“Ah, I knew that I should find you like this!” she cried. “Don’t look down into the street, don’t look at those unlit places! Look up to the skies. See, there is a star there already. Nothing up there—nothing which really matters—is altered. This is only the destruction that must come before the dawn. It was you yourself who prophesied it, you yourself who saw it so clearly. Oh, don’t be sad because you have pulled down the pillars! It isn’t so very long before the morning.”
He passed his arm around her and gripped her fingers tightly. So they were sitting when, by and by, Selingman burst into the room.
Selingman was once more entirely his old self. He staggered into the room with a tin of biscuits under one arm, and three bottles of hock under the other, all of which he deposited noisily upon the round table in the middle of the room.
“I am the prince of caterers,” he declared. “I surpass myself. Come out of the shadows, you dreamer. There is work to be done, food to be eaten, wine to be drunk.”
From his left-hand pocket he produced three candles, which he placed at intervals along the mantelpiece and lit. Then for the first time he saw Julia.
“Ah,” he cried, “our inspiration! Congratulate yourself, dear Miss Julia. After all, you are going to dine or sup, or whatever meal you may choose to call it. Behold!”
From his other pocket he produced two great jars of potted meat, a jar of jam, a handful of miscellaneous knives and forks, and a corkscrew.
“I have found an intelligent person here,” he confided to them. “He has shown me the way to the wine cellar. Only the landlord and he are permitted to fetch wine. They fear a raid. Niersteiner, of a reasonable vintage.”
“I will fetch Aaron,” Julia said as she left the room.
“The girl worships you, and you’re a beast to her,” Selingman exclaimed, his eyes fixed upon the door through which she had vanished. “A man, indeed! A creature of wood and sawdust! Listen!”
His hand flashed out, his hand which grasped still the corkscrew.
“Listen, you man from the clouds,” he continued. “I shall rob you of her. I adore her. To-day she may think me merely fat and eccentric. Don’t rely upon that. I have the gift when I choose. I can tell fairy tales, I can creep a little way into her mind and fill her brain with delicate fancies, build images there and destroy them, play softly upon the keynote of her emotions, until one day she will wake up and what will have happened? She will be mine!”
He banged the table with the bottle of wine he was holding. Then, with great care and accuracy, he drew the cork.
“Your health!” he cried, raising his glass. “Ah, no! I have not sipped the wine. I change the toast. To Julia!”
Maraton rose to his feet, and turned his back upon the gloomy darkness which brooded over the city. He took the glass of wine which Selingman was holding out and leaned towards him earnestly.