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all the different individuals, whether they be crowned heads, Prime Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, or military adventurers, who have been caught in the Ethiopian trap, should be scheming how to escape from it, and as their projects to this end must necessarily partake of a more or less confidential character, I felt that the case was one eminently adapted to the application of the "Journalists' Telephone," or "patent American eavesdropper," the more especially as most of those who are in the scrape are endeavouring to get out of it, at the expense of somebody else: a general revelation thereforeof secret motives and designs cannot but be highly opportune, if it tends to produce lad blood between the various parties thus engaged in plottingagainst each other to their own advantage. I shall have the additional satisfaction of feeling that I am only thereby fulfilling my legitimate vocation as a journalist. It is but natural that in that capacity I should have my sympathies and my antipathies, and that I should deal tenderly with those who enlist the first, and severely with those for whom I entertain the last. For instance, there are several conversations which I have overheard between Ethiop and his friends in regard to the exact scope and meaning of the word "parole," and of the consequences which might ensue from breaking it, which, out of consideration for the exiled group, I refrain from repeating; but there was one which it seemed to me was of sufficient interest to report. Ethiop was sitting one day with his friend Sammy Sammy, —whom rumour holds responsible for a good deal of bloody work in the chief commercial city of Ethiopia,—under a cocoa-nut tree, on the border of the lake which once laved the walls of the old Dutch fort
ress in the chief town of Taprobane. And as he looked across the water, his eyes rested sadly on the flag of Albinia, which fluttered above the residence of the representative of the power Albinia.
"Oh, Ethiop," remarked Sammy Sammy, with a sigh, "what a mistake we made when, putting our trust in European jealousy and the beard of the Prophet, we thought we could defy that flag!"
"God is great," replied Ethiop. "Why indulge in vain regrets 1 It is better to bow to kismet, and await the next opportunity, when we may profit by our recent experience.
"What a pity," resumed Sammy Sammy, "that your dear friend the former Governor of Taprobane no longer fills that high office! How useful he might be to us now!"
"Oh, Sammy," rejoined his companion, who seemed to possess a stronger moral fibre than his less celebrated friend, "why not take the gifts that Allah provides you, and be thankful for them 1 How happy our lot is in comparison to what we expected it would have been! Here we dwell in peace and security,—our nostrils regaled by the odoriferous breezes which blow through these spicy groves, our eyes delighted by a luxuriance of vegetation unknown in our own country, and our ears soothed by the banging of the distant washerman as he beats to pieces the clothes of the accursed Ghiaour upon the hard flat stones. Such sights and sounds lull the senses and conduce to keif. Moreover, are we not free to come and go, within the limits of this isle, as fancy leads us 1 May we not plot and intrigue as we list, without fear of interruption? No watch is kept over our visitors, no spy dogs our footsteps, no suspicion attaches to our proceedings; we enjoy the respect and esteem of society, such as it is, and our emissaries travel openly to and fro without fear of let or hindrance. Ha! whom have we here?"
As he spoke there approached a small wiry man, whose turban and flowing garb indicated that he was not a native of the isle.
"By Allah! our faithful Ali," exclaimed Ethiop, in an excited tone. "How rapidly he has done his work! I did not expect him for another month. Peace be with you, O faithful servant of the true cause! your presence delights my eyes. Whence come you last 1"
"From Ormuzd," answered the new-comer, with many oriental expressions of respect, and profuse salutations, seating himself by the side of the two Ethiopians. "I entered the deserts of El Yemen from the Albinian stronghold which they occupy, near the mouth of the sea they call red, and was present at many engagements between the tribes and the forces of the Mogul— for, as you know, the province has long been in a state of insurrection, and the results of the attempts to suppress it have been kept secret; but praise be to Allah, owing to the difficult nature of the country, the Seljukian troops suffer terribly, and I succeeded in inspiring many powerful sheikhs with courage by the magic of your name—for they do not believe that you are the prisoner of Albinia but her ally, and have left Ethiopia in order to render them more effectual assistance in the way of supplying them with amis and munitions of war. And thence I went to the Holy City of the Prophet, where I found our secret organisation growing more powerful every day, and men's minds full of hope and eager for the hour when the proclamation is to be made, and
the banner to be raised round which all true believers are prepared to rally. And from thence I went into the interior, to the mountain of Shammal, and saw the great sheikh, the son of Reschid, and he has healed the tribal feuds, and has completed his preparations for war, and only awaits the signal. And so I passed through to the Eastern Gulf, and everywhere your Excellency's name was celebrated, and everywhere men's minds are prepared, and it needs but to be known that the Champion of the Faith, the Restorer of Islam, has landed in Hedjazia, for the whole country to rise like one man, and then Inshallah! the flag of the Prophet will once more be borne aloft by hands worthy to hold it."
