She was taken unawares, assailed suddenly, not only by his words but by those curious new sensations, her own, yet unfamiliar to her. It was civil war. A part of herself was in league with her accuser. She felt the blushes stain her cheeks. She looked imploringly at Maraton for help. He smiled at her reassuringly, delightfully.
“Children,” he expostulated, “this is absurd! Off with you to your homes. These are small matters of which you speak.”
His hands were courteously laid upon both of them. He led them to the door and pointed eastwards through the darkness.
“Think of the morning. Think of the human beings who wake in a few hours, only to bend their bodies once more to the yoke. The other things are but trifles.”
She looked back at him from the corner of the Square, a straight, impassive figure in a little halo of soft light. There was a catch in her heart. Her companion’s words were surely spoken in some foreign tongue.
“We have got to have this out, Julia,” he was saying. “If anybody or anything has come between us, there’s going to be trouble. If that’s the great Maraton, with his swagger evening clothes and big house, well, he’s not the man for our job, and I shan’t mind being the first to tell him so.”
She glanced at him, for a moment, almost in wonder. Was he indeed so small, so insignificant?
“There are many paths,” she said softly, “which lead to the light. Ours may be best suited to ourselves but it may not be the only one. It is not for you or for me to judge.”
Richard Graveling talked on, doing his cause harm with every word he uttered. Julia relapsed into silence; soon she did not even hear his words. They rode for some distance on an omnibus through the city, now shrouded and silent. At the corner of the street where she had her humble lodgings, he left her.
“Well, I have had my say,” he declared. “Think it over. I’ll meet you out of work to-morrow, if I can. We shall have had a talk with Mr. Maraton by that time!”
She left him with a smile upon her lips. His absence seemed like an immense, a wonderful relief. Once more her thoughts were free.
But were they free, after all, these thoughts of hers?
Julia rose at daybreak and, fully dressed, stood watching the red light eastwards staining the smoke-hung city. Her little room with its plain deal furniture, its uncarpeted floor, was the perfection of neatness, her bed already made, her little pots of flowers upon the window-sill, jealously watered. In the still smaller sitting-room, visible through the open door, she could hear the hissing of her kettle upon the little spirit lamp. Her hat and gloves were already out. Everything was in readiness for her early start.