With a suppressed cry, Selwyn opened the door and leaped into the crowd. He had seen her driving one of the ambulances, and he fought his way furiously through the human mass to the open roadway. But it was useless. The ambulance had disappeared.
Struggling back to the taxi, he re-entered it, and turning round, made for Waterloo Bridge by way of the Embankment.
From a sheltered position on the hurricane-deck, Austin Selwyn watched the curtain of night descending on England’s coast. Portsmouth, with its thousand naval activities, was already lost to view off the ship’s stern; and the Isle of Wight was but a dark margin on the water’s edge.
Not a light was to be seen on shore. Like an uninhabited island, England lay in the mingled menace and protection of the sea, while unseen eyes kept their endless vigil.
The vibration from the ship’s engines told him she was gathering speed. Impatient of the six days that must elapse before harbour could be reached, he walked to the front of the deck and watched the officers on the bridge peering into the darkness ahead.
When he retraced his steps he could no longer distinguish land. Two searchlights playing on the surface of the water revealed a cruiser steaming silently out to sea.
A feeble star appeared in the sky.
* * * * * *
A clear winter sunlight touching the green, swirling water with strands of yellow gold; a wind sweeping the ship’s decks, blowing boisterously down companion-ways and along the corridors; a few shimmering snowflakes from an almost cloudless sky; everywhere the vastness of ocean. And the ship buffeting its way towards the New World.
* * * * * *
The City of New York.
Anchored down the bay just after sunset, Selwyn watched the great metropolis as her form was vitalised with a million lights. From the ship’s side, it seemed to the eyes watching the birth of New York’s night that the buildings had come to the very water’s edge to gaze into its depths, and see their own reflection.
Here and there in the outline of great buildings a mammoth structure raised its head above all others, losing itself in the foam of light that floated mist-like over the city’s towering majesty.
For more than two hours Selwyn remained motionless in the thrill of patriotism. The burst of light challenging the reign of darkness was a symbol to him. The Old World was crouching in darkness, fingering and fearing the assassin’s knife. . . . But America was the Spirit of Light.
How many times, he thought, emigrants must have looked on just as he was doing! How many times that sight must have brought hope to weary, discouraged souls that never thought to hope again!