SPREADING THE NETS
“By the bye,” the Marchioness asked him, “have you a Christian name?”
“Sorry,” Wingrave answered, “if I ever had, I’ve forgotten it.”
“Then I must call you Wingrave,” she remarked. “I hate calling anyone I know decently well Mr. anything.”
“Charmed,” Wingrave answered; “it isn’t a bad name.”
“It isn’t,” she admitted. “By the bye,” she continued, looking at him critically, “you are rather a surprising person, aren’t you?”
“Glad you’ve found it out,” Wingrave answered. “I always thought so.”
“One associates all sorts of terrible things with millionaires—especially African and American ones,” she remarked. “Now you could pass anywhere for the ordinary sort of decent person.”
“I was told the other day,” he remarked reflectively, “that if I would only cultivate two things, I might almost pass as a member of the English aristocracy.”
“What were they?” she asked rashly.
“Ignorance and impertinence,” he answered.
The Marchioness was silent for a moment. There was a little more color than usual in her beautiful cheeks and a dangerous glitter in her eyes.
“You can go home, Mr. Wingrave,” she said.
He rose to his feet imperturbably. The Marchioness stretched out a long white hand and gently forced him back again.
“You mustn’t talk like that to me,” she said quietly. “I am sensitive.”
“A privilege, I believe, of your order,” he remarked.
“Of course, if you want to quarrel—” she began.
“I don’t,” he assured her.
“Then be sensible! I want to talk to you.”
“Sensible, alone with you!” he murmured. “I should establish a new record.”
“You certainly aren’t in the least like a millionaire,” she declared, smiling at him, “you are more like a—”
“Please go on,” he begged.
“I daren’t,” she answered, shaking her head.
“Then you aren’t in the least like a marchioness,” he declared. “At least, not like our American ideas of one.”
She laughed outright.
“Bring your chair quite close to mine,” she ordered, “I really want to talk to you.”
He obeyed, and affected to be absorbed in the contemplation of the rings on the hand which a great artist had called the most beautiful in England. She withdrew it a little peevishly, after a moment’s pause.
“I want to talk about the Barringtons,” she said. “Do you know that they are practically ruined?”
“I heard that Barrington had been gambling on the Stock Exchange the last few days,” he answered.
“He has lost a great deal of money,” she answered, “and they were almost on their last legs before. Are you going to set them straight again?”
“No idea,” he answered. “I haven’t been asked, for one thing.”