The Frenchman bowed and accepted the hand which the Prime Minister offered him.
“I present to you once more, sir,” he said, “the compliments and infinite regrets of Monsieur le President.”
A chapter of English history ended with the quiet passing of Monsieur Senn into the sunlit street. The latter entered his waiting automobile and drove at once to the French Embassy. The Ambassador listened in silence to his report.
“What about the Press?” was his only question.
“Monsieur le President insists upon the truth being known,” the emissary announced. “France has pledged her word against secret treaties. Besides, the honour of France must never afterwards be called in question.”
The Ambassador sighed. He was new to his present post, but he had grown grey in the service of his country.
“It is the end of a one-sided arrangement,” he declared. “It is incredible that these people do not realise that it is against their own country—against themselves—that this slowly fermenting hatred is being brewed. The racial enmity between Germany and France is nothing compared with the hate of antagonistic kinship between Germany and England. However, France is the gainer by to-day’s event. We have only our own frontiers to watch.”
Monsieur Felix Senn wandered on to the St. Philip’s Club, where he found his old friend Prince Karschoff talking in a corner of the smoking room with Nigel. They were both of them prepared for the news which he presently communicated to them. Karschoff was bitter, Nigel silent.
“Well said Carlyle that ’History is philosophy teaching by examples’,” the former expounded. “How the historian of the future will revel in this epoch! What treatises he will write, what parallels he will draw! See him point to the days when the aristocracy ruled England, and England fought and flourished; then to the epoch when the bourgeoisie took their place, and with a mighty effort, met a great emergency and flourished. And finally, in sympathy with the great European upheaval, in sympathy with the great natural law of change, Labour ousts both, single-eyed Labour, and down goes England, crumbling into the dust!—Let us lunch, my friends. The cuisine is still good here.”
Nigel excused himself.
“I am engaged,” he said. “We may meet afterwards.”
“Something tells me, my dear Nigel,” Karschoff declared, “that you are bent on frivolity.”
“If to lunch with a woman is frivolous, I plead guilty,” Nigel replied.
Karschoff’s face was suddenly grave. He seemed on the point of saying something but checked himself and turned away with a little shrug of the shoulders.
“Each one to his taste,” he murmured. “For my aperitif, a dash of absinthe in my cocktail; for Dorminster here, the lure of a woman’s smile. Perhaps he gains. Who knows?”