THE PARTS MEN PLAY
ARTHUR BEVERLEY BAXTER
Author of "Merrie Gentlemen," "The Airy Prince," etc.
A FEW minutes later she rose to go. "I have stayed much too long," she said. "I do hope you'll get better quickly."
He took her hand in his, but made no attempt to translate the meaning of the moment into language. He had worked against her country; while she plied her rounds of mercy, he had written on the debasement and the fallacy of it all. Lying in the wreck of his idealism, in the grip of physical pain, dreading the torture of his own thoughts—could he express what her coming had meant? He wanted to tell her of his heart-hunger, of his loneliness, his gratitude, understanding, reverence, and, above all, of his love. There was so much that it made him silent.
“Good-bye, Elise,” he said.
“Good-bye,” she answered.
That was the end. Of such paltry substance are words. “By Gar!” said the French-Canadian, looking after her as she disappeared down the ward. “She make me tink of my leetle girl Marie; only Marie, mebbe, is only so high, comme ca, and got de black hair, so! I am homeseek. Yes. It mak me verra homeseek. GodarnV’
OHE did not come again. Every morning his heart ^ quickened with hope, and each afternoon grew heavy with discouragement as the hours passed by without the step he listened for. The arrival of mail was an instant of mad expectancy and mute resignation. But every day carried its cargo of renewed hope, and he grudged the very hours of sleep that separated him from it.
He wrote to her three times—pleaded with her to come again. He begged forgiveness for omitted or committed things which might have hurt her, but no reply came. He thought of writing to Roselawn, fancying she might have gone there, but he was certain that before it could reach her she would have come again and they would only laugh at the idea of any misunderstanding.
He blamed himself for a hundred imaginary crimes. He had not asked her if she would return. . . Perhaps he had carelessly uttered words that wounded her. ... He knew her pride; knew that after their parting at the flat it must have been hard for her to make the first move towards reconciliation—and she might have mistaken his joy for petty personal triumph.
Or—had he been an utter fool? Was this her punishment of him? With the consummate artistry of her sex, had she simulated sympathy and forbearance to make his torture all the more exquisite? He dismissed the suggestion as something vile, but feeding on his doubts and longings, it grew stronger and more insistent with every hour’s passing. A hundred times a day he closed his eyes and lived the sweet memory of her visit, but with the gathering arraignments of his doubts, he wondered if it had all been the studied act of the English girl’s reprisal on the American who had dared to challenge her nation.
Weary, weary hours; the inactivity of the body lending fuel to the flames of his mind. ... He determined to dismiss her from his thoughts, and with his power of mental discipline he reduced his mood to one of mute resignation.
Then the thought of America came to him, and he was seized with an impetuous craving for his own country, his own land, where men’s natures were broad and mountainous, like America itself. He pictured New York towering into the skies, the charming homes of Boston, where so many happy hours had been spent in genial, cultured controversy. He smelt the ozone of the West, where sandy plains melted into the horizon; where men lived in the open, and a man was your friend for no better reason than that he was following the same trail as yourself.
America. . . .He was impatient now of every day that kept him in England. He felt that his emotions, his brain, his convictions would all be rudderless until he breathed once more the air of the New World with its vassal oceans bringing tribute to both East and Western coasts.
He would not call himself a failure or a success until he looked on his handiwork in the light of the great Republic. As his ancestors leaving the shores of Holland and Ireland; as millions of men and women had done with the Old World dwindling away in the distance, he looked towards America for the answer to existence.
'T'EN days after his admission he was allowed to leave the hospital for his rooms in St. James’s Square.
