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The Ending Of War H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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And one at least of those who were called to this conference of governments came to it on foot. This was King Egbert, the young king of the most venerable kingdom in Europe. He was a rebel, and had always been of deliberate choice a rebel against the magnificence of his position. He affected long pedestrian tours and a disposition to sleep in the open air. He came now over the Pass of Sta Maria Maggiore and by boat up the lake to Brissago; thence he walked up the mountain, a pleasant path set with oaks and sweet chestnut. For provision on the walk, for he did not want to hurry, he carried with him a pocketful of bread and cheese. A certain small retinue that was necessary to his comfort and dignity upon occasions of state he sent on by the cable car, and with him walked his private secretary, Firmin, a man who had thrown up the Professorship of World Politics in the London School of Sociology, Economics, and Political Science, to take up these duties. Firmin was a man of strong rather than rapid thought, he had anticipated great influence in this new position, and after some years he was still only beginning to apprehend how largely his function was to listen. Originally he had been something of a thinker upon international politics, an authority upon tariffs and strategy, and a valued contributor to various of the higher organs of public opinion, but the atomic bombs had taken him by surprise, and he had still to recover completely from his pre-atomic opinions and the silencing effect of those sustained explosives.

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The king's freedom from the trammels of etiquette was very complete. In theory--and he abounded in theory--his manners were purely democratic. It was by sheer habit and inadvertency that he permitted Firmin, who had discovered a rucksack in a small shop in the town below, to carry both bottles of beer. The king had never, as a matter of fact, carried anything for himself in his life, and he had never noted that he did not do so.

'We will have nobody with us,' he said, 'at all. We will be perfectly simple.'

So Firmin carried the beer.

As they walked up--it was the king made the pace rather than Firmin--they talked of the conference before them, and Firmin, with a certain want of assurance that would have surprised him in himself in the days of his Professorship, sought to define the policy of his companion. 'In its broader form, sir,' said Firmin; 'I admit a certain plausibility in this project of Leblanc's, but I feel that although it may be advisable to set up some sort of general control for International affairs--a sort of Hague Court with extended powers--that is no reason whatever for losing sight of the principles of national and imperial autonomy.'

'Firmin,' said the king, 'I am going to set my brother kings a good example.'

Firmin intimated a curiosity that veiled a dread.

'By chucking all that nonsense,' said the king.

He quickened his pace as Firmin, who was already a little out of breath, betrayed a disposition to reply.

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The World Set Free
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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