What, he questioned, had he accomplished, after all? He had gained the ears of millions, but the war was no nearer a close. America was neutral—that was true. But why was America neutral? Had he falsely idealised his own country? Was her aloofness from the world-war the result of a passionate, overwhelming realisation of her God-deputed destiny, as he had imagined?
Hitherto he had paid no attention to the writings in the English press chronicling the passing of the world’s gold reserve from London to New York. He had ignored the evidence of nation-wide prosperity from the Atlantic coast to San Francisco. All such things he had dismissed as unavoidable, unsought material results of America’s spiritual neutrality.
Yet, while the wheels of prosperity were turning at such a pitch, there was a boy lying dead—about eighteen.
He beat his fist into the palm of his hand. Who was this Schneider who had purchased the foreign rights of his articles? What sort of a man was this Benjamin who wanted him to lecture? Were they, as he had supposed, men of vision who wished to co-operate in achieving the great unison of Right? . . . Or were they . . . ?
The thought was hideous. Was it possible that those writings, born of his mental torture, robbing him of every friend he valued—–was it thinkable that they had been used for gross purposes?
His fingers again played rapidly against the windows as he wrestled with the sudden ugly suspicion. At last, utterly exhausted, he sank into a chair.
‘There is only one thing I can do,’ he said decisively; ’return to America at once. If, as I have thought, her neutrality is in tune with the highest; if my fellow-countrymen are imbued with such a spirit of infinite mercifulness that from them will flow the healing streams to cure the wounds of bleeding Europe, then I have carried a lamp whose light reflects the face of God. . . . But if . . .’
That night a glorious moonlight silvered the roof-tops of old London, touching its jumbled architecture with fantastic beauty.
Vagrant towers and angular church spires, uninspired statuary, and weary, smoke-darkened trees shed their garments of commonplaceness and shimmered like the mosques and turrets of an enchanted city.
It was one of those nights that are sent to remind us that Beauty still lives; a night to challenge our mad whirl of bargaining and barter, to urge us to raise our eyes from the grubbing crawling of avarice; a night to awaken old memories, and to stir the pent-up streams of poetry lying asleep in every breast.
It was a moonlight that descended on Old England’s troubled heart as a benediction. Her rivers were glimmering paths winding about the country-side; her villages and her heavy-scented country lanes shared its caress with open meadows and murky cities. The sea, binding the little islands in its turbulent immensity, drew the night’s beauty to its bosom, and the spray of foam rising from the surf was a shower of star-dust leaping towards the moon.