The young man for a moment seemed puzzled. Then he glanced at a little gold watch upon his wrist, knocked the cigarette from its holder and carefully replaced the latter in its case.
“That is very interesting, Countess,” he said. “For the moment I had forgotten your official position amongst the English Socialists.”
She leaned forward and touched his coat sleeve.
“You had forgotten nothing,” she declared eagerly. “There is something in your mind of which you have not spoken.”
“No,” he replied, “I have spoken a great deal of my mind—too much, perhaps, considering that we are seated in this very fashionable lounge, with many people around us. We must talk of these serious matters on another occasion, Countess. I shall pay my respects to your aunt, if I may, within the next few days.”
“Why do you fence with me?” she persisted, drawing on her gloves. “You and I both know, so far as regards those peace terms, that—”
“If we both know,” he interrupted, “let us keep each our own knowledge. Words are sometimes very, dangerous, and great events are looming. So, Countess! You have perhaps a car, or may I have the pleasure of escorting you to your destination?”
“I am going to Westminster,” she told him, rising to her feet.
“In that case,” he observed, as they made their way down the room, “perhaps I had better not offer my escort, although I should very much like to be there in person. You are amongst those to-day who will make history.”
“Come and see me soon,” she begged, dropping her voice a little, “and I will confide in you as much as I dare.”
“It is tempting,” he admitted, “I should like to know what passes at that meeting.”
“You can, if you will, dine with us to-morrow night,” she invited, “at half-past eight. My aunt will be delighted to see you. I forget whether we have people coming or not, but you will be very welcome.”
The young man bowed low as he handed his charge into a taxicab.
“Dear Countess,” he murmured, “I shall be charmed.”
For a gathering of men upon whose decision hung such momentous issues, the Council which met that evening at Westminster seemed alike unambitious in tone and uninspired in appearance. Some short time was spent in one of the anterooms, where Julian was introduced to many of the delegates. The disclosure of his identity, although it aroused immense interest, was scarcely an unmixed joy to the majority of them. Those who were in earnest— and they mostly were in grim and deadly earnest—had hoped to find him a man nearer their own class. Fenn and Bright had their own reasons for standing apart, and the extreme pacifists took note of the fact that he had been a soldier. His coming, however, was an event the importance of which nobody attempted to conceal.