UP on the high veld our rivers are apt to be strings of pools linked by mudd_rickles—the most stagnant kind of watercourse you would look for in a day'_ourney. But presently they reach the edge of the plateau and are tossed dow_nto the flats in noble ravines, and roll thereafter in full and soundin_urrents to the sea. So with the story I am telling. It began in smoot_eaches, as idle as a mill-pond; yet the day soon came when I was in the gri_f a torrent, flung breathless from rock to rock by a destiny which I coul_ot control. But for the present I was in a backwater, no less than the Garde_ity of Biggleswick, where Mr Cornelius Brand, a South African gentlema_isiting England on holiday, lodged in a pair of rooms in the cottage of M_ancred Jimson.
The house—or 'home' as they preferred to name it at Biggleswick—was one o_ome two hundred others which ringed a pleasant Midland common. It was badl_uilt and oddly furnished; the bed was too short, the windows did not fit, th_oors did not stay shut; but it was as clean as soap and water and scrubbin_ould make it. The three-quarters of an acre of garden were mainly devoted t_he culture of potatoes, though under the parlour window Mrs Jimson had a plo_f sweet-smelling herbs, and lines of lank sunflowers fringed the path tha_ed to the front door. It was Mrs Jimson who received me as I descended fro_he station fly—a large red woman with hair bleached by constant exposure t_eather, clad in a gown which, both in shape and material, seemed to have bee_odelled on a chintz curtain. She was a good kindly soul, and as proud a_unch of her house.
'We follow the simple life here, Mr Brand,' she said. 'You must take us as yo_ind us.'
I assured her that I asked for nothing better, and as I unpacked in my fres_ittle bedroom with a west wind blowing in at the window I considered that _ad seen worse quarters.
I had bought in London a considerable number of books, for I thought that, a_ would have time on my hands, I might as well do something about m_ducation. They were mostly English classics, whose names I knew but which _ad never read, and they were all in a little flat-backed series at a shillin_piece. I arranged them on top of a chest of drawers, but I kept the Pilgrim'_rogress beside my bed, for that was one of my working tools and I had got t_et it by heart.
Mrs Jimson, who came in while I was unpacking to see if the room was to m_iking, approved my taste. At our midday dinner she wanted to discuss book_ith me, and was so full of her own knowledge that I was able to conceal m_gnorance.
'We are all labouring to express our personalities,' she informed me. 'Hav_ou found your medium, Mr Brand? is it to be the pen or the pencil? Or perhap_t is music? You have the brow of an artist, the frontal "bar o_ichelangelo", you remember!'
I told her that I concluded I would try literature, but before writin_nything I would read a bit more.
It was a Saturday, so Jimson came back from town in the early afternoon. H_as a managing clerk in some shipping office, but you wouldn't have guessed i_rom his appearance. His city clothes were loose dark-grey flannels, a sof_ollar, an orange tie, and a soft black hat. His wife went down the road t_eet him, and they returned hand-in-hand, swinging their arms like a couple o_choolchildren. He had a skimpy red beard streaked with grey, and mild blu_yes behind strong glasses. He was the most friendly creature in the world, full of rapid questions, and eager to make me feel one of the family.
Presently he got into a tweed Norfolk jacket, and started to cultivate hi_arden. I took off my coat and lent him a hand, and when he stopped to res_rom his labours—which was every five minutes, for he had no kind o_hysique—he would mop his brow and rub his spectacles and declaim about th_ood smell of the earth and the joy of getting close to Nature.
Once he looked at my big brown hands and muscular arms with a kind o_istfulness. 'You are one of the doers, Mr Brand,' he said, 'and I could fin_t in my heart to envy you. You have seen Nature in wild forms in fa_ountries. Some day I hope you will tell us about your life. I must be conten_ith my little corner, but happily there are no territorial limits for th_ind. This modest dwelling is a watch-tower from which I look over all th_orld.'
After that he took me for a walk. We met parties of returning tennis-player_nd here and there a golfer. There seemed to be an abundance of young men, mostly rather weedy-looking, but with one or two well-grown ones who shoul_ave been fighting. The names of some of them Jimson mentioned with awe. A_nwholesome youth was Aronson, the great novelist; a sturdy, bristling fello_ith a fierce moustache was Letchford, the celebrated leader-writer of th_ritic. Several were pointed out to me as artists who had gone one better tha_nybody else, and a vast billowy creature was described as the leader of th_ew Orientalism in England. I noticed that these people, according to Jimson, were all 'great', and that they all dabbled in something 'new'. There wer_uantities of young women, too, most of them rather badly dressed an_nclining to untidy hair. And there were several decent couples taking the ai_ike house-holders of an evening all the world Over. Most of these last wer_imson's friends, to whom he introduced me. They were his own class—modes_olk, who sought for a coloured background to their prosaic city lives an_ound it in this odd settlement.
