“With the Countess?” demanded a young impulsive schoolgirl.
“You did say the Countess, didn’t you?” Denry asked.
“Why, certainly,” said the Captain, testily.
“Well,” said the schoolgirl with the nonchalant thoughtless cruelty of youth, “considering that we all saw the Countess off in the funicular at three o’clock, I don’t see how you could have been ski-ing with her when it was nearly dark.” And the child turned up the hill with her luge, leaving her elders to unknot the situation.
“Oh, yes!” said Denry. “I forgot to tell you that the Countess left yesterday after lunch.”
At the same moment the page-boy, reappearing, touched his cap and placed a note in the Captain’s only free hand.
“Couldn’t deliver it, sir. The Comtesse left early yesterday afternoon.”
Convicted of imaginary adventure with noble ladies, the Captain made his retreat, muttering, back to the hotel. At lunch Denry related the exact circumstances to a delighted table, and the exact circumstances soon reached the Clutterbuck faction at the Metropole. On the following day the Clutterbuck faction and Captain Deverax (now fully enlightened) left Mont Pridoux for some paradise unknown. If murderous thoughts could kill, Denry would have lain dead. But he survived to go with about half the Beau-Site guests to the funicular station to wish the Clutterbucks a pleasant journey. The Captain might have challenged him to a duel but a haughty and icy ceremoniousness was deemed the best treatment for Denry. “Never show a wound” must have been the Captain’s motto.
The Beau-Site had scored effectively. And, now that its rival had lost eleven clients by one single train, it beat the Metropole even in vulgar numbers.
Denry had an embryo of a conscience somewhere, and Nellie’s was fully developed.
“Well,” said Denry, in reply to Nellie’s conscience, “it serves him right for making me look a fool over that Geneva business. And besides, I can’t stand uppishness, and I won’t. I’m from the Five Towns, I am.”
Upon which singular utterance the incident closed.
THE SUPREME HONOUR
Denry was not as regular in his goings and comings as the generality of business men in the Five Towns; no doubt because he was not by nature a business man at all, but an adventurous spirit who happened to be in a business which was much too good to leave. He was continually, as they say there, “up to something” that caused changes in daily habits. Moreover, the Universal Thrift Club (Limited) was so automatic and self-winding that Denry ran no risks in leaving it often to the care of his highly drilled staff. Still, he did usually come home to his tea about six o’clock of an evening, like the rest, and like the rest, he brought with him a copy of the Signal to glance at during tea.