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Lennard's Ultimatum







From: The World Peril Of 1910

Within five minutes they were seated in the big Napier, with ninety
horse-power under them, and a possibility of eighty miles an hour before
them. A white flag was fastened to a little flagstaff on the left-hand
side. They put on their goggles and overcoats, and took Westminster
Bridge, as it seemed, in a leap. Rochester was reached in twenty-five
minutes, but at the southern side of Rochester Bridge they were held up
by German sentries.

"Not a pleasant sort of thing on English soil," growled Lord Kitchener
as Lord Whittinghame stopped the motor.

"Is the German Emperor here yet?" asked Lennard in German.

"No, Herr, he is at Canterbury," replied the sentry. "Would you like to
see the officer?"

"Yes," said Lennard, "as soon as possible. These gentlemen are Lord
Whittinghame and Lord Kitchener, and they wish to meet the Emperor as
soon as possible."

The sentry saluted and retired, and presently a captain of Uhlans came
clattering across the street, clicked his heels together, touched the
side of his helmet, and said:

"At your service, gentlemen. What can I do for you?"

"We wish to get into communication with the German Emperor as soon as
possible," replied Lord Whittinghame. "Is the telegraph still working
from here to Canterbury?"

"It is," replied the German officer; "if you will come with me to the
office you shall be put into communication with His Majesty at once; but
it will be necessary for me to hear what you say."

"We're only going to try and make peace," said Lord Kitchener, "so you
might as well hear all we've got to say. Those infernal airships of
yours have beaten us. Will you get in? We'll run you round to the
office."

"I thank you," replied the captain of the Uhlans, "but it will be better
if I walk on and have the line cleared. I will meet you at the office.
Adieu."

He stiffened up, clicked his heels again, saluted, and the next moment
he had thrown his right leg across the horse which the orderly had
brought up for him.

"Not bad men, those Uhlans," said Lord Kitchener, as the car moved
slowly towards the telegraph station. "Take a lot of beating in the
field, I should say, if it once came to cold steel."

They halted at the post-office, and the captain of Uhlans, who was in
charge of all the telegraph lines of the south-east, was requested to
send the following telegram, which was signed by Lord Whittinghame and
Lord Kitchener.


"Acting as deputation from British Government we desire interview
with your Majesty at Canterbury, with view to putting end to
present bloodshed, if possible, also other important news to
communicate."


This telegram was despatched to the Kaiser at the County Hotel,
Canterbury, and while they were waiting for the reply a message came in
from Whitstable addressed to "Lennard, oyster merchant, Rochester,"
which was in the following terms:


"Oyster catch promises well. Advised large purchase
to-morrow.--ROBINSON & SMITH."


"That seems rather a frivolous sort of thing to send one nowadays,"
said Lennard, dropping the paper to the floor after reading the telegram
aloud. "I have some interest in the beds at Whitstable, and my agents,
who don't seem to know that there's a war going on, want me to invest. I
think it's hardly good enough, when you don't know whether you'll be in
little pieces within the next ten minutes."

"I don't see why you shouldn't take on a contract for supplying our
friends the enemy," laughed Lord Kitchener, as the twinkle of an eye
passed between them, while the captain of Uhlans' back was turned for an
instant.

"I'm afraid they would be confiscated before I could do that," said
Lennard. "I shan't bother about answering it. We have rather more
serious things than oysters to think about just now."

The sounder clicked, and the German telegraphist, who had taken the
place of the English one, tapped out a message, which he handed to the
captain of Uhlans.

"Gentlemen, His Imperial Majesty will be glad to receive you at the
County Hotel, Canterbury. I will give you a small flag which shall
secure you from all molestation."

He handed the paper to Lord Whittinghame as he spoke. The Imperial
message read:


"Happy to meet deputation. Please carry German flag, which will
secure you from molestation en route. I am wiring orders for
suspension of hostilities till dawn to-morrow. I hope we may make
satisfactory arrangements.--WILHELM."


"That is quite satisfactory," said Lord Whittinghame to the captain of
Uhlans. "We shall be much obliged to you for the flag, and you will
perhaps telegraph down the road saying that we are not to be stopped. I
can assure you that the matter is one of the utmost urgency."

"Certainly, my lord," replied the captain. "His Majesty's word is given.
That is enough for us."

Ten minutes later the big Napier, flying the German flag on the
left-hand side, was spinning away through Chatham, and down the straight
road to Canterbury. They slowed up going through Sittingbourne and
Faversham, which were already in the hands of the Allied forces, thanks
to John Castellan's precautions in blocking all railroads to Dover, and
the German flag was saluted by the garrisons, much to Lord Kitchener's
quietly-expressed displeasure, but he knew they were playing for a big
stake, and so he just touched his cap, as they swung through the narrow
streets, and said what he had to say under his breath.

Within forty minutes the car pulled up opposite the County Hotel,
Canterbury. The ancient city was no longer English, save as regarded its
architecture. Everywhere, the clatter of German hoofs sounded on the
streets, and the clink and clank of German spurs and swords sounded on
the pavements. The French and Austrians were taking the westward routes
by Ashford and Tonbridge in the enveloping movement on London. The War
Lord of Germany had selected the direct route for himself.

As the motor stopped panting and throbbing in front of the hotel
entrance, a big man in the uniform of the Imperial Guard came out,
saluted, and said:

"Lord Whittinghame and Lord Kitchener, with Mr Lennard, I presume?"

