And they sounded sadder and more meaningless now to him, here in his own room, until the monotony of their recurrent mockery began to unnerve him.
He turned on the electricity, shrank from it, extinguished it. And for a long time he sat there in the darkness of early morning, his unfilled pipe clutched in his nerveless hand.
A DREAM ENDS
To pick up once more and tighten and knot together the loosened threads which represented the unfinished record that his race had woven into the social fabric of the metropolis was merely an automatic matter for Selwyn.
His own people had always been among the makers of that fabric. Into part of its vast and intricate pattern they had woven an inconspicuously honourable record—chronicles of births and deaths and marriages, a plain memorandum of plain living, and upright dealing with their fellow men.
Some public service of modest nature they had performed, not seeking it, not shirking; accomplishing it cleanly when it was intrusted to them.
His forefathers had been, as a rule, professional men—physicians and lawyers; his grandfather died under the walls of Chapultepec Castle while twisting a tourniquet for a cursing dragoon; an uncle remained indefinitely at Malvern Hill; an only brother at Montauk Point having sickened in the trenches before Santiago.
His father’s services as division medical officer in Sheridan’s cavalry had been, perhaps, no more devoted, no more loyal than the services of thousands of officers and troopers; and his reward was a pension offer, declined. He practised until his wife died, then retired to his country home, from which house his daughter Nina was married to Austin Gerard.
Mr. Selwyn, senior, continued to pay his taxes on his father’s house in Tenth Street, voted in that district, spent a month every year with the Gerards, read a Republican morning newspaper, and judiciously enlarged the family reservation in Greenwood—whither he retired, in due time, without other ostentation than half a column in the Evening Post, which paper he had, in life, avoided.
The first gun off the Florida Keys sent Selwyn’s only brother from his law office in hot haste to San Antonio—the first etape on his first and last campaign with Wood’s cavalry.
That same gun interrupted Selwyn’s connection with Neergard & Co., operators in Long Island real estate; and, a year later, the captaincy offered him in a Western volunteer regiment operating on the Island of Leyte, completed the rupture.
* * * * *
And now he was back again, a chance career ended, with option of picking up the severed threads—his inheritance at the loom—and of retying them, warp and weft, and continuing the pattern according to the designs of the tufted, tinted pile-yarn, knotted in by his ancestors before him.