The Red Planet eBook

William John Locke
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 300 pages of information about The Red Planet.

CHAPTER XVI

Boyce left Wellingsford that afternoon, and for many months I heard little about him.  His astonishing avowal had once more turned topsy-turvy my conception of his real nature.  I had to reconstruct the man, a very complicated task.  I had to reconcile in him all kinds of opposites—­the lusty brute and the sentimental lover; the physical coward and the baresark hero; the man with hell in his soul and the debonair gentleman.  After a vast deal of pondering, I arrived not very much nearer a solution of the problem.  The fact remained, however, that I found myself in far closer sympathy with him than ever before.  After all that he had said, I should have had a heart of stone if it had not been stirred to profound pity.  I had seen an instance both of his spell-bound cowardice and of his almost degrading craft in extrication.  That in itself repelled me.  But it lost its value in the light that he had cast on the never-ceasing torment that consumed him.  At any rate he was at death-grips with himself, strangling the devils of fear and dishonour with a hand relentlessly certain.  He appeared to me a tragic figure warring against a doom.

At first I expected every day to receive an agonised message from Mrs. Boyce announcing his death.  Then, as is the way of humans, the keenness of my apprehension grew blunted, until, at last, I took his continued existence as a matter of course.  I wrote him a few friendly letters, to which he replied in the same strain.  And so the months went on.

Looking over my diary I find that these months were singularly uneventful as far as the lives of those dealt with in this chronicle were concerned.  In the depths of our souls we felt the long-drawn-out agony of the war, with its bitter humiliations, its heartrending disappointments.  In our daily meetings one with another we cried aloud for a great voice to awaken the little folk in Great Britain from their selfish lethargy—­the little folk in high office, in smug burgessdom, in seditious factory and shipyard.  They were months of sordid bargaining between all sections of our national life, in the murk of which the glow of patriotism seemed to be eclipsed.  And in the meantime, the heroic millions from all corners of our far-flung Empire were giving their lives on land and sea, gaily and gallantly, too often in tragic futility, for the ideals to which the damnable little folk at home were blind.  The little traitorous folk who gambled for their own hands in politics, the little traitorous folk who put the outworn shibboleths of a party before the war-cry of an Empire, the little traitorous folk who strove with all their power to starve our navy of ships, our ships of coal, our men in the trenches of munitions, our armies of men, our country of honour—­ all these will one day be mercilessly arraigned at the bar of history.  The plains of France, the steeps of Gallipoli, the swamps of Mesopotamia, the Seven Seas will give up their dead as witnesses.

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The Red Planet from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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