“Are you waiting for your mistress?” I said sharply. “Because....”
She flashed me a look.
“Did monsieur by any chance imagine that I was waiting for himself?”
There was a calm insolence about the girl which induced me to retire from that parley.
In two hours I was on my way to London.
The boat-train was due to leave in ten minutes, and the platform at Victoria Station (how changed since then!) showed that scene of discreet and haughty excitement which it was wont to exhibit about nine o’clock every evening in those days. The weather was wild. It had been wet all day, and the rain came smashing down, driven by the great gusts of a genuine westerly gale. Consequently there were fewer passengers than usual, and those people who by choice or compulsion had resolved to front the terrors of the Channel passage had a preoccupied look as they hurried importantly to and fro amid piles of luggage and groups of loungers on the wind-swept platform beneath the flickering gas-lamps. But the porters, and the friends engaged in the ceremony of seeing-off, and the loungers, and the bookstall clerks—these individuals were not preoccupied by thoughts of intimate inconveniences before midnight. As for me, I was quite alone with my thoughts. At least, I began by being alone.
As I was registering a particularly heavy and overfed portmanteau to Paris, a young woman put her head close to mine at the window of the baggage-office.
“Mr. Foster? I thought it was. My cab set down immediately after yours, and I have been trying to catch your eye on the platform. Of course it was no go!”
The speech was thrown at me in a light, airy tone from a tiny, pert mouth which glistened red behind a muslin veil.
“Miss Deschamps!” I exclaimed.
“Glad you remember my name. As handsome and supercilious as ever, I observe. I haven’t seen you since that night at Sullivan’s reception. Why didn’t you call on me one Sunday? You know I asked you to.”
“Did you ask me?” I demanded, secretly flattered in the extremity of my youthfulness because she had called me supercilious.
“Well, rather. I’m going to Paris—and in this weather!”
“I am, too.”
“Then, let’s go together, eh?”
“Delighted. But why have you chosen such a night?”
“I haven’t chosen it. You see, I open to-morrow at the Casino de Paris for fourteen nights, and I suppose I’ve got to be there. You wouldn’t believe what they’re paying me. The Diana company is touring in the provinces while the theatre is getting itself decorated. I hate the provinces. Leeds and Liverpool and Glasgow—fancy dancing there! And so my half-sister—Carlotta, y’know—got me this engagement, and I’m going to stay with her. Have you met Carlotta?”
“No—not yet.” I did not add that I had had reason to think a good deal about her.