“After dinner,” Mr. Foley remarked, as he lit a cigarette, “we are going to talk. At present, Maraton is under a solemn promise to play tennis.”
Maraton looked towards the house.
“If I might be allowed,” he said, “I will go and put on my flannels. Lady Elisabeth is making up a set, I think.”
He turned towards the house. The two men stood watching him.
“Is he to be bought?” Lord Armley asked, in a low tone.
Mr. Foley shook his head.
“Not with money or place,” he answered thoughtfully.
“There isn’t a man breathing who hasn’t his price, if you could only discover what it is,” Lord Armley declared, as he took a cigarette from his case and lit it.
“A truism, my friend,” Mr. Foley admitted, “which I have always considered a little nebulous. However, we shall see. We have a few hours’ respite, at any rate.”
Lady Grenside’s hospitable instincts were unquenchable. The small house-party to which her brother had reluctantly consented had grown by odd couples until the house was more than half full. Twenty-two people sat down to dinner that night. For the first time in his life, Mr. Foley interfered with the arrangement of the table. He sought his sister out just as the dressing-bell rang.
“My dear Catharine,” he asked, a little reprovingly, “was it necessary to have such a crowd here—at any rate until after Monday? You know that I don’t interfere as a rule, but there were special reasons why I wanted to be as quiet as possible until after Maraton had left.”
Lady Grenside’s expression was delightfully apologetic. It conveyed, also, a sense of helplessness.
“What was I to do?” she demanded. “Most of these people were asked, or half asked, weeks ago, and I hate putting any one off. It is quite a weakness of mine, that. And I am sure, Stephen, there isn’t a soul who could possibly object to Mr. Maraton. Personally, I think he is altogether charming, and so distinguished-looking. He has quite the air of being used to good society.”
Mr. Foley’s eyes lit with joyful appreciation of his sister’s naivete. Perhaps one reason why they got on so well together was because she was continually ministering to his sense of humour.
“It wasn’t altogether that,” he said, “but never mind. We can’t send the people away now—that’s certain. What I wanted to tell you was that Elisabeth must sit next Maraton to-night.”
Lady Grenside was horrified.
“However could I explain such an arrangement to Jack Carton!” she protested. “Apart from a matter of precedence, you know that he is Elisabeth’s declared admirer. It is perfectly certain that at a word of encouragement from her, he would propose. A most suitable match, too, in every way, and, you know, Elisabeth is beginning to be just a little anxiety to me. She is twenty-four, and girls marry so young, nowadays.”