“Welcome back to London, Miss Abbeway! Your news?”
Her reply was inaudible. Julian quickened his pace and passed out of the station ahead of them.
The Bishop and the Prime Minister met, one afternoon a few days later, at the corner of Horse Guards Avenue. The latter was looking brown and well, distinctly the better for his brief holiday. The Bishop, on the contrary, was pale and appeared harassed. They shook hands and exchanged for a moment the usual inanities.
“Tell me, Mr. Stenson,” the Bishop asked earnestly, “what is the meaning of all this Press talk, about peace next month? I have heard a hint that it was inspired.”
“You are wrong,” was the firm reply. “I have sent my private secretary around to a few of the newspapers this morning. It just happens to be the sensation, of the moment, and it’s fed all the time from the other side.”
“There is nothing in it, then, really?”
“Nothing whatever. Believe me, Bishop—and there is no one feeling the strain more than I am—the time has not yet come for peace.”
“You politicians!” the Bishop sighed. “Do you sometimes forget, I wonder, that even the pawns you move are human?”
“I can honestly say that I, at any rate, have never forgotten it,” Mr. Stenson answered gravely. “There isn’t a man in my Government who has a single personal feeling in favour of, or a single benefit to gain, by the continuance of this ghastly war. On the other hand, there is scarcely one who does not realise that the end is not yet. We have pledged our word, the word of the English nation, to a peace based only upon certain contingencies. Those contingencies the enemy is not at present prepared to accept. There is no immediate reason why he should.”
“But are you sure of that?” the Bishop ventured doubtfully. “When you speak of Germany, you speak of William of Hohenzollern and his clan. Is that Germany? Is theirs the voice of the people?”
“I would be happy to believe that it was not,” Mr. Stenson replied, “but if that is the case, let them give us a sign of it.”
“That sign,” declared the Bishop, with a gleam of hopefulness in his tone, “may come, and before long.”
The two men were on the point of parting. Mr. Stenson turned and walked a yard or two with his companion.
“By the bye, Bishop,” he enquired, “have you heard any rumours concerning the sudden disappearance of our young friend Julian Orden?”
The Bishop for a moment was silent. A passer-by glanced at the two men sympathetically. Of the two, he thought, it was the man in spiritual charge of a suffering people who showed more sign of the strain.
“I have heard rumours,” the Bishop acknowledged. “Tell me what you know?”