“Why, do you know?” breathed Isabel.
“Verily, O Gentile maiden.” Lawrence grinned at her over his champagne. “I lunched Raphael last time I was in town and he told me all about it. But I shouldn’t tell them. It isn’t good for Gentiles to know too much about Weltpotitik. That’s our show.” He leant back in his chair and his hot eyes challenged her to call him a dirty Jew.
Selincourt caught his last remark and looked him up and down with a twinkling glance. He no longer wondered why Lawrence had spent his summer in the tents of Kedar—so differently do brothers look on their own and other men’s sisters. But he knew men and things pretty well, and at a moment when Laura was speaking to Isabel he looked straight at Lawrence and touched his glass with a murmured, “Go slow, old man.” The elder man had seen instantly what neither Mrs. Clowes nor Isabel had any notion of, that under his easy manner Hyde’s nerves were all on edge. Lawrence started and stared at him, half offended: but after a moment his good sense extorted a grudging “Thanks.” It warned him to be grateful for the hint, and he took it: a second glass of champagne that night would infallibly have gone to his head.
A darkened theatre, fantastically decorated in scarlet and silver: a French orchestra already playing a delicate prelude: a lively audience—a typical “Moor” audience—agreeably ready to be piqued and scandalized as well as amused.
All the plays Isabel had ever seen were Salisbury matinees of “As You Like It” and “Julius Caesar.” It was not by chance that Hyde introduced her tonight to this filigree comedy, so cynical under its glittering dialogue. He could find no swifter way to present to her le monde ou l’on s’amuse in all its refined and defiant charm. He liked to watch her laugh, he laughed himself and gave a languid clap or two when Madeleine Wild made one of her famous entries, but his main interest was in his plan of campaign.
Yet chance can never he counted out. When the lights went up after the first act Lawrence found himself looking directly across the rather small and narrow proscenium at a lady in the opposite box. Who the devil was it?—The devil, with a vengeance! It was Mrs. Cleve.
Conscious to his fingertips that Selincourt was watching him with an amused smile, Lawrence returned Mrs. Cleve’s nod with less than his usual ease. Her eye ranged on from Selincourt, to whom she waved a butterfly salute, over the rather faded elegance of Laura Clowes and the extremely youthful charms of Isabel: apparently she did not admire Lawrence’s ladies: she spoke to her cavalier, an elderly, foreign-looking man with a copper complexion and curly dark hair, and they laughed together. What ensued between them was not difficult to follow. She made him a request, he rolled plaintive eyeballs at her, the lady carried her point, the gentleman left the box. Then—one saw it coming—she leaned forward till the diamonds in her plenitude of fair hair sparkled like a crown of flame, and beckoned Lawrence to join her.