“With a richer India at the back of the woods. Oh! I trust England, and Pitt, when his hour comes. England reminds me of Saul, always going forth to discover a few asses and always in the end discovering a kingdom. Other nations build the dream, dreams being no gift of hers. Then she steps in, thrusts out the dreamers, inherits the reality. America, though you laugh at it, has cost the best dreaming of two nations—Spain first, and now France—and the best blood of both. Bating Joan of Arc—a woman—France hasn’t bred a finer spirit than Montcalm’s since she bred Froissart’s men. But to what end? England will break that great heart of his.”
She was talking for talking’s sake, only anxious to divert Mrs. Hake’s ears from the conversation her own ears caught, only too plainly.
Mrs. Hake said, “I prefer to believe Mr. Castres. My brother writes that every one is quitting New York, and I’m only thankful-if war must come, over there—that we’ve taken our house on a three years’ lease only. No one troubles about Portugal, and I must say that I’ve never found a city to compare with Lisbon. The suburbs! . . . Why, this very morning I saw the city itself one pall of smoke. You’d have thought a main square was burning. Yet up here, in Buenos Ayres, it might have been midsummer. . . . The children, playing in the garden, called me out to look at the smoke. Was there a fire? I must ask Sir Oliver.”
Mrs. Hake had raised her voice; but Ruth managed to intercept the question.
All the while she was thinking, thinking to herself.—“And he, who can speak thus, once endured shame to shield me! He laughs at things infinitely crueller. . . . Yet they differ in degree only from what then stirred him to fight. . . .”
—“Have I then so far worsened him? Is the blame mine?”
—“Or did the curse but delay to work in him?—in him, my love and my hero? Was it foreordained to come to this, though I would at any time have given my life to prevent it?”
Again she thought.—“I have been wrong in holding religion to be the great cause why men are cruel,—as in believing that free-thought must needs humanise us all. Strange! that I should discover my error on this very day has showed me men being led by religion to deaths of torture. . . . Yet an error it must be. For see my lord—hear how he laughs as cruelly, even, as the devote at his elbow!”