The Chancellor of Essenland, in a speech gravely applauded by both sides of the House, announced the steps he had taken. An ultimatum had been sent to Ruritania demanding an apology, an indemnity of a hundred thousand marks, and the public degradation of Captain Tomsk, whose epaulettes were to be torn off by the Commander-in-Chief of the Essenland Army in the presence of a full corps of cinematograph artists. Failing this, war would be declared.
Ruritania offered the apology, the indemnity, and the public degradation of Captain Tomsk, but urged that this last ceremony would be better performed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Ruritanian Army; otherwise Ruritania might as well cease to be a sovereign state, for she would lose her prestige in the eyes of Europe, and sink to the level of a fifth-rate power.
There was only one possible reply to this, and Essenland made it. She invaded Ruritania.
("Aren’t they wonderful?” said the gods in Olympus to each other.
“But haven’t you made a mistake?” asked the very young god. “Porkins lives in England, not Essenland.”
“Wait a moment,” said the others.)
* * * * *
In the capital of Borovia the leader-writer of the “Borovian Patriot” got to work. “How does Borovia stand?” he asked. “If Essenland occupies Ruritania, can any thinking man in Borovia feel safe with the enemy at his gates?” (The Borovian peasant, earning five marks a week, would have felt no less safe than usual, but then he could hardly be described as a thinking man.) “It is vital to the prestige of Borovia that the integrity of Ruritania should be preserved. Otherwise we may resign ourselves at once to the prospect of becoming a fifth-rate power in the eyes of Europe.” And in a speech, gravely applauded by all parties, the Borovian Chancellor said the same thing. So the Imperial Army was mobilized and, amidst a wonderful display of patriotic enthusiasm by those who were remaining behind, the Borovian troops marched to the front....
("And there you are,” said the gods in Olympus.
“But even now—” began the very young god doubtfully.
“Silly, isn’t Felicia the ally of Essenland; isn’t Marksland the ally of Borovia; isn’t England the ally of the ally of the ally of the Country which holds the balance of power between Marksland and Felicia?”
“But if any of them thought the whole thing stupid or unjust or—”
“Their prestige,” said the gods gravely, trying not to laugh.
“Oh, I see,” said the very young god.)_
* * * * *
And when a year later the hundred-thousandth English mother woke up to read that her boy had been shot, I am afraid she shed foolish tears and thought that the world had come to an end.
Poor short-sighted creature! She didn’t realize that Porkins, who had marched round in ninety-six the day before, was now thoroughly braced up.