Julia turned and looked slowly at her questioner. Her cheeks seemed more pallid than usual, her eyes were full of smouldering fire.
“I didn’t write to interest people,” she said calmly. “I wrote to punish them, to let them know a little of what they were guilty.”
“But surely,” Elisabeth protested, “you make some excuse for those who have really no opportunity for finding out? There is a society now, I am told, for watching over the conditions of woman labour in the east end. Is that so really?”
“There is such a society,” Julia admitted. “I am the secretary of it.”
“You must let me join,” Elisabeth begged. “Please do. Won’t you come and see me one afternoon—any afternoon—and tell me all about it? Indeed I am in earnest,” she went on, a little puzzled at the other’s unresponsiveness. “This isn’t just a whim. I am really interested in these matters, but it is so hard to help, unless one is put in the right way.”
“The time has passed,” Julia pronounced, “when patronage is of any assistance to such societies as the one we were speaking of. Nothing is of any use now but hard, grim work. We don’t want money. We don’t need support of any kind whatever. We need work and brains.”
“I am afraid,” Elisabeth said, as she held out her hand, “that you think I am incapable of either.”
Julia’s lips were tightly compressed. She made no reply. Mr. Foley glanced back at her curiously as they stepped into the car.
“What a singularly forbidding young woman!” he remarked.
Elisabeth shrugged her shoulders. It is given to women to understand much! . . . The car glided off. As they neared the corner of the Square, they passed a stout, foreign-looking man with an enormous head, a soft grey hat set far back, a quantity of fair hair, and the ingenuous, eager look of a child. He was hurrying towards the corner house and scarcely glanced in their direction. Mr. Foley, however, leaned forward with interest.
“Who is that strange-looking person?” Elisabeth asked.
Mr. Foley became impressive.
“One of the greatest writers and philosophers of the day,” he replied. “I expect he is on his way to see Maraton. That was Henry Selingman.”
Selingman took little heed of the cordon around Maraton. He brushed them all to one side, and when at last confronted by the final barrier, in the shape of Julia, he only patted her gently upon the back.
“Ah, but my dear child,” he exclaimed, “you do not understand! Listen. I raise my voice, I shout—like this—’Maraton, it is I who am here—Selingman!’ You see, he will come if he is within hearing. You know of me, you pale-faced child? You have heard of Selingman, is it not so?”
Before Julia could answer, the door of the study was opened.
“Come in,” Maraton called out from an invisible place.