He took his leave of the little group who had been his companions for the time—the little Cockney with his incessant exuberance; the French-Canadian, picturesque of language and imagination; the one remaining Australian, vigorous of viewpoint and forceful of temperament; the nurse, carrying Florence Nightingale’s lamp through the blackness of war. ... He tried to say a little of what was bursting for utterance, but they only laughed and fenced it off. They wished him “Cheerio—good-bye— good luck”; and he wondered if the whole realm of lived
SYNOPSIS:—Lady Durwent, the commoner wife of anEnglish peer, has two sons, Malcolm, and Dick, the latter a headstrong lad always in trouble, and one daughter Elise. When Malcolm has joined the Guards and Elise is a beautiful debutante Lady Durwent gives a dinner in honor of a young American author, Austin Selwyn. The latter is attracted by Elise. He is invited to a house parly at the Durwent country estate. During his stay there the war breaks out and in the course of a country walk with Elise, Selwyn proposes and is refused. He returns to London the same day. The Honorable Malcolm is recalled from Scotland and is killed in a cavalry charge soon after rejoining his regiment. For the next two years Selwyn remains in London writing a series of anti-war articles for the American press. His agent in New York now suggests his returning to America to conduct a lecture tour under the auspices of a certain Mr. Beniamin. An air raid on London, the gallant fight of the wounded Selwyn to rescue a little girl from the ruins, the finding of her dead body, were part of the grim night, whose close found
him in the miliLondon hospital, him, and he unchanged viewtention of return-
orwritten drama well more subsive of a great to the utter-
His servant waiting for him.
florist's, he purchased roses for the nurse; then, stopping at a tobacconist's, he left a generous order for all the occu pants of the ward. After that he went directly to the American Consul's office and made arrangements for his return to New York.
tary ward of a There Elise visits n ounces his point and his ining to America.
held any farelimely exprespeople enduring
had a taxi-cab Driving first toa
TT WAS late in December when, driving to Waterloo to *■ catch the boat-train to Southampton, Selwyn was held up in the Strand by the crush of people welcoming the arrival of Red Cross trains from the Front.
Leaning out of the window, he watched the motor-cars and ambulances coming out from the station courtyard, while London’s people, as they had done from the beginning, welcomed the unknown wounded with waving handkerchiefs and flowers, with hearts that wept and faces that bravely smiled.
With a suppressed cry, Selwyn opened the door and leaped into the crowd. He had seen her driving one of the ambulances, and he fought his way furiously through the human mass to the open roadway. But it was useless. The ambulance had disappeared.
Struggling back to the taxi, he re-entered it, and turning round/ made for Waterloo Bridge by way of the Embankment.
CHAPTER XIX The Great Neutral
ONE afternoon a tall, heavily built young man entered his house on 128th Street, New York, and after divesting himself of his coat and hat, rubbed his hands in genial appreciation of his own hearth and the exclusion of the raw, outside air. He was dressed in a gray lounge suit, a clerical collar alone denoting his vocation.
“There’s a gentleman in your den, Mr. Forbes,” said his housekeeper, appearing from the kitchen. “He said he was an old friend, and would wait.”
“What ’s his name?”
“Mr. Selwyn, sir.”
“Austin Selwyn? By George!” Taking the stairs three at a time, the energetic clergyman burst into the library and advanced with both hands outstretched. “For the love of Pete!” he ejaculated most unclerically. “How are you, my boy? Let me have a look at you. Still the same old Sel, eh? A little thinner, I think, and not quite so much hair—humph. Sit down; have that easy-chair; tell me all about yourself. Well, well! This is an unexpected treat.”
The Rev. Edgerton Forbes, who had been looking Selwyn over after the custom of tailors about to offer sartorial advice, ceased his inspection, and shook hands all oVer
“Edge,” said Selwyn, speaking for the first time, “you can’t imagine what your welcome means to me.”
“My dear boy, you never doubted its warmth?”
“Yes, I did, old man. . . . after what I’ve been writing.” The athletic clergyman laughed uproariously. “I suppose you're a dyed-in-the-wool Englishman now, and want your cup of tea. Well, I’ll join you.-Mrs. Perkins.”
Going to the door, he gave the necessary orders and returned, rubbing his hands, and venting his surplus energy in a variety of hearty noises expressive of pleasure at seeing his old friend.
“Now, start at the beginning,” he said, “and give me everything. The semaphore’s up, and there’s a clear track ahead.”
“But I want to know about things here first.”
“After you, my son. Put it over now. By the way, that’s a nasty scar on your head. How did you get it?”
T N A FEW' words Selwyn traced the course of events which had led to his crusade against Ignorance, a crusade which had in an inexplicable way turned particularly against England. He spoke of Doug Watson’s letter with its description of the slaughtered German boy, and he told of the air-raid in the moonlight, the climax to his long orgy of idealism. He touched Lightly and humorously on his hospital experience, but not once did he mention the inner secret of his heart. To the whole recital Forbes listened with a genuineness and a bigness of sympathy which seemed to belong to his body as well as his mind.
