Infomotions, Inc.The Devil's Paw / Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946



Author: Oppenheim, E. Phillips (Edward Phillips), 1866-1946
Title: The Devil's Paw
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): julian; fenn; furley; miss abbeway; abbeway; stenson; orden; julian orden; catherine; bishop; lord maltenby; hannaway wells; miles furley; paul fiske; nicholas fenn; lord shervinton; prime minister
Contributor(s): Widger, David, 1932- [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 65,042 words (short) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 66 (easy)
Identifier: etext2767
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Title:  The Devil's Paw

Author:  E. Phillips Oppenheim

August, 2001  [Etext #2767]
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This Etext prepared by an anonymous Project Gutenberg volunteer.





The Devil's Paw

by E. Phillips Oppenheim




CHAPTER I



The two men, sole occupants of the somewhat shabby cottage
parlour, lingered over their port, not so much with the air of
wine lovers, but rather as human beings and intimates, perfectly
content with their surroundings and company.  Outside, the wind
was howling over the marshes, and occasional bursts of rain came
streaming against the window panes.  Inside at any rate was
comfort, triumphing over varying conditions.  The cloth upon the
plain deal table was of fine linen, the decanter and glasses were
beautifully cut; there were walnuts and, in a far Corner, cigars
of a well-known brand and cigarettes from a famous tobacconist.
Beyond that little oasis, however, were all the evidences of a
hired abode.  A hole in the closely drawn curtains was fastened
together by a safety pin.  The horsehair easy-chairs bore
disfiguring antimacassars, the photographs which adorned the walls
were grotesque but typical of village ideals, the carpet was
threadbare, the closed door secured by a latch instead of the
usual knob.  One side of the room was littered with golf clubs, a
huge game bag and several boxes of cartridges.  Two shotguns lay
upon the remains of a sofa.  It scarcely needed the costume of
Miles Furley, the host, to demonstrate the fact that this was the
temporary abode of a visitor to the Blakeney marshes in search of
sport.

Furley, broad-shouldered, florid, with tanned skin and grizzled
hair, was still wearing the high sea boots and jersey of the duck
shooter.  His companion, on the other hand, a tall, slim man, with
high forehead, clear eyes, stubborn jaw, and straight yet
sensitive mouth, wore the ordinary dinner clothes of civilisation.
The contrast between the two men might indeed have afforded some
ground for speculation as to the nature of their intimacy.
Furley, a son of the people, had the air of cultivating, even
clinging to a certain plebeian strain, never so apparent as when
he spoke, or in his gestures.  He was a Member of Parliament for a
Labour constituency, a shrewd and valuable exponent of the gospel
of the working man.  What he lacked in the higher qualities of
oratory he made up in sturdy common sense.  The will-o'-the-wisp
Socialism of the moment, with its many attendant "isms" and
theories, received scant favour at his hands.  He represented the
solid element in British Labour politics, and it was well known
that he had refused a seat in the Cabinet in order to preserve an
absolute independence.  He had a remarkable gift of taciturnity,
which in a man of his class made for strength, and it was
concerning him that the Prime Minister had made his famous
epigram, that Furley was the Labour man whom he feared the most
and dreaded the least.

Julian Orden, with an exterior more promising in many respects
than that of his friend, could boast of no similar distinctions.
He was the youngest son of a particularly fatuous peer resident in
the neighbourhood, had started life as a barrister, in which
profession he had attained a moderate success, had enjoyed a brief
but not inglorious spell of soldiering, from which he had retired
slightly lamed for life, and had filled up the intervening period
in the harmless occupation of censoring.  His friendship with
Furley appeared on the surface too singular to be anything else
but accidental.  Probably no one save the two men themselves
understood it, and they both possessed the gift of silence.

"What's all this peace talk mean?" Julian Orden asked, fingering
the stem of his wineglass.

"Who knows?" Furley grunted.  "The newspapers must have their
daily sensation."

"I have a theory that it is being engineered."

"Bolo business, eh?"

Julian Orden moved in his place a little uneasily.  His long,
nervous fingers played with the stick which stood always by the
side of his chair.

"You don't believe in it, do you?" he asked quietly.

Furley looked straight ahead of him.  His eyes seemed caught by
the glitter of the lamplight upon the cut-glass decanter.

"You know my opinion of war, Julian," he said.  "It's a filthy,
intolerable heritage from generations of autocratic government.
No democracy ever wanted war.  Every democracy needs and desires
peace."

"One moment," Julian interrupted.  "You must remember that a
democracy seldom possesses the imperialistic spirit, and a great
empire can scarcely survive without it."

"Arrant nonsense!" was the vigorous reply.  "A great empire, from
hemisphere to hemisphere, can be kept together a good deal better
by democratic control.  Force is always the arriere pensee of the
individual and the autocrat."

"These are generalities," Julian declared.  "I want to know your
opinion about a peace at the present moment."

"Not having any, thanks.  You're a dilettante journalist by your
own confession, Julian, and I am not going to be drawn."

"There is something in it, then?"

"Maybe," was the careless admission.  "You're a visitor worth
having, Julian.  '70 port and homegrown walnuts!  A nice little
addition to my simple fare!  Must you go back to-morrow?"

Julian nodded.

"We've another batch of visitors coming,--Stenson amongst them,
by the bye."

Furley nodded.  His eyes narrowed, and little lines appeared at
their corners.

"I can't imagine," he confessed.  "What brings Stenson down to
Maltenby.  I should have thought that your governor and he could
scarcely spend ten minutes together without quarrelling!"

"They never do spend ten minutes together alone," Julian replied
drily.  "I see to that.  Then my mother, you know, has the knack
of getting interesting people together.  The Bishop is coming,
amongst others.  And, Furley, I wanted to ask you--do you know
anything of a young woman--she is half Russian, I believe--who
calls herself Miss Catherine Abbeway?"

"Yes, I know her," was the brief rejoinder.

"She lived in Russia for some years, it seems," Julian continued.
"Her mother was Russian--a great writer on social subjects."

Furley nodded.

"Miss Abbeway is rather that way herself," he remarked.  "I've
heard her lecture in the East End.  She has got hold of the
woman's side of the Labour question as well as any one I ever came
across."

"She is a most remarkably attractive young person," Julian
declared pensively.

"Yes, she's good-looking.  A countess in her own right, they tell
me, but she keeps her title secret for fear of losing influence
with the working classes.  She did a lot of good down Poplar way.
Shouldn't have thought she'd have been your sort, Julian."

"Why?"

"Too serious."

Julian smiled--rather a peculiar, introspective smile.

"I, too, can, be serious sometimes," he said.

His friend thrust his hands into his trousers pocket and, leaning
back in his chair, looked steadfastly at his guest.

"I believe you can, Julian," he admitted.  "Sometimes I am not
quite sure that I understand you.  That's the worst of a man with
the gift for silence."

"You're not a great talker yourself," the younger man reminded his
host.

"When you get me going on my own subject," Furley remarked, "I
find it hard to stop, and you are a wonderful listener.  Have you
got any views of your own?  I never hear them."

Julian drew the box of cigarettes towards him.

"Oh, yes, I've views of my own," he confessed.  "Some day,
perhaps, you shall know what they are."

"A man of mystery!" his friend jeered good-naturedly.

Julian lit his cigarette and watched the smoke curl upward.

"Let's talk about the duck," he suggested.

The two men sat in silence for some minutes.  Outside, the storm
seemed to have increased in violence.  Furley rose, threw a log on
to the fire and resumed his place.

"Geese flew high," he remarked.

"Too high for me," Julian confessed.

"You got one more than I did."

"Sheer luck.  The outside bird dipped down to me."

Furley filled his guest's glass and then his own.

"What on earth have you kept your shooting kit on for?" the latter
asked, with lazy curiosity.

Furley glanced down at his incongruous attire and seemed for a
moment ill at ease.

"I've got to go out presently," he announced.

Julian raised his eyebrows.

"Got to go out?" he repeated.  "On a night like this?  Why, my
dear fellow--"

He paused abruptly.  He was a man of quick perceptions, and he
realised his host's embarrassment.  Nevertheless, there was an
awkward pause in the conversation.  Furley rose to his feet and
frowned.  He fetched a jar of tobacco from a shelf and filled his
pouch deliberately:

"Sorry to seem mysterious, old chap," he said.  "I've just a bit
of a job to do.  It doesn't amount to anything, but--well, it's
the sort of affair we don't talk about much."

"Well, you're welcome to all the amusement you'll get out of it, a
night like this."

Furley laid down his pipe, ready-filled, and drank off his port.

"There isn't much amusement left in the world, is there, just
now?" he remarked gravely.

"Very little indeed.  It's three years since I handled a shotgun
before to-night."

"You've really chucked the censoring?"

"Last week.  I've had a solid year at it."

"Fed up?"

"Not exactly that.  My own work accumulated so."

"Briefs coming along, eh?"

"I'm a sort of hack journalist as well, as you reminded me just
now," Julian explained a little evasively.

"I wonder you stuck at the censoring so long.  Isn't it terribly
tedious?"

"Sometimes.  Now and then we come across interesting things,
though.  For instance, I discovered a most original cipher the
other day."

"Did it lead to anything?" Furley asked curiously.

"Not at present.  I discovered it, studying a telegram from
Norway.  It was addressed to a perfectly respectable firm of
English timber merchants who have an office in the city.  This was
the original: `Fir planks too narrow by half.'  Sounds harmless
enough, doesn't it?"

"Absolutely.  What's the hidden meaning?"

"There I am still at a loss," Julian confessed, "but treated with
the cipher it comes out as `Thirty-eight steeple on barn.'"

Furley stared for a moment, then he lit his pipe.

"Well, of the two," he declared, "I should prefer the first
rendering for intelligibility."

"So would most people," Julian assented, smiling, "yet I am sure
there is something in it--some meaning, of course, that needs a
context to grasp it."

"Have you interviewed the firm of timber merchants?"

"Not personally.  That doesn't come into my department.  The name
of the man who manages the London office, though, is Fenn--
Nicholas Fenn."

Furley withdrew the pipe from his mouth.  His eyebrows had come
together in a slight frown.

"Nicholas Fenn, the Labour M.P.?"

"That's the fellow.  You know him, of course?"

"Yes, I know him," Furley replied thoughtfully.  "He is secretary
of the Timber Trades Union and got in for one of the divisions of
Hull last year."

"I understand that there is nothing whatever against him
personally," Julian continued, "although as a politician he is of
course beneath contempt.  He started life as a village
schoolmaster and has worked his way up most creditably.  He
professed to understand the cable as it appeared in its original
form.  All the same, it's very odd that, treated by a cipher which
I got on the track of a few days previously, this same message
should work out as I told you."

"Of course," Furley observed, "ciphers can lead you--"

He stopped short.  Julian, who had been leaning over towards the
cigarette bog, glanced around at his friend.  There was a frown on
Furley's forehead.  He withdrew his pipe from between his teeth.

"What did you say you made of it?" he demanded.

"`Thirty-eight steeple on barn.'"

"Thirty-eight!  That's queer!"

"Why is it queer?"

There was a moment's silence.  Furley glanced at the little clock
upon the mantelpiece.  It was five and twenty minutes past nine.

"I don't know whether you have ever heard, Julian," he said, "that
our enemies on the other side of the North Sea are supposed to
have divided the whole of the eastern coast of Great Britain into
small, rectangular districts, each about a couple of miles square.
One of our secret service chaps got hold of a map some time ago."

"No, I never heard this," Julian acknowledged.  "Well?"

"It's only a coincidence, of course," Furley went on, "but number
thirty-eight happens to be the two-mile block of seacoast of which
this cottage is just about the centre.  It stretches to Cley on
one side and Salthouse on the other, and inland as far as
Dutchman's Common.  I am not suggesting that there is any real
connection between your cable and this fact, but that you should
mention it at this particular moment--well, as I said, it's a
coincidence."

"Why?"

Furley had risen to his feet.  He threw open the door and listened
for a moment in the passage.  When he came back he was carrying
some oilskins.

"Julian," he said, "I know you area bit of a cynic about espionage
and that sort of thing.  Of course, there has been a terrible lot
of exaggeration, and heaps of fellows go gassing about secret
service jobs, all the way up the coast from here to Scotland, who
haven't the least idea what the thing means.  But there is a
little bit of it done, and in my humble way they find me an
occasional job or two down here.  I won't say that anything ever
comes of our efforts--we're rather like the special constables of
the secret service--but just occasionally we come across
something suspicious."

"So that's why you're going out again to-night, is it?"

Furley nodded.

"This is my last night.  I am off up to town on Monday and sha'n't
be able to get down again this season."

"Had any adventures?"

"Not the ghost of one.  I don't mind admitting that I've had a
good many wettings and a few scares on that stretch of marshland,
but I've never seen or heard anything yet to send in a report
about.  It just happens, though, that to-night there's a special
vigilance whip out."

"What does that mean?" Julian enquired curiously.

"Something supposed to be up," was the dubious reply.  "We've a
very imaginative chief, I might tell you."

"But what sort of thing could happen?" Julian persisted.  "What
are you out to prevent, anyway?"

Furley relit his pipe, thrust a flask into his pocket, and picked
up a thick stick from a corner of the room.

"Can't tell," he replied laconically.  "There's an idea, of
course, that communications are carried on with the enemy from
somewhere down this coast.  Sorry to leave you, old fellow," he
added.  "Don't sit up.  I never fasten the door here.  Remember to
look after your fire upstairs, and the whisky is on the sideboard
here."

"I shall be all right, thanks," Julian assured his host.  "No use
my offering to come with you, I suppose?"

"Not allowed," was the brief response.

"Thank heavens!" Julian exclaimed piously, as a storm of rain blew
in through the half-open door.  "Good night and good luck, old
chap!"

Furley's reply was drowned in the roar of wind.  Julian secured
the door, underneath which a little stream of rain was creeping
in.  Then he returned to the sitting room, threw a log upon the
fire, and drew one of the ancient easy-chairs close up to the
blaze.




CHAPTER II


Julian, notwithstanding his deliberate intention of abandoning
himself to an hour's complete repose, became, after the first few
minutes of solitude, conscious of a peculiar and increasing sense
of restlessness.  With the help of a rubber-shod stick which
leaned against his chair, he rose presently to his feet and moved
about the room, revealing a lameness which had the appearance of
permanency.  In the small, white-ceilinged apartment his height
became more than ever noticeable, also the squareness of his
shoulders and the lean vigour of his frame.  He handled his gun
for a moment and laid it down; glanced at the card stuck in the
cheap looking glass, which announced that David Grice let lodgings
and conducted shooting parties; turned with a shiver from the
contemplation of two atrocious oleographs, a church calendar
pinned upon the wall, and a battered map of the neighbourhood,
back to the table at which he had been seated.  He selected a
cigarette and lit it.  Presently he began to talk to himself, a
habit which had grown upon him during the latter years of a life
whose secret had entailed a certain amount of solitude.

"Perhaps," he murmured, "I am psychic.  Nevertheless, I am
convinced that something is happening, something not far away."

He stood for a while, listening intently, the cigarette burning
away between his fingers.  Then, stooping a little, he passed out
into the narrow passage and opened the door into the kitchen
behind, from which the woman who came to minister to their wants
had some time ago departed.  Everything was in order here and
spotlessly neat.  He climbed the narrow staircase, looked in at
Furley's room and his own, and at the third apartment, in which
had been rigged up a temporary bath.  The result was
unilluminating.  He turned and descended the stairs.

"Either," he went on, with a very slight frown, "I am not psychic,
or whatever may be happening is happening out of doors."

He raised the latch of the door, under which a little pool of
water was now standing, and leaned out.  There seemed to be a
curious cessation of immediate sounds.  From somewhere straight
ahead of him, on the other side of that black velvet curtain of
darkness, came the dull booming of the wind, tearing across the
face of the marshes; and beyond it, beating time in a rhythmical
sullen roar, the rise and fall of the sea upon the shingle.  But
near at hand, for some reason, there was almost silence.  The rain
had ceased, the gale for a moment had spent itself.  The strong,
salty moisture was doubly refreshing after the closeness of the
small, lamplit room.  Julian lingered there for several moments.

"Nothing like fresh air," he muttered, "for driving away fancies."

Then he suddenly stiffened.  He leaned forward into the dark,
listening.  This time there was no mistake.  A cry, faint and
pitiful though it was, reached his ears distinctly.

"Julian!  Julian!"

"Coming, old chap," he shouted.  "Wait until I get a torch."

He stepped quickly back into the sitting room, drew an electric
torch from the drawer of the homely little chiffonier and,
regardless of regulations, stepped once more out into the
darkness, now pierced for him by that single brilliant ray.  The
door opened on to a country road filled with gleaming puddles.  On
the other side of the way was a strip of grass, sloping downwards;
then a broad dyke, across which hung the remains of a footbridge.
The voice came from the water, fainter now but still eager.
Julian hurried forward, fell on his knees by the side of the dyke
and, passing his hands under his friend's shoulders, dragged him
out of the black, sluggish water.

"My God!" he exclaimed.  "What happened, Miles?  Did you slip?"

"The bridge gave way when I was half across," was the muttered
response.  "I think my leg's broken.  I fell in and couldn't get
clear--just managed to raise my head out of the water and cling
to the rail."

"Hold tight," Julian enjoined.  "I'm going to drag you across the
road.  It's the best I can do."

They reached the threshold of the sitting room.

"Sorry, old chap," faltered Furley--and fainted.

He came to himself in front of the sitting-room fire, to find his
lips wet with brandy and his rescuer leaning over him.  His first
action was to feel his leg.

"That's all right," Julian assured him.  "It isn't broken.  I've
been over it carefully.  If you're quite comfortable, I'll step
down to the village and fetch the medico.  It isn't a mile away."

"Don't bother about the doctor for a moment," Furley begged.
"Listen to me.  Take your torch--go out and examine that bridge.
Come back and tell me what's wrong with it."

"What the dickens does that matter?" Julian objected.  "It's the
doctor we want.  The dyke's flooded, and I expect the supports
gave way."

"Do as I ask," Furley insisted.  "I have a reason."

Julian rose to his feet, walked cautiously to the edge of the
dyke, turned on his light, and looked downwards.  One part of the
bridge remained; the other was caught in the weeds, a few yards
down, and the single plank which formed its foundation was sawn
through, clean and straight.  He gazed at it for a moment in
astonishment.  Then he turned back towards the cottage, to receive
another shock.  About forty yards up the lane, drawn in close to a
straggling hedge, was a small motor-car, revealed to him by a
careless swing of his torch.  He turned sharply towards it,
keeping his torch as much concealed as possible.  It was empty--a
small coupe of pearl-grey--a powerful two-seater, with deep,
cushioned seats and luxuriously fitted body.  He flashed his torch
on to the maker's name and returned thoughtfully to his friend.

"Miles," he confessed, as he entered the sitting room, "there are
some things I will never make fun of again.  Have you a personal
enemy here?"

"Not one," replied Furley.  "The soldiers, who are all decent
fellows, the old farmer at the back, and your father and mother
are the only people with whom I have the slightest acquaintance in
these parts."

"The bridge has been deliberately sawn through," Julian announced
gravely.

Furley nodded.  He seemed prepared for the news.

"There is something doing in this section, then," he muttered.
"Julian, will you take my job on?"

"Like a bird," was the prompt response.  "Tell me exactly what to
do?"

Furley sat up, still nursing his leg.

"Put on your sea boots, and your oilskins over your clothes," he
directed.  "You will want your own stick, so take that revolver
and an electric torch.  You can't get across the remains of the
bridge, but about fifty yards down to the left, as you leave the
door, the water's only about a foot deep.  Walk through it,
scramble up the other side, and come back again along the edge of
the dyke until you come to the place where one lands from the
broken bridge.  Is that clear?"

"Entirely."

"After that, you go perfectly straight along a sort of cart track
until you come to a gate.  When you have passed through it, you
must climb a bank on your lefthand side and walk along the top.
It's a beastly path, and there are dykes on either side of you."

"Pooh!" Julian exclaimed.  "You forget that I am a native of this
part of the world."

"You come to a sort of stile at the end of about three hundred
yards," Furley continued.  "You get over that, and the bank breaks
up into two.  You keep to the left, and it leads you right down
into the marsh.  Turn seaward.  It will be a nasty scramble, but
there will only be about fifty yards of it.  Then you get to a bit
of rough ground--a bank of grass-grown sand.  Below that there is
the shingle and the sea.  That is where you take up your post."

"Can I use my torch," Julian enquired, "and what am I to look out
for?"

"Heaven knows," replied Furley, "except that there's a general
suggestion of communications between some person on land and some
person approaching from the sea.  I don't mind confessing that
I've done this job, on and off, whenever I've been down here, for
a couple of years, and I've never seen or heard a suspicious thing
yet.  We are never told a word in our instructions, either, or
given any advice.  However, what I should do would be to lie flat
down on the top of that bank and listen.  If you hear anything
peculiar, then you must use your discretion about the torch.  It's
a nasty job to make over to a pal, Julian, but I know you're keen
on anything that looks like an adventure."

"All over it," was the ready reply.  "What about leaving you
alone, though, Miles?"

"You put the whisky and soda where I can get at it," Furley
directed, "and I shall be all right.  I'm feeling stronger every
moment.  I expect your sea boots are in the scullery.  And hurry
up, there's a good fellow.  We're twenty minutes behind time, as
it is."

Julian started on his adventure without any particular enthusiasm.
He found the crossing, returned along the side of the bank,
trudged along the cart track until he arrived at the gate, and
climbed up on the dyke without misadventure.  From here he made
his way more cautiously, using his stick with his right hand, his
torch, with his thumb upon the knob, in his left.  The lull in the
storm seemed to be at an end.  Black, low-hanging clouds were
closing in upon him.  Away to the right, where the line of marshes
was unbroken, the boom of the wind grew louder.  A gust very
nearly blew him down the bank.  He was compelled to shelter for a
moment on its lee side, whilst a scud of snow and sleet passed
like an icy whirlwind.  The roar of the sea was full in his ears
now, and though he must still have been fully two hundred yards
away from it, little ghostly specks of white spray were dashed,
every now and then, into his face.  From here he made his way with
great care, almost crawling, until he came to the stile.  In the
marshes he was twice in salt water over his knees, but he
scrambled out until he reached the grass-grown sand bank which
Furley had indicated.  Obeying orders, he lay down and listened
intently for any fainter sounds mingled with the tumult of nature.
After a few minutes, it was astonishing how his eyes found
themselves able to penetrate the darkness which at first had
seemed like a black wall.  Some distance to the right he could
make out the outline of a deserted barn, once used as a
coast-guard station and now only a depository for the storing of
life belts.  In front of him he could trace the bank of shingle
and the line of the sea, and presently the outline of some dark
object, lying just out of reach of the breaking waves, attracted
his attention.  He watched it steadily.  For some time it was as
motionless as the log he presumed it to be.  Then, without any
warning, it hunched itself up and drew a little farther back.
There was no longer any doubt.  It was a human being, lying on its
stomach with its head turned to the sea.

Julian, who had entered upon his adventure with the supercilious
incredulity of a staunch unbeliever invited to a spiritualist's
seance, was conscious for a moment of an absolutely new sensation.
A person of acute psychological instincts, he found himself
analysing that sensation almost as soon as it was conceived.

"There is no doubt," he confessed under his breath, "that I am
afraid!"

His heart was beating with unaccustomed vigour; he was conscious
of an acute tingling in all his senses.  Then, still lying on his
stomach, almost holding his breath, he saw the thin line of light
from an electric torch steal out along the surface of the sea,
obviously from the hand of his fellow watcher.  Almost at that
same moment the undefined agitation which had assailed him passed.
He set his teeth and watched that line of light.  It moved slowly
sideways along the surface of the sea, as though searching for
something.  Julian drew himself cautiously, inch by inch, to the
extremity of the sand hummock.  His brain was working with a new
clearness.  An inspiration flashed in upon him during those few
seconds.  He knew the geography of the place well,--the corner of
the barn, the steeple beyond, and the watcher lying in a direct
line.  His cipher was explained!

Perfectly cool now, Julian thought with some regret of the
revolver which he had scorned to bring.  He occupied himself,
during these seconds of watching, by considering with care what
his next action was to be.  If he even set his foot upon the
shingle, the watcher below would take alarm, and if he once ran
away, pursuit was hopeless.  The figure, so far as he could
distinguish it, was more like that of a boy than a man.  Julian
began to calculate coolly the chances of an immediate
intervention.  Then things happened, and for a moment he held his
breath.

The line of light had shot out once more, and this time it seemed
to reveal something, something which rose out of the water and
which looked like nothing so much as a long strip of zinc piping.
The watcher at the edge of the sea threw down his torch and
gripped the end of it, and Julian, carried away with excitement,
yielded to an instant and overpowering temptation.  He flashed on
his own torch and watched while the eager figure seemed by some
means to unscrew the top of the coil and drew from it a dark,
rolled-up packet.  Even at that supreme moment, the slim figure
upon the beach seemed to become conscious of the illumination of
which he was the centre.  He swung round,--and that was just as
far as Julian Orden got in his adventure.  After a lapse of time,
during which he seemed to live in a whirl of blackness, where a
thousand men were beating at a thousand anvils, filling the world
with sparks, with the sound of every one of their blows
reverberating in his ears, he opened his eyes to find himself
lying on his back, with one leg in a pool of salt water, which was
being dashed industriously into his face by an unseen hand.  By
his side he was conscious of the presence of a thick-set man in a
fisherman's costume of brown oilskins and a southwester pulled
down as though to hide his features, obviously the man who had
dealt him the blow.  Then he heard a very soft, quiet voice behind
him.

"He will do now.  Come."

The man by his side grunted.

"I am going to make sure of him," he said thickly.  Again he heard
that clear voice from behind, this time a little raised.  The
words failed to reach his brain, but the tone was one of cold and
angry dissent, followed by an imperative order.  Then once more
his senses seemed to be leaving him.  He passed into the world
which seemed to consist only of himself and a youth in fisherman's
oilskins, who was sometimes Furley, sometimes his own sister,
sometimes the figure of a person who for the last twenty-four
hours had been continually in his thoughts, who seemed at one
moment to be sympathising with him and at another to be playing
upon his face with a garden hose.  Then it all faded away, and a
sort of numbness crept over him.  He made a desperate struggle for
consciousness.  There was something cold resting against his
cheek.  His fingers stole towards it.  It was the flask, drawn
from his own pocket and placed there by some unseen hand, the top
already unscrewed, and the reviving odour stealing into his
nostrils.  He guided it to his lips with trembling fingers.  A
pleasant sense of warmth crept over him.  His head fell back.

When he opened his eyes again, he first turned around for the tea
by his bedside, then stared in front of him, wondering if these
things which he saw were indeed displayed through an upraised
blind.  There was the marsh--a picture of still life--winding
belts of sea creeping, serpent-like, away from him towards the
land, with broad pools, in whose bosom, here and there, were
flashes of a feeble sunlight.  There were the clumps of wild
lavender he had so often admired, the patches of deep meadow
green, and, beating the air with their wings as they passed, came
a flight of duck over his head.  Very stiff and dazed, he
staggered to his feet.  There was the village to his right,
red-tiled, familiar; the snug farmhouses, with their brown fields
and belts of trees; the curve of the white road.

And then, with a single flash of memory, it all came back to him.
He felt the top of his head, still sore; looked down at the
stretch of shingle, empty now of any reminiscences; and finally,
leaning heavily on his stick, he plodded back to the cottage,
noticing, as he drew near, the absence of the motor-car from its
place of shelter.  Miles Furley was seated in his armchair, with a
cup of tea in his hand and Mrs. West fussing over him, as Julian
raised the latch and dragged himself into the sitting room.  They
both turned around at his entrance.  Furley dropped his teaspoon
and Mrs. West raised her hands above her head and shrieked.
Julian sank into the nearest chair.

"Melodrama has come to me at last," he murmured.  "Give me some
tea--a whole teapotful, Mrs. West--and get a hot bath ready."

He waited until their temporary housekeeper had bustled out of the
room.  Then he concluded his sentence.

"I have been sandbagged," he announced impressively, and proceeded
to relate the night's adventure to his host.

"This," declared Julian, about a couple of hours later, as he
helped himself for the second time to bacon and eggs, "is a
wonderful tribute to the soundness of our constitutions.  Miles,
it is evident that you and I have led righteous lives."

"Being sandbagged seems to have given you an appetite," Furley
observed.

"And a game leg seems to have done the same for you," Julian
rejoined.  "Did the doctor ask you how you did it?"

Furley nodded.

"I just said that I slipped on the marshes.  One doesn't talk of
such little adventures as you and I experienced last night."

"By the bye, what does one do about them?" Julian enquired.  "I
feel a little dazed about it all, even now living in an unreal
atmosphere and that sort of thing, you know.  It seems to me that
we ought to have out the bloodhounds and search for an engaging
youth and a particularly disagreeable bully of a man, both dressed
in brown oilskins and--"

"Oh, chuck it!" Furley intervened.  "The intelligence department
in charge of this bit of coast doesn't do things like that.  What
you want to remember, Julian, is to keep your mouth shut.  I shall
have a chap over to see me this afternoon, and I shall make a
report to him."

"All the same," persisted Julian, "we--or rather I--was without
a doubt a witness to an act of treason.  By some subtle means
connected with what seemed to be a piece of gas pipe, I have seen
communication with the enemy established."

"You don't know that it was the enemy at all," Furley grunted.

"For us others," Julian replied, "there exists the post office,
the telegraph office and the telephone.  I decline to believe that
any reasonable person would put out upon the sea in weather like
last night's for the sake of delivering a letter to any harmless
inhabitant of these regions.  I will have my sensation, you see,
Furley.  I have suffered--thank heavens mine is a thick skull!--
and I will not be cheated of my compensations."

"Well, keep your mouth shut, there's a good fellow, until after I
have made my report to the Intelligence Officer," Furley begged.
"He'll be here about four.  You don't mind being about?"

"Not in the least," Julian promised.  "So long as I am home for
dinner, my people will be satisfied."

"I don't know how you'll amuse yourself this morning," Furley
observed, "and I'm afraid I sha'n't be able to get out for the
flighting this evening."

"Don't worry about me," Julian begged.  "Remember that I am
practically at home. It's only three miles to the Hall from here
so you mustn't look upon me as an ordinary guest.  I am going for
a tramp in a few minutes."

"Lucky chap!" Furley declared enviously.  "Sunshine like this
makes one feel as though one were on the Riviera instead of in
Norfolk.  Shall you visit the scene of your adventure?"

"I may," Julian answered thoughtfully.  "The instinct of the
sleuthhound is beginning to stir in me.  There is no telling how
far it may lead."

Julian started on his tramp about half an hour later.  He paused
first at a bend in the road, about fifty yards down, and stepped
up close to the hedge.

"The instinct of the sleuthhound," he said to himself, "is all
very well, but why on earth haven't I told Furley about the car?"

He paused to consider the matter, conscious only of the fact that
each time he had opened his lips to mention it, he had felt a
marked but purposeless disinclination to do so.  He consoled
himself now with the reflection that the information would be more
or less valueless until the afternoon, and he forthwith proceeded
upon the investigation which he had planned out.

The road was still muddy, and the track of the tyres, which were
of somewhat peculiar pattern, clearly visible.  He followed it
along the road for a matter of a mile and a half.  Then he came to
a standstill before a plain oak gate and was conscious of a
distinct shock.  On the top bar of the gate was painted in white
letters.

                           MALTENBY HALL

                        TRADESMEN'S ENTRANCE

and it needed only the most cursory examination to establish the
fact that the car whose track he had been following had turned in
here.  He held up his hand and stopped a luggage trolley which had
just turned the bend in the avenue.  The man pulled up and touched
his hat.

"Where are you off to, Fellowes?" Julian enquired.

"I am going to Holt station, sir," the man replied, "after some
luggage."

"Are there any guests at the Hall who motored here, do you know?"
Julian asked.

"Only the young lady, sir," the man replied, "Miss Abbeway.  She
came in a little coupe Panhard."

Julian frowned thoughtfully.

"Has she been out in it this morning?" he asked.

The man shook his head.

"She broke down in it yesterday afternoon, sir," he answered,
"about halfway up to the Hall here."

"Broke down?" Julian repeated.  "Anything serious?  Couldn't you
put it right for her?"

"She wouldn't let me touch it, sir," the man explained.  "She said
she had two cracked sparking plugs, and she wanted to replace them
herself.  She has had some lessons, and I think she wanted a bit
of practice."

"I see.  Then the car is in the avenue now?"

"About half a mile up, on the left-hand side, sir, just by the big
elm.  Miss Abbeway said she was coming down this afternoon to put
new plugs in."

"Then it's been there all the time since yesterday afternoon?"
Julian persisted.

"The young lady wished it left there, sir.  I could have put a
couple of plugs in, in five minutes, and brought her up to the
house, but she wouldn't hear of it."

"I see, Fellowes."

"Any luck with the geese last night, sir?" the man asked.  "I
heard there was a pack of them on Stiffkey Marshes."

"I got one.  They came badly for us," Julian replied.

He made his way up the avenue.  At exactly the spot indicated by
the chauffeur a little coupe car was standing, drawn on to the
turf.  He glanced at the name of the maker and looked once more at
the tracks upon the drive.  Finally, he decided that his
investigations were leading him in a most undesirable direction.

He turned back, walked across the marshes, where he found nothing
to disturb him, and lunched with Furley, whose leg was now so much
better that he was able to put it to the ground.

"What about this visitor of yours?" Julian asked, as they sat
smoking afterwards.  "I must be back at the Hall in time to dine
to-night, you know.  My people made rather a point of it."

Furley nodded.

"You'll be all right," he replied.  "As a matter of fact, he isn't
coming."

"Not coming?" Julian repeated.  "Jove, I should have thought you'd
have had intelligence officers by the dozen down here!"

"For some reason or other," Furley confided, "the affair has been
handed over to the military authorities.  I have had a man down to
see me this morning, and he has taken full particulars.  I don't
know that they'll even worry you at all--until later on, at any
rate."

"Jove, that seems queer!"

"Last night's happening was queer, for that matter," Furley
continued.  "Their only chance, I suppose, of getting to the
bottom of it is to lie doggo as far as possible.  It isn't like a
police affair, you see.  They don't want witnesses and a court of
justice.  One man's word and a rifle barrel does the trick."

Julian sighed.

"I suppose," he observed, "that if I do my duty as a loyal
subject, I shall drop the curtain on last night.  Seems a pity to
have had an adventure like that and not be able to open one's
mouth about it."

Furley grunted.

"You don't want to join the noble army of gas bags," he said.
"Much better make up your mind that it was a dream."

"There are times," Julian confided, "when I am not quite sure that
it wasn't."




CHAPTER III


Julian entered the drawing-room at Maltenby Hall a few minutes
before dinner time that evening.  His mother, who was alone and,
for a wonder, resting, held out her hand for him to kiss and
welcomed him with a charming smile.  Notwithstanding her grey
hair, she was still a remarkably young-looking woman, with a great
reputation as a hostess.

"My dear Julian," she exclaimed, "you look like a ghost!  Don't
tell me that you had to sit up all night to shoot those wretched
duck?"

Julian drew a chair to his mother's side and seated himself with a
little air of relief.

"Never have I been more conscious of the inroads of age," he
confided.  "I can remember when, ten or fifteen years ago, I used
to steal out of the house in the darkness and bicycle down to the
marsh with a twenty-bore gun, on the chance of an odd shot."

"And I suppose," his mother went on, "after spending half the
night wading about in the salt water, you spent the other half
talking to that terrible Mr. Furley."

"Quite right.  We got cold and wet through in the evening; we sat
up talking till the small hours; we got cold and wet again this
morning--and here I am."

"A converted sportsman," his mother observed.  "I wish you could
convert your friend, Mr. Furley.  There's a perfectly terrible
article of his in the National this month.  I can't understand a
word of it, but it reads like sheer anarchy."

"So long as the world exists," Julian remarked, "there must be
Socialists, and Furley is at least honest."

"My dear Julian," his mother protested, "how can a Socialist be
honest!  Their attitude with regard to the war, too, is simply
disgraceful.  I am sure that in any other country that man Fenn,
for instance, would be shot."

"What about your house party?" Julian enquired, with bland
irrelevance.

"All arrived.  I suppose they'll be down directly.   Mr. Hannaway
Wells is here."

"Good old Wells!" Julian murmured.  "How does he look since he
became a Cabinet Minister?"

"Portentous," Lady Maltenby replied; with a smile.  "He doesn't
look as though he would ever unbend.  Then the Shervintons are
here, and the Princess Torski--your friend Miss Abbeway's aunt."

"The Princess Torski?" Julian repeated.  "Who on earth is she?"

"She was English," his mother explained, "a cousin of the
Abbeways.  She married in Russia and is on her way now to France
to meet her husband, who is in command of a Russian battalion
there.  She seems quite a pleasant person, but not in the least
like her niece."

"Miss Abbeway is still here, of course?"

"Naturally.  I asked her for a week, and I think she means to
stay.  We talked for an hour after tea this afternoon, and I found
her most interesting.  She has been living in England for years,
it seems, down in Chelsea, studying sculpture."

"She is a remarkably clever young woman," Julian said
thoughtfully, "but a little incomprehensible.  If the Princess
Torski is her aunt, who were her parents?"

