At the Prime Minister’s request, Nigel remained behind. They both looked at the door through which Prince Shan had passed. Mr. Mervin Brown metaphorically pinched himself. He was still feeling a little dazed.
“Is that man real flesh and blood?” he demanded.
“He is as real and as near the truth,” Nigel replied solemnly, “as the things of which he has told us.”
That night, Nigel gave a dinner party on Maggie’s account at the fashionable London hotel of the moment. Invitations had been sent out by telephone, by hurried notes, in one or two cases were delivered by word of mouth. On the whole, the acceptances, considering the season was in full swing, were a little remarkable. Every one was anxious to come, because, as one of her girl friends put it, no one ever knew what Maggie was going to be up to next. One of the few refusals came from Prince Shan, and even he made use of compromise:
My dear Lord Dorminster, will you forgive me if in this instance I do not break a custom to which I have perhaps a little too rigidly adhered. The Prime Minister telephoned, a few minutes after we left him, asking me to meet two of his colleagues from the Foreign Office to-night, and I doubt whether our conference will have concluded at the hour you name.
However, if you will
permit me, I will give myself the pleasure of
joining you later in the evening, to make my adieux to those of my
friends whom I am quite sure I shall find amongst your company.
Maggie passed the note back with a little smile. She made no comment whatever. Nigel watched her thoughtfully.
“I have carried out your orders,” he observed. “Everything has been attended to, even to the colour of your table decorations. Now tell me what it all means?”
She looked him in the face quite frankly.
“How can I?” she answered. “I do not know myself.”
“Is this by way of being a farewell party?” he persisted.
“I do not know that,” she assured him. “The only thing is that if I do decide—to go—well, I shall have had a last glimpse of most of my friends.”
“As your nearest male relative, in fact your guardian,” Nigel went on, with a touch of his old manner, “I feel myself deeply interested in your present situation. If a little advice from one who is considerably your senior would be acceptable—”
“It wouldn’t,” Maggie interrupted quietly. “There are just two things in life no girl accepts advice upon—the way she does her hair and the man she means to marry. You see, both are decided by instinct. I shall know before dawn to-morrow what I mean to do, but until then nothing that anybody could say would make any difference. Besides, your mind ought to be full of your own matrimonial affairs. I hear that Naida is talking of going back to Russia next week.”