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The General was dumfounded. “Why!” he gasped. “How? Who told you? How could you—”

Montague had to wait a minute or two until his friend had got over his dismay.

“I cannot help it,” he burst out, finally. “What can I do?”

“You can refuse to play their game!” exclaimed Montague.

“But don't you suppose that they would do it just the same? And how long do you suppose that I would last, if I refused them?”

“But think of what it means!” cried Montague. “Think of the ruin! You will bring everything about your head.”

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“I know, I know!” cried the General, in a voice of anguish. “Don't think that I haven't realised it—don't think that I haven't fought against it! But I am helpless, utterly helpless.”

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He turned upon Montague, and caught his sleeve with a trembling hand. “I never thought that I would live to face such an hour,” he exclaimed. “To despise myself—to be despised by all the world! To be browbeaten, and insulted, and dragged about—”

The old man paused, choking with excess of emotion. “Look at me!” he cried, with sudden vehemence. “Look at me! You think that I am a man, a person of influence in the community, the head of a great institution in which thousands of people have faith. But I am nothing of the kind. I am a puppet—I am a sham—I am a disgrace to myself and to the name I bear!”

And suddenly he clasped his hands over his face, and bowed his head, so that Montague should not see his grief.

There was a long silence. Montague was dumb with horror. He felt that his mere presence was an outrage.

Finally the General looked up again. He clenched his hand, and mastered himself.

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“I have chosen my part,” he said. “I must play it through. What I feel about it makes no difference.”