"Her father," the Countess replied, "was Colonel Richard Abbeway,
who seems to have been military attache at St. Petersburg, years
ago.  He married a sister of the Princess Torski's husband, and
from her this young woman inherited a title which she won't use
and a large fortune.  Colonel Abbeway was killed accidentally in
the Russo-Japanese War, and her mother died a few years ago."

"No German blood, or anything of that sort, then?"

"My dear boy, what an idea!" his mother exclaimed reprovingly.
"On the contrary, the Torskis are one of the most aristocratic
families in Russia, and you know what the Abbeways are.  The girl
is excellently bred, and I think her charming in every way.
Whatever made you suggest that she might have German blood in
her?"

"No idea!  Anyhow, I am glad she hasn't.  Who else?"

"The Bishop," his mother continued, "looking very tired, poor
dear!  Doctor George Lennard, from Oxford, two young soldiers from
Norwich, whom Charlie asked us to be civil to--and the great man
himself."

"Tell me about the great man?  I don't think I've seen him to
speak to since he became Prime Minister."

"He declares that this is his first holiday this year.  He is
looking rather tired, but he has had an hour's shooting since he
arrived, and seemed to enjoy it.  Here's your father."

The Earl of Maltenby, who entered a moment later, was depressingly
typical.  He was as tall as his youngest son, with whom he shook
hands absently and whom he resembled in no other way.  He had the
conventionally aristocratic features, thin lips and steely blue
eyes.  He was apparently a little annoyed.

"Anything wrong, dear?" Lady Maltenby asked.

Her husband took up his position on the hearthrug.

"I am annoyed with Stenson," he declared.

The Countess shook her head.

"It's too bad of you, Henry," she expostulated.  "You've been
trying to talk politics with him.  You know that the poor man was
only longing for forty-eight hours during which he could forget
that he was Prime Minister of England."

"Precisely, my dear," Lord Maltenby agreed.  "I can assure you
that I have not transgressed in any way.  A remark escaped me
referring to the impossibility of providing beaters, nowadays, and
to the fact that out of my seven keepers, five are fighting.  I
consider Mr. Stenson's comment was most improper, coming from one
to whom the destinies of this country are confided."

"What did he say?" the Countess asked meekly.

"Something about wondering whether any man would be allowed to
have seven keepers after the war," her husband replied, with an
angry light in his eyes.  "If a man like Stenson is going to
encourage these socialistic ideas.  I beg your pardon--the
Bishop, my dear."

The remaining guests drifted in within the next few moments,--the
Bishop, Julian's godfather, a curious blend of the fashionable and
the devout, the anchorite and the man of the people; Lord and Lady
Shervinton, elderly connections of the nondescript variety; Mr.
Hannaway Wells, reserved yet, urbane, a wonderful type of the
supreme success of mediocrity; a couple of young soldiers,
light-hearted and out for a good time, of whom Julian took charge;
an Oxford don, who had once been Lord Maltenby's tutor; and last
of all the homely, very pleasant-looking, middle-aged lady,
Princess Torski, followed by her niece.  There were a few
introductions still to be effected.

Whilst Lady Maltenby was engaged in this task, which she performed
at all times with the unfailing tact of a great hostess, Julian
broke off in his conversation with the two soldiers and looked
steadfastly across the room at Catherine Abbeway, as though
anxious to revise or complete his earlier impressions of her.  She
was of medium height, not unreasonably slim, with a deliberate but
noticeably graceful carriage.  Her complexion was inclined to be
pale.  She had large, soft brown eyes, and hair of an unusual
shade of chestnut brown, arranged with remarkably effective
simplicity.  She wore a long string of green beads around her
neck, a black tulle gown without any relief of colour, but a
little daring in its cut.  Her voice and laugh, as she stood
talking to the Bishop, were delightful, and neither her gestures
nor her accent betrayed the slightest trace of foreign blood.  She
was, without a doubt, extraordinarily attractive, gracious almost
to freedom in her manner, and yet with that peculiar quality of
aloofness only recognisable in the elect,--a very appreciable
charm.  Julian found his undoubted admiration only increased by
his closer scrutiny.  Nevertheless, as he watched her, there was a
slightly puzzled frown upon his forehead, a sense of something
like bewilderment mingled with those other feelings.  His mother,
who had turned to speak to the object of his attentions, beckoned
him, and he crossed the room at once to their side.

"Julian is going to take you in to dinner, Miss Abbeway," the
Countess announced, "and I hope you will be kind to him, for he's
been out all night and a good part of the morning, too, shooting
ducks and talking nonsense with a terrible Socialist."

Lady Maltenby passed on.  Julian, leaning on his stick, looked
down with a new interest into the face which had seldom been out
of his thoughts since their first meeting, a few weeks ago.

"Tell me, Mr. Orden," she asked, "which did you find the more
exhausting--tramping the marshes for sport, or discussing
sociology with your friend?"

"As a matter of fact," he replied, "we didn't tramp the marshes.
We stood still and got uncommonly wet.  And I shot a goose, which
made me very happy."

"Then it must have been the conversation," she declared.  "Is your
friend a prophet or only one of the multitude?"

"A prophet, most decidedly.  He is a Mr. Miles Furley, of whom you
must have heard."

She started a little.

"Miles Furley!" she repeated.  "I had no idea that he lived in
this part of the world."

"He has a small country house somewhere in Norfolk," Julian told
her, "and he takes a cottage down here at odd times for the
wild-fowl shooting."

"Will you take me to see him to-morrow?" she asked.

"With pleasure, so long as you promise not to talk socialism with
him."

"I will promise that readily, out of consideration to my escort.
I wonder how it is," she went on, looking up at him a little
thoughtfully, "that you dislike serious subjects so much."

"A frivolous turn of mind, I suppose," he replied.  "I certainly
prefer to talk art with you."

"But nowadays," she protested, "it is altogether the fashion down
at Chelsea to discard art and talk politics."

"It's a fashion I shouldn't follow," he advised.  "I should stick
to art, if I were you."

"Well, that depends upon how you define politics, of course.  I
don't mean Party politics.  I mean the science of living, as a
whole, not as a unit."

The Princess ambled up to them.

"I don't know what your political views are, Mr. Orden," she said,
"but you must look out for shocks if you discuss social questions
with my niece.  In the old days they would never have allowed her
to live in Russia.  Even now, I consider some of her doctrines the
most pernicious I ever heard."

"Isn't that terrible from an affectionate aunt!"

Catherine laughed, as the Princess passed on.  "Tell me some more
about your adventures last night?"

She looked up into his face, and Julian was suddenly conscious
from whence had come that faint sense of mysterious trouble which
had been with him during the last few minutes.  The slight quiver
of her lips brought it all back to him.  Her mouth, beyond a
doubt, with its half tender, half mocking curve, was the mouth
which he had seen in that tangled dream of his, when he had lain
fighting for consciousness upon the marshes.




CHAPTER IV


Julian, absorbed for the first few minutes of dinner by the
crystallisation of this new idea which had now taken a definite
place in his brain, found his conversational powers somewhat at a
discount.  Catherine very soon, however, asserted her claim upon
his attention.

"Please do your duty and tell me about things," she begged.
"Remember that I am Cinderella from Bohemia, and I scarcely know a
soul here."

"Well, there aren't many to find out about, are there?" he
replied.  "Of course you know Stenson?"

"I have been gazing at him with dilated eyes," she confided.  "Is
that not the proper thing to do?  He seems to me very ordinary and
very hungry."

"Well, then, there is the Bishop."

"I knew him at once from his photographs.  He must spend the whole
of the time when he isn't in church visiting the photographer.
However, I like him.  He is talking to my aunt quite amiably.
Nothing does aunt so much good as to sit next a bishop."

"The Shervintons you know all about, don't you?" he went on.  "The
soldiers are just young men from the Norwich barracks, Doctor
Lennard was my father's tutor at Oxford, and Mr. Hannaway Wells is
our latest Cabinet Minister."

"He still has the novice's smirk," she remarked.  "A moment ago I
heard him tell his neighbour that he preferred not to discuss the
war.  He probably thinks that there is a spy under the table."

"Well, there we are--such as we are," Julian concluded.  "There
is no one left except me."

"Then tell me all about yourself," she suggested.  "Really, when I
come to think of it, considering the length of our conversations,
you have been remarkably reticent.  You are the youngest of the
family, are you not?  How many brothers are there?"

"There were four," he told her.  "Henry was killed at Ypres last
year.  Guy is out there still.  Richard is a Brigadier."

"And you?"

"I am a barrister by profession, but I went out with the first
Inns of Court lot for a little amateur soldiering and lost part of
my foot at Mons.  Since then I have been indulging in the
unremunerative and highly monotonous occupation of censoring."

"Monotonous indeed, I should imagine," she agreed.  "You spend
your  time reading other people's letters, do you not, just to be
sure that there are no communications from the enemy?"

"Precisely," he assented.  "We discover ciphers and all sorts of
things."

"What brainy people you must be!"

"We are, most of us."

"Do you do anything else?"

"Well, I've given up censoring for the present," he confided.  "I
am going back to my profession."

"As a barrister?"

"Just so.  I might add that I do a little hack journalism."

"How modest!" she murmured.  "I suppose you write the leading
articles for the Times!"

"For a very young lady," Julian observed impressively, "you have
marvellous insight.  How did you guess my secret?"

"I am better at guessing secrets than you are," she retorted a
little insolently.

He was silent for some moments.  The faint curve of her lips had
again given him almost a shock.

"Have you a brother?" he asked abruptly.

"No.  Why?"

"Because I met some one quite lately--within the last few hours,
as a matter of fact--with a mouth exactly like yours."

"But what a horrible thing!" she exclaimed, drawing out a little
mirror from the bag by her side and gazing into it.  "How
unpleasant to have any one else going about with a mouth exactly
like one's own!  No, I never had a brother, Mr. Orden, or a
sister, and, as you may have heard, I am an enfant mechante.  I
live in London, I model very well, and I talk very bad sociology.
As I think I told you, I know your anarchist friend, Miles
Furley."

"I shouldn't call Furley an anarchist," protested Julian.

"Well, he is a Socialist.  I admit that we are rather lax in our
definitions.  You see, there is just one subject, of late years,
which has brought together the Socialists and the Labour men, the
Syndicalists and the Communists, the Nationalists and the
Internationalists.  All those who work for freedom are learning
breadth.  If they ever find a leader, I think that this dear, smug
country of yours may have to face the greatest surprise of its
existence."

Julian looked at her curiously.

"You have ideas, Miss Abbeway."

"So unusual in a woman!" she mocked.  "Do you notice how every one
is trying to avoid the subject of the war?  I give them another
half-course, don't you?  I am sure they cannot keep it up."

"They won't go the distance," Julian whispered.  "Listen."

"The question to be considered," Lord Shervinton pronounced, "is
not so much when the war will be over as what there is to stop it?
That is a point which I think we can discuss without inviting
official indiscretions."

"If other means fail," declared the Bishop, "Christianity will
stop it.  The conscience of the world is already being stirred."

"Our enemies," the Earl pronounced confidently from his place at
the head of the table, "are already a broken race.  They are on
the point of exhaustion.  Austria is, if possible, in a worse
plight.  That is what will end the war--the exhaustion of our
opponents."

"The deciding factor," Mr. Hannaway Wells put in, with a very
non-committal air, "will probably be America.  She will bring her
full strength into the struggle just at the crucial moment.  She
will probably do what we farther north have as yet failed to do:
she will pierce the line and place the German armies in Flanders
in peril."

The Cabinet Minister's views were popular.  There was a little
murmur of approval, something which sounded almost like a purr of
content.  It was just one more expression of that strangely
discreditable yet almost universal failing,--the over-reliance
upon others.  The quiet remark of the man who suddenly saw fit to
join in the discussion struck a chilling and a disturbing note.

"There is one thing which could end the war at any moment," Mr.
Stenson said, leaning a little forward, "and that is the will of
the people."

There was perplexity as well as discomfiture in the minds of his
hearers.

"The people?" Lord Shervinton repeated.  "But surely the people
speak through the mouths of their rulers?"

"They have been content to, up to the present," the Prime Minister
agreed, "but Europe may still see strange and dramatic events
before many years are out."

"Do go on, please," the Countess begged.

Mr. Stenson shook his head.

"Even as a private individual I have said more than I intended,"
he replied.  "I have only one thing to say about the war in
public, and that is that we are winning, that we must win, that
our national existence depends upon winning, and that we shall go
on until we do win.  The obstacles between us and victory, which
may remain in our minds, are not to be spoken of."

There was a brief and somewhat uncomfortable pause.  It was
understood that the subject was to be abandoned.  Julian addressed
a question to the Bishop across the table.  Lord Maltenby
consulted Doctor Lennard as to the date of the first Punic War.
Mr. Stenson admired the flowers.  Catherine, who had been sitting
with her eyes riveted upon the Prime Minister, turned to her
neighbour.

"Tell me about your amateur journalism, Mr. Orden?" she begged.
"I have an idea that it ought to be interesting."

"Deadly dull, I can assure you."

"You write about politics?  Or perhaps you are an art critic?  I
ought to be on my best behaviour, in case."

"I know little about art," he assured her.  "My chief interest in
life--outside my profession, of course--lies in sociology."

His little confession had been impulsive.  She raised her
eyebrows.

"You are in earnest, I believe!" she exclaimed.  "Have I really
found an Englishman who is in earnest?"

"I plead guilty.  It is incorrect philosophy but a distinct
stimulus to life."

"What a pity," she sighed, "that you are so handicapped by birth!
Sociology cannot mean anything very serious for you.  Your
perspective is naturally distorted."

"What about yourself?" he asked pertinently.

"The vanity of us women!" she murmured.  "I have grown to look
upon myself as being an exception.  I forget that there might be
others.  You might even be one of our prophets--a Paul Fiske in
disguise."

His eyes narrowed a little as he looked at her closely.  From
across the table, the Bishop broke off an interesting discussion
on the subject of his addresses to the working classes, and the
Earl set down his wineglass with an impatient gesture.

"Does no one really know," Mr. Stenson asked, "who Paul Fiske is?"

"No one, sir," Mr. Hannaway Wells replied.  "I thought it wise, a
short time ago, to set on foot the most searching enquiries, but
they were absolutely fruitless."

The Bishop coughed.

"I must plead guilty," he confessed, "to having visited the
offices of The Monthly Review with the same object.  I left a note
for him there, in charge of the editor, inviting him to a
conference at my house.  I received no reply.  His anonymity seems
to be impregnable."

"Whoever he may be," the Earl declared, "he ought to be muzzled.
He is a traitor to his country."

"I cannot agree with you, Lord Maltenby," the Bishop said firmly.
"The very danger of the man's doctrines lies in their clarity of
thought, their extraordinary proximity to the fundamental truths
of life."

"The man is, at any rate," Doctor Lennard interposed, "the most
brilliant anonymous writer since the days of Swift and the letters
of Junius."

Mr. Stenson for a moment hesitated.  He seemed uncertain whether
or no to join in the conversation.  Finally, impulse swayed him.

"Let us all be thankful," he said, "that Paul Fiske is content
with the written word.  If the democracy of England found
themselves to-day with such a leader, it is he who would be ruling
the country, and not I."

"The man is a pacifist!" the Earl protested.

"So we all are," the Bishop declared warmly.  "We are all
pacifists in the sense that we are lovers of peace.  There is not
one of us who does not deplore the horrors of to-day.  There is
not one of us who is not passionately seeking for the master mind
which can lead us out of it."

"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.




CHAPTER V


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.

"An interesting face, your dinner companion's," he remarked.
"They tell me that she is a very brilliant young lady."

"She certainly has gifts," acknowledged Julian.

"I watched her whilst she was talking to you," the Oxford don
continued.  "She is one of those rare young women whose undoubted
beauty is put into the background by their general attractiveness.
Lady Maltenby was telling me fragments of her history.  It appears
that she is thinking of giving up her artistic career for some
sort of sociological work."

"It is curious," Julian reflected, "how the cause of the people
has always appealed to gifted Russians.  England, for instance,
produces no real democrats of genius.  Russia seems to claim a
monopoly of them."

"There is nothing so stimulating as a sense of injustice for
bringing the best out of a man or woman," Doctor Lennard pointed
out.  "Russia, of course, for many years has been shamefully
misgoverned."

The conversation, owing to the intervention of other of the
guests, became general and platitudinal.  Soon after, Mr. Stenson
rose and excused himself.  His secretary; who had been at the
telephone, desired a short conference.  There was a brief silence
after his departure.

"Stenson," the Oxonian observed, "is beginning to show signs of
strain."

"Why not?" Lord Shervinton pointed out.  "He came into office full
of the most wonderful enthusiasm.  His speeches rang through the
world like a clarion note.  He converted waverers.  He lit fires
which still burn.  But he is a man of movement.  This present
stagnation is terribly irksome to him.  I heard him speak last
week, and I was disappointed.  He seems to have lost his
inspiration.  What he needs is a stimulus of some sort, even of
disaster."

"I wonder," the Bishop reflected, "if he is really afraid of the
people?"

"I consider his remark concerning them most ill-advised," Lord
Maltenby declared pompously.

"I know the people," the Bishop continued, "and I love them.  I
think, too, that they trust me.  Yet I am not sure that I cannot
see a glimmering of what is at the back of Stenson's mind.  There
are a good many millions in the country who honestly believe that
war is primarily an affair of the politicians; who believe, too,
that victory means a great deal more to what they term `the upper
classes' than it does to them.  Yet, in every sense of the word,
they are bearing an equal portion of the fight, because, when it
comes down to human life, the life of the farm labourer's son is
of the same intrinsic value as the life of the peer's."

Lord Maltenby moved a little in his chair.  There was a slight
frown upon his aristocratic forehead.  He disagreed entirely with
the speaker, with whom he feared, however, to cross swords.  Mr.
Hannaway Wells, who had been waiting for his opportunity, took
charge of the conversation.  He spoke in a reserved manner, his
fingers playing with the stem of his wineglass.

"I must confess," he said, "that I feel the deepest interest in
what the Bishop has just said.  I could not talk to you about the
military situation, even if I knew more than you do, which is not
the case, but I think it is clear that we have reached something
like a temporary impasse.  There certainly seems to be no cause
for alarm upon any front, yet, not only in London, but in Paris
and even Rome, there is a curious uneasiness afoot, for which no
one can, account which no one can bring home to any definite
cause.  In the same connection, we have confidential information
that a new spirit of hopefulness is abroad in Germany.  It has
been reported to us that sober, clear-thinking men--and there are
a few of them, even in Germany--have predicted peace before a
month is out."

"The assumption is," Doctor Lennard interpolated, "that Germany
has something up her sleeve."

"That is not only the assumption," the Cabinet Minister replied,
"but it is also, I believe, the truth."

"One could apprehend and fear a great possible danger," Lord
Shervinton observed, "if the Labour Party in Germany were as
strong as ours, or if our own Labour, Party were entirely united.
The present conditions, however, seem to me to give no cause for
alarm."

"That is where I think you are wrong," Hannaway Wells declared.
"If the Labour Party in Germany were as strong as ours, they would
be strong enough to overthrow the Hohenzollern clique, to stamp
out the militarism against which we are at war, to lay the
foundations of a great German republic with whom we could make the
sort of peace for which every Englishman hopes.  The danger, the
real danger which we have to face, would lie in an amalgamation of
the Labour Party, the Socialists and the Syndicalists in this
country, and in their insisting upon treating with the weak Labour
Party in Germany."

"I agree with the Bishop," Julian pronounced.  "The unclassified
democracy of our country may believe itself hardly treated, but
individually it is intensely patriotic.  I do not believe that its
leaders would force the hand of the country towards peace, unless
they received full assurance that their confreres in Germany were
able to assume a dominant place in the government of that country
--a place at least equal to the influence of the democracy here."

Doctor Lennard glanced at the speaker a little curiously.  He had
known Julian since he was a boy but had never regarded him as
anything but a dilettante.

"You may not know it," he said, "but you are practically
expounding the views of that extraordinary writer of whom we were
speaking--Paul Fiske."

"I have been told," the Bishop remarked, cracking a walnut, "that
Paul Fiske is the pseudonym of a Cabinet Minister."

"And I," Hannaway Wells retorted, "have been informed most
credibly that he is a Church of England clergyman."

"The last rumour I heard," Lord Shervinton put in, "was that he is
a grocer in a small way of business at Wigan."

"Dear me!" Doctor Lennard remarked.  "The gossips have covered
enough ground!  A man at a Bohemian club of which I am a member--
the Savage Club, in fact--assured me that he was an opium drugged
journalist, kept alive by the charity of a few friends; a human
wreck, who was once the editor of an important London paper."

"You have some slight connection with journalism, have you not,
Julian?" the Earl asked his son condescendingly.  "Have you heard
no reports?"

"Many," Julian replied, "but none which I have been disposed to
credit.  I should imagine, myself, that Paul Fiske is a man who
believes, having created a public, that his written words find an
added value from the fact that he obviously desires neither reward
nor recognition; just in the same way as the really earnest
democrats of twenty years ago scoffed at the idea of a seat in
Parliament, or of breaking bread in any way with the enemy."

"It was a fine spirit, that," the Bishop declared.  "I am not sure
that we are not all of us a little over-inclined towards
compromises.  The sapping away of conscience is so easy."

The dining-room door was thrown open, and the butler announced a
visitor.

"Colonel Henderson, your lordship."

They all turned around in their places.  The colonel, a fine,
military-looking figure of a man, shook hands with Lord Maltenby.

"My most profound apologies, sir," he said, as he accepted a
chair.  "The Countess was kind enough to say that if I were not
able to get away in time for dinner, I might come up afterwards."

"You are sure that you have dined?"

"I had something at Mess, thank you."

"A glass of port, then?"

The Colonel helped himself from the decanter which was passed
towards him and exchanged greetings with several of the guests to
whom his host introduced him.

"No raids or invasions, I hope, Colonel?" the latter asked.

"Nothing quite so serious as that, I am glad to say.  We have had
a little excitement of another sort, though.  One of my men caught
a spy this morning."

Every one was interested.  Even after three years of war, there
was still something fascinating about the word.

"Dear me!" Lord Maltenby exclaimed.  "I should scarcely have
considered our out-of-the-way part of the world sufficiently
important to attract attentions of that sort."

"It was a matter of communication," the Colonel confided.  "There
was an enemy submarine off here last night, and we have reason to
believe that a message was landed.  We caught one fellow just at
dawn."

"What did you do with him?" the Bishop asked.

"We shot him an hour ago," was the cool reply.

"Are there any others at large?" Julian enquired, leaning forward.

"One other," the Colonel acknowledged, sipping his wine
appreciatively.  "My military police here, however, are very
intelligent, and I should think it very doubtful whether he can
escape."

"Was the man who was shot a foreigner?" the Earl asked.  "I trust
that he was not one of my tenants?"

"He was a stranger," was the prompt assurance.

"And his companion?" Julian ventured.

"His companion is believed to have been quite a youth.  There is a
suggestion that he escaped in a motor-car, but he is probably
hiding in the neighbourhood."

Lord Maltenby frowned.  There seemed to him something incongruous
in the fact that a deed of this sort should have been committed in
his domain without his knowledge.  He rose to his feet.

"The Countess is probably relying upon some of us for bridge," he
said.  "I hope, Colonel, that you will take a hand."

The men rose and filed slowly out of the room.  The Colonel,
however, detained his host, and Julian also lingered.

"I hope, Lord Maltenby," the former said, "that you will excuse my
men, but they tell me that they find it necessary to search your
garage for a car which has been seen in the neighbourhood."

"Search my garage?" Lord Maltenby repeated, frowning.

"There is no doubt," the Colonel explained, "that a car was made
use of last night by the man who is still at large, and it is very
possible that it was stolen.  You will understand, I am sure, that
any enquiries which my men may feel it their duty to make are
actuated entirely by military necessity."

"Quite so," the Earl acceded, still a little puzzled.  "You will
find my head chauffeur a most responsible man.  He will, I am
sure, give them every possible information.  So far as I am aware,
however, there is no strange car in the garage.  Do you know of
any, Julian?"

"Only Miss Abbeway's," his son replied.  "Her little Panhard was
out in the avenue all night, waiting for her to put some plugs in.
Every one else seems to have come by train."

The Colonel raised his eyebrows very slightly and moved slowly
towards the door.

"The matter is in the hands of my police," he said, "but if you
could excuse me for half a moment, Lord Maltenby, I should like to
speak to your head chauffeur."

"By all means," the Earl replied.  "I will take you round to the
garage myself."




CHAPTER VI


Julian entered the drawing-room hurriedly a few minutes later.  He
glanced around quickly, conscious of a distinct feeling of
disappointment.  His mother, who was arranging a bridge table,
called him over to her side.

"You have the air, my dear boy, of missing some one," she remarked
with a smile.

"I want particularly to speak to Miss Abbeway," he confided.

Lady Maltenby smiled tolerantly.

"After nearly two hours of conversation at dinner!  Well, I won't
keep you in suspense. She wanted a quiet place to write some
letters, so I sent her into the boudoir."

Julian hastened off, with a word of thanks.  The boudoir was a
small room opening from the suite which had been given to the
Princess and her niece a quaint, almost circular apartment, hung
with faded blue Chinese silk and furnished with fragments of the
Louis Seize period,--a rosewood cabinet, in particular, which had
come from Versailles, and which was always associated in Julian's
mind with the faint fragrance of two Sevres jars of dried rose
leaves.  The door opened almost noiselessly.

Catherine, who was seated before a small, ebony writing table,
turned her head at his entrance.

"You?" she exclaimed.

Julian listened for a moment and then closed the door.  She sat
watching him, with the pen still in her fingers.

"Miss Abbeway," he said, "have you heard any news this evening?"

The pen with which she had been tapping the table was suddenly
motionless.  She turned a little farther around.

"News?" she repeated.  "No!  Is there any?"

"A man was caught upon the marshes this morning and shot an hour
ago.  They say that he was a spy."

She sat as though turned to stone.

"Well?"

"The military police are still hunting for his companion.  They
are now searching the garage here to see if they can find a small,
grey, coupe car."

This time she remained speechless, but all those ill-defined fears
which had gathered in his heart seemed suddenly to come to a head.
Her appearance had changed curiously during the last hour.  There
was a hunted, almost a desperate gleam in her eyes, a drawn look
about her mouth as she sat looking at him.

"How do you know this?" she asked.

"The Colonel of the regiment stationed here has just arrived.  He
is down in the garage now with my father."

"Shot!" she murmured.  "Most Dieu!"

"I want to help you," he continued.

Her eyes questioned him almost fiercely.

"You are sure?"

"I am sure."

"You know what it means?"

"I do."

"How did you guess the truth?"

"I remembered your mouth," he told her.  "I saw your car last
night, and I traced it up the avenue this morning."

"A mouth isn't much to go by," she observed, with a very wan
smile.

"It happens to be your mouth," he replied.

She rose to her feet and stood for a moment as though listening.
Then she thrust her hand down into the bosom of her gown and
produced a small roll of paper wrapped in a sheet of oilskin.  He
took it from her at once and slipped it into the breast pocket of
his coat.

"You understand what you are doing?" she persisted.

"Perfectly;" he replied.

She crossed the room towards the hearthrug and stood there for a
moment, leaning against the mantelpiece.

"Is there anything else I can do?" he asked.

She turned around.  There was a wonderful change in her face.

"No one saw me," she said.  "I do not think that there is any one
but you who could positively identify the car.  Neither my aunt
nor the maid who is with us has any idea that I left my room last
night."

"Your clothes?"

"Absolutely destroyed," she assured him with a smile.  "Some day I
hope I'll find courage to ask you whether you thought them
becoming."

"Some day," he retorted, a little grimly, "I am going to have a
very serious talk with you, Miss Abbeway."

"Shall you be very stern?"

He made no response to her lighter mood.  The appeal in her eyes
left him colder than ever.

"I wish to save your life," he declared, "and I mean to do it.  At
the same time, I cannot forget your crime or my complicity in it."

"If you feel like that, then," she said a little defiantly, "tell
the truth.  I knew the risk I was running.  I am not afraid, even
now.  You can give me back those papers, if you like.  I can
assure you that the person on whom they are found will undoubtedly
be shot."

"Then I shall certainly retain possession of them," he decided.

"You are very chivalrous, sir," she ventured, smiling.

"I happen to be only selfish," Julian replied.  "I even despise
myself for what I am doing.  I am turning traitor myself, simply
because I could not bear the thought of what might happen to you
if you were discovered."

"You like me, then, a little, Mr. Orden?" she asked.

"Twenty-four hours ago," he sighed, "I had hoped to answer that
question before it was asked."

"This is very tantalising," she murmured.  "You are going to save
my life, then, and afterwards treat me as though I were a leper?"

"I shall hope," he said, "that you may have explanations--that I
may find--"

She held out her hand and stopped him.  Once more, for a moment,
her eyes were distended, her form was tense.  She was listening
intently.

"There is some one coming," she whispered--"two or three men, I
think.  What fools we have been!  We ought to have decided--
about the car."

Her teeth came together for a moment.  It was her supreme effort
at self-control.  Then she laughed almost naturally, lit a
cigarette, and seated herself upon the arm of an easy-chair.

"You are interfering shockingly with my correspondence," she
declared, "and I am sure that they want you for bridge.  Here
comes Lord Maltenby to tell you so," she added, glancing towards
the door.

Lord Maltenby was very pompous, very stiff, and yet apologetic.
He considered the whole affair in which he had become involved
ridiculous.

"Miss Abbeway," he said, "I beg to present to you Colonel
Henderson.  An unfortunate occurrence took place here last night,
which it has become the duty of--er--Colonel Henderson to clear
up.  He wishes to ask you a question concerning--er--a
motor-car."

Colonel Henderson frowned.  He stepped a little forward with the
air of wishing to exclude the Earl from further speech.

"May I ask, Miss Abbeway," he began, "whether the small coupe car,
standing about a hundred yards down the back avenue, is yours?"

"It is," she assented, with a little sigh.  "It won't go."

"It won't go?" the Colonel repeated.

"I thought you might know something about cars," she explained.
"They tell me that two of the sparking plugs are cracked.  I am
thinking of replacing them tomorrow morning, if I can get Mr.
Orden to help me."

"How long has the car been there in its present condition, then?"
the Colonel enquired.

"Since about five o'clock yesterday afternoon," she replied.

"You don't think it possible that it could have been out on the
road anywhere last night, then?"

"Out on the road!" she laughed.  "Why, I couldn't get it up to the
garage!  You go and look at it, Colonel, if you understand cars.
Fellowes, the chauffeur here, had a look at the plugs when I
brought it in, and you'll find that they haven't been touched."

"I trust," the Earl intervened, "that my chauffeur offered to do
what was necessary?"

"Certainly he did, Lord Maltenby," she assured him.  "I am trying
hard to be my own mechanic, though, and I have set my mind on
changing those plugs myself to-morrow morning."

"You are your own chauffeur, then, Miss Abbeway?" her inquisitor
asked.

"Absolutely."

"You can change a wheel, perhaps?"

"Theoretically I can, but as a matter of fact I have never had to
do it.'"

"Your tyres," Colonel Henderson continued, "are of somewhat
unusual pattern."

"They are Russian," she told him.  "I bought them for that reason.
As a matter of fact, they are very good tyres."

"Miss Abbeway," the Colonel said, "I don't know whether you are
aware that my police are in search of a spy who is reported to
have escaped from the marshes last night in a small motor-car
which was left at a certain spot in the Salthouse road.  I do not
believe that there are two tyres such as yours in Norfolk.  How do
you account for their imprint being clearly visible along the road
to a certain spot near Salthouse?  My police have taken tracings
of them this morning."

Catherine remained perfectly speechless.  A slow smile of triumph
dawned upon her accuser's lips.  Lord Maltenby's eyebrows were
upraised as though in horror.

"Perhaps," Julian interposed, "I can explain the tyre marks upon
the road.  Miss Abbeway drove me down to Furley's cottage, where I
spent the night, late in the afternoon.  The marks were still
there when I returned this morning, because I noticed them."

"The same marks?" the Colonel asked, frowning.

"Without a doubt the same marks," Julian replied.  "In one place,
where we skidded a little, I recognized them."

Colonel Henderson smiled a little more naturally.

"I begin to have hopes," he acknowledged frankly, "that I have
been drawn into another mare's nest.  Nevertheless, I am bound to
ask you this question, Miss Abbeway.  Did you leave your room at
all during last night?"

"Not unless I walked in my sleep," she answered, "but you had
better make enquiries of my aunt, and Parkins, our maid.  They
sleep one on either side of me."

"You would not object," the Colonel continued, more cheerfully
still, "if my people thought well to have your things searched?"

"Not in the least," Catherine replied coolly, "only if you unpack
my trunks, I beg that you will allow my maid to fold and unfold my
clothes."

"I do not think," Colonel Henderson said to Lord Maltenby, "that I
have any more questions to ask Miss Abbeway at present."

"In which case we will return to the drawing-room," the Earl
suggested a little stiffly.  "Miss Abbeway, you will, I trust,
accept my apologies for our intrusion upon you.  I regret that any
guest of mine should have been subjected to a suspicion so
outrageous."

Catherine laughed softly.

"Not outrageous really, dear Lord Maltenby," she said.  "I do not
quite know of what I have been suspected, but I am sure Colonel
Henderson would not have asked me these questions if it had not
been his duty."

"If you had not been a guest in this house, Miss Abbeway," the
Colonel assured her, with some dignity, "I should have had you
arrested first and questioned afterwards."

"You come of a race of men, Colonel Henderson, who win wars," she
declared graciously.  "You know your own mind."

"You will be joining us presently, I hope?" Lord Maltenby enquired
from the door.

"In a very few minutes," she promised.

The door closed behind them.  Catherine waited for a moment, then
she sank a little hysterically into a chair.

"I cannot avoid a touch of melodrama, you see," she confessed.
"It goes with my character and nationality.  But seriously, now
that that is over, I do not consider myself in the slightest
danger.  The poor fellow who was shot this morning belongs to a
different order of people.  He has been a spy over here since the
beginning of the war."

"And what are you?" he asked bluntly.

She laughed up in his face.

"A quite attractive young woman," she declared,--"at least I feel
sure you will think so when you know me better."




CHAPTER VII


It was about half-past ten on the following morning when Julian,
obeying a stentorian invitation to enter, walked into Miles
Furley's sitting room.  Furley was stretched upon the couch,
smoking a pipe and reading the paper.

"Good man!" was his hearty greeting.  "I hoped you'd look me up
this morning."

Julian dragged up the other dilapidated-looking easy-chair to the
log fire and commenced to fill his pipe from the open jar.

"How's the leg?" he enquired.

"Pretty nearly all right again," Furley answered cheerfully.
"Seems to me I was frightened before I was hurt.  What about your
head?"

"No inconvenience at all," Julian declared, stretching himself
out.  "I suppose I must have a pretty tough skull."

"Any news?"

"News enough, of a sort, if you haven't heard it.  They caught the
man who sandbagged me, and who I presume sawed your plank through,
and shot him last night."

"The devil they did!" Furley exclaimed, taking his pipe from his
mouth.  "Shot him?  Who the mischief was he, then?"

"It appears," Julian replied, "that he was a German hairdresser,
who escaped from an internment camp two years ago and has been at
large ever since, keeping in touch, somehow or other, with his
friends on the other side.  He must have known the game was up as
soon as he was caught.  He didn't even attempt any defence."

"Shot, eh?" Furley repeated, relighting his pipe.  "Serves him
damned well right!"

"You think so, do you?" Julian remarked pensively.

"Who wouldn't?  I hate espionage.  So does every Englishman.
That's why we are such duffers at the game, I suppose."

Julian watched his friend with a slight frown.

"How in thunder did you get mixed up with this affair, Furley?" he
asked quietly.

Furley's bewilderment was too natural to be assumed.  He removed
his pipe from his teeth and stared at his friend.

"What the devil are you driving at, Julian?" he demanded.  "I can
assure you that I went out, the night before last, simply to make
one of the rounds which falls to my lot when I am in this part of
the world and nominated for duty.  There are eleven of us between
here and Sheringham, special constables of a humble branch of the
secret service, if you like to put it so.  We are a well-known
institution amongst the initiated.  I've plodded these marshes
sometimes from midnight till daybreak, and although one's always
hearing rumours, until last night I have never seen or heard of a
single unusual incident."

"You had no idea, then," Julian persisted, "what it was that you
were on the look-out for the night before last?  You had no idea,
say, from any source whatever, that there was going to be an
attempt on the part of the enemy to communicate with friends on
this side?"

"Good God, no!  Even to have known it would have been treason."

"You admit that?"

Furley drew himself stiffly up in his chair.  His mass of brown
hair seemed more unkempt than usual, his hard face sterner than
ever by reason of its disfiguring frown.

"What the hell do you mean, Julian?"

"I mean," Julian replied, "that I have reason to suspect you,
Furley, of holding or attempting to hold secret communication with
an enemy country."

The pipestem which he was holding snapped in Furley's fingers.
His eyes were filled with fury.

"Damn you, Julian!" he exclaimed.  "If I could stand on two legs,
I'd break your head.  How dare you come here and talk such
rubbish."

