Living as he did in a sort of ecstasy by reason of his suddenly realised world-citizenship, Selwyn’s incipient feeling of godlikeness developed still further under the spell of isolation. The fact that he trod the realm of thought, while all around him men and women grappled with the problems of war, only accentuated this condition of mind.
He suffered—that was true. He missed the companionship of kindred spirits, and sometimes his memory would play truant, recalling the pleasant glitter of sterling silver and conversational electroplate which accompanied his former London dinner-parties. He did not dare to think of Elise at all. She was the intoxicating climax of his past life. She was the blending of his life’s melodies into a brief, tender nocturne of love that his heart would never hear again.
In place of all that, he had the spiritual vanity of martyrdom. Few voyagers but have felt the exultation of mid-ocean: that desire of the soul to leap the distance to the skies and claim its kinship to the stars. It comes to men on the Canadian prairies; it throbs in one’s blood when the summit of a mountain is reached; it is borne on the wings of the twilight harmonies in a lonely forest.
Unknown to himself, perhaps, that was Selwyn’s compensation. From his hermit’s seclusion in the great metropolis he felt the thrill of one who challenges the gods.
His man-servant had hardly left the room when the bell in the front hall rang, and Smith reappeared to announce a visitor.
‘Who is it?’ asked Selwyn.
‘A Mr. Watson, sir.’
‘I wonder if it can be Doug Watson of Cambridge. Bring him right up.’
A moment later a young man entered the cosily shaded room, and they met with the hearty hand-clasp and the sincere good-feeling which come when a man who is abroad meets a friend who is a fellow-countryman. The new-comer was younger than Selwyn, and though of lighter complexion and hair, was unmistakably American in appearance. Like the author, he was clean-shaven, but there was more repose in the features. His face was broad, and in the poise of his head and thick neck there was the clear impression of great physical and mental driving-power. Although still a student, the mark of the engineer was strongly stamped on him. He was of the type that spans a great river with a bridge; that glories in the overcoming of obstacles by sheer domination of will.
‘Well, Doug,’ said Selwyn as they drew their chairs up to the fire, ‘when did you leave Cambridge?’
‘Last week,’ said the other. ’I couldn’t stand it any longer with every one gone. I don’t think that one of the bunch I played around with is there now.’
‘That was a bully week-end I had with you at the university.’
‘We sure had a good time, didn’t we?’
‘But how did you know I was here?’