Mr. Hebblethwaite pushed a box of cigars towards his guest, glanced at the clock, and rose.
“Young fellow,” he said, “I have engaged a box at the Empire. Let us move on.”
“My position as a Cabinet Minister,” Mr. Hebblethwaite declared, with a sigh, “renders my presence in the Promenade undesirable. If you want to stroll around, Norgate, don’t bother about me.”
Norgate picked up his hat. “Jolly good show,” he remarked. “I’ll be back before it begins again.”
He descended to the lower Promenade and sauntered along towards the refreshment bar. Mrs. Paston Benedek, who was seated in the stalls, leaned over and touched his arm.
“My friend,” she exclaimed, “you are distrait! You walk as though you looked for everything and saw nothing. And behold, you have found me!”
Norgate shook hands and nodded to Baring, who was her escort.
“What have you done with our expansive friend?” he asked. “I thought you were dining with him.”
“I compromised,” she laughed. “You see what it is to be so popular. I should have dined and have come here with Captain Baring—that was our plan for to-night. Captain Baring, however, was generous when he saw my predicament. He suffered me to dine with Mr. Selingman, and he fetched me afterwards. Even then we could not quite get rid of the dear man. He came on here with us, and he is now, I believe, greeting acquaintances everywhere in the Promenade. I am perfectly convinced that I shall have to look the other way when we go out.”
“I think I’ll see whether I can rescue him,” Norgate remarked. “Good show, isn’t it?” he added, turning to her companion.
“Capital,” replied Baring, without enthusiasm. “Too many people here, though.”
Norgate strolled on, and Mrs. Benedek tapped her companion on the knuckles with her fan.
“How dared you be so rude!” she exclaimed. “You are in a very bad humour this evening. I can see that I shall have to punish you.”
“That’s all very well,” Baring grumbled, “but it gets more difficult to see you alone every day. This evening was to have been mine. Now this fat German turns up and lays claim to you, and then, about the first moment we’ve had a chance to talk, Norgate comes gassing along. You’re not nearly as nice to me, Bertha, as you used to be.”
“My dear man,” she protested, “in the first place I deny it. In the second, I ask myself whether you are quite as devoted to me as you were when you first came.”
“In what way?” he demanded.
She turned her wonderful eyes upon him.