She turned upon him.
“You, too! You weren’t at Lyndwood, were you? . . . Doubts!” she went on fiercely, her eyes flashing once more upon Maraton. “How can you fire their blood if there are doubts in your heart? So long these people have waited. No wonder their hearts are sick and their brains are clogged, their will is tired. Prophet after prophet they have followed blindly through the wilderness. Always it has been the prophet who has been caught up into the easier ways, and the people who have sunk back into misery.”
She fell suddenly upon her knees. Before he could stop her, she was at his feet, her face straining up to his.
“Forgive me!” she cried. “For the love of the women and the little children, don’t fail us now! If you don’t say the word to-night, it will never be spoken, never in your day nor mine. It isn’t legislation they want any more. It’s revolution, the cleansing fires! The land where the sun shines lies on the other side of the terrible way. Lead them across. Don’t try the devious paths. They have filled you with the poison of common sense. It isn’t common sense that’s wanted. It’s only an earthquake can bring out the spirit of the people and make them see and hold what belongs to them.”
Maraton lifted her up. Her body was quivering. She lay, for a moment, passive in his arms. Then she sprang away. She stood with her back to him, looking out of the window.
“The streets are full of people,” she said quietly. “Their eyes are all turned here. Poor people!”
Maraton crossed the room and stood by her side. He spoke very gently. He even took her hand, which lay like a lump of ice in his.
“Julia,” he whispered, “you lose hope and trust too soon.”
“You have spoken of doubts,” she answered, in a low tone. “The prophet has no doubts.”
There was a sound of voices outside, of heavy footsteps on the stairs. They heard Graveling’s loud, unpleasant voice. The delegates had arrived!
Maraton, with the peculiar sensitiveness of the artist to an altered atmosphere, was keenly conscious of the change when Julia had left the room and the delegates had entered. One by one they shook hands with Maraton and took their places around the table. They had no appearance of men charged with a great mission. Henneford, who had met them at the station, was beaming with hospitality. Peter Dale was full of gruff good-humour and jokes. Graveling alone entered with a scowl and sat with folded arms and the air of a dissentient. Borden, who complained of feeling train-sick, insisted upon drinks being served, and Culvain, with a notebook upon his knee, ostentatiously sharpened a pencil. It was very much like a meeting of a parish council. Ross alone amongst the delegates had the absorbed air of a man on the threshold of great things, and Aaron, from his seat behind Maraton, watched his master all the time with strained and passionate attention.