“I dare say we can go to-morrow,” John Derringham said. “You and I might walk over—and perhaps Miss Lutworth and Freynault. We can’t go a large party, the house is so small.”
“Why cannot you and I go alone, then?” she asked.
“Oh, I think he would like to see Miss Cora. She is such a charming girl,” and John Derringham looked over to where she sat, still dangling a pair of blue satin feet from the high chair. And inwardly Mrs. Cricklander burned.
Cora was a second cousin of her divorced husband, and belonged by birth to that inner cream of New York society which she hated in her heart. Never, never again would she be so foolish as to chance crossing swords with one of her own nation. But aloud she acquiesced blandly and arranged that they should start at eleven o’clock.
“Perhaps we could persuade him to return to lunch with us?” she hazarded. “And that would be so nice.”
“You must do what you can with him,” John Derringham said. “I have prepared him to find you beautiful—as you are.”
“You say lovely things about me behind my back, then?” she laughed. “Now he will be disappointed!”
“Yes, I admit it was a betise—but, being my real thoughts, they slipped out when I was there to-day. You will have to be extra charming to substantiate them.”
Before Mrs. Cricklander went to bed, she called Arabella Clinker into her room.
“Arabella,” she said, “who was Cheiron?” But she pronounced the “ei” as an “a,” so Miss Clinker replied without any hesitation:
“He was a boatman who carried the souls of the dead over the River Styx, and to whom they were obliged to pay an obolus—son of Erebus and Nox. He is represented as an old man with a hideous face and long white beard and piercing eyes.”
“Is there anything else I ought to know about him?” her employer asked, and Arabella thought for a moment.
“There is the story of Hercules not showing the golden bow. Er—it is a little complicated and has to do with the superstitions of the ancients—er—something Egyptian, I think, for the moment—I will look it up to-morrow. I can’t say offhand.”
“Thanks, Arabella. Good night.”
And it was not until after the party of four had started next morning that Miss Clinker suddenly thought, with a start: “She may have been alluding to quite the other Cheiron—the Centaur—and in that case I have given her some wrong lights!”
Cora was being more than exasperating, Mrs. Cricklander thought, as they went through the park. Not content with Lord Freynault, who was plainly devoted to her, she kept every now and then looking back at John Derringham with some lively sally, and although he was being particularly agreeable to herself, he responded to Miss Lutworth’s piquant attacks with a too ready zeal.
Mrs. Cricklander grew more and more certain that her hold over him had lessened in these last two days, and every force in her indomitable personality stiffened with determination to win him at all costs.