‘Don’t you think,’ she said, ’that you ought to go to the seaside for a while? You are not looking at all well.’
His lips grew firmer, but there was a curious look in his eyes as he turned towards her. ‘I have work to do here,’ he said crisply.
’I know—but surely’——
‘In London,’ he said—and there was a suggestion of the fanatic’s ecstasy in his voice—’it is impossible to forget life. I don’t want my mind soothed or lulled. You can always hear the challenge of the human destiny in London. It cries out to you everywhere. It’—— He had held his head erect, and had spoken louder than was his custom; but, checking himself, he made a queer, dramatic gesture with his hands.
The fire of his spirit swept over her. Once more she stood close to him, as she had done so many times in her thoughts. She did not know whether she loved or detested him. She was fascinated—trembling—longing for him to force her to surrender in his arms—knowing that she would hate him if he did. She gave a little cry as Selwyn, almost as if he read her conflicting thoughts, took her arms with his hands once more.
‘If we had both been English,’ he said, and his voice was so parched that it seemed to have been scorched by his spirit, ’or if we had met in other times than these, things might have been different. I know what you think of me for the work I am doing, but it would be as impossible for me to give it up as for you to think as I do. We come of two different worlds, you and I. . . . I am sorry we have met to-night. For me, at least, it has reopened old wounds. And it is all so useless.’
She made no reply; but as his eyes were lowered to her face, and he saw once more the trembling lips, her unsoiled womanliness, her whole vivid, lonely, gripping charm, a look of suffering crossed his face. He realised the hopelessness of it all, but the admission was like tearing out a thread which had been woven into the whole scheme of his being.
‘We both have our work to do,’ he said wearily, letting his arms drop to his side.
She answered, but did not give him her hand. With a repetition of the farewell he left her, and she walked musingly into the room again. She felt a flush of anger at his daring to say their friendship was impossible, when she had not even suggested that it could ever be resumed. His vanity knew no bounds. She was furious at having let him hold her as he did—even more furious with the knowledge that she would not have resisted if he had kissed her.
Two summers came and went, and the little park in St. James’s Square rested once more beneath its covering of autumn leaves.
Selwyn, who was still occupying the rooms of the absent New Yorker, was looking over his morning mail. The thinning of his hair at the temples was more pronounced, and here and there was the warning of premature gray. He had lost flesh, but his face had steadied into a set grimness, and his mouth had the firmness of one who had fought a long uphill fight.