The Kingdom of the Blind HTML version

Chapter 27
Mr. Gordon Jones, who had moved his chair a little closer to his host's side, looked
reflectively around the dining-room as he sipped his port. The butler remained on
sufferance because of his grey hairs, but the footmen, who had been rather a feature of
the Anselman establishment, had departed, and their places had been filled by half a
dozen of the smartest of parlourmaids, one or two of whom were still in evidence.
"Yours is certainly one of the most patriotic households, Sir Alfred, which I have
entered," he declared. "Tell me again, how many servants have you sent to the war?"
Sir Alfred smiled with the air of one a little proud of his record.
"Four footmen and two chauffeurs from here, eleven gardeners and three indoor servants
from the country," he replied. "That is to say nothing about the farms, where I have left
matters in the hands of my agents. I am paying the full wages to every one of them."
"And thank heavens you'll still have to pay us a little super-tax," the Cabinet Minister
remarked, smiling.
Sir Alfred found nothing to dismay him in the prospect.
"You shall have every penny of it, my friend," he promised. "I have taken a quart of a
million of your war loan and I shall take the sam amount of your next one. I spend all my
time upon your committees, my own affairs scarcely interest me, and yet I thought to-
day, when my car was stopped to let a company of the London Regiment march down to
Charing-Cross, that there wasn't one of those khaki-clad young men who wasn't offering
more than I."
The Bishop leaned forward from his place.
"Those are noteworthy words of yours, Sir Alfred," he said. "There is nothing in the
whole world so utterly ineffective as our own passionate gratitude must seem to ourselves
when we think of all those young fellows--not soldiers, you know, but young men of
peace, fond of their pleasures, their games, their sweethearts, their work--throwing it all
on one side, passing into another life, passing into the valley of shadows. I, too, have seen
those young men, Sir Alfred."
The conversation became general. The host of this little dinner-party leaned back in his
place for a moment, engrossed in thought. It was a very distinguished, if not a large
company. There were three Cabinet Ministers, a high official in the War Office, a bishop,
a soldier of royal blood back for a few days from the Front, and his own nephew--Granet.
He sat and looked round at them and a queer little smile played upon his lips. If only the
truth were known, the world had never seen a stranger gathering. It was a company which
the King himself might have been proud to gather around him; serious, representative