"Isn't there some truth in what I have just said?" Julian asked
sternly.

"Not a word."

Julian was silent for a moment.  Furley was sitting upright upon
the sofa, his keen eyes aglint with anger.

"I am waiting for an explanation, Julian," he announced.

"You shall have it," was the prompt reply.  "The companion of the
man who was shot, for whom the police are searching at this
moment, is a guest in my father's house.  I have had to go to the
extent of lying to save her from detection."

"Her?"  Furley gasped.

"Yes!  The youth in fisherman's oilskins, into whose hands that
message passed last night, is Miss Catherine Abbeway.  The young
lady has referred me to you for some explanation as to its being
in her possession."

Furley remained absolutely speechless for several moments.  His
first expression was one of dazed bewilderment.  Then the light
broke in upon him.  He began to understand.  When he spoke, all
the vigour had left his tone.

"You'll have to let me think about this for a moment, Julian," he
said.

"Take your own time.  I only want an explanation."

Furley recovered himself slowly.  He stretched out his hand
towards the pipe rack, filled another pipe and lit it.  Then he
began.

"Julian," he said, "every word that I have spoken to you about the
night before last is the truth.  There is a further confession,
however, which under the circumstances I have to make.  I belong
to a body of men who are in touch with a similar association in
Germany, but I have no share in any of the practical doings--the
machinery, I might call it--of our organisation.  I have known
that communications have passed back and forth, but I imagined
that this was done through neutral countries.  I went out the
night before last as an ordinary British citizen, to do my duty.
I had not the faintest idea that there was to be any attempt to
land a communication here, referring to the matters in which I am
interested.  I should imagine that the proof, of my words lies in
the fact that efforts were made to prevent my reaching my beat,
and that you, my substitute, whom I deliberately sent to take my
place, were attacked."

"I accept your word so far," Julian said.  "Please go on."

"I am an Englishman and a patriot," Furley continued, "just as
much as you are, although you are a son of the Earl of Maltenby,
and you fought in the war.  You must listen to me without
prejudice.  There are thoughtful men in England, patriots to the
backbone, trying to grope their way to the truth about this bloody
sacrifice.  There are thoughtful men in Germany on the same tack.
If, for the betterment of the world, we should seek to come into
touch with one another, I do not consider that treason, or
communicating with an enemy country in the ordinary sense of the
word."

"I see," Julian muttered.  "What you are prepared to plead guilty
to is holding communication with members of the Labour and
Socialist Party in Germany."

"I plead guilty to nothing," Furley answered, with a touch of his
old fierceness.  "Don't talk like your father and his class,
Julian.  Get away from it.  Be yourself.  Your Ministers can't end
the war.  Your Government can't.  They opened their mouth too wide
at first.  They made too many commitments.  Ask Stenson.  He'll
tell you that I'm speaking the truth.  So it goes on, and day by
day it costs the world a few hundred or a few thousand human
lives, and God knows how much of man's labour and brains,
annihilated, wasted, blown into the air!  Somehow or other the war
has got to stop, Julian.  If the politicians won't do it, the
people must."

"The people," Julian repeated a little sadly.  "Rienzi once
trusted in the people."

"There's a difference," Furley protested.  "Today the people are
all right, but the Rienzi isn't here--My God!"

He broke off suddenly, pursuing another train of thought.  He
leaned forward.

"Look here," he said, "we'll talk about the fate of that
communication later.  What about Miss Abbeway?"

"Miss Abbeway," Julian told him, "was in imminent danger last
night of arrest as a spy.  Against my principles and all my
convictions, I have done my best to protect her against the
consequences of her ridiculous and inexcusable conduct.  I don't
know anything about your association, Furley, but I consider you a
lot of rotters to allow a girl to take on a job like this."

Furley's eyes flashed in sympathy.

"It was a cowardly action, Julian," he agreed.  "I'm hot with
shame when I think of it.  But don't, for heaven's sake, think I
had anything to do with the affair!  We have a secret service
branch which arranges for those things.  It's that skunk Fenn
who's responsible.  Damn him!"

"Nicholas Fenn, the pacifist!" Julian exclaimed.  "So you take
vermin like that into your councils!"

"You can't call him too hard a name for me at this moment," Furley
muttered.

"Nicholas Fenn," Julian repeated, with a new light in his eyes.
"Why, the cable I censored was to him!  So he's the arch traitor!"

"Nicholas Fenn is in it;" Furley admitted, "although I deny that
there's any treason whatever in the affair."

"Don't talk nonsense!" Julian replied.  "What about your German
hairdresser who was shot this morning?"

"It was a mistake to make use of him," Furley confessed.  "Fenn
has deceived us all as to the method of our communications.  But
listen, Julian.  You'll be able to get Miss Abbeway out of this?"

"If I don't," Julian replied, "I shall be in it myself, for I've
lied myself black in the face already."

"You're a man, for all the starch in you, Julian," Furley
declared.  "If anything were to happen to that girl, I'd wring
Fenn's neck."

"I think she's safe for the present," Julian pronounced.  "You
see, she isn't in possession of the incriminating document.  I
took it from her when she was in danger of arrest."

"What are you going to do with it?"

"You can't have much doubt about that," was the composed reply.
"I shall go to town to-morrow and hand it over to the proper
authorities."

Julian rose to his feet as he spoke.  Furley looked at him
helplessly.

"How in heaven's name, man," he groaned, "shall I be able to make
you see the truth!"

A touch of the winter sunlight was upon Julian's face which,
curiously enough, at that moment resembled his father's in its
cold, patrician lines.  The mention of Nicholas Fenn's name seemed
to have transformed him.

"If I were you, Furley," he advised, "for the sake of our
friendship, I wouldn't try.  There is no consideration in the
world which would alter my intentions."

There was the sound of the lifting of the outer latch, a knock at
the door.  The incoming visitors stood upon no ceremony.  Mr.
Stenson and Catherine showed themselves upon the threshold.

Mr. Stenson waved aside all ceremony and at once checked Furley's
attempt to rise to his feet.

"Pray don't get up, Furley," he begged, shaking hands with him.
"I hope you'll forgive such an informal visit.  I met Miss Abbeway
on my way down to the sea, and when she told me that she was
coming to call on you, I asked leave to accompany her."

"You're very welcome, sir," was the cordial response.  "It's an
honour which I scarcely expected."

Julian found chairs for every one, and Mr. Stenson, recognising
intuitively a certain state of tension, continued his
good-humoured remarks.

"Miss Abbeway and I," he said, "have been having a most
interesting conversation, or rather argument.  I find that she is
entirely of your way of thinking, Furley.  You both belong to the
order of what I call puffball politicians."

Catherine laughed heartily at the simile.

"Mr. Stenson is a glaring example," she pointed out, "of those who
do not know their own friends.  Mr. Furley and I both believe that
some time or other our views will appeal to the whole of the
intellectual and unselfish world."

"It's a terrible job to get people to think," Furley observed.
"They are nearly always busy doing something else."

"And these aristocrats!" Catherine continued, smiling at Julian.
"You spoil them so in England, you know.  Eton and Oxford are
simply terrible in their narrowing effect upon your young men.
It's like putting your raw material into a sausage machine."

"Miss Abbeway is very severe this morning," Stenson declared, with
unabated good humour.  "She has been attacking my policy and my
principles during the whole of our walk.  Bad luck about your
accident, Furley.  I suppose we should have met whilst I am down
here, if you hadn't developed too adventurous a spirit."

Furley glanced at Julian and smiled.

"I am not so sure about that, sir," he said.  "Your host doesn't
approve of me very much."

"Do political prejudices exist so far from their home?" Mr.
Stenson asked.

"I am afraid my father is rather old-fashioned," Julian confessed.

"You are all old-fashioned--and stiff with prejudice," Furley
declared.  "Even Orden," he went on, turning to Catherine, "only
tolerates me because we ate dinners off the same board when we
were both making up our minds to be Lord High Chancellor."

"Our friend Furley," Julian confided, as he leaned across the
table and took a cigarette, "has no tact and many prejudices.  He
does write such rubbish about the aristocracy.  I remember an
article of his not very long ago, entitled `Out with our Peers!'
It's all very well for a younger son like me to take it lying
down, but you could scarcely expect my father to approve.
Besides, I believe the fellow's a renegade.  I have an idea that
he was born in the narrower circles himself."

"That's where you're wrong, then," Furley grunted with
satisfaction.  "My father was a boot manufacturer in a country
village of Leicestershire.  I went in for the Bar because he left
me pots of money, most of which, by the bye, I seem to have
dissipated."

"Chiefly in Utopian schemes for the betterment of his betters,"
Julian observed drily.

"I certainly had an idea," Furley confessed, "of an asylum for
incapable younger sons."

"I call a truce," Julian proposed.  "It isn't polite to spar
before Miss Abbeway."

"To me," Mr. Stenson declared, "this is a veritable temple of
peace.  I arrived here literally on all fours.  Miss Abbeway has
proved to me quite conclusively that as a democratic leader I have
missed my vocation."

She looked at him reproachfully.  Nevertheless, his words seemed
to have brought back to her mind the thrill of their brief but
stimulating conversation.  A flash of genuine earnestness
transformed her face, just as a gleam of wintry sunshine, which
had found its way in through the open window, seemed to discover
threads of gold in her tightly braided and luxuriant brown hair.
Her eyes filled with an almost inspired light:

"Mr. Stenson is scarcely fair to me," she complained.  "I did not
presume to criticise his statesmanship, only there are some things
here which seem pitiful.  England should be the ideal democracy of
the world.  Your laws admit of it, your Government admits of it.
Neither birth nor money are indispensable to success.  The way is
open for the working man to pass even to the Cabinet.  And you are
nothing of the sort.  The cause of the people is not in any
country so shamefully and badly represented.  You have a
bourgeoisie which maintains itself in almost feudal luxury by
means of the labour which it employs, and that labour is content
to squeak and open its mouth for worms, when it should have the
finest fruits of the world.  And all this is for want of
leadership.  Up you come you David Sands, you Phineas Crosses, you
Nicholas Fenns, you Thomas Evanses.  You each think that you
represent Labour, but you don't.  You represent trade--the
workers at one trade.  How they laugh at you, the men who like to
keep the government of this country in their own possession!  They
stretch down a hand to the one who has climbed the highest, they
pull him up into the Government, and after that Labour is well
quit of him.  He has found his place with the gods.  Perhaps they
will make him a `Sir' and his wife a `Lady,' but for him it is all
over with the Cause.  And so another ten years is wasted, while
another man grows up to take his place."

"She's right enough," Furley confessed gloomily.  "There is
something about the atmosphere of the inner life of politics which
has proved fatal to every Labour man who has ever climbed.  Paul
Fiske wrote the same thing only a few weeks ago.  He thought that
it was the social atmosphere which we still preserve around our
politics.  We no sooner catch a clever man, born of the people,
than we dress him up like a mummy and put him down at dinner
parties and garden parties, to do things he's not accustomed to,
and expect him to hold his own amongst people who are not his
people.  There is something poisonous about it."

"Aren't you all rather assuming," Stenson suggested drily, "that
the Labour Party is the only party in politics worth considering?"

"If they knew their own strength," Catherine declared, "they would
be the predominant party.  Should you like to go to the polls
to-day and fight for your seats against them?"

"Heaven forbid!" Mr. Stenson exclaimed.  "But then we've made up
our mind to one thing--no general election during the war.
Afterwards, I shouldn't be at all surprised if Unionists and
Liberals and even Radicals didn't amalgamate and make one party."

"To fight Labour," Furley said grimly.

"To keep England great," Mr. Stenson replied.  "You must remember
that so far as any scheme or program which the Labour Party has
yet disclosed, in this country or any other, they are preeminently
selfish.  England has mighty interests across the seas.  A
parish-council form of government would very soon bring disaster."

Julian glanced at the clock and rose to his feet.

"I don't want to hurry any one," he said, "but my father is rather
a martinet about luncheon."

They all rose.  Mr. Stenson turned to Julian.

"Will you go on with Miss Abbeway?" he begged.  "I will catch up
with you on the marshes.  I want to have just a word with Furley."

Julian and his companion crossed the country road and passed
through the gate opposite on to the rude track which led down
almost to the sea.

"You are very interested in English labour questions, Miss
Abbeway," he remarked, "considering that you are only half an
Englishwoman."

"It isn't only the English labouring classes in whom I am
interested," she replied impatiently.  "It is the cause of the
people throughout the whole of the world which in my small way I
preach."

"Your own country," he continued, a little diffidently, "is
scarcely a good advertisement for the cause of social reform."

Her tone trembled with indignation as she answered him.

"My own country," she said, "has suffered for so many centuries
from such terrible oppression that the reaction was bound, in its
first stages, to produce nothing but chaos.  Automatically, all
that seems to you unreasonable, wicked even, in a way, horrible--
will in the course of time disappear.  Russia will find herself.
In twenty years' time her democracy will have solved the great
problem, and Russia be the foremost republic of the world."

"Meanwhile," he remarked, "she is letting us down pretty badly."

"But you are selfish, you English!" she exclaimed.  "You see one
of the greatest nations in the world going through its hour of
agony, and you think nothing but how you yourselves will be
affected!  Every thinking person in Russia regrets that this thing
should have come to pass at such a time.  Yet it is best for you
English to look the truth in the face.  It wasn't the Russian
people who were pledged to you, with whom you were bound in
alliance.  It was that accursed trick all European politicians
have of making secret treaties and secret understandings, building
up buffer States, trying to whittle away a piece of the map for
yourselves, trying all the time to be dishonest under the shadow
of what is called diplomacy.  That is what brought the war about.
It was never the will of the people.  It was the Hohenzollerns and
the Romanoffs, the firebrands of the French Cabinet, and your own
clumsy, thick-headed efforts to get the best of everybody and yet
keep your Nonconformist conscience.  The people did not make this
war, but it is the people who are going to end it."

They walked in silence for some minutes, he apparently pondering
over her last words, she with the cloud passing from her face as,
with her head a little thrown back and her eyes half-closed, she
sniffed the strong, salty air with an almost voluptuous expression
of content.  She was perfectly dressed for the country, from her
square-toed shoes, which still seemed to maintain some distinction
of shape, the perfectly tailored coat and skirt, to the smart
little felt hat with its single quill.  She walked with the free
grace of an athlete, unembarrassed with the difficulties of the
way or the gusts which swept across the marshy places, yet not
even the strengthening breeze, which as they reached the sea line
became almost a gale, seemed to have power to bring even the
faintest flush of colour to her cheeks.  They reached the long
headland and stood looking out at the sea before she spoke again.

"You were very kind to me last night, Mr. Orden," she said, a
little abruptly.

"I paid a debt," he reminded her.

"I suppose there is something in that," she admitted.  "I really
believe that that exceedingly unpleasant person with whom I was
brought into temporary association would have killed you if I had
allowed it."

"I am inclined to agree with you," he assented.  "I saw him very
hazily, but a more criminal type of countenance I never beheld."

"So that we are quits," she ventured.

"With a little debt on my side still to be paid."

"Well, there is no telling what demands I may make upon our
acquaintance."

"Acquaintance?" he protested.

"Would you like to call it friendship?"

"A very short time ago;" he said deliberately, "even friendship
would not have satisfied me."

"And now?"

"I dislike mysteries."

"Poor me!" she sighed.  "However, you can rid yourself of the
shadow of one as soon as you like after luncheon.  It would be
quite safe now, I think, for me to take back that packet."

"Yes," he assented slowly, "I suppose that it would."

She looked up into his face.  Something that she saw there brought
her own delicate eyebrows together in a slight frown.

"You will give it me after lunch?" she proposed.

"I think not," was the quiet reply.

"You were only entrusted with it for a time," she reminded him,
with ominous calm.  "It belongs to me."

"A document received in this surreptitious fashion," he
pronounced, "is presumably a treasonable document.  I have no
intention of returning it to you."

She walked by his side for a few moments in silence.  Glancing
down into her face, Julian was almost startled.  There were none
of the ordinary signs of anger there, but an intense white
passion, the control of which was obviously costing her a
prodigious effort.  She touched his fingers with her ungloved hand
as she stepped over a stile, and he found them icy cold.  All the
joy of that unexpectedly sunny morning seemed to have passed.

"I am sorry, Miss Abbeway," he said almost humbly, "that you take
my decision so hardly.  I ask you to remember that I am just an
ordinary, typical Englishman, and that I have already lied for
your sake.  Will you put yourself in my place?"

They had climbed the little ridge of grass-grown sand and stood
looking out seaward.  Suddenly all the anger seemed to pass from
her face.  She lifted her head, her soft brown eyes flashed into
his, the little curl of her lips seemed to transform her whole
expression.  She was no longer the gravely minded prophetess of a
great cause, the scheming woman, furious at the prospect of
failure.  She was suddenly wholly feminine, seductive, a coquette.

"If you were just an ordinary, stupid, stolid Englishman," she
whispered, "why did you risk your honour and your safety for my
sake?  Will you tell me that, dear man of steel?"

Julian leaned even closer over her.  She was smiling now frankly
into his face, refusing the warning of his burning eyes.  Then
suddenly, silently, he held her to him and kissed her,
unresisting, upon the lips.  She made no protest.  He even fancied
afterwards, when he tried to rebuild in his mind that queer,
passionate interlude, that her lips had returned what his had
given.  It was he who released her--not she who struggled.  Yet
he understood.  He knew that this was a tragedy.

Stenson's voice reached them from the other side of the ridge.

"Come and show me the way across this wretched bit of marsh,
Orden.  I don't like these deceptive green grasses."

"`Pitfalls for the Politician' or `Look before you leap'." Julian
muttered aimlessly.  "Quite right to avoid that spot, sir.  Just
follow where I am pointing."

Stenson made his laborious way to their side.

"This may be a short cut back to the Hall," he exclaimed, "but
except for the view of the sea and this gorgeous air, I think I
should have preferred the main road!  Help me up, Orden.  Isn't it
somewhere near here that that little affair, happened the other
night?"

"This very spot," Julian assented.  "Miss Abbeway and I were just
speaking of it."

They both glanced towards her.  She was standing with her back to
them, looking out seawards.  She did not move even at the mention
of her name.

"A dreary spot at night, I dare say," the Prime Minister remarked,
without overmuch interest.  "How do we get home from here, Orden?
I haven't forgotten your warning about luncheon, and this air is
giving me a most lively appetite."

"Straight along the top of this ridge for about three quarters of
a mile, sir, to the entrance of the harbour there."

"And then?"

"I have a petrol launch," Julian explained, "and I shall land you
practically in the dining room in another ten minutes."

"Let us proceed," Mr. Stenson suggested briskly.  "What a queer
fellow Miles Furley is!  Quite a friend of yours, isn't he, Miss
Abbeway?"

"I have seen a good deal of him lately," she answered, walking on
and making room for Stenson to fall into step by her side, but
still keeping her face a little averted.  "A man of many but
confused ideas; a man, I should think, who stands an evil chance
of muddling his career away."

"We offered him a post in the Government," Stenson ruminated.

"He had just sense enough to refuse that, I suppose," she
observed, moving slowly to the right and thereby preventing Julian
from taking a place by her side.  "Yet," she went on, "I find in
him the fault of so many Englishmen, the fault that prevents their
becoming great statesmen, great soldiers, or even," she added
coolly, "successful lovers."

"And what is that?" Julian demanded.

She remained silent.  It was as though she had heard nothing.  She
caught Mr. Stenson's arm and pointed to a huge white seagull,
drifting down the wind above their heads.

"To think," she said, "with that model, we intellectuals have
waited nearly two thousand years for the aeroplane!"




CHAPTER VIII


According to plans made earlier in the day, a small shooting party
left the Hall immediately after luncheon and did not return until
late in the afternoon.  Julian, therefore, saw nothing more of
Catherine until she came into the drawing-room, a few minutes
before the announcement of dinner, wearing a wonderful toilette of
pale blue silk, with magnificent pearls around her neck and
threaded in her Russian headdress.  As is the way with all women
of genius, Catherine's complete change of toilette indicated a
parallel change in her demeanour.  Her interesting but somewhat
subdued manner of the previous evening seemed to have vanished.
At the dinner table she dominated the conversation.  She displayed
an intimate acquaintance with every capital of Europe and with
countless personages of importance.  She exchanged personal
reminiscences with Lord Shervinton, who had once been attached to
the Embassy at Rome, and with Mr. Hannaway Wells, who had been
first secretary at Vienna.  She spoke amusingly of Munich, at
which place, it appeared, she had first studied art, but dilated,
with all the artist's fervour, on her travellings in Spain, on the
soft yet wonderfully vivid colouring of the southern cities.  She
seemed to have escaped altogether from the gravity of which she
had displayed traces on the previous evening.  She was no longer
the serious young woman with a purpose.  From the chrysalis she
had changed into the butterfly, the brilliant and cosmopolitan
young queen of fashion, ruling easily, not with the arrogance of
rank, but with the actual gifts of charm and wit.  Julian himself
derived little benefit from being her neighbour, for the
conversation that evening, from first to last, was general.  Even
after she had left the room, the atmosphere which she had created
seemed to linger behind her.

"I have never rightly understood Miss Abbeway," the Bishop
declared.  "She is a most extraordinarily brilliant young woman."

Lord Shervinton assented.

"To-night you have Catherine Abbeway," he expounded, "as she might
have been but for these queer, alternating crazes of hers--art
and socialism.  Her brain was developed a little too early, and
she was unfortunately, almost in her girlhood, thrown in with a
little clique of brilliant young Russians who attained a great
influence over her.  Most of them are in Siberia or have
disappeared by now.  One Anna Katinski--was brought back from
Tobolsk like a royal princess on the first day of the revolution."

"It is strange," the Earl pronounced didactically, "that a young
lady of Miss Abbeway's birth and gifts should espouse the cause of
this Labour rabble, a party already cursed with too many leaders."

"A woman, when she takes up a cause," Mr. Hannaway Wells observed,
"always seeks either for the picturesque or for something which
appeals to the emotions.  So long as she doesn't mix with them,
the cause of the people has a great deal to recommend it.  One can
use beautiful phrases, can idealise with a certain amount of
logic, and can actually achieve things."

Julian shrugged his shoulders.

"I think we are all a little blind," he remarked, "to the danger
in which we stand through the great prosperity of Labour to-day."

The Bishop leaned across the table.

"You have been reading Fiske this week."

"Did I quote?" Julian asked carelessly.  "I have a wretched
memory.  I should never dare to become a politician.  I should
always be passing off other people's phrases as my own."

"Fiske is quite right in his main contention," Mr. Stenson
interposed.  "The war is rapidly creating a new class of
bourgeoisie.  The very differences in the earning of skilled
labourers will bring trouble before long--the miner with his
fifty or sixty shillings, and the munition worker with his seven
or eight pounds--men drawn from the same class."

"England," declared the Earl, indulging in his favourite speech,
"was never so contented as when wages were at their lowest."

"Those days will never come again," Mr. Hannaway Wells foretold
grimly.  "The working man has tasted blood.  He has begun to
understand his power.  Our Ministers have been asleep for a
generation.  The first of these modern trades unions should have
been treated like a secret society in Italy.  Look at them now,
and what they represent!  Fancy what it will mean when they have
all learnt to combine!--when Labour produces real leaders!"

"Can any one explain the German democracy?" Lord Shervinton
enquired.

"The ubiquitous Fiske was trying to last week in one of the
Reviews," Mr. Stenson replied.  "His argument was that Germany
alone, of all the nations in the world, possessed an extra quality
or an extra sense--I forget which he called it--the sense of
discipline.  It's born in their blood.  Generations of military
service are responsible for it.  Discipline and combination--that
might be their motto.  Individual thought has been drilled into
grooves, just as all individual effort is specialised.  The
Germans obey because it is their nature to obey.  The only
question is whether they will stand this, the roughest test they
have ever had--whether they'll see the thing through."

"Personally, I think they will," Hannaway Wells pronounced, "but
if I should be wrong--if they shouldn't--the French Revolution
would be a picnic compared with the German one.  It takes a great
deal to drive a national idea out of the German mind, but if ever
they should understand precisely and exactly how they have been
duped for the glorification of their masters--well, I should pity
the junkers."

"Do your essays in journalism," the Bishop asked politely, "ever
lead you to touch upon Labour subjects, Julian?"

"Once or twice, in a very mild way," was the somewhat diffident
reply.

"I had an interesting talk with Furley this morning," the Prime
Minister observed.  "He tells me that they are thinking of making
an appeal to this man Paul Fiske to declare himself.  They want a
leader--they want one very badly--and thank heavens they don't
know where to look for him!"

"But surely," Julian protested, "they don't expect necessarily to
find a leader of men in an anonymous contributor to the Reviews?
Fiske, when they have found him, may be a septuagenarian, or a man
of academic turn of mind, who never leaves his study.  'Paul
Fiske' may even be the pseudonym of a woman."

The Earl rose from his place.

"This afternoon," he announced, "I read the latest article of this
Paul Fiske.  In my opinion he is an exceedingly mischievous
person, without the slightest comprehension of the forces which
really count in government."

The Bishop's eyes twinkled as he left the room with his hand on
his godson's arm.

"It would be interesting," he whispered, "to hear this man Fiske's
opinion of your father's last speech in the House of Lords upon
land interests!"

It was not until the close of a particularly unsatisfactory
evening of uninspiring bridge that Julian saw anything more of
Catherine.   She came in from the picture gallery, breathless,
followed by four or five of the young soldiers, to whom she had
been showing the steps of a new dance, and, turning to Julian with
an impulsiveness which surprised him, laid her fingers
imperatively upon his arm.

"Take me somewhere, please, where we can sit down and talk," she
begged, "and give me something to drink."

He led the way into the billiard room and rang the bell.

"You have been overtiring yourself," he said, looking down at her
curiously.

"Have I?" she answered.  "I don't think so.  I used to dance all
through the night in Paris and Rome, a few years ago.  These young
men are so clumsy, though--and I think that I am nervous."

She lay back in her chair and half closed her eyes.  A servant
brought in the Evian water for which she had asked and a whisky
and soda for Julian.  She drank thirstily and seemed in a few
moments to have overcome her fatigue.  She turned to her companion
with an air of determination.

"I must speak to you about that packet, Mr. Orden," she insisted.

"Again?"

"I cannot help it.  You forget that with me it is a matter of life
or death.  You must realise that you were only entrusted with it.
You are a man of honour.  Give it to me."

"I cannot."

"What are you thinking of doing with it, then?"

"I shall take it to London with me to-morrow," he replied, "and
hand it over to a friend of mine at the Foreign Office."

"Would nothing that I could do or say," she asked passionately,
"influence your decision?"

"Everything that you do or say interests and affects me," he
answered simply, "but so far as regards this matter, my duty is
clear.  You have nothing to fear from my account of how it came
into my possession.  It would be impossible for me to denounce you
for what I fear you are.  On the other hand, I cannot allow you
the fruits of your enterprise."

"You consider me, I suppose," she observed after a moment's pause,
"an enemy spy?"

"You have proved it," he reminded her.

"Of Overman--my confederate," she admitted, "that was true.  Of
me it is not.  I am an honest intermediary between the honest
people of Germany and England."

"There can be no communication between the two countries during
wartime, except through official channels," he declared.

Her eyes flashed.  She seemed in the throes of one of those little
bursts of tempestuous passion which sometimes assailed her.

"You talk--well, as you might be supposed to talk!" she
exclaimed, breaking off with an effort.  "What have official
channels done to end this war?  I am not here to help either side.
I represent simply humanity.  If you destroy or hand over to the
Government that packet, you will do your country an evil turn."

He shook his head.

"I am relieved to hear all that you say," he told her, "and I am
heartily glad to think that you do not look upon yourself as
Overman's associate.  On the other hand, you must know that any
movement towards peace, except through the authorised channels, is
treason to the country."

"If only you were not the Honourable Julian Orden, the son of an
English peer!" she groaned.  "If only you had not been to Eton and
to Oxford!  If only you were a man, a man of the people, who could
understand!"

"Neither my birth nor my education," he assured her, "have
affected my present outlook upon life."

"Pooh!" she scoffed.  "You talk like a stiffened sheet of
foolscap!  I am to leave here to-morrow, then, without my packet?"

"You must certainly leave--when you do leave--without that," he
assented.  "There is one thing, however, which I very sincerely
hope that you will leave behind you."

"And that?"

"Your forgiveness."

"My forgiveness for what?" she asked, after a moment's pause.

"For my rashness this morning."

Her eyes grew a little larger.

"Because you kissed me?" she observed, without flinching.  "I have
nothing to forgive.  In fact," she went on, "I think that I should
have had more to forgive if you had not."

He was puzzled and yet encouraged.  She was always bewildering him
by her sudden changes from the woman of sober thoughtfulness to
the woman of feeling, the woman eager to give, eager to receive.
At that moment it seemed as though her sex possessed her to the
exclusion of everything outside.  Her eyes were soft and filled
with the desire of love, her lips sweet and tremulous.  She had
suddenly created a new atmosphere around her, an atmosphere of
bewildering and passionate femininity.

"Wont you tell me, please, what you mean?" he begged.

"Isn't it clear?" she answered, very softly but with a suspicion
of scorn in her low tones.  "You kissed me because I deliberately
invited it.  I know that quite well.  My anger--and I have been
angry about it--is with myself."

He was a little taken aback.  Her perfect naturalness was
disarming, a little confusing.

"You certainly did seem provocative," he confessed, "but I ought
to have remembered."

"You are very stupid," she sighed.  "I deliberately invited your
embrace.  Your withholding it would simply have added to my
humiliation.  I am furious with myself, simply because, although I
have lived a great part of my life with men, on equal terms with
them, working with them, playing with them, seeing more of them at
all times than of my own sex, such a thing has never happened to
me before."

"I felt that," he said simply.

For a moment her face shone.  There was a look of gratitude in her
eyes.  Her impulsive grasp of his hand left his fingers tingling.

"I am glad that you understood," she murmured.  "Perhaps that will
help me just a little.  For the rest, if you wish to be very kind,
you will forget."

"If I cannot do that," he promised, "I will at least turn the key
upon my memories."

"Do more than that," she begged.  "Throw the key into the sea, or
whatever oblivion you choose to conjure up.  Moments such as those
have no place in my life.  There is one purpose there more intense
than anything else, that very purpose which by some grim irony of
fate it seems to be within your power to destroy."

He remained silent.  Ordinary expressions of regret seemed too
inadequate.  Besides, the charm of the moment was passing.  The
other side of her was reasserting itself.

"I suppose," she went on, a little drearily, "that even if I told
you upon my honour, of my certain knowledge, that the due delivery
of that packet might save the lives of thousands of your
countrymen, might save hearts from breaking, homes from becoming
destitute--even if I told you all this, would it help me in my
prayer?"

"Nothing could help you," he assured her, "but your whole
confidence, and even then I fear that the result would be the
same."

"Oh, but you are very hard!" she murmured.  "My confidence
belongs to others.  It is not mine alone to give you."

"You see," he explained, "I know beforehand that you are speaking
the truth as you see it.  I know beforehand that any scheme in
which you are engaged is for the benefit of our fellow creatures
and not for their harm.  But alas! you make yourself the judge of
these things, and there are times when individual effort is the
most dangerous thing in life."

"If you were any one else!" she sighed.

"Why be prejudiced about me?" he protested.  "Believe me, I am not
a frivolous person.  I, too, think of life and its problems.  You
yourself are an aristocrat.  Why should not I as well as you have
sympathy and feeling for those who suffer?"

"I am a Russian," she reminded him, "and in Russia it is
different.  Besides, I am no longer an aristocrat.  I am a
citizeness of the world.  I have eschewed everything in life
except one thing, and for that I have worked with all my heart and
strength.  As for you, what have you done?  What is your record?"

"Insignificant, I fear," he admitted.  "You see, a very promising
start at the Bar was somewhat interfered with by my brief period
of soldiering."

"At the present moment you have no definite career," she declared.
"You have even been wasting your time censoring."

"I am returning now to my profession."

"Your profession!" she scoffed.  "That means you will spend your
time wrangling with a number of other bewigged and narrow-minded
people about uninteresting legal technicalities which lead nowhere
and which no one cares about."

"There is my journalism."

"You have damned it with your own phrase 'hack journalism'!"

"I may enter Parliament."

"Yes, to preserve your rights," she retorted.

"I am afraid," he sighed, "that you haven't a very high opinion of
me."

"It is within your power to make me look upon you as the bravest,
the kindest, the most farseeing of men," she declared.

He shook his head.

"I decline to think that you would think any the better of me for
committing a dishonourable action for your sake."

"Try me," she begged, her hand resting once more upon his.  "If
you want my kind feelings, my everlasting gratitude, they are
yours.  Give me that packet."

"That is impossible," he declared uncompromisingly.  "If you wish
to alter my attitude with regard to it, you must tell me exactly
from whom it comes, what it contains, and to whom it goes."

"You ask more than is possible..  You make me almost sorry--"

"Sorry for what?"

"Sorry that I saved your life," she said boldly.  "Why should I
not be?  There are many who will suffer, many who will lose their
lives because of your obstinacy."

"If you believe that, confide in me."

She shook her head sadly.

"If only you were different!"

"I am a human being," he protested.  "I have sympathies and heart.
I would give my life willingly to save any carnage."

"I could never make you understand," she murmured hopelessly.  "I
shall not try.  I dare not risk failure.  Is this room hot, or is
it my fancy?  Could we have a window open?"

"By all means."

He crossed the room and lifted the blind from before one of the
high windows which opened seawards.  In the panel of the wall,
between the window to which he addressed himself and the next one,
was a tall, gilt mirror, relic of the days, some hundreds of years
ago, when the apartment had been used as a drawing-room.  Julian,
by the merest accident, for the pleasure of a stolen glance at
Catherine, happened to look in it as he leaned over towards the
window fastening.  For a single moment he stood rigid.  Catherine
had risen to her feet and, without the slightest evidence of any
fatigue, was leaning, tense and alert, over the tray on which his
untouched whisky and soda was placed.  Her hand was outstretched.
He saw a little stream of white powder fall into the tumbler.  An
intense and sickening feeling of disappointment almost brought a
groan to his lips.  He conquered himself with an effort, however,
opened the window a few inches, and returned to his place.
Catherine was lying back, her eyes half-closed, her arms hanging
listlessly on either side of her chair.

"Is that better?" he enquired.

"Very much," she assured him.  "Still, I think that if you do not
mind, I will go to bed.  I am troubled with a very rare attack of
nerves.  Drink your whisky and soda, and then will you take me
into the drawing-room?"

He played with his tumbler thoughtfully.  His first impulse was to
drop it.  Intervention, however, was at hand.  The door opened,
and the Princess entered with Lord Shervinton.

"At last!" the former exclaimed.  "I have been looking for you
everywhere, child.  I am sure that you are quite tired out, and I
insist upon your going to bed."

"Finish your whisky and soda," Catherine begged Julian, "and I
will lean on your arm as far as the staircase."

Fate stretched out her right hand to help him.  The Princess took
possession of her niece.

"I shall look after you myself," she insisted.  "Mr. Orden is
wanted to play billiards.  Lord Shervinton is anxious for a game."

"I shall be delighted," Julian answered promptly.

He moved to the door and held it open.  Catherine gave him her
fingers and a little half-doubtful smile.

"If only you were not so cruelly obstinate!" she sighed.

He found no words with which to answer her.  The shock of his
discovery was still upon him.

"You'll give me thirty in a hundred, Julian," Lord Shervinton
called out cheerfully.  "And shut that door as soon as you can,
there's a good fellow.  There's a most confounded draught."


CHAPTER IX


It was at some nameless hour in the early morning when Julian's
vigil came to an end, when the handle of his door was slowly
turned, and the door itself pushed open and closed again.  Julian,
lying stretched upon his bed, only half prepared for the night,
with a dressing gown wrapped around him, continued to breathe
heavily, his eyes half-closed, listening intently to the
fluttering of light garments, the soft, almost noiseless footfall
of light feet.  He heard her shake out his dinner coat, try the
pockets, heard the stealthy opening and closing of the drawers in
his wardrobe.  Presently the footsteps drew near to his bed.  For
a moment he was obliged to set his teeth.  A little waft of
peculiar, unanalysable perfume, half-fascinating, half-repellent,
came to him with a sense of disturbing familiarity.  She paused by
his bedside.  He felt her hand steal under the pillow, which his
head scarcely touched; search the pockets of his dressing gown,
search even the bed.  He listened to her soft breathing.  The
consciousness of her close and intimate presence affected him in
an inexplicable manner.  Presently, to his intense relief, she
glided away from his immediate neighbourhood, and the moment for
which he had waited came.  He heard her retreating footsteps pass
through the communicating door into his little sitting room, where
he had purposely left a light burning.  He slipped softly from the
bed and followed her.  She was bending over an open desk as he
crossed the threshold.  He closed the door and stood with his back
to it.

"Much warmer," he said, "only, you see, it isn't there."

She started violently at the sound of his voice, but she did not
immediately turn around.  When she did so, her demeanour was
almost a shock to him.  There was no sign of nervousness or
apology in her manner.  Her eyes flashed at him angrily.  She wore
a loose red wrap trimmed with white fur, a dishabille unusually
and provokingly attractive.

"So you were shamming sleep!" she exclaimed indignantly.

