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Maraton walked alone with Elisabeth on the following afternoon in the flower garden at Lyndwood. She was apologising for some unexpected additions to the number of their guests.
"Mother always forgets whom she has asked down for the week-end," she said, "and my uncle is far too sweet about it. I know that he wanted to have as much time as possible alone with you before Monday. It is on Monday you go to Manchester, isn't it?"
"On Monday," he answered, a little absently. "I have to make my bow to the democracy of your country in the evening."
"I wish I could make up my mind, Mr. Maraton," she continued, "whether you have come over here for good or for evil."
"For evil that good may come of it, I am afraid," he rejoined, "would be the kindest interpretation you could put upon my enterprise here."
"The Spectator calls you the Missionary of Unrest."
"The Spectator, I am afraid, will become more violent later on."
"Let us sit down here for a moment," she suggested, pointing to a seat. "You see, we are just at the top of this long pathway, and we get a view of the roses all the way down."
"It is very beautiful," he admitted,--"far too beautiful."
She raised her eyebrows.
"Too beautiful? Is that possible?"
"Without a doubt," he declared. "Too much beauty is as bad as too little."
"And why is that? Surely it must be good for one to be surrounded by inspiring things?"
"I am not sure that beauty does inspire anything except content," he answered, smiling. "I call this garden of yours, for instance, a most vicious place, a perfect lotus-eater's Paradise. Positively, I feel the energy slipping out of my bones as I sit here."
"Then you shall be chained to that seat," she threatened. "You will not be able to go to Manchester and make trouble, and my uncle will be able to sleep at nights."
"I feel that everything in life is slipping away from me," he protested. "I ought to be thinking over what lam going to say to your country people, and instead of that I am wondering whether there is anything more beautiful in the world than the blue haze over your meadows."
She laughed, and moved her parasol a little so that she could see him better.
"You know," she said, "my uncle declares that if only you could be taught to imbibe a little more of the real philosophy of living, you would become quite a desirable person."
"And what is the real philosophy of living?"
"Just now, with him, it is the laissez faire, the non-interference with the essential forces of life, especially the forces that concern other people," she explained.
He looked at her, a little startled. What instinct, he wondered, had led her to place her finger upon the one poison spot in his thoughts?
"I can see," he remarked, "that I have found my way into a dangerous neighbourhood."
She changed her position a little, so as to face him. Her blue eyes were lit with laughter, her lips mocked him. Usually reserved, she seemed at that moment to be inspired with an instinct which was something almost more than coquetry. She leaned a little towards him. The aloofness of her carriage and manner had suddenly disappeared. He was conscious of the perfection of her white muslin gown, of the shape of her neck, the delicate lines and grace of her slim young body.
"You shall be chained here," she repeated. "My uncle has a new theory of individualism. He thinks that if no one tried to improve anybody, the world would be so much more livable a place. Shall we sit at his feet?"
He shook his head.
"I am not brave," he said, "but I am at least discreet."
"Do you think that you are?" she asked him quietly. "Do you think that you are discreet in the sense of being wise? Are you sure that you are using your gifts for the best purpose, for yourself--and other people?"
"No one can be sure," he replied. "I only follow my star."
"Then are you sure that it is your star?"
"No one can ever mistake that," he declared. "Sometimes one may lose one's way, and one may even falter if the path is rugged. But the star remains."
She sighed. Her eyes seemed to have wandered away. He felt that it was a trick to avoid looking at him for the moment.
"I do not want you to go to Manchester on Monday in your present mood," she said. "I hate to think of you up there, the stormy petrel, the apostle of unrest and sedition. If I were a Roman woman, I think that I would poison you to-night at dinner-time."
"Quite an idea," he remarked. "I am not at all sure that our having become too civilised for crime is a healthy sign of the times."
"I do wish," she persisted, "that you would try and see things a little more humanly. My uncle is full of enthusiasms about you. You have had some conversation already, haven't you?"
"We talked for an hour after luncheon," Maraton admitted. "Your uncle's is a very sane point of view. I know just how he regards me--a sort of dangerous enthusiast, a firebrand with the knack of commanding attention. The worst of it is that when I am with him, he almost makes me feel like that myself."
"All men of genius," she declared, "must be impressionable. We ought to set ourselves to discover your weak point."
He smiled at her with upraised eyebrows. There were times when he seemed to her like a boy.
"Haven't you discovered it?"
She made a little face and swung her parasol around. When she spoke again, she was very grave.
"Mr. Maraton," she begged, "please will you promise that before you go away, you will talk to me again for a few minutes?"
"It is a promise easily made!" he replied.
"But I mean seriously."
"I will talk to you at any time, anyhow you wish," he promised.
She rose to her feet then.
"For the present you have promised to play tennis," she reminded him. "Please go and change your things."
"I must have a yellow rosebud for my button-hole," he begged.
She arranged it herself in his coat. He laughed as she swept aside a wisp of her hair which brushed his cheek.
