“There is only one way out,” the Earl insisted, “and that is to beat the enemy.”
“It is the only obvious way,” Julian intervened, joining in the conversation for the first time, “but meanwhile, with every tick of the clock a fellow creature dies.”
“It is a question,” Mr. Hannaway Wells reflected, “whether the present generation is not inclined to be mawkish with regard to human life. History has shown us the marvellous benefits which have accrued to the greatest nations through the lessening of population by means of warfare.”
“History has also shown us,” Doctor Lennard observed, “that the last resource of force is force. No brain has ever yet devised a logical scheme for international arbitration.”
“Human nature, I am afraid, has changed extraordinarily little since the days of the Philistines,” the Bishop confessed.
Julian turned to his companion.
“Well, they’ve all settled it amongst themselves, haven’t they?” he murmured. “Here you may sit and listen to what may be called the modern voice.”
“Yet there is one thing wanting,” she whispered. “What do you suppose, if he were here at this moment, Paul Fiske would say? Do you think that he would be content to listen to these brazen voices and accept their verdict?”
“Without irreverence,” Julian answered, “or comparison, would Jesus Christ?”
“With the same proviso,” she retorted, “I might reply that Jesus Christ, from all we know of him, might reign wonderfully in the Kingdom of Heaven, but he certainly wouldn’t be able to keep together a Cabinet in Downing Street! Still, I am beginning to believe in your sincerity. Do you think that Paul Fiske is sincere?”
“I believe,” Julian replied, “that he sees the truth and struggles to express it.”
The women were leaving the table. She leaned towards him.
“Please do not be long,” she whispered. “You must admit that I have been an admirable dinner companion. I have talked to you all the time on your own subject. You must come and talk to me presently about art.”
Julian, with his hand on the back of his chair, watched the women pass out of the soft halo of the electric lights into the gloomier shadows of the high, vaulted room, Catherine a little slimmer than most of the others, and with a strange grace of slow movement which must have come to her from some Russian ancestor. Her last words lingered in his mind. He was to talk to her about art! A fleeting vision of the youth in the yellow oilskins mocked him. He remembered his morning’s tramp and the broken-down motor-car under the trees. The significance of these things was beginning to take shape in his mind. He resumed his seat, a little dazed.
Maltenby was one of those old-fashioned houses where the port is served as a lay sacrament and the call of the drawing-room is responded to tardily. After the departure of the women, Doctor Lennard drew his chair up to Julian’s.