Kinsley helped himself to whisky and soda and turned towards his friend.
“Here’s luck to you, Dick! Take care of yourself. All sorts of things may happen, you know. Old man Fentolin may take a fancy to you and tell you secrets that any statesman in Europe would be glad to hear. He may tell you why this conference is being held and what the result will be. You may be the first to hear of our coming fall. Well, here’s to you, anyway! Drop me a line, if you’ve anything to report.”
“Cheero!” Hamel answered, as he set down his empty tumbler. “Astonishing how keen I feel about this little adventure. I’m perfectly sick of the humdrum life I have been leading the last week, and you do sort of take one back to the Arabian Nights, you know, Reggie. I am never quite sure whether to take you seriously or not.”
Kinsley smiled as he held his friend’s hand for a moment.
“Dick,” he said earnestly, “if only you’d believe it, the adventures in the Arabian Nights were as nothing compared with the present-day drama of foreign politics. You see, we’ve learned to conceal things nowadays—to smooth them over, to play the part of ordinary citizens to the world while we tug at the underhand levers in our secret moments. Good night! Good luck!”
Richard Hamel, although he certainly had not the appearance of a person afflicted with nerves, gave a slight start. For the last half-hour, during which time the train had made no stop, he had been alone in his compartment. Yet, to his surprise, he was suddenly aware that the seat opposite to him had been noiselessly taken by a girl whose eyes, also, were fixed with curious intentness upon the broad expanse of marshland and sands across which the train was slowly making its way. Hamel had spent a great many years abroad, and his first impulse was to speak with the unexpected stranger. He forgot for a moment that he was in England, travelling in a first-class carriage, and pointed with his left hand towards the sea.
“Queer country this, isn’t it?” he remarked pleasantly. “Do you know, I never heard you come in. It gave me quite a start when I found that I had a fellow-passenger.”
She looked at him with a certain amount of still surprise, a look which he returned just as steadfastly, because even in those few seconds he was conscious of that strange selective interest, certainly unaccounted for by his own impressions of her appearance. She seemed to him, at that first glance, very far indeed from being good-looking, according to any of the standards by which he had measured good looks. She was thin, too thin for his taste, and she carried herself with an aloofness to which he was unaccustomed. Her cheeks were quite pale, her hair of a soft shade of brown, her eyes grey and sad. She gave him altogether an impression of colourlessness, and he had been living in a land where colour and vitality meant much. Her speech, too, in its very restraint, fell strangely upon his ears.