“We should have endeavored to change his point of view,” the Prime Minister continued, “even if we had to change at the same time the outline of his particularly graceful figure. The age of thumbscrews and the rack was, after all, a very virile age. Just consider for a moment our positions—three of the greatest and most brilliant statesmen of our day—and we can do very little save wait for this young man to declare himself. We are the puppets with whom he plays. It rests with him whether our names are written upon the scroll of fame or whether our administration is dismissed in half a dozen contemptuous words by the coming historian. It rests with him whether our friend Bransome here shall be proclaimed the greatest Foreign Minister that ever breathed, and whether I myself have a statue erected to me in Westminster Yard, which shall be crowned with a laurel wreath by patriotic young ladies on the morning of my anniversary.”
The Duke stretched himself out with a sigh of content. His cigar was burning well, and the flavor of old Armignac lingered still upon his palate.
“Come,” he protested, “I think you exaggerate Maiyo’s importance just a little, Haviland. Hesho seems excellently disposed towards us, and, after all, I should have thought his word would have had more weight in Tokio than the word of a young man who is new to diplomacy, and whose claims to distinction seem to rest rather upon his soldiering and the fact that he is a cousin of the Emperor.”
The Prime Minister sighed.
“Dear Duke,” he said, “no one of us, not even myself, has ever done that young man justice. To me he represents everything that is most strenuous and intellectual in Japanese manhood. The spirit of that wonderful country runs like the elixir of life itself through his veins. Since the day he brought me his letter from the Emperor, I have watched him carefully, and I believe I can honestly declare that not once in these eighteen months has he looked away from his task, nor has he given to one single person even an inkling of the thoughts which have passed through his mind. He came back from the Continent, from Berlin, from Paris, from Petersburg, with a mass of acquired information which would have made some of our blue-books read like Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales. He had made up his mind exactly what he thought of each country, of their political systems, of their social life, of their military importance. He had them all weighed up in the hollow of his hand. He was willing to talk as long as I, for instance, was willing to listen. He spoke of everybody whom he had met and every place which he had visited without reserve, and yet I guarantee that there is no person in England today, however much he may have talked with him, who knows in the least what his true impressions are.”