“I should like to know, Liosha,” said he, in a rumble like thunder, “why you have left my sister Euphemia and what you are doing here?”
“Euphemia is a damn fool,” she said serenely. “She’s a freak. She ought to go round in a show.”
“What have you been quarrelling about?” he asked.
“I never quarrel,” she replied, regarding him with her calm brown eyes. “It is not dignified.”
“Then I repeat, most politely, Liosha—what are you doing here?”
She looked at Barbara. “I guess it isn’t right to talk of money before strangers.”
Barbara smiled—glanced at me rebukingly. I pulled forward a chair and invited the lady to sit—for she had been standing and her astonishing entrance had flabbergasted ceremonious observance out of me. Whilst she was accepting my belated courtesy, Barbara continued to smile and said:
“You mustn’t look on us as strangers, Mrs. Prescott. We are all Mr. Chayne’s oldest and most intimate friends.”
“Do tell us what the row was?” said Jaffery.
Liosha took calm stock of us, and seeing that we were a pleasant-faced and by no means an antagonistic assembly—even Doria’s curiosity lent her a semblance of a sense of humour—she relaxed her Olympian serenity and laughed a little, shewing teeth young and strong and exquisitely white.
“I am here, Jaff Chayne,” she said, “because Euphemia is a damn fool. She took me this morning to your big street—the one where all the shops are—”
“My dear lady,” said Adrian, “there are about a hundred miles of such streets in London.”
“There’s only one—” she snapped her fingers, recalling the name—“only one Regent Street, I ever heard of,” she replied crushingly. “It was Regent Street. Euphemia took me there to shew me the shops. She made me mad. For when I wanted to go in and buy things she dragged me away. If she didn’t want me to buy things why did she shew me the shops?” She bent forward and laid her hand on Barbara’s knee. “She must he a damn fool, don’t you think so?”
Said Barbara, somewhat embarrassed:
“It’s an amusement here to look at shops without any idea of buying.”
“But if one wants to buy? If one has the money to buy?—I did not want anything foolish. I saw jewels that would buy up the whole of Albania. But I didn’t want to buy up Albania. Not yet. But I saw a glass cage in a shop window full of little chickens, and I said to Euphemia: ’I want that. I must have those chickens.’ I said, ’Give me money to go in and buy them.’ Do you know, Jaff Chayne, she refused. I said, ’Give me my money, my husband’s money, this minute, to buy those chickens in the glass cage.’ She said she couldn’t give me my husband’s money to spend on chickens.”
“That was very foolish of her,” said Adrian solemnly, “for if there’s one thing the management of the Savoy Hotel love, it’s chicken incubators. They keep a specially heated suite of apartments for them.”