“Don’t say that to them; I should never see them again.”
Felix, who felt the instinctive wisdom of that remark, answered helplessly:
“What’s to be done, then?”
“Sit tight.” And Tod’s hand came down on Felix’s shoulder.
“But suppose they get into real trouble? Stanley and John don’t like it; and there’s Mother.” And Felix added, with sudden heat, “Besides, I can’t stand Nedda being made anxious like this.”
Tod removed his hand. Felix would have given a good deal to have been able to see into the brain behind the frowning stare of those blue eyes.
“Can’t help by worrying. What must be, will. Look at the birds!”
The remark from any other man would have irritated Felix profoundly; coming from Tod, it seemed the unconscious expression of a really felt philosophy. And, after all, was he not right? What was this life they all lived but a ceaseless worrying over what was to come? Was not all man’s unhappiness caused by nervous anticipations of the future? Was not that the disease, and the misfortune, of the age; perhaps of all the countless ages man had lived through?
With an effort he recalled his thoughts from that far flight. What if Tod had rediscovered the secret of the happiness that belonged to birds and lilies of the field—such overpowering interest in the moment that the future did not exist? Why not? Were not the only minutes when he himself was really happy those when he lost himself in work, or love? And why were they so few? For want of pressure to the square moment. Yes! All unhappiness was fear and lack of vitality to live the present fully. That was why love and fighting were such poignant ecstasies—they lived their present to the full. And so it would be almost comic to say to those young people: Go away; do nothing in this matter in which your interest and your feelings are concerned! Don’t have a present, because you’ve got to have a future! And he said:
“I’d give a good deal for your power of losing yourself in the moment, old boy!”
“That’s all right,” said Tod. He was examining the bark of a tree, which had nothing the matter with it, so far as Felix could see; while his dog, who had followed them, carefully examined Tod. Both were obviously lost in the moment. And with a feeling of defeat Felix led the way back to the cottage.
In the brick-floored kitchen Derek was striding up and down; while around him, in an equilateral triangle, stood the three women, Sheila at the window, Kirsteen by the open hearth, Nedda against the wall opposite. Derek exclaimed at once:
“Why did you let them, Father? Why didn’t you refuse to give him up?”
Felix looked at his brother. In the doorway, where his curly head nearly touched the wood, Tod’s face was puzzled, rueful. He did not answer.
“Any one could have said he wasn’t here. We could have smuggled him away. Now the brutes have got him! I don’t know that, though—” And he made suddenly for the door.