‘Shall us? Let’s,’ cried the talkative Maynard. ’So lay on, comrades—the victuals are waiting—and “damned be he that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!"’
With an animated burst of chatter the house-party had given itself over to a thorough enjoyment of the remainder of breakfast. Ultimatums and the alarums of war vanished into thin air, like mists dispelled by the sun. The serious face of the ex-officer and the unwonted air of distraction on Lord Durwent’s countenance were the only indications that the morning was different from any other. Tongues and hearts were light, and airy bubbles of badinage were blown into space for the delectation of all who cared to look.
It was during a fashionable monologue of the Court-Circular lady that Maynard, the man of moods, who was sitting next to Selwyn, leaned over and whispered, ’Get hold of the Sketch. It’s on your right. Pretend you’re looking at the pictures. I’ve got the Mirror.’
Wondering what asinine prank was in the young man’s mind, but not wanting to disturb the monologuist by untimely controversy, Selwyn reached for the Sketch, and assumed a deep interest in the very latest picture of London’s very latest stage favourite who could neither sing, dance, nor act, and was tremendously popular.
‘Excuse me, Lady Durwent,’ said the gilded youth when a lull permitted him to speak, ‘but would you pass the Daily Mail, please?’
‘My dear Horace,’ said Elise, ‘you haven’t taken to reading the Mail?’
‘No, dear one. Heaven forbid! I merely write for it.’
‘What!’ There was an ensemble of astonishment.
’Ra-ther. I sent their contributed page a scholarly little thing from my pen entitled “Should One Kiss in the Park?” If it’s in I get three guineas, and I’m going to start for Fiji to escape old Fensome’s war.’
‘Mr. Selwyn,’ said Lady Durwent, passing the journal along, ’you have a rival.’
With an air of considerable embarrassment the fair-haired contributor to newspapers opened the pages of the Daily Mail, but protesting that he was too bashful to endure the gaze of the curious, he begged permission to retire to the library, there to search in privacy for his literary child.
‘I say, Selwyn,’ he said, ’you come along too if you’re through pecking. Nothing like having the opinion of an expert, even if he is jealous.’
With a promise to return immediately and read the effort aloud, the two men left the table and adjourned to the adjoining room. With a frown of impatience Selwyn was about to demand the reason for his inclusion in the silly affair, when the other stopped him with a gesture and closed the door.
‘Quick!’ he said. ’Grab that knife—here’s the Sketch. Look through it for anything about Dick Durwent.’