At supper I was initiated into the peculiar merits of Biggleswick.
'It is one great laboratory of thought,' said Mrs Jimson. 'It is glorious t_eel that you are living among the eager, vital people who are at the head o_ll the newest movements, and that the intellectual history of England i_eing made in our studies and gardens. The war to us seems a remote an_econdary affair. As someone has said, the great fights of the world are al_ought in the mind.'
A spasm of pain crossed her husband's face. 'I wish I could feel it far away.
After all, Ursula, it is the sacrifice of the young that gives people like u_eisure and peace to think. Our duty is to do the best which is permitted t_s, but that duty is a poor thing compared with what our young soldiers ar_iving! I may be quite wrong about the war … I know I can't argue wit_etchford. But I will not pretend to a superiority I do not feel.'
I went to bed feeling that in Jimson I had struck a pretty sound fellow. As _it the candles on my dressing-table I observed that the stack of silver whic_ had taken out of my pockets when I washed before supper was top-heavy. I_ad two big coins at the top and sixpences and shillings beneath. Now it i_ne of my oddities that ever since I was a small boy I have arranged my loos_oins symmetrically, with the smallest uppermost. That made me observant an_ed me to notice a second point. The English classics on the top of the ches_f drawers were not in the order I had left them. Izaak Walton had got to th_eft of Sir Thomas Browne, and the poet Burns was wedged disconsolatel_etween two volumes of Hazlitt. Moreover a receipted bill which I had stuck i_he Pilgrim's Progress to mark my place had been moved. Someone had been goin_hrough my belongings.
A moment's reflection convinced me that it couldn't have been Mrs Jimson. Sh_ad no servant and did the housework herself, but my things had been untouche_hen I left the room before supper, for she had come to tidy up before I ha_one downstairs. Someone had been here while we were at supper, and ha_xamined elaborately everything I possessed. Happily I had little luggage, an_o papers save the new books and a bill or two in the name of Cornelius Brand.
The inquisitor, whoever he was, had found nothing … The incident gave me _ood deal of comfort. It had been hard to believe that any mystery could exis_n this public place, where people lived brazenly in the open, and wore thei_earts on their sleeves and proclaimed their opinions from the rooftops. Ye_ystery there must be, or an inoffensive stranger with a kit-bag would no_ave received these strange attentions. I made a practice after that o_leeping with my watch below my pillow, for inside the case was Mar_amington's label. Now began a period of pleasant idle receptiveness. Once _eek it was my custom to go up to London for the day to receive letters an_nstructions, if any should come. I had moved from my chambers in Park Lane, which I leased under my proper name, to a small flat in Westminster taken i_he name of Cornelius Brand. The letters addressed to Park Lane were forwarde_o Sir Walter, who sent them round under cover to my new address. For the res_ used to spend my mornings reading in the garden, and I discovered for th_irst time what a pleasure was to be got from old books. They recalled an_mplified that vision I had seen from the Cotswold ridge, the revelation o_he priceless heritage which is England. I imbibed a mighty quantity o_istory, but especially I liked the writers, like Walton, who got at the ver_eart of the English countryside. Soon, too, I found the Pilgrim's Progres_ot a duty but a delight. I discovered new jewels daily in the honest ol_tory, and my letters to Peter began to be as full of it as Peter's ow_pistles. I loved, also, the songs of the Elizabethans, for they reminded m_f the girl who had sung to me in the June night.
In the afternoons I took my exercise in long tramps along the good dust_nglish roads. The country fell away from Biggleswick into a plain of wood an_asture-land, with low hills on the horizon. The Place was sown with villages, each with its green and pond and ancient church. Most, too, had inns, an_here I had many a draught of cool nutty ale, for the inn at Biggleswick was _eformed place which sold nothing but washy cider. Often, tramping home in th_usk, I was so much in love with the land that I could have sung with the pur_oy of it. And in the evening, after a bath, there would be supper, when _ather fagged Jimson struggled between sleep and hunger, and the lady, with a_rtistic mutch on her untidy head, talked ruthlessly of culture.
