‘Put me down, Austin. There! you’ll be tired.’
But her feet had touched the ground, and she was away again by herself, like a tantalising sprite of the woods. The errant lock had been joined in its mutiny by a wealth of dark-hued, auburn hair, blowing free in the reckless summer breeze.
Out of the estate and along the highway, shadowed by tall bushes; past cottages hiding in snug retreat of vines and flowers; past the cross-roads, with their sign-post standing like a gibbet waiting its prize; past the inn on the outskirts of the village, with its creaking sign, and its neighing horses in the stable; past the church on the rise of the hill, with its graveyard and its ivy-covered steeple—and then the village.
Gathered in the square they could see a group of people listening to a man who was reading something aloud.
‘It’s the rector,’ said Elise. ’Let us wait a minute. Can you hear what he is saying?’
The voice had stopped, and the crowd broke into a cheer that echoed strangely on the night-air. It had hardly died away when a quavering, high-pitched voice started ‘God Save the King,’ and with a sturdy indifference to pitch the rest followed, the octogenarian who had begun it sounding clear above the others as he half-whistled and half-sang the anthem through his two remaining teeth.
‘That’s old Hills!’ cried Elise, laughing hysterically. ’He was at Sebastopol.’
The crowd was coming away.
Some were boisterous, others silent. A girl was laughing, but there was a strange look in her eyes. Bounding ahead in high appreciation of the village’s nocturnal behaviour, a nondescript hound was preceding an elderly widow who was weeping quietly as with faltering step she clung to the arm of her son, who was carrying himself with a new erectness.
Behind them walked Mathews the groom, corn-cob pipe and all, shaking his head argumentatively and squaring his shoulders.
An Empire had declared war.
Elise entered the post-office to telephone the news to Roselawn, and Selwyn was left alone. It was only for a few minutes, but in that brief space of time his whole being underwent a vital crisis, which was not only to change the course of his own life, but was to affect thousands who would never meet him.
The creative mind is ever elusive and unexpected in its workings. In it the masculine and feminine temperaments are fused. It leaps to conclusions—erroneous maybe, but sustained by the feminine conviction that what is instinctive must be true. Selwyn’s was essentially a creative mind, prone to emotionalism and to inspiration. With men of his type logic is largely retrogressive: the conclusion is reached first; the reasons follow.
A few days before his imagination had been strangely stirred by the swiftness of thought which at twilight in England could visualise New York at noon. Simple though the scientific explanation might be, it had left him with a sense of detachment, almost as if he were on Olympus and the world spread out below for him to gaze upon.