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The Malefactor

I.1. A Society Scandal
Tall and burly, with features and skin hardened by exposure to the sun and winds of
many climates, he looked like a man ready to face all hardships, equal to any emergency.
Already one seemed to see the clothes and habits of civilization falling away from him,
the former to be replaced by the stern, unlovely outfit of the war correspondent who plays
the game. They crowded round him in the club smoking room, for these were his last few
minutes. They had dined him, toasted him, and the club loving cup had been drained to
his success and his safe return. For Lovell was a popular member of this very Bohemian
gathering, and he was going to the Far East, at a few hours' notice, to represent one of the
greatest of English dailies.
A pale, slight young man, who stood at this right hand, was speaking. His name was
Walter Aynesworth, and he was a writer of short stories-- a novelist in embryo.
"What I envy you most, Lovell," he declared, "is your escape from the deadly routine of
our day by day life. Here in London it seems to me that we live the life of automatons.
We lunch, we dine, we amuse or we bore ourselves, and we sleep--and all the rest of the
world does the same. Passion we have outgrown, emotion we have destroyed by analysis.
The storms which shake humanity break over other countries. What is there left to us of
life? Civilization ministers too easily to our needs, existence has become a habit. No
wonder that we are a tired race."
"Life is the same, the world over," another man remarked. "With every forward step in
civilization, life must become more mechanical. London is no worse than Paris, or Paris
than Tokyo."
Aynesworth shook his head. "I don't agree with you," he replied. "It is the same, more or
less, with all European countries, but the Saxon temperament, with its mixture of
philosophy and philistinism, more than any other, gravitates towards the life mechanical.
Existence here has become fossilized. We wear a mask upon our faces; we carry a gauge
for our emotions. Lovell is going where the one great force of primitive life remains. He
is going to see war. He is going to breathe an atmosphere hot with naked passion; he is
going to rub shoulders with men who walk hand in hand with death. That's the sort of
tonic we all want, to remind us that we are human beings with blood in our veins, and not
sawdust-stuffed dolls."
Then Lovell broke silence. He took his pipe from his mouth, and he addressed
Aynesworth.
"Walter," he said, "you are talking rot. There is nothing very complex or stimulating
about the passion of war, when men kill one another unseen; where you feel the sting in
 
 
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