“I’ve read some of his stuff,” Bright admitted, himself lighting a cigarette; “good in its way, but old-fashioned. I’m out for something a little more than that.”
“Stick to the point,” Fenn enjoined morosely. “Now they’ve found out who Julian Orden is, they want him produced. They want to elect him on the Council, make him chairman over all our heads, let him reap the reward of the scheme which our brains have conceived.”
“They want him, eh? That’s awkward.”
“Awkward for us,” Fenn muttered.
“They’d better have him, I suppose,” Bright said, with slow and evil emphasis. “Yes, they’d better have him. We’ll take off our hats, and assure him that it was a mistake.”
“Too late. I’ve told Miss Abbeway and the Bishop that he is at large. You backed me up.”
Bright thrust his long, unpleasant, knobby fingers into his pocket, and produced a crumpled cigarette, which he lit from the end of his companion’s.
“Well,” he demanded, “what do you want?”
“I have come to the conclusion,” Fenn decided, “that it is not in the interests of our cause that Orden should become associated with it in any way.”
“We’ve a good deal of power,” Bright ruminated, “but it seems to me you’re inclined to stretch it. I gather that the others want him delivered up. We can’t act against them.”
“Not if they know,” Fenn answered significantly.
Bright came over to the mantelpiece, leaned his elbow upon it, and hung his extraordinarily unattractive face down towards his companion’s.
“Nicholas,” he said, “I don’t blame you for fencing, but I like plain words. You’ve done well out of this new Party. I haven’t. You’ve no hobby except saving your money. I have. My last two experiments, notwithstanding the Government allowance, have left me drained. I need money as you others need bread. I can live without food or drink, but I can’t be without the means to keep my laboratories going. Do you understand me?”
“I do,” Fenn assented, taking up his hat. “Come, I’ll drive towards Bermondsey with you. We’ll talk on the way.”
Julian raised himself slightly from his recumbent position at the sound of the opening of the door. He watched Fenn with dull, incurious eyes as the latter crossed the uncarpeted floor of the bare wooden shed, threw off his overcoat, and advanced towards the side of the couch.
“Sit up a little,” the newcomer directed.
Julian shook his head.
“No strength,” he muttered. “If I had, I should wring your damned neck!”
Fenn looked down at him for a moment in silence.
“You take this thing very hardly, Mr. Orden,” he said. “I think that you had better give up this obstinacy. Your friends are getting anxious about you. For many reasons it would be better for you to reappear.”