Later in the night men came with lanterns who carried him away. A doctor said that there was the usual chance for partial recovery. But it was the last excitement he could ever venture to indulge in. His own doctors had warned him often enough. Now he had learned something, but not as much as Alixe had already learned. And perhaps he never would; but no man knows such things with the authority to speak of them.
Nine days is the period of time allotted the human mind in which to wonder at anything. In New York the limit is much less; no tragedy can hold the boards as long as that where the bill must be renewed three times u day to hold even the passing attention of those who themselves are eternal understudies in the continuous metropolitan performance. It is very expensive for the newspapers, but fortunately for them there is always plenty of trouble in the five boroughs, and an occasional catastrophe elsewhere to help out.
So they were grateful enough that the Edgewater tragedy lasted them forty-eight hours, and on the forty-ninth they forgot it.
In society it was about the same. Ruthven was evidently done for; that the spark of mere vitality might linger for years in the exterior shell of him familiar to his world, concerned that world no more. Interest in him was laid aside with the perfunctory finality with which the memory of Alixe was laid away.
As for Selwyn, a few people noticed his presence at the services; but even that episode was forgotten before he left the city, six hours later, under an invitation from Washington which admitted of no delay on the score of private business or of personal perplexity. For the summons was peremptory, and his obedience so immediate that a telegram to Austin comprised and concluded the entire ceremony of his leave-taking.
Later he wrote a great many letters to Eileen Erroll—not one of which he ever sent. But the formality of his silence was no mystery to her; and her response was silence as profound as the stillness in her soul. But deep into her young heart something new had been born, faint fire, latent, unstirred; and her delicate lips rested one on the other in the sensitive curve of suspense; and her white fingers, often now interlinked, seemed tremulously instinct with the exquisite tension hushing body and soul in breathless accord as they waited in unison.
* * * * *
Toward the end of March the special service battleship squadron of the North Atlantic fleet commenced testing Chaosite in the vicinity of the Southern rendezvous. Both main and secondary batteries were employed. Selwyn had been aboard the flag-ship for nearly a month.
In April the armoured ships left the Southern drill ground and began to move northward. A destroyer took Selwyn across to the great fortress inside the Virginia Capes and left him there. During his stay there was almost constant firing; later he continued northward as far as Washington; but it was not until June that he telegraphed Austin: