For the first time in her life, in her relations with the other sex, Maggie felt a queer sensation which was almost fear. She felt herself losing poise, her will governed, her whole self dominated. Unconsciously she drew herself a little away. Her eyes travelled around the crowded house and suddenly rested on the box which her visitor had just vacated. Seated behind the curtains, but leaning slightly forward, her eyes fixed intently upon Prince Shan, was La Belle Nita, a green opera cloak thrown around her dancing costume, a curious, striking little figure in the semi-obscurity.
“You have some one waiting for you in your box,” Maggie told him.
He glanced across the auditorium and rose to his feet. She gave him credit for the adroitness of mind which rejected the obvious explanation of her presence there.
“I must go,” he said simply, “but I have many things which I desire to say to you. You will not forget to-morrow afternoon?”
“I shall not forget,” she answered, in a low tone.
There was a half reluctant admiration in Prince Shan’s eyes as he sat back in the dim recesses of his box and scrutinised his visitor. La Belle Nita had learnt all that Paris and London could teach her.
“You are very beautiful, Nita,” he said.
“Many men tell me so,” she answered.
“Life has gone well with you since we met last?” he asked reflectively.
“The months have passed,” she replied.
“You have been faithful?”
“Fidelity is of the soul.”
He paused, as though pondering over her answer. A famous French comedian was holding the stage, and the house rocked with laughter.
“You have the same apartment?”
She pressed the clasp of a black velvet bag which rested on the edge of the box, opened it, and passed him a key.
“It is the same.”
He held the key in his fingers for a moment, but he had the air of a man to whom the action had no significance.
“You have enough money?” he asked.
“I have saved a million francs,” she told him. “I am waiting for my lord to speak of things that matter. The woman in the box over there—who is she?”
“An English spy,” he answered calmly.
She lowered her eyes for a moment, as though to conceal the sudden soft flash.
“An English spy,” she repeated. “My rival in espionage.”
“You have no rival, Nita,” he replied, “and she is in the opposite camp.”
Her two red lips were distorted into a pout.
“Is it over, my task?” she asked. “I am weary of Paris. I love it over here better. I am weary of French officers, of these solemn officials who come to my room like guilty schoolboys, and who speak of themselves and their importance with bated breath, as though their whisper would rock the world. My master has enough information?”