He directed his swift steps toward Pall Mall and the War Office.
IN WHICH FELLOWES GOES A JOURNEY
Kruger’s ultimatum, expected though it was, shook England as nothing had done since the Indian mutiny, but the tremour of national excitement presently gave way to a quiet, deep determination.
An almost Oriental luxury had gone far to weaken the fibre of that strong and opulent middle-class who had been the backbone of England, the entrenched Philistines. The value of birth as a moral asset which had a national duty and a national influence, and the value of money which had a social responsibility and a communal use, were unrealized by the many nouveaux riches who frequented the fashionable purlieus; who gave vast parties where display and extravagance were the principal feature; who ostentatiously offered large sums to public objects. Men who had made their money where copper or gold or oil or wool or silver or cattle or railways made commercial kings, supported schemes for the public welfare brought them by fine ladies, largely because the ladies were fine; and they gave substantial sums—upon occasion—for these fine ladies’ fine causes. Rich men, or reputed rich men, whose wives never appeared, who were kept in secluded quarters in Bloomsbury or Maida Vale, gave dinners at the Savoy or the Carlton which the scrapings of the aristocracy attended; but these gave no dinners in return.
To get money to do things, no matter how,—or little matter how; to be in the swim, and that swim all too rapidly washing out the real people—that was the almost universal ambition. But still the real people, however few or many, in the time of trouble came quietly into the necessary and appointed places with the automatic precision of the disciplined friend of the state and of humanity; and behind them were folk of the humbler sort, the lower middle-class, the labouring-man. Of these were the landpoor peer, with his sense of responsibility cultivated by daily life and duty in his county, on the one hand; the professional man of all professions, the little merchant, the sailor, the clerk and artisan, the digger and delver, on the other; and, in between, those people in the shires who had not yet come to be material and gross, who had old-fashioned ideas of the duty of the citizen and the Christian. In the day of darkness these came and laid what they had at the foot of the altar of sacrifice.
This at least the war did: it served as a sieve to sift the people, and it served as the solvent of many a life-problem.
Ian Stafford was among the first to whom it offered “the way out,” who went to it for the solution of their own set problem. Suddenly, as he stood with Jasmine in the little room where so many lives were tossed into the crucible of Fate that morning, the newsboy’s voice shouting, “War declared!” had told him the path he must tread.