His head sank; he fixed his narrowing eyes on the floor and held them there, silent, unmoved, while within the tempests of terror, temptation, and doubt assailed him, dragging at the soul of him, where it clung blindly to its anchorage. And it held fast—raging, despairing in the bitterness of renunciation, but still held on through the most dreadful tempest that ever swept him. Courage, duty, reparation—the words drummed in his brain, stupefying him with their dull clamour; but he understood and listened, knowing the end—knowing that the end must always be the same for him. It was the revolt of instinct against drilled and ingrained training, inherited and re-schooled—the insurgent clamour of desire opposed to that stern self-repression characteristic of generations of Selwyns, who had held duty important enough to follow, even when their bodies died in its wake.
And it were easier for him, perhaps, if his body died.
He rose and walked to the window. Over the Bay of Shoals the fog was lifting; and he saw the long gray pier jutting northward—the pier where the troopships landed their dead and dying when the Spanish war was ended.
And he looked at the hill where the field hospital had once been. His brother died there—in the wake of that same duty which no Selwyn could ignore.
After a moment he turned to Gerald, a smile on his colourless face:
“It will be all right, my boy. You are not to worry—do you understand me? Go to bed, now; you need the sleep. Go to bed, I tell you—I’ll stand by you. You must begin all over again, Gerald—and so must I; and so must I.”
LEX NON SCRIPTA
Selwyn had gone to New York with Gerald, “for a few days,” as he expressed it; but it was now the first week in October, and he had not yet returned to Silverside.
A brief note to Nina thanking her for having had him at Silverside, and speaking vaguely of some business matters which might detain him indefinitely—a briefer note to Eileen regretting his inability to return for the present—were all the communication they had from him except news brought by Austin, who came down from town every Friday.
A long letter to him from Nina still remained unanswered; Austin had seen him only once in town; Lansing, now back in New York, wrote a postscript in a letter to Drina, asking for Selwyn’s new address—the first intimation anybody had that he had given up his lodgings on Lexington Avenue.
“I was perfectly astonished to find he had gone, leaving no address,” wrote Boots; “and nobody knows anything about him at his clubs. I have an idea that he may have gone to Washington to see about the Chaosite affair; but if you have any address except his clubs, please send it to me.”
Eileen had not written him; his sudden leave-taking nearly a month ago had so astounded her that she could not believe he meant to be gone more than a day or two. Then came his note, written at the Patroons’ Club—very brief, curiously stilted and formal, with a strange tone of finality through it, as though he were taking perfunctory leave of people who had come temporarily into his life, and as though the chances were agreeably even of his ever seeing them again.