The Ambassador stooped down.
“There is a dispatch on its way to me,” he said softly, “which I believe concerns you. It might be necessary for you to take a short journey within the next few days.”
“Not back to Berlin?” Anna exclaimed.
Their solitude had been invaded by now, and the Princess was talking to two or three men who were grouped about her chair. The Ambassador stooped a little lower.
“To Rome,” he whispered.
Back from the dusty roads, the heat and noise of the long day, Anna was resting on the couch in her sitting-room. A bowl of roses and a note which she had read three or four times stood on a little table by her side. One of the blossoms she had fastened into the bosom of her loose gown. The blinds were drawn, the sounds of the traffic outside were muffled and distant. Her bath had been just the right temperature, her maid’s attention was skilful and delicate as ever. She was conscious of the drowsy sweet perfume of the flowers, the pleasant sense of powdered cleanliness. Everything should have conduced to rest, but she lay there with her eyes wide-open. There was so much to think about, so much that was new finding its way into her stormy young life.
Anna turned her head. Her maid had entered noiselessly from the inner room and was standing by her side.
“Madame does not sleep? There is a person outside who waits for an interview. I have denied him, as all others. He gave me this.”
Anna almost snatched the piece of paper from her maid’s fingers. She glanced at the name, and the disappointment which shone in her eyes was very apparent. It was succeeded by an impulse of surprise.
“You can show him in,” she directed.
Selingman appeared a few moments later—Selingman, cool, rosy, and confident, on the way to his beloved bridge club. He took the hand which Anna, without moving, held out to him, and raised it gallantly to his lips.
“I thought it was understood, my crockery friend,” she murmured, “that in London we did not interchange visits.”
“Most true, gracious lady,” he admitted, “but there are circumstances which can alter the most immovable decisions. At this moment we are confronted with one. I come to discuss with you the young Englishman, Francis Norgate.”
She turned her head a little. Her eyes were full of enquiry.
“To discuss him with me?”
Selingman’s eyes as though by accident fell upon the roses and the note.
“Ah, well,” she murmured, “go on.”
“It is wonderful,” Selingman proceeded, “to be able to tell the truth. I speak to you as one comrade to another. This young man was your companion at the Cafe de Berlin. For the indiscretion of behaving like a bull-headed but courageous young Englishman, he is practically dismissed from the Service. He comes back smarting with the injustice of it. Chance brings him in my way. I proceed to do my best to make use of this opportunity.”