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   Chapter 35 A NEW MAP OF THE EARTH

Mr. Grex of Monte Carlo By E. Phillips Oppenheim Characters: 12531

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Selingman, who was leaning back in a leather-padded chair and smoking a very excellent cigar, looked around at his companions with a smile of complete approval.

"Our host," he declared, bowing to Mr. Grex, "has surpassed himself. For a hired yacht I have seen nothing more magnificent. A Cabinet Moselle, Flor de Cuba cigars, the best of company, and an isolation beyond all question. What place could suit us better?"

There was a little murmur of assent. The four men were seated together in the wonderfully decorated saloon of what was, beyond doubt, a most luxurious yacht. Through the open porthole were visible, every few moments, as the yacht rose and sank on the swell, the long line of lights which fringed the shore between Monte Carlo and Mentone; the mountains beyond, with tiny lights flickering like spangles in a black mantle of darkness; and further round still, the stream of light from the Casino, reflected far and wide upon the black waters.

"None," Mr. Grex asserted confidently. "We are at least beyond reach of these bungling English spies. There is no further fear of eavesdroppers. We are entirely alone. Each may speak his own mind. There is nothing to be feared in the way of interruption. I trust, Monsieur Douaille, that you appreciate the altered circumstances."

Monsieur Douaille, who was looking very much more at his ease, assented without hesitation.

"I must confess," he agreed, "that the isolation we now enjoy is, to a certain extent, reassuring. Here we need no longer whisper. One may listen carefully. One may weigh well what is said. Sooner or later we must come to the crucial point. This, if you like, is a game of make-believe. Then, in make-believe, Germany has offered to restore Alsace and Lorraine, has offered to hold all French territory as sacred, provided France allows her to occupy Calais for one year. What is your object, Herr Selingman? Do you indeed wish to invade England?"

Selingman poured himself out a glass of wine from the bottle which stood at his elbow.

"Good!" he said. "We have come to plain questions. I answer in plain speech. I will tell you now, in a few words, all that remains to be told. Germany has no desire to invade Great Britain. If one may believe the newspapers, there is scarcely an Englishman alive who would credit this simple fact, but it is nevertheless true. Commercially, England, and a certain measure of English prosperity, are necessary to Germany. Geographically, there are certain risks to be run in an invasion of that country, which we do not consider worth while. Besides, an invasion, even a successful one, would result in making an everlasting and a bitter enemy of Great Britain. We learnt our lesson when we took territory from France. We do not need to repeat it. Several hundred thousands of our most worthy citizens are finding an honest and prosperous living in London. Several thousands of our merchants are in business there, and prospering. Several hundreds of our shrewdest men of affairs are making fortunes upon the London Stock Exchange. Therefore, we do not wish to conquer England. Commercially, that conquest is already affected. I want you, Monsieur Douaille, to absolutely understand this, because it may affect your views. What we do require is to strike a long and lasting blow at the navy of Great Britain. As a somewhat larger Holland, Great Britain is welcome to a peaceful existence. When she lords it over the world, talks of an Empire upon which the sun never sets, then the time arrives when we are forced to interfere. Great Britain has possessions which she is not strong enough to hold. Germany is strong enough to wrest them from her, and means to do so. The English fleet must be destroyed. South Africa, then, will come to Germany, India to Russia, Egypt to France. The rest follows as a matter of course."

"And what is the rest?" Monsieur Douaille asked.

Herr Selingman was content no longer to sit in his place. He rose to his feet. His face had fallen into different lines. His eyes flashed, his words were inspired.

"The rest," he declared, "is the crux of the whole matter. It is the one great and settled goal towards which we who have understood have schemed and fought our way. With the British Navy destroyed, the Monroe Doctrine is not worth a sheet of writing-paper. South America is Germany's natural heritage, by every right worth considering. It is our people's gold which founded the Argentine Republic, the brains of our people which control its destinies. Our Eldorado is there, Monsieur Douaille. That is the country which, sooner or later, Germany must possess. We look nowhere else. We covet no other of our neighbours' possessions. Only I say that the sooner America makes up her mind to the sacrifice, the better. Her Monroe Doctrine is all very well for the Northern States. When she presumes to quote it as a pretext for keeping Germany from her natural place in South America, she crosses swords with us. Now you know the truth, and the whole truth. You know, Monsieur Douaille, what we require from you, and you know your reward. Our host has already told you, and will tell you again as often as you like, the feeling of his own country. The Franco-Russian alliance is already doomed. It falls to pieces through sheer lack of common interests. The entente cordiale is simply a fetter and a dead weight upon you. Monsieur Douaille, I put it to you as a man of common sense. Do you think that you, as a statesman-you see, I will put the burden upon your shoulders, because, if you choose, you can speak for your country-do you think that you have a right to refuse from Germany the return of Alsace and Lorraine? Do you think that you can look your country in the face if you refuse on her behalf the greatest gift which has ever yet been offered to any nation-the gift of Egypt? The old alliances are out of date. The balance of power has shifted. I ask you, Monsieur Douaille, as you value the prosperity and welfare of your country, to weigh what I have said and what our great Russian friend has said, word by word. England has made no sacrifices for you. Why should you sacrifice yourself for her?"

