eyes were swimming.
“I think that Prince Shan will be on our side,” she replied.
Monsieur Felix Senn, the distinguished Frenchman who had just acquitted himself of the special mission which had brought him to London, was a little loath to depart from the historical chamber in Downing Street. Diplomatically, the interview was over. The Prime Minister, however, on this occasion, was courteous, even affable. There seemed no reason for his visitor to hurry away.
“You will accept, I trust, sir,” the latter begged, “this assurance of my extreme regret at the present unfortunate condition of affairs. I am one of those who threw his hat into the air on the boulevards in August, 1914, when the news came that your great country had decided to fulfil her unwritten promises and in the cause of honour had declared war against Germany. I have never forgotten that moment, sir, even in those months and years of misunderstandings which followed the signing of the Treaty of Peace. I was one of those who pointed always to the sacrifices which Great Britain had made on our behalf, to her glorious deeds on land and sea. I have always been a friend of your country, Mr. Mervin Brown. That is why I think I was chosen to bring this dispatch.”
“You are very welcome,” the Prime Minister assured him. “As for the purpose of your mission, I assure you that I view it less seriously than you do. Glance with me at the position for a moment. Notwithstanding the era of peace which has sprung up all over the world, owing to the happy influence of the League of Nations, France alone has decided to follow still the path of militarism. Your last year’s army estimates were staggering. The number of men whom you keep out of your factories in order that they may learn a useless drill and wear an unnecessary uniform is, to the economist, simply scandalous. Look at the result. Compare our imports and exports with yours. See the leaps and strides with which we have improved our financial position during the last ten years. We have not only recovered from the after effects of the war, but we have reached a state of prosperity which we never previously attained. You, on the other hand, are still groaning with enormous taxes. You carry a burden which is self-imposed and unnecessary. You, of all the nations, refuse to recognise the fact that the government of the great countries of the world has passed into the hands of the democracy, and that democracies will not tolerate war.”
“There I join issue with you, sir,” the Frenchman replied. “These are the obvious and expressed views of other European countries, yet month by month come rumours of the training of great masses of troops, far in excess of the numbers permitted by the League of Nations. There is all the time a haze of secrecy over what is going on in certain parts of Germany. And as for Russia, ostensibly the freest country in the world, Tsarism in its worst days never imposed such despotic restrictions concerning the coming and going of foreigners, in one particular district, at any rate.”