The Half-Hearted HTML version

20. The Eastern Road
If you travel abroad in certain seasons you will find that a type predominates among the
travellers. From Dover to Calais, from Calais to Paris, there is an unnatural eagerness
on faces, an unrest in gait, a disorder in dress which argues worry and haste. And if you
inquire further, being of a speculative turn, you will find that there is something in the air.
The papers, French and English, have ugly headlines and mystic leaders. Disquiet is in
the atmosphere, each man has a solution or a secret, and far at the back sits some
body of men who know that a crisis is near and square their backs for it. The journalist
is sick with work and fancied importance; the diplomat's hair whitens with the game
which he cannot understand; the statesman, if he be wise, is in fear, knowing the
meaning of such movements, while, if he be foolish, he chirps optimistically in his
speeches and is applauded in the press. There are grey faces at the seats of the
money-changers, for war, the scourge of small cords, seems preparing for the
overturning of their tables, and the castigation of their persons.
Lewis and George rang the bell in the Faubourg St. Honoré on a Monday afternoon,
and asked for Lord Rideaux. His lordship was out, but, if they were the English
gentlemen who had the appointment with M. Gribton, Monsieur would be with them
Lewis looked about the heavily furnished ante-room with its pale yellow walls and thick,
green curtains, with the air of a man trying to recall a memory. "I came over here with
John Lambert, when his father had the place. That was just after I left Oxford. Gad, I
was a happy man then. I thought I could do anything. They put me next to Madame de
Ravignet because of my French, and because old Ankerville declared that I ought to
know the cleverest woman in Europe. Séry, the man who was Premier last year, came
and wrung my hand afterwards, said my fortune was assured because I had impressed
the Ravignet, and no one had ever done it before except Bismarck. Ugh, the place is full
of ghosts Poor old John died a year after, and here am I, far enough, God knows, from
my good intentions."
A servant announced "Monsieur Gribton," and a little grizzled man hobbled in, leaning
heavily on a stick. He wore a short beard, and in his tanned face two clever grey eyes
twinkled sedately. He shook hands gravely when Lewis introduced George, but his eyes
immediately returned to the former's face.
"You look a fit pair," he said. "I am instructed to give you all the help in my power, but I
should like to know your game. It isn't sport this time, is it, Haystoun? Logan is still
talking about his week with you. Well, well, we can do things at our leisure. I have letters
to write, and then it will be dinner-time, when we can talk. Come to the club at eight,