And Austin Selwyn, the idealist, little thought that he was applying to Elise Durwent the same philosophy as Prussia was applying to Europe.
But of one thing he was certain—much as he loved her (and at the thought his heart grew heavy with longing), his words on war had not been the idle declaimings of a sophist. There was a higher citizenship; the world was wrong to allow this war; and ignorance was the foe of mankind.
He would not withdraw from that platform. Duty was not something from which a man could step lightly aside. All his writings, all his thoughts, all his half-worked-out philosophies had been but training for this great moment. And now that it had come he would not prove renegade.
He would write with the language of inspiration. The agony of Man would be his spur, so that neither fatigue nor indifference could impede his labours. With the tears of the world he would pen such works that people everywhere would see the beacon-light of truth, and by it steer their troubled course.
Five miles he covered in little more than an hour, and with the returning sense of strength his purpose grew in firmness.
The call of the Universal Mind had penetrated through the labyrinth of life as the sound of the hunting-horn through leafy woods. There must be millions, he knew, who were of that great unison, kept from ensemble by the absence of co-ordination, by the lack of self-expression. It might not be for him to do more than help to light the torch, but, once lit, it would burst into flame, and the man to carry it would then come forward, as he had always done since ages immemorial when a world-crisis called for a world-man.
A sudden weakness crept into his blood. He was nearing home, and in a few minutes would see her again. If only he could have left the previous night on some pretext—but now he would have to wait until the afternoon at least. How strange it was to think of losing her! How wedded his subconscious thoughts had been to living out the future with her as his revelation of Heaven’s poetry! Would he have the courage to maintain his purpose, or, at the sight of her, would he throw himself at her feet, and, admitting failure, plead for mercy to the vanquished?
No. A thousand times no. Anything but that.
Reaching the clearing in the woods, he paused as the ivy-covered towers of Roselawn were presented to his gaze. With a characteristic working of his shoulders he drew himself to his full height, and his jaws and lips were set in implacable determination.
The mist still clung to the earth, but over the north-east tower of Roselawn he could see the sun, monstrous and red, looming with its sullen threat of heat.