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THE OTHER STATESMAN. You have, indeed; and I’m sure the world will never forget your services. But, meanwhile, all this preparing forwar while trying for peace costs a devil of a lot; it might almost be described as spelling ruin, let alone unpopularity. Our people, who can’t be expected to understand the underlying philosophy of this policy, are getting bored with this endless building and scrapping of expensive navies. This para-bellum policy leaves our party with neither money nor leisure for the vast internal reforms to which it is pledged. There is education, housing, land tenure, endowment for research, baby culture, and the reform of the House of Lords. . . . But how can we turn to any of these things so long as those ruffians go on piling up armies and navies, and oblige us to addle our brains about Budgets Upon my word, this armed peace, these hostile camps of alliances, are worse than war!
THE USUAL STATESMAN. Worse than war :
THE OTHER STATESMAN. Oh, well, of course one doesn’t mean such remarks to be taken literally! Of course, war is the most unparalleled of calamities, the most unthinkable horror; indeed, one which no decent mind can bear to contemplate. Still, one can’t help sometimes just thinking how delightfully peaceful it would be if only one had made an end of it all.
THE USUAL STATESMAN. Do you mean—ahem!—made an end to them
THE OTHER STATESMAN. Oh, well, perhaps not to them ; indeed, certainly not to them. I’m sure this country wouldn’t wish to make an end to so much as a fly . . . I mean . . make an end to their-shall we say *—militarism. Once that were thoroughly cleared away, why one might get rid of the Balance of Power, that . . . what was it Bright called it something idol . . . ah, yes, foul idol. I always did think Bright's language was sometimes a little excessive. One might have a Concert of Nations—of Free Nations! A peaceful and democratic world!
THE USUAL STATESMAN. Ah, yes, the lion and the lamb, as Isaiah recommended in such a highly practical spirit! That idea is, indeed, at the bottom of all my political philosophy; and, I may say, of all my practical efforts. The reconciliation of the two conflicting ideas, Peace and War!
THE OTHER STATESMAN. It is, indeed, the basis of all true statesmanship. Only how to do it
THE Usual STATESMAN. My dear Lord, this country has been in no doubt about how to do it, quite half a dozen times in its career, and to its eternal credit and the salvation of mankind. Take Philip II, Louis XIV, Napoleon. There is no doubt that, in the last case especially, we gave peace—the Peace of Vienna—to Europe.
THE OTHER STATESMAN. True. We did it in all those cases by crushing the other party. And that, unhappily, requires war. And war is a horror which no decent man can so much as think of ; and which this country, and especially the Liberals in this country, would regard as an inexpiable crime.
THE USUAL STATESMAN. Not if the other people begin.
THE OTHER STATESMAN. To be sure—(he starts very slightly). That hadn’t occurred to me.
The Usual STATESMAN. Quem Deus vult. . . What is the exact quotation about the gods making people mad when they want to undo them
THE OTHER STATESMAN. I fear my Latin has got rather rusty ; but I grasp the meaning, although I can’t quite parse it. . . . THE Usual STATESMAN. In the same way I often think there is a deeper meaning—an ethical and political meaning— in the information given us by Scripture that the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. . . .
THE OTHER STATESMAN. Wasn’t that just a bit rough on Pharaoh And there were a lot of plagues and massacres which, though quite legitimate then, would shock our modern conscience. A certain disregard to increased human suffering. . . . THE Usual STATESMAN. My dear old friend, allow me to remind you that ethics, which is the science of good and evil, has nothing to do with increase or decrease of suffering. Ethics takes cognisance only of Responsibilities.
THE OTHER STATESMAN. Is that so Well, of course, war undoubtedly does increase suffering, and in so far is a most shocking thing to the modern conscience. One couldn’t possibly make oneself responsible for it, could one
THE USUAL STATESMAN (with a deprecating gesture, looking up from the chessboard). Of course not. But if it were forced upon one. . . .
The gramophone wheezes. The cinema shows a Ministerial smoking-room. Two Diplomatists engaged in conversation—one like a very old, thin racehorse, the other like a
very podgy pony. 1st Voice. I can only repeat that your Government need not be in the least degree nervous. We cannot, indeed, commit ourselves to anything so definite as a promise, but, while keeping our hands completely free, we can assure your Excellency of our hearty co-operation.
2ND VoICE. But, mon cher collègue, you must allow me to point out that . . . if we are to . . we really require . . . Enfin, vous admettez, n'est-ce pas ?
1st Voice. One moment! They want me on the telephone. Will you look at Punch Hullo! . . . oh, it’s you . . . quite well, thanks. I hope you didn’t catch cold on the river. Oh . . . do I understand that your people are asking about an order for additional battleships ? They’ve had confidential information from our friend of the International Armament Trust Tell them it’s probably a little bit of commercial advertisement. Good-bye! (Rings off.) Forgive me, dear Excellency. You were saying : Let me repeat that your Excellency has not the least need to feel nervous. We can only . . .
2ND VoICE. Mais, permettez . . . permettez ... I require . . .
The gramophone wheezes. The cinema shows the House of
AN AUTHORITATIVE VoICE. The answer is in the negative.
The gramophone wheezes. The cinema represents the drawing-room of a Peeress. A committee of ladies at a table.
1st FEMALE VoIcE. Madame Chairman, I wish to point out to this Committee for supplying hospital requisites for our troops in Ireland . . .
2ND FEMALE Voice. Order! order! I shall proceed to read to this Committee the resolution empowering your Chairman to inquire of each member how many wounded volunteers from Ireland she can undertake to make room for within . . .
3RD FEMALE Voice. Those darling volunteers! But I’m certain that dear Holy Roman Majesty will come to their assistance! Anything, I always say, rather than separation from the Mother Country!
The gramophone wheezes. The screen remains blank.
THE MUSE. Enchanting! It’s heating up!
SATAN. It is. What’s coming ought to be reeled off at a tearing pace; but I shall slow my machine so that you may be able to follow. So! SATAN sets both apparatuses going. The cinema keeps running one picture into another. The gramophone snaps out a series of short sentences, each punctuated with a wheeze.
1st Voice. I must point out to your Excellency that the Treaty of 1796 makes express provision .
2ND Voice. The sanctity of International Agreements imperatively demands . . . 3RD VoICE. Self-defence can know no law . . . 4TH Voice. The Balance of Power absolutely requires . . . 5TH VoICE. National honour is engaged . . . 6TH VoIcE. We should be left without a friend . . . 7th Voice. Neutrality . . . 8th Voice. Integrity . . . 9TH Voice. Independence . . . IOTH VoICE. Diplomatic secrecy obliges us . . . IITH Voice. The Times has a leading article . . . 12th Voice. Public opinion in this country insists . . . 13th Voice. Such a thing as war is utterly inconceivable. I4TH Voice. Infamous proposals! 15th Voice. Scraps of paper! 16TH Voice. My passports!
SATAN slows off a little. The cinema shows a railway platform with train drawn up. People with bouquets at the windows of the train ; others bowing on the platform.
1st Voice. Au revoir, chere Excellence 1 Bon voyage.
2ND Voice (at the window). I shall never forget the Guard of Honour! I am indeed touched. Wous m'avez comblé de prévenances . . . There is nothing to come up to your dear country.
The train starts. Hats are waved. The gramophone wheezes. The cinema shows only a blank, but a voice says: “Now we must have a good Press.” There is a sudden wheezing pause, during which the ACEs-to-CoME exchange looks of foolish intelligence.