“No hope, Captain Selwyn.”
He stood silent, tapping his leg with the stiff brim of his hat; then, wearily: “Is there anything more I can do for her?”
He turned away, bidding her good-night in a low voice.
* * * * *
He arrived in town about midnight, but did not go to any of his clubs. At one of them a telegram was awaiting him; and in a dismantled and summer-shrouded house a young girl was still expecting him, lying with closed eyes in a big holland-covered arm-chair, listening to the rare footfalls in the street outside.
But of these things he knew nothing; and he went wearily to his lodgings and climbed the musty stairs, and sat down in his old attitude before the table and the blank wall behind it, waiting for the magic frescoes to appear in all the vague loveliness of their hues and dyes, painting for him upon his chamber-walls the tinted paradise now lost to him for ever.
HIS OWN WAY
The winter promised to be a busy one for Selwyn. If at first he had had any dread of enforced idleness, that worry, at least, vanished before the first snow flew. For there came to him a secret communication from the Government suggesting, among other things, that he report, three times a week, at the proving grounds on Sandy Hook; that experiments with Chaosite as a bursting charge might begin as soon as he was ready with his argon primer; that officers connected with the bureau of ordnance and the marine laboratory had recommended the advisability of certain preliminary tests, and that the general staff seemed inclined to consider the matter seriously.
This meant work—hard, constant, patient work. But it did not mean money to help him support the heavy burdens he had assumed. If there were to be any returns, all that part of it lay in the future, and the future could not help him now.
Yet, unless still heavier burdens were laid upon him, he could hold on for the present; his bedroom cost him next to nothing; breakfast he cooked for himself, luncheon he dispensed with, and he dined at random—anywhere that appeared to promise seclusion, cheapness, and immunity from anybody he had ever known.
A minute and rather finicky care of his wardrobe had been second nature to him—the habits of a soldier systematised the routine—and he was satisfied that his clothes would outlast winter demands, although laundry expenses appalled him.
As for his clubs, he hung on to them, knowing the importance of appearances in a town which is made up of them. But this expense was all he could carry, for the demands of the establishment at Edgewater were steadily increasing with the early coming of winter; he was sent for oftener, and a physician was now in practically continual attendance.