“It’s funny what a woman can do with a chap,” Bertie sagely observed.
“You ought to know,” Jimmie replied, pointedly, as he pulled on his coat. “Come along! It’s past my lunch hour, and I’m hungry.”
On their way to a noted restaurant in the vicinity Jimmy engaged in deep reflection.
“I’ll do it,” he vowed, mentally. “I’ll keep an eye on Mr. Victor Nevill, and get to the bottom of this thing. I remember that I took a dislike to him in Paris from the first. I hate a traitor, and if Nevill has been playing the part of a false friend, I’ll block his little game. He seemed rather too anxious to take Diane away that night. And he’ll bear watching for another reason—I’m almost certain that it was his voice I heard in the Jew’s back room. Benjamin and Company, like charity, may cover a multitude of sins. Nevill was going a rapid pace when he was abroad, and he couldn’t well have kept it up all these years on his legacy.”
* * * * *
It was eleven o’clock at night, and the theatres were pouring their audiences from pit and stalls, galleries and boxes, into the crowded, tumultuous, clamoring Strand, blazing and flashing like a vast, long furnace, echoing to the roar of raucous throats, and throbbing to the rumble of an endless invasion of cabs and private carriages. A fascinating scene, and one of the most interesting that London can show.
The uniformed commissionaire of the Ambiguity, reading the wishes of a lady and gentleman who pressed across the pavement to the curb, promptly claimed a hansom and opened the door. Stephen Foster helped his daughter into it and followed her. Madge looked fragile and tired, but her sweet beauty attracted the attention of the bystanders; she drew her fluffy opera-cloak about her white throat and shoulders as she nestled in a corner of the seat. Nevill, who had been separated from them by the crush, came forward just then.
“I’m sorry you won’t have some supper,” he said. “It is not late.”
“It will be midnight before we get home,” Stephen Foster replied. “We are indebted to you for a delightful evening.”
“Yes, we enjoyed it so much,” Madge added, politely.
“I hope you will let me repeat it soon,” Nevill said.
The girl did not answer. She held out her hand, and it was cold to Nevill’s touch. He bade them both good-night, and stepped aside to give the cabby his directions. He watched the vehicle roll away, and then scowled at the commissionaire, who waited expectantly for a tip.
“As beautiful as a dream,” he thought, savagely, “but with a heart of ice—at least to me. Will I never be able to melt her?”
It is no easy matter to cross the Strand when the theaters are dismissing their audiences, and five minutes were required for Nevill to accomplish that operation; even then he had to avail himself of a stoppage of the traffic by a policeman. He bent his steps to the grill-room of the Grand, and enjoyed a chop and a small bottle of wine. Lighting a cigar, he sauntered slowly to Jermyn street, and as he reached his lodgings a man started up suddenly before him.