Bit by bit I edged my way into local society. The Jimsons were a great help, for they were popular and had a nodding acquaintance with most of th_nhabitants. They regarded me as a meritorious aspirant towards a higher life, and I was paraded before their friends with the suggestion of a vivid, i_hilistine, past. If I had any gift for writing, I would make a book about th_nhabitants of Biggleswick. About half were respectable citizens who cam_here for country air and low rates, but even these had a touch of queernes_nd had picked up the jargon of the place. The younger men were mostl_overnment clerks or writers or artists. There were a few widows with flock_f daughters, and on the outskirts were several bigger houses—mostly house_hich had been there before the garden city was planted. One of them wa_rand-new, a staring villa with sham-antique timbering, stuck on the top of _ill among raw gardens. It belonged to a man called Moxon Ivery, who was _ind of academic pacificist and a great god in the place. Another, a quie_eorgian manor house, was owned by a London publisher, an ardent Liberal whos_articular branch of business compelled him to keep in touch with the ne_ovements. I used to see him hurrying to the station swinging a little blac_ag and returning at night with the fish for dinner.
I soon got to know a surprising lot of people, and they were the rummies_irds you can imagine. For example, there were the Weekeses, three girls wh_ived with their mother in a house so artistic that you broke your hea_hichever way you turned in it. The son of the family was a conscientiou_bjector who had refused to do any sort of work whatever, and had got quodde_or his pains. They were immensely proud of him and used to relate hi_ufferings in Dartmoor with a gusto which I thought rather heartless. Art wa_heir great subject, and I am afraid they found me pretty heavy going. It wa_heir fashion never to admire anything that was obviously beautiful, like _unset or a pretty woman, but to find surprising loveliness in things which _hought hideous. Also they talked a language that was beyond me. This kind o_onversation used to happen. —MISS WEEKES: 'Don't you admire Ursula Jimson?'
SELF: 'Rather!' MISS W.: 'She is so John-esque in her lines.' SELF: 'Exactly!'
MISS W.: 'And Tancred, too—he is so full of nuances.' SELF: 'Rather!' MISS W.:
'He suggests one of Degousse's countrymen.' SELF: 'Exactly!'
They hadn't much use for books, except some Russian ones, and I acquired meri_n their eyes for having read Leprous Souls. If you talked to them about tha_ivine countryside, you found they didn't give a rap for it and had never bee_ mile beyond the village. But they admired greatly the sombre effect of _rain going into Marylebone station on a rainy day.
But it was the men who interested me most. Aronson, the novelist, proved o_cquaintance the worst kind of blighter. He considered himself a genius who_t was the duty of the country to support, and he sponged on his wretche_elatives and anyone who would lend him money. He was always babbling abou_is sins, and pretty squalid they were. I should like to have flung him amon_ few good old-fashioned full-blooded sinners of my acquaintance; they woul_ave scared him considerably. He told me that he sought 'reality' and 'life'
and 'truth', but it was hard to see how he could know much about them, for h_pent half the day in bed smoking cheap cigarettes, and the rest sunnin_imself in the admiration of half-witted girls. The creature was tuberculou_n mind and body, and the only novel of his I read, pretty well turned m_tomach. Mr Aronson's strong point was jokes about the war. If he heard of an_cquaintance who had joined up or was even doing war work his merriment kne_o bounds. My fingers used to itch to box the little wretch's ears.
Letchford was a different pair of shoes. He was some kind of a man, to begi_ith, and had an excellent brain and the worst manners conceivable. H_ontradicted everything you said, and looked out for an argument as othe_eople look for their dinner. He was a double-engined, high-speed pacificist, because he was the kind of cantankerous fellow who must always be in _inority. If Britain had stood out of the war he would have been a ravin_ilitarist, but since she was in it he had got to find reasons why she wa_rong. And jolly good reasons they were, too. I couldn't have met hi_rguments if I had wanted to, so I sat docilely at his feet. The world was al_rooked for Letchford, and God had created him with two left hands. But th_ellow had merits. He had a couple of jolly children whom he adored, and h_ould walk miles with me on a Sunday, and spout poetry about the beauty an_reatness of England. He was forty-five; if he had been thirty and in m_attalion I could have made a soldier out of him.
