Maraton excused himself and slipped out into the gardens alone. For more than an hour he walked restlessly about, without relief, without gaining any added clearness of vision. The atmosphere of the place seemed to him somehow enervating. The little ’walk amongst the rhododendrons was still fragrant ’with perfume, reminiscent of that strange moment of emotion. The air was still languorous. Although the nightingale’s song had ceased, the atmosphere seemed still vibrating with the music of his past song. He stood before the window of the room where he had talked with Julia. What would she say, he wondered? Would she think that he had sold his soul if he chose the more peaceful way? It was a night of perplexed thoughts, confused emotions. One thing only was clear. For the first time in his life certain dreams, which had been as dear to him as life itself, had received a shattering blow. Always he had spoken and acted from conviction. It was that which had given his words their splendid force. It was that which had made the words which he had spoken live as though they had been winged with fire. Perhaps it was his own fault. Perhaps he should have avoided altogether this house of the easier ways.
From the atmosphere of Lyndwood Park and its surroundings—fragrant, almost epicurean—Maraton passed to the hard squalor of the great smoke-hung city of the north. There were no beautiful women or cultured men to bid him welcome. The Labour Member and his companion, who hastened him out of the train at Derby and into an open motor-car, were hard-featured Lancashire men, keen on their work and practical as the day. As they talked together in that long, ugly ride, Maraton almost smiled as he thought of those perfervid dreams of his which had always been at the back of his head; that creed of life, some part of which he had intended to unfold to the people during these few days.
“Plain-speaking is what our folk like,” John Henneford assured him, as they sat side by side in the small open car driven by one of the committee; “plain, honest words; sound advice, with a bit o’ grit in it.”
“‘To hell with the masters!’ is the motto they like best,” Preston remarked, moving his pipe to the corner of his mouth. “It’s an old text but it’s an ever popular one. There’s the mill where I work, now, fourteen hundred of us. The girls average from eighteen bob to a pound a week, men twenty-four to twenty-eight, foremen thirty-five to two pounds. It’s not much of wages. The house rent’s high in these parts, and food, too. The business has just been turned into a company—capital three hundred thousand pounds, profits last year forty-two thousand. That’s after paying us our bit. That’s the sort of thing turns the blood of the people sour up here. It was the aristocrats brought about the revolution in France. It will be the manufacturers who do it here, and do it quick unless things are altered. They tell me you’re a bit of a revolutionist, Mr. Maraton.”