Naturally enough, he felt much less concern on the score of the ladies. It is an undoubted and well-nigh universal truth that men who would refuse outright to meet certain classes of their own sex show no reluctance whatever over meeting the women of a corresponding circle—that is, if the women are attractive. It is a depressing fact and inclines one to sighs and head-shakes, and some moral indignation, until the reverse truth is brought to light—namely, that women have identically the same point of view; that, while they cast looks of loathing and horror upon certain of their sisters, they will meet with pleasure any presentable man whatever his crimes or vices.
Ste. Marie was very much puzzled over all this. It seemed to him so unnecessary that a man who really had some footing in the newer society of Paris should choose to surround himself with people of this type; but as he looked on and wondered he became aware of a curious and, in the light of a past conversation, significant fact: all of the people in the room were young; all of them in their varying fashions and degrees very attractive to look upon; all full to overflowing of life and spirits and the determination to have a good time. He saw Captain Stewart moving among them, playing very gracefully his role of host, and the man seemed to have dropped twenty years from his shoulders. A miracle of rejuvenation seemed to have come upon him: his eyes were bright and eager, the color was high in his cheeks, and the dry, pedantic tone had gone from his voice. Ste. Marie watched him, and at last he thought he understood. It was half revolting, half pathetic, he thought, but it certainly was interesting to see.
Duval, the great basso of the Opera, accompanied at the piano by one of the unclassified ladies, was just finishing Mephistopheles’ drinking song out of Faust when the door-bell rang.
* * * * *
A GOLDEN LADY ENTERS—THE EYES AGAIN
The music of voice and piano was very loud just then, so that the little, soft, whirring sound of the electric bell reached only one or two pairs of ears in the big room. It did not reach the host certainly, and neither he nor most of the others observed the servant make his way among the groups of seated or standing people and go to the outer door, which opened upon a tiny hallway. The song came to an end, and everybody was cheering and applauding and crying “Bravo!” or “Bis!” or one of the other things that people shout at such times, when, as if in unexpected answer to the outburst, a lady appeared between the yellow portieres and came forward a little way into the room. She was a tall lady of an extraordinary and immediately noticeable grace of movement—a lady with rather fair hair; but her eyebrows and eyelashes had been stained darker than it was their nature to be. She had