It was delicious and it was, moreover, reassuring. In these same days between the summoning of the Buckingham Palace Conference and the landing of the Nationalist guns, Continental events arising out of the stale Sarajevo affair reared their heads and looked towards Great Britain in a presumptuous and sinister way to which the British public was not accustomed, and which it resented. The British public had never taken any interest in international affairs and it did not wish to take any interest in international affairs. It certainly did not wish to be disturbed by them, and at this moment of the exciting Irish deadlock the Wilhelmstrasse, the Ball Platz, the Quai d’Orsay and similar stupid, meaningless and unpronounceable places intruded themselves disturbingly in British homes, much as the writing on the wall vexatiously disturbed Belshazzar’s feast, and were similarly resented. Belshazzar probably ordered in a fresh troupe of dancers to remove the chilly effect of the stupid, meaningless and unpronounceable writing, and in the same way the British public turned with relief and with thrills to the gun-running and the shooting.
It was characteristically intriguing in the nature of its excitement. It was characteristically intriguing because, like all the domestic sensations to which the British Public had become accustomed, it in no way interfered with the lives of those not directly implicated in it. Like them all, it entertained without inconveniencing. They knew their place, the deadlocks, the crises and the other sensations of those glowing days. They caused no member of their audience to go without his meals. They interfered neither with pleasure nor with business.
Sometimes this was a little surprising. Fresh from newspaper instruction of the deadness of the deadlock, the poignancy of the crisis, or the stupendity of the achievement, one rather expected one’s own personal world to stand still and watch it. But one’s own personal world never did stand still and watch it.
Sabre, coming into his office on the day reporting the affray in Dublin, was made to experience this.
In the town, on his arrival, he purchased several of the London newspapers to read other accounts and other views of the gun-running and its sensational sequel. His intention was to read them the moment he got to his room. He put them on a chair while he hung up his straw hat and filled a pipe.
They remained there unopened till the charwoman removed them in the evening. On his desk, as he glanced towards it, was a letter from Nona.
He turned it over in his hands—the small neat script. She never before had written to him at the office. It bore the London postmark. She would be writing from their town house. It would be to say she was coming back.... But she never wrote on the occasions of her return; they just met.... And she had never before written to the office.