Weary, weary hours—the inactivity of the body lending fuel to the flames of his mind. He determined to dismiss her from his thoughts, and with his power of mental discipline he reduced his mood to one of mute resignation.
Then the thought of America came to him, and he was seized with an impetuous craving for his own country, his own land, where men’s natures were broad and mountainous, like America itself. He pictured New York towering into the skies, the charming homes of Boston, where so many happy hours had been spent in genial, cultured controversy. He smelt the ozone of the West, where sandy plains melted into the horizon; where men lived in the open, and a man was your friend for no better reason than that he was following the same trail as yourself.
America. . . . He was impatient now of every day that kept him in England. He felt that his emotions, his brain, his convictions would all be rudderless until he breathed once more the air of the New World, with its vassal oceans bringing tribute to both Eastern and Western coasts.
He would not call himself a failure or a success until he looked on his handiwork in the light of the great Republic. As his ancestors leaving the shores of Holland and Ireland, as millions of men and women had done with the Old World dwindling away in the distance, he looked towards America for the answer to existence.
Ten days after his admission he was allowed to leave the hospital for his rooms in St. James’s Square.
He took his leave of the little group who had been his companions for the time—the little Cockney with his incessant exuberance; the French-Canadian, picturesque of language and imagination; the one remaining Australian, vigorous of thought and forceful of temperament; the nurse, carrying Florence Nightingale’s lamp through the blackness of war. He tried to say a little of what was bursting for utterance, but they only laughed and fenced it off. They wished him ‘Cheerio—good-bye—good luck;’ and he wondered if the whole realm of lived or written drama held any farewell more sublimely expressive of a great people enduring to the uttermost.
His servant had a taxi-cab waiting for him. Driving first to a florist’s, he purchased roses for the nurse; then, stopping at a tobacconist’s, he left a generous order for all the occupants of the ward. After that he went directly to the American Consul’s office and made arrangements for his return to New York.
It was late in December when, driving to Waterloo to catch the boat-train to Southampton, Selwyn was held up in the Strand by the crush of people welcoming the arrival of Red Cross trains from the front.
Leaning out of the window, he watched the motor-cars and ambulances coming out from the station courtyard, while London’s people, as they had done from the beginning, welcomed the unknown wounded with waving handkerchiefs and flowers, with hearts that wept and faces that bravely smiled.