Maraton, too, had risen to his feet. He had turned slightly and his eyes were fixed upon the door through which Elisabeth had passed. For a moment or two he seemed deep in thought. The immobility of his features was at last disturbed. His eyes were wonderfully bright, his lips were a little parted.
“On Saturday,” Mr. Foley continued, “we leave for our country home. For two days we shall be alone. It is not far away—an hour by rail. Will you come, Mr. Maraton?”
Maraton withdrew his eyes from the door. “It seems a little useless,” he said quietly. “Will you give me until to-morrow to think it over?”
Maraton made his way from Downing Street on foot, curiously enough altogether escaping recognition from the crowds who were still hanging about on the chance of catching a glimpse of him. He was somehow conscious, as he turned northwards, of a peculiar sense of exhilaration, a savour in life unexpected, not altogether analysable. As a rule, the streets themselves supplied him with illimitable food for thought; the passing multitudes, the ceaseless flow of the human stream, justification absolute and most complete for the new faith of which he was the prophet. For the cause of the people had only been recognised during recent days as something entirely distinct from the Socialism and Syndicalism which had been its precursors. It was Maraton himself who had raised it to the level of a religion.
To-night, however, there was a curious background to his thoughts. Some part of his earlier life seemed stirred up in the man. The one selfishness permitted to rank as a virtue in his sex was alive. His heart had ceased to throb with the loiterers, the flotsam and jetsam of the gutters. For the moment he was cast loose from the absorbed and serious side of his career. A curious wave of sentiment had enveloped him, a wave of sentiment unanalysable and as yet impersonal; he walked as a man in a dream. For the first time he had seen and recognised the imperishable thing in a woman’s face.
He reached at last one of the large, somewhat gloomy squares in the district between St. Pancras and New Oxford street, and paused before one of the most remote houses situated at the extreme northeast corner. He opened the front door with a latch-key and passed across a large but simply furnished hall into his study. He entered a little abstractedly, and it was not until he had closed the door behind him that he realised the presence of another person in the room. At his entrance she had risen to her feet.
“At last!” she exclaimed. “At last you have come!”