“Now it is you who ask me to risk losing an enjoyable evening. But so be it. Le Comte de Lorgnes?”
Mademoiselle Reneaux looked blank.
“Madame la Comtesse de Lorgnes?”
The young woman shook her head.
“Both of a class sure to be conspicuous in such places as Maxim’s,” Lanyard explained. “The names, then, are probably fictitious.”
“If you could describe them, perhaps—?”
“Useless, I am afraid; neither is an uncommon type. Any word picture of either would probably fit anyone of a score of people of the same life. Are you then acquainted with a man named Phinuit—given name unknown—an American?”
“Mr. Whitaker Monk, of New York?”
“That is quite possible.”
“He made his money in munitions, I believe,” the girl reflected—“or perhaps it was oil.”
“Then you do know him?”
“I met him one night, or rather one morning several weeks ago, with a gay party that joined ours at breakfast at Pre-Catelan.”
“And do we still drive out to Pre-Catelan to milk the cows after an adventurous night, mademoiselle?” She nodded; and Lanyard sighed: “It is true, then: man ages, his follies never.”
“A quaint little stupid,” the girl mused.
“I was thinking of Whitaker Monk.”
“Quaint, I grant you. But hardly little, or stupid. A tall man, as thin as a diet, with a face like a comic mask of tragedy...”
“Paul dear,” said Athenais Reneaux more in sorrow than in anger: “somebody has been taking advantage of your trusting nature. Whitaker Monk is short, hopelessly stout, and the most commonplace person imaginable.”
“Then it would appear,” Lanyard commented ruefully, “one did wisely to telegraph London for a keeper. Let us get hence, if you don’t mind, and endeavour to forget my shame in strong drink and the indecorous dances of an unregenerate generation.”
DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND
Lanyard and Athenais Reneaux had dawdled over dinner and coffee and cigarettes with so much tacit deliberation that, by the time Lanyard suggested they might move on, it was too late for a play and still a bit too early to begin the contemplated round of all-night restaurants. Also, it was too warm for a music-hall.
So they killed another hour at the Ambassadeurs, where they were fortunate in getting good places and the entertainment imposed no strain upon the attention; where, too, the audience, though heterogeneous, was sufficiently well-dressed and well-mannered to impart to a beautiful lady and her squire a pleasant consciousness of being left very much to themselves in an amusing expression of a civilisation cynical and self-sufficient.