“Have you any reason for saying that?”
“I know what I would do myself under such circumstances.”
“And that is——”
The priest straightened himself, and seized the rail before him to steady himself.
“I would wipe out of existence every soul that was concerned in those murders. I would have no more civilized dealings with savages.”
There was a sudden movement and murmur in the circle on the platform. From the intentness with which they had followed the questions and answers, Monsignor saw that they understood English well enough. One man sprang to his feet. But simultaneously the President was on his own, and with a gesture and a sharp word or two restored order.
“That is very deplorable violence,” said Hardy. “But it is most Christian.”
“I am beginning to think so myself,” said the priest.
“Well, well,” said the other, tapping the table irritably. “We must get on——”
A door behind him, communicating with the offices behind the hall, opened suddenly as he spoke these words, and he broke off. Monsignor followed the direction of his eyes, and saw a man enter who was plainly in a state of extreme excitement. He was across the platform in three or four quick steps, and laid a paper before the President, pushing by Hardy to do so. Then he stood back abruptly and waited. The President took up the paper deliberately and read it. Then he laid it down again, and a question too was asked smartly in the same rapid German, and answered as smartly.
Then he turned, and creasing the paper between his fingers as he spoke, uttered a sentence that brought every man to his feet.
In the confusion that followed Monsignor stood for a while disregarded. The man who had brought the message, had, after one more sentence snapped at him over the President’s shoulder, vanished once more. For the rest—they were up now, forming into groups, talking excitedly, dissolving again, and re-forming. Only two remained quiet—Hardy and the President; the latter still in his chair, staring out moodily, with the Englishman whispering into his ear. Then Hardy too stood back and stared about him. One or two men came up, but he waved them aside. Then his eyes fell upon the priest, still waiting: he slipped away from the chair, came down the steps, and beckoned to him.
Monsignor was in a whirl; but he turned and came obediently out of his place into the corner by the steps. He noticed as he came that even those who guarded the lower doors were talking.
“There’s news,” whispered Hardy sharply. “Another envoy is coming. Who is it?”
The priest shook his head. “I have no idea.”
“He’ll be here in ten minutes,” said Hardy. “He passed the line of guard-boats five minutes ago. Monsignor——”
“Just come behind here a moment. I want to have a word with you.”