“Of course not,” she agreed softly. “I really am sorry that I bothered you. There is one thing I should like to know, though and that is how you managed to escape?”
He shook his head but his amiability seemed to have wholly returned. His eyes twinkled as he looked at her.
“There we’re up against a solid wall of impossibility,” he replied. “You see, some of our other chaps may try the dodge. I gave them the tip and I don’t want to spoil their chances. By-the-bye, do you know the man two places down on your left?” he added dropping his voice a little. “Looks almost like a waxwork figure, doesn’t he?”
“You mean Major Thomson? Yes, I know him,” she assented, after a moment’s hesitation. “He is very quiet to-day, but he is really most interesting.”
Their hostess rose and beamed on them all from her end of the table.
“We have decided,” she announced, “to take our coffee out in the lounge.”
The little party trooped out of the restaurant and made their way to a corner of the lounge, where tables had already been prepared with coffee and liqueurs. Geraldine Conyers and Captain Granet, who had lingered behind, found a table to themselves. Lady Anselman laid her fingers upon Major Thomson’s arm.
“Please talk for a few more minutes to Selarne,” she begged. “Your French is such a relief to her.”
He obeyed immediately, although his eyes strayed more than once towards the table at which Captain Granet and his companion were seated. Madame Selarne was in a gossipy mood and they found many mutual acquaintances.
“To speak a foreign language as you do,” she told him, “is wonderful. Is it in French alone, monsieur, that you excel, or are you, perhaps, a great linguist?”
“I can scarcely call myself that,” he replied, “but I do speak several other languages. In my younger days I travelled a good deal.”
“German, perhaps, too?” she inquired with a little grimace.
“I was at a hospital in Berlin,” he confessed.
Lady Anselman’s party was suddenly increased by the advent of some acquaintances from an adjoining table, all of whom desired to be presented to Madame Selarne. Major Thomson, set at liberty, made his way at once towards the small table at which Captain Granet and Geraldine Conyers were seated. She welcomed him with a smile.
“Are you coming to have coffee with us?” she asked?
“If I may,” he answered. “I shall have to be off in a few minutes.”
A waiter paused before their table and offered a salver on which were several cups of coffee and liqueur glasses. Captain Granet leaned forward in his place and stretched out his hand to serve his companion. Before he could take the cup, however, the whole tray had slipped from the waiter’s fingers, caught the corner of the table, and fallen with its contents on to the carpet. The waiter himself—a small, undersized person with black, startled eyes set at that moment in a fixed and unnatural stare—made one desperate effort to save himself and then fell backwards. Every one turned around, attracted by the noise of the falling cups and the sharp, half-stifled groan which broke from the man’s lips. Captain Granet sprang to his feet.