He watched her with the men of the party, and wondered at their good-natured endurance of her sharpness, as reckless as it was disturbing; and he saw that her inclusion among the women made them less at ease and disinclined to chatter. No matter what group she joined, she was never of it; and even when it was obvious that she was doing everything in her power to reduce her personality to the pitch of the others, her individuality branded her as something apart.
Studying her, partly subconsciously and partly with the keen observation prompted by the attraction she held for him, Selwyn began to feel the loneliness of the girl. Not once did he see the melting of eyes which comes when one person finds close affinity in the understanding of a friend. When she spoke at the table her suddenness always left a silence in its wake. At bridge her moves were so spasmodic that, when opposite dummy, she seemed to play the two cards with a simultaneous movement. The same mannerisms were in her outdoor games, a second service at tennis often following a faulty first so rapidly that her opponent would sometimes be almost unaware that more than one ball had been played.
Selwyn’s original feeling of exasperation mellowed to one of genuine pity in contemplation of her solitary life—a life directed by a restless energy that only grew in intensity with the deepening realisation of her purposelessness. Yet she was so confident in her bearing, and so capable of foiling with repartee any approach of his, that he contented himself with a studied politeness that was no more personal than the grief of an undertaker at a funeral.
One evening, after dressing for dinner, Selwyn found that he had half-an-hour to fill in, and as the smell of grass was scenting the air, he sauntered from the house and strolled across the lawn to a path which led to the trout-stream.
His mind was drowsy with a thousand half-formed ideas that lazily lay in the pan of his brain waiting the reveille of thought. A skylark twitted earth’s creatures from its aerial height. A cow, munching in endless meditation on its unfretful existence, emitted a philosophic moo.
Selwyn smiled, and let his mind wander listlessly through the fields of his impressions. He thought of Britain, and wondered what there is in the magic of that little island that fastens on one’s heart-strings even while the brain is pounding insistent criticism. For the first time the insidious beauty of Roselawn’s tranquillity was cloying the energy of his mind—a mind that never gave him rest, but was always questioning and seeking the truth in every phase of human endeavour. The peacefulness of the twilight hour was lulling his mental faculties, and the perfumes of summer’s zenith were stirring his senses like music of the Nile.