Something had discovered her to herself for the first time. Was it her own soul? Had her Other Self, waking from sleep in the eternal spaces, bethought itself and come to whisper and warn and help? Or was it Penalty, or Nemesis, or that Destiny which will have its toll for all it gives of beauty, or pleasure, or pride, or place, or pageantry?
“Love’s tired eyes and hands and barren bosom”—
The words kept ringing in her ears. They soothed her at last into a sleep which brought no peace, no rest or repose.
LANDRASSY’S LAST STROKE
Midnight—one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock. Big Ben boomed the hours, and from St. James’s Palace came the stroke of the quarters, lighter, quicker, almost pensive in tone. From St. James’s Street below came no sounds at last. The clatter of the hoofs of horses had ceased, the rumble of drays carrying their night freights, the shouts of the newsboys making sensation out of rumours made in a newspaper office, had died away. Peace came, and a silver moon gave forth a soft light, which embalmed the old thoroughfare, and added a tenderness to its workaday dignity. In only one window was there a light at three o’clock. It was the window of Ian Stafford’s sitting-room.
He had not left the Foreign Office till nearly ten o’clock, then had had a light supper at his club, had written letters there, and after a long walk up and down the Mall had, with reluctant feet, gone to his chambers.
The work which for years he had striven to do for England had been accomplished. The Great Understanding was complete. In the words of the secretary of the American Embassy, “Mennaval had delivered the goods,” and an arrangement had been arrived at, completed this very night, which would leave England free to face her coming trial in South Africa without fear of trouble on the flank or in the rear.
The key was turned in the lock, and that lock had been the original device and design of Ian Stafford. He had done a great work for civilization and humanity; he had made improbable, if not impossible, a European war. The Kaiser knew it, Franz Joseph knew it, the Czar knew it; the White House knew it, and its master nodded with satisfaction, for John Bull was waking up—“getting a move on.” America might have her own family quarrel with John Bull, but when it was John Bull versus the world, not even James G. Blaine would have been prepared to see the old lion too deeply wounded. Even Landrassy, ambassador of Slavonia, had smiled grimly when he met Ian Stafford on the steps of the Moravian Embassy. He was artist enough to appreciate a well-played game, and, in any case, he had had done all that mortal man could in the way of intrigue and tact and device. He had worked the international press as well as it had ever been worked; he had distilled poison here and rosewater there; he had again and again baffled the British Foreign Office, again and again cut the ground from under Ian Stafford’s feet; and if he could have staved off the pact, the secret international pact, by one more day, he would have gained the victory for himself, for his country, for the alliance behind him.