To the idealist returning to his own country, New York was not a citadel guarding the entrance to a Nation, but a gateway opening to the Continent of Opportunity.
THE GREAT NEUTRAL.
One afternoon a tall, heavily built young man entered his house on 128th Street, New York, and after divesting himself of his coat and hat, rubbed his hands in genial appreciation of his own hearth and the exclusion of the raw outside air. He was dressed in a gray lounge suit, a clerical collar alone denoting his vocation.
‘There’s a gentleman in your room, Mr. Forbes,’ said his housekeeper, appearing from the kitchen. ’He said he was an old friend, and would wait.’
‘What’s his name?’
‘Mr. Selwyn, sir.’
‘Austin Selwyn? By George!’ Taking the stairs three at a time, the energetic clergyman burst into the library and advanced with both hands outstretched. ‘For the love of Pete!’ he ejaculated most unclerically. ’How are you, my boy? Let me have a look at you. Still the same old Sel, eh? A little thinner, I think, and not quite so much hair—humph! Sit down; have that easy-chair; tell me all about yourself. Well, well! this is an unexpected treat.’
The Rev. Edgerton Forbes, who had been looking Selwyn over after the custom of tailors about to offer sartorial advice, ceased his inspection, and shook hands all over again.
‘Edge,’ said Selwyn, speaking for the first time, ’you can’t imagine what your welcome means to me.’
‘My dear boy, you never doubted its warmth?’
‘Yes I did, old man—after what I’ve been writing.’
The athletic clergyman laughed uproariously. ’I suppose you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Englishman now, and want your cup of tea. Well, I’ll join you.—Mrs. Perkins.’ Going to the door, he gave the necessary orders, and returned rubbing his hands, and venting his surplus energy in a variety of hearty noises expressive of pleasure at seeing his old friend.
‘Now, start at the beginning,’ he said, ’and give me everything. The semaphore’s up, and there’s a clear track ahead.’
‘But I want to know about things here first.’
’After you, my son. Put it over now. By the way, that’s a nasty scar on your head. How did you get it?’
In a few words Selwyn traced the course of events which had led to his crusade against Ignorance, a crusade which had in an inexplicable way turned particularly against England. He spoke of Doug Watson’s letter with its description of the slaughtered German boy, and he told of the air-raid in the moonlight, the climax to his long orgy of idealism. He touched lightly and humorously on his hospital experience, but not once did he mention the inner secret of his heart. To the whole recital Forbes listened with a genuineness and a bigness of sympathy which seemed to belong to his body as well as his mind.