Monsieur Douaille stroked his little grey imperial.

"That is well eno

ugh," he muttered, "but without the English Navy the balance of power upon the Continent is entirely upset."

"The balance of power only according to the present grouping of interests," Mr. Grex pointed out. "Selingman has shown us how these must change. Frankly, although no one can fail to realise the immense importance of South America as a colonising centre, it is my honest opinion that the nation who scores most by my friend Selingman's plans, is not Germany but France. Think what it means to her. Instead of being a secondary Power, she will of her own might absolutely control the Mediterranean. Egypt, with its vast possibilities, its ever-elastic boundary, falls to her hand. Malta and Cyprus follow. It is a great price that Germany is prepared to pay."

Monsieur Douaille was silent for several moments. It was obvious that he was deeply impressed.

"This is a matter," he said, "which must be considered from many points of view. Supposing that France were willing to bury the hatchet with Germany, to remain neutral or to place Calais at Germany's disposal. Even then, do you suppose, Herr Selingman, that it would be an easy matter to destroy the British Navy?"

"We have our plans," Selingman declared solemnly. "We know very well that they can be carried out only at a great loss both of men and ships. It is a gloomy and terrible task that lies before us, but at the other end of it is the glory that never fades."

"If America," Douaille remarked, "were to have an inkling of your real objective, her own fleet would come to the rescue."

"Why should America know of our ultimate aims?" Selingman rejoined. "Her politicians to-day choose to play the part of the ostrich in the desert. They take no account, or profess to take no account of European happenings. They have no Secret Service. Their country is governed from within for herself only. As for the rest, the bogey of a German invasion has been flaunted so long in England that few people stop to realise the absolute futility of such a course. London is already colonised by Germans-colonised, that is to say, in urban and money-making fashion. English gold is flowing in a never-ending stream into our country. It would be the most foolish dream an ambitious statesman could conceive to lay violent hands upon a land teeming with one's own children. Germany sees further than this. There are richer prizes across the Atlantic, richer prizes from every point of view."

"You mentioned South Africa," Monsieur Douaille murmured.

Selingman shrugged his shoulders.

"South Africa will make no nation rich," he replied. "Her own people are too stubborn and powerful, too rooted to the soil."

Monsieur Douaille for the first time stretched out his hand and drank some of the wine which stood by his side. His cheeks were very pale. He had the appearance of a man tortured by conflicting thoughts.

"I should like to ask you, Selingman," he said, "whether you have made any definite plans for your conflict with the British Navy? I admit that the days of England's unique greatness are over. She may not be in a position to-day, as she has been in former years, to fight the world. At the same time, her one indomitable power is still, whatever people may say or think, her navy. Only last month the Cabinet of my country were considering reports from their secret agents and placing them side by side with known facts, as to the relative strength of your navy and the navy of Great Britain. On paper it would seem that a German success was impossible."

Selingman smiled-the convincing smile of a man who sees further than most men.

"Not under the terms I should propose to you, Monsieur Douaille," he declared. "Remember that we should hold Calais, and we should be assured at least of the amiable neutrality of your fleet. We have spoken of matters so intimate that I do not know whether in this absolute privacy I should not be justified in going further and disclosing to you our whole scheme for an attack upon the English Navy. It would need only an expression of your sympathy with those views which we have discussed, to induce me to do so."

Monsieur Douaille hesitated for several moments before he replied.

"I am a citizen of France," he said, "an envoy without powers to treat. My own province is to listen."

"But your personal sympathies?" Selingman persisted.

"I have sometimes thought," Monsieur Douaille confessed, "that the present grouping of European Powers must gradually change. If your country, for instance," he added, turning to Mr. Grex, "indeed embraces the proposals of Herr Selingman, France must of necessity be driven to reconsider her position towards England. The Anglo-Saxon race may have to battle then for her very existence. Yet it is always to be remembered that in the background are the United States of America, possessing resources and wealth greater than any other country in the universe."

"And it must also be remembered," Selingman proclaimed, in a tone of ponderous conviction, "that she possesses no adequate means of guarding them, that she is not a military nation, that she has not the strength to enforce the carrying out of the Monroe Doctrine. Things were all very well for her before the days of wireless telegraphy, of aeroplanes and airships, of super-dreadnoughts, and cruisers with the speed of express trains. She was too far away to be concerned in European turmoils. To-day science is annihilating distance. America, leaving out of account altogether her military impotence, would need a fleet three times her present strength to enforce the Monroe Doctrine for the remainder-not of this century but of this decade."

Then the bombshell fell. A strange voice suddenly intervened, a voice whose American accent seemed more marked than usual. The four men turned their heads. Selingman sprang to his feet. Mr. Grex's face was marble in its whiteness. Monsieur Douaille, with a nervous sweep of his right arm, sent his glass crashing to the floor. They all looked in the same direction, up to the little music gallery. Leaning over in a careless attitude, with his arms folded upon the rail, was Richard Lane.

"Say," he begged, "can I take a hand in this little discussion?"

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