‘Thanks,’ he said, handing the box to the American. Selwyn reached forward to take it, when suddenly his wrists were caught in a grip of steel.
‘Damn you!’ said Dick Durwent hotly, springing to his feet. ’Are you tracking me? I didn’t come back to be caught like a rat. Are you a detective? If you are, by George! I’ll drown you in the river.’
‘Don’t be a fool,’ said Selwyn, writhing in pain with the other’s torture.
‘Who are you?’
’My name is Selwyn. I am an American; a friend of your mother and your sister.’
‘Where have you seen me before?’
‘At the Cafe Rouge—a year ago.’ Beads of perspiration stood out on Selwyn’s head, and his body was faint with the pain of his twisted wrists.
‘You’re not lying?’ said Dick Durwent, slowly relaxing his grip, and peering into the American’s eyes. ’No. I seem to remember you somewhere with Elise. I’m sorry.’ He released the clutch completely, and resumed his seat on the steps. ‘I hope I didn’t hurt you.’
‘No,’ said Selwyn, rubbing each wrist in turn to help to restore the circulation.
Durwent laughed grimly. ‘It’s a wonder I didn’t break something,’ he said. ’Once more—I’m sorry. But you can understand the risk I am running in returning here with the police wanting me. They’re not going to get me if I can help it.’
‘Why didn’t you stay away?’
’With the Old Country at war! Not likely. Do you think I should ever have gone if I had known what was going to happen?’
‘What are your plans?’
‘Fight,’ said the other briefly. ’Somewhere—somehow. I’ll get into a recruiting line about dawn to-morrow. . . . But—what can you tell me about Elise?’
‘I have neither seen nor heard of her since August,’ said Selwyn, wondering at the calm level of his own voice in spite of tumultuous heart-beats.
‘Too bad. Then you don’t know anything about the rest?’
’No. I’—— He paused awkwardly. ’I suppose you haven’t heard about your brother?’
There was no response, but Selwyn could feel the Englishman’s eyes steeled on his face. ‘He was killed,’ he went on slowly, ‘last August.’
Still there was no sound from the younger son, now heir to his father’s title and estates. For the first time Selwyn caught the ripple of the river’s current eddying about the steps at the bottom. From the great bridges spanning the river there was the distant thunder of lumbering traffic.
‘I understand that he died very bravely,’ said the American in an attempt to ease the intensity of the silence.
‘Yes,’ muttered Durwent dreamily, ’he would. . . . So old Malcolm is dead. . . . Somehow, I always looked on his soldiering as a joke. I never thought that those fellows in the Regulars would ever really go to war. . . . Yet, when the time came, he was ready, and I was skulking off to China like a thief in the night.’