"Oh, sufficiently," Joan answered. The one thing her mother had done for her had been to talk French with her when she was a child; and at Girton she had chummed on with a French girl, and made herself tolerably perfect.
"You will not go as a journalist," continued Mrs. Denton; "but as a personal friend of mine, whose discretion I shall vouch for. I want you to find out what the people I am sending you among are thinking themselves, and what they consider ought to be done. If we are not very careful on both sides we shall have the newspapers whipping us into war."
The perpetual Egyptian trouble had cropped up again and the Carleton papers, in particular, were already sounding the tocsin. Carleton's argument was that we ought to fall upon France and crush her, before she could develop her supposed submarine menace. His flaming posters were at every corner. Every obscure French newspaper was being ransacked for "Insults and Pinpricks."
"A section of the Paris Press is doing all it can to help him, of course," explained Mrs. Denton. "It doesn't seem to matter to them that Germany is only waiting her opportunity, and that, if Russia comes in, it is bound to bring Austria. Europe will pay dearly one day for the luxury of a free Press."
"But you're surely not suggesting any other kind of Press, at this period of the world's history?" exclaimed Joan.
"Oh, but I am," answered the old lady with a grim tightening of the lips. "Not even Carleton would be allowed to incite to murder or arson. I would have him prosecuted for inciting a nation to war."
"Why is the Press always so eager for war?" mused Joan. "According to their own account, war doesn't pay them."
"I don't suppose it does: not directly," answered Mrs. Denton. "But it helps them to establish their position and get a tighter hold upon the public. War does pay the newspaper in the long run. The daily newspaper lives on commotion, crime, lawlessness in general. If people no longer enjoyed reading about violence and bloodshed half their occupation, and that the most profitable half would be gone. It is the interest of the newspaper to keep alive the savage in human nature; and war affords the readiest means of doing this. You can't do much to increase the number of gruesome murders and loathsome assaults, beyond giving all possible advertisement to them when they do occur. But you can preach war, and cover yourself with glory, as a patriot, at the same time."