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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great Prince Shan - Chapter 27
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The Great Prince Shan - Chapter 27 Post by :rhartman Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2329

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The Great Prince Shan - Chapter 27

CHAPTER XXVII

Mr. Mervin Brown on this occasion did not beat about the bush. His old air of confident, almost smug self-satisfaction, had vanished. He received Nigel with a new deference in his manner, without any further sign of that good-natured tolerance accorded by a busy man to a kindly crank.

"Lord Dorminster," he began, "I have sent for you to renew a conversation we had some little time since. I will be quite frank with you. Certain circumstances have come to my notice which lead me to believe that there may be more truth in some of the arguments you brought forward than I was willing at the time to believe."

"I must confess that I am relieved to hear you say so," Nigel replied. "All the information which I have points to a crisis very near at hand."

The Prime Minister leaned a little across the table.

"The immediate reason for my sending for you," he explained, "is this. My friend the American Ambassador has just sent me a copy of a wireless dispatch which he has received from China from one of their former agents. The report seems to have been sent to him for safety, but the sender of it, of whose probity, by the by, the American Ambassador pledges himself, appears to have been sent to China by you."

"Jesson!" Nigel exclaimed. "I have heard of this already, sir, from a friend in the American Embassy."

"The dispatch," Mr. Mervin Brown went on, "is in some respects a little vague, but it is, on the other hand, I frankly admit, disturbing. It gives specific details as to definite military preparations on the part of China and Russia, associated, presumably, with a third Power whose name you will forgive my not mentioning. These preparations appear to have been brought almost to completion in the strictest secrecy, but the headquarters of the whole thing, very much to my surprise, I must confess, seems to be in southern China."

"In that case," Nigel pointed out, "if you will permit me to make a suggestion, sir, you have a very simple course open to you."

"Well?"

"Send for Prince Shan."

"Prince Shan," the Prime Minister replied, with knitted brows, "is not over in this country officially. He has begged to be excused from accepting or returning any diplomatic courtesies."

"Nevertheless," Nigel persisted, "I should send for Prince Shan. If it had not been," he went on slowly, "for the complete abolition of our secret service system, you would probably have been informed before now that Prince Shan has been having continual conferences in this country with one of the most dangerous men who ever set foot on these shores--Oscar Immelan."

"Immelan has no official position in this country," the Prime Minister objected.

"A fact which makes him none the less dangerous," Nigel insisted. "He is one of those free lances of diplomacy who have sprung up during the last ten or fifteen years, the product of that spurious wave of altruism which is responsible for the League of Nations. Immelan was one of the first to see how his country might benefit by the new regime. It is he who has been pulling the strings in Russia and China, and, I fear, another country."

"What I want to arrive at," Mr. Mervin Brown said, a little impatiently, "is something definite."

"Let me put it my own way," Nigel begged. "A very large section of our present-day politicians--you, if I may say so, amongst them, Mr. Mervin Brown--have believed this country safe against any military dangers, because of the connections existing between your unions of working men and similar bodies in Germany. This is a great fallacy for two reasons: first because Germany has always intended to have some one else pull the chestnuts out of the fire for her, and second because we cannot internationalise labour. English and German workmen may come together on matters affecting their craft and the conditions of their labour, but at heart one remains a German and one an Englishman, with separate interests and a separate outlook."

"Well, at the end of it all," Mr. Mervin Brown said, "the bogey is war. What sort of a war? An invasion of England is just as impossible to-day as it was twenty years ago."

Nigel nodded.

"I cannot answer your question," he admitted. "I was looking to Jesson's report to give us an idea as to that."

"You shall see it to-morrow," Mr. Mervin Brown promised. "It is round at the War Office at the present moment."

"Without seeing it," Nigel went on, "I expect I can tell you one startling feature of its contents. It suggested, did it not, that the principal movers against us would be Russian and China and--a country which you prefer just now not to mention?"

"But that country is our ally!" Mr. Mervin Brown exclaimed.

Nigel smiled a little sadly.

