Cicely laughed up at him.
“Isn’t it delightful?” she exclaimed. “Milly and I are so hungry, and we’re dying to see the ‘Milan.’ Will you bring Milly in another hansom?”
Douglas nodded and lit a cigarette. He wondered whether, after all, this experiment was going to be such a brilliant success.
A SUPPER AT THE “MILAN,” AND A MEETING
Drexley, a travelled man of fastidious tastes and with ample means to gratify them, proved a delightful host. In his earlier days he had been a constant diner-out; he understood the ordering of impromptu meals, and he had that decision and air which inspires respect even in a head-waiter. He marshalled his little party to the table reserved for them, waved away the table d’hote card, and ordered his dishes and wine with excellent judgment and consideration for the tastes of his guests. It was all most delightful—delightfully novel to Cicely and her friend, delightful to Drexley, who was amazed to find that the power of enjoyment still remained with him. The soft strains of music rose and fell from a small but perfectly chosen Hungarian band out on the balcony, the hum of conversation grew louder and merrier at every moment, the champagne flashed in their glasses, and a younger Drexley occupied the place of their kindly but taciturn host. Douglas, to whom fell the entertaining of Cicely’s friend, was honestly delighted at the change. But in the midst of it came a crushing blow. Emily de Reuss walked into the room.
As usual she was marvellously dressed, a stately glittering figure in a gown of shimmering black which seemed at every moment on fire. Her beautiful neck and shoulders were uncovered and undecorated; she walked between a grey-headed man, who wore the orders of an ambassador and a blue sash on his evening clothes, and his wife. Every one turned to look at her, every one was watching when she stopped for a moment before Drexley’s table, but every one did not see the flash in her eyes and the sudden tightening of her lips as she recognised the little party. Yet she was graciousness itself to them, and Douglas was the only one who noticed that first impulse of displeasure. She rested her fingers almost affectionately on Drexley’s shoulder, and the new flush of colour in his cheeks faded into sallowness at her touch.
“Here are two at least of my friends who have proved faithless,” she said, lightly. “I have been abroad for—ah! how long it seems—one, two, three months, and neither of you has bidden me welcome back to this wonderful city.”
“We are not magicians,” Douglas answered, “and as yet I am sure there is no paper which has chronicled your return. Only yesterday I was told that you were at Vienna.”
“Never,” she said, smiling into his face, “never under any circumstances believe anything anybody ever says about me. I have to tell that to my friends, in order that I may keep them. Tell me, have you begun the country letters yet for Mr. Anderson?”