The Captain went on, slowly, his eyes upon her, “But she knows that you are not one of those others and has requested that you do her the grace to call upon her. I assured her that you would, for I know that you are kind, and also,” with an air of naive pride which Arlee found admirable in him, “it is not all the world who is invited to the home of our—our haut-monde, you understand?... And then it will interest you to see how our ladies live in that seclusion which is so droll to you. Confess you have heard strange stories,” and he smiled in quizzical raillery upon her.
The girl’s flush deepened with the memory of the confusing stories her head was stuffed with; tales of the bloomers, the veils, the cushions, the sweetmeats, the nargueils, the rose baths of the old regime were jostled by the stories of the French nurses and English governesses and the Paris fashions of the new era. She had listened breathlessly, with her eager young zest in life, to the amazing and contradictory narrations of the tourists who were every whit as ignorant as she was, and her curiosity was on fire to see for herself. She felt that a chance in a thousand had come her lucky way.
“I shall be very glad to call,” she told him, “just as soon as I return from the Nile.”
His face showed his disappointment—and a certain surprise. “But not before?”
“Why, I go to-morrow morning, you know,” said Arlee. “And——”
“It would be better—because of the invitation,” he said slowly, hesitantly, with the air of one who does not wish to importune. “My sister would like to ask for one who is known personally to herself. She thought you could render her a few minutes this afternoon.”
“This afternoon?” Arlee thought quickly. “I ought to be packing,” she murmured, “my things aren’t all ready.... And Mrs. Eversham is at the bazaars again and dear knows when she will be back.”
Just for an instant a spark burned in the black eyes watching the girl, and then was gone, and when she raised her own eyes, perplexed and considering, to him, she saw only the same courteously attentive, but faintly indolent regard as before. Then the young man smiled, with an air of frank amusement.
“That would seem to be a dispensation!” he laughed. “My sister and the Madame Eversham—no, they would not be sympathetic!... But if you can come,” he went on quickly, leaning forward and speaking in a hurried, lowered tone, “it can be arranged in an instant. I am to telephone to my sister and she will send her car for you. It is not far and it does not need but a few minutes for the visit—unless you desire. I cannot escort you in the car—it is not en regle—but I will come to the house and present you and then depart, that you ladies may exchange the confidences.... Does that programme please you?”
“I—I don’t know your sister’s name,” said Arlee.
He smiled. “Nechedil Azade Seniha—she is the widow of Tewfik Pasha. But say Madame simply to her—that will suffice. Shall I, then, telephone her?”