Mr. Hebblethwaite bowed and looked as though he would have liked the interest to have been a little more personal.
“You see,” Anna explained, as she stood between the two men, “both Austria and Germany, the two countries where I spend most of my time, are almost military ridden. Our great statesmen, or the men who stand behind them, are all soldiers. You represent something wholly different. Your nation is as great and as prosperous as ours, and yet you are a pacifist, are you not, Mr. Hebblethwaite? You scorn any preparations for war. You do not believe in it. You give back the money that we should spend in military or naval preparations to the people, for their betterment. It is very wonderful.”
“We act according to our convictions,” Mr. Hebblethwaite pronounced. “It is our earnest hope that we have risen sufficiently in the scale of civilisation to be able to devote our millions to more moral objects than the massing of armaments.”
“And you have no fears?” she persisted earnestly. “You honestly believe that you are justified in letting the fighting spirit of your people lie dormant?”
“I honestly believe it, Baroness,” Mr. Hebblethwaite replied. “Life is a battle for all of them, but the fighting which we recognise is the fight for moral and commercial supremacy, the lifting of the people by education and strenuous effort to a higher plane of prosperity.”
“Of course,” Anna murmured, “what you say sounds frightfully convincing. History only will tell us whether you are in the right.”
“My thirst,” Mr. Hebblethwaite observed, glancing towards the little tables set out under the trees, “suggests tea and strawberries.”
“If some one hadn’t offered me tea in a moment or two,” Anna declared, “I should have gone back to the Prince, with whom I must confess I was very bored. Shall we discuss politics or talk nonsense?”
“Talk nonsense,” Mr. Hebblethwaite decided. “This is my holiday. My brain has stopped working. I can think of nothing beyond tea and strawberries. We will take that table under the elm trees, and you shall tell us all about Vienna.”
Norgate, after leaving Anna at her hotel, drove on to the club, where he arrived a few minutes before seven. Selingman was there with Prince Edward, and half a dozen others. Selingman, who happened not to be playing, came over at once and sat by his side on the broad fender.
“You are late, my young friend,” he remarked.
“My new career,” Norgate replied, “makes demands upon me. I can no longer spend the whole afternoon playing bridge. I have been attending to business.”
“It is very good,” Selingman declared amiably. “That is the way I like to hear you talk. To amuse oneself is good, but to work is better still. Have you, by chance, any report to make?”
“I have had a long conversation with Mr. Hebblethwaite at Ranelagh this afternoon,” Norgate announced.