He paused impressively.
“I wonder what will happen to Albania?” said Hugh, but his comment was disregarded.
“War makes men bitter and narrow,” said Mr. Carmine.
“War narrowly conceived,” said Mr. Britling. “But this is an indignant and generous war.”
They speculated about the possible intervention of the United States. Mr. Britling thought that the attack on Belgium demanded the intervention of every civilised power, that all the best instincts of America would be for intervention. “The more,” he said, “the quicker.”
“It would be strange if the last power left out to mediate were to be China,” said Mr. Carmine. “The one people in the world who really believe in peace.... I wish I had your confidence, Britling.”
For a time they contemplated a sort of Grand Inquest on Germany and militarism, presided over by the Wisdom of the East. Militarism was, as it were, to be buried as a suicide at four cross-roads, with a stake through its body to prevent any untimely resuscitation.
Mr. Britling was in a phase of imaginative release. Such a release was one of the first effects of the war upon many educated minds. Things that had seemed solid forever were visibly in flux; things that had seemed stone were alive. Every boundary, every government, was seen for the provisional thing it was. He talked of his World Congress meeting year by year, until it ceased to be a speculation and became a mere intelligent anticipation; he talked of the “manifest necessity” of a Supreme Court for the world. He beheld that vision at the Hague, but Mr. Carmine preferred Delhi or Samarkand or Alexandria or Nankin. “Let us get away from the delusion of Europe anyhow,” said Mr. Carmine....
As Mr. Britling had sat at his desk that morning and surveyed the stupendous vistas of possibility that war was opening, the catastrophe had taken on a more and more beneficial quality. “I suppose that it is only through such crises as these that the world can reconstruct itself,” I said. And, on the whole that afternoon he was disposed to hope that the great military machine would not smash itself too easily. “We want the nations to feel the need of one another,” he said. “Too brief a campaign might lead to a squabble for plunder. The Englishman has to learn his dependence on the Irishman, the Russian has to be taught the value of education and the friendship of the Pole.... Europe will now have to look to Asia, and recognise that Indians and Chinamem are also ’white.’... But these lessons require time and stresses if they are to be learnt properly....”
They discussed the possible duration of the war.
Mr. Carmine thought it would be a long struggle; Mr. Britling thought that the Russians would be in Berlin by the next May. He was afraid they might get there before the end of the year. He thought that the Germans would beat out their strength upon the French and Belgian lines, and never be free to turn upon the Russian at all. He was sure they had underrated the strength and energy of the French and of ourselves. “The Russians meanwhile,” he said, “will come on, slowly, steadily, inevitably....”