"You understand?"

"Perfectly," I answered.

"And you entirely follow my argument?"


"It is imperative that active steps must be taken to preserve England's
supremacy, and at the same time frustrate this aggressive policy towards
us which is undoubtedly growing. I need not tell you that the outlook is
far from reassuring. As a diplomatist you know that as well as I do. The
war-cloud which rose over Europe at the end of the last Administration
is still darkening. It therefore behoves us to avoid a repetition of the
recent fiasco at St. Petersburg with regard to Port Arthur, and strive
to prevent foreign diplomacy from again getting the better of us. You
quite follow me?"

"I have always striven to do my utmost towards that end," I answered.

"I know, Crawford. I'm perfectly conscious of that, otherwise I should
not have spoken so plainly as I have now done. Recollect that I've taken
you into my confidence in this matter. You did well--exceedingly
well--in Vienna, and showed most creditable tact and forethought.
Because of that I have recalled you and selected you for this particular
duty." And the speaker, the Most Honourable the Marquess of
Macclesfield, K.G., her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for
Foreign Affairs, paused with his dark expressive eyes fixed upon me.
Under those eyes many a foreign diplomatist had quivered, for so keen
was he of perception that he could divine one's inmost thoughts. This
calm, thin, gray-faced, rather shabbily attired man, the great statesman
upon whose actions and decisions the prosperity and integrity of the
British Empire depended, had, from the earliest moment when I had
entered the Foreign Office, treated me with friendly consideration and
kindly regard, and now as, late on that dull afternoon in February, I
sat in his private room in Downing street, whither I had been summoned
from the Embassy at Constantinople, he spoke to me not as my master, but
as my friend and counsellor.

As an attache at Vienna, at Rome, and at the Porte I had worked under
Ambassadors of various moods, but by this feeling of friendliness which
the Marquess had extended towards me, I had, in my duties, always felt
that I was serving the great statesman personally, and not merely the
particular chief which for the time I chanced to be under. Undoubtedly
the secret of the success of the Macclesfield Ministry in the management
of foreign affairs was in great measure due to the amicability of his
lordship towards the staff.

"I cannot disguise from myself that this duty is extremely difficult,"
he went on, leaning back in his chair after a pause, and glancing around
the fine room, with its life-sized portrait of her Majesty upon the
green painted wall. "Nevertheless, secret services must sometimes be
performed, and I have sufficient confidence in your diplomatic instinct
to know that you will never act rashly, nor display any ill-advised
zeal. The secret of England's greatness is her smart diplomacy, and in
this affair you have, Crawford, every chance of distinction."

Used availability for William le Queux's Of Royal Blood