“I have an idea that I do,” he answered. “A few millions of my fellow countrymen believe the same thing, or I should not be here. I think that you know what my principles are, Lord Dorminster. I am here to govern this country for the benefit of the people. We don’t want to govern any one else’s country, we don’t want to meddle in any one else’s affairs. Least of all do we want to revert to the times when your uncle was a young man, and every country in Europe was sitting with drawn sword, trusting nobody, fearing everybody, living in a state of nerves, with the roll of the drum always in their ears. The best preventative of war, in my opinion, is not to believe in it. Good morning, Lord Dorminster.”
It was a dismissal against which there was no appeal. Nigel followed the secretary from the room.
“You found the Chief a little bit ratty this morning, I expect, Lord Dorminster,” the latter remarked. “We’ve had the French Mission here.”
“Mr. Mervin Brown has at least the virtue of knowing his own mind,” Nigel replied dryly.
The automobile turned in through the great entrance gates of the South London Aeronautic Terminus and commenced a slow ascent along the broad asphalted road to what, a few years ago, had been esteemed a new wonder of the world. Maggie rose to her feet with a little exclamation of wonder.
“Do you know I have never been here at night before?” she exclaimed. “Isn’t it wonderful!”
“Marvellous!” Nigel replied. “It’s the largest aeronautic station in the world—bigger, they say, than all our railway termini put together. Look at the flares, Maggie! No wonder the sky from the housetop at Belgrave Square seems always to be on fire at night!”
They were approaching now the first of the huge sheds which were arranged in circular fashion around an immense stretch of perfectly level asphalted ground. Every shed was as big as an ordinary railway station, its arched opening framed with electric illuminations. Inside could be seen the crowds of people waiting on the platforms; in many of them, the engine of a great airship was already throbbing, waiting to start. In the background was a huge wireless installation, and around, at regular intervals, enormous pillars, on the top of which flares of different-coloured fire were burning. The automobile came to a standstill before a large electrically illuminated time chart. Nigel alighted for a moment and spoke to one of the inspectors.
“Which station for the Black Dragon, private ship from China?” he enquired.
The man glanced at the chart.
“Number seven, on the other side,” he replied. “You can drive around.”
“How is she for time?”
“She crossed the North Sea punctually,” he replied. “We should see her violet lights in ten minutes. Mind the traffic as you pass number three. The North ship from Norway is just in.”