“No flares this time, eh?” Thomson muttered. “All right, Ambrose, I think I can feel my way there.”
He descended into the street but for a few moments he found himself hopelessly lost at sea. So far as he could see there was no light nor any glimmer of one. He reached the corner of the street like a blind man, by tapping the kerbstone with his cane. Arrived here, he stood for a moment in the middle of the road, bareheaded. There was not a breath of wind anywhere. He made his way carefully down towards Downing Street, meeting few people, and still obliged to grope rather than walk. Along Downing Street he made his way by the railings and rang the bell at last at the Premier’s house. He was shown at once into the council room. The four or five men who were seated around a table, and who looked up at his entrance, bore every one of them, household names. The Premier held out his hand.
“Good evening, Major Thomson,” he began. “Please sit down and join us for a moment.”
Thomson was a little surprised at the gathering.
“You’ll forgive my suggesting that this is likely to be a marked spot to-night,” he said.
The Premier smiled.
“Well, you could scarcely expect us to hide, could you, Major Thomson?” he remarked. “In any case, there is not one of us who is not prepared to share what the other citizens of London have to face. The country for the women and children, if you please. We gather, sir, that it is chiefly through you that we are in the fortunate position of being prepared to-night.”
“It was through my action in a matter which I understand has been subjected to a great deal of criticism,” Thomson replied.
“I admit it frankly,” the statesman acknowledged. “That particular matter, the matter of your censorship of a certain letter, has been the subject of a grave and earnest conference here between us all. We decided to send for you. We telephoned first of all to the Chief but he told us that you were entirely head of your department and responsible to no one, that you had been—forgive me—a brilliant success, and that it was his intention to interfere in no possible way with any course you chose to take. I may say that he intimated as much to me when I went to him, simply furious because you had removed a certain person from the list of those whose correspondence is free from censorship.”
“What can I do for you, gentlemen?” Thomson asked.
“Listen to us while we put a matter to you from a common-sense point of view,” Mr. Gordon Jones begged. “You see who we are. We are those upon whose shoulders rests chiefly the task of ruling this country. I want to tell you that we have come to a unanimous decision. We say nothing about the moral or the actual guilt of Sir Alfred Anselman. How far he may have been concerned in plotting with our country’s enemies is a matter which we may know in the future, but for the present—well, let’s make a simple matter of it—we want him left alone.”