2. The Gathering of the Missionaries
I wrote out a wire to Sandy, asking him to come up by the two-fifteen train and meet me
at my flat.
'I have chosen my colleague,' I said.
'Billy Arbuthnot's boy? His father was at Harrow with me. I know the fellow - Harry used
to bring him down to fish - tallish, with a lean, high-boned face and a pair of brown eyes
like a pretty girl's. I know his record, too. There's a good deal about him in this office. He
rode through Yemen, which no white man ever did before. The Arabs let him pass, for
they thought him stark mad and argued that the hand of Allah was heavy enough on
him without their efforts. He's blood-brother to every kind of Albanian bandit. Also he
used to take a hand in Turkish politics, and got a huge reputation. Some Englishman
was once complaining to old Mahmoud Shevkat about the scarcity of statesmen in
Western Europe, and Mahmoud broke in with, "Have you not the Honourable
Arbuthnot?" You say he's in your battalion. I was wondering what had become of him,
for we tried to get hold of him here, but he had left no address. Ludovick Arbuthnot -
yes, that's the man. Buried deep in the commissioned ranks of the New Army? Well,
we'll get him out pretty quick!'
'I knew he had knocked about the East, but I didn't know he was that kind of swell.
Sandy's not the chap to buck about himself.'
'He wouldn't,' said Sir Walter. 'He had always a more than Oriental reticence. I've got
another colleague for you, if you like him.'
He looked at his watch. 'You can get to the Savoy Grill Room in five minutes in a taxi-
cab. Go in from the Strand, turn to your left, and you will see in the alcove on the right-
hand side a table with one large American gentleman sitting at it. They know him there,
so he will have the table to himself. I want you to go and sit down beside him. Say you
come from me. His name is Mr John Scantlebury Blenkiron, now a citizen of Boston,
Mass., but born and raised in Indiana. Put this envelope in your pocket, but don't read
its contents till you have talked to him. I want you to form your own opinion about Mr
I went out of the Foreign Office in as muddled a frame of mind as any diplomatist who
ever left its portals. I was most desperately depressed. To begin with, I was in a
complete funk. I had always thought I was about as brave as the average man, but
there's courage and courage, and mine was certainly not the impassive kind. Stick me
down in a trench and I could stand being shot at as well as most people, and my blood
could get hot if it were given a chance. But I think I had too much imagination. I couldn't
shake off the beastly forecasts that kept crowding my mind.