“Mrs. Ross is a very handsome woman,” he remarked.
“And uncommonly fascinating, too, when she likes.”
“You had better look out, if she tries to fascinate you.”
“She is a married woman,” said Macleod.
“They are always the worst,” said this wise person; “for they are jealous of the younger women.”
“Oh, that is all nonsense,” said Macleod, bluntly. “I am not such a greenhorn. I have read all that kind of talk in books and magazines: it is ridiculous. Do you think I will believe that married women have so little self-respect as to make themselves the laughing stock of men?”
“My dear fellow, they have cart-loads of self-respect. What I mean is, that Mrs. Ross is a bit of a lion-hunter, and she may take a fancy to make a lion of you—”
“That is better than to make an ass of me, as you suggested.”
“—And naturally she will try to attach you to her set. I don’t think you are quite outre enough for her; perhaps I made a mistake in putting you into decent clothes. You wouldn’t have time to get into your kilts now? But you must be prepared to meet all sorts of queer folks at her house, especially if you stay on a bit and have some tea—mysterious poets that nobody ever heard of, and artists who won’t exhibit, and awful swells from the German universities, and I don’t know what besides—everybody who isn’t the least like anybody else.”
“And what is your claim, then, to go there?” Macleod asked.
“Oh,” said the young lieutenant, laughing at the home-thrust, “I am only admitted on sufferance, as a friend of Colonel Ross. She never asked me to put my name in her autograph-book. But I have done a bit of the jackal for her once or twice, when I happened to be on leave; and she has sent me with people to her box at Covent Garden when she couldn’t go herself.”
“And how am I to propitiate her? What am I to do?”
“She will soon let you know how you strike her. Either she will pet you, or she will snuff you out like winking. I don’t know a woman who has a blanker stare, when she likes.”
This idle conversation was suddenly interrupted. At the same moment both young men experienced a sinking sensation, as if the earth had been cut away from beneath their feet; then there was a crash, and they were violently thrown against each other; then they vaguely knew that the cab, heeling over, was being jolted along the street by a runaway horse. Fortunately, the horse could not run very fast, for the axle-tree, deprived of its wheel, was tearing at the road; but, all the same, the occupants of the cab thought they might as well get out, and so they tried to force open the two small panels of the door in front of them. But the concussion had so jammed these together that, shove at them as they might, they would not yield. At this juncture, Macleod, who was not accustomed