And out of the magic she had come into his world again!
Sooner or later he would meet her now. That was sure. When? Where? And of what significance was it, after all?
Whom did it concern? Him? Her? And what had he to say to her, after all? Or she to him?
Not one word.
* * * * *
About midnight he roused himself and picked up his hat and coat.
“Do you wish a cab, please?” whispered the club servant who held his coat; “it is snowing very hard, sir.”
UNDER THE ASHES
He had neither burned nor returned the photograph to Mrs. Ruthven. The prospect perplexed and depressed Selwyn.
He was sullenly aware that in a town where the divorced must ever be reckoned with when dance and dinner lists are made out, there is always some thoughtless hostess—and sometimes a mischievous one; and the chances were that he and Mrs. Jack Ruthven would collide, either through the forgetfulness or malice of somebody or, through sheer hazard, at some large affair where Destiny and Fate work busily together in criminal copartnership.
And he encountered her first at a masque and revel given by Mrs. Delmour-Carnes where Fate contrived that he should dance in the same set with his ci-devant wife before the unmasking, and where, unaware, they gaily exchanged salute and hand-clasp before the jolly melee of unmasking revealed how close together two people could come after parting for ever and a night at the uttermost ends of the earth.
When masks at last were off there was neither necessity nor occasion for the two surprised and rather pallid young people to renew civilities; but later, Destiny, the saturnine partner in the business, interfered; and some fool in the smoking room tried to introduce Selwyn to Ruthven. The slightest mistake on their parts would have rendered the incident ridiculous; and Ruthven made that mistake.
That was Selwyn’s first encounter with the Ruthvens. A short time afterward at the opera Gerald dragged him into a parterre to say something amiable to one of the debutante Craig girls—and Selwyn found himself again facing Alixe.
If there was any awkwardness it was not apparent, although they both knew that they were in full view of the house.
A cool bow and its cooler acknowledgment, a formal word and more formal reply; and Selwyn made his way to the corridor, hot with vexation, unaware of where he was going, and oblivious of the distressed and apologetic young man, who so contritely kept step with him through the brilliantly crowded promenade.
That was the second time—not counting distant glimpses in crowded avenues, in the Park, at Sherry’s, or across the hazy glitter of thronged theatres. But the third encounter was different.
It was all a mistake, born of the haste of a heedless and elderly matron, celebrated for managing to do the wrong thing, but who had been excessively nice to him that winter, and whose position in Manhattan was not to be assailed.