“I am whichever I choose for the moment,” was the cool response. “If you doubt my credentials, I can perhaps establish myself in your confidence by repeating the conversation which took place between you and the Kaiser on the terrace of the Imperial Palace at Potsdam between three and four o’clock on the afternoon of April the seventh. You gave the Kaiser a little character sketch of your colleagues in the Cabinet, and you treated with ridicule the bare idea that one or two of them, at any rate, would ever consent—”
“That will do,” the Minister interrupted hoarsely.
“Just as you will,” the other observed. “I wish you good-day, sir. The issue is before you now quite plainly. Let us soon be able to appreciate the effect of your changed attitude.”
Lord Romsey touched his bell in silence and his visitor took a grave and decorous leave. He walked with the secretary down the hall.
“These are sad days for all of us,” he said benignly. “I have been telling Lord Romsey of some of my experiences in Brussels. I was American chaplain at the new church there when the war broke out. I have seen sights which I shall never forget, horrors the memory of which will never leave me.”
The secretary nodded sympathetically. He was trying to get off early, however, and he had heard a good deal already about Belgium.
“Will you let one of the servants fetch you a taxicab?” he suggested.
“I prefer to walk a little distance,” Mr. Sidney replied. “I am quite at home in London. I was once, in fact, invited to take up a pastorate here. I wish you good-day, sir. I have had a most interesting conversation with your chief, a conversation which will dwell for a long time in my memory.”
The secretary bowed and Mr. Sidney walked slowly to the corner of the Square. Arrived there, he hailed a passing taxicab which drew up at once by the side of the kerb. In stepping in, he brushed the shoulder of a man who had paused to light a cigarette. He lingered for a moment to apologise.
“I beg your pardon,” he commenced—
For a single moment his self-possession seemed to desert him. He looked into the cold, incurious face of the man in an officer’s uniform who was already moving away, as though he had seen a ghost. His hesitation was a matter of seconds only, however.
“It was very clumsy of me,” he concluded.
Major Thomson touched his cap as he moved off.
“Quite all right,” he said serenely.