Nona had said that Tybar knew she thought often of him. “He knows I think of you.” That was the way she had put it. It explained that mock in his eyes when they met that day on the road, and Mrs. Winfred’s remark and her look, and Tybar’s, that day outside the office. Extraordinary, Otway bursting in like that with all those ridiculous scares. Here he was riding along with all this reality pressing enormously about him, and with this strange and terrible feeling of being at the beginning of something or at the end of something, with this voice in his ears of, “You have struck your tents and are upon the march”; and there was Otway, up at the barracks, miles away from realities, but as obsessed with his impossible stuff as he himself with these most real and pressing dismays. What would he, with his apprehension of what might lie ahead, be saying to a chap like Otway in two or three years and what would Otway with his obsessions be saying to him? Ah, two or three years...!
But Nona loved him.... But his duty was here.... And he could have taken her beautiful body into his arms and held her beloved face to his.... But he had said not a word of love to her, only his cry of “Nona—Nona....” His duty was here.... But what would the years bring...? But what might have been! What might have been!
He finished his ride in darkness. The Green, as he passed along it on the free-wheel run, merged away through gloom into obscurity. Points of light from the houses showed here and there. The windows of his home had lamplight through their lattices. The drive was soft with leaves beneath his feet.
Lamplight, and the yielding undertread and all around walled about with obscurity. It was new. It had shown thus now for some nights on his return. But it was the first time he had apprehended it. New. Different. A commencement. An ending.
He left his bicycle in the roomy porch. He missed Low Jinks with her customary friendly greeting. It was very lonely, this. He opened the hall door and entered. Absolute silence. He had grown uncommonly accustomed to Low Jinks being here.... Absolute silence. It was like coming into an empty house. And he had got to go on coming into it, and living in it, and tremendously doing his duty in it.
Like an empty house. He stood perfectly still in the perfect stillness. Take down: it is beginning. You have struck your tents and are upon the march.
But life goes on without the smallest regard for individual preoccupations. You may take up what attitude you like towards it or, with the majority, you may take up no attitude towards it but immerse yourself in the stupendous importance of your own affairs and disclaim any connection with life. It doesn’t matter tuppence to life. The ostrich, on much the same principle, buries its head in the sand; and just as forces outside the sand ultimately get the ostrich, so life, all the time, is massively getting you.