“That is pretty well everything,” said Selwyn. “I have come back here, humble and perplexed, to try and get my bearings. There have been two men financing my stuff, and they must account to me for the uses to which they have put it. Edge, I was sincere. Not one word was written but I put my very life-blood into it.” The arrival of tea put a temporary stop to the author’s self-revelation, and his host busied himself with his hospitable duties.
Selwyn passed his hand querulously over his face. The clergyman looked at him with a feeling of pervading compassion.
“I was going to ask about Gerard Van Derwater,” said Selwyn. “How is he?”
“Van’s very well. He is in the Intelligence Division right here in New York.”
“I heard he was engaged to Marjory Shoreham.”
“Yes—he was. They broke it off a few weeks ago; or rather, she did.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” said Selwyn earnestly. "I always liked her immensely, and I was glad that poor old Van had been the lucky suitor. You remember how I used to say that he always carried a certain atmosphere of impending tragedy, although he was never gloomy or moody aboutit.”
“Well, Austin, I think the tragedy has come.”
“I must see him,” said Selwyn. “In coming back here, you and he were the two I wanted most to meet. I knew that neither of you would withdraw your friendship without good reason; but also I knew you would tell me bluntly where I stood. Why did Marjory break off with Van?”
The clergyman told what he knew, and at the conclusion of the story Selwyn rose to his feet.
“I must see Van at once,” he said. “There’s something in this we can’t decipher on the surface. If you will give me his number, I’ll find out when we can get together.” Receiving the necessary information, Selwyn went downstairs to the telephone, returning in a couple of minutes to the den.
“I just caught him,” he said to his host, “and I am going to his rooms at nine to-night.”
“Good work. Now sit down and tell me about the English. You’ll find me the most attentive audience you ever had.”
IT WAS tfieatre time when Selwyn left his hotel and walked over to Broadway. That diagonal, muchadvertised avenue of Gotham was ablaze with light. From shop windows, from illuminated signs, from office buildings, street-cars, and motors, the carnival of theatre hour was lit with glaring brilliancy. Women in all the semi-barbaric costliness with which their sex loves to adorn itself of a night, stepped from limousines with their tiny silvery feet twinkling beneath the load of gorgeous furs and vivid opera-cloaks; while well-groomed men, in the smart insignificance of their evening clothes, guided the perilous passage of their fair consorts from the motor's step to the pavement.
Momentarily reduced to the democracy of pedestrianism, they would lose themselves in the surging mob of pleasureseekers . . . shop-girls on their way to a cinema; rural visitors shocked and thrilled with everything; keen-faced, black-haired Jews speculating on life’s profits; sallowfaced, lustrous-eyed girls hungry for romance, imagining every be-gowned woman to be an adventuress, and every man a Prince Charming; here and there an Irish policeman proving that his people can control any country but their own. . . Of such threads is woven the pattern of New York’s theatre hour on Broadway.
From sheer inability to stem the traffic, Selwyn stepped into a doorway. On the opposite side of the street a
theatrical sign announced that “Lulu” was “the biggest, most stupendous comedy of the season.” He wondered what constituted largeness in a comedy. . . surely not the author’s wit? Before he could formulate a solution of the mystery, a great overhead sign suddenly ignited with the searching question,
DO YOU CHEW SWORDSAEE’S GUM?
Hastily detaching his mind from the biggest, most stupendous comedy of the season, he stared at the interrogation of the gum company. It suddenly disappeared, however, and then he saw that, like the goblins who chased the small boy who was lost, the business interests of New York had assumed a violent interest in his personal habits. What underwear did he buy? Did he know that Hotdoor’s shaving-soap was used by 76 per cent, of the entire manhood of America? There was only one place humanly conceivable where lingerie could be purchased; to prove it, the illuminated signboard promptly showed a lady in a costume usually confined to boudoirs. To equalize the immodesty of the sexes, a near male neighbor, at a height of two hundred odd feet, did an electrified turn by putting on and taking off a pair of trouser-suspenders.
DO YOU CHEW SWORDSAFE’S GUM?
