The man in green stopped at the door. Holding up a warning hand to me, he bent his head and listened. There was a moment of absolute silence. Not a sound was to be heard throughout the whole Castle. Then the man in green knocked softly and was admitted, leaving me outside.
A moment later, the door swung open again. A tall, elegant man with grey hair and that indefinite air of good breeding that you find in every man who has spent a life at court, came out hurriedly. He looked pale and harassed.
On seeing me, he stopped short.
“Dr. Grundt? Where is Dr. Grundt?” he asked and his eyes dropped to my feet. He started and raised them to my face.
The trooper had drifted out of earshot. I could see him, immobile as a statue, standing at the end of the corridor. Except for him and us, the passage was deserted.
Again the elderly man spoke and his voice betrayed his anxiety.
“Who are you?” he asked almost in a whisper. “What have you done with Grundt? Why has he not come?”
Boldly I took the plunge.
“I am Semlin,” I said.
“Semlin,” echoed the other, “—ah yes! the Embassy in Washington wrote about you—but Grundt was to have come....”
“Listen,” I said, “Grundt could not come. We had to separate and he sent me on ahead....”
“But ... but ...”—the man was stammering now in his anxiety—“... you succeeded?”
He heaved a sigh of relief.
“It will be awkward, very awkward, this change in the arrangements,” he said. “You will have to explain everything to him, everything. Wait there an instant.”
He darted back into the room.
Once more I stood and waited in that silent place, so restful and so still that one felt oneself in a world far removed from the angry strife of nations. And I wondered if my interview—the meeting I had so much dreaded—was at an end.
“Pst, Pst!” The elderly man stood at the open door.
He led me through a room, a cosy place, smelling pleasantly of leather furniture, to a door. He opened it, revealing across a narrow threshold another door. On this he knocked.
“Herein!” cried a voice—a harsh, metallic voice.
My companion turned the handle and, opening the door, thrust me into the room. The door closed behind me.
I found myself facing the Emperor.
I ENCOUNTER AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE WHO LEADS ME TO A DELIGHTFUL SURPRISE
He stood in the centre of the room, facing the door, his legs, straddled apart, planted firmly on the ground, one hand behind his back, the other, withered and useless like the rest of the arm, thrust into the side pocket of his tunic. He wore a perfectly plain undress uniform of field-grey, and the unusual simplicity of his dress, coupled with the fact that he was bare-headed, rendered him so unlike his conventional portraits in the full panoply of war that I doubt if I should have recognized him—paradoxical as it may seem—but for the havoc depicted in every lineament of those once so familiar features.