As a concession to the ladies of the household, he took, in addition, the Daily Sketch and the Daily Mirror, those two energetic illustrated papers, which, benefiting from the remarkable geographical fact that every place of consequence in England is exactly two hours from London, are able to offer photos of riders in Rotten How, bathers at Brighton, rowers at Oxford, and foreign monarchs walking at Windsor, the very morning after all these remarkable persons have astonished the world by riding, bathing, rowing, or walking.
But to Lord Durwent these papers and the Daily Mail were but interludes. The Morning Post was the real business of life, and after reading through its solid columns of type, he enjoyed the sensation of somehow having done something for his country.
It was just before the arrival of the morning papers that Selwyn descended to the dining-room. Helping himself to porridge, he answered Lady Durwent’s polite conventional questions.
‘And how did you sleep?’ asked his hostess, putting into the inquiry that artistic personal touch which made it seem as if this were the first time she had asked the question, and he the first guest to whom it had been propounded.
‘Lady Durwent,’ he answered, smiling, ‘I haven’t the faintest idea.’
‘Then,’ said his hostess, triumphantly explaining the obvious, ’you must have slept well.’
Selwyn thought that when he answered Lady Durwent’s query a quick look of relief had passed across the face of Elise. It was for her peace of mind he had lied, as into the hours of dawn he had lain awake, trying to unravel the meaning of the nocturnal scene. He knew that her prodigal brother had been forbidden the ancestral home, but it was hardly necessary that he should lie in hiding like a negro slave dreading the hounds upon his track. And yet, as he recalled the sudden glimpse of Dick’s face, Selwyn remembered that there had been a hunted look in the dark-shadowed, luminous eyes. Vaguely he felt that this new development would hinder the understanding reached by Elise and himself during the evening. If only he could go to her and offer his help or solace; or if she would come to him frankly and let him share the unhappy secret, whatever it was, it might prove a bond of comradeship instead of another element to deepen her consciousness of aloofness.
Still churning these various thoughts, he smiled his greetings to her, and affecting an easy unconcern, took his part in the fashionable agricultural conversation which marks the morning intercourse of country-living gentle-folk. If it had not been that the pigs mentioned were Lord Fitz-Guff’s, and the cabbages Lady Dingworthy’s—and the accents of the speakers beyond question—Selwyn could have imagined that he was sitting around Hank Myer’s stove in Doanville, N.Y., listening to the gossip of the local Doanvillians on earth’s produce.