“Thought for an instant I’d seen you somewhere before, b’Jove!” he drawled in his metallic tone. “But, of course, I haven’t. Never forget a face, don’t you know.”
“I may not say so much, may not have the diplomat’s gift of always remembering people to the extent your lordship possesses it, but I am equally certain I have never before enjoyed the honor of being presented to your lordship!” said John Steele. The words were punctiliously spoken, his accents as cold as the other’s. An infinitesimal trace of constraint seemed to have crept into the box; Steele turned and holding out his hand, thanked Sir Charles and his wife for their courtesy.
Jocelyn Wray gazed around. “You are leaving before the last act?” she said with an accent of surprise.
He looked down at her. “Not through preference!”
“Ah!” she laughed. “Business before—music, of course!”
“Our day at home, Mr. Steele, is Thursday,” put in the governor’s lady, majestically gracious.
“And you’ll meet a lot of learned people only too glad to talk about music,” added the young girl in a light tone. “That is, if you were sincere in your request for knowledge, and care to profit by the opportunity?”
His face, which had been contained, impassive, now betrayed in the slightest degree an expression of irresolution. Her quick look caught it, became more whimsical; he seemed actually, for an instant, asking himself if he should come. She laughed ever so slightly; the experience was novel; who before had ever weighed the pros and cons when extended this privilege? Then, the next moment, the blue eyes lost some of their mirth; perhaps his manner made her feel the frank informality she had unconsciously been guilty of; she regarded him more coldly.
“Thank you,” he said. “You are very good. I shall be most glad.”
And bowing to her and to the others he once more turned; as he passed Lord Ronadsle, the eyes of the two men again met; those of the nobleman suddenly dilated and he started.
“B’Jove!” he exclaimed, his gaze following the retreating figure.
“What is it?” Sir Charles looked around. “Recall where you thought you saw him?”
Lord Ronsdale did not at once answer and Sir Charles repeated his question; the nobleman mechanically raised his hand to his face. “Yes; a mere fugitive resemblance,” he answered rather hurriedly. “Some one—you—you never met. Altogether quite a different sort of person, don’t you know!” regaining his drawl.
“Well,” observed Sir Charles, “fugitive resemblances will happen!”
* * * * *
A LESSON IN BOTANY