“Mrs. Clephane—is yonder!” said she.
Harleston turned quickly. Mrs. Clephane was coming down the corridor.
HALF A LIE
“Somewhat unexpected, isn’t it?” Harleston asked.
“To whom—you, her, or myself?” Mrs. Spencer inquired.
“Not at all. I’m never surprised at anything!” Then just a trace of derision came into her face. “Won’t you present me, Mr. Harleston?”
“Certainly, I will,” he responded gravely, and arose.
“Another unexpected!” she mocked. “But she is good to look at, Guy, I must grant you that. Also—” and she laughed lightly.
“One moment,” said he tranquilly, and turned toward Mrs. Clephane—who had caught sight of him and was undecided what to do.
Now, smiling adorably, she came to meet him.
“The two beauties of the season!” he thought; and as he bowed over her hand he whispered: “Not a word of explanation now; and play ignorance of everything.—Understand?”
“I don’t understand—but I’ll do as you direct,” she murmured.
“I want to present you to Mrs. Spencer—the woman whom, you will recall, I asked you in the red-room if you recognized. Be careful, she is of the enemy—and particularly dangerous.”
“Everyone seems to be dangerous except myself,” she replied. “I’m an imbecile, or a child in arms.”
“I’m not dangerous to you,” he answered.
“That, sir, remains to be proven.”
“And I like your idea of the child in arms—provided it’s my arms,” he whispered.
Her reply was a reproving glance from her brown eyes and a shake of the head.
“I’m delighted to meet you, Mrs. Clephane,” Mrs. Spencer greeted, before Harleston could say a word. She made place on the divan and drew Mrs. Clephane down beside her. “You’re Robert Clephane’s widow, are you not?”
“Robert Clephane was, I believe, a distant cousin,” Mrs. Clephane responded. “De Forrest Clephane was my husband. Did you know him, Mrs. Spencer?”
“I did not. Robert—” with the faintest stress on the name—“was the only Clephane I knew. A nice chap, Mrs. Clephane; though, since you’re not his widow, I must admit that he was a bit gay—a very considerable bit indeed.”
“We heard tales of it,” Mrs. Clephane replied imperturbably. “It is an ungracious thing, Mrs. Spencer, to scandalize the dead, but do you know anything of his gayness from your own experience?”
Harleston suppressed a chuckle. Mrs. Clephane would take care of herself, he imagined.
Mrs. Spencer’s foot paused in its swinging, and for an instant her eyes narrowed; then she smiled engagingly, the smile growing quickly into a laugh.
“Not of my own experience, Mrs. Clephane,” she replied confidentially, “but I have it from those who do know, that he set a merry pace and travelled the limit with his fair companions. It was sad, too—he was a most charming fellow. Rumour also had it that he was none too happy in his marriage, and that his Mrs. Clephane was something of the same sort. I’ve seen her several times; she was of the type to make men’s hearts flutter.”