A light flashed for a moment in Mr. Bullen’s eyes. His lip curled inwards.
“Young man,” he demanded, “are you an Englishman?”
“I am,” Norgate admitted.
“You speak poorly, then. To proceed to the matter in point, my word is pledged to fight. I will plunge the country I love into civil war to gain her rights, as greater patriots than I have done before. But the thing which I will not do is to be made the cat’s-paw, or to suffer Ireland to be made the cat’s-paw, of Germany. If war should come before the settlement of my business, this is the position I should take. I would cross to Dublin, and I would tell every Nationalist Volunteer to shoulder his rifle and to fight for the British Empire, and I would go on to Belfast—I, David Bullen—to Belfast, where I think that I am the most hated man alive, and I would stand side by side with the leader of those men of Ulster, and I would beg them to fight side by side with my Nationalists. And when the war was over, if my rights were not granted, if Ireland were not set free, then I would bid my men take breathing time and use all their skill, all the experience they had gained, and turn and fight for their own freedom against the men with whom they had struggled in the same ranks. Is that million pounds to be mine, Mr. Norgate?”
Norgate shook his head.
“Nor any part of it, sir,” he answered.
“I presume,” Mr. Bullen remarked, as he rose, “that I shall never have the pleasure of meeting Mr. X——?”
“I most sincerely hope,” Norgate declared fervently, “that you never will. Good-day, Mr. Bullen!”
He held out his hand. Mr. Bullen hesitated.
“Sir,” he said, “I am glad to shake hands with an Irishman. I am willing to shake hands with an honest Englishman. Just where you come in, I don’t know, so good evening. You will find my secretary outside. He will show you how to get away.”
For a moment Norgate faltered. A hot rejoinder trembled upon his lips. Then he remembered himself and turned on his heel. It was his first lesson in discipline. He left the room without protest.
Mr. Hebblethwaite turned into Pall Mall, his hands behind his back, his expression a little less indicative of bland good humour than usual. He had forgotten to light his customary cigarette after the exigencies of a Cabinet Council. He had even forgotten to linger for a few minutes upon the doorstep in case any photographer should be hanging around to take a snapshot of a famous visitor leaving an historic scene, and quite unconsciously he ignored the salutation of several friends. It was only by the merest chance that he happened to glance up at the corner of the street and recognised Norgate across the way. He paused at once and beckoned to him.
“Well, young fellow,” he exclaimed, as they shook hands, “how’s the German spy business going?”