That was the question. What importance could a mere war have in comparison with that? Blinking in the glare, Selwyn left the doorway and made for Madison Avenue, where Van Derwater’s rooms were.
' I 'HE clocks were just striking nine when he reached the -*■ number he wanted, and a negro servant led him upstairs. As Selwyn entered, Van Derwater rose from his chair and greeted him with a restrained courtliness that was gentlemanly to a degree, but had an instantly chilling effect on the visitor. It was the room the owner used for lounging or reading, and the only light was the shaded one on the table.
Van Derwater had just passed thirty, but the premature thinness of his hair in front, the listless droop of his heavy shoulders, and the bluish pallor about his firm jaw, contrived to make him appear older than he was. There was a kindliness in the wrinkles about his eyes, and his mouth, though solid, was not lacking in indications of intuitive understanding. It was perhaps the formality of his bearing, the stiffness of his body from the hips, that gave him the air of one who belonged by right to a past and more ceremonious age.
Although Van Derwater encouraged his guest, after the exchange of greetings, to talk of his voyage and its attendant experiences, Selwyn was aware that he was placing a cold impersonal wall between them. His old friend was interested, courteous, intellectually even cordial, but Selwyn knew he was being kept at a distance. He forced the talk to old intimacies—recalled the game when, together, they had crossed Yale’s line in the closing moments of the great rugby match—brought back a host of joint experiences, trivial in themselves, but hallowed by time.
Van Derwater remembered them all. For each one he had the slight smile of his mouth and the quizzical weariness of his eyes, but when the conversation would droop after each outburst of reminiscence, he would not make the least attempt to lift it up again. Finally, being convinced that nothing could come of so bloodless a meeting, Selwyn dropped the impersonal mask.
“I was mighty sorry,” he said, “to hear that you and Marjory have broken off your engagement.”
“It was her wish: not mine.” His voice was deep and rich, but almost monotonous in its lack of inflection.
“I was talking to Forbes to-day,” went on Selwyn tenaciously. “He had been to see Marjory.”
“Marjory told him that you didn’t care enough for her to go overseas. I should think she would realize that such a matter concerns you only.”
“Not a bit of it.” For the first time the other’s manner showed signs of vitality. “It means everything to her. She wants to feel that the man she marries is big enough to go and help France. I admire her for it. I wish there were more women with her character.”
Selwyn shifted his chair uneasily.
“But—I don’t understand,” he stammered. “You told her you wouldn’t go.
“Well—what of it?”
“Look here, Van,” said Selwyn vehemently, “we have been friends for many years. I came to you to-night be-
cause my whole career is at a standstill. I want to tell you everything—I must do it—but I can’t as long as you withhold your confidence. It isn’t curiosity on my part— you know that. I want to bring back the old sense of understanding we once had.”
“You haven’t changed.” said Van Derwater, an inscrutable smile playing about his mouth. “You always had a habit of piercing people’s moods no matter what defence they put up. But if you want candor, I’ll tell you frankly I am sorry you came here this evening. I knew that it would be difficult to keep from hurting you, and for old-times’ sake I didn’t want to do that. As you know, I have never made friends. You and Forbes were the nearest thing to it, and I suppose you two meant more than I would ever care to admit. You might ring the bell over your head. The fire needs more coal.”
AS the negro obeyed his master’s instructions and stoked the fire into vigor, the two friends sat without speaking. Selwyn was mute with apprehension of what he was to hear; the older man was dreading the words he had to utter. To certain strong natures it is more painful to inflict than to receive a wound.
“If you want my story,” resumed the host, after the servant had left the room, “and as you are concerned you have a right to hear it, this is how it goes. I went into the diplomatic service. Then I met Marjory. I needn’t say what that meant to me. For the first time, I think, I knew what living was. Shortly after came the war. I first thought that if America remained neutral as a country, it was not up to individuals to quarrel with that attitude. Then came the Lusitania. I wanted to go over at once, but hated to suggest it to Marjory. One night, though, to my delight, the plucky little girl mentioned it herself. I hurried back to Washington and offered my resignation, but the chief urged me to remain three months longer, saying that I was absolutely necessary in the reorganization of a certain branch of the Intelligence Division in New York. To cut the story short, months and months went on, and they refused to release me. As a matter of fact I was directing an investigation of German foreign diplomacy that was of so delicate a nature I dared not mention it to Marjory. At its conclusion I went to
Washington and demanded that they let me gó—I gave my exact reason. The chief said he would give me a reply in a week, but I told him that no matter what he wrote ] would go at the expiration of that time. It was while 1 was waiting for the answer that Marjdiy said it rested with me whether or not the engagement was to be broken. 1 told her that I would be able tostate my position in a coupk of days. Well—the letter came. Perhaps you had bettei see it. You can read it to yourself.”