There were dozens more whose names I have forgotten, but they had one commo_haracteristic. They were puffed up with spiritual pride, and I used to amus_yself with finding their originals in the Pilgrim's Progress. When I tried t_udge them by the standard of old Peter, they fell woefully short. They shu_ut the war from their lives, some out of funk, some out of pure levity o_ind, and some because they were really convinced that the thing was al_rong. I think I grew rather popular in my role of the seeker after truth, th_onest colonial who was against the war by instinct and was looking fo_nstruction in the matter. They regarded me as a convert from an alien worl_f action which they secretly dreaded, though they affected to despise it.
Anyhow they talked to me very freely, and before long I had all the pacifis_rguments by heart. I made out that there were three schools. One objected t_ar altogether, and this had few adherents except Aronson and Weekes, C.O., now languishing in Dartmoor. The second thought that the Allies' cause wa_ainted, and that Britain had contributed as much as Germany to th_atastrophe. This included all the adherents of the L.D.A.—or League o_emocrats against Aggression—a very proud body. The third and much th_argest, which embraced everybody else, held that we had fought long enoug_nd that the business could now be settled by negotiation, since Germany ha_earned her lesson. I was myself a modest member of the last school, but I wa_radually working my way up to the second, and I hoped with luck to qualif_or the first. My acquaintances approved my progress. Letchford said I had _ore of fanaticism in my slow nature, and that I would end by waving the re_lag.
Spiritual pride and vanity, as I have said, were at the bottom of most o_hem, and, try as I might, I could find nothing very dangerous in it all. Thi_exed me, for I began to wonder if the mission which I had embarked on s_olemnly were not going to be a fiasco. Sometimes they worried me beyon_ndurance. When the news of Messines came nobody took the slightest interest, while I was aching to tooth every detail of the great fight. And when the_alked on military affairs, as Letchford and others did sometimes, it wa_ifficult to keep from sending them all to the devil, for their amateu_ocksureness would have riled Job. One had got to batten down the recollectio_f our fellows out there who were sweating blood to keep these fools snug. Ye_ found it impossible to be angry with them for long, they were so babyishl_nnocent. Indeed, I couldn't help liking them, and finding a sort of qualit_n them. I had spent three years among soldiers, and the British regular, great follow that he is, has his faults. His discipline makes him in a funk o_ed-tape and any kind of superior authority. Now these people were quit_onest and in a perverted way courageous. Letchford was, at any rate. I coul_o more have done what he did and got hunted off platforms by the crowd an_ooted at by women in the streets than I could have written his leadin_rticles.
All the same I was rather low about my job. Barring the episode of th_ansacking of my effects the first night, I had not a suspicion of a clue or _int of any mystery. The place and the people were as open and bright as _.M.C.A. hut. But one day I got a solid wad of comfort. In a corner o_etchford's paper, the Critic, I found a letter which was one of the steepes_ieces of invective I had ever met with. The writer gave tongue like a beagl_up about the prostitution, as he called it, of American republicanism to th_ices of European aristocracies. He declared that Senator La Follette was _uch-misunderstood patriot, seeing that he alone spoke for the toilin_illions who had no other friend. He was mad with President Wilson, and h_rophesied a great awakening when Uncle Sam got up against John Bull in Europ_nd found out the kind of standpatter he was. The letter was signed 'John S.
Blenkiron' and dated 'London, 3 July'.
The thought that Blenkiron was in England put a new complexion on my business.
I reckoned I would see him soon, for he wasn't the man to stand still in hi_racks. He had taken up the role he had played before he left in Decembe_915, and very right too, for not more than half a dozen people knew of th_rzerum affair, and to the British public he was only the man who had bee_ired out of the Savoy for talking treason. I had felt a bit lonely before, but now somewhere within the four corners of the island the best companion Go_ver made was writing nonsense with his tongue in his old cheek.
There was an institution in Biggleswick which deserves mention. On the sout_f the common, near the station, stood a red-brick building called the Moo_all, which was a kind of church for the very undevout population. Undevout i_he ordinary sense, I mean, for I had already counted twenty-seven varietie_f religious conviction, including three Buddhists, a Celestial Hierarch, fiv_atter-day Saints, and about ten varieties of Mystic whose names I could neve_emember. The hall had been the gift of the publisher I have spoken of, an_wice a week it was used for lectures and debates. The place was managed by _ommittee and was surprisingly popular, for it gave all the bubblin_ntellects a chance of airing their views. When you asked where somebody wa_nd were told he was 'at Moot,' the answer was spoken in the respectful ton_n which you would mention a sacrament.
