Monsieur Guillot was engrossed in reading the few lines of the missive. When he had finished, he covered the paper with the palm of his hand and leaned forward. There was a queer light in his eyes.
“Germany will give up Alsace and Lorraine,” he said hoarsely, “and will retire within her own frontiers. She will ask for no indemnity. What is the meaning of it?”
“Simple enough,” Granet pointed out. “A great politician like you should easily realise the actual conditions which prompt such an offer. What good is territory to Germany, territory over which she must rule by force, struggling always against the accumulated hatred of years? Alsace and Lorraine have taught her her lesson. It is not French territory she wants. Russia has far more to give. Russia and England between them can pay an indemnity which will make Germany rich beyond the dreams of avarice. Form your party, Monsieur Guillot, spread your tidings in any way that seems fit to you, only until the hour comes, guard that document as you would your soul. Its possession would mean death to you as it would to me.”
Monsieur Guillot took the document and buttoned it up in his inside pocket.
“Supposing I succeed,” he said quietly, “what of your country then?”
“My country will make peace,” Granet replied.
“It will be a peace that will cost us much, but nothing more than we deserve. For generations the war has been the perfectly obvious and apparent sequence of European events. It threw its warning shadow across our path for years, and our statesmen deliberately turned their heads the other way or walked blindfolded. Not only our statesmen, mind, but our people, our English people. Our young men shirked their duty, our philosophers and essayists shirked theirs. We prated of peace and conventions, and we knew very well that we were living in times when human nature and red blood were still the controlling elements. We watched Germany arm and prepare. We turned for comfort towards our fellow sinners, America, and we prattled about conventions and arbitration, and hundred other silly abstractions. A father can watch the punishment of his child, Monsieur Guillot. Believe me, there are many other Englishmen besides me who will feel a melancholy satisfaction in the chastisement of their country, many who are more English, even, than I.”
Monsieur Guillot passed away from the personal side of the matter. Already his mind was travelling swiftly along the avenues of his own future greatness.
“This is the chance which comes to few men,” he muttered. “There is Dejane, Gardine, Debonnot, Senn, besides my own followers. My own journal, too! It is a great campaign, this which I shall start.”
Granet rose to his feet.
“After to-day I breathe more freely,” he confessed. “There have been enemies pressing closely around me, I have walked in fear. To-day I am a free man. Take care, monsieur. Take care especially whilst you are in England.”