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preparing to rise again, stimulated thereto, I have good reason to believe, by Latinian intrigues, instigated, of course, by the archfiend, Quizmarck, who, now that he has secured his triple alliance, exploiters the political situation in every corner of the globe against us,—I can see his abominable hand everywhere. Do you suppose that the Portugalians would dare to assume the attitude they have taken up in Nigritia if he had not put them up to it 1 or that the detestable adventurer of the Dark Continent would venture to oppose a man like Brava-Bravissima, with the glorious flag of our country in one hand and a treaty in the other, and the Gallinian nation at his back, without a hint from Quizmarck? or that Queen Tolderolrivo would have the audacity to prepare her country for a war with Gallinia, if the Malagasian envoys had not received direct encouragement to do so at the Teutonic capital 1 or that the king of Ding Dong would venture to defy us, as my last telegrams inform me he will, without being sure of support from Cathay—or that Cathay would send an army to his defence, if it were not for the Teutonic ambassador at the Celestial City?"
"From all which it would appear that we may have four wars of greater or less dimensions on our hands before the close of the year," said Monsieur Feerie, "and that does not include anything that may happen in Phoenicia. Considering that we are a Government opposed to a 'policy of adventure,' it appears to me we shall have our hands pretty full in the Chamber, when the pot begins to boil over."
"It is all the fault of this Ethiopian fiasco," replied the other. "We found ourselves placed in a false position, and had to satisfy the national amour propre at the
expense of Albinia in some way. Our final compensation must lie, however, not in these remote corners of the world, but in Phoenicia and the Land of Promise."
"We have got rid of the 'old man of the mountain,' who has stood in our way for the last ten years; but after proposing almost every Christian in his service, the Mogul managed to appoint his own candidate, and not ours, in the end. Do you know anything of this Worser Pasha 1" asked Monsieur Feerie.
"Chiefly as a representative of the new Pelasgian nationality, which is no qualification at all. What I am chiefly concerned about is the depth of his religious convictions. Gallinian interests in Phoenicia require on the part of the instrument who is to promote them, a profound devotion to the Church."
"It is only just," said Monsieur Feerie, turning his eyes to heaven, and clasping his hands in an attitude of prayer, and then winking slily, "that we, who are compelled, in obedience to the dictates of our consciences, to expel priests from their monasteries on the soil of Gallinia, should jealously protect them in their monasteries on the soil of Phoenicia, even if it should lead to war and massacre. Don't you think, mon ami, that the highest interests of the Church in Phoenicia, to which we are both so attached, require a little massacre? We have not had one in the Mountain of the Cedars since 1860, and we made rather a good business of it then."
"That is a matter for the bishops and priests on the spot to decide: it is indeed a most fortunate circumstance that the enlightened unbelief of Gallinia can thus profit in its political aspirations by the religious bigotry of the Church, and that the cause of priestly intolerance can find its best interests served by the diplomacy of infidelity. If ever there was a holy alliance it is to be found in this union of superstition with incredulity, of clericalism with atheism. I assure you I visit any neglect on the part of our consular agents in Phoenicia of their religious observances with the utmost severity."
"Quite right," assented Monsieur Feerie. "They should also be instructed to foster in every way the religious education of the masses, and to lose no opportunity of fomenting quarrels between the Maronians and the Hakimites."
"We havejust increased by 50,000 francs our annual subsidies to the Maronian monasteries, and instructions have been given in the case of disputes between the Maronians and the Hakimites to impress upon Worser Pasha the necessity, unless he would forfeit his high position, of never deciding any cause in favour of the Hakimites. The two remaining non-Christian sects, numbering some 400,000 souls, have secretly applied for our protection, which has been granted them. We have appointed two new consuls, and I am making arrangements with the holy fathers inhabiting monasteries of the Latin Church to extend the number of holy places in the Land of Promise, and invent new ones if necessary. We protect over forty religious establishments there as it is, and there is nothing which increases our popularity among the Christian populations so much as multiplying holy places and covering them with our protection. They are also a fertile source of dispute, and I am not without hope that a serious quarrel may be provoked upon religious grounds, which will afford Galliuia the excuse for the intervention which may ultimately lead to a permanent mili
tary occupation of the country. The public mind in Phoenicia, thanks to the activity of our agents in that country, is now so thoroughly prepared for it, that it would be a pity to disappoint it."