He went to his desk, and searching among the papen produced a correspondence-form bearing an official stamp He handed it to Selwyn.
“Washington, November 2, 1916
“Personal and Confidential.
“My Dear Van Derwater,—As a boyhood friend ol your father’s I have been most anxious to accede to you) request for release from your present duties. I may saj that in my desire to do the fairest thing by you, I went s far as to place the facts of the matter before the President himself. He agreed with me that your services entitlec you to every possible consideration ; but he also pointed oui that the intimate knowledge of our secret diplomacy whicl you have gained marks you as too valuable a man to let go lightly. I finally secured his consent, but an hour latei he sent for me again. It was to talk over a new enemy that has arisen in this fight of the present administration to weld the conflicting elements of our nation into a singlethinking whole. I refer to the ultra-pacifist section which has grown so large recently.
“You told me once that you knew this fellow, Austir Selwyn. I am sorry to set friend against friend, but hú influence over the cultured and pacific elements has to bí met sternly and at once. We cannot take personal actior against him because he is within his rights as a citizen of £ neutral country, but nevertheless his writings are proving as strong a disrupting force, stronger, in fact, than many ol the clumsier methods employed by subjects of belligerent nations.
“Word has reached us that in all probability this natior will be faced shortly with the most momentous decision ol the war. Therefore I must insist that you take charge ol the anti-disruptionist propaganda. I shall be in New York next Wednesday, and will discuss with you the methods by which we can stem the tide of disloyal pacifism as exemplified by this man Selwyn.
“We have no hold over you, my boy; but in the name ol this great Republic which is struggling against such odd) for unification of her national life, I bid you re main at your post. I know that the son of mj old friend Colonel Van Derwater will not questior an order,—Yours faithfully,
A. WALTER GALLEY.”
AS SELWYN finished the letter, a flush swept into his cheeks and his jaw stiffened with his old fighting mannerism.
“This is infamous,” he cried hotly. “Do yoi accuse me of disloyalty to my own country?”
“I do,” said Van Derwater calmly.
Selwyn’s fists clenched with fury. “Van,” he said, his voice quivering with suppressed passion, “I may have been blind—I can see where I have injured you and many others—but when you or Galley say that I have been trying to disrupt America, you lie. There is no one more passionately devoted to his country than I.”
“Which is your country?” said Van Derwater. Through the dim light of the room the eyes of the two men met. Selwyn’s were blazing like hot coals, Van Derwater’s were cold and steely.
“What have I done,” said Selwyn, twice checking himself before he could trust his voice, “but tried to show that war is wrong—that men without quarrel are killing each other now— that every nation has contributed to this terrible thing by its ignorance?—What is there in that which merits the name of traitor?”
Van Derwater shrugged his shoulders, and taking a book from the table, idly studied its cover. “Since the war began,” he said, his voice calm and low, “the United States has been trying to speak with one voice, the voice of a united people. It was the plain dutyof every American to aid the Administration in that. Instead—what have we found? Pro-Germans plotting outrage, and pro-Britishers casting slurs; conspiracy, political blackmailing, financial pressure—everywhere she has looked, this country has found within her borders the factors of disruption. We have fought them all. We have refused to be bullied or cajoled into choosing a false national destiny. At the moment that we seem to have accomplished something—with Europe looking to us for the final decision that must come —you, and others of your kind, contrive to poison the great educated, decent-thinking class that we always thought secure. Your cry of “Peace—peace—at anÿ price Continued on page 42
Continued from page 22
let us have peace,” has done its work. Consciously or unconsciously, Austin, you have been a traitor.”
