‘Hah d’ ye do?’ said the Pyford.
‘Chairmed,’ minced Madame Carlotti.
‘Lucia, take this chair by the fire. You must be frozen.’
’Ah, grazie, Sybil. What a perfectly meeserable climate you have in this London!’
‘Just what I tha-a-y,’ bleated Mr. Pyford, sinking into his chair in an apparently boneless heap. ’The other night, at a fella’s thupper-party, I’——
‘MRS. LE ROY JENNINGS.’
The resolutionist swept into the room clothed in black disorder, much as if she had started to dress in a fit of temper and had been overtaken by a gale.
She knew Madame Carlotti.—She did not know Mr. Norton Pyford, the Norton Pyford.—She was glad to know him.
He muttered something inarticulate, and glancing at the ring of women about him, shrank into his clothes until his collar almost hid his lower lip.
‘We were discussing,’ said Lady Durwent, vaguely relying on the last sounds retained by her ear—’discussing—suppers.’
’Don’t believe in ’em,’ said Mrs. Jennings sternly; ’three regular meals—tea at eleven and four, and hot milk with a bit of ginger in it before retiring—are sufficient for any one.’
The Italian took in the forceful figure of the New Woman and smiled with her teeth.
‘Madame Jennings,’ she said, ’perhaps finds sufficient distraction in just ordinary life—and una tazza di te. But we who are not so—comment dirai-je?—so self-complete must rely on frivolous things like una buona cena.’
’Don’t believe in ’em,’ reiterated the resolutionist; ’three regular’——
‘Ah, c’est mauvais,’ gesticulated Madame Carlotti, who alternated between Italian and French phrases in London, and kept her best English for the Continent.
‘Mr. Pyford,’ put in Lady Durwent, descrying a storm on the yellow and black horizon, ’has just written’——
‘MR. H. STACKTON DUNCKLEY,’ announced the butler, with an appropriate note of mysterioso. Lady Durwent summoned a blush, and rose to meet the ardent author, who was dressed in a characterless evening suit with disconsolate legs, and whose chin was heavily powdered to conceal the stubble of beard grown since morning.
‘You have come,’ she said softly and dramatically.
‘I have,’ said the writer, bowing low over her hand.
‘I rely on you to be discreet,’ she murmured.
‘Discreet,’ she coquetted. ‘People will talk.’
‘Let them,’ said Mr. Dunckley earnestly.
’Madame Carlotti, I think you know Mr. Dunckley—H. Stackton Dunckley—and you too, Mrs. Le Roy Jennings; you clever people ought to be friends at once.—And I want you to meet Mr. Pyford, the’——
‘Hah d’ye do?’
‘How are you?’
‘We were discussing,’ said Lady Durwent—’discussing’——