“The old man says that would just push him over the edge. He has talked of resigning from the service.”
“Is there anything to be done?”
“Nothing! Let him marry her. It will spoil his career in diplomacy, of course. But he will soon get tired of her fooling him. He will divorce her, and will give up his life to music to which, of course, he belongs. People like Reggie Forsyth have no right to marry at all.”
“But are you sure that she wants to marry him?” said his friend; and he related his conversation with Yae that morning.
“That’s very interesting and encouraging,” said Her Excellency. “So she has been trying her hand on you already.”
“I never thought of that,” exclaimed Geoffrey. “Why, she knows that Reggie is my best friend; and that I am married.”
The judicial features of Lady Cynthia lightened with a judicial smile.
“You have been through so many London seasons, Captain Barrington, and there is still no guile in you!”
They walked on in silence past the temple terraces down a winding country lane.
“Captain Barrington, would you care to play the part of a real hero, a real theatre hero, playing to the gallery?”
Geoffrey was baffled. Had the talk suddenly swung over to amateur theatricals? Lady Cynthia was a terrible puller of legs.
“Did you ever hear of Madge Carlyle?” she asked, “or was she before your time?”
“I have heard of her.”
She was a famous London cocotte in the days when mashers wore whiskers and “Champagne Charlie” was sung.
“At the age of forty-three’” said Lady Cynthia, “Madge decided to marry for the third or fourth time. She had found a charming young man with plenty of money and a noble heart, who believed that Madge was a much slandered woman. His friends were sorry for the young man; and one of them decided to give a dinner to celebrate the betrothal. In the middle of the feast an urgent message arrived for the enamoured one, summoning him to his home. When he had gone the others started plying poor Madge with drinks. She was very fond of drinks. They had splendid fun. Then one of the guests—he was an old lover of Madge’s—suggested—Good-bye to the old days and the rest of it!”
“But what did he think of his friends?” asked Geoffrey. “It seems a low-down sort of trick.”
“He was very sore about it at the time,” said Lady Cynthia; “but afterwards he understood that they were heroes, real theatre heroes.”
“It looks like rain,” said Geoffrey, uneasily.
So they turned back, talking about London people.
The first drops fell as they were passing through the wicket gate; and they entered the house during a roar of thunder. Reggie was alone.
“I see that my fate is sealed,” he said, as he rose to meet them. “‘The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes!’”