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   Chapter 7 No.7

The Wisdom of Father Brown By G. K. Chesterton Characters: 5559

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03

The challenge was given by the Americans and accepted by the Germans, whose curiosity had been carefully pricked, and all had agreed that no matter how intensely distasteful any argument might be they would not separate for at least eight hours, and that there should be as little "hot stuff" (quoting Mimi Brandt) as possible.

The avowed object of the Americans was to prove conclusively that Germany, carrying out a deliberate program, had precipitated the war in 1914, believing Russia to be deliquescent, France riddled with syndicalism, and Britain on the verge of civil war; consequently that the exact moment had come for the swift execution of her scientifically wrought plan for world dominion.

The three German girls, deep and many as were their causes for resentment and disgust, had clung fast to the belief in their country's defensive attitude in the face of a gigantic conspiracy, and were not pried apart from it without hours of argument, hot and resentful on the one side, cool, precise, and logical on the other. But those acute German brains responded to the high intelligence of their opponents and to their manifest honesty. Moreover, it was indisputable that from the beginning the Americans had been in a position to know every side and detail of the ghastly story, while the Germans, confined within their own narrow borders and taught that the foreign newspapers were a tissue of "strategic lies," had been wholly dependent upon their government for "facts."

During this long debate Gisela sat at the head of the table, rigid and watchful, when she was not fiercely arguing; Mimi Brandt sprawled in an easy chair, satirical and slangy, enveloped in smoke; Heloise, very pale and the first to be convinced, sat with her little hands clenched against her cheek bones; Ann Prentiss, unshakenly cool quick and precise; the more brilliant Mrs. Tolby flashing her beacon light into recesses darkened these three years by systematic lies, but incapable of the final stupidity.

That long argument need not be reproduced here. All the world has made up its mind about Germany, knows her far better than as yet she knows herself. It was the deliberate effort of the Americans to force these three intelligent Germans, one of them a leader of the first importance, to realize that their country stood to the rest of the world for lying, treachery, cruelty, brutality, degeneracy, bad sportsmanship, ostrich psychology; above all, that she had forfeited her place among modern and honest nations.

When these facts had been hammered in, Mrs. Prentiss moved on to the two cardinal facts for whose elucidation the rest had been a mere preamble: that the Central Powers were beaten and knew it, but were determined to go on sacrificing the manhood of the

country, reducing the population to the ultimate miseries of mind and body rather than yield; and that the only hope of obtaining mercy from the Entente Allies in the inevitable hour of surrender was to dethrone the Hohenzollerns and establish a Republic. Otherwise as a nation they would cease to exist and their last fate would be infinitely worse than their present. A German Republic would be welcomed into the family of nations and receive a friendly and helping hand from every one of the great adversaries, whose prestige and wealth were still unshaken, and who all desired to preserve the balance of power in Europe. Above all might they rely upon the United States of America, the friendly hints of whose President had been systematically distorted by the anxious Pan-Germans still in the saddle; who would cheerfully witness the loss of every drop of the people's life blood rather than their own power.

A conquered empire that had been hypnotized to the end by the monster criminals of history, whose word no man would ever take again, would be a mere collection of enslaved States for generations to come; the conquerors, having given them their choice, would show no mercy.

Britain could not be starved. The submarine war, whatever its devastations, and the vast inconveniences it had caused, was a failure. And the colossal wealth of the United States in money, in food, in men! Who knew her resources better than Gisela, who had lived in the country for four years and found it an absorbing study, who had continued to read American books, newspapers, and reviews up to the outbreak of the war? Well, they were all at the disposal of democracy; and as the Entente Allies, including the United States, were already many times stronger than Germany, how could they fail to win in the end, no matter how many millions of lives on all sides Germany continued to shovel into Moloch?

All of these three clever German girls had been more or less prepared to hear Germany proved a liar. They knew from British wounded that London was neither a fortified city nor reduced to ashes; also that all the Zeppelin raids on defenseless towns put together had been of less strategical value to Germany than the taking of one village in the war zone; she had merely piled up a mountain of hatred and contempt which must be leveled by the quick repudiation of her people if they would regain their lost intercourse with a triumphant world. Like all the other women who had nursed near the front and knew the truth, they translated into their own cynical vernacular such grandiose collocations as "Strategic retreats" from that of the Battle of the Marne to those which had been occurring periodically on the Western front since the beginning of the Somme offensive of 1916.

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