“I’ve had, I’m almost certain, the pleasure of seeing you before,” imparted Amory pleasantly, adjusting his pince-nez and looking down at her. She was so enchantingly tiny and he was such a giant.
“In New York?” demanded Antoinette.
“No,” said Amory, “no. Do desert island princesses get to New York occasionally, then? No, I think I saw you in Yaque. Yesterday. In a silver automobile. Did I?”
“We frightened them all to death,” she recalled. “Did we frighten you?”
“So much,” admitted Amory, “that I took refuge up here.”
“Where were you?” Antoinette asked curiously. Really, he was very amusing—this big courtly creature. How agreeable of Olivia to stay away.
“Ah, tell me how you got here,” she impetuously begged. “Desert island people don’t see people from New York every day.”
“Well then, O Pitiful Princess,” said the Shade from Sidon, “it was like this—”
It was easy enough to fleet the time carelessly, and assuredly that high moon-lit world was meant to be no less merry than the golden. Whoever has chanced to meet a delightful companion on some silver veranda up in the welkin knows this perfectly well; and whoever has not is a dull creature. But there are delightful folk who are wont to suspect the dullest of harbouring some sweet secret, some sense of “those sights which alone (says the nameless Greek) make life worth enduring,” and this was akin to such a sight.
After a time, at Antoinette’s conscientious suggestion, they strolled the way that St. George had taken. And to Olivia and the missing adventurer over by the parapet came Amory’s soft query:
“St George, may I express a friendly concern?”
“Ah, come here, Toby,” commanded St. George happily, “her Highness and I have been discussing matters of state.”
“Antoinette!” cried Olivia in amazement. From time immemorial royalty has perpetually been surprised by the behaviour of its ladies-in-waiting.
“I’ve been remembering a verse,” said Amory when he had been presented to Olivia, “may I say it? It goes:
speak a story to you,
Now listen while I try:
I met a Queen, and she kept house
A-sitting in the sky.’”
“Come in and say it to my aunt,” Olivia applauded. “Aunt Dora is dying of ennui up here.”
They crossed the terrace in the hush of the tropic night. Through the fairy black and silver the four figures moved, and it was as if the king’s palace—that sky thing, with ramparts of air—had at length found expression and knew a way to answer the ancient glamourie of the moon.
Upon Mrs. Hastings and Mr. Augustus Frothingham, drowsing over the pocket chess-board, the sound of footsteps and men’s voices in the corridor acted with electrical effect. Then the door was opened and behind Olivia and Antoinette appeared the two visitors who seemed to have fallen from the neighbouring heavens. The two chess-pretenders looked up aghast. If there were a place in the world where chaperonage might be relaxed the uninformed observer would say that it would be the top of Mount Khalak.