Topsy Turvy

Page 10

The five delegates jumped to their feet, and it seemed as if the Council would turn to harsh words, when Dean Toodrink tried to interfere the first time. “Gentlemen,” said he, in a tone of reconciliation, “this is not the question, following the expression of my chief,” of which he made such frequent use. “As long as it has been decided that the Northern regions are going to be sold at auction, they will naturally belong to such representative who will make the highest bid for same. As long as Sweden, Norway, Russia, Denmark, Holland, and England have given large credits to their delegates, would it not be best for these nations to form a syndicate and raise a sum of money against which America could not make a bid? The delegates looked at each other. It was possible that Dean Toodrink had found the missing link. A syndicate—at present it is heard everywhere. Everything is syndicate nowadays, what one drinks, what one eats, what one reads, what one sleeps on. Nothing is more modern, in politics as well as business, than a trust. But an objection was started, or rather an explanation was needed, and Jacques Jansen tried to find out the sentiments of his colleagues by saying, “and afterwards,” yes, after the purchase of the region by the syndicate, then what? “But it seems to me that England,” said the Major in a rough voice, “and Russia,” said the Colonel, with nostrils terribly dilated, “and Holland,” said the Counsellor; “as God has given Denmark to the Danish,” observed Eric Baldenak—”Excuse me, there is only one country,” interrupted Dean Toodrink, “which has been given by our Lord, and that is the world.” “And why,” said the Swedish delegate? “Did not the poet say

‘Deus nobis haec otia fecit,’ ” said this merryman in translating according to his fashion the close of the sixth verse of the first eclogue of Virgil. All began to laugh except Major Donellan, who stopped for the second time the discussion which threatened to finish badly. Then Dean Toodrink said, “Do not quarrel, gentlemen. What good will it do us? Let us rather form a syndicate.”

“And afterwards?” asked Jan Harald.

“Afterwards,” answered Dean Toodrink, “nothing more simple, gentlemen. After you shall have bought the polar domain it will remain undivided among us or will be divided after a regular indemnity to one of the States which have been purchasers. But our purpose would have already been obtained, which is to save it from the representative of America.”

This proposition did some good, at least for the present moment. As very soon the delegates would not fail to fight with each other, and pull each other’s hair where there was any to pull, it would be at the moment when it was necessary to elect a final buyer of this immovable region, so much disputed and so useless.

“In all cases,” cleverly remarked Dean Toodrink, “the United States will be entirely out of the question.”

“It seems to me very sensible,” said Eric Baldenak.

“Very handy,” said Col. Karkof.

“Right,” said Jan Harald.

“Mean,” said Jacques Jansen.

“Very English,” said Major Donellan.

Each one had given his opinion hoping to convince his colleagues.

“Then, gentlemen, it is perfectly understood that if we form a syndicate the rights of each State will be absolutely reserved for the future.” ... It is understood. There was only to be found out what credit the different delegates had received from their governments. It was supposed that the whole when added up would represent such an enormous sum that there would not be the least doubt that the A.P.P.A. [N.P.P.A.] would fail to surpass this amount of money. This question of funds was met by Dean Toodrink.

Complete silence. Nobody would answer, show your pocketbook. Empty their pockets into the safes of a syndicate. Make known in advance how much each country would bid at the sale. No haste was shown. And if there should be a disagreement in this new-formed syndicate in the future, and circumstances should compel each one to make his own bids? And should the diplomat Karkof feel insulted at the trickery of Jacques Jansen, who would be insulted at the underhand intrigues of Jan Harald, who would refuse to support the high pretensions of Major Donellan, who, himself, would not stop to embroil each one of his associates.

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