“Thank you!” Lanstron half whispered. It was all he could think of to say.
“And you will find that there is more than you thought, perhaps: the reason why I have fought hard to remain chief of staff; why—” Partow continued in a voice that had the sepulchral uncanniness of a threat long nursed now breaking free of the bondage of years within the sound-proof walls. “But—” he broke off suddenly as if he distrusted even the security of the vault. “Yes, it is all there—my life’s work, my dream, my ambition, my plan!”
Lanstron heard the lock slide in the door as Partow went out and he was alone with the army’s secrets. As he read Partow’s firm handwriting, many parts fell together, many moves on a chess-board grew clear. His breath came faster, he bent closer over the table, he turned back pages to go over them again. Every sentence dropped home in his mind like a bolt in a socket.
When he had finished the manuscript the trance of his thoughts held him in the same attitude. “Five millions to our three!” a voice kept repeating to him. “In face of that this dream!” another voice was saying. Had it been right to intrust such responsibility to one man of Partow’s age and right to transfer that responsibility to himself in an emergency? Yet how clear the plan in the confidence of its wisdom! Unconscious of the passage of time, he did not hear the door open or realize Partow’s presence until he felt Partow’s hand on his shoulder.
“I see that you didn’t look into any of the pigeonholes,” the chief of staff observed.
Lanstron pressed his finger-tips on the manuscript significantly.
“No. It is all there!”
“The thing being to carry it out!” said Partow. “God with us!” he added devoutly.
CLOSE TO THE WHITE POSTS
Have you forgotten Hugo Mallin, humorist of Company B of the 128th Regiment of the Grays, whom we left in their barracks under orders for South La Tir on the afternoon that Westerling called on Marta Galland? Have you forgotten Eugene Aronson, the farmer’s son, and Jacob Pilzer, the butcher’s son, and pasty-faced little Peterkin, the valet’s son, and the judge’s son, and the other privates of the group that surrounded Hugo Mallin as he aired heresies that set them laughing?
Through the press, an unconscious instrument of his purpose, the astute premier has inoculated them with the virus of militant patriotism. Day by day the crisis has become more acute; day by day the war fever has risen in their veins. Big Eugene Aronson believes everything he reads; his country can do no wrong. Jacob Pilzer is most bellicose; he chafes at inaction, while they all suffer the discomforts of an empty factory building in the rear of South La Tir which has become a temporary barracks.
On Tuesday they hear of crowds around the Foreign Office demanding war, on Wednesday of panics on the stock exchanges, on Thursday of mobilization actually begun and a rigid press censorship established, and on Friday other regiments and guns and horses are detraining and departing right and left. Hurrying officers know nothing except what they have been told to do.