Part 4 out of 5
companion, "that to-day you are not in your most intelligent
"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
"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
The young man looked at his companion steadfastly for several
"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
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
The young man bowed low as he handed his charge into a taxicab.
"Dear Countess," he murmured, "I shall be charmed."
For a gathering of men upon whose decision hung such momentous
issues, the Council which met that evening at Westminster seemed
alike unambitious in tone and uninspired in appearance. Some
short time was spent in one of the anterooms, where Julian was
introduced to many of the delegates. The disclosure of his
identity, although it aroused immense interest, was scarcely an
unmixed joy to the majority of them. Those who were in earnest -
and they mostly were in grim and deadly earnest - had hoped to
find him a man nearer their own class. Fenn and Bright had their
own reasons for standing apart, and the extreme pacifists took
note of the fact that he had been a soldier. His coming, however,
was an event the importance of which nobody attempted to conceal.
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
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
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
"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 bad 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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.
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
"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?" 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?"
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
"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,"
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
"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
"You do not dispute the authenticity of the document?" Julian
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
He held out his hand in farewell, an action which somehow sent
Julian away a happier man.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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.
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"There'd be plenty of work for her in Russia just now," Cross
"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
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
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
"He has gone to his room perhaps," she said. "I will go
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
"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
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
"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
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?"
"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
"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
"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
"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
She appeared to find his agitation disconcerting, and she withdrew
a little from the yellow-stained fingers which had crept out
"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 him
"I am busy," the latter observed curtly, as he closed the door
"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.
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
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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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?"
"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 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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 lake 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
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
"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
"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
"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 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."
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
"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
"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
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
"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