“Seven years, most likely,” said John Derringham a little bitterly. “Or perhaps to the end of time. Your friend Mr. Green could tell you more accurately than I. Does the fact interest you very deeply?”
“Yes,” she said, and narrowed her eyes. “I am wildly interested in everything that concerns you, of course—that is obvious.”
“You will help me to fight, then, for the Opposition. Your social talents are so great, dear Cecilia, you will make a most brilliant Tory hostess,” and he took her hand—he felt he must do something.
“I have always been on the winning side,” she said, not more than half playfully. “I do not know how I should like seven years of fighting an uncertain fight. I might get extremely bored by it. I had no idea it would last so long.” And she laughed a little uncomfortably. “However, we are perfectly modern, aren’t we, John, and need not spend the entire year fighting together—fortunately?”
“No,” he said. “I am sure we shall be an admirable pair of citizens of the world. And now I suppose I must let you go and dress for dinner. How is our estimable friend, Miss Clinker? She is with you, I suppose?—or have you friends staying in the hotel? You did not tell me in your letters.”
“I never waste sweetness upon the desert air,” she said, smiling, with a glitter in her eyes. “You did not appear over anxious to hear of my doings. Our correspondence made me laugh sometimes. You never wrote as though you had received any of my letters—yours were just masterpieces of how little to say—and of how to say it beautifully!”
John Derringham shrugged his shoulders slightly; he did not defend himself, and her anger rose. So that she was leaving the room with her head in the air and two bright spots of pink in her cheeks.
Then he felt constrained to vindicate his position, so he put his arm round her and drew her to him, intending to kiss her. But she looked up into his face with an expression in her eyes which left him completely repulsed. It was mocking and bitter and cunning, and she put out her hand and pushed him from her.
“I do not want any of your caresses to-night,” she said. “When I do, I’ll pay for them.” And she swept from the room, leaving him quivering with debasement.
There was fortunately a company assembled for dinner when John Derringham descended to the restaurant and again joined his fiancee—who never dined alone if she could help it, and reveled in gay parties for every meal, with plenty of brilliant lights and the chatter of other groups near at hand. Wherever she went, from Carlsbad to Cairo, in the best restaurant you could always find her amidst her many friends, feasting every night. And now the party consisted of some of her compatriots, a Russian Prince, and an Italian Marchese. She looked superbly beautiful; anger had lent a sparkle to her eyes and