"Entirely," he admitted.

Neither spoke for a moment.  Her eyes fell upon a tumbler of
whisky and soda, which stood on a round table drawn up by the side
of his easy-chair.

"I have not come to bed thirsty," he assured her.  "I had another
one downstairs--to which I helped myself.  This one I brought up
to try if I could remember sufficient of my chemistry to determine
its contents.  I have been able to decide, to my great relief,
that your intention was probably to content yourself with plunging
me into only temporary slumber."

"I wanted you out of the way whilst I searched your rooms," she
told him coolly.  "If you were not such an obstinate, pig-headed,
unkind, prejudiced person, it would not have been necessary."

"Dear me!" he murmured.  "Am I all that?  Won't you sit down?"

For a moment she looked as though she were about to strike him
with the electric torch which she was carrying.  With a great
effort of self-control, however, she changed her mind and threw
herself into his easy-chair with a little gesture of recklessness.
Julian seated himself opposite to her.  Although she kept her face
as far as possible averted, he realised more than ever in those
few moments that she was really an extraordinarily beautiful
person.  Her very attitude was full of an angry grace.  The
quivering of her lips was the only sign of weakness.  Her eyes
were filled with cold resentment.

"Well," she said, "I am your prisoner.  I listen."

"You are after that packet, I suppose?"

"What sagacity!" she scoffed.  "I trusted you with it, and you
behaved like a brute.  You kept it.  It has nothing to do with
you.  You have no right to it."

"Let us understand one another, once and for all," he suggested.
"I will not even discuss the question of rightful or wrongful
possession.  I have the packet, and I am going to keep it.  You
cannot cajole it put of me, you cannot steal it from me.
To-morrow I shall take it to London and deliver it to my friend at
the Foreign Office.  Nothing could induce me to change my mind."

She seemed suddenly to be caught up in the vortex of a new
emotion.  All the bitterness passed from her expression.  She fell
on her knees by his side, sought his hands, and lifted her face,
full of passionate entreaty, to his.  Her eyes were dimmed with
tears, her voice piteous.

"Do not be so cruel, so hard," she begged.  "I swear before Heaven
that there is no treason in those papers, that they are the one
necessary link in a great, humanitarian scheme.  Be generous, Mr.
Orden.  Julian!  Give it back to me.  It is mine.  I swear--"

His hands gripped her shoulders.  She was conscious that he was
looking past her, and that there was horror in his eyes.  The
words died away on her lips.  She, too, turned her head.  The door
of the sitting room had been opened from outside.  Lord Maltenby
was standing there in his dressing gown, his hand stretched out
behind him as though to keep some one from following him.

"Julian," he demanded sternly, "what is the meaning of this?"

For a moment Julian was speechless, bereft of words, or sense of
movement.  Catherine still knelt there, trembling.  Then Lord
Maltenby was pushed unceremoniously to one side.  It was the
Princess who entered.

"Catherine!" she screamed.  "Catherine!"

The girl rose slowly to her feet.  The Princess was leaning on the
back of a chair, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief and sobbing
hysterically.  Lord Shervinton's voice was heard outside.

"What the devil is all this commotion?" he demanded.

He, too, crossed the threshold and remained transfixed.  The Earl
closed the door firmly and stood with his back against it.

"Come," he said, "we will have no more spectators to this
disgraceful scene.  Julian, kindly remember you are not in your
bachelor apartments.  You are in the house over which your mother
presides.  Have you any reason to offer, or excuse to urge, why I
should not ask this young woman to leave at daybreak?"

"I have no excuse, sir," Julian answered, "I certainly have a
reason."

"Name it?"

"Because you would be putting an affront upon the lady who has
promised to become my wife.  I am quite aware that her presence in
my sitting room is unusual, but under the circumstances I do not
feel called upon to offer a general explanation.  I shall say
nothing beyond the fact that a single censorious remark will be
considered by me as an insult to my affianced wife."

The Princess abandoned her chorus of mournful sounds and dried her
eyes.  Lord Waltenby was speechless.

"But why all this mystery?" the Princess asked pitifully.  "It is
a great event, this.  Why did you not tell me, Catherine, when you
came to my room?"

"There has been some little misunderstanding," Julian explained.
"It is now removed.  It brought us," he added, "very near tragedy.
After what I have told you, I beg whatever may seem unusual to you
in this visit with which Catherine has honoured me will be
forgotten."

Lord Maltenby drew a little breath of relief.  Fortunately, he
missed that slight note of theatricality in Julian's demeanour
which might have left the situation still dubious.

"Very well, then, Julian," he decided, "there is nothing more to
be said upon the matter.  Miss Abbeway, you will allow me to
escort you to your room.  Such further explanations as you may
choose to offer us can be very well left now until the morning."

"You will find that the whole blame for this unconventional
happening devolves upon me," Julian declared.

"It was entirely my fault," Catherine murmured repentantly.  "I am
so sorry to have given any one cause for distress.  I do not know,
even now--"

She turned towards Julian.  He leaned forward and raised her
fingers to his lips.

"Catherine," he said, "every one is a little overwrought.  Our
misunderstanding is finished.  Princess, I shall try to win your
forgiveness to-morrow."

The Princess smiled faintly.

"Catherine is so unusual," she complained.

Julian held open the door, and they all filed away down the
corridor, from which Lord Shervinton had long since beat a hurried
retreat.  He stood there until they reached the bend.  Catherine,
who was leaning on his father's arm, turned around.  She waved her
hand a little irresolutely.  She was too far off for him to catch
her expression, but there was something pathetic in her slow,
listless walk, from which all the eager grace of a few hours ago
seemed to have departed.


It was not until they were nearing London, on the following
afternoon, that Catherine awoke from a lethargy during which she
had spent the greater portion of the journey.  From her place in
the corner seat of the compartment in which they had been
undisturbed since leaving Wells, she studied her companion through
half-closed eyes.  Julian was reading an article in one of the
Reviews and remained entirely unconscious of her scrutiny.  His
forehead was puckered, his mouth a little contemptuous.  It was
obvious that he did not wholly approve of what he was reading.

Catherine, during those few hours of solitude, was conscious of a
subtle, slowly growing change in her mental attitude towards her
companion.  Until the advent of those dramatic hours at Maltenby,
she had regarded him as a pleasant, even a charming acquaintance,
but as belonging to a type with which she was entirely and
fundamentally out of sympathy.  The cold chivalry of his behaviour
on the preceding night and the result of her own reflections as
she sat there studying him made her inclined to doubt the complete
accuracy of her first judgment.  She found something unexpectedly
intellectual and forceful in his present concentration,--in the
high, pale forehead, the deep-set but alert eyes.  His long, loose
frame was yet far from ungainly; his grey tweed suit and well-worn
brown shoes the careless attire of a man who has no need to rely
on his tailor for distinction.  His hands, too, were strong and
capable.  She found herself suddenly wishing that the man himself
were different, that he belonged to some other and more congenial
type.

Julian, in course of time, laid down the Review which he had been
studying and looked out of the window.

"We shall be in London in three quarters of an hour," he announced
politely.

She sat up and yawned, produced her vanity case, peered into the
mirror, and used her powder puff with the somewhat piquant
assurance of the foreigner.  Then she closed her dressing case
with a snap, pulled down her veil, and looked across at him.

"And how," she asked demurely, "does my fiance propose to
entertain me this evening?"

He raised his eyebrows.

"With the exception of one half-hour," he replied unexpectedly, "I
am wholly at your service."

"I am exacting," she declared.  "I demand that half-hour also."

"I am afraid that I could not allow anything to interfere with one
brief call which I must pay."

"In Downing Street?"

"Precisely!"

"You go to visit your friend at the Foreign Office?"

"Immediately I have called at my rooms."

She looked away from him out of the window.  Beneath her veil her
eyes were a little misty.  She saw nothing of the trimly
partitioned fields, the rolling pastoral country.  Before her
vision tragedies seemed to pass,--the blood-stained paraphernalia
of the battlefield, the empty, stricken homes, the sobbing women
in black, striving to comfort their children whilst their own
hearts were breaking.  When she turned away from the window, her
face was hardened.  Once more she found herself almost hating the
man who was her companion.  Whatever might come afterwards, at
that moment she had the sensations of a murderess.

"You may know when you sleep to-night," she exclaimed, "that you
will be the blood-guiltiest man in the world!"

"I would not dispute the title," he observed politely, "with your
friend the Hohenzollern."

"He is not my friend," she retorted, her tone vibrating with
passion.  "I am a traitress in your eyes because I have received a
communication from Germany.  From whom does it come, do you think?
From the Court?  From the Chancellor or one of his myrmidons?
Fool!  It comes from those who hate the whole military party.  It
comes from the Germany whose people have been befooled and
strangled throughout the war.  It comes from the people whom your
politicians have sought to reach and failed."

"The suggestion is interesting," he remarked coldly, "but
improbable."

"Do you know," she said, leaning a little forward and looking at
him fixedly, "if I were really your fiancee--worse! if I were
really your wife--I think that before long I should be a
murderess!"

"Do you dislike me as much as all that?"

"I hate you!  I think you are the most pigheaded, obstinate,
self-satisfied, ignorant creature who ever ruined a great cause."

He accepted the lash of her words without any sign of offence,--
seemed, indeed, inclined to treat them reflectively.

"Come," he protested, "you have wasted a lot of breath in abusing
me.  Why not justify it?  Tell me the story of yourself and those
who are associated with you in this secret correspondence with
Germany?  If you are working for a good end, let me know of it.
You blame me for judging you, for maintaining a certain definite
poise.  You are not reasonable, you know."

"I blame you for being what you are," she answered breathlessly.
"If you were a person who understood, who felt the great stir of
humanity outside your own little circle, who could look across
your seas and realise that nationality is accidental and that the
brotherhood of man throughout the world is the only real fact
worthy of consideration--ah! if you could realise these things, I
could talk, I could explain."

"You judge me in somewhat arbitrary fashion."

"I judge you from your life, your prejudices, even the views which
you have expressed."

"There are some of us," he reminded her, "to whom reticence is a
national gift.  I like what you said just now.  Why should you
take it for granted that I am a narrow squireen?  Why shouldn't
you believe that I, too, may feel the horror of these days?"

"You feel it personally but not impersonally," she cried.  "You
feel it intellectually but not with your heart.  You cannot see
that a kindred soul lives in the Russian peasant and the German
labourer, the British toiler and the French artificer.  They are
all pouring out their blood for the sake of their dream, a
politician's dream.  Freedom isn't won by wars.  It must be won,
if ever, by moral sacrifice and not with blood."

"Then explain to me," he begged, "exactly what you are doing?
What your reason is for being in communication with the German
Government?  Remember that the dispatch I intercepted came from no
private person in Germany.  It came from those in authority."

"That again is not true," she replied.  "I would ask for
permission to explain all these things to you, if it were not so
hopeless."

"The case of your friends will probably be more hopeless still,"
he reminded her, "after to-night."

She shrugged her shoulders.

"We shall see," she said solemnly.  "The Russian revolution
surprised no one.  Perhaps an English revolution would shake even
your self-confidence."

He made no reply.  Her blood tingled, and she could have struck
him for the faint smile, almost of amusement, which for a moment
parted his lips.  He was already on his feet, collecting their
belongings.

"Can you help me," he asked, "with reference to the explanations
which it will be necessary to make to your aunt and to my own
people?  We left this morning, if you remember, in order that you
might visit the Russian Embassy and announce our betrothal.  You
are, I believe, under an engagement to return and stay with my
mother."

"I cannot think about those things to-day," she replied.  "You may
take it that I am tired and that you had business.  You know my
address.  May I be favoured with yours?"

He handed her a card and scribbled a telephone number upon it.
They were in the station now, and their baggage in the hands of
separate porters.  She walked slowly down the platform by his
side.

"Will you allow me to say," he ventured, "how sorry I am--for all
this?"

The slight uncertainty of his speech pleased her.  She looked up
at him with infinite regret.  As they neared the barrier, she held
out her hand.

"I, too, am more sorry than I can tell you;" she said a little
tremulously.  "Whatever may come, that is how I feel myself.  I am
sorry."

They separated almost upon the words.  Catherine was accosted by a
man at whom Julian glanced for a moment in surprise, a man whose
dress and bearing, confident though it was, clearly indicated some
other status in life.  He glanced at Julian with displeasure, a
displeasure which seemed to have something of jealousy in its
composition.  Then he grasped Catherine warmly by the hand.

"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.




CHAPTER X


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?"

"Singularly little," Mr. Stenson replied.  "He left Maltenby with
Miss Abbeway the day after their engagement, and, according to the
stories which I have heard, arranged to dine with her that night.
She came to call for him and found that he had disappeared.
According to his servant, he simply walked out in morning clothes,
soon after six o'clock, without leaving any message, and never
returned.  On the top of that, though, there followed, as I expect
you have heard, some very insistent police enquiries as to Orden's
doings on the night he spent with his friend Miles Furley.  There
is no doubt that a German submarine was close to Blakeney harbour
that night and that a communication of some sort was landed."

"It seems absurd to connect Julian with any idea of treasonable
communication with Germany," the Bishop said slowly.  "A more
typical young Englishman of his class I never met."

"Up to a certain point I agree with you," Mr. Stenson confessed,
"but there are some further rumours to which I cannot allude,
concerning Julian.  Orden, which are, to say the least of it,
surprising."

The two men came to a standstill once more.

Stenson laid his hand upon his companion's shoulder.  "Come," he
went on, "I know what is the matter with you, my friend.  Your
heart is too big.  The cry of the widow and the children lingers
too long in your ears.  Remember some of your earlier sermons at
the beginning of the war.  Remember how wonderfully you spoke one
morning at St. Paul's upon the spirituality to be developed by
suffering, by sacrifice.  `The hand which chastises also
purifies.' Wasn't that what you said?  You probably didn't know
that I was one of your listeners, even--   I myself, in those
days, scarcely looked upon the war as I do now.  I remember
crawling in at the side door of the Cathedral and sitting
unrecognised on a hard chair.  It was a great congregation, and I
was far away in the background, but I heard.  I remember the
rustle, too, the little moaning, indrawn breath of emotion when
the people rose to their feet.  Take heart, Bishop.  I will remind
you once more of your own words `These are the days of
purification.'"

The two men separated.  The Bishop walked thoughtfully towards the
Strand, his hands clasped behind his back, the echo of those
quoted words of his still in his ear.  As he came to the busy
crossing, he raised his head and looked around him.

"Perhaps," he murmured, "my eyes have been closed.  Perhaps there
are things to be seen."

He called a taxicab and, giving the man some muttered directions,
was driven slowly down the Strand, looking eagerly first on one
side of the way and then on the other.  It was approaching the
luncheon hour and the streets were thronged.  Here seemed to be
the meeting place of the Colonial troops,--long, sinewy men, many
of them, with bronzed faces and awkward gait.  They elbowed their
way along, side by side with the queerest collection of people in
the world.  They stopped and talked in little knots, they entered
and left the public houses, stood about outside the restaurants.
Here and there they walked arm in arm with women.  Taxicabs were
turning in at the Savoy, taxicabs and private cars.  Young ladies
of the stage, sometimes alone, very often escorted, were
everywhere in evidence.  The life of London was flowing on in very
much the same channels.  There were few, if any signs of that
thing for which he sought.  The taxicab turned westwards, crossed
Piccadilly Circus and proceeded along Piccadilly, its solitary
occupant still gazing into the faces of the people with that same
consuming interest.  It was all the same over again--the smiling
throngs entering and leaving the restaurants, the smug
promenaders, the stream of gaily dressed women and girls.  Bond
Street was even more crowded with shoppers and loiterers.  The
shop windows were as full as ever, the toilettes of the women as
wonderful.  Mankind, though khaki-clad, was plentiful.  The narrow
thoroughfare was so crowded that his taxicab went only at a
snail's crawl, and occasionally he heard scraps of conversation.
Two pretty girls were talking to two young men in uniform.

"What a rag last night!  I didn't get home till three!"

"Dick never got home at all.  Still missing!"

"Evie and I are worn out with shopping.  Everything's twice as
expensive, but one simply can't do without."

"I shouldn't do without anything, these days.  One never knows how
long it may last."

The taxicab moved on, and the Bishop's eyes for a moment were
half-closed.  The voices followed him, however.  Two women,
leading curled and pampered toy dogs, were talking at the corner
of the street.

"Sugar, my dear?" one was saying.  "Why, I laid in nearly a
hundredweight, and I can always get what I want now.  The
shopkeepers know that they have to have your custom after the war.
It's only the people who can't afford to buy much at a time who
are really inconvenienced."

"Of course, it's awfully sad about the war, and all that, but one
has to think of oneself.  Harry told me last night that after
paying all the income tax he couldn't get out of, and excess
profits; he is still--"

The voices dropped to a whisper.  The Bishop thrust his head out
of the window.

"Drive me to Tothill Street, Westminster," he directed.  "As
quickly as possible, please."

The man turned up a side street and drove off.  Still the Bishop
watched, only by now the hopefulness had gone from his face.  He
had sought for something of which there had been no sign.

He dismissed his taxicab in front of a large and newly finished
block of buildings in the vicinity of Westminster.  A lift man
conducted him to the seventh floor, and a commissionaire ushered
him into an already crowded waiting room.  A youth, however, who
had noticed the Bishop's entrance, took him in charge, and,
conducting him through two other crowded rooms, knocked reverently
at the door of an apartment at the far end of the suite.  The door
was opened, after a brief delay, by a young man of unpleasant
appearance, who gazed suspiciously at the distinguished visitor
through heavy spectacles.

"The Bishop wishes to see Mr. Fenn," his guide announced.

"Show him in at once," a voice from the middle of the room
directed.  "You can go and have your lunch, Johnson."

The Bishop found himself alone with the man whom he had come to
visit,--a moderately tall, thin figure, badly-dressed, with a
drooping moustache, bright eyes and good forehead, but peevish
expression.  He stood up while he shook hands with the Bishop and
motioned him to a chair.

"First time you've honoured us, Bishop," he remarked, with the air
of one straining after an equality which he was far from feeling.

"I felt an unconquerable impulse to talk with you," the Bishop
admitted.  "Tell me your news?"

"Everything progresses," Nicholas Fenn declared confidently.  "The
last eleven days have seen a social movement in this country,
conducted with absolute secrecy, equivalent in its portentous
issues to the greatest revolution of modern times.  For the first
time in history, Bishop, the united voice of the people has a
chance of making itself heard."

"Mr. Fenn," the Bishop said, "you have accomplished a wonderful
work.  Now comes the moment when we must pause and think.  We must
be absolutely and entirely certain that the first time that voice
is heard it is heard in a righteous cause."

"Is there a more righteous cause in the world than the cause of
peace?" Fenn asked sharply.

"Not if that peace be just and reasonable," the Bishop replied,
"not if that peace can bring to an end this horrible and bloody
struggle."

"We shall see to that," Fenn declared, with a self-satisfied air.

"You have by now, I suppose, the terms proposed by your--your
kindred body in Germany?"

Nicholas Fenn stroked his moustache.  There was a frown upon his
forehead.

"I expect to have them at any moment," he said, "but to tell you
the truth, at the present moment they are not available."

"But I thought--"

"Just so," the other interrupted.  "The document, however, was not
where we expected to find it."

"Surely that is a very serious complication?"

"It will mean a certain delay if we don't succeed in getting hold
of it," Fenn admitted.  "We intend to be firm about the matter,
though."

The Bishop's expression was troubled.

"Julian Orden," he said, "is my godson."

"Necessity knows neither friendship nor relationship," Fenn
pronounced didactically.  "Better ask no questions, sir.  These
details do not concern you."

"They concern my conscience," was the grave reply.  "Ours is an
earnest spiritual effort for peace, a taking away from the hands
of the politicians of a great human question which they have
proved themselves unable to handle.  We should look, therefore,
with peculiar care to the means we adopt."

Nicholas Fenn nodded.  He lit a very pungent cigarette from a
paper packet by his side.

"You and I, Bishop," he said, "are pacifists in the broadest
meaning of the word, but that does not mean that we may not
sometimes have to use force to attain our object.  We have a
department which alone is concerned with the dealing of such
matters.  It is that department which has undertaken the
forwarding and receipt of all communications between ourselves and
our friends across the North Sea.  Its operations are entirely
secret, even from the rest of the Council.  It will deal with
Julian Orden.  It is best for you not to interfere, or even to
have cognisance of what is going on."

"I cannot agree," the Bishop protested.  "An act of unchristian
violence would be a flaw in the whole superstructure which we are
trying to build up."

"Let us discuss some other subject," Fenn proposed.

"Pardon me," was the firm reply.  "I have come here to discuss
this one."

Nicholas Fenn looked down at the table.  His expression was not
altogether pleasant.

"Your position with us, sir," he said, "although much appreciated,
does not warrant your interference in executive details."

"Nevertheless," the Bishop insisted, "you must please treat me
reasonably in this matter, Mr. Fenn.  Remember I am not altogether
extinct as a force amongst your followers.  I have three mass
meetings to address this week, and there is the sermon next Sunday
at Westminster Abbey, at which it has been agreed that I shall
strike the first note of warning.  I am a helper, I believe, worth
considering, and there is no man amongst you who risks what I
risk."

"Exactly what are you asking from me?" Fenn demanded, after a
moment's deliberation.

"I wish to know the whereabouts and condition of Julian Orden."

"The matter is one which is being dealt with by our secret service
department," Fenn replied, "but I see no reason why I should not
give you all reasonable information.  The young man in question
asked for trouble, and to a certain extent he has found it."

"I understand," the Bishop reminded his companion, "that he has
very nearly, if not altogether, compromised himself in his efforts
to shield Miss Abbeway."

"That may be so," Fenn admitted, "but it doesn't alter the fact
that he refuses to return to her the packet which she entrusted to
his care."

"And he is still obdurate?"

"Up to now, absolutely so.  Perhaps," Fenn added, with a slightly
malicious smile, "you would like to try what you can do with him
yourself?"

The Bishop hesitated.

"Julian Orden," he said, "is a young man of peculiarly stubborn
type, but if I thought that my exhortations would be of any
benefit, I would not shrink from trying them, whatever it might
cost me."

"Better have a try, then," Fenn suggested.  "If we do not succeed
within the next twenty-four hours, I shall give you an order to
see him.  I don't mind confessing," he went on confidentially,
"that the need for the production of that document is urgent,
apart from the risk we run of having our plans forestalled if it
should fall into the hands of the Government."

"I presume that Miss Abbeway has already done her best?"

"She has worn herself out with persuasions."

"Has he himself been told the truth?"

Fenn shook his head.

"From your own knowledge of the young man, do you think that it
would be of any use?  Even Miss Abbeway is forced to admit that
any one less likely to sympathise with our aims it would be
impossible to find.  At the same time, if we do arrange an
interview for you, use any arguments you can think of.  To tell
you the truth, our whole calculations have been upset by not
discovering the packet upon his person.  He was on his way to
Downing Street when our agents intervened, and we never doubted
that he would have it with him.  When will it be convenient for
you to pay your visit?"

"At any time you send for me," the Bishop replied.  "Meanwhile,
Mr. Fenn, before I leave I want to remind you once more of the
original purpose of my call upon you."

Fenn frowned a little peevishly as he rose to usher his visitor
out.

"Miss Abbeway has already extorted a foolish promise from us," he
said.  "The young man's safety for the present is not in
question."

The Bishop, more from custom than from any appetite, walked across
the Park to the Athenaeum.  Mr. Hannaway Wells accosted him in the
hall.

"This is a world of rumours," he remarked with a smile.  "I have
just heard that Julian Orden, of all men in the world, has been
shot as a German spy."

The Bishop smiled with dignity.

"You may take it from me," he said gravely, "that the rumour is
untrue."




CHAPTER XI


Nicholas Fenn, although civilisation had laid a heavy hand upon
him during the last few years, was certainly not a man whose
outward appearance denoted any advance in either culture or taste.
His morning clothes, although he had recently abandoned the habit
of dealing at a ready-made emporium, were neither well chosen nor
well worn.  His evening attire was, if possible, worse.  He met
Catherine that evening in the lobby of what he believed to be a
fashionable grillroom, in a swallow-tailed coat, a badly fitting
shirt with a single stud-hole, a black tie, a collar which
encircled his neck like a clerical band, and ordinary walking
boots.  She repressed a little shiver as she shook hands and tried
to remember that this was not only the man whom several millions
of toilers had chosen to be their representative, but also the
duly appointed secretary of the most momentous assemblage of human
beings in the world's history.

"I hope I am not late," she said.  "I really do not care much
about dining out, these days, but your message was so insistent."

"One must have relaxation," he declared.  "The weight of affairs
all day long is a terrible strain.  Shall we go in?"

They entered the room and stood looking aimlessly about them, Fenn
having, naturally enough, failed to realise the necessity of
securing a table.  A maitre d'hotel, however, recognised Catherine
and hastened to their rescue.  She conversed with the man for a
few minutes in French, while her companion listened admiringly,
and finally, at his solicitation, herself ordered the dinner.

"The news, please, Mr. Fenn?" she asked, as soon as the man had
withdrawn.

"News?" he repeated.  "Oh, let's leave it alone for a time!  One
gets sick of shop."

She raised her eyebrows a little discouragingly.  She was dressed
with extraordinary simplicity, but the difference in caste between
the two supplied a problem for many curious observers.

"Why should we talk of trifles," she demanded, "when we both have
such a great interest in the most wonderful subject in the world?"

"What is the most wonderful subject in the world?" he asked
impressively.

"Our cause, of course," she answered firmly, "the cause of all the
peoples--Peace."

"One labours the whole day long for that," he grumbled.  "When the
hour for rest comes, surely one may drop it for a time?"

"Do you feel like that?" she remarked indifferently.  "For myself,
during these days I have but one thought.  There is nothing else
in my life.  And you, with all those thousands and millions of
your fellow creatures toiling, watching and waiting for a sign
from you--oh, I can't imagine how your thoughts can ever wander
from them for a moment, how you can ever remember that self even
exists!  I should like to be trusted, Mr. Fenn, as you are
trusted."

"My work," he said complacently, "has, I hope, justified that
trust."

"Naturally," she assented, "and yet the greatest part of it is to
come.  Tell me about Mr. Orden?"

"There is no change in the fellow's attitude.  I don't imagine
there will be until the last moment.  He is just a pig-headed,
insufferably conceited Englishman, full of class prejudices to his
finger tips."

"He is nevertheless a man," she said thoughtfully.  "I heard only
yesterday that he earned considerable distinction even in his
brief soldiering."

"No doubt," Fenn remarked, without enthusiasm, "he has the bravery
of an animal.  By the bye, the Bishop dropped in to see me this
morning."

"Really?" she asked.  "What did he want?"

"Just a personal call," was the elaborately careless reply.  "He
likes to look in for a chat, now and then.  He spoke about Orden,
too.  I persuaded him that if we don't succeed within the next
twenty four hours, it will be his duty to see what he can do."

"Oh, but that was too bad!" she declared.  "You know how he feels
his position, poor man.  He will simply loathe having to tell
Julian--Mr. Orden, I mean that he is connected with--"

"Well, with what, Miss Abbeway?"

"With anything in the nature of a conspiracy.  Of course, Mr.
Orden wouldn't understand.  How could he?  I think it was cruel to
bring the Bishop into the matter at all."

"Nothing," Fenn pronounced, "is cruel that helps the cause.  What
will you drink, Miss Abbeway?  You'll have some champagne, won't
you?"

"What a horrible idea!" she exclaimed, smiling at him
nevertheless.  "Fancy a great Labour leader suggesting such a
thing!  No, I'll have some light French wine, thank you."

Fenn passed the order on to the waiter, a little crestfallen.

"I don't often drink anything myself," he said, "but this seemed
to me to be something of an occasion."

"You have some news, then?"

"Not at all.  I meant dining with you."

She raised her eyebrows.

"Oh, that?" she murmured.  "That is simply a matter of routine.  I
thought you had some news, or some work."

"Isn't it possible, Miss Abbeway," he pleaded, "that we might have
some interests outside our work?"

"I shouldn't think so," she answered, with an insolence which was
above his head.

"There is no reason why we shouldn't have," he persisted.

"You must tell me your tastes," she suggested.  "Are you fond of
grand opera, for instance?  I adore it.  'Parsifal'--'The Ring'?"

"I don't know much about music," he admitted.  "My sister, who
used to live with me, plays the piano."

"We'll drop music, then," she said hastily.  "Books?  But I
remember you once told me that you had never read anything except
detective novels, and that you didn't care for poetry.  Sports?  I
adore tennis and I am rather good at golf."

"I have never wasted a single moment of my life in games," he
declared proudly.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"Well, you see, that leaves us rather a long way apart, outside
our work, doesn't it?"

"Even if I were prepared to admit that, which I am not," he
replied, "our work itself is surely enough to make up for all
other things."

"You are quite right," she confessed.  "There is nothing else
worth thinking about, worth talking about.  Tell me--you had an
inner Council this afternoon--is anything decided yet about the
leadership?"

He sighed a little.

"If ever there was a great cause in the world," he said, "which
stands some chance of missing complete success through senseless
and low-minded jealousy, it is ours."

"Mr. Fenn!" she exclaimed.

"I mean it," he assured her.  "As you know, a chairman must be
elected this week, and that chairman, of course, will hold more
power in his hand than any emperor of the past or any sovereign of
the present.  That leader is going to stop the war.  He is going
to bring peace to the world.  It is a mighty post, Miss Abbeway."

"It is indeed," she agreed.

"Yet would you believe," he went on, leaning across the table and
neglecting for a moment his dinner, "would you believe, Miss
Abbeway, that out of the twenty representatives chosen from the
Trades Unions governing the principal industries of Great Britain,
there is not a single one who does not consider himself eligible
for the post."

Catherine found herself suddenly laughing, while Fenn looked at
her in astonishment.

"I cannot help it," she apologised.  "Please forgive me.  Do not
think that I am irreverent.  It is not that at all.  But for a
moment the absurdity of the thing overcame me.  I have met some of
them, you know--Mr. Cross of Northumberland, Mr. Evans of South
Wales--"

"Evans is one of the worst," Fenn interrupted, with some
excitement.  "There's a man who has only worn a collar for the
last few years of his life, who evaded the board-school because he
was a pitman's lad, who doesn't even know the names of the
countries of Europe, but who still believes that he is a possible
candidate.  And Cross, too!  Well, he washes when he comes to
London, but he sleeps in his clothes and they look like it."

"He is very eloquent," Catherine observed.

"Eloquent!" Fenn exclaimed scornfully.  "He may be, but who can
understand him?  He speaks in broad Northumbrian.  What is needed
in the leader whom they are to elect this week, Miss Abbeway, is a
man of some culture and some appearance.  Remember that to him is
to be confided the greatest task ever given to man.  A certain
amount of personality he must have--personality and dignity, I
should say, to uphold the position."

"There is Mr. Miles Furley," she said thoughtfully.  "He is an
educated man, is he not?"

"For that very reason unsuitable," Fenn explained eagerly.  "He
represents no great body of toilers.  He is, in reality, only an
honorary member of the Council, like yourself and the Bishop,
there on account of his outside services."

"I remember, only a few nights ago," she reflected, "I was staying
at a country house--Lord Maltenby's, by the bye--Mr. Orden's
father.  The Prime Minister was there and another Cabinet
Minister.  They spoke of the Labour Party and its leaderless
state.  They had no idea, of course, of the great Council which
was already secretly formed, but they were unanimous about the
necessity for a strong leader.  Two people made the same remark,
almost with apprehension: `If ever Paul Fiske should materialise,
the problem would be solved!'"

Fenn assented without enthusiasm.

"After all, though," he reminded her, "a clever writer does not
always make a great speaker, nor has he always that personality
and distinction which is required in this case.  He would come
amongst us a stranger, too--a stranger personally, that is to
say."

"Not in the broadest sense of the word," Catherine objected.
"Paul Fiske is more than an ordinary literary man.  His heart is
in tune with what he writes.  Those are not merely eloquent words
which he offers.  There is a note of something above and beyond
just phrase-making--a note of sympathetic understanding which
amounts to genius."

Her companion stroked his moustache for a moment.

"Fiske goes right to the spot," he admitted, "but the question of
the leadership, so far as he is concerned, doesn't come into the
sphere of practical politics.  It has been suggested, Miss
Abbeway, by one or two of the more influential delegates,
suggested, too, by a vast number of letters and telegrams which
have poured in upon us during the last few days, that I should be
elected to this vacant post."

"You?" she exclaimed, a little blankly.

"Can you think of a more suitable person?" he asked, with a faint
note of truculence in his tone.  "You have seen us all together.
I don't wish to flatter myself, but as regards education, service
to the cause, familiarity with public speaking and the number of
those I represent--"

"Yes, yes!  I see," she interrupted.  "Taking the twenty Labour
representatives only, Mr. Fenn, I can see nothing against your
selection, but I fancied, somehow, that some one outside--the
Bishop, for instance--"

"Absolutely out of the question," Fenn declared.  "The people
would lose faith in the whole thing in a minute.  The person who
throws down the gage to the Prime Minister must have the direct
mandate of the people."

They finished dinner presently.  Fenn looked with admiration at
the gold, coroneted case from which Catherine helped herself to
one of her tiny cigarettes.  He himself lit an American cigarette.

"I had meant, Miss Abbeway," he confided, leaning towards her, "to
suggest a theatre to you to-night--in fact, I looked at some
dress circle seats at the Gaiety with a view to purchasing.
Another matter has cropped up, however.  There is a little
business for us to do."

"Business?" Catherine repeated.

He produced a folded paper from his pocket and passed it across
the table.  Catherine read it with a slight frown.

"An order entitling the bearer to search Julian Orden's
apartments!" she exclaimed.  "We don't want to search them, do we?
Besides, what authority have we?"

"The best," he answered, tapping with his discoloured forefinger
the signature at the foot of the strip of paper.

She examined it with a doubtful frown.

"But how did this come into your possession?" she asked.

He smiled at her in superior fashion.

"By asking for it," he replied bluntly.  "And between you and me,
Miss Abbeway, there isn't much we might ask for that they'd care
to refuse us just now."

"But the police have already searched Mr. Orden's rooms," she
reminded him.

"The police have been known to overlook things.  Of course, what I
am hoping is that amongst Mr. Orden's papers there may be some
indication as to where he has deposited our property."

"But this has nothing to do with me," she protested.  "I do not
like to be concerned in such affairs."

"But I particularly wish you to accompany me," he urged.  "You are
the only one who has seen the packet.  It would be better,
therefore, if we conducted the search in company."

Catherine made a little grimace, but she objected no further.  She
objected very strongly, however, when Fenn tried to take her arm
on leaving the place, and she withdrew into her own corner of the
taxi immediately they had taken their seats.

"You must forgive my prejudices, Mr. Fenn," she said--"my foreign
bringing up, perhaps--but I hate being touched."

"Oh, come!" he remonstrated.  "No need to be so stand-offish."

He tried to hold her hand, an attempt which she skilfully
frustrated.

"Really," she insisted earnestly, "this sort of thing does not
amuse me.  I avoid it even amongst my own friends."

"Am I not a friend?" he demanded.

"So far as regards our work, you certainly are," she admitted.
"Outside it, I do not think that we could ever have much to say to
one another."

"Why not?" he objected, a little sharply.  "We're as close
together in our work and aims as any two people could be.
Perhaps," he went on, after a moment's hesitation and a careful
glance around, "I ought to take you into my confidence as regards
my personal position."

"I am not inviting anything of the sort," she observed, with faint
but wasted sarcasm.

"You know me, of course," he went on, "only as the late manager of
a firm of timber merchants and the present elected representative
of the allied Timber and Shipbuilding Trades Unions.  What you do
not know"--a queer note of triumph stealing into his tone "is
that I am a wealthy man."

She raised her eyebrows.

"I imagined," she remarked, "that all Labour leaders were like the
Apostles--took no thought for such things."

"One must always keep one's eye on the main chance; Miss Abbeway,"
he protested, "or how would things be when one came to think of
marriage, for instance?"

"Where did your money come from?" she asked bluntly.

Her question was framed simply to direct him from a repulsive
subject.  His embarrassment, however, afforded her food for future
thought.

"I have saved money all my life," he confided eagerly.  "An uncle
left me a little.  Lately I have speculated--successfully.  I
don't want to dwell on this.  I only wanted you to understand that
if I chose I could cut a very different figure--that my wife
wouldn't have to live in a suburb."

"I really do not see," was the cold response, "how this concerns
me in the least."

"You, call yourself a Socialist, don't you, Miss Abbeway?" he
demanded.  "You're not allowing the fact that you're an aristocrat
and that I am a self-made man to weigh with you?"

"The accident of birth counts for nothing," she replied, "you must
know that those are my principles--but it sometimes happens that
birth and environment give one tastes which it is impossible to
ignore.  Please do not let us pursue this conversation any
further, Mr. Fenn.  We have had a very pleasant dinner, for which
I thank you--and here we are at Mr. Orden's flat."

Her companion handed her out a little sulkily, and they ascended
in the lift to the fifth floor.  The door was opened to them by
Julian's servant.  He recognised Catherine and greeted her
respectfully.  Fenn produced his authority, which the man accepted
without comment.

"No news of your master yet?" Catherine asked him.

