Seeing that the other was serious, Selwyn spread the paper before him and hurriedly searched its columns.
‘Great Scott!’ he cried. ’Here it’——
’Sh-sh! Hurry up and cut it out. Right. I’ll fix up the Mirror in the same way. Now skim through the Mail. Got it? By Jove! damn near a whole column. Here’—Maynard ran the knife down the side of the column. ’Now then, old Fensome has promised to get the thing out of the Post, and to tell Lord Durwent before he goes to town. But he mustn’t hear of it this way, and those women are not to know a word about it while they’re in the house.’
Selwyn nodded and looked at the ragged clippings in his hand:
‘ATTEMPTED MURDER IN WEST END.’
‘WELL-KNOWN NOBLEMAN ATTACKED BY PEER’S SON.’
‘QUARREL OVER DEMI-MONDAINE.’
‘Gad, those are juicy lines, aren’t they?’ said Maynard. ’Won’t some of our worthy citizens lick their chops over them, and point to the depravity of the upper classes? Do you know Dick Durwent?’
‘I have seen him a couple of times.’
’Awfully decent chap. Screw loose, you know, and punishes his Scotch no end, but a topping fellow underneath. I don’t know who the bit of fluff is that they’re fighting about, but you can wager a quid to a bob that Dick thought he was doing her a good turn.’
‘I wonder who the nobleman is.’
’Can’t say, I’m sure. Probably he can’t either just now, seeing what Durwent did to him. Of course, it’s a rotten thing to say, but if the blighter’s really going to die, I hope he’s one of the seventeen who stand between me and the Earldom of Forth.’
There was a knock at the door, and an inquiry regarding the newly discovered author.
‘Coming,’ called Maynard, reaching for the Daily Mail. ’Shove those clippings in your pocket, Selwyn, and for the love of Allah help me to select something here that I can pretend to have written. Fortunately I can play the blithering idiot without much trouble.’
THE RENDING OF THE VEIL.
The house-party at Roselawn had hurriedly broken up, and only Selwyn remained. In view of the scandal about Dick Durwent, although it was not spoken of by any one, he felt that it would have been more delicate to leave with the other guests. But it seemed as if the Durwents dreaded to be alone. His presence gave an impersonal shield behind which they could seek shelter from each other, and they urged him so earnestly to remain that it would have been ungracious to refuse.
It was the evening of August 4th, and the family circle, reduced to four, had just finished dinner. There had been only one topic of conversation—there could be but one. Britain had given Germany until midnight (Central European time) to guarantee withdrawal from Belgium.