Drexley thanked him and surrendered his hat and coat to the waiter. Douglas leaned across to Cicely.
“Cicely,” he said, “let me introduce Mr. Drexley to you. Mr. Drexley—Miss Strong. Mr. Drexley will probably be my first victim on your behalf.”
Cicely blushed and looked timidly up at the tall, bearded man, who was regarding her with some interest. He smiled kindly and held out his hand.
“I am very pleased to know you, Miss Strong,” he said. “May I ask in what way I am to suffer on your behalf?”
“You have the misfortune, sir,” Douglas said, “to be the editor of a popular magazine, and you are consequently never safe from the literary aspirant. I am one, Miss Strong is another.”
“Oh, Mr. Drexley,” she exclaimed, in some confusion, “please don’t listen to him. I have never tried to do anything except children’s fairy stories, and I’m sure they’re not half good enough for the Ibex. I brought Douglas two to look at, but I’m not sure that they’re any good at all. I meant to offer them to a children’s paper.”
“Nevertheless, if you will allow me,” Drexley said, stretching out his hand, “I will take them with me and judge for myself. If I can use them, Miss Strong, it will be a pleasure to me to do so; if I cannot, I may be able to make some suggestion as to their disposal.”
“It’s awfully good of you, Drexley,” Douglas declared, but Drexley was bowing to Cicely. All the gratitude the heart of man could desire was in those soft brown eyes and flushed cheeks.
“I see you’ve nearly finished,” Drexley said. “I am only in time to offer you liqueurs. I always take a fin instead of a savoury, and I shall take the liberty of ordering one for you, Jesson, and a creme de menthe for Miss Strong.”
“You’re very good,” Douglas answered.
The order was given to the head-waiter himself, who stood by Drexley’s chair. Drexley raised his little glass and bowed to the girl.
“I drink your health, Miss Strong,” he said, gravely, “and yours, Jesson. May I find your stories as good as I expect to.”
Cicely smiled back at him. Her face was scarlet, for the coupling of their names, and Drexley’s quiet smile, was significant. But Douglas only laughed gaily as he reached for his hat, and drew Cicely’s feather boa around her with a little air of protection.
“Good night, Drexley,” he said.
And Drexley, rising to his feet, bowed gravely, looking into the girl’s face with a light in his eyes which ever afterwards haunted her when his name was mentioned—a light, half wistful, half kindly. For several minutes after they had left, he sat looking idly at the “bill of fare” with the same look on his face. There had been no such chance of salvation for him.
THE COUNTESS, THE COUSIN, AND THE CRITIC