They were of an age, Sir Humphrey and himself. They had gone to Oxford together. Sir Humphrey reading classics and he philosophy. Sir Humphrey had once asked him what he thought to do with philosophy in the Civil Service.
"I'll make things subjective and relative and everything a matter of opinion," he had replied. He had just been Arnold then and Sir Humphrey had just been Humpy or Appleby depending on who was speaking. And he had nodded in agreement and said he understood. "And Classics?"
"I'll help you make things subjective and relative," he had said it with a shrug. "If you word things correctly the sentence can mean anything. The situation can mean anything."
That was true. He had remembered thinking. That was very true.
And he remembered watching, a year or so ago, where Sir Humphrey's eyes wandered. They wandered towards the waiter then towards the back of the room, towards the new boy at the time, a Bernard Woolley who wasn't yet a high flier but certainly bright. Bernard had been a no one and now he was a someone, now they both were someones and so it would hurt all the more if they fell.
Sir Arnold thought it a shame, a damn shame, that to the public at least, not everything was subjective, not everything was relative, not everything was a matter of opinion. Some things, to the public, were very much a matter of black and white and where Sir Humphrey's eyes wandered was, unfortunately, a matter of black and white.