It seemed that the low voices of the others had been going on for more than an hour when the sense of absolute stillness told Selwyn that he must have fallen asleep for an interval. He listened for their voices, but nothing could be heard except the sleet driven against the windows, and a far-away clock striking the hour of two.
Wondering if his visitors were comfortable, he rose from his bed, and creeping softly to the living-room door, opened it enough to look in.
Smyth’s heavy breathing, not made any lighter by his having his head completely covered by bed-clothes, indicated that the futurist was in the realm of Morpheus. Durwent was curled up cosily by the fire, the blankets over him rising and subsiding slightly, conforming to his deep, tranquil breaths.
In the light of the fire, and with the warm glow of the skin caused by its heat and the refreshing bath, the pallor of dissipation had left the boy’s face. In the musing curve of his full-blooded lips and in the corners of his closed eyes there was just the suggestion of a smile—the smile of a child tired from play. There was such refinement in the delicate nostrils dilating almost imperceptibly with the intake of each breath, and such spiritual smoothness in his brow contrasting with the glowing tincture of his face, that to the man looking down on him he seemed like a youth of some idyl, who could never have known the invasion of one sordid thought.
A feeling of infinite compassion came over Selwyn. He rebelled against the cruelty of vice that could fasten its claws on anything so fine, when there was so much human decay to feed upon.
The eyelids parted a little, and Selwyn stepped back towards the door.
‘Hullo, Selwyn, old boy!’ murmured Durwent dreamily. ’Is it time to get up?’
‘No,’ whispered Selwyn. ‘I didn’t mean to wake you.’
Durwent smiled deprecatingly and reached sleepily for the other’s hand. ‘It’s awfully decent of you to take me in like this,’ he said.
There was a simplicity in his gesture, a child-like sincerity in his voice, that made Selwyn accept the hand-clasp, unable to utter the words which came to his lips.
‘Selwyn,’ said Dick, keeping his face turned towards the fire, ’are you likely to see Elise soon?’
‘I hardly think so,’ said the American, kneeling down and stirring the coals with the poker.
’If you do, please don’t tell her I’ve come back. She thinks I’m in the Orient somewhere, and if she knew I was joining up she would worry. I suppose I shall always be “Boy-blue” to her, and never anything older.’
Selwyn replaced the poker and sat down on a cushion that was on the floor.