“I have kept the motor for you,” he said.
Mona thanked him. Nan did not utter a word. She would not touch the hand that would have helped her in, and she kept her lips firmly closed throughout the drive.
When she entered the ballroom at length her husband was by her side, but neither by word nor look did she acknowledge his presence there.
Jerry spied her instantly, and came towards her. She went quickly to meet him.
“For goodness’ sake,” she whispered urgently, “help me to get away from that man!”
“Of course,” said Jerry, promptly leading her away in the opposite direction till the crowd swallowed them. “Who the dickens is he?”
She looked at him with a small, piteous smile.
“His name is Piet Cradock,” she said.
“Great Scotland!” ejaculated Jerry; and added fiercely: “What the devil has he come back for? What does he want?”
Nan threw back her head with a sudden wild laugh.
“Guess!” she cried.
But Jerry knew without guessing, and swore savagely under his breath.
“But you won’t go with him—not yet, anyhow?” he urged. “He can’t hurry you off without consulting your convenience. You won’t submit to that?”
An imp of mischief had begun to dance in Nan’s eyes.
“I am told he has to sail next week,” she said. “But I think it possible that by that time he won’t be quite so anxious to take me with him. Time alone will prove. How many waltzes did you ask for?”
“As many as I can get, of course,” said Jerry, taking instant advantage of this generous invitation.
She laughed recklessly, and gave him her card.
“Take them then, my dear boy. I am ready to dance all night long.”
She laughed again still more recklessly when he handed her card back to her.
“You are very daring!” she remarked.
He looked momentarily disconcerted.
“You don’t mind, do you?”
“I mind? It’s what I meant you to do,” she answered lightly. “Shall I say you are very daring on my behalf?”
Jerry flushed a deep red.
“I would do anything under the sun for you, Nan,” he said, in a low voice.
Whereat she laughed again—a gay, sweet laugh, and left him.
Piet Cradock spent nearly the whole of that long evening leaning against a doorpost watching his wife dancing with Jerry Lister. They were the best-matched couple in the room, and, as a good many remarked, they seemed to know it.
Through every dance Nan laughed and talked with a feverish gaiety, conscious of that long, long gaze that never varied. She felt almost hysterical under it at last. It made her desperate—so desperate that she finally quitted the ballroom altogether in Jerry’s company, and remained invisible till people were beginning to take their departure.