“Enough!” he said. “The words have been spoken. To-morrow or the next day we meet again. Go to your study, Maraton, and think. Lock the door. Turn out the Julia I shall some day rob you of. Hold your head, look into the future. Think! Think! No more words now. They do no good. Come. I stay with Maxendorf. I go with you to the lift.”
Maxendorf held out his hand.
“Selingman is, as usual, right,” he confessed. “We are speaking in a great language, Maraton. It is enough for to-night, perhaps. Come back to me when you will within the next forty-eight hours.”
They left him there, a curious figure, straight and motionless, standing upon the threshold of his room. Selingman gripped Maraton by the arm as he hurried him along the corridor.
“You’ve doubts, Maraton,” he muttered. “Doubts! Curse them! They are not worthy. You should see the truth. You’re big enough. You will see it to-morrow. Get out of the fog. Maxendorf is the most profound thinker of these days. He is over here with that scheme of his deep in his heart. It’s become a passion with him. We have talked of it by the hour, spoken of you, prayed for some prophet on your side with eyes to see the truth. Into the lift with you, man. Look for me to-morrow. Farewell!”
Maraton was more than ever conscious, as he climbed the stairs of the house in Downing Street an hour or so later, of a certain fragility of appearance in Mr. Foley, markedly apparent during these last few weeks. He was standing talking to Lord Armley, who was one of the late arrivals, as Maraton entered, talking in a low tone and with an obviously serious manner. At the sound of Maraton’s name, however, he turned swiftly around. His face seemed to lighten. He held out his hand with an air almost of relief.
“So you have come!” he exclaimed. “I am glad.”
Maraton shook hands and would have passed on, but Mr. Foley detained him.
“Armley and I were talking about this after noon’s decision,” he continued. “There will be no secret about it to-morrow. It has been decided to carry out our autumn manoeuvred as usual in South em waters.”
“I am afraid that is one of the things the significance of which fails to reach me,” he remarked. “You were against it, were you not?”
Mr. Foley groaned softly.
“My friend,” he said, “there is only one fault with the Members of my Government, only one fault with this country. We are all foolishly and blindly sanguine. We are optimistic by persuasion and self-persuasion. We like the comfortable creed. I suppose that the bogey of war has strutted with us for so long that we have grown used to it.”
Maraton looked at his companion thoughtfully.
“Do you seriously believe, Mr. Foley,” he asked in an undertone, “in the possibility, in the imminent possibility of war?”