“Speak to me,” she begged. “Give me some promise, some hope.”
He was absolutely speechless. A wave of reminiscence had carried him back into the study, face to face with an accuser. He read meaning in Julia’s words now, a meaning which at the time they had not possessed. It was true that he was being tempted. It was true that there was such a thing in the world as temptation, a live thing to the strong as well as to the weak.
“You could be great,” she murmured. “You could be a statesman of whom we should all be proud. In years to come, people would understand, they would know that you had chosen the nobler part. And then for yourself—”
“For myself,” he interrupted, “for myself—what?”
Her lips parted and closed again. She looked at him very steadily.
“Don’t you think,” she asked quietly, “that you are, more than most men, the builder of your own life, the master of your own fate, the conqueror—if, indeed, you desired to possess?”
She was gone, disappearing through a winding path amongst the bushes which he had never noticed. He heard the trailing of her skirts; the air around him was empty save for a breath of the perfume shaken from her gown, and the song of the bird. Then he heard her call to him.
“This way, Mr. Maraton—just a little to your left. The path leads right out on to the lawn.”
“Is it a maze?” he asked.
“A very ordinary one,” she called back gaily. “Follow me and I will lead you out.”
Mr. Foley and Lord Armley were waiting together in the library—not the smaller apartment into which Julia had been shown, but a more spacious, almost a stately room in the front part of the house. Upon Maraton’s entrance, Lord Armley changed his position, sitting further back amongst the shadows in a low easy-chair. Maraton took his place so that he was between the two men. It was Lord Armley who asked the first question.
“Mr. Maraton,” he enquired, “are you an Englishman?”
“I think that I may call myself so,” Maraton replied, with a smile. “I was born in America, but my parents were English.”
“I asked,” Lord Armley continued, “whether you were an Englishman, for two reasons. One was—well, perhaps you might call it curiosity; the other because, if you are an Englishman, Mr. Foley and I are going to make a strong and I hope successful appeal to your patriotism.”
“I am afraid,” Maraton replied, “that you will be appealing to a sentiment of which I am ignorant.”
“Do you mean,” Mr. Foley asked, “that you have no impulse of affection for your own country?”
“For my country as she exists at present, none at all,” Maraton answered. “That is where I am afraid we shall find this conference so unsatisfactory. I am not subject to any of the ordinary convictions of life.”