Selwyn rose furiously to his feet. “This is. the end of our friendship,” he said, with his voice almost choking, and his shoulders chafing under the passion which possessed him. “Your chief has chosen to name me as a reason for keeping you in America, and so it is I who have come between you and Marjory. For that I am sorry. But when you question my loyalty to America—that is the finish.”
Van Derwater had also risen to his feet and with the utmost courtesy listened to Selwyn’s outburst. More than ever there was a mystic atmosphere of the Past in his bearing. He might have been a diplomat of the sixteenth century bidding adieu to a thwarted enemy plenipotentiary.
“Austin,” he said, with the merest inclination of his head, and his arms hanging wearily by his sides, “we live. . . in difficult times.”
With an angry gesture, Selwyn left the room and, taking his coat and hat from the negro, went again into the street.
Closing his study door, Van Derwater moved slowly to his chair, and, lifting his book, opened it. For a long time he gazed at the open page without reading a line. “Difficult times,” he murmured.
STILL seized with uncontrollable fury, Selwyn stamped his way through the streets. Colliding heavily with a passerby, he turned and cursed him for his clumsiness. He cherished a mad desire to return to Van Derwater’s rooms and force an apology by violence. He had expected criticism, reproach, even abuse— but that any man should brand him treasonous!.....
He spat into the gutter, and a sound that was almost a snarl escaped from his throat. He stopped, irresolute, and the wound in his head burst into a violent pain. He leaned against a post until the agony had passed, and once more he made for Broadway. At the sight of his face glowingred with passion, girls tittered and men drew aside.
Crossing the road, he stood to let a street car pass, its covered wheels giving an odd resemblance to an armored car, when an extra burst of light made him look up.
It was the gum advertisement again.
A Night in January
NEXT morning when Selwyn left his hotel, a few desultory snowflakes were falling through the air, and moistly expiring on the asphalt pavements. It lacked a few minutes of nine, and the thousands who man the machinery of New York’s business were hurrying to their appointed places. People who had to catch trains were hurrying to stations; and people who had nowhere to go were hurrying still faster. Taxi-cabs were rushing people across the city; and other taxi-cabs were rushing them back again. The overhead railway was rattling and roaring its noisy way; the surface cars were clattering and clanging through the traffic ; and every halfminute the subways were belching up cargoes of toilers into the open air.
New York was in a hurry.
All night the great engine of a million parts had lain idle, but morning was the signal that every wheel must leap into action again, driven by the inexhaustible army of human souls. Hurry, noise, clamor, greed, fever, progress. . . Another day had dawned!
Crossing Broadway to reach Fourth Avenue, Selwyn could not repress a smile at the stricken glory of the great Midway. The illuminated signs that had searched the secret crevices of the mind and had aided the iridescent foam seen from the harbor, looked tawdry and vulgar, like a circus on a rainy morning. Even the theatres, with their sign-bearing superlatives, were garish and illusion-shattering. There was almost an apologetic air about the bill-boards proclaiming their nightly offering to be the “biggest ever.”
Selwyn began to resent that word “biggest.” One of the sad things about America is that she started out to make language her slave—only to find that it is becoming her master.
ENTERING a great office building he consulted the directory-board, and was swooped up to the twenty-fourth floor in a non-stop elevator. Finding the room of his literary agent, he went in, but a young lady told him Mr. Lyons was in Chicago.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Selwyn. “I shall see him when he returns. But I want a couple of addresses. Have you the file of letters to me? Austin Selwyn is my
The young lady was gratifyingly flustered at the announcement and by her haste to produce the required letters indicated the esteem in which her employer held the author.
“It. was early last September,” said he. “Mr. Lyons mentioned two names: a Mr. Schneider, who purchased foreign rights of my stuff; and someone who wanted me to lecture—yes, that is the letter. Could you give me the addresses of these gentlemen?”
She wrote them on a card and gave it to him. “Mr. J. V. Schneider,” she said, “is in the Standard Exchange Building, just one block below here; and Mr. C. V. Benjamin is on 28th Street, in the United Manufacturing Corporation.”
Thanking her for her courtesy, Selwyn left the office, and going directly to Mr. Schneider’s place of business, sent in his card. He was ushered through a large room where a dozen typewriters were clicking noisily, and reaching the private office of Mr. Schneider, found himself in the presence of a small, crafty-faced man, whose oily smile and air of deference did j not harmonize with his eyes, which were as shifty and gleaming as those of a rat. He shook hands with his visitor, and then clawed at the papers on his desk with moist fingers that were abnormally long.
