“There is not much to tell,” he answered, without enthusiasm. “The young lady is, as you know, Lady Maggie Trent. The older lady, with the white hair, is, I believe, her aunt. The name of their escort is Lord Dorminster. You would probably know him by the name of Kingley—he has only just succeeded to the title.”
Prince Shan was looking straight across the room, his eyes travelling over the heads of the many brilliant little groups of diners to rest apparently upon an empty space in the white-and-gold walls. He had been a great traveller, but always his first evening, when he came once more into touch with a civilisation more meretricious but more poignant than his own, resulted in this disturbing cloud of sensations. His companion’s voice sounded emptily in his ears.
“They say that the young lady is engaged to Lord Dorminster. That is only gossip, however.”
For the second time Prince Shan looked directly at the little group. His eyes rested upon Maggie, simply dressed but wonderfully soignee, very alluring, laughing up into the face of her escort. Their eyes did not actually meet, but each was conscious of the other’s regard. Once more he felt the disturbance of the West.
“If we should chance to come together naturally,” he said, “it would gratify me to make the acquaintance of Lady Maggie Trent.”
The introduction which Prince Shan had requested came about very naturally. The lounge of the hotel was more than usually crowded that evening, and the table towards which an attentive maitre d’hotel conducted Immelan and his companion was next to the one reserved by Nigel. The transference of a chair opened up conversation. Immelan was bland and ingenuous as usual, introducing every one, glad, apparently, to make one common party. Prince Shan remained by Maggie’s side after the introduction had been effected. A chair which Immelan schemed to offer him elsewhere he calmly refused.
“This is my first evening in London, Lady Maggie,” he said. “I am fortunate.”
“Why?” she asked.
He looked at her meditatively. Then he accepted her unspoken invitation and seated himself on the lounge by her side.
“We who come from the self-contained countries of the world,” he explained, “and China is one of them, come always with the desire and longing for new experiences, new sensations. My own appetite for these is insatiable.”
“And am I a new sensation?” Maggie asked, glancing up at him innocently enough, but with a faint gleam of mockery in her eyes.
“You are,” he answered placidly. “You reveal—or rather you suggest—the things of which in my country we know nothing.”
“But I thought you were all so hyper-civilised over there,” Maggie observed. “Please tell me at once what it is that I possess which your womenkind do not.”