"None at all, madam," was the somewhat depressed admission.  "I am
afraid that something must have happened to him.  He was not the
kind of gentleman to go away like this and leave no word behind
him."

"Still," she advised cheerfully, "I shouldn't despair.  More
wonderful things have happened than that your master should return
home to-morrow or the next day with a perfectly simple explanation
of his absence."

"I should be very glad to see him, madam," the man replied, as he
backed towards the door.  "If I can be of any assistance, perhaps
you will ring."

The valet departed, closing the door behind him.  Catherine looked
around the room into which they had been ushered, with a little
frown.  It was essentially a man's sitting room, but it was well
and tastefully furnished, and she was astonished at the immense
number of books, pamphlets and Reviews which crowded the walls and
every available space.  The Derby desk still stood open, there was
a typewriter on a special stand, and a pile of manuscript paper.

"What on earth," she murmured, "could Mr. Orden have wanted with a
typewriter!  I thought journalism was generally done in the
offices of a newspaper--the sort of journalism that he used to
undertake."

"Nice little crib, isn't it?" Fenn remarked, glancing around.
"Cosy little place, I call it."

Something in the man's expression as he advanced towards her
brought all the iciness back to her tone and manner.

"It is a pleasant apartment," she said, "but I am not at all sure
that I like being here, and I certainly dislike our errand.  It
does not seem credible that, if the police have already searched,
we should find the packet here."

"The police don't know what to look for," he reminded her.  "We
do."

There was apparently very little delicacy about Mr. Fenn.  He drew
a chair to the desk and began to look through a pile of papers,
making running comments as he did so.

"Hm!  Our friend seems to have been quite a collector of old
books.  I expect second-hand booksellers found him rather a mark.
Some fellow here thanking him for a loan.  And here's a tailor's
bill.  By Jove, Miss Abbeway, just listen to this!  `One dress
suit-fourteen guineas!'  That's the way these fellows who don't
know any better chuck their money about," he added, swinging
around in his chair towards her.  "The clothes I have on cost me
exactly four pounds fifteen cash, and I guarantee his were no
better."

Catherine frowned impatiently.

"We did not come here, did we, Mr. Fenn, to discuss Mr. Orden's
tailor's bill?  I can see no object at all in going through his
correspondence in this way.  What you have to search for is a
packet wrapped up in thin yellow oilskin, with `Number 17' on the
outside in black ink."

"Oh, he might have slipped it in anywhere," Fenn pointed out.
"Besides, there's always a chance that one of his letters may give
us a clue as to where he has hidden the document.  Come and sit
down by the side of me, won't you, Miss Abbeway?  Do!"

"I would rather stand, thank you," she replied.  "You seem to find
your present occupation to your taste.  I should loathe it!"

"Never think of my own feelings," Fenn said briskly, "when there's
a job to be done.  I wish you'd be a bit more friendly, though,
Miss Abbeway.  Let me pull that chair up by the side of mine.  I
like to have you near.  You know, I've been a bachelor for a good
many years," he went on impressively, "but a little homey place
like this always makes me think of things.  I've nothing against
marriage if only a man can be lucky enough to get the right sort
of girl, and although advanced thinkers like you and me and some
of the others are looking at things differently, nowadays, I
wouldn't mind much which way it was," he confided, dropping his
voice a little and laying his hand upon her arm, "if you could
make up your mind--"

She snatched her arm away, and this time even he could not mistake
the anger which blazed in her eyes.

"Mr. Fenn," she exclaimed, "why is it so difficult to make you
understand?  I detest such liberties as you are permitting
yourself.  And for the rest, my affections are already engaged."

"Sounds a bit old-fashioned, that," he remarked, scowling a
little.  "Of course, I don't expect--"

"Never mind what you expect," she interrupted, "Please go on with
this search, if you are going to make one at all.  The vulgarity
of the whole thing annoys me, and I do not for a moment suppose
that the packet is here."

"It wasn't on Orden," he reminded her sullenly.

"Then he must have sent it somewhere for safe keeping," she
replied.  "I had already given him cause to do so."

"If he has, then amongst his correspondence there may be some
indication as to where he sent it," Fenn pointed out, with
unabated ill-temper.  "If you don't like the job, and you won't be
friendly, you'd better take the easy-chair and wait till I'm
through."

She sat down, watching him with angry eyes, uncomfortable,
unhappy, humiliated.  She seemed to have dropped in a few hours
from the realms of rarefied and splendid thought to a world of
petty deeds.  Not one of her companion's actions was lost upon
her.  She watched him study with ill-concealed reverence a ducal
invitation, saw him read through without hesitation a letter which
she felt sure was from Julian's mother.  And then:

The change in the man was so startling, his muttered exclamation--
so natural that its profanity never even grated.  His eyes seemed
to be starting out of his head, his lips were drawn back from his
teeth.  Blank, unutterable surprise held him, dumb and spellbound,
as he stared at a half-sheet of type written notepaper.  She
herself, amazed at his transformed appearance, found words for the
moment impossible.  Then a queer change came into his expression.
His eyebrows drew closer together, his lips turned malevolently.
He pushed the paper underneath a pile of others and turned his
head towards her.  Their eyes met.  There was something like fear
in his.

"What is it that you have found?" she cried breathlessly.

"Nothing," he answered, "nothing of any importance."

She rose slowly to her feet and came towards him.

"I am your partner in this hateful enterprise," she reminded him.
"Show me that paper which you have just concealed."

He laid his hand on the lid of the desk, but she caught it and
held it open.

"I insist upon seeing it," she said firmly.

He turned and faced her.  There was a most unpleasant light in his
eyes.

"And I say that you shall not," he declared.

There was a brief, intense silence.  Each seemed to be measuring
the other's strength.  Of the two, Catherine was the more
composed.  Fenn's face was still white and strained.  His lips
were twitching, his manner nervous and jerky.  He made a desperate
effort to reestablish ordinary relations.

"Look here, Miss Abbeway," he said, "we don't need to quarrel
about this.  That paper I came across has a special interest for
me personally.  I want to think about it before I say anything to
a soul in the world."

"You can consult with me," she persisted.  "Our aims are the same.
We are here for the same purpose."

"Not altogether," he objected.  "I brought you here as my
assistant."

"Did you?"

"Well, have the truth, then!" he exclaimed.  "I brought you here
to be alone with you, because I hoped that I might find you a
little kinder."

"I am afraid you have been disappointed, haven't you?" she asked
sweetly.

"I have," he answered, with unpleasant meaning in his tone, "but
we are not out of here yet."

"You cannot frighten me," she assured him.  "Of course, you are a
man--of a sort--and I am a woman, but I do not fancy that you
would find, if it came to force, that you would have much of an
advantage.  However, we are wandering from the point.  I claim an
equal right with you to see anything which you may discover in Mr.
Orden's papers.  I might, indeed, if I chose, claim a prior
right."

"Indeed?" he answered, with an ugly scowl on his face.  "Mr.
Julian Orden is by way of being a particular friend, eh?"

"As a matter of fact," Catherine told him, "we are engaged to be
married.  It isn't a serious engagement.  It was entered into by
him in a most chivalrous manner, to save me from the consequences
of a very clumsy attempt on my part to get back that packet.  But
there it is.  Every one down at his home believes at the present
moment that we are engaged and that I have come up to London to
see our Ambassador."

"If you are engaged," Fenn sneered, "why hasn't he told you more
of his secrets?"

"Secrets!" she repeated, a little scornfully.  "I shouldn't think
he has any.  I should imagine his daily life could be investigated
without the least fear."

"You'd imagine wrong, then."

"But how interesting!  You excite my curiosity.  And must you
continue to hold my wrist?"

"Let me pull down the top of this desk, then."

"No!"

"Why not?"

"I intend to examine those papers."

With a quick movement he gained a momentary advantage and shut the
desk down.  The key, however, disturbed by the jerk, fell on to
the carpet, and Catherine possessed herself of it.  She sprang
lightly back from him and pressed the bell.

"D-n you, what are you going to do now?" he demanded.

"You will see," she replied.  "Don't come any nearer, or you may
find that I can be unpleasant."

He shrugged his shoulders and waited.  She turned towards the
servant who presently appeared.

"Robert," she said, "will you telephone for me?"

"Certainly, madam," the man answered.

"Telephone to 1884 Westminster.  Say that you are speaking for
Miss Abbeway, and ask Mr. Furley, Mr. Cross, or whoever is there,
to come at once to this address."

"Look here, there's no sense in that," Fenn interrupted.

"Will you do as I ask, please, Robert?" she persisted.

The man bowed and left the room.  Fenn strode sulkily back to the
desk.

"Very well, then," he conceded, "I give in.  Give me the key, and
I'll show you the letter."

"You intend to keep your word?"

"I do," he assured her.

She held out the key.  He took it, opened the desk, searched
amongst the little pile of papers, drew out the half-sheet of
notepaper, and handed it to her.

"There you are," he said, "although if you are really engaged to
marry Mr. Julian Orden," he added, with disagreeable emphasis, "I
am surprised that he should have kept such a secret from you."

She ignored him and started to read the letter, glancing first at
the address at the top.  It was from the British Review, and was
dated a few days back:

My dear Orden,

I think it best to let you know, in case you haven't seen it
yourself, that there is a reward of 100 pounds offered by some
busybody for the name of the author of the `Paul Fiske' articles.
Your anonymity has been splendidly preserved up till now, but I
feel compelled to warn you that a disclosure is imminent.  Take my
advice and accept it with a good grace.  You have established
yourself so irrevocably now that the value of your work will not
be lessened by the discovery of the fact that you yourself do not
belong to the class of whom you have written so brilliantly.

I hope to see you in a few days.

                                            Sincerely,
                                            M. HALKIN.

Even after she had concluded the letter, she still stared at it.
She read again the one conclusive sentence--"Your anonymity has
been splendidly preserved up till now."  Then she suddenly broke
into a laugh which was almost hysterical.

"So this is his hack journalism!" she exclaimed.  "Julian Orden--
Paul Fiske!"

"I don't wonder you're surprised," Fenn observed.  "Fourteen
guineas for a dress suit, and he thinks he understands the working
man!"

She turned her head slowly and looked at him.  There was a
strange, repressed fire in her eyes.  "You are a very foolish
person," she said.  "Your parents, I suppose, were small
shopkeepers, or something of the sort, and you were brought up at
a board-school and Julian Orden at Eton and Oxford, and yet he
understands, and you do not.  You see, heart counts, and sympathy,
and the flair for understanding.  I doubt whether these things are
really found where you come from."

He caught up his hat.  His face was very white.  His tone shook
with anger.

"This is our own fault," he exclaimed angrily, "for having ever
permitted an aristocrat to hold any place in our counsels!  Before
we move a step further, we'll purge them of such helpers as you
and such false friends as Julian Orden."

"You very foolish person," she repeated.  "Stop, though.  Why all
this mystery?  Why did you try to keep that letter from me?"

"I conceived it to be for the benefit of our cause," he said
didactically, "that the anonymity--of `Paul Fiske' should be
preserved."

"Rubbish!" she scoffed.  "You were afraid of him.  Why, what fools
we are!  We will tell him the whole truth.  We will tell him of
our great scheme.  We will tell him what we have been working for,
these many months.  The Bishop shall tell him, and you and I, and
Miles Furley, and Cross.  He shall hear all about it.  He is with
us!  He must be with us!  You shall put him on the Council.  Why,
there is your great difficulty solved," she went on, in growing
excitement.  "There is not a working man in the country who would
not rally under `Paul Fiske's' banner.  There you have your
leader.  It is he who shall deliver your ultimatum."

"I'm damned if it is!" Fenn declared, suddenly throwing his hat
down and coming towards her furiously.  "I'm--"

The door opened.  Robert stood there.

"The message, madam,"  he began--and then stopped short.  She
crossed the room towards him.

"Robert," she said, "I think I have found the way to bring your
master back to you.  Will you take me downstairs, please, and
fetch me a taxi?"

"Certainly, madam!"

She looked back from the threshold.

"I shall telephone to Westminster in a few minutes, Mr. Fenn," she
said.  "I hope I shall be in time to stop the others from coming.
Perhaps you had better wait here, in case they have already
started."

He made no reply.  To Catherine the world had become so wonderful
that his existence scarcely counted.




CHAPTER XII


Catherine, notwithstanding her own excitement, found genuine
pleasure in the bewildered enthusiasm with which the Bishop
received her astounding news.  She found him alone in the great,
gloomy house which he usually inhabited when in London, at work in
a dreary library to which she was admitted after a few minutes'
delay.  Naturally, he received her tidings at first almost with
incredulity.  A heartfelt joy, however, followed upon conviction.

"I always liked Julian," he declared.  "I always believed that he
had capacity.  Dear me, though," he went on, with a whimsical
little smile, "what a blow for the Earl!"

Catherine laughed.

"Do you remember the evening we all talked about the Labour
question?  Time seems to have moved so rapidly lately, but it was
scarcely a week ago."

"I remember," the Bishop acknowledged.  "And, my dear young lady,"
he went on warmly, "now indeed I feel that I can offer you
congratulations which come from my heart."

She turned a little away.

"Don't," she begged.  "You would have known very soon, in any case
--my engagement to Julian Orden was only a pretence."

"A pretence?"

"I was desperate," she explained.  "I felt I must have that packet
back at any price.  I went to his rooms to try and steal it.
Well, I was found there.  He invented our engagement to help me
out."

"But you went off to London together, the neat day?" the Bishop
reminded her.

"It was all part of the game," she sighed.  "What a fool he must
have thought me!  However, I am glad.  I am riotously, madly glad.
I am glad for the cause, I am glad for all our sakes.  We have a
great recruit, Bishop, the greatest we could have.  And think!
When he knows the truth, there will be no more trouble.  He will
hand us over the packet.  We shall know just where we stand.  We
shall know at once whether we dare to strike the great blow."

"I was down at Westminster this afternoon," the Bishop told her.
"The whole mechanism of the Council of Labour seems to be
complete.  Twenty men control industrial England.  They have
absolute power.  They are waiting only for the missing word.  And
fancy," he went on, "to-morrow I was to have visited Julian.  I
was to have used my persuasions."

"But we must go to-night!" Catherine exclaimed.  "There is no
reason why we should waste a single second."

"I shall be only too pleased," he assented gladly.  "Where is,
he?"

Catherine's face fell.

"I haven't the least idea," she confessed.  "Don't you know?"

The Bishop shook his head.

"They were going to send some one with me tomorrow," he replied,
"but in any case Fenn knows.  We can get at him."

She made a little wry face.

"I do not like Mr. Fenn," she said slowly.  "I have disagreed with
him.  But that does not matter.  Perhaps we had better go to the
Council rooms.  We shall find some of them there, and probably
Fenn.  I have a taxi waiting."

They drove presently to Westminster.  The ground floor of the
great building, which was wholly occupied now by the offices of
the different Labour men, was mostly in darkness, but on the top
floor was a big room used as a club and restaurant, and also for
informal meetings.  Six or seven of the twenty-three were there,
but not Fenn.  Cross, a great brawny Northumbrian, was playing a
game of chess with Furley.  Others were writing letters.  They all
turned around at Catherine's entrance.  She held out her hands to
them.

"Great news, my friends!" she exclaimed.  "Light up the committee
room.  I want to talk to you."

Those who were entitled to followed her into the room across the
passage.  One or two secretaries and a visitor remained outside.
Six of them seated themselves at the long table--Phineas Cross,
the Northumbrian pitman, Miles Furley, David Sands, representative
of a million Yorkshire mill-hands, Thomas Evans, the South Wales
miner.

"We got a message from you, Miss Abbeway, a little time ago,"
Furley remarked.  "It was countermanded, though, just as we were
ready to start."

"Yes!" she assented.  "I am sorry.  I telephoned from Julian
Orden's rooms.  It was there we made the great discovery.  Listen,
all of you!  I have discovered the identity of Paul Fiske."

There was a little clamour of voices.  The interest was
indescribable.  Paul Fiske was their cult, their master, their
undeniable prophet.  It was he who had set down in letters of fire
the truths which had been struggling for imperfect expression in
these men's minds.  It was Paul Fiske who had fired them with
enthusiasm for the cause which at first had been very much like a
matter of bread and cheese to them.  It was Paul Fiske who had
formed their minds, who had put the great arguments into their
brains, who had armed them from head to foot with potent
reasonings.  Four very ordinary men, of varying types, sincere
men, all of plebeian extraction, all with their faults, yet all
united in one purpose, were animated by that same fire of
excitement.  They hung over the table towards her.  She might have
been the croupier and they the gamblers who had thrown upon the
table their last stake.

"In Julian Orden's rooms," she said, "I found a letter from the
editor of the British Review, warning him that his anonymity could
not be preserved much longer--that before many weeks had passed
the world would know that he was Paul Fiske.  Here is the letter."

She passed it around.  They studied it, one by one.  They were all
a little stunned.

"Julian!" Furley exclaimed, in blank amazement.  "Why, he's been
pulling my leg for more than a year!"

"The son of an Earl!" Cross gasped.

"Never mind about that.  He is a democrat and honest to the
backbone," Catherine declared.  "The Bishop will tell you so.  He
has known him all his life.  Think!  Julian Orden has no purpose
to serve, no selfish interest to further.  He has nothing to gain,
everything to lose.  If he were not sincere, if those words of
his, which we all remember, did not come from his heart, where
could be the excuse, the reason, for what he stands for?  Think
what it means to us!"

"He is the man, isn't he," Sands asked mysteriously, "whom they
are looking after down yonder?"

"I don't know where 'down yonder' is," Catherine replied, "but you
have him in your power somewhere.  He left his rooms last Thursday
at about a quarter past six, to take that packet to the Foreign
Office, or to make arrangements for its being received there.  He
never reached the Foreign Office.  He hasn't been heard of since.
Some of you know where he is.  The Bishop and I want to go and
find him at once."

"Fenn and Bright know," Cross declared.  "It's Bright's job."

"Why is Bright in it?" Catherine asked impatiently.

Cross frowned and puckered up his lips, an odd trick of his when
he was displeased.

"Bright represents the workers in chemical factories," he
explained.  "They say that there isn't a poison in liquid, solid
or gas form, that he doesn't know all about.  Chap who gives me
kind of shivers whenever he comes near.  He and Fenn run the
secret service branch of the Council."

"If he knows where Mr. Orden is, couldn't we send for him at
once?" Catherine suggested.

"I'll go," Furley volunteered.

He was back in a few minutes.

"Fenn and Bright are both out," he announced, "and their rooms
locked up.  I rang up Fenn's house, but he hasn't been back."

Catherine stamped her foot.  She was on fire with impatience.

"Doesn't it seem too bad!" she exclaimed.  "If we could only get
hold of Julian Orden to-night, if the Bishop and I could talk to
him for five minutes, we could have this message for which we have
been waiting so long."

The door was suddenly opened.  Fenn entered and received a little
chorus of welcome.  He was wearing a rough black overcoat over his
evening clothes, and a black bowler hat.  He advanced to the table
with a little familiar swagger.

"Mr. Fenn," the Bishop said, "we have been awaiting your arrival
anxiously.  Tell us, please, where we can find Mr. Julian Orden."

Fenn gave vent to a half-choked, ironical laugh.

"If you'd asked me an hour ago," he said, "I should have told you
to try Iris Villa, Acacia Road, Hampstead.  I have just come from
there."

"You saw him?" the Bishop enquired.

"That's just what I did not," Fenn replied.

"Why not?" Catherine demanded.

"Because he wasn't there hasn't been since three o'clock this
afternoon."

"You've moved him?" Furley asked eagerly.

"He's moved himself," was the grim reply.  "He's escaped."

During the brief, spellbound silence which followed his
announcement, Fenn advanced slowly into the room.  It chanced that
during their informal discussion, the chair at the head of the
table had been left unoccupied.  The newcomer hesitated for a
single second, then removed his hat, laid it on the floor by his
side, and sank into the vacant seat.  He glanced somewhat
defiantly towards Catherine.  He seemed to know quite well from
whence the challenge of his words would come.

"You tell us," Catherine said, mastering her emotion with an
effort, "that Julian Orden, whom we now know to be `Paul Fiske',
has escaped.  Just what do you mean?"

"I can scarcely reduce my statement to plainer words," Fenn
replied, "but I will try.  The danger in which we stood through
the miscarriage of that packet was appreciated by every one of the
Council.  Discretionary powers were handed to the small secret
service branch which is controlled by Bright and myself.  Orden
was prevented from reaching the Foreign Office and was rendered
for a time incapable.  The consideration of our further action
with regard to him was to depend upon his attitude.  Owing, no
doubt, to some slight error in Bright's treatment.  Orden has
escaped from the place of safety in which he had been placed.  He
is now at large, and his story, together with the packet, will
probably be in the hands of the Foreign Office some time
to-night."

"Giving them," Cross remarked grimly, "the chance to get in the
first blow--warrants for high treason, eh, against the
twenty-three of us?"

"I don't fear that," Fenn asserted, "not if we behave like
sensible men.  My proposal is that we anticipate, that one of us
sees the Prime Minister to-morrow morning and lays the whole
position before him."

"Without the terms," Furley observed.

"I know exactly what they will be," Fenn pointed out.  "The
trouble, of course, is that the missing packet contains the
signature of the three guarantors.  The packet, no doubt, will be
in the hands of the Foreign Office by to-morrow.  The Prime
Minister can verify our statements.  We present our ultimatum a
little sooner than we intended, but we get our blow in first and
we are ready."

The Bishop leaned forward in his place.

"Forgive me if I intervene for one moment," he begged.  "You say
that Julian Orden has escaped.  Are we to understand that he is
absolutely at liberty and in a normal state of health?"

Fenn hesitated for a single second.

"I have no reason to believe the contrary," he said.

"Still, it is possible," the Bishop persisted, "that Julian Orden
may not be in a position to forward that document to the Foreign
Office for the present?  If that is so, I am inclined to think
that the Prime Minister would consider your visit a bluff.
Certainly, you would have no argument weighty enough to induce him
to propose the armistice.  No man could act upon your word alone.
He would want to see these wonderful proposals in writing, even if
he were convinced of the justice of your arguments."

There was a little murmur of approval.  Fenn leaned forward.

"You drive me to a further disclosure," he declared, after a
moment's hesitation, "one, perhaps, which I ought already to have
made.  I have arranged for a duplicate of that packet to be
prepared and forwarded.  I set this matter on foot the moment we
heard from Miss Abbeway here of her mishap.  The duplicate may
reach us at any moment."

"Then I propose," the Bishop said, "that we postpone our decision
until those papers be received.  Remember that up to the present
moment the Council have not pledged themselves to take action
until they have perused that document."

"And supposing," Fenn objected, "that to-morrow morning at eight
o'clock, twenty-three of us are marched off to the Tower!  Our
whole cause may be paralysed, all that we have worked for all
these months will be in vain, and this accursed and bloody war may
be dragged on until our politicians see fit to make a peace of
words."

"I know Mr. Stenson well," the Bishop declared, "and I am
perfectly convinced that he is too sane-minded a man to dream of
taking such a step as you suggest.  He, at any rate, if others in
his Cabinet are not so prescient, knows what Labour means."

"I agree with the Bishop, for many reasons," Furley pronounced.

"And I," Cross echoed.

The sense of the meeting was obvious.  Fenn's unpleasant looking
teeth flashed for a moment, and his mouth came together with a
little snap.

"This is entirely an informal gathering," he said.  "I shall
summon the Council to come together tomorrow at midday."

"I think that we may sleep in our beds to-night without fear of
molestation," the Bishop remarked, "although if it had been the
wish of the meeting, I would have broached the matter to Mr.
Stenson."

"You are an honorary member of the Council," Fenn declared rudely.
"We don't wish interference.  This is a national and international
Labour movement."

"I am a member of the Labour Party of Christ," the Bishop said
quietly.

"And an honoured member of this Executive Council," Cross
intervened.  "You're a bit too glib with your tongue to-night,
Fenn."

"I think of those whom I represent," was the curt reply.  "They
are toilers, and they want the toilers to show their power.  They
don't want help from the Church.  I'll go even so far," he added,
"as to say that they don't want help from literature.  It's their
own job.  They've begun it, and they want to finish it."

"To-morrow's meeting," Furley observed, "will show how far you are
right in your views.  I consider my position, and the Bishop's, as
members of the Labour Party, on a par with your own.  I will go
further and say that the very soul of our Council is embodied in
the teachings and the writings of Paul Fiske, or, as we now know
him to be, Julian Orden."

Fenn rose to his feet.  He was trembling with passion.

"This informal meeting is adjourned," he announced harshly.

Cross himself did not move.

"Adjourned or not it may be, Mr. Fenn," he said, "but it's no
place of yours to speak for it.  You've thrust yourself into that
chair, but that don't make you chairman, now or at any other
time."

Fenn choked down the words which had seemed to tremble on his
lips.  His enemies he knew, but there were others here who might
yet be neutral.

"If I have assumed more than I should have done, I am sorry," he
said.  "I brought you news which I was in a hurry to deliver.  The
rest followed."

The little company rose to their feet and moved towards the door,
exchanging whispered comments concerning the news which Catherine
had brought.  She herself crossed the room and confronted Fenn.

"There is still something to be said about that news," she
declared.

Fenn's attempt at complete candour was only partially convincing.

"There is not the slightest reason," he declared, "why anything
concerning Julian Orden should be concealed from any member of the
Council who desires information.  If you will follow me into my
private room, Miss Abbeway, and you, Furley, I shall be glad to
tell you our exact position.  And if the Bishop will accompany
you," he added, turning to the latter, "I shall be honoured."

Furley made no reply, but, whispering something in Catherine's
ear, took up his hat and left the room.  The other two, however,
took Fenn at his word, followed him into his room, accepted the
chairs which he placed for them, and waited while he spoke through
a telephone to the private exchange situated in the building.

"They tell me," he announced, as he laid down the instrument,
"that Bright has this moment returned and is now on his way
upstairs."

Catherine shivered.

"Is Mr. Bright that awful-looking person who came to the last
Council meeting?"

"He is probably the person you mean," Fenn assented.  "He takes
very little interest in our executive work, but he is one of the
most brilliant scientists of this or any other generation.  The
Government has already given him three laboratories for his
experiments, and nearly every gas that is being used at the Front
has been prepared according to his formula."

"A master of horrors," the Bishop murmured.

"He looks it," Catherine whispered under her breath.

There was a knock at the door, a moment or two later, and Bright
entered.  He was a little over medium height, with long and lanky
figure, a pronounced stoop, and black, curly hair of coarse
quality.  His head, which was thrust a little forward, perhaps
owing to his short-sightedness, was long, his forehead narrow, his
complexion a sort of olive-green.  He wore huge, disfiguring
spectacles, and he had the protuberant lips of a negro.  He
greeted Catherine and the Bishop absently and seemed to have a
grievance against Fenn.

"What is it you want, Nicholas?" he asked impatiently.  "I have
some experiments going on in the country and can only spare a
minute."

"The Council has rescinded its instructions with regard to Julian
Orden," Fenn announced, "and is anxious to have him brought before
them at once.  As you know, we are for the moment powerless in the
matter.  Will you please explain to Miss Abbeway and the Bishop
here just what has been done?"

"It seems a waste of time," Bright replied ill-naturedly, "but
here is the story.  Julian Orden left his rooms at a quarter to
six on Thursday evening.  He walked down to St. James's Street and
turned into the Park.  Just as he passed the side door of
Marlborough House he was attacked by a sudden faintness."

"For which, I suppose," the Bishop interrupted, "you were
responsible."

"I or my deputy," Bright replied.  "It doesn't matter which.  He
was fortunate enough to be able to hail a passing taxicab and was
driven to my house in Hampstead.  He has spent the intervening
period, until three o'clock this afternoon, in a small laboratory
attached to the premises."

"A compulsory stay, I presume?" the Bishop ventured.

"A compulsory stay, arranged for under instructions from the
Council," Bright assented, in his hard, rasping voice.  "He has
been most of the time under the influence of some new form of
anaesthetic gas with which I have been experimenting.  To-night,
however, I must have made a mistake in my calculations.  Instead
of remaining in a state of coma until midnight, he recovered
during my absence and appears to have walked out of the place."

"You have no idea where he is at the present moment, then?"
Catherine asked.

"Not the slightest," Bright assured her.  "I only know that he
left the place without hat, gloves, or walking stick.  Otherwise,
he was fully dressed, and no doubt had plenty of money in his
pocket."

"Is he likely to have any return of the indisposition from which,
owing to your efforts, he has been suffering?" the Bishop
enquired.

"I should say not," was the curt answer.  "He may find his memory
somewhat affected temporarily.  He ought to be able to find his
way home, though.  If not, I suppose you'll hear of him through
the police courts or a hospital.  Nothing that we have done," he
added, after a moment's pause, "is likely to affect his health
permanently in the slightest degree."

"You now know all that there is to be known, Miss Abbeway," Fenn
said.  "I agree with you that it is highly desirable that Mr.
Orden should be found at once, and if you can suggest any way in
which I might be of assistance in discovering his present
whereabouts, I shall be only too glad to help.  For instance,
would you like me to telephone to his rooms?"

Catherine rose to her feet.

"Thank you, Mr. Fenn," she said, "I don't think that we will
trouble you.  Mr. Furley is making enquiries both at Mr. Orden's
rooms and at his clubs."

"You are perfectly satisfied, so far as I am concerned, I trust?"
he persisted, as he opened the door for them.

"Perfectly satisfied," Catherine replied, looking him in the face,
"that you have told us as much as you choose to for the present."

Fenn closed the door behind Catherine and the Bishop and turned
back into the room.  Bright laughed at him unpleasantly.

"Love affair not going so strong, eh?"

Fenn threw himself into his chair, took a cigarette from a paper
packet, and lit it.

"Blast Julian Orden!" he muttered.

"No objection," his friend yawned.  "What's wrong now?"

"Haven't you heard the news?  It seems he's the fellow who has
been writing those articles on Socialism and Labour, signing them
`Paul Fiske.'  Idealistic rubbish, but of course the Bishop and
his lot are raving about him."

"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."




CHAPTER XIII


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."

"There will be a little anxiety on the part of your friends about
you," Julian retorted grimly, "if ever I do get out of this
accursed place."

"You bear malice, I fear, Mr. Orden."

Julian made no reply.  His eyes were fixed upon the door.  He
turned away with a shudder.  Bright had entered.  In his hand he
was carrying two gas masks.  He came over to the side of the
couch, and, looking down at Julian, lifted his hand, and felt his
pulse.  Then, with an abrupt movement, he handed one of the masks
to Fenn.

"Look out for yourself," he advised.  "I am going to give him an
antidote."

Bright stepped back and adjusted his own gas mask, while Fenn
followed suit.  Then the former drew from his pocket what seemed
to be a small tube with perforated holes at the top.  He leaned
over Julian and pressed it.  A little cloud of faint mist rushed
through the holes; a queer, aromatic perfume, growing stronger
every moment, seemed to creep into the farthest corners of the
room.  In less than ten seconds Julian opened his eyes.  In half a
minute he was sitting up.  His eyes were bright once more, there
was colour in his cheeks.  Bright spoke to him warningly.

"Mr. Orden," he enjoined, "sit where you are.  Remember I have the
other tube in my left hand."

"You infernal scoundrel!" Julian exclaimed.

"Mr. Bright," Fenn asserted, "is nothing of the sort.  Neither am
I.  We are both honest men faced with a colossal situation.  There
is nothing personal in our treatment of you.  We have no enmity
towards you.  You are simply a person who has committed a theft."

"What puzzles me," Julian muttered, "is what you expect I am going
to do about you, if ever I do escape from your clutches."

"If you do escape," Fenn said quietly, "you will view the matter
differently.  You will find, as a matter of fact, that you are
powerless to do anything.  You will find a new law and a new order
prevailing."

"German law!" Julian sneered.

"You misjudge us," Fenn continued.  "Both Bright and I are
patriotic Englishmen.  We are engaged at the present moment in a
desperate effort to save our country.  You are the man who stands
in the way."

"I never thought," said Julian, "that I should smile in this
place, but you are beginning to amuse me.  Why not be more
explicit?  Why not prove what you say?  I might become amenable.
I suppose your way of saving the country is to hand it over to the
Germans, eh?"

"Our way of saving the country," Fenn declared, "is to establish
peace."

Julian laughed scornfully.

"I know a little about you, Mr. Fenn," he said.  "I know the sort
of peace you would establish, the sort of peace any man would
propose who conducts a secret correspondence with Germany."

Fenn, who had lifted his mask for a moment, slowly rearranged it.

"Mr. Orden," he said, "we are not going to waste words upon you.
You are hopelessly and intolerably prejudiced.  Will you tell us
where you have concealed the packet you intercepted?"

"Aren't you almost tired of asking me that question?  I'm tired of
hearing it," Julian replied. "I will not."

"Will you let me try to prove to you," Fenn begged, "that by the
retention of that packet you are doing your country an evil
service?"

"If you talked till doomsday," Julian assured him, "I should not
believe a word you said."

"In that case," Fenn began slowly, with an evil glitter in his
eyes--

"Well, for heaven's sake finish the thing this time!" Julian
interrupted.  "I'm sick of playing the laboratory rabbit for you.
If you are out for murder, finish the job and have done with it."

Bright was playing with another tube which he had withdrawn from
his pocket.

"It is my duty to warn you, Mr. Orden," he said, "that the
contents of this little tube of gas, which will reach you with a
touch of my fingers, may possibly be fatal and will certainly
incapacitate you for life."

"Why warn me?" Julian scoffed.  "You know very well that I haven't
the strength of a cat, or I should wring your neck."

"We feel ourselves," Bright continued unctuously, "justified in
using this tube, because its first results will be to throw you
into a delirium, in the course of which we trust that you will
divulge the hiding place of the stolen packet.  We use this means
in the interests of the country, and such risk as there may be
lies on your own head."

"You're a canting hypocrite!" Julian declared.  "Try your
delirium.  That packet happens to be in the one place where
neither you nor one of your tribe could get at it."

"It is a serious moment, this, Mr. Orden," Fenn reminded him.
"You are in the prime of life, and there is a scandal connected
with your present position which your permanent disappearance
would certainly not dissipate.  Remember--"

He stopped short.  A whistle in the corner of the room was
blowing.  Bright moved towards it, but at that moment there was
the sound of flying footsteps on the wooden stairs outside, and
the door was flung open.  Catherine, breathless with haste, paused
for a moment on the threshold, then came forward with a little
cry.

"Julian!" she exclaimed.

He gazed at her, speechless, but with a sudden light in his eyes.
She came across the room and dropped on her knees by his couch.
The two men fell back.  Fenn slipped back between her and the
door.  They both removed their masks, but they held them ready.

"Oh, how dared they!" she went on.  "The beasts!  Tell me, are you
ill?"

"Weak as a kitten," he faltered.  "They've poisoned me with their
beastly gases."

Catherine rose to her feet.  She faced the two men, her eyes
flashing with anger.

"The Council will require an explanation of this, Mr. Fenn!" she
declared passionately.  "Barely an hour ago you told us that Mr.
Orden had escaped from Hampstead."

"Julian Orden," Fenn replied, "has been handed over to our secret
service by the unanimous vote of the Council.  We have absolute
liberty to deal with him as we think fit."

"Have you liberty to tell lies as to his whereabouts?" Catherine
demanded.  "You deliberately told the Council he had escaped, yet,
entirely owing to Mr. Furley, I find you down here at Bermondsey
with him.  What were you going to do with him when I came in?"

"Persuade him to restore the packet, if we could," Fenn answered
sullenly.

"Rubbish!" Catherine retorted.  "You know very well that he is our
friend.  You have only to tell him the truth, and your task with
him is at an end."

"Steady!" Julian muttered.  "Don't imagine that I have any
sympathy with your little nest of conspirators."

"That is only because you do not understand," Catherine assured
him.  "Listen, and you shall hear the whole truth.  I will tell
you what is inside that packet and whose signatures you will find
there."

Julian gripped her wrist suddenly.  His eyes were filled with a
new fear.  He was watching the two men, who were whispering
together.

"Catherine," he exclaimed warningly, "look out!  These men mean
mischief.  That devil Bright invents a new poisonous gas every
day.  Look at Fenn buckling on his mask.  Quick!  Get out if you
can!"

Catherine's hand touched her bosom.  Bright sprang towards her,
but he was too late.  She raised a little gold whistle to her
lips, and its pealing summons rang through the room.  Fenn dropped
his mask and glanced towards Bright.  His face was livid.

"Who's outside?" he demanded.

"The Bishop and Mr. Furley.  Great though my confidence is in you
both, I scarcely ventured to come here alone."

The approaching footsteps were plainly audible.  Fenn shrugged his
shoulders with a desperate attempt at carelessness.

"I don't know what is in your mind, Miss Abbeway," he said.  "You
can scarcely believe that you, at any rate, were in danger at our
hands."

"I would not trust you a yard," she replied fiercely.  "In any
case, it is better that the others should come.  Mr. Orden might
not believe me.  He will at least believe the Bishop."

"Believe whom?" Julian demanded.

The door was opened.  The Bishop and Miles Furley came hastily in.
Catherine stepped forward to meet them.

