Flowers, rearing their lovely necks for the first caress of the sun, drooped disconsolately, their petals like the lips of a maid who has waited in vain for the coming of her lover. Cattle in the fields moved restlessly from one spot to another, finding the grass sour and unpalatable. Through the damp-charged air the melancholy plaint of a single cow sounded like the warning of rocks on a foggy coast.
In the air which was unstirred by a breath of wind the very buildings of Roselawn seemed strangely motionless, with their roofs glistening in their covering of moisture. And through an archway of trees the distant spire of the church on the hill rose above the mist as a symbol held aloft by some smoke-shrouded martyr of the past.
A hound with apologetic tail came stealthily from the house and made for the cover of the stables. A horse rattled its headstall and pawed the flooring with a restless hoof.
With a feeling of chill in the air, Selwyn rose at seven, and dressing himself quickly, left the house for a walk before breakfast. His body was fatigued from the long vigil of the mind which had kept at bay all but a short hour of sleep, but he felt the necessity of exercise, as though in the striding of limbs his torturing thoughts might lessen their thumbscrew grip.
His feet grew heavy in the thick dew of the grass, as he plunged across the fields to a path which led through the woods, where squirrels, coquetting with the intruder, dared him to follow to the summit of the oaks.
Heedless of the morning’s melancholy, yet unconsciously soothed by its calm solace, he went briskly forward, and his blood, sluggish from inaction, leaped through his veins and coloured the shadowed pallor of his face with a glow of warmth.
He had lost her.
That was the dominant note of his thoughts. What a jest the Fates had prepared for him that the very moment when the incoherencies of his life were crystallised by a great flash of truth—the very moment when he had felt the overwhelming impulse to consecrate his life in a crusade against Ignorance—that same instant should witness the snapping of the silk threads of his love!
How scornful she had been—as if he were something unclean, too low a thing for her to touch! This girl, whom he had pitied for her loneliness—this woman who had ridiculed the life of England and declared that it was stifling her—had said that the glory of war was in her blood. She had called him a fool because he dared to say that carnage was wrong. He had thought her an advanced thinker; she was a reactionary of the most pronounced type.
A feeling of fury whipped his pulses. Confound her and her unbridled tongue! What a fool he had been to woo her! One might as well try to coax a wild horse into submission. She would have to be conquered; she should be brought into subjugation by the stronger will of a man, for only through surrender would she achieve her own happiness. At present she resented equally the conquering of herself physically and mentally. For her own sake she must be taught the perversion of her outlook on life.