“We are all Englishmen,” Hebblethwaite answered simply.
The door was suddenly opened. Spencer Wyatt pushed his way past a protesting doorkeeper. Hebblethwaite rose to his feet; he seemed to forget Norgate’s presence.
“You’ve been down to the Admiralty?” he asked quickly. “Do you know?”
Spencer Wyatt pointed to Norgate. His voice shook with emotion.
“I know, Hebblethwaite,” he replied, “but there’s something that you don’t know. We were told to mobilise the fleet an hour ago. My God, what chance should we have had! Germany means scrapping, and look where our ships are, or ought to be.”
“I know it,” Hebblethwaite groaned.
“Well, they aren’t there!” Spencer Wyatt announced triumphantly. “A week ago that young fellow came to me. He told me what was impending. I half believed it before he began. When he told me his story, I gambled upon it. I mistook the date for the Grand Review. I signed the order for mobilisation at the Admiralty, seven days ago. We are safe, Hebblethwaite! I’ve been getting wireless messages all day yesterday and to-day. We are at Cromarty and Rosyth. Our torpedo squadron is in position, our submarines are off the German coast. It was just the toss of a coin—papers and a country life for me, or our fleet safe and a great start in the war. This is the man who has done it.”
“It’s the best news I’ve heard this week,” Hebblethwaite declared, with glowing face. “If our fleet is safe, the country is safe for a time. If this thing comes, we’ve a chance. I’ll go through the country. I’ll start the day war’s declared. I’ll talk to the people I’ve slaved for. They shall come to our help. We’ll have the greatest citizen army who ever fought for their native land. I’ve disbelieved in fighting all my life. If we are driven to it, we’ll show the world what peace-loving people can do, if the weapon is forced into their hands. Norgate, the country owes you a great debt. Another time, Wyatt, I’ll tell you more than you know now. What can we do for you, young fellow?”
Norgate rose to his feet.
“My work is already chosen, thanks,” he said, as he shook hands. “I have been preparing for some time.”
The card-rooms at the St. James’s Club were crowded, but very few people seemed inclined to play. They were standing or sitting about in little groups. A great many of them were gathered around the corner where Selingman was seated. He was looking somewhat graver than usual, but there was still a confident smile upon his lips.
“My little friend,” he said, patting the hand of the fair lady by his side, “reassure yourself. Your husband and your husband’s friends are quite safe. For England there will come no fighting. Believe me, that is a true word.”
“But the impossible is happening all the time,” Mrs. Barlow protested. “Who would have believed that without a single word of warning Germany would have declared war against Russia?”