“Then we are friends?” said Nap, quickly.
“Yes, we are friends; but it is very unlikely that we shall meet again. I cannot invite you to call.”
“And you won’t call either on my mother?” he asked.
“I am afraid not.”
He was silent a moment. Then, “So let it be!” he said. “But I fancy we shall meet again notwithstanding. So au revoir, Lady Carfax! Can you find your own way down?”
She understood in an instant the motive that prompted the question, and the impulse to express her appreciation of it would not be denied. She extended her hand with an assumption of royal graciousness that did not cloak her gratitude. “Good-bye, Sir Jester!” she said.
He took her fingers gallantly upon his sleeve and touched them with his lips. “Farewell to your most gracious majesty!” he responded.
THE CHARIOT OF THE GODS
The Hunt Ball was over, and Mrs. Damer, wife of the M.F.H., was standing on the steps of the Carfax Arms, bidding the last members of the Hunt farewell.
Nap Errol was assisting her. He often did assist Mrs. Damer with that careless, half-insolent gallantry of his that no woman ever dreamed of resenting. Like his namesake of an earlier date he held his own wherever he went by sheer, stupendous egotism.
The crowd had thinned considerably, the band had begun to pack up. In the refreshment-room waiters were hurrying to and fro.
“Isn’t it horrid?” laughed Mrs. Damer, shrugging her shoulders and shivering. “One feels so demoralised at this end of the night. Nap, I wish you would find my husband. I’ve said good-night to everybody, and I want to go home to bed.”
“Lady Carfax hasn’t gone yet,” observed Nap. “I saw her standing in the doorway of the ladies’ cloak-room just now.”
“Lady Carfax! Are you sure? I thought they went long ago. Is their carriage waiting then?”
“Yes. It is still there.”
Mrs. Damer hastened into the ladies’ cloak-room, still half-incredulous.
At her entrance Anne Carfax, clad in a white wrap that made her face look ghastly, turned from the dying fire.
“My dear Lady Carfax!” exclaimed Mrs. Damer. “I quite thought you left ages ago. What is it? Is anything the matter?”
The pale lips smiled. “No, nothing, thank you. I am only waiting for my husband.”
“Ah! Then we are in the same plight. I am waiting for mine.” Mrs. Damer hastened to veil her solicitude, which was evidently unwelcome. She caught up her cloak and began to fumble with it. The attendant had gone.
“Let me!” said Anne, in her quiet voice, and took it from her.
Her fingers touched Mrs. Damer’s neck, and Mrs. Damer shivered audibly. “Thank you, thank you! You are as cold as ice. Are you well wrapped up?”
“Yes, quite. I am never very warm, you know. It is not my nature. Is Mr. Damer ready? I hope you will not delay your departure on my account. Sir Giles will not be long, I think.”