Maxendorf lifted his eyes swiftly.
“You doubted me,” he repeated.
“You’re a people’s man, I know,” Maraton went one, “but here and there one finds queer traits in your character. They say that you are also a patriot and a schemer.”
“They say truly,” Maxendorf admitted, “yet these things are by the way. They occupy a little cell of life—no more. It is for the people I live and breathe.”
“For the people of the world,” Maraton persisted slowly—“for humanity? Is there any difference in your mind, Maxendorf, between the people of one country and the people of another?”
Maxendorf never faltered. His long narrow face was turned steadily towards Maraton. His eyebrows were drawn together. He spoke slowly and with great distinctness.
“I am for humanity,” he declared. “Many of the people of my country I have already freed. It is for the sufferers in other lands that I toil in these days. If I am a patriot, it is because it is part of my political outfit, and a political outfit is necessary to the man who labours as I have laboured.”
“So be it, then,” Maraton decided. “I accept your words. Within a month from this time, the revolution will be here. This land will be laid waste, the terror will be brewed. I fear nothing, Maxendorf, but as one man to another I have come to tell you, before I start north, that if in your heart there is a single grain of deceit, if ever it shall be made clear to me that I have been made the cat’s-paw of what you have called patriotism, if the people of this country have left a breath of life in my body, I shall dedicate it to a purpose at which you can guess.”
“It is to threaten me that you have come?” Maxendorf asked quietly.
“Don’t put it like that,” Maraton replied. “These are just the words which you yourself cannot fail to understand. Neither you nor I hold life so dearly that the thought of losing it need make us quaver. I am here only to say this one word—to tell you that the heavens have never opened more surely to let out the lightning, than will your death be a charge upon me if you should vary even a hair’s-breadth from our contract. If Maxendorf, the people’s man, hides himself for only a moment in the shadow of Maxendorf the politician, he shall die!”
Maxendorf held out his hand.
“Death,” he said scornfully, “is not the greatest ill with which you could threaten me, but let it be so. Humanity shall be our motto—no other.”
“You spar at one another,” Selingman declared, “like a couple of sophists. You are both men of the truth, you are both on your way to the light. I give you my benediction. I watch over you—I, Selingman. I am the witness of the joining of your hands. Unlock the gates without fear, Maraton. Maxendorf will do his work.”
About seven miles from London, Selingman gave the signal for the car to pull up. They drew in by the side of the road and they all stood up in their places. Before them, the red glow which hung over the city was almost lurid; strange volumes of smoke were rising to the sky.