"It is the only really good card left us," mused Monsieur Feerie. "It would unite all parties in Gallinia,—the religious party on the ground of la foi, and the rest of the nation on the ground of la gloire; and it would be the best slap in the face wo could give to Albinia in return for the one we received from her in Ethiopia. Fortunately she has her eyes tight shut in that direction, and we have only to make the same kind of promises to Mr Sadstone that he did to us in the case of Ethiopia, to keep them so. Besides, she is too anxious to be left alone in Ethiopia, to interfere with our designs in Phoenicia."
"Muscovia is a good deal more wide-awake," remarked Pele Mele Latour; "it is there that the real danger lies. When she has annexed Vaninia, it will be a race between us for the Holy City of the ridiculous people who believe in any God at all. Meantime we can use some of them as our political allies; and sufficient, as they would say, to the day is the evil thereof."
As my time was limited, and I had several more interesting conversations to eavesdrop, I could not linger longer with Monsieur Feerie and Pele Mele Latour, much as I should have wished to do so, for there was an engaging frankness in their mode of expression which interested me exceedingly; solturned my instrument on Prince Quizmarck, who was walking in a garden at his country-house with Count Felthat, smoking a cigar, from which he blew great clouds with much apparent enjoyment.
"It was a great pity," he remarked, "that the Gallinians could not carry their nominee for Phoenicia. I am afraid from what I hear that Worser Pasha may turn out to be an honest man, and refuse to be their tool."
"I assure your Highness we did all we could to get their absurd candidate appointed. Had we shown our hand more clearly, they would have suspected something."
"Well, remember to keep the traps all well baited—and fan their jealousy of Albinia in Ethiopia; they must not escape from Phoenicia with simple loss of prestige, as they did from Ethiopia,—keep an eye on the Latinians, and prevent them precipitating matters in Carthagia. See that the Portugalians don't put forward any obstacles which may prevent Brava-Bravissima taking as much Gallinian money and as many Gallinian men as far into the centre of the Dark Continent as he wants to. Tell Queen Tolderolrivo's ambassadors that Malagasia need expect no help from Teutonia, but that she will have our warmest sympathies in her endeavours to repel foreign aggression. Inform his Celestial Majesty of Cathay that Teutonia has large commercial interests at stake in that country, and that he must abstain from any attempt to defend Ding Dong; in fact, my dear Felthat, give Pele Mele Latour rope in every direction—make things easy for him. He is so infernally suspicious, and attributes every obstacle he meets with to me, whereas I am doing all I can to smooth the way for the Gallinians into the most remote recesses of the earth's surface, and into every possible difficulty. Tell our consul in Phoenicia to support Gallinian pretensions, and to take an interest in any religious dispute that may crop up, of a purely platonic kind of
course, especially between that branch of Christianity patronised by Muscovia and the rival branch patronised by Gallinia. If we failed to produce a collision between Gallinia and Albinia in Ethiopia, let us at least endeavour to bring about a clash of interests between Gallinia and Muscovia, which may lead to their cutting each other's throats in Phoenicia."
"The Holy Sepulchre has always been a very popular bone of contention among Christians," replied Felthat; "and if Muscovite aggressions in that direction could exasperate infidel Gallinia into a guerre de la religion, there would be a charming inconsistency in her substituting it for a guerre de revanche."
"To say nothing of the comfort it would be to see our two chief enemies fighting each other on Christian grounds, instead of uniting to attack us. They are the more likely to do this, now that they have become demoralised by the triple alliance. Donnerwetter! what a bad temper that has put them both into! The Holy Sepulchre is not a bad idea, Felthat; it is a nice out-of-the-way place, where they can give vent to their evil passions and hurt no one but themselves and the Saracens, like the Crusaders of old."
"I suppose I must keep on giving the Mogul good advice," said Felthat.
"Oh, certainly," replied his Highness, "especially as he never takes it, and it costs nothing. You may advise everybody—advise Albinia to insist upon reforms in Vaninia; advise the Mogul to beware how he listens to her insidious counsels; advise Muscovia to prepare for the annexation of that province, which we shall not object to; advise Gallinia to insist upon her sentimental rights, hallowed by centuries of tradition in Phoenicia,—in fact, advise everybody who either is or wants to be a Middlesea Power, to go in for their own interests -without fear of interference from us; and let us thank the Lord that we are not, and never desire to be, a Middlesea Power ourselves;" and as the Prince at this moment called to his dog, I took it as an indication that the conversation was at an end, and transferred my attentions to that ancient river of Ethiopia, on the tanks of which I found Toothpik sitting in his palace and smoking a nargileh. Near him was an elderly man similarly engaged, and the silence was only broken by the soothing sound of the bubbling of the smoke as it passed through the water. At last the latter, withdrawing slowly the mouthpiece from his lips, after a long inspiration, said—
"Now that Lord Noduffer—' whom may Allah confound! for he was a riddle I never could read —has left us,—praise be to His name that it is so,—what does your Highness intend to do with these 1" and he pointed with his mouthpiece to a large bundle of papers on the divan.
