“What England wants,” he said, leaning back and puffing at his cigar,—“what England wants is a war. (Another whisky and soda, waiter.) We’re getting flabby. All this pampering of the poor is playing the very deuce with the country. A bit of a scrap with a foreign power would do us all the good in the world.” He disposed of his whisky at a draught. “We’re flabby,” he repeated. “The lower classes seem to have no sense of discipline nowadays. We want a war to brace us up.”
* * * * *
It is well understood in Olympus that Porkins must not be disappointed. What will happen to him in the next world I do not know, but it will be something extremely humorous; in this world, however, he is to have all that he wants. Accordingly the gods got to work.
In the little village of Ospovat, which is in the southeastern corner of Ruritania, there lived a maiden called Maria Strultz, who was engaged to marry Captain Tomsk.
“I fancy,” said one of the gods, “that it might be rather funny if Maria jilted the Captain. I have an idea that it would please Porkins.”
“Whatever has Maria—” began a very young god, but he was immediately suppressed.
“Really,” said the other, “I should have thought it was sufficiently obvious. You know what these mortals are.” He looked round to them all. “Is it agreed then?”
It was agreed.
So Maria Strultz jilted the Captain.
Now this, as you may imagine, annoyed Captain Tomsk. He commanded a frontier fort on the boundary between Ruritania and Essenland, and his chief amusement in a dull life was to play cards with the Essenland captain, who commanded the fort on the other side of the river. When Maria’s letter came, he felt that the only thing to do was to drown himself; on second thoughts he decided to drown his sorrows first. He did this so successfully that at the end of the evening he was convinced that it was not Maria who had jilted him, but the Essenland captain who had jilted Maria; whereupon he rowed across the river and poured his revolver into the Essenland flag which was flying over the fort. Maria thus revenged, he went home to bed, and woke next morning with a bad headache.
("Now we’re off,” said the gods in Olympus.)
In Diedeldorf, the capital of Essenland, the leader-writers proceeded to remove their coats.
“The blood of every true Essenlander,” said the leader-writer of the “Diedeldorf Patriot”, after sending out for another pot of beer, “will boil when it hears of this fresh insult to our beloved flag, an insult which can only be wiped out with blood.” Then seeing that he had two “bloods” in one sentence, he crossed the second One out, substituted “the sword,” and lit a fresh cigarette. “For years Essenland has writhed under the provocations of Ruritania, but has preserved a dignified silence; this last insult is more than flesh and blood can stand.” Another “blood” had got in, but it was a new sentence and he thought it might be allowed to remain. “We shall not be accused of exaggeration if we say that Essenland would lose, and rightly lose, her prestige in the eyes of Europe if she let this affront pass unnoticed. In a day she would sink from a first-rate to a fifth-rate power.” But he didn’t say how.