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The Honour Of Your Country
by [?]

“That’s nonsense,” said the Colonel shortly.

“And the other is war.”

We were silent for a little, and then the Colonel poured himself out a whisky.

“All the same,” he said, as he went back to his seat, “you haven’t answered my question.”

“What was that, sir?”

“What you would do in the case I mentioned. Seriously.”

“Oh! Well, I stick to my first answer. I would do nothing–except, of course, ask for an explanation and an apology. If you can apologize for that sort of thing.”

“And if they were refused?”

“Have no more official relations with Spain.”

“That’s all you would do?”


“And you think that that is consistent with the honour of a great nation like England?”


“Oh! Well, I don’t.”

An indignant silence followed.

“May I ask you a question now, sir?” I said at last.


“Suppose this time England begins. Suppose we murder all the Spanish women in London first. What are you going to do–as Spanish Premier?”

“Er–I don’t quite—-“

“Are you going to order the Spanish Fleet to sail for the mouth of the Thames, and hurl itself upon the British fleet?”

“Of course not, She has no fleet.”

“Then do you agree with the–er Spanish Colonel, who goes about saying that Spain’s honour will never be safe until she has a fleet as big as England’s?”

“That’s ridiculous. They couldn’t possibly.”

“Then what could Spain do in the circumstances?”

“Well, she–er–she could–er–protest.”

“And would that be consistent with the honour of a small nation like Spain?”

“In the circumstances,” said the Colonel unwillingly, “er–yes.”

“So that what it comes to is this. Honour only demands that you should attack the other man if you are much bigger than he is. When a man insults my wife, I look him carefully over; if he is a stone heavier than I, then I satisfy my honour by a mild protest. But if he only has one leg, and is three stone lighter, honour demands that I should jump on him.”

“We’re talking of nations,” said the Colonel gruffly, “not of men, It’s a question of prestige.”

“Which would be increased by a victory over Spain?”

The Major began to get nervous. After all, I was only a subaltern. He tried to cool the atmosphere a little.

“I don’t know why poor old Spain should be dragged into it like this,” he said, with a laugh. “I had a very jolly time in Madrid years ago.”

“O, I only gave Spain as an example,” said the Colonel casually.

“It might just as well have been Switzerland?” I suggested.

There was silence for a little.

“Talking of Switzerland—-” I said, as I knocked out my pipe.

“Oh, go on,” said the Colonel, with a good-humoured shrug. “I’ve brought this on myself.”

“Well, sir, what I was wondering was–What would happen to the honour of England if fifty English women were murdered at Interlaken?”

The Colonel was silent.

“However large an army we had—-” I went on.

The Colonel struck a match.

“It’s a funny thing, honour,” I said. “And prestige.”

The Colonel pulled at his pipe.

“Just fancy,” I murmured, “the Swiss can do what they like to British subjects in Switzerland, and we can’t get at them. Yet England’s honour does not suffer, the world is no worse a place to live in, and one can spend quite a safe holiday at Interlaken.”

“I remember being there in ’94,” began the Major hastily….