Toothpik cast upon them a glance of mingled disgust and apprehension, then turning away with a perceptible shudder, smoked more noisily than ever, but vouchsafed no response.
"Because, your Highness," the speaker went on, "we can't have these things lying here for ever. Here's army reform, and judicial reform, and administrative reform, and the legislative council, and provincial councils, and General Assembly, and all the other inventions which are awaiting your Highness's signature; how they could ever have entered into the brain of man to conceive passes my com
prehension, and much more how they are ever to be applied. But for months past, in fact all the time that this Albinian Lord was here, I was as a man without a mind. I got so confused trying to find out whether I was governing the country, or whether your Highness was governing it, or whether he was governing it, or whether we were all three governing it, that I constantly became giddy over the perplexing problem that was presented to me, until, now that the dreadful nightmare of his presence is removed, I feel that my intellect has become permanently weakened, and that it will be necessary for your Highness to intrust to some more capable servant the task which has been bequeathed to us."
"Stay—let us take counsel together first," said Toothpik. "I shall be sorry to lose you, but there are plenty of others anxious to get your place. Suppose I refuse to sign, or to attempt to apply these new-fangled devices, what then 1"
"Then," said the other, "the Albinian Government might say, 'If you decline our new-fangled devices, we will leave you to your own,' and withdraw their army; and if they did so, every foreigner would leave the country; and I would respectfully ask your Highness, under these circumstances, how many hours' purchase would your throne be worth 1"
"They would not dare to evacuate the country; moreover, it would be against the interests of Albinia to do so."
"Mr Sadstone would dare anything in the way of scuttling out of a country; besides, his views as to what the interests of Albinia may be are peculiar, and do not correspond to those of your Highness."
"Suppose I do sign them, what then 1" asked Toothpik.
"You won't get anybody to undertake the task of applying them. How are you going to govern a country without officials? and how are you going to get officials to co-operate in a scheme for depriving themselves of all their perquisites? What Minister will you find to run atilt against what these Albinians ignorantly call 'administrative abuse and corruption'?"
"Suppose I sign them, and pretend to apply them and don't 1" said Toothpik.
"There is a good deal to be said for that course—indeed, in my opinion, it is the only course open to your Highness ; but under these circumstances, as I said before, I must respectfully decline to be the instrument of this policy."
"What! are you too moral?" asked his Highness.
"No. If the truth must be told, I am too frightened. The Earl of Noduffer might come back; and notwithstanding the honey on his lips, I should prefer not to be in office in such an event."
"We should have the support of the Mogul, of Gallinia, of all the enemies, in fact, of Albinia, in proving all these inventions to be utterly inapplicable^ to the country."
"As I said before, what do you gain by it?" replied the Minister. "Either the Albinian army stays, in which case you only protract the agony, and will be compelled to apply these so-called reforms in the end; or it goes, in which case your Highness would have to go too. The fact is, we have all been caught in a trap, and I see no way out of it. We must just sit down patiently, and trust in Allah. I now understand the swelled appearance of Lord Noduffer's face when I took leave of him."
"What! had he got toothache?" asked his Highness.
"No; but I think he had his tongue in his cheek. He is like still water that runs so deep. His smoothness and his depth are dreadful. Even now, at the recollection of some of our interviews, my head begins to swim and I feel unwell; so I beg your Highness to let me take my leave."
Then I turned my instrument on the kiosks and palaces of the city of the Golden Orescent; for I was anxious to learn how much the Mogul knew of the dangers which were threatening his empire, and of the evil dispositions towards him of those who are by a political euphemism called "the friendly Powers."
He was talking to a little man, who was sitting in an attitude of profound humility so near the edge of his chair, that I feared he might slide off it altogether; and I guessed he must be the great Wuzeer who has so many times proved himself more than a match in diplomatic fence for the friendly Powers, and whose skill as an oriental political gymnast is of a very high order. He was at the moment cowering beneath a storm of reproaches which were being hurled at his head for mistakes which had been made in that unlucky Ethiopian business when he was not in office, and for which he was in no way responsible; but he bent to it meekly, never excusing himself, or so much as even alluding to the fact that the greatest mistake of all was made contrary to his advice.
"And now," pursued his Majesty, "Lord Noduffer actually wants me to believe that these so-called reforms which he has introduced into Ethiopia, and the presence of an Albinian army there indefinitely, does not in any