“Seven, Sir John? Then you’ll find your partner and go to the library—only three tables there! Dicky, what is your number? Four? Oh, you lucky little brute The conservatory. Who’s your girl? Oh, yes, Piggy! Aren’t I a lamb?”
The numbers of the various tables were being drawn, as she spoke, from a vase on the drawing-room table.
“And you, M. Joyselle? Thirteen. Oh, what awful luck!”
Everyone screamed with laughter, for the Norman was looking with unfeigned concern at his bit of paper.
“Je n’aime pas le treize, madame,” he protested, disregarding the prevailing mirth.
“But—what can I do? It’s a nice table in the billiard-room. Who’s your partner?”
“Lady Sophy Browne—which is she?”
“Oh, Sophy Browne. Go on drawing, you men, I must speak to Fred. I say, Fred——”
The good-natured Cassowary tramped across to the door where the Sparrow was standing, and bending down, said something to him.
“Is he really? I say, that’s too bad. But you can’t change the tables, can you, dear?”
“I don’t know. These kind of people are so superstitious, you see; it’s enough to make him glum all the evening, and Sophy was so keen—she says he looks like a bust by Rodin, and she wants to do him in pen and ink.”
The Sparrow rubbed his pointed nose thoughtfully.
“Change the two of ’em to another table, can’t you?”
“I’ve got ’em all sorted, though. Unless—I might change Billy and the Farquhar girl to their table, and put them in the boudoir balcony! Billy wouldn’t mind and the Farquhar girl doesn’t matter; she didn’t get me those tickets, anyhow.”
The Sparrow gave a little hop of satisfaction.
“Right. That’ll do famously.”
So the Cassowary went back to the table and laid her hand on Joyselle’s sleeve. “I have put you at another table, M. Joyselle. You go to the boudoir balcony—Sophy will take you there—so it’s all right. I must go and find Billy Vere now. Oh——” turning, she found herself face to face with Brigit Mead, who had just arrived.
“I say, Brigit, would you mind sitting at the table with M. Joyselle? Eugene Struther is your man, and M. Joyselle objects to his table because it is number thirteen.”
Brigit, shaking hands with her enthusiastic hostess, caught Joyselle’s eye. He had heard.
“Mind? Not a bit,” she answered carelessly, “if he doesn’t.”
Mrs. Newlyn turned, to find the top of Joyselle’s head presented to her in a bow of mockly-resigned acquiescence. “Then, that’s all right. What’s the matter, Oliver?”
Lord Oliver Maytopp, a cherished clown in that section of society in which the Newlyns had their being, was making believe to cry, his large mouth opened grotesquely, his fists digging into his eyes.
“I d—don’t want to sit at the table next Meg’s,” he sobbed, “when I tell funny stories she always—makes faces at me. I want to go home to Nursey.”