“I am sent away—dismissed!”
He heard her little exclamation of grief. Its complete genuineness broke down a little the wall of his anger.
“And it is my fault!” she exclaimed. “If only I could do anything! Will you wait—please wait? I will go to the Palace myself.”
His expostulation was almost a shock to her.
“Baroness,” he replied, “if I permitted your intervention, I could never hold my head up in Berlin again! In any case, I could not stay here. The first thing I should do would be to quarrel with that insufferable young cad who insulted us last night. I am afraid, at the first opportunity, I should tell—”
“Hush!” she interrupted. “Oh, please hush! You must not talk like this, even over the telephone. Cannot you understand that you are not in England?”
“I am beginning to realise,” he answered gruffly, “what it means not to be in a free country. I am leaving by the three o’clock train, Baroness. Farewell!”
“But you must not go like this,” she pleaded. “Come first and see me.”
“No! It will only mean more disgrace for you. Besides—in any case, I have decided to go away without seeing you again.”
Her voice was very soft. He found himself gripping the pages of the telephone book which hung by his side.
“But is that kind? Have I sinned, Mr. Francis Norgate?”
“Of course not,” he answered, keeping his tone level, almost indifferent. “I hope that we shall meet again some day, but not in Berlin.”
There was a moment’s silence. He thought, even, that she had gone away. Then her reply came back.
“So be it,” she murmured. “Not in Berlin. Au revoir!”
Faithful to his insular prejudices, Norgate, on finding that the other seat in his coupe was engaged, started out to find the train attendant with a view to changing his place. His errand, however, was in vain. The train, it seemed, was crowded. He returned to his compartment to find already installed there one of the most complete and absolute types of Germanism he had ever seen. A man in a light grey suit, the waistcoat of which had apparently abandoned its efforts to compass his girth, with a broad, pink, good-humoured face, beardless and bland, flaxen hair streaked here and there with grey, was seated in the vacant place. He had with him a portmanteau covered with a linen case, his boots were a bright shade of yellow, his tie was of white satin with a design of lavender flowers. A pair of black kid gloves lay by his side. He welcomed Norgate with the bland, broad smile of a fellow-passenger whose one desire it is to make a lifelong friend of his temporary companion.
“We have the compartment to ourselves, is it not so? You are English?”
Some queer chance founded upon his ill-humour, his disgust of Germany and all things in it, induced Norgate to tell a deliberate falsehood.