Soldiers of Peace: Inimical (episode four)
Soldiers of Peace
“The Fordyces have a place at Tunbridge Wells; however, mostly they stay in London. Our corner is well represented tonight. You may meet a few Surrey people.”
“I am a Surrey person.”
“Why, you ought to ask someone to sponsor you for membership!”
He thought assuredly he would not. He was able now to place Mrs. Norman’s husband, presently engaging Lord Wrentsley’s attention.
“…I know of several held up at the ministry level. You appreciate the struggle involved in merely organizing one’s proposal and petitioning for funds; why, then, do we see these insupportable delays? Let me make this point…no first, let me say this…that I can―I will―supply details of two very worthwhile projects being held up by bloody-minded—” Shooting a guilty glance at Lady Wrentsley, he lowered his voice. “Quibbling.” And having got distracted, Norman at this juncture found himself in a verbal cul-de-sac. He brooded over his wineglass. “I mean to say. At the next meeting of the Executive Committee.”
“I trust you will,” Wrentsley said.
“And let me make this point.” Under steam now, Norman returned to his earlier topic. “The government are doing themselves no favor, standing in their own way. It is not just that people are out of work, you see—it’s that they’re afraid. These are unhappy times, Wrentsley. I can tell you, a lot of the agitators in the mines are not even locals… But suppose we are made able to offer useful work to those that can be trusted with it? Service to one’s country, I mean to say. No one is asked to cast his loyalties with one lot or another. We all ought to support England. Bring in more of the right sort, diminish the other sort’s influence. Good drives out the bad.”
“When you speak of influence,” Wrentsley answered, “I must tell you that mine is very minor. However, I do assure you we keep a watchful eye on Dover.”
Norman moved his seat closer and added in confidence—or, at least he adopted the manner of one confiding, for his words were to Malcolm-Webb perfectly audible: “If hostilities break out, the coastal areas are most vulnerable. Not just for the obvious reasons, but because during any military action, traffic must flow between the inland counties and the coast. We want to be establishing…hubs, if you like—strongholds to exert control over disruptive behaviors. Wait too long, and we’ll have no time to build a network of intervention when these seditious malcontents are given the signal to begin their worst damage. Whatever money is made available should go to the South.”
“It has historically been the case,” Wrentsley said, “that the ministries direct a greater amount of funding to projects in the South. But as to hostilities, our overriding goal is to avoid them. No one has forgotten the price Britain paid during the last war, which was fought largely on behalf of others, with too little benefit to ourselves. The dominions are our more pressing responsibility at present. I say this to you, Norman,” Wrentsley said, addressing the table, “because nature, as you know, distributes her gifts unequally. We have an opportunity to exert an influence―to anchor, through our great Commonwealth, a world that has gone adrift.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)