"What a picture for the photographic Press of America!" he exclaimed. "The anarchist of Chicago and the Prime Minister's niece!"
"What is an anarchist?" she asked him abruptly. He opened the little iron gate which led out of the garden.
"A sower of fire and destruction," he answered, "a highly unpleasant person to meet when he's in earnest."
She looked into his face for a moment with a wistfulness which was almost passionate.
"Please tell me at once, that you aren't--"
He pointed back to the garden.
"We have come out of the land of confessions. On this side of the gate I am your uncle's guest, and I mustn't be teased with questions."
"Before you go," she threatened, "I shall take you back into the rose-garden."
From their wicker chairs drawn under a great cedar tree, Mr. Foley and Lord Armley, perhaps the most distinguished of his colleagues, watched the slow approach of the two from the flower gardens. Lord Armley, who had only arrived during the last half hour, was recovering from a fit of astonishment. He had just been told of his fellow guest.
"Granted, even, that the man is as dangerous as you say," he remarked, "it is certainly creating a new precedent for you to bring him into the bosom of your family. Is it conversion, bribery, or poison that you have in your thoughts?"
"Influence, if possible," Mr. Foley answered. "Somehow or other, I have always detected in his writing a vein of common sense."
"What the dickens is common sense!" Lord Armley growled.
"Shall I say a sense of the fitness of things?" the Prime Minister replied,--"a sense of proportion, perhaps? Notwithstanding his extraordinary speeches in America, I believe that to some extent Maraton possesses it. Anyhow, it seemed to me to be worth trying. One couldn't face the idea of letting him go up north just now without making an effort."
"Things are really serious there," Lord Armley muttered.
"Worse than any of us know," Mr. Foley agreed. "If you hadn't been coming here, I should have sent for you last night. The French Ambassador was with me for an hour after dinner."
"No fresh trouble?"
"It was a general conversation, but his visit had its purpose--a very definite and threatening purpose, too. I do not blame France. We are under great obligations to her already. Half her fleet is there to watch over our possessions. She naturally must be sure of her quid pro quo. Everywhere, all over the Continent, the idea seems to be spreading that we are going to be plunged into what really amounts to a civil war. The coming of Maraton has strengthened the people's belief. A country without the sinews of movement, a country in which the working classes laid down their tools, a country whose forges had flickered out and whose railroad tracks were deserted, would simply be the helpless prey of any country who cared to pay off old scores."
Lord Armley was looking curiously at the approaching couple.
"Never saw a man," he said, half to himself, "who looked the part so little. Fellow must be well-bred, Foley."
Mr. Foley nodded.
"No one knows who his people were. It doesn't really matter, does it? Accident has made him a gentleman--accident or fate. Perhaps that is why he has gained such an ascendency over the people. The working classes of the country are most of them sick of their own Labour Members. The practical men can see no further than their noses, and the theorists are too far above their heads. Maraton is the only one who seems to understand. You must have a talk with him, Armley."
Lady Elisabeth, with a little smile, had turned towards the tennis courts, and Maraton came on alone. Mr. Foley turned to his companion.
"Armley," he said, "this is Mr. Maraton--Lord Armley."
"It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Maraton," Lord Armley declared, as the two men shook hands, "in such peaceful surroundings. The Press over here has not been too kind to you. Our ideas of your personality are rather based, I am afraid, upon the Punch caricature. You've seen it, perhaps?"
Maraton's eyes lit up with mirth.
"Excellent!" he observed. "I have had one framed."
"He is standing," Lord Armley continued, turning to Mr. Foley, "on the topmost of three tubs, his hair flying in the wind, his mouth open to about twice its normal size, with fire and smoke coming out of it. And below, a multitude! It is a splendid caricature. They tell me, Mr. Maraton, that it is your intention to kindle the fires in England, too."
Maraton was suddenly grave.
"Lord Armley," he said, "all the world speaks of me as an apostle of destruction and death. It is because they see a very little distance. In my own thoughts, if ever I do think of myself, it is as a builder, not as a destroyer, that I picture myself. Only in this world, as in any other, one must destroy first to build upon a sound foundation."
"Good reasoning, sir," Lord Armley replied, "only one should be very sure, before one destroys, that the new order of things will be worthy of the sacrifice."
"After dinner," Mr. Foley remarked, as he lit a cigarette, "we are going to talk. At present, Maraton is under a solemn promise to play tennis."
Maraton looked towards the house.
"If I might be allowed," he said, "I will go and put on my flannels. Lady Elisabeth is making up a set, I think."
He turned towards the house. The two men stood watching him.
"Is he to be bought?" Lord Armley asked, in a low tone.
Mr. Foley shook his head.
"Not with money or place," he answered thoughtfully.
"There isn't a man breathing who hasn't his price, if you could only discover what it is," Lord Armley declared, as he took a cigarette from his case and lit it.
"A truism, my friend," Mr. Foley admitted, "which I have always considered a little nebulous. However, we shall see. We have a few hours' respite, at any rate."
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