“Why on earth didn’t you let me know at once?”
I heard him laugh. “I’ll tell you when I see you. By the way, can Barbara have me for the week-end?”
This was like Jaffery. Most men would have asked me, taking Barbara for granted.
“Barbara would have you for the rest of time,” said I. “And so would Susan. I’ll expect you by the 11 o’clock train.”
“Right,” said he.
“And, I say!”
“Talking of fair ladies—what about—?”
“Oh, Hell!” came Jaffery’s great voice. “She’s here right enough.”
“Where?” I asked.
“The Savoy. So is Euphemia—”
Euphemia was Jaffery’s unmarried sister, as like to her brother as a little wizened raisin is to a fat, bursting muscat grape.
“Euphemia has taken her on. Wants to convert her.”
“Good Lord!” I cried. “Is she a Turk?”
“She’s a problem.” And his great laugh vibrated in my ears.
“Why not bring her down with Euphemia?”
“I want a couple of days off. I want a good quiet time, with no female women about save Barbara and my fairy grasshopper whom, as you know, I love to distraction.”
“But will Euphemia be all right with her?”
I had not the faintest notion what kind of a creature the “problem” was.
“Right as rain. Euphemia has fixed up to take her to-morrow night to a lecture on Tolstoi at the Lyceum Club, and to the City Temple on Sunday. Ho! ho! ho!”
His Homeric laughter must have shattered the Trunk Telephone system of Great Britain, for after that there was silence cold and merciless. Well, perhaps it was just as well, for if we had been allowed to converse further I might have told him that another female woman, Doria Jornicroft, was staying at Northlands, and he might not have come. Jaffery was always a queer fish where women were concerned. Not a chilly, fishy fish, but a sort of Laodicean fish, now hot, now cold. I have seen him shrink like a sensitive plant in the presence of an ingenue of nineteen and royster in Pantagruelian fashion with a mature member of the chorus of the Paris Opera; I ham e also known him to fly, a scared Joseph, from the allurements of the charming wife of a Right Honourable Sir Cornifer Potiphar, G.C.M.G., and sigh like a furnace in front of an obdurate little milliner’s place of business in Bond Street. I do not, for the world, wish it to be supposed that I am insinuating that my dear old Jaffery had no morals. He had—lots of them. He was stuffed with them. But what they were, neither he nor I nor any one else was ever able to define. As a general rule, however, he was shy of strange women, and to that category did Doria belong.
When the lovers came in I told them my news. Adrian expressed extravagant delight. A little tiny cloud flitted over Doria’s brow.
“Shall I like him?” she asked.
“You’ll adore him,” cried Adrian.