One by one, Maraton got rid at last of the little crowd of journalists who had been waiting for him below. The last on the list was perhaps the most difficult. He pressed very hard for an answer to his direct question.
“War or peace, Mr. Maraton? Which is it to be? Just one word, that’s all.”
Maraton shook his head.
“In less than an hour, the delegates from London will be here,” he announced. “We shall hold a conference and come to our decision then.”
“Will their coming make any real difference?” the journalist persisted. “You hadn’t much to say to delegates in America.”
“The Labour Party over here is better organised, in some respects,” Maraton told him. “I have nothing to say until after the conference.”
His persistent visitor drew a little nearer to him.
“There’s a report about that you’ve been staying with Foley.”
“And how does that affect the matter?” Maraton enquired.
The journalist looked him in the face.
“The men never had a leader yet,” he said, “whom Officialdom didn’t spoil.” All this time Maraton was standing with the door in one hand and his other hand upon the shoulder of the man whom he was endeavouring to get rid of. His grasp suddenly tightened. The door was closed and the reporter was outside. Maraton turned to Aaron, with whom, as yet, he had scarcely exchanged a word. The latter was sitting at a table, sorting letters.
“How long will those fellows be?” he asked.
Aaron glanced at the clock.
“On their way here by now, I should say,” he replied. “They are all coming. They tried to leave David Ross behind, but he wouldn’t have it.”
Maraton nodded grimly.
“Too many,” he muttered.
Aaron leaned a little forward in his place. His long, hatchet-shaped face was drawn and white. His eyes were full of a pitiful anxiety.
“They were talking like men beside themselves at the Clarion and up at Dale’s house last night,” he said. “They were mad about your having gone to Foley’s. Graveling—he was the worst—he’s telling them all that you’re up to some mischief on your own account. They are all grumbling like a lot of sore heads. If they could stop your speaking here to-night, I believe they would. They’re a rotten lot. Before they got their places in Parliament, they were perfect firebrands. Blast them!”
“And you, Aaron—”
Maraton suddenly paused. The door was softly opened, and Julia stood there. She was wearing her hat and coat, but her hands were gloveless; she had just returned from the street.
“Come in,” Maraton invited. “So you’re looking after Aaron, are you?”
“I couldn’t keep away,” Julia said simply. “I thought I’d better let you both know that the street below is filling up. They’ve heard that you are here. People were running away from before the Midland as I came round the corner.”