“You need not bother about him,” he said. “If it is possible for him to be of use, that is arranged for in another quarter. So! Let us finish our wine and separate. That letter shall surely come. Have no fear.”
Selingman strolled away, a few minutes later. Baring had returned to Mrs. Paston Benedek, and Norgate had resumed his place in the box. Selingman, with a gold-topped cane under his arm, a fresh cigar between his lips, and a broad smile of good-fellowship upon his face, strolled down one of the wings of the Promenade. Suddenly he came to a standstill. In the box opposite to him, Norgate and Hebblethwaite were seated side by side. Selingman regarded them for a moment steadfastly.
“A friend of Hebblethwaite’s!” he muttered. “Hebblethwaite—the one man whom Berlin doubts!”
He withdrew a little into the shadows, his eyes fixed upon the box. A little way off, in the stalls, Mrs. Paston Benedek was whispering to Baring. Further back in the Promenade, Helda was entertaining a little party of friends. Selingman’s eyes remained fixed upon Norgate.
Mrs. Paston Benedek, on the following afternoon, sat in one corner of the very comfortable lounge set with its back to the light in her charming drawing-room. Norgate sat in the other.
“I think it is perfectly sweet of you to come,” she declared. “I do not care how many enemies I make—I will certainly dine with you to-night. How I shall manage it I do not yet know. You shall call for me here at eight o’clock—or say a quarter past, then we need not hurry away too early from the club. If Captain Baring is there, perhaps it would be better if you did not speak of our engagement.”
“What is the wonderful attraction about Baring?” he asked discontentedly.
“Really, there isn’t any,” she replied. “I like to be kind, that is all. I do not like to hurt anybody’s feelings, and I know that Captain Baring would like very much to dine with me to-night himself. I was obliged to throw him over last night because of Mr. Selingman’s arrival.”
“You have not always been so considerate,” he persisted. “Why this especial care for Baring’s feelings?”
She turned her head a little towards him. She was leaning back in her corner of the lounge, her hands clasped behind her head. There was an elaborate carelessness about her pose which she numbered among her best effects.
“Perhaps,” she retorted, “I, too, find your sudden attraction for me a little remarkable. On those few occasions when you did honour us at the club before you left for Berlin, you were agreeable enough, but I do not remember that you once asked me to dine with you. There was no Captain Baring then.”
“The truth is,” Norgate confessed, “since I returned, I have felt rather like hiding myself. I don’t care about going to my own club or visiting my own friends. I came to the St. James’s as a sort of compromise.”