“It’s no particular trick to make men’s hearts flutter,” said Mrs. Clephane sweetly.
“How about it, Mr. Harleston?” Mrs. Spencer asked.
“No trick whatever,” he agreed, “provided she choose the proper method for the particular man; and some men are easier than others.”
“For instance?” Mrs. Spencer inflected.
“No instance. I give it to you as a general proposition and without charge; which is something unusual in these days of tips and gratuities and subsidized graft and things equally predatory.”
Mrs. Spencer arose. “The mere mention of graft puts me to instant flight,” she remarked.
“And naturally even the suggestion of a crime is equally repugnant to you,” Mrs. Clephane observed.
“‘As a general proposition,’” Mrs. Spencer quoted.
“And general propositions are best proved by exceptions, n’est-ce pas?” was the quick yet drawling answer.
The two women’s eyes met.
“I trust, Mrs. Clephane, we shall meet again and soon,” Mrs. Spencer replied, extending her hand.
“Thank you so much,” was Mrs. Clephane’s answer.
Mrs. Spencer turned to Harleston with a perfectly entrancing smile.
“Good-night, Guy,” she murmured.—“No, sir, not a foot; I’m going up to my apartment.”
“Then we will convoy you to the elevator. Come, Mr. Harleston.”
“It is only a step,” Mrs. Spencer protested.
“Nevertheless,” said Mrs. Clephane, “we shall not permit you to brave alone this Peacock Alley and its heedless crowd.”
And putting her arm intimately through Mrs. Spencer’s she went on: with Harleston trailing in the rear and chuckling with suppressed glee. It was not often that Madeline Spencer met her match!
When the car shot upward with Mrs. Spencer, Harleston gave a quiet laugh of satisfaction.
“Now shall we go in to dinner?” he asked.
Mrs. Clephane nodded.
“The table in the corner yonder, Philippe,” Harleston said.
“Who is Mrs. Spencer?” she inquired, as soon as they were seated.
“You’ve never heard of her?”
“No—nor seen her before tonight. One is not likely to forget her; she’s as lovely as—”
“Original sin?” Harleston supplied.
Mrs. Clephane smiled.
“Not at all,” said she. “Diana is the one I was about to suggest.”
“She may look the Diana,” he replied, “but she’s very far from a Diana, believe me, very far indeed.”
“I am quite ready to believe it, Mr. Harleston.” She lowered her voice. “I have much to tell you—and,” with a quick look at him, “also something to explain.”
“Your explanation is not in the least necessary if it has to do with anything Mrs. Spencer said.”
“Under the circumstances I think I should be frank with you. Mrs. Spencer said just enough to make you suspect me; then she dropped it—and half a lie is always more insidious than the full truth.”