Saunders spoke up, as if suddenly recollecting something. “I have also to report, sir, that the stock of cigarettes is getting very low. They can’t last three days at this rate, sir.”
The three men stared at him.
“Good Lord!” exclaimed Chase, who could face any peril and relish the experience if needs be, but who now foresaw a sickening deprivation. “You can’t mean it, Saunders?”
“I certainly do, sir. The mint is holding out well, though, sir. I think it will last.”
“By George, this is a calamity,” groaned Chase. “How is a man to fight without cigarettes?”
Genevra quietly proffered the one she had not lighted, a quizzical smile in her eyes.
“My contribution to the cause,” she said gaily. “What strange creatures men are! You will go out and be shot at all day and yet—” she paused and looked at the cigarette as if it were entitled to reverence.
“It does seem a bit silly, doesn’t it?” lamented the stalwart Chase. Then he took the cigarette.
THE CHARITY BALL
They were not long in finding out what had happened to Saunders. After luncheon, while Browne and the three ladies were completing the preparations for the entertainment. Miss Pelham appeared before Deppingham and Chase in the former’s headquarters. She had asked for an interview and was accompanied by Mr. Britt.
“Lord Deppingham,” she began, seating herself coolly before the two men, her eyes dark with decision, “I approach you as the recognised head of this establishment. I shan’t detain you long. My attorney, Mr. Britt, will explain matters to you after I have retired. He—”
“Your attorney? What does this mean?” gasped Deppingham, visions of blackmail in mind. “What’s up, Britt? I deny every demmed word of it, whatever it is!”
“Just a little private affair,” murmured Britt, uncomfortably.
“Private?” sniffed Miss Pelham, involuntarily rearranging her hat. “I think it has been quite public, Mr. Britt. That’s the trouble.” Lord Deppingham looked worried and Chase had the feeling that some wretched disclosure was about to be made by the sharp-tongued young woman. He looked at her with a hard light in his eyes. She caught the glance and stared back for a moment defiantly. Then she appeared to remember that she always had longed for his good opinion—perhaps, she had dreamed of something more—and her eyes fell; he saw her lip tremble. “I’ve simply come to ask Lord Deppingham to stand by me. Mr. Saunders is in his employ—or Lady Deppingham’s, I should say—”
“Which is the same thing,” interposed Deppingham, drawing a deeper breath. He had been trying to recollect if he ever had said anything to Miss Pelham that might not appear well if repeated.