Quote of the Day – September 11, 2017: Saint Petersburg Man – Ken Follett
Walden sighs hard. Churchill had defeated him. In a way, he felt really relieved, because that's how he could be noticed and no one could blame him. "Letter from the king, old man, would have justified it; I couldn't help it, you know what it's like."
– Invite Mr. Churchill inside, he told Pritchard.
And he stretched out Lydia's letter. "These liberals really don't understand how the monarchy works," he thought, then adds muttering:
– The King isn't firm enough with people like that.
– Everything gets awfully boring," Lydia replied.
In fact, she wasn't bored at all, it crossed Walden's mind, on the contrary, it must have seemed very interesting to her; however, she made this claim because they were exactly the words a English Countess would say and, as she was not English but Russian, she liked to make typical English statements, just as a person who speaks in French would sprinkle his speech with a a lot of interrogative interjections like alors? or heim?
Walden's headed for the window. Churchill's car continued to grunt and smoke in the yard. The driver was standing next to her with one hand on the door, as if she were a horse he had to strut well, so he wouldn't gallop. A few servants stared at him from a distance at which they could be safe.
Pritchard enters the room again and announces:
– Mr. Winston Churchill.
Churchill was forty, exactly ten less than Walden. He was a short and weak man, who dressed in a way that Walden considered a little too elegant to match a gentleman. His hair was quickto rinse; There was a tuft on his forehead and two strands on his temples which, in combination with his sausage nose and the sardonic twinkle in his eyes, never lacking, gave him a mischievous air. It was hard at all to understand why cartoonists usually depicted him as an evil cupid.
Churchill swed his hand and addressed him in a cheerful tone:
– Hello, Lord Walden.
He then leans towards Lydia:
– Lady Walden, how are you?
At this time, Walden wondered himself, "What's going on with this man that gets on my nerves so much?"
Lydia gives him a cup of tea and Walden invites him to sit down, with no intention of staying at the chatter. He was dying to find out what was with all this fuss.
– First of all, Churchill started, I apologize, along with the king, for forcing your hand in this way.
Walden tilts his head. He wasn't going to say there was absolutely no problem, so Churchill continues:
– I could add that I wouldn't have acted like this if I didn't have reasons for the most pressing.
– Then you should reveal them to me.
– Do you know what happened on the financial market?
– Yes, i'm sorry. The scontle fee has begun to go up.
– From one and three quarters to close to three percent. It's an enormous increase and it's occurred in just a few weeks.
– I guess you intuit what the reason is.
Churchill tilts his head.
– German companies began cashing in debt on a large scale, raising cash and buying gold. If things continue like this for a few weeks, Germany will get its hands on everything that is due to it in other countries, without paying any debts it has, while its gold reserves will be greater than they have ever been before.
– They're preparing for war.
– That way and in others. They have raised a billion marks, above and far above normal taxes, from taxes to improve an army that is already the strongest in Europe. You remember that in 1909, when Lloyd George raised British taxes by fifteen million pounds, it was about to break out a revolution. Well, a billion marks are the equivalent of fifty million pounds. It's the highest taxation in all of Europe's history…
– yes, that's right, Walden interrupted him.
Churchill seemed to be on the slope of Histrionism, only Walden didn't feel like hearing him give speeches.
– We Conservatives are worried about German militarism for some time, Churcill continued, without seeming at all troubled. And now, in the eleventh hour, come and tell me I was right. Germany will attack France, almost certainly. The question is, are we going to come to help France?
– No, walden surprised reply. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs has given us all assurances that we have no obligation to France…
– Sir Edward is sincere, of course, said Churchill. But he's wrong. The understanding we have with France is such that it is impossible for us to stand back and see how it is defeated by Germany.
Walden was shocked. The Liberals had convinced everyone, even him, that they would not put England into the war; instead, one of their leading ministers stated exactly the opposite. The duplicity of politicians was outrageous, but Walden had forgotten about it as he began to reflect on the consequences of the war. He was thinking about the young people he knew and were going to go to battle: the patient gardeners in his park, the cheeky valets, the boys on the farm, with sun-blackened faces, the turbulent students, the young people who lay around the clubs of St. James… Then he comes to mind another thought, much more creepy, and asked:
– But can we win?
Churchill addresses a serious expression:
– I don't think so.
Walden stares at him:
– Oh, my God, what did your men guard?
Churchill goes on the defensive:
– Our policy was to avoid war; and you can't do that while arming yourself to the teeth.
– But you haven't been able to avoid it.
– We're still trying.
– I think you'll fail, though.
For a moment, Churchill looked like he wanted to fight back, beat, but then swallowed his pride.
– Yes, i'm sorry.
– So what's going to happen?
– If England and France together cannot defeat Germany, then we need another ally, a third country on our side: Russia. If Germany is divided, forced to fight on two fronts, we can win. Naturally, the Russian army is incompetent and corrupt – almost like everything that moves in that country – but that doesn't matter, as long as it can cut off Germany's momentum.
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