With a greasy chuckle, he mounted his chair and turned the sign about. On the reverse side there was a coat-of-arms, and the words: ‘DEUTSCHLAND UeBER ALLES.’
‘Vot you tink?’ grinned Mr. Schneider, speaking from the altitude of the chair. ‘Goot, ugh?’ He turned the thing about and stepped down again, wringing his hands in huge enjoyment of the whole thing. ’You can spik blainly, Mister Selvyn,’ he went on amiably. ‘Ve unnerstan’ each odder, hein? Von’t you smoke one of dem cigars?’
‘No,’ said Selwyn. He looked at the little man for about ten seconds, then, crossing to the wall, wrenched the sign away, nail and all.
‘Here, here,’ protested Mr. Schneider, backing warily to the door, ’vot for you do dis? Vot you mean, you great big fourflusher?’
The young man eyed the sign and then the German’s head, apparently with the idea of bringing them together. Mr. Schneider further developed his plan of retreat by taking a grasp of the door-handle.
‘That’s for people who say “Nix on the War,"’ said Selwyn, breaking the sign in his hands as if it were made of matchwood. ’And this is for your damned Deutschland!’
He broke the remainder over his knee, and threw the pieces on the flat desk, upsetting an ink-bottle, the contents of which dripped juicily to the floor.
‘But ain’t you,’ said Mr. Schneider, in a voice that was almost a squeal—’don’t you got no resbect for Chermany? Only yesterday der ambassador, he tole me that after the var, for all you wrote to help der Faderland, der Kaiser, himself, vill on you bestow’——
Before the speaker could acquaint the author with the exact nature of the honour in store for him, Selwyn had seized him by the coat-lapels, and was shaking him so violently that Mr. Schneider’s natural talent for double-facedness was developed to a pitch where an observant looker-on might have counted at least five of him vibrating at once.
‘You dirty little hound,’ said Selwyn, without relaxing in the least the shaking process, ’if you ever use my name again, or send out anything written, or supposed to be written, by me, I’ll’——
For once words failed him, and lifting the little man almost off the floor, he deposited him violently on his own desk, in the midst of the pool formed by the ink.
‘Nix on the war!’ snorted Selwyn defiantly, putting on his hat. He was going to add a few more crushing remarks, but, altering his mind, went out, slamming the door so violently that all the typewriters engaged in sending out German propaganda were startled into an instant of silence.
As for Mr. Schneider, he sat still amidst the wreck of his desk, pondering over a famous definition of war given by an American general named Sherman.
Without waiting to catch the driver’s eye, the impetuous idealist overtook an empty taxi-cab, and jumped into it.