“A delightful person, Duchess, and we are all so pleased about it. I had hoped for some time that she would take him—anyone could see how things were going with him—but she was always so peculiar, and I rather feared at one time that she would say no,” and so on, and so on. Lady Kingsmead did not know she was lying, and the Duchess, who was sleepy and had on a tight dress, did not care. When she had found out who the other guests were to be, and that dinner was at half-past eight, she waddled upstairs, looking remarkably like Guillaume le Conquerant in her grey dress, and went to sleep.
Lady Kingsmead had a cup of Bovril, which she had been told was excellent for the complexion (although as her complexion was always carefully concealed from the eye of man, also from the far more piercing one of woman, it may be asked why she considered it). Then she had her maid lock her dressing-room door, and give her an hour’s facial massage.
At seven Joyselle arrived, and she was told that he had arrived.
“Ask Mr. Joyselle to come to my boudoir, Burton.”
“Very good, my lady.”
When Joyselle was ushered in he found a beautiful person in a lacy white tea-gown reading Maeterlinck on a satin chaise-longue.
He kissed her hand.
“I am glad to have an opportunity of seeing you, Lady Kingsmead,” he began abruptly, fixing his dark eyes on hers. “Our little private correspondence has, I trust, been as pleasing to you as it has to me?”
“I have greatly enjoyed it.”
“I am delighted. And they, the fiances, know nothing of it?”
“Of course not, Monsieur Joyselle.” Her ladyship bowed with some dignity as she spoke, for, besides being a very great artiste, this person with the quiet air of authority was also a peasant.
“As I said, I rather doubted the wisdom of writing to you, but Theo is a baby regarding money, and as you, of course, must consider the matter as not altogether advantageous in the point of birth—for we have no birth, my wife and I, we were just born,”—he smiled delightfully—“I thought it only just to reassure your”—he was on the point of saying “mother’s heart,” but thought better of it, and hastily substituted the word “mind,”—“on this point of money. Theo, by the will of my dear friend, Lady Isabel Clough-Hardy, does not come of age until he is twenty-five, in something less than three years’ time. But you now understand that I, as guardian, am prepared to do all I can for the two dear children.”
He was handsome, the Duchess was right. And he was beautifully dressed. And he would play for her guests after dinner.
Lady Kingsmead held out her jewelled hand.
“I am very glad that it happened,” she said sweetly. “Theo’s a dear boy, and seems to make my little girl very happy.”
“Yes, they seem happy. Ah—is this Tommy?”
It was. A spick-and-span Tommy, with very wet hair and a nervous smile; a Tommy with cold hands and a curious twitching behind his knees. For he had come to Olympus to see a god.