Another detail: the secession of nine or ten people from one hotel to the other meant that the Metropole would decidedly be more populous than the Beau-Site, and on the point of numbers the emulation was very keen. “Well,” said the Beau-Site, “let ’em go! With their Captain Deverax! We shall be better without ’em!” And that deadliest of all feuds sprang up —a rivalry between the guests of rival hotels. The Metropole had issued a general invitation to a dance, and after the monstrous conduct of the Clutterbucks the question arose whether the Beau-Site should not boycott the dance. However, it was settled that the truly effective course would be to go with critical noses in the air, and emit unfavourable comparisons with the Beau-Site. The Beau-Site suddenly became perfect in the esteem of its patrons. Not another word was heard on the subject of hot water being coated with ice. And the Clutterbucks, with incredible assurance, slid their luggage off in a sleigh to the Metropole, in the full light of day, amid the contempt of the faithful.
Under the stars the dancing section of the Beau-Site went off in jingling sleighs over the snow to the ball at the Metropole. The distance was not great, but it was great enough to show the inadequacy of furs against twenty degrees of mountain frost, and it was also great enough to allow the party to come to a general final understanding that its demeanour must be cold and critical in the gilded halls of the Metropole. The rumour ran that Captain Deverax had arrived, and every one agreed that he must be an insufferable booby, except the Countess Ruhl, who never used her fluent exotic English to say ill of anybody.
The gilded halls of the Metropole certainly were imposing. The hotel was incontestably larger than the Beau-Site, newer, more richly furnished. Its occupants, too, had a lordly way with them, trying to others, but inimitable. Hence the visitors from the Beau-Site, as they moved to and fro beneath those crystal chandeliers from Tottenham Court Road, had their work cut out to maintain the mien of haughty indifference. Nellie, for instance, frankly could not do it. And Denry did not do it very well. Denry, nevertheless, did score one point over Mrs Clutterbuck’s fussy cousin.
“Captain Deverax has come,” said this latter. “He was very late. He’ll be downstairs in a few minutes. We shall get him to lead the cotillon.”
“Captain Deverax?” Denry questioned.
“Yes. You’ve heard us mention him,” said the cousin, affronted.
“Possibly,” said Denry. “I don’t remember.”
On hearing this brief colloquy the cohorts of the Beau-Site felt that in Denry they possessed the making of a champion.
There was a disturbing surprise, however, waiting for Denry.