"I was obliged to whistle," she explained, a little hysterically.
"I do not trust either of these men.  That fiend Bright has a
poisonous gas with him in a pocket cylinder.  I am convinced that
they meant to murder Julian."

The two newcomers turned towards the couch and exchanged amazed
greetings with Julian.  Fenn threw his mask on to the table with
an uneasy laugh.

"Miss Abbeway," he protested, "is inclined to be melodramatic.
The gas which Bright has in that cylinder is simply one which
would produce a little temporary unconsciousness.  We might have
used it--we may still use it--but if you others are able to
persuade Mr. Orden to restore the packet, our task with him is at
an end.  We are not his gaolers--or perhaps he would say his
torturers--for pleasure.  The Council has ordered that we should
extort from him the papers you know of and has given us carte
blanche as to the means.  If you others can persuade him to
restore them peaceably, why, do it.  We are prepared to wait."

Julian was still staring from one to the other of his visitors.
His expression of blank astonishment had scarcely decreased.

"Bishop," he said at last, "unless you want to see me go insane
before your eyes, please explain.  It can't be possible that you
have anything in common with this nest of conspirators."

The Bishop smiled a little wanly.  He laid his hand upon his
godson's shoulder.

"Believe me, I have been no party to your incarceration, Julian,",
he declared, "but if you will listen to me, I will tell you why I
think it would be better for you to restore that packet to Miss
Abbeway:"

"Tell that blackguard to give me another sniff of his restorative
gas," Julian begged.  "These shocks are almost too much for me."

The Bishop turned interrogatively towards Bright, who once more
leaned over Julian with the tube in his hand.  Again the little
mist, the pungent odour.  Julian rose to his feet and sat down
again.

"I am listening," he said.

"First of all," began the Bishop earnestly, as he seated himself
at the end of the couch on which Julian had been lying, "let me
try to remove some of your misconceptions.  Miss Abbeway is in no
sense of the word a German spy.  She and I, Mr. Furley here, Mr.
Fenn and Mr. Bright, all belong to an organisation leagued
together for one purpose--we are determined to end the war."

"Pacifists!" Julian muttered.

"An idle word," the Bishop protested, "because at heart we are all
pacifists.  There is not one of us who would wilfully choose war
instead of peace.  The only question is the price we are prepared
to pay."

"Why not leave that to the Government?"

"The Government," the Bishop replied, "are the agents of the
people.  The people in this case wish to deal direct."

"Again why?" Julian demanded.

"Because the Government is composed wholly of politicians,
politicians who, in far too many speeches, have pledged themselves
to too many definite things.  Still, the Government will have its
chance."

"Explain to me," Julian asked, "why, if you are a patriotic
society, you are in secret and illegal communication with
Germany?"

"The Germany with whom we are in communication," the Bishop
assured his questioner, "is the Germany who thinks as we do."

"Then you are on a wild-goose chase," Julian declared, "because
the Germans who think as you do are in a hopeless minority."

The Bishop's forefinger was thrust out.

"I have you, Julian," he said.  "That very belief which you have
just expressed is our justification, because it is the common
belief throughout the country.  I can prove to you that you are
mistaken--can prove it, with the help of that very packet which
is responsible for your incarceration here."

"Explain," Julian begged.

"That packet," the Bishop declared, "contains the peace terms
formulated by the Socialist and Labour parties of Germany."

"Worth precisely the paper it is written on?" Julian scoffed.

"And ratified," the Bishop continued emphatically, "by the three
great men of Germany, whose signatures are attached to that
document--the Kaiser, the Chancellor and Hindenburg."

Julian was electrified.

"Do you seriously mean," he asked, "that those signatures are
attached to proposals of peace formulated by the Socialist and
Labour parties of Germany?"

"I do indeed," was the confident reply.  "If the terms are not
what we have been led to expect, or if the signatures are not
there, the whole affair is at an end."

"You are telling me wonderful things, sir," Julian confessed,
after a brief pause.

"I am telling what you will discover yourself to be the truth,"
the Bishop insisted.  "And, Julian, I am appealing to you not only
for the return of that packet, but for your sympathy, your help,
your partisanship.  You can guess now what has happened.  Your
anonymity has come to an end.  The newly formed Council of Labour,
to which we all belong, is eager and anxious to welcome you."

"Has any one given me away?" Julian asked.

Catherine shook her head.

"The truth was discovered this evening, when your rooms were
searched," she explained.

"What is the constitution of this Council of Labour?" Julian
enquired, a little dazed by this revelation.

"It is the very body of men which you yourself foreshadowed," the
Bishop replied eagerly.  "Twenty of the members are elected by the
Trades Unions and represent the great industries of the Empire;
and there are three outsiders--Miss Abbeway, Miles Furley and
myself.  If you, Julian, had not been so successful in concealing
your identity, you would have been the first man to whom the
Council would have turned for help.  Now that the truth is known,
your duty is clear.  The glory of ending this war will belong to
the people, and it is partly owing to you that the people have
grown to realise their strength."

"My own position at the present moment," Julian began, a little
grimly--

"You have no one to blame for that but yourself," Catherine
interrupted.  "If we had known who you were, do you suppose that
we should have allowed these men to deal with you in such a
manner?  Do you suppose that I should not have told you the truth
about that packet?  However, that is over.  You know the truth
now.  We five are all members of the Council who are sitting
practically night and day, waiting--you know what for.  Do not
keep us in suspense any longer than you can help.  Tell us where
to find this letter?"

Julian passed his hand over his forehead a little wearily.

"I am confused," he admitted.  "I must think.  After all, you are
engaged in a conspiracy.  Stenson's Cabinet may not be the
strongest on earth, or the most capable, but Stenson himself has
carried the burden of this war bravely."

"If the terms offered," the Bishop pointed out, "are anything like
what we expect, they are better than any which the politicians
could ever have mooted, even after years more of bloodshed.  It is
my opinion that Stenson will welcome them, and that the country,
generally speaking, will be entirely in favour of their
acceptance."

"Supposing," Julian asked, "that you think them reasonable, that
you make your demand to the Prime Minister, and he refuses.  What
then?"

"That," Fenn intervened, with the officious air of one who has
been left out of the conversation far too long, "is where we come
in.  At our word, every coal pit in England would cease work,
every furnace fire would go out, every factory would stand empty.
The trains would remain on their sidings, or wherever they might
chance to be when the edict was pronounced.  The same with the
'buses and cabs, the same with the Underground.  Not a ship would
leave any port in the United Kingdom, not a ship would be docked.
Forty-eight hours of this would do more harm than a year's civil
war.  Forty-eight hours must procure from the Prime Minister
absolute submission to our demands.  Ours is the greatest power
the world has ever evolved.  We shall use it for the greatest
cause the world has ever known--the cause of peace."

"This, in a way, was inevitable," Julian observed.  "You remember
the conversation, Bishop," he added, "down at Maltenby?"

"Very well indeed," the latter acquiesced.

"The country went into slavery," Julian pronounced, "in August,
1915.  That slavery may or may not be good for them.  To be frank,
I think it depends entirely upon the constitution of your Council.
It is so much to the good, Bishop, that you are there."

"Our Council, such as it is," Fenn remarked acidly, "consists of
men elected to their position by the votes of a good many millions
of their fellow toilers."

"The people may have chosen wisely," was the grave reply, "or they
may have made mistakes.  Such things have been known.  By the bye,
I suppose that my durance is at an end?"

"It is at an end, whichever way you decide," Catherine declared.
"Now that you know everything, though, you will not hesitate to
give up the packet?"

"You shall have it," he agreed.  "I will give it back into your
hands."

"The sooner the better!" Fenn exclaimed eagerly.  "And, Mr. Orden,
one word."

Julian was standing amongst them now, very drawn and pale in the
dim halo of light thrown down from the hanging lamp.  His
answering monosyllable was cold and restrained.

"Well?"

"I trust you will understand," Fenn continued, "that Bright and I
were simply carrying out orders.  To us you were an enemy.  You
had betrayed the trust of one of our members.  The prompt delivery
of that packet meant the salvation of thousands of lives.  It
meant a cessation of this ghastly world tragedy.  We were harsh,
perhaps, but we acted according to orders."

Julian glanced at the hand which Fenn had half extended but made
no movement to take it.  He leaned a little upon the Bishop's arm.

"Help me out of this place, sir, will you?" he begged.  "As for
Fenn and that other brute, what I have to say about them will
keep."




CHAPTER XIV


It was a little more than half an hour later when Julian ascended
the steps of his club in Pall Mall and asked the hall porter for
letters.  Except that he was a little paler than usual and was
leaning more heavily upon his stick, there was nothing about his
appearance to denote several days of intense strain.  There was a
shade of curiosity, mingled with surprise, in the commissionaire's
respectful greeting.

"There have been a good many enquiries for you the last few days,
sir," he observed.

"I dare say," Julian replied.  "I was obliged to go out of town
unexpectedly."

He ran through the little pile of letters and selected a bulky
envelope addressed to himself in his own handwriting.  With this
he returned to the taxicab in which the Bishop and Catherine were
seated.  They gazed with fascinated eyes at the packet which he
was carrying and which he at once displayed.

"You see," he remarked, as he leaned back, "there is nothing so
impenetrable in the world as a club of good standing.  It beats
combination safes hollow.  It would have taken all Scotland Yard
to have dragged this letter from the rack."

"That is really--it?" Catherine demanded breathlessly.

"It is the packet," he assured her, "which you handed to me for
safe keeping at Maltenby."

They drove almost in silence to the Bishop's house, where it had
been arranged that Julian should spend the night.  The Bishop left
the two together before the fire in his library, while he
personally superintended the arrangement of a guest room.
Catherine came over and knelt by the side of Julian's chair.

"Shall I beg forgiveness for the past," she whispered, "or may I
not talk of the future, the glorious future?"

"Is it to be glorious?" he asked a little doubtfully.

"It can be made so," she answered with fervour, "by you more than
by anybody else living.  I defy you--you, Paul Fiske--to impugn
our scheme, our aims, the goal towards which we strive.  All that
we needed was a leader who could lift us up above the localness,
the narrow visions of these men.  They are in deadly earnest, but
they can't see far enough, and each sees along his own groove.  It
is true that at the end the same sun shines, but no assembly of
people can move together along a dozen different ways and keep the
same goal in view."

He touched the packet.

"We do not yet know the written word here," he reminded her.

"I do," she insisted.  "My heart tells me.  Besides, I have had
many hints.  There are people in London whose position forces them
to remain silent, who understand and know."

"Foreigners?" Julian asked suspiciously.

"Neutrals, of course, but neutrals of discretion are very useful
people.  The military party in Germany is making a brave show
still, but it is beaten, notwithstanding its victories.  The
people are gathering together in their millions.  Their voice is
already being heard.  Here we have the proof of it."

"But even if these proposed terms are as favourable as you say,"
Julian objected, "how can you force them upon the English Cabinet?
There is America-France.  Yours is purely a home demand.  A
government has other things to think of and consider."

"France is war-weary to the bone," she declared.  "France will
follow England, especially when she knows the contents of that
packet.  As for America, she came into this after the great
sacrifices had been made.  She demands nothing more than is to be
yielded up.  It is not for the sake of visionary ideas, not for
diplomatic precedence that the humanitarians of the world are
going to hesitate about ending this brutal slaughter."

He studied her curiously.  In the firelight her face seemed to him
almost strangely beautiful.  She was uplifted by the fervour of
her thoughts.  The depth in her soft brown eyes was immeasurable;
the quiver of her lips, so soft and yet so spiritual, was almost
inspiring.  Her hand was resting upon his shoulder.  She seemed to
dwell upon his expression, to listen eagerly for his words.  Yet
he realised that in all this there was no personal note.  She was
the disciple of a holy cause, aflame with purpose.

"It will mean a revolution," he said thoughtfully.

"A revolution was established two years ago," she pointed out,
"and the people have held their power ever since.  I will tell you
what I believe to-day," she went on passionately.  "I believe that
the very class who was standing the firmest, whose fingers grasp
most tightly the sword of warfare, will be most grateful to the
people who will wrest the initiative from them and show them the
way to an honourable, inevitable peace."

"When do you propose to break those seals?" he enquired.

"To-morrow evening," she replied.  "There will be a full meeting
of the Council.  The terms will be read.  Then you shall decide."

"What am I to decide?"

"Whether you will accept the post of spokesman--whether you will
be the ambassador who shall approach the Government."

"But they may not elect me," he objected.

"They will," she replied confidently.  "It was you who showed them
their power.  It is you whose inspiration has carried them along:
It is you who shall be their representative.  Don't you realise,"
she went on, "that it is the very association of such men as
yourself and Miles Furley and the Bishop with this movement which
will endow it with reality in the eyes of the bourgeoisie of the
country and Parliament?"

Their host returned, followed by his butler carrying a tray with
refreshments, and the burden of serious things fell away from
them.  It was only after Catherine had departed, and the two men
lingered for a moment near the fire before retiring, that either
of them reverted to the great subject which dominated their
thoughts.

"You understand, Julian," the Bishop said, with a shade of anxiety
in his tone, "that I am in the same position as yourself so far as
regards the proposals which may lie within that envelope?  I have
joined this movement--or conspiracy, as I suppose it would be
called--on the one condition that the terms pronounced there are
such as a Christian and a law-loving country, whose children have
already made great sacrifices in the cause of freedom, may
honourably accept.  If they are otherwise, all the weight and
influence I may have with the people go into the other scale.  I
take it that it is so with you?"

"Entirely," Julian acquiesced.  "To be frank with you," he added,
"my doubts are not so much concerning the terms of peace
themselves as the power of the German democracy to enforce them."

"We have relied a good deal," the Bishop admitted, "upon reports
from neutrals."

Julian smiled a little grimly.

"We have wasted a good many epithets criticising German
diplomacy," he observed, "but she seems to know how to hold most
of the neutrals in the hollow of her hand.  You know what that
Frenchman said?  'Scratch a neutral and you find a German
propaganda agent!'"

The Bishop led the way upstairs.  Outside the door of Julian's
room, he laid his hand affectionately upon the young man's
shoulder.

"My godson," he said, "as yet we have scarcely spoken of this
great surprise which you have given us--of Paul Fiske.  All that
I shall say now is this.  I am very proud to know that he is my
guest to-night.  I am very happy to think that from tomorrow we
shall be fellow workers."


Catherine, while she waited for her tea in the Carlton lounge on
the following afternoon, gazed through the drooping palms which
sheltered the somewhat secluded table at which she was seated upon
a very brilliant scene.  It was just five o'clock, and a packed
crowd of fashionable Londoners was listening to the strains of a
popular band, or as much of it as could be heard above the din of
conversation.

"This is all rather amazing, is it not?" she remarked to her
companion.

The latter, an attache at a neutral Embassy, dropped his eyeglass
and polished it with a silk handkerchief, in the corner of which
was embroidered a somewhat conspicuous coronet.

"It makes an interesting study," he declared.  "Berlin now is
madly gay, Paris decorous and sober.  It remains with London to be
normal,--London because its hide is the thickest, its sensibility
the least acute, its selfishness the most profound."

Catherine reflected for a moment.

"I think," she said, "that a philosophical history of the war will
some day, for those who come after us, be extraordinarily
interesting.  I mean the study of the national temperaments as
they were before, as they are now during the war, and as they will
be afterwards.  There is one thing which will always be noted, and
that is the intense dislike which you, perhaps I, certainly the
majority of neutrals, feel towards England."

"It is true," the young man assented solemnly.  "One finds it
everywhere."

"Before the war," Catherine went on, "it was Germany who was hated
everywhere.  She pushed her way into the best places at hotels,
watering places--Monte Carlo, for instance and the famous spas.
Today, all that accumulated dislike seems to be turned upon
England.  I am not myself a great admirer of this country, and yet
I ask myself why?"

"England is smug," the young man pronounced; "She is callous; she
is, without meaning to be, hypocritical.  She works herself into a
terrible state of indignation about the misdeeds of her
neighbours, and she does not realise her own faults.  The Germans
are overbearing, but one realises that and expects it.  Englishmen
are irritating.  It is certainly true that amongst us remaining
neutrals," he added, dropping his voice a little and looking
around to be sure of their isolation, "the sympathy remains with
the Central Powers."

"I have some dear friends in this country, too," Catherine sighed.

"Naturally--amongst those of your own order.  But then there is
very little difference between the aristocracies of every race in
the world.  It is the bourgeoisie which tells, which sets its
stamp upon a nation's character."

Their tea had arrived, and for a few moments the conversation
travelled in lighter channels.  The young man, who was a person of
some consequence in his own country, spoke easily of the theatres,
of mutual friends, of some sport in which he had been engaged.
Catherine relapsed into the role which had been her first in life,
--the young woman of fashion.  As such they attracted no attention
save a few admiring glances on the part of passers-by towards
Catherine.  As the people around them thinned out a little, their
conversation became more intimate.

"I shall always feel," the young man said thoughtfully, "that in
these days I have lived very near great things.  I have seen and
realised what the historians will relate at second-hand.  The
greatest events move like straws in the wind.  A month ago, it
seemed as though the Central Powers would lose the war."

"I suppose," she observed, "it depends very much upon what you
mean by winning it?  The terms of peace are scarcely the terms of
victory, are they?"

"The terms of peace," he repeated thoughtfully.

"We happen to know what they are, do we not?" she continued,
speaking almost under her breath, "the basic terms, at any rate."

"You mean," he said slowly, "the terms put forward by the
Socialist Party of Germany to ensure the granting of an
armistice?"

"And acceded to," she reminded him, "by the Kaiser and the two
greatest German statesmen."

He toyed with his teacup, drew a gold cigarette case from his
pocket, selected a cigarette, and lit it.

"You would try to make me believe," he remarked, smiling at his
companion, "that to-day you are not in your most intelligent
mood."

"Explain, if you please," she begged earnestly.

He smoked stolidly for several moments.

"I imagine," he said, "that you preserve with me something of that
very skilfully assumed ignorance which is the true mask of the
diplomatist.  But is it worth while, I wonder?"

She caught at her breath.

"You are too clever," she murmured, looking at him covertly.

"You have seen," he continued, "how Germany, who needs peace
sorely, has striven to use the most despised power in her country
for her own advantage--I mean the Socialist Party.  From being
treated with scorn and ignominy, they were suddenly, at the time
of the proposed Stockholm Conference, judged worthy of notice from
the All Highest himself.  He suddenly saw how wonderful a use
might be made of them.  It was a very clever trap which was
baited, and it was not owing to any foresight or any cleverness on
the part of this country that the Allies did not walk straight
into it.  I say again," he went on, "that it was a mere fluke
which prevented the Allies from being represented at that
Conference and the driving in of the thin end of the wedge."

"You are quite right," Catherine agreed.

"German diplomacy," he proceeded, "may sometimes be obtuse, but it
is at least persistent.  Their next move will certainly rank in
history as the most astute, the most cunning of any put forward
since the war commenced.  Of course," the young man went on,
fitting his cigarette into a long, amber holder, "we who are not
Germans can only guess, but even the guessing is fascinating."

"Go on, please, dear Baron," she begged.  "It is when you talk
like this and show me your mind that I seem to be listening to a
second Bismarck."

"You flatter me, Countess," the young man said, "but indeed these
events are interesting.  Trace their course for yourself after the
failure of Stockholm.  The Kaiser has established certain
relations with the Socialist Party.  Once more he turns towards
them.  He affects a war weariness he does not feel.  He puts it
into their heads that they shall approach without molestation
certain men in England who have a great Labour following.  The
plot is started.  You know quite well how it has progressed."

"Naturally," Catherine assented, "but after all, tell me, where
does the wonderful diplomacy come in?  The terms of peace are not
the terms of a conqueror.  Germany is to engage herself to give up
what she has sworn to hold, even to pay indemnities, to restore
all conquered countries, and to retire her armies behind the
Rhine."

The young man looked at his companion steadfastly for several
seconds.

"In the idiom of this country, Countess," he said, "I raise my hat
to you.  You preserve your mask of ignorance to the end.  So much
so, indeed, that I find myself asking do you really believe that
Germany intends to do this?"

"But you forget," she reminded him.  "I was one of those present
at the discussion of the preliminaries.  The confirmation of the
agreed terms, with the signatures, has arrived, and is to be
placed before the Labour Council at six o'clock this evening."

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."




CHAPTER XV


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.

The Bishop was voted into the chair when the little company
trooped into the apartment which had been set aside for their more
important meetings.  His election had been proposed by Miles
Furley, and as it was announced that under no circumstances would
he become a candidate for the permanent leadership of the party,
was agreed to without comment.  A few notes for his guidance had
been jotted down earlier in the day.  The great subject of
discussion was, of course, the recently received communication
from an affiliated body of their friends in Germany, copies of
which had been distributed amongst the members.

"I am asked to explain," the Bishop announced, in opening the
proceedings, "that this document which we all recognise as being
of surpassing importance, has been copied by Mr. Fenn, himself,
and that since, copies have been distributed amongst the members,
the front door of the building has been closed and the telephones
placed under surveillance.  It is not, of course, possible that
any of you could be mistrusted, but it is of the highest
importance that neither the Press, the Government, nor the people
should have any indication of what is transpiring, until the
delegate whom you choose takes the initial step.  It is proposed
that until after his interview with the Prime Minister, no
delegate shall leave the place.  The question now arises, what of
the terms themselves?  I will ask each one of you to state his
views, commencing with Miss Abbeway."

Every one of the twenty-three--or twenty-four now, including
Julian--had a few words to say, and the tenor of their remarks
was identical.  For a basis of peace terms, the proposals were
entirely reasonable, nor did they appear in any case to be capable
of misconstruction.  They were laid down in eight clauses.

1. The complete evacuation of Northern France and Belgium, with
full compensation for all damage done.

2. Alsace and Lorraine to determine their position by vote of the
entire population.

3. Servia and Roumania to be reestablished as independent kingdoms,
with such rectifications and modifications of frontier as a joint
committee should decide upon.

4. The German colonies to be restored.

5. The conquered parts of Mesopotamia to remain under the
protection of the British Government.

6. Poland to be declared an independent kingdom.

7. Trieste and certain portions of the Adriatic seaboard to be
ceded to Italy.

8. A world committee to be at once elected for the purpose of
working out a scheme of international disarmament.

"We must remember," Miles Furley pointed out, "that the present
Government is practically pledged not to enter into peace
negotiations with a Hohenzollern."

"That, I contend," the Bishop observed, "is a declaration which
should never have been made.  Whatever may be our own feelings
with regard to the government of Germany, the Kaiser has held the
nation together and is at the present moment its responsible head.
If he has had the good sense to yield to the demands of his
people, as is proved by this document, then it is very certain
that the declaration must be forgotten.  I have reason to believe,
however, that even if the negotiations have been commenced in the
name of the Kaiser, an immediate change is likely to take place in
the constitution of Germany."

"Germany's new form of government, I understand," Fenn intervened,
"will be modelled upon our own, which, after the abolition of the
House of Lords, and the abnegation of the King's prerogative, will
be as near the ideal democracy as is possible.  That change will
be in itself our most potent guarantee against all future wars.
No democracy ever encouraged bloodshed.  It is, to my mind, a
clearly proved fact that all wars are the result of court
intrigue.  There will be no more of that.  The passing of
monarchical rule in Germany will mean the doom of all
autocracies."

There was a little sympathetic murmur.  Julian, to whom Catherine
had been whispering, next asked a question.

"I suppose," he said, "that no doubt can be cast upon the
authenticity of the three signatures attached to this document?"

"That's been in my own mind, Mr. Fiske--leastwise, Mr. Orden,"
Phineas Cross, the Northumbrian, remarked, from the other side of
the table.  "They're up to any mortal dodge, these Germans.  Are
we to accept it as beyond all doubt that this document is entirely
genuine?"

"How can we do otherwise?" Fenn demanded.  "Freistner, who is
responsible for it, has been in unofficial correspondence with us
since the commencement of the war.  We know his handwriting, we
know his character, we've had a hundred different occasions to
test his earnestness and trustworthiness.  This document is in his
own writing and accompanied by remarks and references to previous
correspondence which render its authenticity indisputable."

"Granted that the proposals themselves are genuine, there still
remain the three signatures," Julian observed.

"Why should we doubt them?" Fenn protested.  "Freistner guarantees
them, and Freistner is our friend, the friend and champion of
Labour throughout the world.  To attempt to deceive us would be to
cover himself with eternal obloquy."

"Yet these terms," Julian pointed out, "differ fundamentally from
anything which Germany has yet allowed to be made public."

"There are two factors here which may be considered," Miles Furley
intervened.  "The first is that the economic condition of Germany
is far worse than she has allowed us to know.  The second, which
is even more interesting to us, is the rapid growth in influence,
power, and numbers of the Socialist and Labour Party in that
country."

"Of both these factors," the Bishop reminded them, "we have had
very frequent hints from our friends, the neutrals.  Let me tell
you all what I think.  I think that those terms are as much as we
have the right to expect, even if our armies had reached the
Rhine.  It is possible that we might obtain some slight
modifications, if we continued the war, but would those
modifications be worth the loss of a few more hundred thousands of
human lives, of a few more months of this hideous, pagan slaughter
and defilement of God's beautiful world?"

There was a murmur of approval.  A lank, rawboned Yorkshireman--
David Sands--a Wesleyan enthusiast, a local preacher, leaned
across the table, his voice shaking with earnestness:

"It's true!" he exclaimed.  "It's the word of God!  It's for us to
stop the war.  If we stop it to-night instead of to-morrow, a
thousand lives may be saved, human lives, lives of our fellow
creatures.  Our fellow labourers in Germany have given us the
chance.  Don't let us delay five minutes.  Let the one of us you
may select see the Prime Minister to-night and deliver the
people's message."

"There's no cause for delay that I can see," Cross approved.

"There is none," Fenn assented heartily.  "I propose that we
proceed to the election of our representative; that, having
elected him, we send him to the Prime Minister with our message,
and that we remain here in the building until we have his report."

"You are unanimously resolved, then," the Bishop asked, "to take
this last step?"

There was a little chorus of assent.  Fenn leaned forward in his
place.

"Everything is ready," he announced.  "Our machinery is perfect.
Our agents in every city await the mandate."

"But do you imagine that those last means will be necessary?" the
Bishop enquired anxiously.

"Most surely I do," Fenn replied.  "Remember that if the people
make peace for the country, it is the people who will expect to
govern the country.  It will be a notice to the politicians to
quit.  They know that.  It is my belief that they, will resist,
tooth and nail."

Bright glanced at his watch.

"The Prime Minister," he announced, "will be at Downing Street
until nine o'clock.  It is now seven o'clock.  I propose that we
proceed without any further delay to the election of our
representative."

"The voting cards," Fenn pointed out, "are before each person.
Every one has two votes, which must be for two different
representatives.  The cards should then be folded, and I propose
that the Bishop, who is not a candidate, collect them.  As I read
the unwritten rules of this Congress, every one here is eligible
except the Bishop, Miss Abbeway, Mr. Orden and Mr. Furley."

There was a little murmur.  Phineas Cross leaned forward in his
place.

"Here, what's that?" he exclaimed.  "The Bishop, and Miss Abbeway,
we all know, are outside the running.  Mr. Furley, too, represents
the educated Socialists, and though he is with us in this, he is
not really Labour.  But Mr. Orden--Paul Fiske, eh?  That's a
different matter, isn't it?"

"Mr. Orden," Fenn pronounced slowly, "is a literary man.  He is a
sympathiser with our cause, but he is not of it."

"If any man has read the message which Paul Fiske has written with
a pen of gold for us," Phineas Cross declared, "and can still say
that he is not one of us, why, he must be beside himself.  I say
that Mr. Orden is the brains and the soul of our movement.  He
brought life and encouragement into the north of England with the
first article he ever wrote.  Since then there has not been a man
whom the Labour Party that I know anything of has looked up to and
worshipped as they have done him."

"It's true," David Sands broke in, "every word of it.  There's no
one has written for Labour like him.  If he isn't Labour, then we
none of us are.  I don't care whether he is the son of an earl, or
a plasterer's apprentice, as I was.  He's the right stuff, he has
the gift of putting the words together, and his heart's where it
should be."

"There is no one," Penn said; his voice trembling a little, "who
has a greater admiration for Paul Fiske's writings than I have,
but I still contend that he is not Labour."

"Sit down, lad," Cross enjoined.  "We'll have a vote on that.  I'm
for saying that Mr. Julian Orden here, who has written them
articles under the name of `Paul Fiske', is a full member of our
Council and eligible to act as our messenger to the Prime
Minister.  I ask the Bishop to put it to the meeting."

Eighteen were unanimous in agreeing with the motion.  Fenn sat
down, speechless.  His cheeks were pallid.  His hands, which
rested upon the table, were twitching.  He seemed like a man lost
in thought and only remembered to fill up his card when the Bishop
asked him for it.  There was a brief silence whilst the latter,
assisted by Cross and Sands, counted the votes.  Then the Bishop
rose to his feet.

"Mr. Julian Orden," he announced, "better known to you all under
the name of `Paul Fiske', has been chosen by a large majority as
your representative to take the people's message to the Prime
Minister."

"I protest!" Fenn exclaimed passionately.  "This is Mr. Orden's
first visit amongst us.  He is a stranger.  I repeat that he is
not one of us.  Where is his power?  He has none.  Can he do what
any one of us can--stop the pulse of the nation?  Can he still
its furnace fires?  Can he empty the shipyards and factories, hold
the trains upon their lines, bring the miners up from under the
earth?  Can he--"

"He can do all these things," Phineas Cross interrupted, "because
he speaks for us, our duly elected representative.  Sit thee down,
Fenn.  If you wanted the job, well, you haven't got it, and that's
all there is about it, and though you're as glib with your tongue
as any here, and though you've as many at your back, perchance, as
I have, I tell you I'd never have voted for you if there hadn't
been another man here.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it,
lad."

"All further discussion," the Bishop ruled, "is out of order.
Julian Orden, do you accept this mission?"

Julian rose to his feet.  He leaned heavily upon his stick.  His
expression was strangely disturbed.

"Bishop," he said, "and you, my friends, this has all come very
suddenly.  I do not agree with Mr. Fenn.  I consider that I am one
with you.  I think that for the last ten years I have seen the
place which Labour should hold in the political conduct of the
world.  I have seen the danger of letting the voice of the people
remain unheard too long.  Russia to-day is a practical and
terrible example of that danger.  England is, in her way, a free
country, and our Government a good one, but in the world's history
there arrive sometimes crises with which no stereotyped form of
government can cope, when the one thing that is desired is the
plain, honest mandate of those who count for most in the world,
those who, in their simplicity and in their absence from all
political ties and precedents and liaisons, see the truth.  That
is why I have appealed with my pen to Labour, to end this war.
That is why I shall go willingly as your representative to the
Prime Minister to-night."

The Bishop held out his hand.  There was a little reverent hush,
for his words were in the nature of a benediction.

"And may God be with you, our messenger," he said solemnly.




CHAPTER XVI


Julian, duly embarked upon his mission, was kept waiting an
unexpectedly short time in the large but gloomy apartment into
which Mr. Stenson's butler had somewhat doubtfully ushered him.
The Prime Minister entered with an air of slight hurry.  He was
also somewhat surprised.

"My dear Orden," he exclaimed, holding out his hand, "what can I
do for you?"

"A great deal," Julian replied gravely.  "First of all, though, I
have an explanation to make."

"I am afraid," Mr. Stenson regretted, "that I am too much engaged
this evening to enter into any personal matters.  I am expecting a
messenger here on very important official business."

"I am that messenger," Julian announced.

Mr. Stenson started.  His visitor's tone was serious and
convincing.

"I fear that we are at loggerheads.  It is an envoy from the
Labour Party whom I am expecting."

"I am that envoy."

"You?" Mr. Stenson exclaimed, in blank bewilderment.

"I ought to explain a little further, perhaps.  I have been
writing on Labour questions for some time under the pseudonym of
`Paul Fiske'."

"Paul Fiske?" Mr. Stenson gasped.  "You--Paul Fiske?"

Julian nodded assent.

"You are amazed, of course," he proceeded, "but it is nevertheless
the truth.  The fact has just come to light, and I have been
invited to join this new emergency Council, composed of one or two
Socialists and writers, amongst them a very distinguished prelate;
Labour Members of Parliament, and representatives of the various
Trades Unions, a body of men which you doubtless know all about.
I attended a meeting at Westminster an hour ago, and I was
entrusted with this commission to you."

Mr. Stenson sat down suddenly.

"God bless my soul!" he exclaimed.  "You--Julian Orden!"

There was a moment's silence.  Mr. Stenson, however, was a man of
immense recuperative powers.  He assimilated the new situation
without further protest.

"You have given me the surprise of my life, Orden," he confessed.
"That, however, is a personal matter.  Hannaway Wells is in the
study.  You have no objection, I suppose, to his being present?"

"None whatever."

Mr. Stenson rang the bell, and in a few minutes they were joined
by his colleague.  The former wasted no time in explanations.

"You will doubtless be as astonished as I was, Wells," he said,
"to learn that our friend Julian Orden comes here as the
representative of the new Labour Council.  His qualifications,
amongst others, are that under the pseudonym of `Paul Fiske' he is
the writer of those wonderful articles which have been the beacon
light and the inspiration of the Labour Party for the last year."

Mr. Hannaway Wells prided himself upon never being surprised.
This time the only way he could preserve his reputation was by
holding his tongue.

"We are now prepared to hear your mission," Mr. Stenson continued,
turning to his visitor.

"I imagine," Julian began, "that you know something about this new
Labour Council?"

"What little we do know," Mr. Stenson answered, "we have learnt
with great difficulty through our secret service.  I gather that a
small league of men has been formed within a mile of the Houses of
Parliament, who, whatever their motives may be, have been guilty
of treasonable and traitorous communication with the enemy."

"Strictly speaking, you are, without doubt, perfectly right,"
Julian acknowledged.

Mr. Stenson switched on an electric light.

"Sit down, Orden," he invited.  "There is no need for us to stand
glaring at one another.  There is enough of real importance in the
nature of our interview without making melodrama of it."

The Prime Minister threw himself into an easy chair.  Julian, with
a little sigh of relief, selected a high-backed oak chair and
rested his foot upon a hassock.  Hannaway Wells remained standing
upon the hearthrug.

"Straight into the heart of it, please, Orden," Mr. Stenson
begged.  "Let us know how far this accursed conspiracy has gone."

"It has gone to very great lengths," Julian declared.  "Certain
members of this newly-formed Council of Labour have been in
communication for some months with the Socialist Party in Germany.
From these latter they have received a definite and authentic
proposal of peace, countersigned by the three most important men
in Germany.  That proposal of peace I am here to lay before you,
with the request that you act upon it without delay."

Julian produced his roll of papers.  The two men remained
motionless.  The great issue had been reached with almost
paralysing rapidity.

"My advice," Mr. Hannaway Wells said bluntly, "is that you, sir,"
--turning to his Chief--"refuse to discuss or consider these
proposals, or to examine that document.  I submit that you are the
head of His Majesty's Government, and any communication emanating
from a foreign country should be addressed to you.  If you ever
consider this matter and discuss it with Mr. Orden here, you
associate yourself with a traitorous breach of the law."

Mr. Stenson made no immediate reply.  He looked towards Julian, as
though to hear what he had to say.

"Mr. Hannaway Wells's advice is, without doubt, technically
correct," Julian admitted, "but the whole subject is too great,
and the issues involved too awful for etiquette or even propriety
to count.  It is for you, sir, to decide what is best for the
country.  You commit yourself to nothing by reading the proposals,
and I suggest that you do so."

"We will read them," Mr. Stenson decided.

Julian passed over the papers.  The two men crossed the room and
leaned over the Prime Minister's writing table.  Mr. Stenson drew
down the electric light, and they remained there in close
confabulation for about a quarter of an hour.  Julian sat with his
back turned towards them and his ears closed.  In this atmosphere
of government, his own position seemed to him weird and fantastic.
A sense of unreality cumbered his thoughts.  Even this brief pause
in the actual negotiations filled him with doubts.  He could
scarcely believe that it was he who was to dictate terms to the
man who was responsible for the government of the country; that it
was he who was to force a decision pregnant with far-reaching
consequences to the entire world.  The figures of Fenn and Bright
loomed up ominously before him, however hard he tried to push them
into the background.  Was it the mandate of such men as these that
he was carrying?

Presently the two Ministers returned to their places.  Julian had
heard their voices for the last few minutes without being able to
distinguish a word of their actual conversation.

"We have considered the document you have brought, Orden," the
Prime Minister said, "and we frankly admit that we find its
contents surprising.  The terms of peace suggested form a
perfectly possible basis for negotiations.  At the same time, you
are probably aware that it has not been in the mind of His
Majesty's Ministers to discuss terms of peace at all with the
present administration of Germany."

"These terms," Julian reminded him, "are dictated, not by the
Kaiser and his advisers, but by the Socialist and Labour Party."

"It is strange," Mr. Stenson pointed out, "that we have heard so
little of that Party.  It is even astonishing that we should find
them in a position to be able to dictate terms of peace to the
Hohenzollerns."

"You do not dispute the authenticity of the document?" Julian
asked.

