But the joy of the night was feeble in comparison with the violent joy of the next morning. Denry was wandering, apparently aimless, between the finish of the tobogganing track and the portals of the Metropole. The snowfall had repaired the defects of the worn track, but it needed to be flattened down by use, and a number of conscientious “lugeurs” were flattening it by frequent descents, which grew faster at each repetition. Other holiday-makers were idling about in the sunshine. A page-boy of the Metropole departed in the direction of the Beau-Site with a note.
At length—the hour was nearing eleven—Captain Deverax, languid, put his head out of the Metropole and sniffed the air. Finding the air sufferable, he came forth on to the steps. His left arm was in a sling. He was wearing the new knickerbockers which he had ordered at Montreux, and which were of precisely the same vast check as had ornamented Denry’s legs on the previous night.
“Hullo!” said Denry, sympathetically. “What’s this?”
The Captain needed sympathy.
“Ski-ing yesterday afternoon,” said he, with a little laugh. “Hasn’t the Countess told any of you?”
“No,” said Denry, “not a word.”
The Captain seemed to pause a moment.
“Yes,” said he. “A trifling accident. I was ski-ing with the Countess. That is, I was ski-ing and she was in her sleigh.”
“Then this is why you didn’t turn up at the dance?”
“Yes,” said the Captain.
“Well,” said Denry, “I hope it’s not serious. I can tell you one thing, the cotillon was a most fearful frost without you.” The Captain seemed grateful.
They strolled together toward the track.
The first group of people that caught sight of the Captain with his checked legs and his arm in a sling began to smile. Observing this smile, and fancying himself deceived, the Captain attempted to put his eyeglass into his left eye with his right hand, and regularly failed. His efforts towards this feat changed the smiles to enormous laughter.
“I daresay it’s awfully funny,” said he. “But what can a fellow do with one arm in a sling?”
The laughter was merely intensified. And the group, growing as luge after luge arrived at the end of the track, seemed to give itself up to mirth, to the exclusion of even a proper curiosity about the nature of the Captain’s damage. Each fresh attempt to put the eyeglass to his eye was coal on the crackling fire. The Clutterbucks alone seemed glum.
“What on earth is the joke?” Denry asked primly. “Captain Deverax came to grief late yesterday afternoon, ski-ing with the Countess Ruhl. That’s why he didn’t turn up last night. By the way, where was it, Captain?”
“On the mountain, near Attalens,” Deverax answered gloomily. “Happily there was a farmhouse near—it was almost dark.”