‘Moorewell heard about it,’ went on Durwent, ’and though the blackguard had discarded her, he grew jealous, and began his devilry again. She did not tell me, but I know for a long time she was as true to me as I was to her. Then they went to Paris—I believe he promised to marry her there. A week later I got a letter from her, begging forgiveness. He had left her, she said, and she was going away where I should never find her again. My first impulse was to follow her—and then I started to drink. God! what nights those were! I waited my time. I watched Moorewell until one night I knew he was alone. I forced an entrance, and caught him in his library. . . . As I said before, I was drunk; and that’s what saved his life. I thought at the time he was dead; and having no money, I caught a late train, and hid all night and next day in the woods at Roselawn. Three times I saw Elise, but she was never alone; but that night I called her with a cry of the night-jar which she had taught me. She came out, and I told her as much as I could; and with her necklace I raised some money and got away.’
Again the murmured words came to a close. Selwyn searched his mind for some comment to make, but none would come. He could not offer sympathy or condolence—Durwent wasn’t seeking that. It was impossible to condemn, or to suggest a new start in life, because the young fellow was not trying to justify his actions. Yet it seemed such a tragedy to look helplessly on without one effort to change the floating course of the driftwood.
‘Durwent,’ he said haltingly, ’it’s not too late for you to start over again. If you will go to America, I have friends there who would give you every opening and’——
‘You’re an awfully decent chap,’ said Durwent, once more touching Selwyn’s hand with his; ’but I shall not come back from the war. I felt that the moment I stepped on shore yesterday. I felt it again when that fellow spoke to me in the tavern. It may come soon, or it may be a long time, but this is the end.’
‘No, no,’ said Selwyn earnestly; ’all that’s the effect of your chill. It has left you depressed.’
‘You don’t understand,’ said the lad, smiling with closed eyes, ’or you wouldn’t say that. I said before that it means a lot, when a man’s down, to be able to see a little light ahead. . . . I can see that now again. . . . It doesn’t matter what I’ve been or done—I can go out there now, and die like a gentleman. War gives us poor devils that chance. . . . You know what I mean. My life has been no damned use to any one, Selwyn, but they won’t care about that in France. To die in the trenches—that’s my last chance to do something . . . to do something that counts.’
Selwyn leaned over and patted the lad on his shoulder. ‘Dick,’ he said, ’wait until the morning, and all these fancies will clear from your mind. We’ll discuss everything then together.’