"Yes, that's so," said Lord Kitchener, opening the side door and getting
out. "Colonel von Folkerstroem, I believe. I think we've met before. You
were His Majesty's attache with us during the Boer War, I think. This
is Lord Whittinghame, and this is Mr Lennard. Is His Majesty within?"

"His Majesty awaits you, gentlemen," replied the Colonel, formally. And
then as he shook hands with Lord Kitchener he added, "I am sorry, sir,
that we should meet as enemies on English soil."

"Just the fortune of war and those damned airships of yours, Colonel,"
laughed Lord Kitchener in reply. "If we'd had them this meeting might
have been in Berlin or Potsdam. Can't fight against those things, you
know. We're only human."

"But you English are just a little more, I think," said the Colonel to
himself. "Gottes willen! What would my August Master be thinking now if
this was in Berlin instead of Canterbury, and here are these Englishmen
taking it as quietly as though an invasion of England happened every
day." And when he had said this to himself he continued aloud:

"My lords and Mr Lennard, if you will follow me I will conduct you into
His Majesty's presence."

They followed the Colonel upstairs to the first floor. Two sentries in
the uniform of the 1st Regiment of Cuirassiers were guarding the door:
their bayoneted rifles came up to the present, the Colonel answered the
salute, and they dropped to attention. The Colonel knocked at the door
and a harsh voice replied:

"Herein."

The door swung open and Lennard found himself for the first but not the
last time in the presence of the War Lord of Germany.

"Good-evening, gentlemen," said the Kaiser. "You will understand me when
I say I am both glad and sorry to see you."

"Your Majesty," replied Lord Whittinghame, in a curiously serious tone,
"the time for human joy and sorrow is so fast expiring that almost
everything has ceased to matter, even the invasion of England."

The Kaiser's brows lifted, and he stared in frank astonishment at the
man who could say such apparently ridiculous words so seriously. If he
had not known that he was talking to the late Prime Minister, and the
present leader of the Unionist party in the House of Lords, he would
have thought him mad.

"Those are very strange words, my lord," he replied. "You will pardon me
if I confess that I can hardly grasp their meaning."

"If your Majesty has an hour to spare," said Lord Whittinghame, "Mr
Lennard will make everything perfectly plain. But what he has to say,
and what he can prove, must be for your Majesty's ears alone."

"Is it so important as that?" laughed the Kaiser.

"It is so important, sire," said Lord Kitchener, "that the fate of the
whole world hangs upon what you may say or do within the next hour. So
far, you have beaten us, because you have been able to bring into action
engines of warfare against which we have been unable to defend
ourselves. But now, there is another enemy in the field, against which
we possess the only means of defence. That is what we have come to
explain to your Majesty."

"Another enemy!" exclaimed the Kaiser, "but how can that be. There are
no earthly powers left sufficiently strong that we would be powerless
against them."

"This is not an earthly enemy, your Majesty," replied Lennard, speaking
for the first time since he had entered the room. "It is an invader from
Space. To put it quite plainly, the terms which we have come to offer
your Majesty are: Cessation of hostilities for six months, withdrawal of
all troops from British soil, universal disarmament, and a pledge to be
entered into by all the Powers of Europe and the United States of
America that after the 12th of May next there shall be no more war. Your
fleets have been destroyed as well as ours, your armies are here, but
they cannot get away, and so we are going to ask you to surrender."

"Surrender!" echoed the Kaiser, "surrender, when your country lies open
and defenceless before us? No, no. Lord Whittinghame and Lord Kitchener
I know, but who are you, sir--a civilian and an unknown man, that you
should dictate peace to me and my Allies?"

"Only a man, your Majesty," said Lord Whittinghame, "who has convinced
the British Cabinet Council that he holds the fate of the world in the
hollow of his hands. Are you prepared to be convinced?"

"Of what?" replied the Kaiser, coldly.

"That there will be no world left to conquer after midnight on the 12th
of May next, or to put it otherwise, that unless our terms are accepted,
and Mr Lennard carries out his work, there will be neither victors nor
vanquished left on earth."

"Gentlemen," replied the Kaiser, "you will pardon me when I say that I
am surprised beyond measure that you should have come to me with a
schoolboy's tale like that. The eternal order of things cannot be
interrupted in such a ridiculous fashion. Again, I trust you will
forgive me when I express my regret that you should have wasted so much
of your own time and mine on an errand which should surely have appeared
to you fruitless from the first.

"Whoever or whatever this gentleman may be," he continued with a wave of
his hand towards Lennard, "I neither know nor care; but that yourself
and Lord Kitchener should have been deceived so grossly, I must confess
passes the limits of my imagination. Frankly, I do not believe in the
possibility of such proofs as you allude to. As regards peace, I propose
to discuss terms with King Edward in Windsor--not before, nor with
anyone else. Gentlemen, I have other matters to attend to, and I have
the honour to bid you good-evening."

"And that is your Majesty's last word?" said Lord Kitchener. "You mean a
fight to the finish?"

"Yes, my lord," replied the Kaiser, "whether the world finishes with the
fight or not."

"Very well then," said Lennard, taking an envelope from the
breast-pocket of his coat, and putting it down on the table before the
Emperor. "If your Majesty has not time to look through those papers,
you will perhaps send them to Berlin and take your own astronomer's
report upon them. Meanwhile, you will remember that our terms are:
Unconditional surrender of the forces invading the British Islands or
the destruction of the world. Good-night."





Next: Concerning Astronomy And Oysters

Previous: The First Bombardment Of London



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