‘Whenever you are inclined to lead this sort of life,’ Logotheti answered with a laugh, ’you need only drop me a line. You shall have a beautiful old house and a big park and a perfect colonnade of respectabilities—and I’ll promise not to be a bore.’
Margaret looked at him earnestly for some seconds, and then asked a very unexpected and frivolous question, because she simply could not help it.
‘Where did you get that tie?’
The question was strongly emphasised, for it meant much more to her just then than he could possibly have guessed; perhaps it meant something which was affecting her whole life. He laughed carelessly.
’It’s better to dress like Solomon in all his glory than to be taken for a Levantine gambler,’ he answered. ’In the days when I was simple-minded, a foreigner in a fur coat and an eyeglass once stopped me in the Boulevard des Italiens and asked if I could give him the address of any house where a roulette-table was kept! After that I took to jewels and dress!’
Margaret wondered why she could not help liking him; and by sheer force of habit she thought that he would make a very good-looking stage Romeo.
While she was thinking of that and smiling in spite of his tie, the old clock in the hall below chimed the hour, and it was a quarter to seven; and at the same moment three men were getting out of a train that had stopped at the Craythew station, three miles from Lord Creedmore’s gate.
The daylight dinner was over, and the large party was more or less scattered about the drawing-room and the adjoining picture-gallery in groups of three and four, mostly standing while they drank their coffee, and continued or finished the talk begun at table.
By force of habit Margaret had stopped beside the closed piano, and had seated herself on the old-fashioned stool to have her coffee. Lady Maud stood beside her, leaning against the corner of the instrument, her cup in her hand, and the two young women exchanged rather idle observations about the lovely day that was over, and the perfect weather. Both were preoccupied and they did not look at each other; Margaret’s eyes watched Logotheti, who was half-way down the long room, before a portrait by Sir Peter Lely, of which he was apparently pointing out the beauties to the elderly wife of the scientific peer. Lady Maud was looking out at the light in the sunset sky above the trees beyond the flower-beds and the great lawn, for the piano stood near an open window. From time to time she turned her head quickly and glanced towards Van Torp, who was talking with her father at some distance; then she looked out of the window again.
It was a warm evening; in the dusk of the big rooms the hum of voices was low and pleasant, broken only now and then by Van Torp’s more strident tone. Outside it was still light, and the starlings and blackbirds and thrushes were finishing their supper, picking up the unwary worms and the tardy little snails, and making a good deal of sweet noise about it.