He had left Roselawn with a formal good-bye taken of the whole family together. He had avoided the eyes of Elise, and she had made no attempt to alter the impersonal nature of the parting. Reaching London, he had been offered these rooms in St. James’s Square by an American, resident in London, whose business compelled him to go to New York for an indefinite period. As Selwyn felt the need for absolute aloofness, he had gladly accepted.
Hardly waiting to unpack his ‘grips,’ he at once began his battle of the written word, his crusade against the origin and the fruits of Ignorance as shown by the war.
Always a writer of sure technique and facile vocabulary, he let the intensity of his spirit focus on the subject. He knew that to make his voice heard above the clamour of war his language must have the transcendent quality of inspiration. No composer searching for the motif of a great moving theme ever approached his instrument with deeper emotional artistry than Selwyn brought to bear on the language which was to ring out his message.
He felt that words were potential jewels which, when once the rays of his mind had played upon them, would be lit with the fire of magic. Words of destiny like blood-hued rubies; words fraught with ominous opal warning; words that glittered with the biting brilliance of diamonds—they were his to link together with thought: he was their master. The necromancy of language was his to conjure with.
Day after day, and into the long hours of the night, he wrote, destroying pages as he read them, refining, changing, rewriting, always striving for results which would show no signs of construction, but only breathe with life. When fatigue sounded its warnings he disregarded them, and spurred himself on with the thought of the thousands dying daily at the front. He saw no one. His former London acquaintances were engrossed in affairs of war, and made no attempt to seek him out. It was his custom to have breakfast and luncheon in his rooms; at dinner-time he would traverse the streets until he found some little-used restaurant, and then, selecting a deserted corner, would eat his meal alone. The walk there and back to his rooms was the only exercise he permitted himself, except occasionally, when, late at night, cramped fingers and bloodshot eyes would no longer obey the lashing of the will, and he would venture out for an hour’s stroll through night-shrouded London.
Prowling about from square to square, through deserted alleys, and by slumbering parks, he would feel the cumulative destinies of the millions of sleeping souls bearing on his consciousness. Solitude in a metropolis, unlike that of the country, which merely lulls or tends to the purifying of thought, intensifies the moods of a man like strong liquor. He who lives alone among millions courts all the mad fancies that his brain is heir to. Insanity, perversion, incoherent idealism, fanaticism—these are the offspring of unnatural detachment from one’s fellows, and in turn give birth to the black moods of revolt against each and every thing that is.