"I will not go so far as that," Mr. Stenson replied cautiously.
"Our secret service informed us some time ago that Freistner, the
head of the German Socialists, was in communication with certain
people in this country.  I have no doubt whatever that these are
the proposals of the authorised Socialist Party of Germany.  What
I do not understand is how they have suddenly acquired the
strength to induce proposals of peace such as these."

"It has been suggested," Julian said, "that even the
Hohenzollerns, even the military clique of Germany, see before
them now the impossibility of reaping the rewards of their
successful campaigns.  Peace is becoming a necessity to them.
They would prefer, therefore, to seem to yield to the demands of
their own Socialists rather than to foreign pressure."

"That may be so," Mr. Stenson admitted.  "Let us proceed.  The
first part of your duty, Orden, is finished.  What else have you
to say?"

"I am instructed," Julian announced, "to appeal to you to sue at
once, through the Spanish Ambassador, for an armistice while these
terms are considered and arrangements made for discussing them."

"And if I refuse?"

"I will not evade even that question.  Of the twenty-three members
of the new Council of Labour, twenty represent the Trades Unions
of the great industries of the kingdom.  Those twenty will
unanimously proclaim a general strike, if you should refuse the
proposed armistice."

"In other words," Mr. Stenson observed drily, "they will scuttle
the ship themselves.  Do you approve of these tactics?"

"I decline to answer that question," Julian said, "but I would
point out to you that when you acknowledged yourself defeated by
the miners of South Wales, you pointed the way to some such crisis
as this."

"That may be true," Mr. Stenson acknowledged.  "I have only at
this moment, however, to deal with the present condition of
affairs.  Do you seriously believe that, if I make the only answer
which at present seems to me possible, the Council of Labour, as
they call themselves, will adopt the measures they threaten?"

"I believe that they will," Julian declared gravely.  "I believe
that the country looks upon any continuation of this war as a
continuation of unnecessary and ghastly slaughter.  To appreciably
change the military situation would mean the sacrifice of millions
more lives, would mean the continuation of the war for another two
years.  I believe that the people of Germany who count are of the
same opinion.  I believe that the inevitable change of government
in Germany will show us a nation freed from this hideous lust for
conquest, a nation with whom, when she is purged of the poison of
these last years, we can exist fraternally and with mutual
benefit."

"You are a very sanguine man, Mr. Orden," Hannaway Wells remarked.

"I have never found," Julian replied, "that the pessimist walks
with his head turned towards the truth."

"How long have I," the Prime Minister asked, after a brief pause,
"for my reply?"

"Twenty-four hours," Julian told him, "during which time it is
hoped that you will communicate with our Allies and pave the way
for a further understanding.  The Council of Labour asks you for
no pledge as to their safety.  We know quite well that all of us
are, legally speaking, guilty of treason.  On the other hand, a
single step towards the curtailment of our liberties will mean the
paralysis of every industry in the United Kingdom."

"I realise the position perfectly," Mr. Stenson observed drily.
"I do not exactly know what to say to you personally, Orden," he
added.  "Perhaps it is as well for us that the Council should have
chosen an ambassador with whom discussion, at any rate, is
possible.  Nevertheless, I feel bound to remind you that you have
taken upon your shoulders, considering your birth and education,
one of the most perilous loads which any man could carry."

"I have weighed the consequences," Julian replied, with a sudden
and curious sadness in his tone.  "I know how the name of
`pacifist' stinks in the nostrils.  I know how far we are
committed as a nation to a peace won by force of arms.  I know how
our British blood boils at the thought of leaving a foreign
country with as many military advantages as Germany has acquired.
But I feel, too, that there is the other side.  I have brought you
evidence that it is not the German nation against whom we fight,
man against man, human being against human being.  It is my belief
that autocracy and the dynasty of the Hohenzollerns will crumble
into ruin as a result of today's negotiations, just as surely as
though we sacrificed God knows how many more lives to achieve a
greater measure of military triumph."

The Prime Minister rang the bell.

"You are an honest man, Julian Orden," he said, "and a decent
emissary.  You will reply that we take the twenty-four hours for
reflection.  That means that we shall meet at nine o'clock
to-morrow evening."

He held out his hand in farewell, an action which somehow sent
Julian away a happier man.




CHAPTER XVII


Julian, on, the morning following his visit to the Prime Minister,
was afflicted with a curious and persistent unrest.  He travelled
down to the Temple land found Miles Furley in a room hung with
tobacco smoke and redolent of a late night.

"Miles," Julian declared, as the two men shook hands, "I can't
rest."

"I am in the same fix," Furley admitted.  "I sat here till four
o'clock.  Phineas Cross came around, and half-a-dozen of the
others.  I felt I must talk to them, I must keep on hammering it
out.  We're right, Julian.  We must be right!"

"It's a ghastly responsibility.  I wonder what history will have
to say."

"That's the worst of it," Furley groaned.  "They'll have a
bird's-eye view of the whole affair, those people who write our
requiem or our eulogy.  You noticed the Press this morning?
They're all hinting at some great move in the West.  It's about in
the clubs.  Why, I even heard last night that we were in Ostend.
It's all a rig, of course.  Stenson wants to gain time."

"Who opened these negotiations with Freistner?" Julian asked.

"Fenn.  He met him at the Geneva Conference, the year before the
war.  I met him, too, but I didn't see so much of him.  He's a
fine fellow, Julian--as unlike the typical German as any man you
ever met."

"He's honest, I suppose?"

"As the day itself," was the confident reply.  "He has been in
prison twice, you know, for plain speaking.  He is the one man in
Germany who has fought the war, tooth and nail, from the start."

Julian caught his friend by the shoulder.

"Miles," he said,--"straight from the bottom of your heart, mind
--you do believe we are justified?"

"I have never doubted it."

"You know that we have practically created a revolution--that we
have established a dictatorship?  Stenson must obey or face
anarchy."

"It is the voice of the people," Furley declared.  "I am convinced
that we are justified.  I am convinced of the inutility of the
prolongation of this war."

Julian drew a little sigh of relief.

"Don't think I am weakening," he said.  "Remember, I am new to
this thing in practice, even though I may be responsible for some
of the theory."

"It is the people who are the soundest directors of a nation's
policy," Furley pronounced.  "High politics becomes too much like
a game of chess, hedged all around with etiquette and precedent.
It's human life we want to save, Julian.  People don't stop to
realise the horrible tragedy of even one man's death--one man
with his little circle of relatives and friends.  In the game of
war one forgets.  Human beings--men from the toiler's bench, the
carpenter's bench, from behind the counter, from the land, from
the mine--don khaki, become soldiers, and there seems something
different about them.  So many human lives gone every day; just
soldiers, just the toll we have to pay for a slight advance or a
costly retreat.  And, my God, every one of them, underneath their
khaki, is a human being!  The politicians don't grasp it, Julian.
That's our justification.  The day that armistice is signed,
several hundred lives at least--perhaps, thousands--will be
saved; for several hundred women the sun will continue to shine.
Parents, sweethearts, children--all of them--think what they
will be spared!"

"I am a man again," Julian declared.  "Come along round to
Westminster.  There are many things I want to ask about the
Executive."

They drove round to the great building which had been taken over
by the different members of the Labour Council.  The
representative of each Trades Union had his own office, staff of
clerks and private telephone.  Fenn, who greeted the two men with
a rather excessive cordiality, constituted himself their cicerone.
He took them from room to room and waited while Julian exchanged
remarks with some of the delegates whom he had not met personally.

"Every one of our members," Fenn pointed out, "is in direct
communication with the local secretary of each town in which his
industry is represented.  You see these?"

He paused and laid his hand on a little heap of telegraph forms,
on which one word was typed.

"These," he continued, "are all ready to be dispatched the second
that we hear from Mr. Stenson that is to say if we should hear
unfavourably.  They are divided into batches, and each batch will
be sent from a different post-office, so that there shall be no
delay.  We calculate that in seven hours, at the most, the
industrial pulse of the country will have ceased to beat."

"How long has your organisation taken to build up?" Julian
enquired.

"Exactly three months," David Sands observed, turning around in
his swing chair from the desk at which he had been writing.  "The
scheme was started a few days after your article in the British
Review. We took your motto as our text `Coordination and
cooperation.'"

They found their way into the clubroom, and at luncheon, later on,
Julian strove to improve his acquaintance with the men who were
seated around him.  Some of them were Members of Parliament with
well-known names, others were intensely local, but all seemed
earnest and clear-sighted.  Phineas Cross commenced to talk about
war generally.  He had just returned from a visit with other
Labour Members to the front, although it is doubtful whether the
result had been exactly in accordance with the intentions of the
powers who had invited him.

"I'll tell you something about war," he said, "which contradicts
most every other experience.  There's scarcely a great subject in
the world which you don't have to take as a whole, and from the
biggest point of view, to appreciate it thoroughly.  It's exactly
different with war.  If you want to understand more than the
platitudes, you want to just take in one section of the fighting.
Say there are fifty Englishmen, decent fellows, been dragged from
their posts as commercial travellers or small tradesmen or
labourers or what-not, and they get mixed up with a similar number
of Germans.  Those Germans ain't the fiends we read about.
They're not bubbling over with militarism.  They don't want to
lord it over all the world.  They've exactly the same tastes, the
same outlook upon life as the fifty Englishmen whom an iron hand
has been forcing to do their best to kill.  Those English chaps
didn't want to kill anybody, any more than the Germans did.  They
had to do it, too, simply because it was part of the game.  There
was a handful of German prisoners I saw, talking with their guard
and exchanging smokes.  One was a barber in a country town.  The
man who had him in tow was an English barber.  Bless you, they
were talking like one o'clock!  That German barber didn't want
anything in life except plenty to eat and drink, to be a good
husband and good father, and to save enough money to buy a little
house of his own.  The Englishman was just the same.  He'd as soon
have had that German for a pal for a day's fishing or a walk in
the country, as any one else.  They'd neither of them got anything
against the other.  Where the hell is this spirit of hatred?  You
go down the line, mile after mile, and most little groups of men
facing one another are just the same.  Here and there, there's
some bitter feeling, through some fighting that's seemed unfair,
but that's nothing.  The fact remains that those millions of men
don't hate one another, that they've got nothing to hate one
another about, and they're being driven to slaughter one another
like savage beasts.  For what?  Mr. Stenson might supply an
answer.  Your great editors might.  Your great Generals could be
glib about it.  They could spout volumes of words, but there's no
substance about them.  I say that in this generation there's no
call for fighting, and there didn't ought to be any."

"You are not only right, but you are splendidly right, Mr. Cross,"
Julian declared.  "It's human talk, that."



"It's just a plain man's words and thoughts," was the simple
reply.

"And yet," Fenn complained, in his thin voice, "if I talk like
that, they call me a pacifist, a lot of rowdies get up and sing
`Rule Britannia', and try to chivy me out of the hall where I'm
speaking."

"You see, there's a difference, lad," Cross pointed out, setting
down the tankard of beer from which he had been drinking.  "You
talk sometimes that white-livered stuff about not hitting a man
back if he wants to hit you, and you drag in your conscience, and
prate about all men being brothers, and that sort of twaddle.  A
full-blooded Englishman don't like it, because we are all of us
out to protect what we've got, any way and anyhow.  But that
doesn't alter the fact that there's something wrong in the world
when we're driven to do this protecting business wholesale and
being forced into murdering on a scale which only devils could
have thought out and imagined.  It's the men at the top that are
responsible for this war, and when people come to reckon up,
they'll say that there was blame up at the top in the Government
of every Power that's fighting, but there was a damned sight more
blame amongst the Germans than any of the others, and that's why
many a hundred thousand of our young men who've loathed the war
and felt about it as I do have gone and done their bit and kept
their mouths shut."

"You cannot deny," Fenn argued, "that war is contrary to
Christianity."

"I dunno, lad," Cross replied, winking across the table at Julian.
"Seems to me there was a powerful lot of fighting in the Old
Testament, and the Lord was generally on one side or the other.
But you and I ain't going to bicker, Mr. Fenn.  The first decision
this Council came to, when it embraced more than a dozen of us of
very opposite ways of thinking, was to keep our mouths shut about
our own ideas and stick to business.  So give me a fill of baccy
from your pipe, and we'll have a cup of coffee together."

Julian's pouch was first upon the table, and the Northumbrian
filled his pipe in leisurely fashion.

"Good stuff, sir," he declared approvingly, as he passed it back.
"After dinner I am mostly a man of peace--even when Fenn comes
yapping around," he added, looking after the disappearing figure
of the secretary.  "But I make no secret of this.  I tumbled to it
from the first that this was a great proposition, this
amalgamation of Labour.  It makes a power of us, even though it
may, as you, Mr. Orden, said in one of your articles, bring us to
the gates of revolution.  But it was all I could do to bring
myself to sit down at the same table with Penn and his friend
Bright.  You see," he explained, "there may be times when you are
forced into doing a thing that fundamentally you disapprove of and
you know is wrong.  I disapprove of this war, and I know it's
wrong--it's a foul mess that we've been got into by those who
should have known better--but I ain't like Fenn about it.  We're
in it, and we've got to get out of it, not like cowards but like
Englishmen, and if fighting had been the only way through, then I
should have been for fighting to the last gasp.  Fortunately,
we've got into touch with the sensible folk on the other side.  If
we hadn't--well, I'll say no more but that I've got two boys
fighting and one buried at Ypres, and I've another, though he's
over young, doing his drill."

"Mr. Cross," Julian said, "you've done me more good than any one
I've talked to since the war began."

"That's right, lad," Cross replied.  "You get straight words from
one; and not only that, you get the words of another million
behind me, who feel as I do.  But," he added, glancing across the
room and lowering his voice, "keep your eye on that artful devil,
Fenn.  He doesn't bear you any particular good will."

"He wasn't exactly a hospitable gaoler," Julian reminiscently
observed.

"I'm not speaking of that only," Cross went on.  "There wasn't one
of us who didn't vote for squeezing that document out of you one
way or the other, and if it had been necessary to screw your neck
off for it, I don't know as one of us would have hesitated, for
you were standing between us and the big thing.  But he and that
little skunk Bright ain't to be trusted, in my mind, and it seems
to me they've got a down on you.  Fenn counted on being heart of
this Council, for one thing, and there's a matter of a young
woman, eh, for another?"

"A young woman?" Julian repeated.

Cross nodded.

"The Russian young person--Miss Abbeway, she calls herself.
Fenn's been her lap-dog round here--takes her out to dine and
that.  It's just a word of warning, that's all.  You're new
amongst us, Mr. Orden, and you might think us all honest men.
Well, we ain't; that's all there is to it."

Julian recovered from a momentary fit of astonishment.

"I am much obliged to you for your candour, Mr. Cross," he said.

"And never you mind about the 'Mr.', sir," the Northumbrian
begged.

"Nor you about the `sir'," Julian retorted, with a smile.

"Middle stump," Cross acknowledged.  "And since we are on the
subject, my new friend, let me tell you this.  To feel perfectly
happy about this Council, there's just three as I should like to
see out of it--Fenn, Bright--and the young lady."

"Why the young lady?" Julian asked quickly.

"You might as well ask me, `Why Fenn and Bright?'" the other
replied.  "I shouldn't make no answer.  We're superstitious, you
know, we north country folk, and we are all for instincts.  All I
can say to you is that there isn't one of those three I'd trust
around the corner."

"Miss Abbeway is surely above suspicion?" Julian protested.  "She
has given up a great position and devoted the greater part of her
fortune towards the causes which you and I and all of us are
working for."

"There'd be plenty of work for her in Russia just now," Cross
observed.

"No person of noble birth," Julian reminded him, "has the
slightest chance of working effectively in Russia to-day.
Besides, Miss Abbeway is half English.  Failing Russia, she would
naturally select this as the country in which she could do most
good."

Some retort seemed to fade away upon the other's lips.  His shaggy
eyebrows were drawn a little closer together as he glanced towards
the door.  Julian followed the direction of his gaze.  Catherine
had entered and was looking around as though in search of some
one.

Catherine was more heavily veiled than usual.  Her dress and hat
were of sombre black, and her manner nervous and disturbed.  She
came slowly to-wards their end of the table, although she was
obviously in search of some one else.

"Do you happen to know where Mr. Fenn is?" she enquired.

Julian raised his eyebrows.

"Fenn was here a few minutes ago," he replied, "but he left us
abruptly.  I fancy that he rather disapproved of our
conversation."

"He has gone to his room perhaps," she said.  "I will go
upstairs."

She turned away.  Julian, however, followed her to the door.

"Shall I see you again before you leave?" he asked.

"Of course--if you wish to."

There was a moment's perceptible pause.

"Won't you come upstairs with me to Mr. Fenn's room?" she
continued.

"Not if your business is in any way private."

She began to ascend the stairs.

"It isn't private," she said, "but I particularly want Mr. Fenn to
tell me something, and as you know, he is peculiar.  Perhaps, if
you don't mind, it would be better if you waited for me
downstairs."

Julian's response was a little vague.  She left him, however,
without appearing to notice his reluctance and knocked at the door
of Fenn's room.  She found him seated behind a desk, dictating
some letters to a stenographer, whom he waved away at her
entrance.

"Delighted to see you, Miss Abbeway," he declared impressively,
"delighted!  Come and sit down, please, and talk to me.  We have
had a tremendous morning.  Even though the machine is all ready to
start, it needs a watchful hand all the time."

She sank into the chair from which he had swept a pile of papers
and raised her veil.

"Mr. Fenn," she confessed.  "I came to you because I have been
very worried."

He withdrew a little into himself.  His eyes narrowed.  His manner
became more cautious.

"Worried?" he repeated.  "Well?"

"I want to ask you this: have you heard anything from Freistner
during the last day or two?"

Fenn's face was immovable.  He still showed no signs of
discomposure--his voice only was not altogether natural.

"Last day or two?" he repeated reflectively.  "No, I can't say
that I have, Miss Abbeway.  I needn't remind you that we don't
risk communications except when they are necessary."

"Will you try and get into touch with him at once?" she begged.

"Why?" Fenn asked, glancing at her searchingly.

"One of our Russian writers," she said, "once wrote that there are
a thousand eddies in the winds of chance.  One of those has blown
my way to-day--or rather yesterday.  Freistner is above all
suspicion, is he not?"

"Far above," was the confident reply.  "I am not the only one who
knows him.  Ask the others."

"Do you think it possible that he himself can have been deceived?"
she persisted.

"In what manner?"

"In his own strength--the strength of his own Party," she
proceeded eagerly.  "Do you think it possible that the
Imperialists have pretended to recognise in him a far greater
factor in the situation than he really is?  Have pretended to
acquiesce in these terms of peace with the intention of
repudiating them when we have once gone too far?"

Fenn seemed for a moment to have shrunk in his chair.  His eyes
had fallen before her passionate gaze.  The penholder which he was
grasping snapped in his fingers.  Nevertheless, his voice still
performed its office.

"My dear Miss Abbeway," he protested, "who or what has been
putting these ideas into your head?"

"A veritable chance," she replied, "brought me yesterday afternoon
into contact with a man--a neutral--who is supposed to be very
intimately acquainted with what goes on in Germany."

"What did he tell you?" Fenn demanded feverishly.

"He told me nothing," she admitted.  "I have no more to go on than
an uplifted eyebrow.  All the same, I came away feeling uneasy.  I
have felt wretched ever since.  I am wretched now.  I beg you to
get at once into touch with Freistner.  You can do that now
without any risk.  Simply ask him for a confirmation of the
existing situation."

"That is quite easy," Fenn promised.  "I will do it without delay.
But in the meantime," he added, moistening his dry lips, "can't
you possibly get to know what this man--this neutral--is driving
at?"

"I fear not," she replied, "but I shall try.  I have invited him
to dine to-night."

"If you discover anything, when shall you let us know?"

"Immediately," she promised.  "I shall telephone for Mr. Orden."

For a moment he lost control of himself.

"Why Mr. Orden?" he demanded passionately.  "He is the youngest
member of the Council.  He knows nothing of our negotiations with
Freistner.  Surely I am the person with whom you should
communicate?"

"It will be very late to-night," she reminded him, "and Mr. Orden
is my personal friend--outside the Council."

"And am I not?" he asked fiercely.  "I want to be.  I have tried
to be."

She appeared to find his agitation disconcerting, and she withdrew
a little from the yellow-stained fingers which had crept out
towards hers.

"We are all friends," she said evasively.  "Perhaps--if there is
anything important, then--I will come, or send for you."

He rose to his feet, less, it seemed, as an act of courtesy in
view of her departure, than with the intention of some further
movement.  He suddenly reseated himself, however, his fingers
grasped at the air, he became ghastly pale.

"Are you ill, Mr. Fenn?" she exclaimed.

He poured himself out a glass of water with trembling fingers and
drank it unsteadily.

"Nerves, I suppose," he said.  "I've had to carry the whole burden
of these negotiations upon my shoulders, with very little help
from any one, with none of the sympathy that counts."

A momentary impulse of kindness did battle with her invincible
dislike of the man.

"You must remember," she urged, "that yours is a glorious work;
that our thoughts and gratitude are with you."

"But are they?" he demanded, with another little burst of passion.
"Gratitude, indeed!  If the Council feel that, why was I not
selected to approach the Prime Minister instead of Julian Orden?
Sympathy!  If you, the one person from whom I desire it, have any
to offer, why can you not be kinder?  Why can you not respond,
ever so little, to what I feel for you?"

She hesitated for a moment, seeking for the words which would hurt
him least.  Tactless as ever, he misunderstood her.

"I may have had one small check in my career," he continued
eagerly, "but the game is not finished.  Believe me, I have still
great cards up my sleeve.  I know that you have been used to
wealth and luxury.  Miss Abbeway," he went on, his voice dropping
to a hoarse whisper, "I was not boasting the other night.  I have
saved money, I have speculated fortunately--I--"

The look in her eyes stifled his eloquence.  He broke off in his
speech--became dumb and voiceless.

"Mr. Fenn," she said, "once and for all this sort of conversation
is distasteful to me.  A great deal of what you say I do not
understand.  What I do understand, I dislike."

She left him, with an inscrutable look.  He made no effort to open
the door for her.  He simply stood listening to her departing
footsteps, listened to the shrill summons of the lift-bell,
listened to the lift itself go clanging downwards.  Then he
resumed his seat at his desk.  With his hands clasped nervously
together, an ink smear upon his cheek, his mouth slightly open,
disclosing his irregular and discoloured teeth, he was not by any
means a pleasant looking object.

He blew down a tube by his side and gave a muttered order.  In a
few minutes Bright presented himself.

"I am busy," the latter observed curtly, as he closed the door
behind him.

"You've got to be busier in a few minutes," was the harsh reply.
"There's a screw loose somewhere."

Bright stood motionless.

"Any one been disagreeable?" he asked, after a moment's pause.

"Get down to your office at once," Fenn directed briefly.  "Have
Miss Abbeway followed.  I want reports of her movements every
hour.  I shall be here all night."

Bright grinned unpleasantly.

"Another Samson, eh?"

"Go to Hell, and do as you're told!" was the fierce reply.  "Put
your best men on the job.  I must know, for all our sakes, the
name of the neutral whom Miss Abbeway sees to-night and with whom
she is exchanging confidences."

Bright left the room with a shrug of the shoulders.  Nicholas Fenn
turned up the electric light, pulled out a bank book from the
drawer of his desk, and, throwing it on to the fire, watched it
until it was consumed.




CHAPTER XVIII


The Baron Hellman, comfortably seated at the brilliantly decorated
round dining table, between Catherine, on one side, and a lady to
whom he had not been introduced, contemplated the menu through his
immovable eyeglass with satisfaction, unfolded his napkin, and
continued the conversation with his hostess, a few places away,
which the announcement of dinner had interrupted.

"You are quite right, Princess," he admitted.

"The position of neutrals, especially in the diplomatic world,
becomes, in the case of a war like this, most difficult and
sometimes embarrassing.  To preserve a correct attitude is often a
severe strain upon one's self-restraint."

The Princess nodded sympathetically.

"A very charming young man, the Baron," she confided to the
General who had taken her in to dinner.  "I knew his father and
his uncle quite well, in those happy days before the war, when one
used to move from country to country."

"Diplomatic type of features," the General remarked, who hated all
foreigners.  "It's rather bad luck on them," he went on, with
bland insularity, "that the men of the European neutrals--Dutch,
Danish, Norwegians or Swedes--all resemble Germans so much more
than Englishmen."

The Baron turned towards Catherine and ventured upon a whispered
compliment.  She was wearing a wonderful pre-war dress of black
velvet, close-fitting yet nowhere cramping her naturally
delightful figure.  A rope of pearls hung from her neck--her only
ornament.

"It is permitted, Countess, to express one's appreciation of your
toilette?" he ventured.

"In England it is not usual," she reminded him, with a smile, "but
as you are such an old friend of the family, we will call it
permissible.  It is, as a matter of fact, the last gown I had from
Paris.  Nowadays, one thinks of other things."

"You are one of the few women," he observed, "who mix in the great
affairs and yet remain intensely feminine."

"Just now," she sighed, "the great affairs do not please me."

"Yet they are interesting," he replied.  "The atmosphere at the
present moment is electric, charged with all manner of strange
possibilities.  But we talk too seriously.  Will you not let me
know the names of some of your guests?  With General Crossley I am
already acquainted."

"They really don't count for very much," she said, a little
carelessly.  "This is entirely aunt's Friday night gathering, and
they are all her friends.  That is Lady Maltenby opposite you, and
her husband on the other side of my aunt."

"Maltenby," he repeated.  "Ah, yes!  There is one son a Brigadier,
is there not?  And another one sees sometimes about town--a Mr.
Julian Orden."

"He is the youngest son."

"Am I exceeding the privileges of friendship, Countess," the Baron
continued, "if I enquire whether there was not a rumour of an
engagement between yourself and Mr. Orden, a few days ago?"

"It is in the air," she admitted, "but at present nothing is
settled.  Mr. Orden has peculiar habits.  He disappeared from
Society altogether, a few days ago, and has only just returned."

"A censor, was he not?"

"Something of the sort," Catherine assented.  "He went out to
France, though, and did extremely well.  He lost his foot there."

"I have noticed that he uses a stick," the Baron remarked.  "I
always find him a young man of pleasant and distinguished
appearance."

"Well," Catherine continued, "that is Mr. Braithwaiter the
playwright, a little to the left--the man, with the smooth grey
hair and eyeglass.  Mrs. Hamilton Beardsmore you know, of course;
her husband is commanding his regiment in Egypt."

"The lady on my left?"

"Lady Grayson.  She comes up from the country once a month to buy
food.  You needn't mind her.  She is stone deaf and prefers dining
to talking."

"I am relieved," the Baron confessed, with a little sigh.  "I
addressed her as we sat down, and she made no reply.  I began to
wonder if I had offended."

"The man next me," she went on, "is Mr. Millson Gray.  He is an
American millionaire, over here to study our Y.M.C.A. methods.  He
can talk of nothing else in the world but Y.M.C.A. huts and
American investments, and he is very hungry."

"The conditions," the Baron observed, "seem favourable for a
tete-a-tete."

Catherine smiled up into his imperturbable face.  The wine had
brought a faint colour to her cheeks, and the young man sighed
regretfully at the idea of her prospective engagement.  He had
always been one of Catherine's most pronounced admirers.

"But what are we to talk about?" she asked.  "On the really
interesting subjects your lips are always closed.  You are a
marvel of discretion, you know, Baron--even to me."

"That is perhaps because you hide your real personality under so
many aliases."

"I must think that over," she murmured.

"You," he continued, "are an aristocrat of the aristocrats.  I can
quite conceive that you found your position in Russia incompatible
with modern ideas.  The Russian aristocracy, if you will forgive
my saying so, is in for a bad time which it has done its best to
thoroughly deserve.  But in England your position is scarcely so
comprehensible.  Here you come to a sanely governed country, which
is, to all effects and purposes, a country governed by the people
for the people.  Yet here, within two years, you have made
yourself one of the champions of democracy.  Why?  The people are
not ill-treated.  On the contrary, I should call them pampered."

"You do not understand," she explained earnestly.  "In Russia it
was the aristocracy who oppressed the people, shamefully and
malevolently.  In England it is the bourgeoisie who rule the
country and stand in the light of Labour.  It is the middleman,
the profiteer, the new capitalist here who has become an ugly and
a dominant power.  Labour has the means by which to assert itself
and to claim its rights, but has never possessed the leaders or
the training.  That has been the subject of my lectures over here
from the beginning.  I want to teach the people how to crush the
middleman.  I want to show them how to discover and to utilise
their strength."

"Is not that a little dangerous?" he enquired.  "You might easily
produce a state of chaos."

"For a time, perhaps," she admitted, "but never for long.  You
see, the British have one transcendental quality; they possess
common sense.  They are not idealists like the Russians.  The men
with whom I mix neither walk with their heads turned to the clouds
nor do they grope about amongst the mud.  They just look straight
ahead of them, and they ask for what they see in the path."

"I see," he murmured.  "And now, having reached just this stage in
our conversation, let me ask you this.  You read the newspapers?"

"Diligently," she assured him.

"Are you aware of a very curious note of unrest during the last
few days--hints at a crisis in the war which nothing in the
military situation seems to justify--vague but rather gloomy
suggestions of an early peace?"

"Every one is talking about it," she agreed.  "I think that you
and I have some idea as to what it means."

"Have we?" he asked quietly.

"And somehow," she went on, dropping her voice a little, "I
believe that your knowledge goes farther than mine."

He gave no sign, made no answer.  Some question from across the
table, with reference to the action of one of his country's
Ministers, was referred to him.  He replied to it and drifted
quite naturally into a general conversation.  Without any evident
effort, he seemed to desire to bring his tete-a-tete with
Catherine to a close.  She showed no sign of disappointment;
indeed she fell into his humour and made vigorous efforts to
attack the subject of Y.M.C.A. huts with her neighbour on the
right.  The rest of the meal passed in this manner, and it was not
until they met, an hour later, in the Princess' famous reception
room, that they exchanged more than a casual word.  The Princess
liked to entertain her guests in a fashion of her own.  The long
apartment, with its many recesses and deep windows, an apartment
which took up the whole of one side of the large house, had all
the dignity and even splendour of a drawing-room, and yet, with
its little palm court, its cosy divans, its bridge tables and
roulette board, encouraged an air of freedom which made it
eminently habitable.

"I wonder, Baron," she asked, "what time you are leaving, and
whether I could rely upon your escort to the Lawsons' dance?
Don't hesitate to say if you have an engagement, as it only means
my telephoning to some friends."

"I am entirely at your service, Countess," he answered promptly.
"As a matter of fact, I have already promised to appear there
myself for an hour."

"You would like to play bridge now, perhaps?" she asked.

"The Princess was kind enough to invite me," he replied, "but I
ventured to excuse myself.  I saw that the numbers were even
without me, and I hoped for a little more conversation with you."

They seated themselves in an exceedingly comfortable corner.  A
footman brought them coffee, and a butler offered strange
liqueurs.  Catherine leaned back with a little sigh of relief.

"Every one calls this room of my aunt's the hotel lounge," she
remarked.  "Personally, I love it."

"To me, also, it is the ideal apartment," he confessed.  "Here we
are alone, and I may ask you a question which was on my lips when
we had tea together at the Carlton, and which, but for our
environment, I should certainly have asked you at dinner time."

"You may ask me anything," she assured him, with a little smile.
"I am feeling happy and loquacious.  Don't tempt me to talk, or I
shall give away all my life's secrets."

"I will only ask you for one just now," he promised.  "Is it true
that you have to-day had some disagreement with--shall I say a
small congress of men who have their meetings down at Westminster,
and with whom you have been in close touch for some time?"

Her start was unmistakable.

"How on earth do you know anything about that?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"These are the days," he said, "when, if one is to succeed in my
profession, one must know everything."

She did not speak for a moment.  His question had been rather a
shock to her.  In a moment or two, however, she found herself
wondering how to use it for her own advantage.

"It is true," she admitted.

He looked intently at the point of his patent shoe.

"Is this not a case, Countess," he ventured, "in which you and I
might perhaps come a little closer together?"

"If you have anything to suggest, I am ready to listen," she said.

"I wonder," he went on, "if I am right in some of my ideas?  I
shall test them.  You have taken up  your abode in England.  That
was natural, for domestic reasons.  You have shown a great
interest in a certain section of the British public.  It is my
theory that your interest in England is for that section only;
that as a country, you are no more an admirer of her
characteristics than I am."

"You are perfectly right," she answered coolly.

"Your interest," he proceeded, "is in the men and women toilers of
the world, the people who carry on their shoulders the whole
burden of life, and whose position you are continually desiring to
ameliorate.  I take it that your sympathy is international?"

"It is," she assented

"People of this order in--say--Germany, excite your sympathy in
the same degree?"

"Absolutely!"

"Therefore," he propounded, "you are working for the betterment of
the least considered class, whether it be German, Austrian,
British, or French?"

"That also is true," she agreed.

"I pursue my theory, then.  The issue of this war leaves you
indifferent, so long as the people come to their own?"

"My work for the last few weeks amongst those men of whom you have
been speaking," she pointed out, "should prove that."

"We are through the wood and in the open, then," he declared, with
a little sigh of relief.  "Now I am prepared to trade secrets with
you.  I am not a friend of this country.  Neither my Chief nor my
Government have the slightest desire to see England win the war."

"That I knew," she acknowledged.

"Now I ask you for information," he continued.  "Tell me this?
Your pseudo-friends have presented the supposed German terms of
peace to Mr. Stenson.  What was the result?"

"He is taking twenty-four hours to consider them."

"And what will happen if he refuses?" the Baron asked, leaning a
little towards her.  "Will they use their mighty weapon?  Will
they really go the whole way, or will they compromise?"

"They will not compromise," she assured him.  "The telegrams to
the secretaries of the various Trades Unions are already written
out.  They will be despatched five minutes after Mr. Stenson's
refusal to sue for an armistice has been announced."

"You know that?" he persisted.

"I know it beyond any shadow of doubt."

He nodded slowly.

"Your information," he admitted, "is valuable to me.  Well though
I am served, I cannot penetrate into the inner circles of the
Council itself.  Your news is good."

"And now," she said, "I expect the most amazing revelations from
you."

"You shall have them, with pleasure," he replied.  "Freistner has
been in a German fortress for some weeks and may be shot at any
moment.  The supposed strength of the Socialist Party in Germany
is an utter sham.  The signatures attached to the document which
was handed to your Council some days ago will be repudiated.  The
whole scheme of coming into touch with your Labour classes has
been fostered and developed by the German War Cabinet.  England
will be placed in the most humiliating and ridiculous position.
It will mean the end of the war."

"And Germany?" she gasped.

"Germany," the Baron pronounced calmly, "will have taken the first
great step up the ladder in her climb towards the dominance of the
world."




CHAPTER XIX


There were one or two amongst those present in the Council room at
Westminster that evening, who noted and never forgot a certain
indefinable dignity which seemed to come to Stenson's aid and
enabled him to face what must have been an unwelcome and anxious
ordeal without discomposure or disquiet.  He entered the room
accompanied by Julian and Phineas Cross, and he had very much the
air of a man who has come to pay a business visit, concerning the
final issue of which there could be no possible doubt.  He shook
hands with the Bishop gravely but courteously, nodded to the
others with whom he was acquainted, asked the names of the few
strangers present, and made a careful mental note of what
industries and districts they represented.  He then accepted a
chair by the side of the Bishop, who immediately opened the
proceedings.

"My friends," the latter began, "as I sent word to you a little
time ago, Mr. Stenson has preferred to bring you his answer
himself.  Our ambassador--Mr. Julian Orden--waited upon him at
Downing Street at the hour arranged upon, and, in accordance with
his wish to meet you all, Mr. Stenson is paying us this visit."

The Bishop hesitated, and the Prime Minister promptly drew his
chair a little farther into the circle.

"Gentlemen," he said, "the issue which you have raised is so
tremendous, and its results may well be so catastrophic, that I
thought it my duty to beg Mr. Orden to arrange for me to come and
speak to you all, to explain to you face to face why, on behalf of
His Majesty's Government, I cannot do your bidding."

"You don't want peace, then?" one of the delegates from the other
side of the table asked bluntly.

"We do not," was the quiet reply.  "We are not ready for it."

"The country is," Fenn declared firmly.  "We are."

"So your ambassador has told me," was the calm reply.  "In point
of numbers you may be said, perhaps, to represent the nation.  In
point of intellect, of knowledge--of inner knowledge, mind--I
claim that I represent it.  I tell you that a peace now, even on
the terms which your Socialist allies in Germany have suggested,
would be for us a peace of dishonour."

"Will you tell us why?" the Bishop begged.

"Because it is not the peace we promised our dead or our living
heroes," Mr. Stenson said slowly.  "We set out to fight for
democracy--your cause.  That fight would be a failure if we
allowed the proudest, the most autocratic, the most conscienceless
despot who ever sat upon a throne to remain in his place."

"But that is just what we shall not do," Fenn interrupted.
"Freistner has assured us of that.  The peace is not the Kaiser's
peace.  It is the peace of the Socialist Party in Germany, and the
day the terms are proclaimed, democracy there will score its first
triumph."

"I find neither in the European Press nor in the reports of our
secret service agents the slightest warrant for any such
supposition," Mr. Stenson pronounced with emphasis.

"You have read Freistner's letter?" Fenn asked.

