“Why especially?” demanded Peter.
Langton stretched himself. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “Perhaps because society’s agin ’em.”
“Look here, Langton,” said Peter. “Do you hear what I say? Damn society! Besides, do you think your description applies to that girl?”
Langton smiled. “No,” he said, “I shouldn’t think so, but she’s not your sort, Peter. When you take that tunic off, you’ve got to put on a black coat. Whatever conclusions you come to, don’t forget that.”
“Have I?” said Peter; “I wonder.”
Langton got up. “Of course you have,” he said. “Life’s a bit of a farce, but one’s got to play it. See here, I believe in facing facts and getting one’s eyes open, but not in making oneself a fool. Nothing’s worth that.”
“Isn’t it?” said Peter; and again, “I wonder.”
“Well, I don’t, and at any rate I’m for bed. Good-night.”
“Good-night,” said Peter; “I’m off too. But I don’t agree with you. I’m inclined to think exactly the opposite—that anything worth having is worth making oneself a fool over. What is a fool, anyway? Good-night.”
He closed the door, and Langton walked over to the window to open it. He stood there a few minutes listening to the silence. Then a cock crew somewhere, and was answered far away by another. “Yes,” said Langton to himself, “what is a fool, anyway?”
The Lessing family sat at dinner, and it was to be observed that some of those incredible wonders at which Peter Graham had once hinted to Hilda had come about. There were only three courses, and Mr. Lessing had but one glass of wine, for one thing; for another he was actually in uniform, and was far more proud of his corporal’s stripes than he had previously been of his churchwarden’s staff of office. Nor was he only in the Volunteers; he was actually in training to some extent, and the war had at any rate done him good. His wife was not dressed for dinner either; she had just come in from a war committee of some sort. A solitary maid waited on them, and they had already given up fires in the dining-room. Not that Mr. Lessing’s income had appreciably diminished, but, quite honestly, he and his were out to win the war. He had come to the conclusion at last that business could not go on as usual, but, routed out of that stronghold, he had made for himself another. The war was now to him a business. He viewed it in that light.
“We must stop them,” he was saying. “Mark my words, they’ll never get to Amiens. Did you see Haig’s last order to the troops? Not another inch was to be given at any cost. We shan’t give either. We’ve got to win this war; there’s too much at stake for us to lose. Whoever has to foot the bill for this business is ruined, and it’s not going to be Great Britain. They were saying in the Hall to-night that the Army is as cheerful as possible: that’s the best sign. I doubt the German Army is. Doesn’t Graham say anything about it, Hilda?”