“You know that man?” he said.
She assented quietly.
“Yes, I have met him. He is the editor of the Ibex.”
Douglas remembered the bitterness of that interview and Rice’s amazement, but he said nothing. He leaned back with half closed eyes. After all perhaps it had been for the best. Yet Drexley’s black look puzzled him.
A VISITOR FROM SCOTLAND YARD
The carriage pulled up before one of the handsomest houses in London. Douglas, brought back suddenly to the present, realised that this wonderful afternoon was at an end. The stopping of the carriage seemed to him, in a sense, symbolical. The interlude was over. He must go back to his brooding land of negatives.
“It has been very kind of you to come and see me, and to take me out,” he said.
She interrupted the words of farewell which were upon his lips.
“Our little jaunt is not over yet,” she remarked, smiling. “We are going to have dinner together—you and I alone, and afterwards I will show you that even a town house can sometimes boast of a pleasant garden. You needn’t look at your clothes. We shall be alone, and you will be very welcome as you are.”
They passed in together, and Douglas was inclined to wonder more than ever whether this were not a dream, only that his imagination could never have revealed anything like this to him. Outside the hall-porter’s office was a great silver bowl sprinkled all over with the afternoon’s cards and notes. A footman with powdered hair admitted them, another moved respectfully before them, and threw open the door of the room to which Emily de Reuss led him. He had only a mixed impression of pale and beautiful statuary, drooping flowers with strange perfumes, and the distant rippling of water; then he found himself in a tiny octagonal chamber draped in yellow and white—a woman’s den, cosy, dainty, cool. She made him sit in an easy-chair, which seemed to sink below him almost to the ground, and moved herself to a little writing-table.
“There is just one message I must send” she said, “to a stupid house where I am half expected to dine. It will not take me half a minute.”
He sat still, listening mechanically to the sound of her pen scratching across the paper. A tiny dachshund jumped into his lap, and with a little snort of content curled itself up to sleep. He let his hand wander over its sleek satin coat—the touch of anything living seemed to inspire him with a more complete confidence as to the permanent and material nature of his surroundings. Meanwhile, Emily de Reuss wrote her excuses to a Duchess—a dinner-party of three weeks’ standing—knowing all the while that she was guilty of an unpardonable social offence. She sealed her letter and touched a bell by her side. Then she came over to him.
“Now I am free” she announced, “for a whole evening. How delightful! What shall we do? I am ordering dinner at eight. Would you like to look at my books, or play billiards, or sit here and talk? The garden I am going to leave till afterwards. I want you to see it at its best.”