I shrink from reporting any further details of this conversation, partly because they would not be understood by the majority of my readers, and partly because I do not think it would be fair to Ethiop and Sammy and Ali. I have merely revealed thus much in order that the Mogul of Seljukia should not be left in total ignorance as to the nature of the events which are likely to transpire before long in certain parts of his dominions; and indeed it is one of the peculiarities of the great Ethiopian trap, that almost everybody who has been caught in it, except the Mogul himself, seems to think that the only chance of escape lies in an attack upon the Seljukian empire, in one form or other.
Take as an illustration the next conversation which I overheard between M. de Pollydoff, who represents his imperial master in the City of the Golden Crescent, and General Friskywitch, as they were gliding over the smooth waters in a caique. The General had just come from his post in Vaninia to talk over matters, because many things can be so much better said than written.
"What a mistake it was," remarked M. de Pollydoff, with a sigh, "my not arriving here last year until the Ethiopian Conference had come so nearly to a close, that it was quite impossible for me, with the best intentions in the world, to throw an apple of discord amid the representatives of the Great Powers, and so to form a combination by which we could have thwarted Albinia. However, it is no use crying over spilt milk. The mischief is done, and her army and her free institutions are in Ethiopia, but it is impossible that we can allow such a state of things to exist without finding our compensation somewhere. And I think we know where to look for it. From what you tell me, the Vaninians seem to be gradually finding out who are their true friends,—eh, my General?"
"They clung to Albinia as long as they could," replied the General. "She had made such fine promises about the introduction of reforms, as it was at treaty stipulation which she was bound to see enforced; and a great splash was made when a number of Albinian military consuls were sent out to Asiatic Seljukia, who were to work wonders; and questions were asked in the Albinian Parliament; and Vaninian agents went to the chief city of Albinia and agitated; and successive Albinian ambassadors have never ceased to press upon Seljukia the importance of reform in Vaninia; and the Seljukian Government has been profuse in its promises, but they have never come to anything. Until now the Vaninians are quite disheartened, and they say that when it comes to promising and not performing,
the Albinian Government is quite as bad as the Seljukian, and that the one is no more to be trusted than the other. So now they have turned to us, and I have promised them, that if they will rise and attack some Moslem village in such a way as to bring on a general Vaninian massacre, our imperial master engages to annex all those who have not been previously massacred, even though it involves a war with Seljukia, as it did in the case of Danubia."
"That was a very safe and proper promise to make, my General. Why don't they doit?"
"Well, your Excellency, there seems be a lack of patriotism; they have been plotting and revolting on a very small scale, but they all want to be annexed, and none of them massacred. Now as annexation without the preliminary massacre is impossible, it causes a slight temporary hitch. It is one, however, which I am taking measures to overcome."
"Do so, my dear General," responded his Excellency, "and you may be sure of my eternal gratitude and that of my imperial master. Impress upon these poor oppressed people the necessity, when great ends are to be attained, of a moderate amount of self-sacrifice. And do not delay longer than you can possibly help, for I am informed that the Gallinians are intriguing actively in Phoenicia, and have their eye upon the Land of Promise and the Holy Places, upon which, as you must be well aware, our eye has also been fixed for many years past; for is not ours the true faith, and the Gallinian religion only a bastard imitation thereof 1 The annexation of Vaninia is the first step to the annexation of Phoenicia, and that still more interesting region to which so many sacred promises are attached. From which you will see, my General, that it is a pious act to allow Vaninians to be massacred, and even to arrange a massacre for them, if by so doing we are brought nearer the goal of our most holy aspirations, and are at the same time enabled to threaten the Albinian position in Ethiopia and their communications with Hind." So General Friskywitch received his instructions and returned to his post; and the result of my observations in Vaninia led me to believe that the catastrophe so ardently desired by M. de Pollydoff in the interests of his country and his religion cannot be very much longer postponed.
