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A Conference Of The Powers
by [?]

Life liveth but in life, and doth not roam
To other lands if all be well at home:
“Solid as ocean foam,” quoth ocean foam.

The room was blue with the smoke of three pipes and a cigar. The leave-season had opened in India, and the first-fruits on this side of the water were “Tick” Boileau, of the 45th Bengal Cavalry, who called on me, after three years’ absence, to discuss old things which had happened. Fate, who always does her work handsomely, sent up the same staircase within the same hour The Infant, fresh from Upper Burma, and he and Boileau looking out of my window saw walking in the street one Nevin, late in a Goorkha regiment which had been through the Black Mountain Expedition. They yelled to him to come up, and the whole Street was aware that they desired him to come up, and he came up, and there followed Pandemonium in my room because we had foregathered from the ends of the earth, and three of us were on a holiday, and none of us were twenty-five, and all the delights of all London lay waiting our pleasure.

Boileau took the only other chair, The Infant, by right of his bulk, the sofa; and Nevin, being a little man, sat cross-legged on the top of the revolving bookcase, and we all said, “Who’d ha’ thought it!” and “What are you doing here?” till speculation was exhausted and the talk went over to inevitable “shop.” Boileau was full of a great scheme for winning a military attach�-ship at St. Petersburg; Nevin had hopes of the Staff College, and The Infant had been moving heaven and earth and the Horse Guards for a commission in the Egyptian army.

“What’s the use o’ that?” said Nevin, twirling round on the bookcase.

“Oh, heaps! ‘Course if you get stuck with a Fellaheen regiment, you’re sold; but if you are appointed to a Soudanese lot, you’re in clover. They are first-class fighting-men – and just think of the eligible central position of Egypt in the next row!”

This was putting the match to a magazine. We all began to explain the Central Asian question off-hand, flinging army corps from the Helmund to Kashmir with more than Russian recklessness. Each of the boys made for himself a war to his own liking, and when we had settled all the details of Armageddon, killed all our senior officers, handled a division apiece, and nearly torn the atlas in two in attempts to explain our theories, Boileau needs must lift up his voice above the clamour, and cry, “Anyhow it’ll be the hell of a row!” in tones that carried conviction far down the staircase.

Entered, unperceived in the smoke, William the Silent. “Gen’elman to see you, sir,” said he, and disappeared, leaving in his stead none other than Mr. Eustace Cleever. William would have introduced the Dragon of Wantley with equal disregard of present company.

“I – I beg your pardon. I didn’t know that there was anybody – with you. -“

But it was not seemly to allow Mr. Cleever to depart; he was a great man. The boys remained where they were, for any movement would have choked up the little room. Only when they saw his gray hairs they stood on their feet, and when The Infant caught the name, he said:

“Are you – did you write that book called ‘As it was in the Beginning’?”

Mr. Cleever admitted that he had written the book.

“Then – then I don’t know how to thank you, sir,” said The Infant, flushing pink. “I was brought up in the country you wrote about – all my people live there; and I read the book in camp on the Hlinedatalone, and I knew every stick and stone, and the dialect too; and, by Jove! it was just like being at home and hearing the country people talk. Nevin, you know ‘As it was in the Beginning’? So does Ti – Boileau.”