She did not understand half his words; but as with an almost womanly tenderness he placed a silken cushion beneath her head, she nestled down, smiling into his eyes with the gratitude of a child that neither questions nor doubts. To her he appeared like a being from another world—a world or which she had scarcely dared to dream, and her eyes were eloquent.
Adrien Leroy stood for a little while watching her, till her gentle breathing showed him she had fallen asleep.
“A beautiful child,” he said under his breath. “She will be a still more beautiful woman.” He sighed. “Poor little thing! Rich and poor, young and old, how soon the world’s poison reaches us!” Then, throwing a tiger-skin over the slender body, he turned out the lights and left the room. Summoning Norgate, he gave instructions that his nocturnal visitor should not be disturbed in the morning by the housekeeper, but should be allowed to sleep on. Then he made his way to his own room, not long before the dawn broke.
He had befriended this young human thing as he would have rescued a wounded bird, and with as little thought for the consequences; yet the day was to come when he should look back on this action as one inspired, in very truth, by his guardian angel.
The sun had risen cold and bright when Adrien Leroy awoke, and his first question was for the child, Jessica. But here a surprise awaited him, for the bird had flown. Norgate and the housekeeper had found the room tenantless. For some inexplicable reasons of her own she must have stolen noiselessly out while the other occupants of the flat were still sleeping.
Adrien made no comment, but proceeded to undergo the labours of the toilet. A cold bath is an excellent tonic; and when Leroy entered the dining-room his calm face bore no traces of his comparatively sleepless night. He sat down to breakfast, waited on by the attentive Norgate, and turned over the heap of letters which lay beside his plate. During his leisured meal he opened them. They were principally invitations, though a few of them were bills—big sums, many of them, for horses, dinner-parties, supper-parties, jewellery, flowers—all the hundred-and-one trifles which were as necessary to a man in his position as light and air.
With a gesture of weariness, he pushed the pile from him, and throwing them carelessly into the drawer of a buhl cabinet, left them until such time as Jasper Vermont could attend to them.
“Where do I dine to-night?” he asked presently.
“At the Marquis of Heathcotes’, sir—at eight,” replied Norgate, who knew his master’s engagements better than did the young man himself.
Leroy nodded absently.
“Order the new motor for four o’clock. I want to see how it goes.”
“Yes, sir.” The confidential servant coughed and looked slightly embarrassed. “I may mention, sir, that Perrier has sent in his account for the costumes made for the Fancy Dress Carnival at Prince’s.”