I went there regularly and got my mind broadened to cracking point. We had al_he stars of the New Movements. We had Doctor Chirk, who lectured on 'God', which, as far as I could make out, was a new name he had invented for himself.
There was a woman, a terrible woman, who had come back from Russia with wha_he called a 'message of healing'. And to my joy, one night there was a grea_uck nigger who had a lot to say about 'Africa for the Africans'. I had a fe_ords with him in Sesutu afterwards, and rather spoiled his visit. Some of th_eople were extraordinarily good, especially one jolly old fellow who talke_bout English folk songs and dances, and wanted us to set up a Maypole. In th_ebates which generally followed I began to join, very coyly at first, bu_resently with some confidence. If my time at Biggleswick did nothing else i_aught me to argue on my feet.
The first big effort I made was on a full-dress occasion, when Launcelot Wak_ame down to speak. Mr Ivery was in the chair—the first I had seen of him—_lump middle-aged man, with a colourless face and nondescript features. I wa_ot interested in him till he began to talk, and then I sat bolt upright an_ook notice. For he was the genuine silver-tongue, the sentences flowing fro_is mouth as smooth as butter and as neatly dovetailed as a parquet floor. H_ad a sort of man-of-the-world manner, treating his opponents wit_ondescending geniality, deprecating all passion and exaggeration and makin_ou feel that his urbane statement must be right, for if he had wanted h_ould have put the case so much higher. I watched him, fascinated, studyin_is face carefully; and the thing that struck me was that there was nothing i_t—nothing, that is to say, to lay hold on. It was simply nondescript, s_lmightily commonplace that that very fact made it rather remarkable.
Wake was speaking of the revelations of the Sukhomhnov trial in Russia, whic_howed that Germany had not been responsible for the war. He was jolly good a_he job, and put as clear an argument as a first-class lawyer. I had bee_weating away at the subject and had all the ordinary case at my fingers'
ends, so when I got a chance of speaking I gave them a long harangue, wit_ome good quotations I had cribbed out of the Vossische Zeitung, whic_etchford lent me. I felt it was up to me to be extra violent, for I wanted t_stablish my character with Wake, seeing that he was a friend of Mary and Mar_ould know that I was playing the game. I got tremendously applauded, far mor_han the chief speaker, and after the meeting Wake came up to me with his ho_yes, and wrung my hand. 'You're coming on well, Brand,' he said, and then h_ntroduced me to Mr Ivery. 'Here's a second and a better Smuts,' he said.
Ivery made me walk a bit of the road home with him. 'I am struck by your gri_n these difficult problems, Mr Brand,' he told me. 'There is much I can tel_ou, and you may be of great value to our cause.' He asked me a lot o_uestions about my past, which I answered with easy mendacity. Before w_arted he made me promise to come one night to supper.
Next day I got a glimpse of Mary, and to my vexation she cut me dead. She wa_alking with a flock of bare-headed girls, all chattering hard, and though sh_aw me quite plainly she turned away her eyes. I had been waiting for my cue, so I did not lift my hat, but passed on as if we were strangers. I reckoned i_as part of the game, but that trifling thing annoyed me, and I spent a moros_vening.
The following day I saw her again, this time talking sedately with Mr Ivery, and dressed in a very pretty summer gown, and a broad-brimmed straw hat wit_lowers in it. This time she stopped with a bright smile and held out he_and. 'Mr Brand, isn't it?' she asked with a pretty hesitation. And then, turning to her companion—'This is Mr Brand. He stayed with us last month i_loucestershire.'
Mr Ivery announced that he and I were already acquainted. Seen in broa_aylight he was a very personable fellow, somewhere between forty-five an_ifty, with a middle-aged figure and a curiously young face. I noticed tha_here were hardly any lines on it, and it was rather that of a very wise chil_han that of a man. He had a pleasant smile which made his jaw and cheek_xpand like indiarubber. 'You are coming to sup with me, Mr Brand,' he crie_fter me. 'On Tuesday after Moot. I have already written.' He whisked Mar_way from me, and I had to content myself with contemplating her figure til_t disappeared round a bend of the road.
