She felt that she was about to enter upon the true and only vocation of a dainty little morsel—namely, to spend money earned by other people. She thought less homicidally now of the thirteen chorus-girls of the previous night.
‘Say,’ said her father, ‘I sail this afternoon for New York, Nina.’
‘They said you’d gone, at the hotel.’
’Only my baggage. The Minnehaha clears at five. I guess I want you to come along too. On the voyage we’ll get acquainted, and tell each other things.’
‘Suppose I say I won’t?’
She spoke despotically, as the pampered darling should.
‘Then I’ll wait for the next boat. But it’ll be awkward.’
‘Then I’ll come. But I’ve got no things.’
He pushed up the trap-door.
Driver, Bond Street. And get on to yourself, for goodness’ sake! Hurry!’
‘You told me not to hurry,’ grumbled the cabby.
‘And now I tell you to hustle. See?’
‘Shall you want me to call myself Belmont?’ Nina asked.
’I chose it because it was a fine ten-horse-power name twenty years ago,’ said her father; and she murmured that she liked the name very much.
As Lionel Belmont the Magnificent paid the cabman, and Nina walked across the pavement into one of the most famous repositories of expensive frippery in the world, she thrilled with the profoundest pleasure her tiny soul was capable of. Foolish, simple Nina had achieved the nec plus ultra of her languorous dreams.
* * * * *
‘What did you say your name was?’ asked Otto, the famous concert manager.
‘That won’t do,’ he said roughly.
‘My real proper name is Clarice,’ she added, blushing. ‘But——’
‘That’s better, that’s better.’ His large, dark face smiled carelessly. ’Clarice—and stick an “e” on to Toft—Clarice Tofte. Looks like either French or German then. I’ll send you the date. It’ll be the second week in September. And you can come round to the theatre and try the piano—Bechstein.’
‘And what do you think I had better play, Mr. Otto?’
’You must play what you have just played, of course. Tschaikowsky’s all the rage just now. Your left hand’s very weak, especially in the last movement. You’ve got to make more noise—at my concerts. And see here, Miss Toft, don’t you go and make a fool of me. I believe you have a great future, and I’m backing my opinion. Don’t you go and make a fool of me.’
‘I shall play my very best,’ she smiled nervously. ’I’m awfully obliged to you, Mr. Otto.’
‘Well,’ he said, ‘you ought to be.’