“Well, Mister Selvyn,” said Mr. Schneider gutturally, “to vot do I attribute dis ! honor? Have a cigar—sit down.”
“May I break the rule of your office?” said the author, indicating a sign on the wall which read: NIX ON THE WAR. “If you will be so kind, I want to speak of matters not far removed from that sub-
Mr. Schneider shifted his cigar to the corner of his mouth, and laughed immoder-
“Ha, ha, ha!” he roared, leaning forward, and thrusting a long, dirty finger into I Selwyn’s chest. “That is vot I call mine adjustable creed. For most peoples vot gom’ here—NIX. But for fine fellers like you—”
WITH a greasy chuckle he mounted his chair and turned the sign about.
I On the reverse side there was a coat-ofarms, and the words: DEUTSCHLAND j UBER ALLES.
“Vot you tink?” grinned Mr. Schneider, speaking from the altitude of the chair. “Goot, ugh?” He turned the thing about and stepped down again, wringing his hands in huge enjoyment of the whole thing. “You can spik blainly, Mister Selvyn,” he went on amiably. “Ve unnerstan’ each odder, heint Von’t you smoke one of dem cigars?’’
“No,” said Selwyn. He looked at the little man for about ten seconds, then, crossing to the wall, wrenched the sign 1 away, nail and all.
“Here, here,” protested Mr. Schneider, I backing warily to the door, “vot for you ¿0
this? Vot you mean, you great big fourfiusher?”
The young man eyed the sign and then the German’s head, apparently with the idea of bringing them together. Mr. Schneider further developed his plan of retreat by taking a grasp of the door handle.
“That’s for people who say ‘Nix on the War,’ ” said Selwyn, breaking the sign in his hands as if it were made of matchwood. “And this is for your damned Deutschland!”
He broke the remainder over his knee, and threw the pieces on the flat desk, upsetting an ink-bottle the contents of which dripped juicily to the floor.
“But aint you,” said Mr. Schneider, in a voice that was almost a squeal, “don’t you got no resbect for Chermany? Only yesterday der ambassador, he tole me that after the var, for all you wrote to help der j Faderland, der Kaiser, himself, vili on you bestow—”
Before the speaker could acquaint the author with the exact nature of the honor in store for him, Selwyn had seized him by the coat lapels, and was shaking him so violently that Mr. Schneider’s natural talent for double-facedness was developed to a pitch where an observant looker-on might have counted at least five of him vibrating at once.
“You dirty little hound,” said Selwyn, without relaxing in the least the shaking process, “if you ever use my name again, or send out anything written, or supposed to be written by me, I’ll—”
For once words failed him, and lifting the little man almost off the floor, he deposited him violently on his own desk, in the midst of the pool formed by the ink.
“Nix on the war!” snorted Selwyn defiantly, putting on his hat. He was going to add a few more crushing remarks, but, altering his mind, went out, slamming the door so violently that all the typewriters engaged in sending out German propaganda were startled into an instant of silence.
As for Mr. Schneider, he sat still amidst the wreck of his desk, pondering over a famous definition of war given by an American general named Sherman.
WITHOUT waiting to catch the driver’s eye, the impetuous idealist overtook an empty taxi-cab, and jumped into it.
“United Manufacturing, 28th Street,” he called. “Make it fast.”
On arrival at his destination he found that Mr. C. B. Benjamin was the president of the United Manufacturing Company, which—so a large calendar stated—was the biggest business of its kind in the universe.
It had more branches, more output, more character, more push than any other three enterprises in America.
Mr. Benjamin was in, but could be seen only by appointment, so said a sleekhaired young man of immaculate dress.
“Give him that card, and tell him I want to see him at once," said Selwyn, with a forcefulness that caused a look of pain to cross the young man’s countenance.
“Please sit down,” he said, “and I’ll see what I can do.”
As a result of his efforts, Selwyn received a summons to go right in, which he did, going past a number of people who had various big propositions to put before the big man when they could gain his ear.
“Good-morning, Mr. Selwyn,” said the president, a smartly dressed Jew, with a shrewd face, and an unquestionable dignity of manner. “You have returned to America, I see.”
