The four or five intervening months, commencing with that tragic night in the Ravenscourt Park studio, had wrought a great change in Jack; though it was more internal, perhaps, than external. His old friends would promptly have recognized the returned war-artist, laden with honors that he did not care a jot for. He looked fit, and his step was firm and elastic. His cheeks were deeply bronzed and well filled out. A severe bullet wound and a sharp attack of fever had led to his being peremptorily ordered home as soon as he was convalescent, and the sea voyage had worked wonders and built up his weakened constitution. But he was altered, none the less. There were hard lines about his mouth and forehead, and in his eyes was a listless, weary, cynical look—the look of a man who finds life a care and a burden almost beyond endurance.
The train was waiting, and Jack settled himself in a second-class compartment. He tossed his traveling-bag on the opposite seat, lighted a cigar, and let his thoughts wander at will. At the beginning of his great grief, when nothing could console him for the loss of Madge, the Illustrated Universe, a weekly journal, had asked him to go out to India and represent them pictorially in the Afridi campaign on the Northwest frontier. He accepted readily, with a desperate hope in his heart that he did not confide to his friends. He wasted no time in leaving London, which had become intensely hateful to him. He joined the British forces, and performed his duty faithfully, sending home sketches that immensely increased the circulation of the Universe. And he did more. At every opportunity he was in the thick of the fighting. Time and again, when he found himself with some little detachment that was cut off from the main column and harassed by the enemy, he distinguished himself for valor. He risked his life recklessly, with an unconcern that surprised his soldier comrades. But the Afridis could not kill him. He recovered from a bullet wound in the shoulder and from fever, and now he was back in England again.
It was a dreary home-coming, without pleasure or anticipation. The sense of his loss—the hopeless yearning for Madge—was but little dulled. He felt that he could never take up the threads of his old life again; he wished to avoid all who knew him. He had no plans for the future. His studio was let, and the new tenant had engaged Alphonse—Nevill had arranged this for him. He had received several letters from Jimmie, and had answered them; but neither referred to Madge in the correspondence. She was dead to him forever, he reflected with savage resentment of his cruel fate. As for Diane, she had taken his three hundred pounds—it was arranged through Nevill—and returned to the Continent. She had vowed solemnly that he should never see or hear of her again.