Louis Tracy (1896) The Final War
THE BALL AT THE EMBASSY
The month of May in Paris, if the elements be reasonably propitious, is a perfectly delightful period, and May Day of 1898 heralded in the promise of a gracious summer. The French capital was more than ordinarily full of visitors, and life in the world of fashion was like the changeful scenes of a ballet divertissement. Americans were there ‘from Chicago and New York, spending millions made in packing pork’, Russian notabilities abounded, and Germans, the male element vastly predominating, were in such numbers that the wonted supply of lager beer fell short in the cafés. A mad whirl of gaiety and light-heartedness filled the waking hours of every class of society. This social abandonment was, if possible, accentuated by a species of political electricity that permeated the air, and of which all men were dimly conscious.
The new Ministry in France had taken up and developed the policy of colonial expansion given effect to by their predecessors, and a singular rapprochement with Germany was vaguely supposed to have contributed in a very remarkable way to the furtherance of French ambition. Both countries had been working amicably together for nearly a year, and already the result made itself felt in the most vulnerable portions of the British Empire.
It is true that England had long ago secured all the best markets for her produce, that her ships carried five-sixths Of the commerce of the world, and that her surplus population had the pick of many continents wherein to live and prosper. But a determined attempt was now being made by her great commercial rivals to take from her some, at least, of the advantages gained by centuries of enterprise backed up by daring perseverance.
The Rhine dwindled into a stream of no political significance. Men openly said on the Boulevards and in the brasseries of Paris and the beer gardens of Berlin that the star of England was beginning to wane. As a witty Frenchman put it: ‘The bones of Englishmen whiten the by-ways of the world: they make most excellent sign- posts for our future progress.’
But at the British Embassy, Lord and Lady Eskdale and their beautiful daughter, Irene, felt that, come what might in the future, it was their present duty to maintain in regal style the hospitable traditions of the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, and thus it came to pass that the first night in May was chosen for an official dinner, to be followed by a grand ball.
Strange and disquieting rumours were afloat. Scarce formed into words, they hinted at a fatal blow to be struck at some predominant power. To Capt. Edward Harington—who not only filled the position of junior Military Attaché at the Embassy, but was also the accepted lover of Lady Irene Vyne —the home Government owed the first suspicion of a secret and hostile combination. He had pieced together some curious observations made in his presence by certain high officials in France, and his conclusions seemed no less accurate than alarming…………
France and German launch a war on Britain. At first the USA resolves to remain neutral, and to seize Canada (for its protection?) but when Russia joins the French and Germans against Britain then the USA comes in on Britain’s side and its naval presence becomes key.
Full text at: https://archive.org/details/finalwar00tracgoog