"Every word of it," the Prime Minister replied.  "I believe that
Freistner is an honest man, as honest as any of you, but I think
that he is mistaken.  I do not believe that the German people are
with him.  I am content to believe that those signatures are
genuine.  I will even believe that Germany would welcome those
terms of peace, although she would never allow them to proceed
from her own Cabinet.  But I do not believe that the clash and
turmoil which would follow their publication would lead to the
overthrow of the German dynasty.  You give me no proof of it,
gentlemen.  You have none yourselves.  And therefore I say that
you propose to work in the dark, and it seems to me that your work
may lead to an evil end.  I want you to listen to me for one
moment," he went on, his face lighting up with a flash of terrible
earnestness.  "I am not going to cast about in my mind for flowery
phrases or epigrams.  We are plain men here together, with our
country's fate in the balance.  For God's sake, realise your
responsibilities.  I want peace.  I ache for it.  But there will
be no peace for Europe while Germany remains an undefeated
autocracy.  We've promised our dead and our living to oust that
corrupt monster from his throne.  We've promised it to France our
glorious Allies.  We've shaken hands about it with America, whose
ships are already crowding the seas, and whose young manhood has
taken the oath which ours has taken.  This isn't the time for
peace.  I am not speaking in the dark when I tell you that we have
a great movement pending in the West which may completely alter
the whole military situation.  Give us a chance.  If you carry out
your threat, you plunge this country into revolution, you
dishonour us in the face of our Allies; you will go through the
rest of your lives, every one of you, with a guilt upon your
souls, a stain upon your consciences, which nothing will ever
obliterate.  You see, I have kept my word--I haven't said much.
I cannot ask for the armistice you suggest.  If you take this step
you threaten--I do not deny its significance you will probably
stop the war.  One of you will come in and take my place.  There
will be turmoil, confusion, very likely bloodshed.  I know what
the issue will be, and yet I know my duty.  There is not one
member of my Cabinet who is not with me.  We refuse your appeal."

Every one at the table seemed to be talking at the same time to
every one else.  Then Cross's voice rose above the others.  He
rose to his feet to ensure attention.

"Bishop," he said, "there is one point in what Mr. Stenson has
been saying which I think we might and ought to consider a little
more fully, and that is, what guarantees have we that Freistner
really has the people at the back of him, that he'll be able to
cleanse that rat pit at Berlin of the Hohenzollern and his clan of
junkers--the most accursed type of politician who ever breathed?
We ought to be very sure about this.  Fenn's our man.  What about
it, Fenn?"

"Freistner's letters for weeks," Fenn answered, "have spoken of
the wonderful wave of socialistic feeling throughout the country.
He is an honest man, and he does not exaggerate.  He assures us
that half the nation is pledged."

"One man," David Sands remarked thoughtfully.  "If, there is a
weak point about this business, which I am not prepared wholly to
admit, it is that the entire job on that side seems to be run by
one man.  There's a score of us.  I should like to hear of more on
the other side."

"It is strange," Mr. Stenson pointed out, "that so little news of
this gain of strength on the part of the Socialists has been
allowed to escape from Germany.  However rigid their censorship,
copies of German newspapers reach us every day from neutral
countries.  I cannot believe that Socialism has made the advance
Freistner claims for it, and I agree with our friends, Mr. Cross
and Mr. Sands here, that you ought to be very sure that Freistner
is not deceived before you take this extreme measure."

"We are content to trust to our brothers in Germany," Fenn
declared.

"I am not convinced that we should be wise to do so," Julian
intervened.  "I am in favour of our taking a few more days to
consider this matter."

"And I am against any delay," Fenn objected hotly.  "I am for
immediate action."

"Let me explain where I think we have been a little hasty," Julian
continued earnestly.  "I gather that the whole correspondence
between this body and the Socialist Party in Germany has been
carried on by Mr. Fenn and Freistner.  There are other well-known
Socialists in Germany, but from not one of these have we received
any direct communication.  Furthermore--and I say this without
wishing to impugn in any way the care with which I am sure our
secretary has transcribed these letters--at a time like this I am
forced to remember that I have seen nothing but copies."

Fenn was on his feet in a moment, white with passion.

"Do you mean to insinuate that I have altered or forged the
letters?" he shouted.

"I have made no insinuations," Julian replied.  "At the same time,
before we proceed to extremities, I propose that we spend half an
hour studying the originals."

"That's common sense," Cross declared.  "There's no one can object
to that.  I'm none so much in favour of these typewritten slips
myself."

Fenn turned to whisper to Bright.  Mr. Stenson rose to his feet.
The glare of the unshaded lamp fell upon his strained face.  He
seemed to have grown older and thinner since his entrance into the
room.

"I can neither better nor weaken my cause by remaining," he said.
"Only let this be my parting word to you.  Upon my soul as an
Englishman, I believe that if you send out those telegrams
to-night, if you use your hideous and deadly weapon against me
and the Government, I believe that you will be guilty of this
country's ruin, as you certainly will of her dishonour.  You have
the example of Russia before you.  And I will tell you this, too,
which take into your hearts.  There isn't one of those men who are
marching, perhaps to-night, perhaps tomorrow, to a possible death,
who would thank you for trying, to save their lives or bodies at
the expense of England's honour.  Those about to die would be your
sternest critics.  I can say no more."

Julian walked with the Premier towards the door.

"Mr. Stenson," he declared, "you have said just what could be said
from your point of view, and God knows, even now, who is in the
right!  You are looking at the future with a very full knowledge
of many things of which we are all ignorant.  You have, quite
naturally, too, the politician's hatred of the methods these
people propose.  I myself am inclined to think that they are a
little hasty."

"Orden," Mr. Stenson replied sternly, "I did not come to you
to-night as a politician.  I have spoken as a man and an
Englishman, as I speak to you now.  For the love of your country
and her honour, use your influence with these people.  Stop those
telegrams.  Work for delay at any cost.  There's something
inexplicable, sinister, about the whole business.  Freistner may
be an honest man, but I'll swear that he hasn't the influence or
the position that these people have been led to believe.  And as
for Nicholas Fenn--"

The Prime Minister paused.  Julian waited anxiously.

"It is my belief," the former concluded deliberately, "that thirty
seconds in the courtyard of the Tower, with his back to the light,
would about meet his case."

They parted at the door, and Julian returned to his seat, uneasy
and perplexed.  Around the Council table voices were raised in
anger.  Fenn, who was sitting moodily with folded arms, his chair
drawn a little back from the table, scowled at him as he took his
place.  Furley, who had been whispering to the Bishop, turned
towards Julian.

"It seems," he announced, "that the originals of most of
Freistner's communications have been destroyed."

"And why not?" Fenn demanded passionately.  "Why should I keep
letters which would lay a rope around my neck any day they were
found?  You all know as well as I do that we've been expecting the
police to raid the place ever since we took it."

"I am a late comer,"  Julian observed, "but surely some of you
others have seen the original communications?"

Thomas Evans spoke up from the other end of the table,--a small,
sturdily built man, a great power in South Wales.

"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."




CHAPTER XX


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?"

"Fenn is the man who has had most to do with him," Julian
remarked.  "I wouldn't trust Fenn a yard, but I believe in
Freistner."

"So do I," Furley assented, "but is Fenn's report of his promises
and the strength of his followers entirely honest?"

"That's the part of the whole thing I don't like," Julian
acknowledged.  "Fenn's practically the corner stone of this
affair.  It was he who met Freistner in Amsterdam and started
these negotiations, and I'm damned if I like Fenn, or trust him.
Did you see the way he looked at Stenson out of the corners of his
eyes, like a little ferret?  Stenson was at his best, too.  I
never admired the man more."

"He certainly kept his head," Furley agreed.  "His few straight
words were to the point, too."

"It wasn't the occasion for eloquence," Julian declared.  "That'll
come next week.  I suppose he'll try and break the Trades Unions.
What a chance for an Edmund Burke!  It's all right, I suppose, but
I wonder why I'm feeling so damned miserable."

"The fact is," Furley confided, "you and I and the Bishop and
Miss Abbeway are all to a certain extent out of place on that
Council.  We ought to have contented ourselves with having
supplied the ideas.  When it comes to the practical side, our
other instincts revolt.  After all, if we believed that by
continuing the war we could beat Germany from a military point of
view, I suppose we should forget a lot of this admirable reasoning
of ours and let it go on."

"It doesn't seem a fair bargain, though," Julian sighed.  "It's
the lives of our men to-day for the freedom of their descendants,
if that isn't frittered away by another race of politicians.  It
isn't good enough, Miles."

"Then let's be thankful it's going to stop," Furley declared.
"We've pinned our colours to the mast, Julian.  I don't like Fenn
any more than you do, nor do I trust him, but I can't see, in this
instance, that he has anything to gain by not running straight.
Besides, he can't have faked the terms, and that's the only
document that counts.  And so good night and to bed," he added,
pausing at the street corner, where they parted.

There was something curiously different about the demeanour of
Julian's trusted servant, as he took his master's coat and hat.
Even Julian, engrossed as he was in the happenings of the evening,
could scarcely fail to notice it.

"You seem out of sorts to-night, Robert!" he remarked.

The latter, whose manners were usually suave and excellent,
answered almost harshly.

"I have enough to make me so, sir--more than enough.  I wish to
give a week's notice."

"Been drinking, Robert?" his master enquired.

The man smiled mirthlessly.

"I am quite sober, sir," he answered, "but I should be glad to go
at once.  It would be better for both of us."

"What have you against me?" Julian asked, puzzled.

"The lives of my two boys," was the fierce reply.  "Fred's gone
now--died in hospital last night.  It was you who talked them
into soldiering."

Julian's manner changed at once, and his tone became kinder.

"You are very foolish to blame anybody, Robert.  Your sons did
their duty.  If they hadn't joined up when they did, they would
have had to join as conscripts later on."

"Their duty!" Robert repeated, with smothered scorn.  "Their duty
to a squirming nest of cowardly politicians--begging your pardon,
sir.  Why, the whole Government isn't worth the blood of one of
them!"

"I am sorry about Fred," Julian said sympathetically.  "All the
same, Robert, you must try and pull yourself together."

The man groaned.

"Pull myself together!" he said angrily.  "Mr. Orden, sir, I'm
trying to keep respectful, but it's a hard thing.  I've been
reading the evening papers.  There's an article, signed `Paul
Fiske', in the Pall Mall.  They tell me that you're Paul Fiske.
You're for peace, it seems--for peace with the German Emperor and
his bloody crew."

"I am in favour of peace on certain terms, at the earliest
possible moment," Julian admitted.

"That's where you've sold us, then--sold us all!" Robert declared
fiercely.  "My boys died believing they were fighting for men who
would keep their word.  The war was to go on till victory was
won..  They died happily, believing that those who had spoken for
England would keep their word.  You're very soft-hearted in that
article, sir, about the living.  Did you think, when you sat down
to write it, about the dead?--about that wilderness of white
crosses out in France?  You're proposing in cold blood to let
those devils stay on their own dunghill."

"It is a very large question, Robert," Julian reminded him.  "The
war is fast reaching a period of mutual exhaustion."

The man threw all restraint to the winds.

"Claptrap!" was his angry reply.  "You wealthy people want your
fleshpots again.  We've a few more million men, haven't we?
America has a few more millions?"

"Your own loss, Robert, has made you--and quite naturally, too--
very bitter," his master said gently.  "You must let those who
have thought this matter out come to a decision upon it.  Beyond a
certain point, the manhood of the world must be conserved."

"That sounds just like fine talk to me, sir, and no more; the sort
of stuff that's printed in articles and that no one takes much
stock of.  Words were plain enough when we started out to fight
this war.  We were going to crush the German military spirit and
not leave off fighting until we'd done it.  There was nothing said
then about conserving millions of men.  It was to be fought out to
the end, whatever it cost."

"And you were once a pacifist!"

"Pacifist!" the man repeated passionately.  "Every human being
with common sense was a pacifist when the war started."

"But the war was forced upon us," Julian reminded him.  "You can't
deny that."

"No one wishes to, sir.  It was forced upon us all right, but who
made it necessary?  Why, our rotten government for the last twenty
years!  Our politicians, Mr. Julian, that are prating now of peace
before their job's done!  Do you think that if we'd paid our
insurance like men and been prepared, this war would ever have
come?  Not it!  We asked for trouble, and we got it in the neck.
If we make peace now, we'll be a German colony in twenty years,
thanks to Mr. Stenson and you and the rest of them.  A man can be
a pacifist all right until his head has been punched.  Afterwards,
there's another name for him.  Is there anything more I can get
you to-night before I leave, sir?"

"Nothing, thanks.  I'm sorry about Fred."

Julian, conscious of an intense weariness, undressed and went to
bed very soon after the man's departure.  He was already in his
first doze when he awoke suddenly with a start.  He sat up and
listened.  The sound which had disturbed him was repeated,--a
quiet but insistent ringing of the front-door bell.  He glanced at
his watch.  It was barely midnight, but unusually late for a
visitor.  Once more the bell rang, and this time he remembered
that Robert slept out, and that he was alone in the flat.  He
thrust his feet into slippers, wrapped his dressing gown around
him, and made his way to the front door.

Julian's only idea had been that this might be some messenger
from the Council.  To his amazement he found himself confronted
by Catherine.

"Close the door," she begged.  "Come into your sitting room."

She pushed past him and he obeyed, still dumb with surprise and
the shock of his sudden awakening.  Catherine herself seemed
unaware of his unusual costume, reckless of the hour and the
strangeness of her visit.  She wore a long chinchilla coat,
covering her from head to foot, and a mantilla veil about her
head, which partially obscured her features.  As soon as she
raised it, he knew that great things had happened.  Her cheeks
were the colour of ivory, and her eyes unnaturally distended.  Her
tone was steady but full of repressed passion.

"Julian," she cried, "we have been deceived--tricked!  I have
come to you for help.  Are the telegrams sent out yet?"

"They go at eight o'clock in the morning," he replied.

"Thank God we are in time to stop them!"

Julian looked at her for a moment, utterly incredulous.

"Stop them?" he repeated.  "But how can we?  Stenson has declared
war."

"Thank heaven for that!" she exclaimed, her voice trembling.
"Julian, the whole thing is an accursed plot.  The German
Socialists have never increased their strength except in their own
imaginations.  They are absolutely powerless.  This is the most
cunning scheme of the whole war.  Freistner has simply been the
tool of the militarists.  They encouraged him to put forward these
proposals and to communicate with Nicholas Fenn.  When the
armistice has been declared and negotiations begun, the three
signatures will be repudiated.  The peace they mean to impose is
one of their own dictation, and in the meantime we shall have
created a cataclysm here.  The war will never start again.  All
the Allies will be at a discord."

"How have you found this out?" Julian gasped.

"From one of Germany's chief friends in England.  He is high up in
the diplomatic service of--of a neutral country, but he has been
working for Germany ever since the commencement of the war.
He has been helping in this.  He has seen me often with Nicholas
Fenn, and he believes that I am behind the scenes, too.  He
believes that I know the truth, and that I am working for Germany.
He is absolutely to be relied upon.  Every word that I am telling
you is the truth."

"What about Fenn?" Julian demanded breathlessly.

"Nicholas Fenn has had a hundred thousand pounds of German money
within the last few months," she replied.  "He is one of the
foulest traitors who ever breathed.  Freistner's first few letters
were genuine enough, but for the last six weeks he has been
imprisoned in a German fortress--and Fenn knows it."

"Have you any proof of all this?" Julian asked.  "Remember we have
the Council to face, and they are all girt for battle."

"Yes, I have proof," she answered, "indirect but damning enough.
This man has sometimes forwarded and collected for me letters from
connections of mine in Germany.  He handed me one to-night from a
distant cousin.  You know him by name General Geroldberg.  The
first two pages are personal.  Read what he says towards the end,"
she added, passing it on to Julian.

Julian turned up the lamp and read the few lines to which she
pointed:

By the bye, dear cousin, if you should receive a shock within the
next few days by hearing that our three great men have agreed to
an absurd peace, do not worry.  Their signatures have been
obtained for some document which we do not regard seriously, and
it is their intention to repudiate them as soon as a certain
much-looked for event takes place.  When the peace comes, believe
me, it will be a glorious one for us.  What we have won by the
sword we shall hold, and what has been wrested from us by cunning
and treachery, we shall regain.

"That man," Catherine declared, "is one of the Kaiser's intimates.
He is one of the twelve iron men of Germany.  Now I will tell you
the name of the man with whom I, have spent the evening.  It is
Baron Hellman.  Believe me, he knows, and he has told me the
truth.  He has had this letter by him for a fortnight, as he told
me frankly that he thought it too compromising to hand over.
To-night he changed his mind."

Julian stood speechless for a moment, his fists clenched, his eyes
ablaze.

Catherine threw herself into his easy-chair and loosened her coat.

"Oh, I am tired!" she moaned.  "Give me some water, please, or
some wine."

He found some hock in the sideboard, and after she had drunk it
they sat for some few minutes in agitated silence.  The street
sounds outside had died away.  Julian's was the topmost flat in
the block, and their isolation was complete.  He suddenly realised
the position.

"Perhaps," he suggested, with an almost ludicrous return to the
commonplace, "the first thing to be done is for me to dress."

She looked at him as though she had noticed his dishabille for the
first time.  For a moment their feet seemed to be on the earth
again.

"I suppose I seem to you crazy to come to you at such an hour,"
she said.  "One doesn't think of those things, somehow."

"You are quite right," he agreed.  "They are unimportant."

Then suddenly the sense of the silence, of their solitude, of
their strange, uncertain relations to one another, swept in upon
them both.  For a moment the sense of the great burden she was
carrying fell from Catherine's shoulders.  She was back in a
simpler world.  Julian was no longer a leader of the people, the
brilliant sociologist, the apostle of her creed.  He was the man
who during the last few weeks had monopolised her thoughts to an
amazing extent, the man for whose aid and protection she had
hastened, the man to whom she was perfectly content to entrust the
setting right of this ghastly blunder.  Watching him, she suddenly
felt that she was tired of it all, that she would like to creep
away from the storm and rest somewhere.  The quiet and his
presence seemed to soothe her.  Her tense expression relaxed, her
eyes became softer.  She smiled at him gratefully.

"Oh, I cannot tell you," she exclaimed, "how glad I am to be with
you just now!  Everything in the outside world seems so terrible.
Do you mind--it is so silly, but after all a woman cannot be as
strong as a man, can she?--would you mind very much just holding
my hand for a moment and staying here quite quietly.  I have had a
horrible evening, and when I came in, my head felt as though it
would burst.  You do not mind?"

Julian smiled as he leaned towards her.  A kind of resentment of
which he had been conscious, even though in some measure ashamed
of it, resentment at her unswerving loyalty to the task she had
set herself, melted away.  He suddenly knew why he had kissed her,
on that sunny morning on the marshes, an ecstatic and
incomprehensible moment which had seemed sometimes, during these
days of excitement, as though it had belonged to another life and
another world.  He took both her hands in his, and, stooping down,
kissed her on the lips.

"Dear Catherine," he said, "I am so glad that you came to me.  I
think that during these last few days we have forgotten to be
human, and it might help us--for after all, you know, we are
engaged!"

"But that," she whispered, "was only for my sake."

"At first, perhaps," he admitted, "but now for mine,"

Her little sigh of content, as she stole nearer to him, was purely
feminine.  The moments ticked on in restful and wonderful silence.
Then, unwillingly, she drew away from his protecting arm.

"My dear," she said, "you look so nice as you are, and it is such
happiness to be here, but there is a great task before us."

"You are right," he declared, straightening himself.  "Wait for a
few minutes, dear.  We shall find them all at Westminster--the
place will be open all night.  Close your eyes and rest while I am
away."

"I am rested," she answered softly, "but do not be long.  The car
is outside, and on the way I have more to tell you about Nicholas
Fenn."




CHAPTER XXI


If the closely drawn blinds of the many windows of Westminster
Buildings could have been raised that night and early morning, the
place would have seemed a very hive of industry.  Twenty men were
hard at work in twenty different rooms.  Some went about their
labours doubtfully, some almost timorously, some with jubilation,
one or two with real regret.  Under their fingers grew the more
amplified mandates which, following upon the bombshell of the
already prepared telegrams, were within a few hours to paralyse
industrial England, to keep her ships idle in the docks, her
trains motionless upon the rails, her mines silent, her forges
cold, her great factories empty.  Even the least imaginative felt
the thrill, the awe of the thing he was doing.  On paper, in the
brain, it seemed so wonderful, so logical, so certain of the
desired result.  And now there were other thoughts forcing their
way to the front.  How would their names live in history?  How
would Englishmen throughout the world regard this deed?  Was it
really the truth they were following, or some false and ruinous
shadow?  These were fugitive doubts, perhaps, but to more than one
of those midnight toilers they presented themselves in the guise
of a chill and drear presentiment.

They all heard a motor-car stop outside.  No one, however, thought
it worth while to discontinue his labours for long enough to look
out and see who this nocturnal visitor might be.  In a very short
time, however, these labours were disturbed.  From room to room,
Julian, with Catherine and the Bishop, for whom they had called on
the way, passed with a brief message.  No one made any difficulty
about coming to the Council room.  The first protest was made when
they paid the visit which they had purposely left until last.
Nicholas Fenn had apparently finished or discontinued his efforts.
He was seated in front of his desk, his chin almost resting upon
his folded arms, and a cigarette between his lips.  Bright was
lounging in an easy-chair within a few feet of him.  Their heads
were close together; their conversation, whatever the subject of
it may have been, was conducted in whispers.  Apparently they had
not heard Julian's knock, for they started apart, when the door
was opened, like conspirators.  There was something half-fearful,
half-malicious in Fenn's face, as he stared at them.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.  "What's wrong?"

Julian closed the door.

"A great deal," he replied curtly.  "We have been around to every
one of the delegates and asked them to assemble in the Council
room.  Will you and Bright come at once?"

Fenn looked from one to the other of his visitors and remained
silent for a few seconds.

"Climbing down, eh?" he asked viciously.

"We have some information to communicate," Julian announced.

Fenn moved abruptly away, out of the shadow of the electric lamp
which hung over his desk.  His voice was anxious, unnatural.

"We can't consider any more information," he said harshly.  "Our
decisions have been taken.  Nothing can affect them.  That's the
worst of having you outsiders on the board.  I was certain you
wouldn't face it when the time came."

"As you yourself," Julian remarked, "are somewhat concerned in
this matter, I think it would be well if you came with the
others."

"I am not going to stir from this room," Fenn declared doggedly.
"I have my own work to do.  And as to my being concerned with what
you have to say, I'll thank you to mind your own business and
leave mine alone."

"Mr. Fenn," the Bishop interposed, "I beg to offer you my advice
that you join us at once in the Council room."

Julian and Catherine had already left the room.  Fenn leaned
forward, and there was an altered note in his tone.

"What's it mean, Bishop?" he asked hoarsely.  "Are they ratting,
those two?"

"What we have come here to say," the Bishop rejoined, "must be
said to every one."

He turned away.  Fenn and Bright exchanged quick glances.

"What do you make of it?" asked Fenn.

"They've changed their minds," Bright muttered, "that's all.
They're theorists.  Damn all theorists!  They just blow bubbles to
destroy them.  As for the girl, she's been at parties all the
evening, as we know."

"You're right," Fenn acknowledged.  "I was a fool.  Come on."

Many of the delegates had the air of being glad to escape for a
few minutes from their tasks.  One or two of them entered the
room, carrying a cup of coffee or cocoa.  Most of them were
smoking.  Fenn and Bright made their appearance last of all.  The
latter made a feeble attempt at a good-humoured remark.

"Is this a pause for refreshments?" he asked.  "If so, I'm on."

Julian, who had been waiting near the door, locked it.  Fenn
started.

"What the devil's that for?" he demanded.

"Just a precaution.  We don't want to be interrupted."

Julian moved towards a little vacant space at the end of the table
and stood there, his hands upon the back of a chair.  The Bishop
remained by his side, his eyes downcast as though in prayer.
Catherine had accepted the seat pushed forward by Cross.  The
atmosphere of the room, which at first had been only expectant,
became tense.

"My friends," Julian began, "a few hours ago you came to a
momentous decision.  You are all at work, prepared to carry that
decision into effect.  I have come to see you because I am very
much afraid that we have been the victims of false statements, the
victims of a disgraceful plot."

"Rubbish!" Fenn scoffed.  "You're ratting, that's what you are."

"You'd better thank Providence," Julian replied sternly, "that
there is time for you to rat, too--that is, if you have any care
for your country.  Now, Mr. Fenn, I am going to ask you a
question.  You led us to believe, this evening, that, although all
letters had been destroyed, you were in constant communication
with Freistner.  When did you hear from him last--personally, I
mean?"

"Last week," Fenn answered boldly, "and the week before that."

"And you have destroyed those letters?"

"Of course I have!  Why should I keep stuff about that would hang
me?"

"You cannot produce, then, any communication from Freistner,
except the proposals of peace, written within the last--say--
month?"

"What the mischief are you getting at?" Fenn demanded hotly.  "And
what right have you to stand there and cross-question me?"

"The right of being prepared to call you to your face a liar,"
Julian said gravely.  "We have very certain information that
Freistner is now imprisoned in a German fortress and will be shot
before the week is out."

There was a little murmur of consternation, even of disbelief.
Fenn himself was speechless.  Julian went on eagerly.

"My friends," he said, "on paper, on the facts submitted to us, we
took the right decision, but we ought to have remembered this.
Germany's word, Germany's signature, Germany's honour, are not
worth a rap when opposed to German interests.  Germany,
notwithstanding all her successes, is thirsting for peace.  This
armistice would be her salvation.  She set herself out to get it
--not honestly, as we have been led to believe, but by means of a
devilish plot.  She professed to be overawed by the peace desires
of the Reichstag.  The Pan-Germans professed a desire to give in
to the Socialists.  All lies!  They encouraged Freistner to
continue his negotiations here with Fenn.  Freistner was honest
enough.  I am not so sure about Fenn."

Fenn sprang to his feet, a blasphemous exclamation broke from his
lips.  Julian faced him, unmoved.  The atmosphere of the room was
now electric.

"I am going to finish what I have to say," he went on.  "I know
that every one will wish me to.  We are all here to look for the
truth and nothing else, and, thanks to Miss Abbeway, we have
stumbled upon it.  These peace proposals, which look so well on
paper, are a decoy.  They were made to be broken.  Those
signatures are affixed to be repudiated.  I say that Freistner has
been a prisoner for weeks, and I deny that Fenn has received a
single communication from him during that time.  Fenn asserts that
he has, but has destroyed them.  I repeat that he is a liar."

"That's plain speaking," Cross declared.  "Now, then, Fenn, lad,
what have you to say about it?"

Fenn leaned forward, his face distorted with something which might
have been anger, but which seemed more closely to resemble fear.

"This is just part of the ratting!" he exclaimed.  "I never keep a
communication from Freistner.  I have told you so before.  The
preliminary letters I had you all saw, and we deliberated upon
them together.  Since then, all that I have had have been friendly
messages, which I have destroyed."

There was a little uncertain murmur.  Julian proceeded.

"You see," he said, "Mr. Fenn is not able to clear himself from my
first accusation.  Now let us hear what he will do with this one.
Mr. Fenn started life, I believe, as a schoolmaster at a parish
school, a very laudable and excellent occupation.  He subsequently
became manager to a firm of timber merchants in the city and
commenced to interest himself in Labour movements.  He rose by
industry and merit to his present position--a very excellent
career, but not, I should think, a remunerative one.  Shall we put
his present salary down at ten pounds a week?"

"What the devil concern is this of yours?" the goaded man shouted.

"Of mine and all of us," Julian retorted, "for I come now to a
certain question.  Will you disclose your bank book?"

Fenn reeled for a moment in his seat.  He affected not to have
heard the question.

"My what?" he stammered.

"Your bank book," Julian repeated calmly.  "As you only received
your last instalment from Germany this week, you probably have not
yet had time to purchase stocks and shares or property wherever
your inclination leads you.  I imagine, therefore, that there
would be a balance there of something like thirty thousand pounds,
the last payment made to you by a German agent now in London."

Fenn sprang to his feet.  He had all the appearance of a man about
to make a vigorous and exhaustive defence.  And then suddenly he
swayed, his face became horrible to look upon, his lips were
twisted.

"Brandy!" he cried.  "Some one give me brandy!  I am ill!"

He collapsed in a heap.  They carried him on to a seat set against
the wall, and Catherine bent over him.  He lay there, moaning.
They loosened his collar and poured restoratives between his
teeth.  For a time he was silent.  Then the moaning began again.
Julian returned to the table.

"Believe me," he said earnestly, "this is as much a tragedy to me
as to any one present.  I believe that every one of you here
except--" he glanced towards the sofa--"except those whom we
will not name have gone into this matter honestly, as I did.
We've got to chuck it.  Tear up your telegrams.  Let me go to see
Stenson this minute.  I see the truth about this thing now as I
never saw it before.  There is no peace for us with Germany until
she is on her knees, until we have taken away all her power to do
further mischief.  When that time comes let us be generous.  Let
us remember that her working men are of the same flesh and blood
as ours and need to live as you need to live.  Let us see that
they are left the means to live.  Mercy to all of them--mercy,
and all the possibilities of a free and generous life.  But to
Hell with every one of those who are responsible for the poison
which has crept throughout all ranks in Germany, which, starting
from the Kaiser and his friends, has corrupted first the proud
aristocracy, then the industrious, hard-working and worthy middle
classes, and has even permeated to some extent the ranks of the
people themselves, destined by their infamous ruler to carry on
their shoulders the burden of an unnatural, ungodly, and unholy
ambition.  There is much that I ought to say, but I fancy that I
have said enough.  Germany must be broken, and you can do it.  Let
the memory of those undispatched telegrams help you.  Spend your
time amongst the men you represent.  Make them see the truth.
Make them understand that every burden they lift, every time they
wield the pickaxe, every blow they strike in their daily work,
helps.  I was going to speak about what we owe to the dead.  I
won't.  We must beat Germany to her knees.  We can and we will.
Then will come the time for generosity."

Phineas Cross struck the table with the flat of his hand.

"Boys," he said, "I feel the sweat in every pore of my body.
We've nigh done a horrible thing.  We are with you, Mr. Orden.
But about that little skunk there?  How did you find him out?"

"Through Miss Abbeway," Julian answered.  "You have her to thank.
I can assure you that every charge I have made can be
substantiated."

There was a little murmur of confidence.  Everyone seemed to find
speech difficult.

"One word more," Julian went on.  "Don't disband this Council.
Keep it together, just as it is.  Keep this building.  Keep our
association and sanctify it to one purpose--victory."

A loud clamour of applause answered him.  Once more Cross glanced
towards the prostrate form upon the sofa.

"Let no one interfere," Julian enjoined.  "There is an Act which
will deal with him.  He will be removed from this place presently,
and he will not be heard of again for a little time.  We don't
want a soul to know how nearly we were duped.  It rests with every
one of you to destroy all the traces of what might have happened.
You can do this if you will.  To-morrow call a meeting of the
Council.  Appoint a permanent chairman, a new secretary, draw out
a syllabus of action for promoting increased production, for
stimulating throughout every industry a passionate desire for
victory.  If speaking, writing, or help of mine in any way is
wanted, it is yours.  I will willingly be a disciple of the cause.
But this morning let me be your ambassador.  Let me go to the
Premier with a message from you.  Let me tell him what you have
resolved."

"Hands up all in favour!" Cross exclaimed.

Every hand was raised.  Bright came back from the couch, blinking
underneath his heavy spectacles but meekly acquiescent.

"Let us remember this hour," the Bishop begged, "as something
solemn in our lives.  The Council of Labour shall justify itself,
shall voice the will or the people, fighting for victory."

"For the Peace which comes through Victory!" Julian echoed.




CHAPTER XXII


The Bishop and Catherine, a few weeks later, walked side by side
up the murky length of St. Pancras platform.  The train which they
had come to meet was a quarter of an hour late, and they had
fallen into a sort of reminiscent conversation which was not
without interest to both of them.

"I left Mr. Stenson only an hour ago," the Bishop observed.  "He
could talk about nothing but Julian Orden and his wonderful
speeches.  They say that at Sheffield and Newcastle the enthusiasm
was tremendous, and at three shipbuilding yards on the Clyde the
actual work done for the week after his visit was nearly as much
again.  He seems to have that extraordinary gift of talking
straight to the hearts of the men.  He makes them feel."

"Mr. Stenson wrote me about it," Catherine told her companion,
with a little smile.  "He said that no dignity that could be
thought of or invented would be an adequate offering to Julian for
his services to the country.  For the first time since the war,
Labour seems wholly and entirely, passionately almost, in earnest.
Every one of those delegates went back full of enthusiasm, and
with every one of them, Julian, before he has finished, is going
to make a little tour in his own district."

"And after to-morrow," the Bishop remarked with a smile, "I
suppose he will not be alone."

She pressed his arm.

"It is very wonderful to think about," she said quietly.  "I am
going to try and be Julian's secretary--whilst we are away, at
any rate."

"It isn't often," the Bishop reflected, "that I have the chance of
a few minutes' quiet conversation, on the day before her wedding,
with the woman whom I am going to marry to the man I think most of
on earth."

"Give me some good advice," she begged.

The Bishop shook his head.

"You don't need it," he said.  "A wife who loves her husband needs
very few words of admonition.  There are marriages so often in
which one can see the rocks ahead that one opens one's
prayer-book, even, with a little tremor of fear.  But with you and
Julian it is different."

"There is nothing that a woman can do for the man whom she loves,"
she declared softly, "which I shall not try to do for Julian."

They paced up and down for a few moments in silence.  The Bishop's
step was almost buoyant.  He seemed to have lost all that weary
load of anxiety which had weighed him down during the last few
months.  Catherine, too, in her becoming grey furs, her face
flushed with excitement, had the air of one who has thrown all
anxiety to the winds.

"Julian's gift of speech must have surprised even himself," the
Bishop remarked.  "Of course, we always knew that 'Paul Fiske',
when he was found, must be a brilliant person, but I don't think
that even Julian himself had any suspicion of his oratorical
powers."

"I don't think he had," she agreed.  "In his first letter he told
me that it was just like sitting down at his desk to write, except
that all the dull material impedimenta of paper and ink and walls
seemed rolled away, and the men to whom he wished his words to
travel were there waiting.  Of course, he is wonderful, but
Phineas Cross, David Sands and some of the others have shown a
positive genius for organisation.  That Council of Socialism,
Trades Unionism, and Labour generally, which was formed to bring
us premature peace, seems for the first time to have brought all
Labour into one party, Labour in its very broadest sense, I mean."

"The truth of the matter is," the Bishop pronounced, "that the
people have accepted the dictum that whatever form of
republicanism is aimed at, there must be government.  A body of
men who realise that, however advanced their ideas, can do but
little harm.  I am perfectly certain--Stenson admits it himself--
that before very long we shall have a Labour Ministry.  Who cares?
It will probably be a good ministry--good for the country and
good for the world.  There has been too much juggling in
international politics.  This war is going to end that, once and
for ever.  By the bye," he went on, in an altered tone, "there is
one question which I have always had in my mind to ask you.  If I
do so now, will you please understand that if you think it best
you need not answer me?"

"Certainly," Catherine replied.

"From what source did you get your information which saved us
all?"

"It came to me from a man who is dead," was the quiet answer.

The Bishop looked steadily ahead at the row of signal lights.

"There was a young foreigner, some weeks ago," he said "a Baron
Hellman--quite a distinguished person, I believe--who was
discovered shot in his rooms."

She acquiesced silently.

"If you were to go to the Home Office and were able to persuade
them to treat you candidly, I think that you could discover some
wonderful things," she confided.  "I wish I could believe that the
Baron was the only one who has been living in this country,
unsuspected, and occupying a prominent position, who was really in
the pay of Germany."

"It was a very subtle conspiracy," the Bishop remarked
thoughtfully, "subtle because, in a sense, it appeared so genuine.
It appealed to the very best instincts of thinking men."

"Good has come out of it, at any rate," she reminded him.
"Westminster Buildings is now the centre of patriotic England.
Labour was to have brought the war to an end--for Germany.  It is
Labour which is going to win the victory--for England."

The train rolled into the station and rapidly disgorged its crowd
of passengers, amongst whom Julian was one of the first to alight.
Catherine found herself trembling.  The shy words of welcome which
had formed themselves in her mind died away on her lips as their
glances met.  She lifted her face to his.

"Julian," she murmured, "I am so proud--so happy."

The Bishop left them as they stepped into their cab.

"I am going to a mission room in the neighbourhood," he explained.
"We have war talks every week.  I try to tell them how things are
going on, and we have a short service.  But before I go, Mr.
Stenson has sent you a little message, Julian.  If you go to your
club later on to-night, you will see it in the telegrams, or you
will find it in your newspapers in the morning.  There has been
wonderful fighting in Flanders to-day.  The German line has been
broken at half a dozen points.  We have taken nearly twenty
thousand prisoners, and Zeebrugge is threatened.  Farther south,
the Americans have made their start and have won a complete
victory over the Crown Prince's picked troops."

The two men wrung hands.

"This," Julian declared, "is the only way to Peace."





End of Project Gutenberg Etext The Devil's Paw, by E. Phillips Oppenheim


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