He put up the receiver and turned away. His smile remained, and it had no relation to anything but his delight that Nancy McDonald had consented to dine with him.
AT THE CHATEAU
Nancy was standing before the mirror which occupied the whole length of the door of the dress-closet with which her modest bedroom had been provided by a thoughtful architect.
She was studying the results of her preparations. She was to dine with Bull Sternford, the man who had caught and held her interest for all she knew that they belonged to camps that were sternly opposed to each other. She wanted to look her best, whatever that best might be, and she was haunted by a fear that her best could never rank in its due place amongst the superlatives.
However, she had arrayed herself in her newest and smartest party frock. She had spent hours, she believed, on her unruly masses of hair, and furthermore, she had assiduously applied herself to obliterating the weather stain which the fierce journey from Labrador had inflicted upon the beautiful oval of her cheeks. Now, at last, the final touches had been given, and she was critically surveying the result.
The longer she studied her reflection the deeper grew the discontent in her pretty, hazel eyes. It was the same old reflection, she told herself. It was a bit tricked out; a bit less real. It was a tiresome thing which gave her no satisfaction at all. There was the red hair that looked so very red. There were the eyes, which, at times, she was convinced were really green. There was the stupid nose that always seemed to her to occupy too much of her face. And as for her cheeks, the wind and sea had left them looking more healthy, but—She sighed and hurriedly turned away. She felt that mirrors were an invention calculated to upset the conceit of any girl.
She moved quickly round the little room. Her gloves, her wrap. She picked them up. The gloves she was painfully aware had already been cleaned twice, and her cloak had no greater merits than the modest-priced frock which had strained her limited bank roll. Then she consulted the clock on her bureau, and, picked up her scent-spray. This was the last, the final touch she could not resist.
In the midst of using it she set it down with a feeling of sudden panic.
She had remembered. She stood staring down at the dressing table with a light of trouble in her eyes. The whole incident had been forgotten till that moment. She remembered she had refused to dine with Elas Peterman that night on a plea of weariness, and without a thought had unhesitatingly accepted the invitation of the man whom the Skandinavia had marked down for its victim.
For some seconds the enormity of the thing she had done overwhelmed her. Then a belated humour came to her rescue and a shadowy smile drove the trouble from her eyes.