After this colossal scale of expenditures you may well ask: Will it ever be possible for European finance to see straight or count normally again?
Be that as it may, no one can doubt that the battling nations, individually or with the marvellous team-work that kinship in their respective causes has begot, are able to pay their way while the struggle lasts. Grim To-day will take care of itself under the stress of passion born of desire to win. It is the Reckoning of that Uncertain To-morrow that will prove to be the problem.
You cannot bankrupt a nation any more than you can ruin an individual so long as brains and energy are available. Peace therefore will not find a ruined Europe but it will dawn on a group of depleted countries facing enormous responsibilities. War ends but the cost of it endures. Just as present millions are paying with their lives so will unborn hosts pay with the sweat of their brows.
Meanwhile our Financial Stake in the Great Struggle is secure. How much more we will have to put into Europe’s Red Pay Envelope remains to be seen. In any event, we have learned how to do it.
The door opened and almost before I had crossed the threshold the little grey-haired man down at the end of the long stately room began to speak. Lloyd George was in action.
I had last seen him a year ago in the murk of a London railway station when I bade him farewell after a memorable day. With him I had gone to Bristol where he had made an impassioned plea for harmony to the Trade Union Congress. Then he was Minister of Munitions, Shell-Master of the Nation in its critical hour of Ammunition Need.
Now he had succeeded the lamented Kitchener as Minister of War; sat in the Seat of Strategy, head of the far-flung khakied hosts that even at this moment were breasting death on half a dozen fronts. Just as twelve months before he had unflinchingly met the Great Emergency that threatened his country’s existence, so did he again fill the National Breach.
England’s Man of Destiny whose long career is one continuous and spectacular public performance was on the job.
But it was not the same Lloyd George who had sounded the call for Military and Industrial Conscription from the Peaks of Empire. Another year of war had etched the travail of its long agony upon his features, saddened the eyes that had always beheld the Vision of the Greater Things. The little man was fresh from the front and full of all that its mighty sacrifice betokened not only to the embattled nations but to the world as well.
Though we spoke of Politics, Presidents and the Great Social Forces that so far as England was concerned acknowledged him as leader, the current of speech always swept back to war and its significance for us.
“Since the war means so much to us,” I said, “have you no message for America?”