“Thanks,” he said. “I won’t forget.”
He walked away briskly enough, but without any definite idea as to his destination. Rice returned to his room and smoked a whole cigarette before he touched his work.
A WOMAN OF WHIMS
Drexley had found his way to her side at last. As usual her rooms were full, and to-night of people amongst whom he felt himself to some extent an alien. For Drexley was not of the fashionable world—not even of the fashionable literary world. At heart he was a Bohemian of the old type. He loved to spend his days at work, and his evenings at a certain well-known club, where evening dress was abhorred, and a man might sit, if he would, in his shirt sleeves. Illimitable though her tact, even Emily de Reuss, the Queen of London hostesses, never succeeded in making him feel altogether at home in her magnificent rooms. To-night he felt more at sea even than usual. Generally she had bidden him come to her when she entertained the great cosmopolitan world of art-toilers. To-night she was at home to another world—the strictly exclusive world of rank and fashion. Drexley wandering about, seeing never a face he knew, felt ill at ease, conscious of his own deficiency in dress and deportment, in a world where form was the one material thing, and a studhole shirt or an ill-cut waistcoat were easy means of acquiring notoriety. He wandered from room to room, finding nowhere any one to speak to, conscious of a good deal of indifferent scrutiny, hating himself for coming, hating, too, the bondage which had made him glad to come. Then suddenly he came face to face with his hostess, and with a few graceful words of apology she had left her escort and taken his arm.
“I am afraid you are being bored,” she said, quietly. “I am sorry. I only remembered that people were coming to-night. Janette was out, and I had quite forgotten who had had cards. I wanted to see you, too.”
“I am a little out of place here,” he answered. “That is all. Now that I have seen you, you can explain your note, and I can go away.”
She seemed in no hurry.
“I know,” she said, “that you are dying for your smoky little club, your Scotch whiskey and your pipe. Never mind, it is well for you sometimes to be disciplined.”
“At the present moment,” he said, “I long for nothing beyond what I have.”
She turned to look at him with an amused smile. The lights flashed on the diamonds around her throat, and the glittering spangles upon her black dress. Truly a wonderfully beautiful woman—a divine figure, and a dress, which scarcely a woman who had looked at it had not envied.
“You are getting wonderfully apt, my grim friend,” she said, “at those speeches which once you affected to despise.”
“It was never the speeches I despised,” he answered bluntly, “it was the insincerity.”