It was almost the last day in August, when the little British Army was fighting desperately against unthinkable odds, that a brigade of cavalry made a brave but futile charge to try to break the German grip. The —th Hussars was one of the regiments that took part, and only a remnant returned.
Staring with fixed, unseeing eyes at the blue of the sky, which was not unlike the colour of his eyes, the Honourable Malcolm Durwent lay on the field of battle, with a bullet through his heart.
THE MAN OF SOLITUDE.
In a large room overlooking St. James’s Square a man sat writing. In the shaded light his face showed haggard, and his eyes gleamed with the brilliancy of one whose blood is lit with a fever.
The clocks had just struck nine when he paused in his work, and crossing to the French windows, which opened on a little terrace, looked out at the darkened square. The restless music of London’s life played on his tired pulses. He heard the purring of limousines gliding into Pall Mall, and the vibrato of taxi-cabs whipped into action by the piercing blast of club-porters’ whistles. The noise of horses’ hoofs on the pavement echoed among the roof-tops of the houses, and beneath those outstanding sounds was the quiet staccato of endless passing feet, losing itself in the murmur of the November wind as it searched among the dead leaves lying in the little park.
He had remained there only a few minutes, when, as though he had lost too much time already, the writer returned to the table and resumed his pen.
There was a knock at the door, and he looked up with a start. ’Come in,’ he said; and a man-servant entered.
‘Will you be wanting anything, Mr. Selwyn?’
‘You haven’t been out to dinner, sir.’
‘I am not hungry.’
’Better let me make you a cup of tea with some toast, and perhaps boil an egg.’
’N—no, thanks, Smith. Well, perhaps you might make some coffee, with a little buttered toast, and just leave them here.’
‘Very good, sir.’
Although less than a year had elapsed since Austin Selwyn had first dined at Lady Durwent’s home, experience, which is more cruel than time, had marked him as a decade of ordinary life could not have done. His mind had been subjected to a burning ordeal since summer, and his drawn features and shadowed eyes showed the signs of inward conflict.
As he had said of himself, all his previous experiences and education were but a novitiate in preparation for the great moment when truth challenged his consciousness and illuminated a path for him to follow. From an intellectual dilettante, a connoisseur of the many fruits which grace life’s highway, he had become a single-purposed man aflame with burning idealism. From the sources of heredity the spirit of the Netherlands fighting against the yoke of Spain, and the instinct of revolt which lies in every Celtic breast, flowed and mingled with his own newly awakened passion for world-freedom.