’It was an accident. I said nothing to you about it, but I thought that perhaps you needed me a little, that it might be my privilege to share your sorrow. And to-night, dear, I know that together we could work and live, and be a tremendous power for good.’
Her face, which had gone strangely pale, was darkened by a return of the crimson flush.
‘Do you think I’d marry you,’ she exclaimed scornfully—’a man who counsels treason?’
‘I counsel loyalty to the higher citizenship.’
‘H’mm!’ Her shoulders contracted, and forcing her wrists free of his hands, she looked haughtily into his burning eyes. ’You had better go back to America and tell them there of this ignorant little island whose men are so crude and stupid that when the King calls they go to war.’
’I would rather marry the poorest groom in our stables than you. He would at least be a man.’
’I have not deserved this, Elise. God knows I am no more a coward than other men, but I feel that I have seen a great truth which demands my loyalty.’
‘It is easier to be loyal to a truth than to a country.’
’You know you are wrong when you say that. Come—we are both unnerved to-night. Perhaps I was injudicious to speak at a time when I should have known that you would be overwrought, but I could not keep back the love which you must have read’——
’Please, Mr. Selwyn, you must never mention that again. I don’t want to marry you. I don’t want to marry any one. I always said that a women’s rebellion would come, and I feel in my blood that it has started to-night. I don’t know how, or when, or where, but I am going to join it and’——
‘Then you agree with me?’ he cried eagerly. ’You feel that the women of this country should rise, and try to prevent this catastrophe?’
‘You fool,’ she said, half in pity, but with a sneer; ’you poor blind American! Yes, there’s going to be a revolution against conventions, Society, customs, morality, for all I know. They’re all going overboard. We’ve hoisted the black flag to-night, but with one, and only one, object—to help Britain and the men of Britain to fight!’
* * * * * *
And the British Fleet, at the King’s command, was steaming out into the night.
THE HONOURABLE MALCOLM DURWENT STARTS ON A JOURNEY.
An early morning mist hung over the fields of Roselawn. From his nest in the branches of a tree, a bird chirruped dubiously, as though to assure himself even against his better judgment that the rain was only a threat. The woods which bordered the meadows were blurred into a foreboding, formless black, like a fringe of mourning, and the distant hills stood sentinels at the sepulchre of nature.