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   Chapter 8 No.8

The Wisdom of Father Brown By G. K. Chesterton Characters: 5953

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


Gisela's mind was complex and subtle, but it was also honest. When it yielded a point, it yielded audibly. It was during the preliminary discussion that she exclaimed:

"It is true-certain things come back to me-Mimi, open the window. The air is blue and we are all hardy and can stand the night air. It was after the Agadir incident that I felt a change. I say felt because I was so absorbed in my work that I had no inclination for world politics and never discussed them. Up to that time I had never heard a hint of war for aggression on the part of Germany.... While, as far back as I can remember, it was taken for granted there would be a great war some day, I doubt if any but the military party really believed in it. We thought the time had passed for real wars, that we were far too highly civilized. Of course I knew that the military party to which my father belonged would have welcomed a war, for war was their profession, their game, their excuse for being, and I heard more or less talk among my brothers of Pan-Germanism; but still I imagined that it was merely a defensive Teutonic ideal, just as our oppressive standing army was a necessity owing to our geographical position. My brother Karl said once-it comes back to me, although I had quite forgotten it-that it was futile for the military caste to try to work up a war, because every moneyed man in the Empire-financiers, merchants, manufacturers, all the rest-never would hear of it. The country was too prosperous. Our wealth was growing at a pace which even the United States could not rival, and poverty was practically eliminated. That is the reason no hint made any impression on me. It seemed to me that we were the most fortunate and advanced nation in Europe and had only to wait for our kultur to pervade the earth.

"But-after Agadir-I seem to look back upon a slowly rising tide, muttering, sullen, determined-even in Bavaria the old serenity, the settled feeling, was gone-war was discussed as a possibility less casually than of old-"

"I recall a good deal more than that," interrupted Mimi. "Remember that I was the daughter of a manufacturer, and the wife, so-called, of a merchant. They were always grinding their teeth-and from about the time you speak of-over the wrongs of Germany. What the wrongs were I never could make out, and I am bound to say I did not listen very attentively, being absorbed in my own-but it would seem that Germany being the greatest country in the world was somehow not being permitted to let the rest of the world find it out-"

"It is all simple enough, now that I have the key. Germany tried to bully France, and not only was France anxious to avoid war but Britain showed her teeth. Germany was not then prepared to fight the world and was forced to compromise. France gave her a slice of the Kongo in exchange for Germany's consent to a French Protectorate in Morocco. Of course-after that it must have been evident to all the business brains

of Germany that however great and prosperous the Empire might be she was not strong enough to dictate to Europe; nor presume to demand any more of the great prizes than she had already.

"In other words, she was shown her place. It was also more than possible that her aggressive prosperity might one of these days excite the apprehension of Great Britain, who would then show more than her teeth. Gradually the idea must have permeated, taken possession of the minds of men who had vast fortunes to increase or lose, that sooner or later they must fight for what they had and that it were better perhaps to strike first, at a moment they might choose themselves-however little they might sympathize with the ambitions of the Pan-German Party for supreme power in Europe-"

"Perhaps nothing," said Mimi. "They made up their minds to do it and they did it. It is as plain as daylight. I'd forgive them, too, if they'd won in six months, as they were so sure they would. What I don't forgive them for is that they have proved themselves the most criminal fools unhung. I'm glad that I am a Bavarian, and that Prussia, whom we have always so hated and despised that we have never turned the lions about on the Siegesthor, should be the prime offenders, humiliating as it may be that we fell for their lies and got into this rotten mess. But go ahead, Mrs. Prentiss. What's your next? Gee, but you can hand it out. You must have kept tab since August 1st, 1914."

"I took merely an intelligent American woman's interest," said Mrs. Prentiss, momentarily haughty. "And I spent the first two years and a half in Washington, where I often knew more than the newspapers; at all events where I was constantly in the society of thinking men. Also honest men, for war was the last thing we wanted, until our honor became too deeply involved to permit us to hold aloof and fatten on your misery any longer. Also, to be frank, our interests."

The fact which impressed the Germans and reduced all that had gone before to a heated academic discussion, was that Germany was beaten, and that the United States embargo would reduce the Central Empires to actual starvation, not merely devitalizing subnourishment; combined with their own certainty that the Teutonic Powers would go on fighting, under the lash of Prussia, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of loyal German and Austrian boys, plunge countless more families into hopeless grief, doom all the children in the land to sheer hunger and tuberculosis.

Starvation! That was the inevitable fate of Germany if she prolonged the war. And for what? Prostration, physical, financial, economic. To suffer for a generation, at least, the fate of the outlaw, mangy dogs nosing among rotten bones, kicked by the victors whenever they stood on their hind legs and whined for mercy.

And the Americans were prepared to pour into France and Britain billions of dollars and millions of men and incalculable tons of food and ammunition.

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