“Yes, Mr. Benjamin. Do you mind if I come right down to business?”
“Mind? How else could I have built up the United Manufacturing Company? Have a cigar?”
“No, thanks. Mr. Benjamin, you wrote my agent that you wanted me to lecture on the fallacy of war.”
“Sure,” said the president.
“May I ask why?”
Mr. Benjamin removed his spectacles and wiped them carefully. Putting them on, he surveyed his visitor through them. After that he took them off again, and j winked confidentially. “Mr. Selwyn,” he j chuckled, “you aint a child and I see that I can’t put over any sob stuff with you.
I told your agent I would pay him real money for you to lecture. Well, take it from me, when the president of the Lffiited Manufacturing Company pays out any of his greenbacks he don’t expect nothing for something, eh?” I
“I don’t understand you—yet,” said Selwyn quietly.
MR. BENJAMIN leaned back in his swivel chair and cut the end of a cigar with a little silver knife. “Business,” he said, “is business, eh?”
“Agreed,” was the terse response. “I am still waiting to know why you offered your money to me.”
Mr. Benjamin leaned forward, and taking up his glasses, waved them hypnotically at the young man. “Simply business,” he said. “Same with you—same with me. You write all this dope against war— why? Because you know there’s big money in it. I pay you to lecture because you can help to keep America out of the war. In 1913 I was worth two hundred thousand dollars. To-day I have ten million. We are wise men, Mr. Selwyn, both of us. While all the rest of the people fight, you and I make money.”
As if his bones were aching with fatigue, Austin Selwyn rose wearily to his feet, and, without comment, walked slowly out of the office. . . But the clerks noticed that his face was ashy-pale, like that of a prisoner who has received the maximum sentence of the law.
THE days that followed were the bitterest Austin Selwyn had ever known. It is not in the plan of the Great Dramatist that men shall look on life and not play a part. It is true that there are a few who escape the call-boy’s summons, and gaze on human existence much as a passing pageant, but even for them is the knowledge that there is a moment called Death when every man must take the stage.
For years Austin Selwyn had stood apart, mingling with those who were enduring the sword-thrusts of fate, as an author chats with the players on the stage between the acts. Even the great tragedy of war had served only to enrich the processes of his mind. It is true he had known compassion, sorrow, and anger through it, but they were only counterfeit emotions, bom of the grip of war on his imagination.
But at last life had reached out its talons and grasped him. For every human experience he had avoided, he was to know it, multiplied. Stripped of his last hope of justifying his idealism, he saw remorse, discouragement, a sense of utter futility, the scorn of friends, the applause of traitors. . . he saw them all as shadows closing into blackness ahead of him.
He tried to return to England, but passport difficulties were made insurmountable. He went to Boston, only to find that those he valued turned against him, and those he detested welcomed him as a comrade. He returned to New York, but every avenue of activity was closed to him, save the one he had chosen for himself—that of workPpaeifism.
He had always been a man of strong, underlying passions, and in his veins there was the hot, undissipated blood of youth; but his brain had been the controlling force in every action of his life. Hitherto he had never questioned its complete mastery; but as he pondered over his fall he knew' that it was his brain that had ridden him to it. He no longer trusted its workings. It had proved rebel and brought him to disaster.
And with that inner challenge came the supreme ordeal of his life.
As rivers, held imprisoned by winter, will burst their confines in the spring and overrun the land, all the passions which had been cooled and tempered by his intellectual discipline swarmed through his arteries in revolt. No longer was the brain dominating the body; instead, he was on fire with a hundred mad flames of desire, springing from sources he knew nothing of. They clung to him by day and haunted him at night. They sang to him that vice had its own heaven, as well as hell—that licentiousness held forgetfulness. He heard whispers in the air that there were drugs which opened perfumed caves of delight; and secret places where sin was made beautiful with mystic music and incense of flowers.
When conscience—or whatever it is in us that combats desire—urged him to close his ears to the voices, he cursed it for a meddlesome thing. Since Life had thrown down the gauntlet, he would take it up! If he had to travel the chambers of disgrace and discouragement he would go on to the halls of sensual abandonment. Life had torn aside the curtain—it was for him to search the recesses of experience. To be Continued.