“To be frank,” he said, “I don’t like these insinuations. Fenn’s been our secretary from the first. He opened the negotiations, and he’s carried them through. We either trust him, or we don’t. I trust him.”
“And I’m not saying you’re not right, lad.” Cross declared. “I’m for being cautious, but it’s more with the idea that our German friends themselves may be a little too sanguine.”
“I will pledge my word,” Fenn pronounced fiercely, “to the truth of all the facts I have laid before you. Whatever my work may have been, to-day it is completed. I have brought you a people’s peace from Germany. This very Council was formed for the purpose of imposing that peace upon the Government. Are you going to back out now, because a dilettante writer, an aristocrat who never did a stroke of work in his life, casts sneering doubts upon my honesty? I’ve done the work you gave me to do. It’s up to you to finish it, I represent a million working men. So does David Sands there, Evans and Cross, and you others. What does Orden represent? Nobody and nothing! Miles Furley? A little band of Socialists who live in their gardens and keep bees! My lord Bishop? Just his congregation from week to week! Yet it’s these outsiders who’ve come in and disturbed us. I’ve had enough of it and them. We’ve wasted the night, but I propose that the telegrams go out at eight o’clock tomorrow morning. Hands up for it!”
It was a counter-attack which swept everything before it. Every hand in the room except the Bishop’s, Furley’s, Cross’s and Julian’s was raised. Fenn led the way towards the door.
“We’ve our work to do, chaps,” he said. “We’ll leave the others to talk till daylight, if they want to.”
Julian and Furley left the place together. They looked for the Bishop but found that he had slipped away.
“To Downing Street, I believe,” Furley remarked. “He has some vague idea of suggesting a compromise.”
“Compromise!” Julian repeated a little drearily. “How can there be any such thing! There might be delay. I think we ought to have given Stenson a week—time to communicate with America and send a mission to France.”
“We are like all theorists,” Furley declared moodily, stopping to relight his pipe. “We create and destroy on palter with amazing facility. When it comes to practice, we are funks.”
“Are you funking this?” Julian asked bluntly.
“How can any one help it? Theoretically we are right—I am sure of it. If we leave it to the politicians, this war will go dragging on for God knows how long. It’s the people who are paying. It’s the people who ought to make the peace. The only thing that bothers me is whether we are doing it the right way. Is Freistner honest? Could he be self-deceived? Is there any chance that he could be playing into the hands of the Pan-Germans?”