Sir Alfred touched his chest for a moment. Then his hand dropped to his side and he proceeded.
“For twenty-eight years I have ruled the money-markets of the world. No Cabinet Council is held in this country at which my influence is not represented. The Ministers come to me one by one for help and advice. I represent the third great force of war, and there isn’t a single member of the present Government who doesn’t look upon me as the most important person in the country. Yet I, too, have enemies, Ronnie. There is the halfpenny Press. They’d give a million for the chance that may come at any day. They’d print my downfall in blacker lines than the declaration of war. They’d shriek over my ruin with a more brazen-throated triumph even than they would greet the heralds of peace. And the threads are there, Ronald. Sometimes I feel one shiver a little. Sometimes I have to stretch out my arm and brush too curious an inquirer into the place where curiosity ends. I sit and watch and I am well served. There are men this morning at Buckingham Palace with a V.C. to be pinned upon their breast, who faced dangers for ten minutes, less than I face day and night.”
Granet rose to his feet.
“For a moment,” he exclaimed, “I had forgotten!. . . Tell me,” he added, with sudden vigour, “what have we done it for? You made your great name in England, you were Eton and Oxford. Why is it that when the giant struggle comes it should be Germany who governs your heart, it should be Germany who calls even to me?”
Sir Alfred held out his hand. His eye had caught the clock.
“Ronnie,” he said, “have you ever wondered why in a flock of sheep every lamb knows its mother? Germany was the mother of our stock. Birth, life and education count for nothing when the great days come, when the mother voice speaks. It isn’t that we are false to England, it is that we are true to our own. You must go now, Ronnie! I have an appointment.”
Granet walked out to the street a little dazed, and called for a taxi.
“I suppose that must be it,” he muttered to himself.
Geraldine welcomed her unexpected visitor that afternoon cordially enough but a little shyly.
“I thought that you were going to stay at Brancaster for a week,” she remarked, as they shook hands.
“We meant to stay longer,” Granet admitted, “but things went a little wrong. First of all there was this Zeppelin raid. Then my arm didn’t go very well. Altogether our little excursion fizzled out and I came back last night.”
“Did you see anything of the raid?” Geraldine inquired eagerly.
“Rather more than I wanted,” he answered grimly. “I was motoring along the road at the time, and I had to attend a perfect court martial next day, with your friend Thomson in the chair. Can you tell me, Miss Conyers,” he continued, watching her closely, “how it is that a medical major who is inspector of hospitals, should be sent down from the War Office to hold an inquiry upon that raid?”