"She has been," he admitted. "Still, if you had been _au fait with diplomatic history thirty years ago, Mr. Mervin Brown, you would know that she was on the point of ending her alliance with us and establishing one with Germany. It was only owing to the genius of one English statesman that at the last moment she almost reluctantly renewed her alliance with us. She is in the same state of doubt concerning our destiny to-day. She has seen our last two Governments forget that we are an Imperial Power and endeavour to apply the principles of sheer commercialism to the conduct of a great nation. She may have opened her eyes a thousand years later than we did, but she is awake enough now to know that this will not do. There is little enough of generosity amongst the nations; none amongst the Orientals. I have a conviction myself that there is a secret alliance between China and this other Power, a secret and quite possibly an aggressive alliance."

Mr. Mervin Brown sat for a few moments deep in thought. Somehow or other his face had gained in dignity since the beginning of the conversation. The nervous fear in his eyes had been replaced by a look of deep and solemn anxiety.

"If you are right, Lord Dorminster," he pronounced presently, "the world has rolled backwards these last ten years, and we who have failed to mark its retrogression may have a terrible responsibility thrust upon us."

"Politically, I am afraid I agree with you," Nigel replied. "Only the idealist, and the prejudiced idealist, can ignore the primal elements in human nature and believe that a few lofty sentiments can keep the nations behind their frontiers. War is a terrible thing, but human life itself is a terrible thing. Its principles are the same, and force will never be restrained except by force. If the League of Nations had been established upon a firmer and less selfish basis, it certainly might have kept the peace for another thirty or forty years. As it is, I believe that we are on the verge of a serious crisis."

"War for us is an impossibility," Mr. Mervin Brown declared frankly, "simply because we cannot fight. Our army consists of policemen; science has defeated the battleship; and practically the same conditions exist in the air."

"You sent for me, I presume, to ask for my advice," Nigel said. "At any rate, let me offer it. I have reason to believe that the negotiations between Prince Shan and Oscar Immelan have not been entirely successful. Send for Prince Shan and question him in a friendly fashion."

"Will you be my ambassador?" the Prime Minister asked.

Nigel hesitated for a moment.

"If you wish it," he promised. "Prince Shan is in some respects a strangely inaccessible person, but just at present he seems well disposed towards my household."

"Arrange, if you can," Mr. Mervin Brown begged, "to bring him here to-morrow morning. I will try to have available a copy of the dispatch from Jesson. It refers to matters which I trust Prince Shan will be able to explain."

Nigel lingered for a moment over his farewell.

"If I might venture upon a suggestion, sir," he said, "do not forget that Prince Shan is to all intents and purposes the autocrat of Asia. He has taught the people of the world to remodel their ideas of China and all that China stands for. And further than this, he is, according to his principles, a man of the strictest honour. I would treat him, sir, as a valued _confrere and equal."

The Prime Minister smiled.

"Don't look upon me as being too intensely parochial, Dorminster," he said. "I know quite well that Prince Shan is a man of genius, and that he is a representative of one of the world's greatest families. I am only the servant of a great Power. He is a great Power in himself."

"And believe me," Nigel concluded fervently, as he made his adieux, "the greatest autocrat that ever breathed. If, when you exchange farewells with him, he says--'There will be no war'--we are saved, at any rate for the moment."

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CHAPTER XXVIIIMaggie, very cool and neat, a vision of soft blue, a wealth of colouring in the deep brown of her closely braided hair, her lips slightly parted in a smile of welcome, felt, notwithstanding her apparent composure, a strange disturbance of outlook and senses as Prince Shan was ushered into her flower-bedecked little sitting room that afternoon. The unusual formality of his entrance seemed somehow to suit the man and his manner. He bowed low as soon as he had crossed the threshold and bowed again over her fingers as she rose from her easy-chair. "It makes me very happy
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CHAPTER XXVINigel was just arriving at Dorminster House when Maggie returned from her ride. He assisted her to dismount and entered the house with her. "There is something here I should like to show you, Maggie," he said, as he drew a dispatch from his pocket. "It was sent round to me half an hour ago by Chalmers, from the American Embassy." "It's about Gilbert Jesson!" Maggie exclaimed, holding out her hand for it. Nigel nodded. "There's a note inside, and an enclosure," he said. "You had better read both." Maggie opened out the former: MY DEAR DORMINSTER, I
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