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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."
"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."
"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."
"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!"
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