The Whirl (Illustrated)

The Whirl (Illustrated)

by Foxcroft Davis

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Overview

Few men have the goal of their ambition in sight at thirty-eight years of age. But Sir Percy Carlyon had, when he was appointed First Secretary of the British Embassy at Washington, with a very well-arranged scheme worked out by which, at the end of four years, he was to succeed his uncle, Lord Baudesert, the present Ambassador. This realisation of his dreams came to Sir Percy on a December afternoon dark and sharp, as he tramped over the frozen ground through the stark and leafless woods, which may yet be found close to Washington.
He was a great walker, this thin, sinewy Englishman with a sun-browned skin, burnt by many summers in India and weather-beaten by many winters in the snowbound depths of the Balkans. He had the straight features and clear, scintillant eyes which are the marks of race among his kind, but no one would have been more surprised than Sir Percy if he had been called handsome. Within him, on this bleak December afternoon, was a sensation strange to him after many years: the feeling of hope and almost of joy. He stopped in the silent heart of the woods, and, leaning against the gnarled trunk of a live oak, thrust his hands into his pockets and glanced, with brightening eyes, towards the west. A faint, rosy line upon the horizon was visible through the naked woods; all else in sky and earth was dun-coloured.
To Sir Percy Carlyon this thread of radiance was a promise of the future. This was, to him, almost the first moment of retrospection since the day, two months before, when, in the Prime Minister's rooms in Downing Street, a new life in a new country opened before him. Since then--amid the official and personal preparations necessary to take up his post, his seven days on the Atlantic, during which he worked hard on pressing business, the necessary first visits upon his arrival--Sir Percy had scarcely enjoyed an hour to himself. He had found the Embassy overwhelmed with affairs, about which his uncle, Lord Baudesert, coolly refused to bother himself, but which Sir Percy, as a practical man, felt obliged to take up and carry through. That day, only, had he, by hard and systematic work, caught up what was called by Lord Baudesert, with a grin, the "unfinished business" at the British Embassy, but which really meant the neglected business of a lazy, clever old diplomatist who never did to-day what he could put off until to-morrow.
Lord Baudesert had been many years at Washington, and had a thorough knowledge not only of the affairs of the American people, but of their temper, their prejudices and their passions. In an emergency his natural abilities, and a kind of superhuman adroitness which he possessed, together with the vast fund of knowledge that he had accumulated, but rarely used, made him a valuable person to the Foreign Office. However, as soon as the emergency passed Lord Baudesert returned to his usual occupation of studying the American newspapers and anything else which could add to the already vast stock of knowledge which he possessed, but rarely condescended to use.
The Embassy was presided over by Lord Baudesert's widowed sister, Mrs. Vereker, an amiable old sheep of the early Victorian type. Then there were three lamb-like Vereker girls, Jane, Sarah and Isabella, all likewise early Victorian, who regarded their uncle as a combination of Bluebeard and Solomon, and altogether the most important and the most terrifying person on this planet. Lord Baudesert's favourite instrument of torture to the ladies of his family was the threat to marry an American widow with billions of money. How this would have unfavourably affected her the excellent Mrs. Vereker could not have told to save her life--but the mere hint always gave her acute misery.
The secretaries of the Embassy were very well-meaning young men, who attended to their work as well as they knew how, but as Lord Baudesert seldom took the trouble to read a document, and would not sign his name to anything which he had not read, it was difficult to get business transacted. When Sir Percy Carlyon was getting his instructions from the Prime Minister concerning his post of First Secretary at Washington the Premier had remarked:
"Your uncle, you know, is the laziest man God ever made, but he is also one of the cleverest. No living Englishman knows as much about American affairs as Lord Baudesert, or has ever made himself so acceptable to the American people, but when he isn't doing us the greatest service in the world, he lets everything go hang. We are sending you to Washington to get some work done. I hear you can bully Lord Baudesert in every particular."
"Except one," Sir Percy had replied. "Neither I, nor anybody else, nor the devil himself, could make Lord Baudesert work when he doesn't want to."
Sir Percy, on this December afternoon in the woods, reviewed in his own mind his whole diplomatic career up to the point of that interview.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940149537594
Publisher: Lost Leaf Publications
Publication date: 03/13/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 365 KB

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