‘That is pretty well everything,’ said Selwyn. ’I have come back here, humble and perplexed, to try to 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 about it.’
‘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 more in this than appears 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 tonight.’
’Good work. Now sit down and tell me about the English. You’ll find me the most attentive audience you ever had.’
It was theatre-time when Selwyn left his hotel and walked over to Broadway. That diagonal, much-advertised 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.