”1925”. The Story of a Fatal Peace - Edgar Wallace - ebook

”1925”. The Story of a Fatal Peace ebook

Edgar Wallace



This book belongs to the pen of a well-known British author of mystery genre Edgar Wallace and was written during the Great War (the WW1). It is set in a possible 1925, ten years after the war has ended. Wallace utilized his experiences of the Boer War in two Future-War novels „Private Selby” and „1925: The Story of a Fatal Peace”. „1925” accurately predicts that a short peace would be followed by a German attack on England. As you get closer to the end you wonder how on earth Wallace can bring all this to a happy ending. But he doesn’t! The Germans are coming, and the British are easy prey. A warning indeed.

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MY object in writing this story is to bring home to readers the inevitable consequence of ending the present war in any other way than by the complete subjugation of Germany, and the destruction of Prussian militarism. Despite the established proofs that Germany planned and willed the present war with the set object of conquest, there are many who are not alive to the probable results of an unfortunate peace. That there would be a terrible sequel in the lifetime of the present generation is certain.

We cannot hope to end wars unless we crush the only power in the world which aims at securing aggrandisement by force of arms. We may not always find ourselves so closely allied to three great military nations. It may not even be possible, however much the Powers forming the present entente sympathise with each other, to show a solid front and fight side by side in some future conflict.

The only way to secure permanent peace for Europe is to destroy the power, which for forty years has rattled its scabbard at its peace-loving neighbours, and to destroy that power now.

Edgar Wallace.

London, September, 1915.


“YOU don’t really believe all that nonsense about another German war?”

The stout man asked the question almost irritably, as though the statement he challenged had been especially designed for his distress. The tall young man who sprawled on the grass did not answer immediately. He was chewing at a long grass stalk and gazing meditatively toward the blue waters of Bank Bay almost under his eyes, for he had chosen the edge of the cliff for comfort and for a reason which he was not at the moment prepared to admit.

He was a man of twenty-seven and looked older. His grey eyes, clear and grave, were directed absently to the streak of amber beach where one figure strolled in solitary state.

From the distance he was unable to identify the lonely girl who for an hour past had been enjoying what was apparently the gentlest and the most monotonous of exercises.

The elder man repeated the question and Grant Macrae turned with a start.

“Believe it? Of course I believe it, my dear Mr. Massey,” he answered lazily. “I never say anything I don’t believe.”

Mr. Holman Massey wiped his forehead, for the day was hot and the climb up from Chadleigh Norton had been a distressing experience for one of his age and figure.

“This is one of the infernal sensations your confounded paper is always springing upon the public; I suppose you are trying its effect upon me?” he accused.

Grant Macrae laughed and rose to his feet. “We shall see,” was all he said.

“I shan’t see it in my lifetime, please God,” said Mr. Massey shortly; “nor yours, either. My dear man, surely we have had enough of war to last us for a century–”

Grant turned to him abruptly. “Do you think that the peace we made ten years ago was a good one?” he asked.

Mr. Massey hesitated. In his heart of hearts he thought, on the contrary, that the peace had been a very bad one.

“We were sick of the war,” he said; “we thought things were going well and then we found they were going rotten–dash it! we had to make peace.”

“On terms,” said Grant drill. “Good Lord! to think that I was only a kid at the time with no idea–”

He stopped himself in time. He had no desire to be dragged into a long argument–an argument which could not fail to end with irritation to himself; for Mr. Massey was one of those stolid, irascible Englishmen who made up the gaps of reasoned argument with spluttering denunciations of all who opposed his view or questioned his logic.

Grant’s eyes went back to the beach below.

“I can tell you one thing, which isn’t two,” said Mr. Massey. He spoke with the emphasis and employed the crude figure which he invariably utilised when he desired to be unusually impressive. “My daughter isn’t at all impressed by your point of view.” He looked keenly to observe the effect of his words, and was a little disappointed to find that the young man was seemingly untouched at this news of Olga Massey’s disapproval.