As I listened to the first words of the next conversation which was conveyed to my ear through my telephone, I was much struck by the fact that it opened with the same sentence as the two previous ones, and this turned out to be the case with several that I overheard afterwards. Upon all occasions the speakers began by acknowledging that the difficult position in which the great Ethiopian trap had placed them was due to their own mistakes. Thus, when I turned my instrument upon M. Vircini, the Latinian Prime Minister, who was sitting in a balcony in the Pincian city, talking to one of his colleagues, I was prepared to hear him begin, "I never cease regretting that mistake we made, caro mio, in not instantly accepting Albinia's offer of joint naval and military operations in Ethiopia, after Gallinia had declined. What a position we should have been in now,—with our Latinian army of occupation quartered for an indefinite time in Kahira, and our joint commissioner helping the Earl of Noduffer to invent a constitution for Ethiopia, and drawing up exhaustive reports on its affairs! The
fact was, that I was so mortally afraid of offending Quizmarck, that, entre nous, I was completely paralysed—and so, for the matter of that, were you; but we should have remembered that the great Count to whom Latinia owes her unity did not shrink thirty years ago from a far more daring venture."
"E vero," replied his colleague, "it was a piece of unaccountable weakness on our part; but it is useless regretting it,—the question is now, What can we do to repair the mistake? What news have you from Cyrenia? What with the Gallinians holding Carthagia on one side of that province, and Ethiopia occupied by the Albinians on the other, we run the risk of being squeezed off the Barbary coast altogether, unless we act promptly. Would it not be possible to get up an outbreak of some sort, which might warrant a bombardment 1"
"Our consul got himself insulted by a Moslem soldier the other day, as you know, in the hope that something would come of it; but it was clumsily managed, and the Seljukian Government saw what we were driving at, and made a profuse apology, although by rights the apology should have come from us. After all, I should like to manage it in some other way; there is a want of originality about a third bombardment on the same coast. I hear there is a very disaffected feeling against the Seljukians among the tribes in the interior. Although they are fanatic Moslems, I am not without hope that they would consent to receive assistance from us, in order to get rid of their present rulers; the difficulty would be, in case of their success, to prevent a general massacre, in which case all our Latinian subjects would be sacrificed."
"Of course, if the annexation of the country could be managed without the preliminary massacre, it would be far more desirable; and, in any case, the victims should be Christians of some other nationality. It has occurred to me that as Gallinia has undoubtedly designs on this province, we might work up the fanatical element in the interior against her, and assume the role of protectors."
"For the moment she has her hands too full to think of Cyrenia," rejoined Vircini; "but I sincerely trust that what with Phoenicia, and Nigritia, and Malagasia, and Cathay, she will soon be in a position sufficiently vulnerable to satisfy even Quizmarck, and that he will leave us with our hands a little more free than he did in this Ethiopian business. It was a poor consolation when he put us into that hole, to tell us that we might relieve our feelings by abusing the Albinians in our newspapers."
"Well, we have got the triple alliance now," rejoined the other; "but, per Bacco, I am puzzled to know whether that will have the effect, so far as France is concerned, of leaving our hands more free or tying us up more tightly."
I listened eagerly for the Latinian minister's response to this query; but from the impressive silence which followed, I have reason to believe that it was conveyed in a wink.
Hearing the Albinian ambassador announced at this moment, and feeling that it would only be a waste of time for me to listen any longer here, I now directed my telephone to the banks of the Seine, as I was curious to know what view the Gallinian Government took of their position in the great Ethiopian trap in which their predecessors had been so egregiously ensnared, and how they proposed to escape from it. I therefore
hunted up my old friend Pele Mele Latour, whose acquaintance I first had the honour of making some thirteen years ago, when he was in a position of greater freedom and less responsibility, and fortunately found him in his coupe, on his way to pay a private visit to his colleague, Monsieur Feerie. He was murmuring to himself in an undertone, as he rolled over the smooth asphalt; and as he heaved a deep sigh, I distinctly caught the words, " provided that I don't burn my fingers with any of them." From which allusion I gathered that he was oppressed with the reflection of the many irons he had in the fire, and the inconvenience which might result to himself therefrom. Nor was his gloom altogether dispelled by the more cheerful and sanguine manner of his colleague, who received him with a cordiality not unmixed with bluntness, which rather surprised me, considering—but I must draw a line somewhere.
"I hold in my hand," said MonS'eur Pele Mele Latour, producing a telegram, "another proof of the mistake the Chambers made when we refused D'Effraycinay the vote for the Ethiopian expedition."
"Still harping on the old theme," interrupted Monsieur Feerie. "Remember that if they had not made it, he would have been still in office, the representative of a triumphant policy, and where should we have been 1 Let us at least find our consolation in this, mon cher: if France has lost in this Ethiopian business, you and I have gained by it."
"There is a good deal in that," replied Pele Mele, sulkily; "but we have succeeded to a heritage of troubles. Now it seems that our prestige has been so much shaken in Ethiopia, that some of the interior tribes behind Carthagia are