“What devilish impulse,” he muttered, “leads these men to pass into your rotten English politics! It is like a poet trying to navigate a dredger. Bah!”
“Need you go into that gloomy chamber again, my friend?”
Maraton shook his head.
“I have finished,” he declared. “There will be no division.”
“But do you never speak there?”
“Up to now I have not uttered more than a dozen words or so,” Maraton replied. “You try it yourself—try speaking to a crowd of well-dressed, well-fed, smug units of respectability, each with his mind full of his own affairs or the affairs of his constituency. You try it. You wouldn’t find the words stream, I can tell you.”
“And now—what now?”
“To my rooms—to my house,” Maraton announced, “while I change.”
“It is good. I shall talk to your secretary. I shall talk to Miss Julia while you disappear. Shall I rob you, my friend?”
“You would rob me of a great deal if you took her away,” Maraton answered, “but—”
Selingman interrupted him with a fiercely contemptuous exclamation.
“You have it—the rotten, insular conceit of these Englishmen! You think that she would not come? Do you think that if I were to say to her,—’Come and listen while I make garlands of words, while I take you through the golden doors!’—do you think that she would not put her hand in mine? Fancy—to live in my fairy chamber, to listen while I give shape and substance to all that I conceive—what woman would refuse!”
Maraton laughed softly as they passed out into the Palace yard.
“Try Julia,” he suggested.
Selingman had the air of one who has achieved a personal triumph as, with his arm in Maraton’s, he led him towards the man whom they had come to visit.
“Behold!” he exclaimed. “It is a triumph, this! It is a thing to be remembered! I have brought you two together!”
Maraton’s first impressions of Maxendorf were curiously mixed. He saw before him a tall, lanky figure of a man, dressed in sombre black, a man of dark complexion, with beardless face and tanned skin plentifully freckled. His hair and eyes were coal black. He held out his hand to Maraton, but the smile with which he had welcomed Selingman had passed from his lips.
“You are not the Maraton I expected some day to meet,” he said, a little bluntly, “and yet I am glad to know you.”
Selingman shrugged his shoulders.
“Max—my friend Max, do not be peevish,” he begged. “I tell you that he is the Maraton of whom we have spoken together. I have heard him. I have been to Sheffield and listened. Don’t be prejudiced, Max. Wait.”
Maxendorf motioned them to seats and stood with his finger upon the bell.
“Yes,” Selingman assented, “we will drink with you. You breathe of the Rhine, my friend. I see myself sitting with you in your terraced garden, drinking Moselle wine out of cut glasses. So it shall be. We will fall into the atmosphere. What a palace you live in, Max! Is it because you are an ambassador that they must house you so splendidly?”