‘That ended my last doubt,’ he went on quietly. ’I knew then that if I could summon the necessary language to express the vision I saw, my message would sound clear above the guns. I completed three articles—“A Fool There Was,” “When Hell Laughed,” and “Gods of Jingoism.” I gave them to my London agent, but you would have thought they held germs of disease. He brought them back to me, and said that no one would dare to publish them in England. In other words, the English couldn’t stand the truth. I sent them on to New York. This is my agent’s reply.’
He took a letter from a file on the table and handed it to his guest. ‘Read it,’ he said.
With an inscrutable smile the Cambridge-American looked at the paper and read:
’NEW YORK, 10th October 1914.
DEAR MR. SELWYN,—You will be pleased to know that I have succeeded in placing your articles “When Hell Laughed,” “A Fool There Was,” and “Gods of Jingoism” with a prominent newspaper syndicate. The price paid was $800 each, and I herewith remit my cheque for $2160, having deducted the usual commission. I have every reason to believe that any further articles you send will meet with a ready market, especially if they follow along the same lines of exposing the utter futility of war. As a matter of fact, this syndicate is prepared to pay even a higher price if these articles, which will be published all over the United States, meet with the approval they confidently expect.
’Assuring you of my desire to be of service to you, I remain, yours very sincerely,
‘S. T. LYONS.’
‘Very nice, too,’ murmured Watson at the conclusion of the letter. ‘Who says that high ideals don’t pay?’
‘What do you mean?’ said Selwyn sternly. The younger man got up from his chair and looked at his watch. ‘Don’t get shirty,’ he said. ’I was only thinking that 800 per is a fairly healthy figure for that dope.’
‘I don’t give a damn for the money,’ said Selwyn hotly, ’except that it shows there is a demand in America for the truth. Britain has always been afraid to face facts. Thank God, America isn’t.’
‘Well,’ said Watson with a slight yawn, ’it’s quite obvious that we’re as far apart as the poles on that question, so I think I’ll cut along.’
’Stay and have a cup of coffee. There’s some being made; it will be here in a minute.’
’No, thanks. To be brutally frank, Austin, the ozone around here is a little too rarefied for me. I’m going out to a cab-stand somewhere to have a sandwich and a cup of tea with any Cockney who hasn’t joined the Citizenship of the World.’
With the shadows under his eyes more pronounced than before, but with the unchanging look of determination, Selwyn helped the younger man on with his coat, and handed him his hat and stick. ’I am sorry you won’t stay,’ he said calmly, ’for your abuse and sarcasm are nothing to me. When I took this step I foresaw the consequences, and, believe me, I have suffered so much already that the loss of another friend means very little.’