Hugely diverted, the adventurer looked round with a quirk of his brows, and amiably commented:
“Monsieur’s interest is so flattering! If he really must know, I’m going home now, to my rooms in Halfmoon Street. Au revoir, monsieur le prince!”
He beamed benignly upon that convulsed countenance, and saw crestfallen Prince Victor slink away, to the music of smothered laughter from the ladies in the doorway—toward which Lanyard was careful not to look.
Then, in high feather with himself, he chirped to the driver and hopped into the hansom.
As Lanyard’s cab swung away, the carriage wheeled in to take up the Princess Sofia and Lady Diantha Mainwaring. Observing this, Lanyard poked his stick through the little trap in the roof of the hansom and suggested that the driver pull up, climb down, adjust some imaginary fault with the harness and, when the carriage had passed, follow it with discretion.
Enchanted by sight of a half-sovereign in the palm of his fare, the cabby executed this manoeuvre to admiration; with the upshot that Lanyard got home half an hour later than he would have had he proceeded to his rooms direct, but with information of value to recompense him.
It wasn’t his habit to lose time in those days of his youth. And lest his character be misconstrued (which would be deplorable) it may as well be stated now that he had not laid down upward of twenty thousand good golden guineas for a colourable Corot without having a tolerably clear notion of how he meant to reimburse himself if it should turn out that he had paid too dear for his whistle.
The hint imparted by his garrulous acquaintance of the auction room—to the effect that the Princess Sofia was famous, among other things, for the magnificence of her personal jewellery—had found a good home where it wasn’t in danger of suffering for want of doting interest.
And now one knew where their owner lived, and in what state ...
Alighting at his own door, the adventurer surprised Prince Victor, morosely ambling by, in his vast fatuity no doubt imagining that his passage through Halfmoon Street would go unremarked in the dusk of that early winter evening. He wasn’t at all pleased to find himself mistaken; and though Lanyard did his best with his blandest smile to make amends for having discomfited the prince by getting home later than he had promised to, his good-natured effort was repaid only by a spiteful scowl.
So he laughed aloud, and went indoors rejoicing.
An hour or so later the painting was delivered by a porter from the auction room. But Lanyard was in his bath at the time and postponed examining his doubtful prize till he had dressed for dinner. For, though it was his whim to dine in his rooms alone, and though he had no fixed plans for the evening, Lanyard was too thoroughly cosmopolitan not to do in Cockaigne as the Cockneys do.