The boy slipped from a worn stool and disappeared. Presently the door of the little waiting-room was suddenly opened, and a girl entered.
“Aaron!” she exclaimed. “Has anything happened?”
Once more he raised his head, once more the light that flickered in his face transformed him into some semblance of a virile man.
“Maraton is here! Maraton has arrived!”
The light flashed, too, for a moment in her face, only she, even before it came, was beautiful.
“At last!” she cried. “At last! Have you seen him, Aaron? Tell me quickly, what is he like?”
“Not yet,” Aaron replied. “To-night they say that he goes first to visit the Prime Minister. He will come to us afterwards.”
“It is great news,” she murmured. “If only one could see him!”
The office boy reappeared.
“Guvnor says why aren’t you at your work, Miss Thurnbrein,” he remarked, as he climbed on to his stool. “You won’t get through before closing time, as it is.”
She turned reluctantly away. There was something in her face from which even Aaron could scarcely remove his eyes.
“I must go,” she declared. “We are busy here, and so many of the girls are away—down with the heat, I suppose. Thank you for coming, Aaron.”
“I would like,” he answered, “to walk the streets of London one by one, and stand at the corners and shout to the passers-by that Maraton has come. Only I wonder if they would understand. I wonder!”
He passed out into the street and the girl returned to her work. After a few yards he felt suddenly giddy. There was a little enclosure across the road, called by courtesy a playground—a few benches, a dusty space, and some swings. He threw himself into a corner of one of the benches and closed his eyes. He was worn out, physically exhausted. Yet all the time the sense of something wonderful kept him from collapse. Maraton had come!
Westward, the late June twilight deepened into a violet and moonless darkness. The lights in St. James’s Park glittered like motionless fireflies; a faint wind rustled amongst the drooping leaves of the trees. Up here the atmosphere was different. It seemed a long way from Shoreditch.
Outside the principal of the official residences in Downing Street, there was a tented passage-way and a strip of drugget across the pavement. Within, the large reception rooms were crowded with men and women. There was music, and many forms of entertainment were in progress; the popping of champagne corks; the constant murmur of cheerful conversation. The Prime Minister was giving a great political reception, and men and women of every degree and almost every nationality were talking and mingling together. The gathering was necessarily not select, but it was composed of people who counted. The Countess of Grenside, who was the Prime Minister’s sister and the head of his household, saw to that.