Next day in London I found a letter from Peter. He had been very solemn o_ate, and very reminiscent of old days now that he concluded his active lif_as over. But this time he was in a different mood. 'I think,' he wrote, 'tha_ou and I will meet again soon, my old friend. Do you remember when we wen_fter the big black-maned lion in the Rooirand and couldn't get on his track, and then one morning we woke up and said we would get him today?—and we did, but he very near got you first. I've had a feel these last days that we'r_oth going down into the Valley to meet with Apolyon, and that the devil wil_ive us a bad time, but anyhow we'll be together.'
I had the same kind of feel myself, though I didn't see how Peter and I wer_oing to meet, unless I went out to the Front again and got put in the bag an_ent to the same Boche prison. But I had an instinct that my time i_iggleswick was drawing to a close, and that presently I would be in roughe_uarters. I felt quite affectionate towards the place, and took all m_avourite walks, and drank my own health in the brew of the village inns, wit_ consciousness of saying goodbye. Also I made haste to finish my Englis_lassics, for I concluded I wouldn't have much time in the future fo_iscellaneous reading.
The Tuesday came, and in the evening I set out rather late for the Moot Hall, for I had been getting into decent clothes after a long, hot stride. When _eached the place it was pretty well packed, and I could only find a seat o_he back benches. There on the platform was Ivery, and beside him sat a figur_hat thrilled every inch of me with affection and a wild anticipation. 'I hav_ow the privilege,' said the chairman, 'of introducing to you the speaker who_e so warmly welcome, our fearless and indefatigable American friend, M_lenkiron.'
It was the old Blenkiron, but almightily changed. His stoutness had gone, an_e was as lean as Abraham Lincoln. Instead of a puffy face, his cheek-bone_nd jaw stood out hard and sharp, and in place of his former pasty colour hi_omplexion had the clear glow of health. I saw now that he was a splendi_igure of a man, and when he got to his feet every movement had the supplenes_f an athlete in training. In that moment I realized that my serious busines_ad now begun. My senses suddenly seemed quicker, my nerves tenser, my brai_ore active. The big game had started, and he and I were playing it together.
I watched him with strained attention. It was a funny speech, stuffed wit_xtravagance and vehemence, not very well argued and terribly discursive. Hi_ain point was that Germany was now in a fine democratic mood and might wel_e admitted into a brotherly partnership—that indeed she had never been in an_ther mood, but had been forced into violence by the plots of her enemies.
Much of it, I should have thought, was in stark defiance of the Defence of th_ealm Acts, but if any wise Scotland Yard officer had listened to it he woul_robably have considered it harmless because of its contradictions. It wa_ull of a fierce earnestness, and it was full of humour—long-drawn America_etaphors at which that most critical audience roared with laughter. But i_as not the kind of thing that they were accustomed to, and I could fancy wha_ake would have said of it. The conviction grew upon me that Blenkiron wa_eliberately trying to prove himself an honest idiot. If so, it was a hug_uccess. He produced on one the impression of the type of sentimenta_evolutionary who ruthlessly knifes his opponent and then weeps and prays ove_is tomb.
Just at the end he seemed to pull himself together and to try a littl_rgument. He made a great point of the Austrian socialists going to Stockholm, going freely and with their Government's assent, from a country which it_ritics called an autocracy, while the democratic western peoples held back.
'I admit I haven't any real water-tight proof,' he said, 'but I will bet m_ottom dollar that the influence which moved the Austrian Government to allo_his embassy of freedom was the influence of Germany herself. And that is th_and from which the Allied Pharisees draw in their skirts lest their garment_e defiled!'
He sat down amid a good deal of applause, for his audience had not been bored, though I could see that some of them thought his praise of Germany a bi_teep. It was all right in Biggleswick to prove Britain in the wrong, but i_as a slightly different thing to extol the enemy. I was puzzled about hi_ast point, for it was not of a piece with the rest of his discourse, and _as trying to guess at his purpose. The chairman referred to it in hi_oncluding remarks. 'I am in a position,' he said, 'to bear out all that th_ecturer has said. I can go further. I can assure him on the best authorit_hat his surmise is correct, and that Vienna's decision to send delegates t_tockholm was largely dictated by representations from Berlin. I am given t_nderstand that the fact has in the last few days been admitted in th_ustrian Press.'
A vote of thanks was carried, and then I found myself shaking hands with Iver_hile Blenkiron stood a yard off, talking to one of the Misses Weekes. Th_ext moment I was being introduced.
'Mr Brand, very pleased to meet you,' said the voice I knew so well. 'Mr Iver_as been telling me about you, and I guess we've got something to say to eac_ther. We're both from noo countries, and we've got to teach the old nations _ittle horse-sense.'
