“Trust me!” he said. “I shall persuade her!”
“I hope you can. It is a chance that might turn the scales of victory—a chance that hangs in my mind stubbornly, as if there were some fate in it. Luck, old boy!”
“Luck to you, Lanny! Luck and promotion!”
They threw their arms about each other in a vigorous embrace.
“And you will keep watch that Mrs. Galland and Marta are in no danger?”
“Trust me for that, too!”
“Then, good-by till I hear from you over the ’phone or I return to see you after the crisis is over!” concluded Lanstron as he hurried away.
BREAKING A PAPER-KNIFE
Hedworth Westerling would have said twenty to one if he had been asked the odds against war when he was parting from Marta Galland in the hotel reception-room. Before he reached home he would have changed them to ten to one. A scare bulletin about the Bodlapoo affair compelling attention as his car halted to let the traffic of a cross street pass, he bought a newspaper thrust in at the car window that contained the answer of the government of the Browns to a despatch of the Grays about the dispute that had arisen in the distant African jungle. This he had already read two days previously, by courtesy of the premier. It was moderate in tone, as became a power that had three million soldiers against its opponent’s five; nevertheless, it firmly pointed out that the territory of the Browns had been overtly invaded, on the pretext of securing a deserter who had escaped across the line, by Gray colonial troops who had raised the Gray flag in place of the Brown flag and remained defiantly in occupation of the outpost they had taken.
As yet, the Browns had not attempted to repel the aggressor by arms for fear of complications, but were relying on the Gray government to order a withdrawal of the Gray force and the repudiation of a commander who had been guilty of so grave an international affront. The surprising and illuminating thing to Westerling was the inspired statement to the press from the Gray Foreign Office, adroitly appealing to Gray chauvinism and justifying the “intrepidity” of the Gray commander in response to so-called “pin-pricking” exasperations.
At the door of his apartment, Francois, his valet and factotum, gave Westerling a letter.
“Important, sir,” said Francois.
Westerling knew by a glance that it was, for it was addressed and marked “Personal” in the premier’s own handwriting. A conference for ten that evening was requested in a manner that left no doubt of its urgency.
“Let me see, do I dine at the Countess Zalinski’s to-night?” asked Westerling. Both Francois and his personal aide kept a list of his appointments.
“Not to-night, sir. To-night you—” said Francois.
“Good!” thought Westerling. “No excuses will be necessary to Marie in order to be at the premier’s by ten.”