Beneath a near-by tree he saw a woman in white, and the figure of a man pleading for something. Suddenly Selwyn saw the woman take some article from around her neck and hand it to the man. The fellow took it, and seemed to be turning away, when, with a suppressed sob, she caught him in her arms, murmuring incoherent endearments through her tears.
The black scudding clouds left the sky-clear for a moment overhead—and Selwyn felt a contraction of pain in his heart.
The woman was Elise, and the man—her brother Dick.
Breakfast at Roselawn was a studiously inconsequential meal. Places were set as usual by the servants, but the viands and the paraphernalia necessary for their preparation were placed on a separate table in the alcove by the great window overlooking the lawn. Having performed this duty, the servants did nothing more; but one could not help feeling that they were just outside the door, like a group of prompters, ready to render instantaneous assistance should the amateurs falter.
Lord Durwent made a kindly and efficient supervisor of the commissariat table, and—there was no question of it—could boil an egg with any one in the county. And the guests plying between the source of supply and the breakfast-table proper created a vagabondish camping-out air of geniality that did much to dispel the natural stiffness of the morning intercourse. As the meal had no formal opening, every one arrived at any time during the breakfast period, and though constant apologies were offered for the frequent interruptions to Lord Durwent’s own meal, it could be seen that his enjoyment of buffet proprietorship was almost a professional one.
Lady Durwent’s part in the function was to supervise the coffee, and ask each guest how he or she had slept, expressing regret that the night had not been cooler, warmer, calmer, or fresher, according to the polite customs of social dialogue at breakfast.
At nine-fifteen the papers used to arrive from the village, always causing a flutter of excitement. The sense of solitude at Roselawn made the outside world something so remote and apart that there was genuine curiosity to discover what the deuce it had been doing with itself during the house-party’s retreat.
Lord Durwent read the Morning Post as a sort of ‘prairie oyster’ or ‘bromo-seltzer.’ It settled him. There was something about that journal’s editorial page and its dignified treatment of events that made Roselawn seem the embodiment of British principle. Being a man who prided himself on a catholicity of view-point, he also subscribed to the Daily Mail—that frivolous young thing that has as many editions as a debutante has frocks, and by its super-delicate apparatus at Carmelite House can detect a popular clamour before it is louder than a kitten’s miaow.