“Your daughter is a very intelligent young person,” drawled Grant Macrae; “which is a little singular, remembering–”

He nearly said something very rude, and indeed was at that moment in no mood to finesse with this unimaginative man. But, suppressing a very natural inclination, he went on–

“Considering the tendency of present-day young womanhood. But I can assure you, my dear Mr. Massey, that, grieved as I am to find myself in opposition to Miss Massey, I still hold the views I have held for years and shall continue to hold until, in the near future, I receive, as I am afraid I shall receive, confirmation of all my misgivings.”

Mr. Massey snorted. “I am going down to the village,” he said, looking at his watch. “Come and dine to-night.”

“I’m sorry,” said the other, so quickly that, had Mr. Massey been a man who had had greater experience of men of the Grant Macrae type, he might have suspected a hasty improvisation. “I’ve got a lot of work to do to-night, and I’m looking forward to a solitary dinner and an unbroken evening.”

Mr. Massey grunted.

“Who’s that?” he asked suddenly, and pointed to the beach.

Grant smiled.

“That is precisely the question I have been asking myself for the last two hours,” he said unblushingly.

“Is it a man or woman?” asked Mr. Massey, fixing his pince-nez.

Grant strained his eyes.

“It looks to me rather like a young girl, and I can’t exactly place her. Anyway, she is not an inhabitant of Chadleigh Norton,” he said, after a pause.

He might say this with assurance, because the people of that aristocratic village were very few and as familiar to him as the fingers of his hands.

Many people have taken and, it must be confessed, accepted the credit for discovering Chadleigh Norton. Situated on the wooded slope of a valley through which ran the tiny Chad, Chadleigh Norton had once been no more than a collection of insanitary and tumble-down cottages, rented by a small community of shepherds. Some genius–and Grant Macrae was generally regarded as being identified with that genius–had seen the possibilities of the place, had bought up every house, and had established an unique garden city, within a mile of the single line of rail which connected the little coast town of Burland and that great world, the centre of which is Piccadilly Circus.

There had come into being a new and a marvellous village.

At the far end of the one tree-planted avenue was the red Georgian house, with its big outhouses, of Sir John Venniman. Nobody knows, and it was a standing wonder to Chadleigh Norton, why this man, who had been the greatest chemist of his day and was now pursuing investigations into a branch of science foreign to that in which he had made his name famous, should have chosen this community, wholly frivolous and pleasure-seeking, to establish his new laboratories. Farther along “The Street,” as it was called, was the severe stone bungalow of Holman Massey; whilst next door, and separated only by the thickly planted pines, was the more ornate establishment of Sir Max Graaf. Sir Max, who had spent many years in Africa, had endeavoured to reproduce the solid Dutch Colonial style of architecture, but stone-flagged stoeps, wedded to colonnaded piazza, and with a Gothic tower at one angle of the building moreover, had considerably interfered with his original plan.

Grant Macrae’s comfortable cottage was not visible from the road, being hidden in the midst of a tangle of trees, and only from the lower slope of the valley was Casa Blanca, with its dazzling white facade, to be seen. Mortimer Brown, the only other “villager,” lived at the southern extreme of the street in splendid aloofness–although he was, by all accounts, an American in point of nationality and a democrat in politics.

“She must be somebody staying with Graaf,” said Mr. Massey, studying the figure on the beach intently; and then, with heavy jocularity: “By Jove! I know who it is, Macrae–it’s a German spy!”

The joke, feeble as it was, afforded him the greatest gratification, and he chuckled all the way down the hill at his own humour. Grant was too preoccupied either to be amused or to resent this gentle jest at his expense. The national situation as he viewed it excited no sense of merriment. He was the editor, and held the larger number of the shares in the company which controlled the Daily Megaphone. A wealthy man, blessed with a greater share of this world’s goods than usually falls to the lot of humanity, he had taken up the work on the newspaper which his father had founded, with a keener sense of his responsibilities to the people than is usually found in a man of his class similarly circumstanced.

