Ostende had begun to bore Michael Arranstoun intolerably—he had lamed his best pony and Miss Daisy Van der Horn was getting on his nerves. At Ostende she, to use one of her own expressions, “was not the only pebble on the beach.” His nerves had had a good deal of exercise among that exceedingly pleasure-loving, frolicsome crew.
Five years in the wilds had not changed him much, except to add to his annoying charm. He was more absolutely dare-devil and sure of himself and careless of all else than ever. Miss Daisy Van der Horn—and a number of Clarices and Germaines and Lolos—were “just crazy” about him. And they mattered to him not a single straw. He laughed—and kissed them when he felt inclined, and then when all had begun to weary him he rode away—or rather sent his polo ponies back to England and got into the express for Paris, expecting there to find Henry Fordyce returned from Carlsbad—only to hear that he had just started in his motor for Brittany, and by that evening would have arrived at Havre.
Michael had nothing special to do and so followed him there at once by train, coming upon him just as he was closing his letter to Mrs. Howard. Then in his usual whirlwind way, which must be obeyed—he had persuaded Henry to take him on with him, inwardly against that astute politician’s, but diffident lover’s will.
“Look here, Michael,” he had said, “I am going to see the lady of my heart—you know, and you will probably be in the way!”
“Not a bit, old boy—I’ll play the helpful friend and spin things along. What’s she like?”
Here Lord Fordyce gave a guarded description—but with the enthusiasm of a man who is no longer quite young but madly in love.
“Good Lord!” whistled Michael. “She must be a daisy! And when are you going to be married, old man? I’ll lend you Arranstoun for the honeymoon—damned good place for a honeymoon—” and then he stopped short suddenly and laughed with a strange regretful sound in his mirth.
“Alas!” Henry sighed. “I cannot say—she is an American, you know, and has been married to a brute of her own nation out west, whom she has to get perfectly free of before I can have the honor to call her mine.”
“Yes, it is a dreadful bore having to wait. They arrange divorces wonderfully well over there though it is only a question of a few months, I suppose—but she would be worth waiting for for ten years——”
“It is simply glorious to hear you raving so, old bird!” Michael laughed. “When I think of the lectures you used to give me about women—mere recreations for a man’s leisure moments, I think you called them, and not to be taken seriously in a man’s real life!”
“I have completely changed my opinions,” Lord Fordyce announced, rather nettled. “So would any man if he knew Mrs. Howard.”
“Howard?” asked Michael—“but anyone can be a Talbot or a Howard or a Cavendish out there—so she is a Mrs. Howard, is she? I wonder who the husband was—I had a rascally cousin of that name who went to Arizona—perhaps she married him.”