Mr Ivery's car—the only one left in the neighbourhood—carried us to his villa, and presently we were seated in a brightly-lit dining- room. It was not _retty house, but it had the luxury of an expensive hotel, and the supper w_ad was as good as any London restaurant. Gone were the old days of fish an_oast and boiled milk. Blenkiron squared his shoulders and showed himself _oble trencherman.
'A year ago,' he told our host, 'I was the meanest kind of dyspeptic. I ha_he love of righteousness in my heart, but I had the devil in my stomach. The_ heard stories about the Robson Brothers, the star surgeons way out west i_hite Springs, Nebraska. They were reckoned the neatest hands in the world a_arving up a man and removing devilments from his intestines. Now, sir, I'v_lways fought pretty shy of surgeons, for I considered that our Maker neve_ntended His handiwork to be reconstructed like a bankrupt Dago railway. Bu_y that time I was feeling so almighty wretched that I could have paid a ma_o put a bullet through my head. "There's no other way," I said to myself.
"Either you forget your religion and your miserable cowardice and get cut up, or it's you for the Golden Shore." So I set my teeth and journeyed to Whit_prings, and the Brothers had a look at my duodenum. They saw that the darne_hing wouldn't do, so they sidetracked it and made a noo route for my noo- trition traffic. It was the cunningest piece of surgery since the Lord took _ib out of the side of our First Parent. They've got a mighty fine way o_harging, too, for they take five per cent of a man's income, and it's all on_o them whether he's a Meat King or a clerk on twenty dollars a week. I ca_ell you I took some trouble to be a very rich man last year.'
All through the meal I sat in a kind of stupor. I was trying to assimilate th_ew Blenkiron, and drinking in the comfort of his heavenly drawl, and I wa_uzzling my head about Ivery. I had a ridiculous notion that I had seen hi_efore, but, delve as I might into my memory, I couldn't place him. He was th_ncarnation of the commonplace, a comfortable middle-class sentimentalist, wh_atronized pacificism out of vanity, but was very careful not to dip his hand_oo far. He was always damping down Blenkiron's volcanic utterances. 'O_ourse, as you know, the other side have an argument which I find rather har_o meet … ' 'I can sympathize with patriotism, and even with jingoism, i_ertain moods, but I always come back to this difficulty.' 'Our opponents ar_ot ill-meaning so much as ill-judging,'—these were the sort of sentences h_ept throwing in. And he was full of quotations from private conversations h_ad had with every sort of person—including members of the Government. _emember that he expressed great admiration for Mr Balfour.
Of all that talk, I only recalled one thing clearly, and I recalled it becaus_lenkiron seemed to collect his wits and try to argue, just as he had done a_he end of his lecture. He was speaking about a story he had heard fro_omeone, who had heard it from someone else, that Austria in the last week o_uly 1914 had accepted Russia's proposal to hold her hand and negotiate, an_hat the Kaiser had sent a message to the Tsar saying he agreed. According t_is story this telegram had been received in Petrograd, and had been re- written, like Bismarck's Ems telegram, before it reached the Emperor. H_xpressed his disbelief in the yarn. 'I reckon if it had been true,' he said,
'we'd have had the right text out long ago. They'd have kept a copy in Berlin.
All the same I did hear a sort of rumour that some kind of message of tha_ort was published in a German paper.'
Mr Ivery looked wise. 'You are right,' he said. 'I happen to know that it ha_een published. You will find it in the Wieser Zeitung.'
'You don't say?' he said admiringly. 'I wish I could read the old tombston_anguage. But if I could they wouldn't let me have the papers.'
'Oh yes they would.' Mr Ivery laughed pleasantly. 'England has still a goo_hare of freedom. Any respectable person can get a permit to import the enem_ress. I'm not considered quite respectable, for the authorities have a narro_efinition of patriotism, but happily I have respectable friends.'
Blenkiron was staying the night, and I took my leave as the clock struc_welve. They both came into the hall to see me off, and, as I was helpin_yself to a drink, and my host was looking for my hat and stick, I suddenl_eard Blenkiron's whisper in my ear. 'London … the day after tomorrow,' h_aid. Then he took a formal farewell. 'Mr Brand, it's been an honour for me, as an American citizen, to make your acquaintance, sir. I will consider mysel_ortunate if we have an early reunion. I am stopping at Claridge's Ho-tel, an_ hope to be privileged to receive you there.'