“I must tell that to Olga,” smiled Mr. Massey, and pointed with his stick at two people at the foot of the hill path.

Olga Massey was a tall, fair, and eminently prepossessing girl. The radiance of womanhood, which shone in her clear blue eyes and shimmered in her glorious hair, was negatived by a hint of masculinity which her strong jaw and her firm mouth revealed. Even this disappeared when she flashed a dazzling smile at Macrae as they neared one another.

“Mr. Macrae has been looking for German submarines,” she bantered, and Massey gurgled in his delight.

“Exactly what I was saying,” he said. “We shall really have to muzzle old Macrae, Sir Max.”

He addressed the stout man by the girl’s side, and Max Graaf, clean-shaven and square built, a little red of face, becoming in a man who loves the fields and the open air, shot an inquiring glance at Grant.

“I don’t think this eccentricity of yours is at all funny, you know,” he said reprovingly.

“To which particular eccentricity are you referring?” asked Grant.

“This anti-German policy that you run in your paper,” replied the other. “Surely to heaven we’ve had enough of that sort of business ten years ago. I’ve just been reading this morning’s Megaphone. The leading article is little less than disgusting. What you do is to charge a Government which tried and failed, and honourably admitted its failure, with double dealing.”

“In other words,” said Grant coolly, “I am suggesting that the German Government, which, by trickery and bribery, procured men to support and speak in favour of a peace which left this country at the mercy of Germany, is going systematically to work to bring its plans to fruition, so that it will, as it must inevitably, attack this country with a minimum of danger to itself.”

Sir Max frowned, and there was a hard light in his eye.

“I had hoped,” lie said deliberately, “I had hoped, when I came to this village, that here we should be free from all sorts of controversies and that one would find peace in these pleasant surroundings–”

“Peace!” interrupted Grant Macrae bitterly, “always peace! You cannot always get the kind of peace you want, Sir Max.”

“What do you mean?” asked the other sharply.

“Exactly what I say,” said Grant; and with a little nod to Mr. Massey he raised his hat to the girl and, turning, strode through the plantation which hides the village to seaward, and disappeared.

Sir Max Graaf said nothing, but there was an unpleasant look in his cold blue eyes as he watched the vanishing figure. What he might have said at that moment will never be known, for Olga Massey, uttering an exclamation, pointed to the sky.

“Look!” she said.

The two men turned their gaze toward the clear blue, where, poised like a tiny bird, and the hum of its engine growing with every second to a dull, rattling roar, a white-winged aeroplane was circling, corkscrew fashion, preparatory to making a landing.

“That is young Ballin,” said Sir Max with a smile.

“I thought he’d gone to town,” said the girl in wonder.

Sir Max shook his head.

“He went to Koblenz yesterday,” he said. “He is something of an enthusiast.”

The monoplane came to the earth as lightly as a bird, ran for a hundred yards across the green, level golf-links which had been laid out on top of the cliff, and came to a stop before the party. A young man in brown overalls waved his hand gaily, and his mechanic seated behind him jumped out and assisted his employer to alight.

The newcomer was a tall, fair, good-looking young man, unmistakably Teutonic.

“And here we are from Koblenz,” he said, without a trace of any foreign accent, “and I have done the journey in three hours.”

“Wonderful child,” smiled the girl.

The young man skinned his gloves and, unbuttoning the brown cover-all, revealed himself in the garb of civilisation.

“And what is happening in Koblenz?” asked Massey.

The young man smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“It was a painful occasion,” he said flippantly, “being no less than the final day of one of those Indemnity Weeks which have been such a feature of German life during the past ten years. Think of it,” he went on thoughtfully, speaking half to himself, “for ten long years every town in Germany, in that ‘potato-bread spirit’ to which one of your statesmen referred, has been hoarding its every spare penny, has been working day and night at its industries for half salary, has been living without luxury, without strong drink, and without unnecessary rest, to one object.”

There was something in his tone which caused Olga Massey to look at him a little curiously.

“What is that?” she asked.

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