At dinner, poor Denis Wilde curses Monsieur D’Arblet; Miss Frampton, and his own fate, indiscriminately and ineffectually. He is sitting exactly opposite to his divinity, but he cannot even enjoy the felicity of staring at her, for Miss Frampton will not let him alone. She chatters unceasingly and gushingly. At an early period of the repast the string of her amber-bead necklace suddenly gives way with a snap. The beads trickle slowly down, one by one; half a dozen of them drop with a cracking noise, like little marbles, upon the polished floor, where there is a general scramble of waiters and gentlemen under the table together after them; two fall into her own soup, three more on to Denis Wilde’s table-napkin; as fast as the truants are picked up others are shed down in their wake from the four apparently inexhaustible rows that garnish her neck.
Miss Frampton bears it all with serene and smiling good temper.
“Dear me, I am really very sorry to give so much trouble. It doesn’t signify in the least, Mr. Wilde—thanks, that is one more. Oh, there goes another into the sweet-breads; but I really don’t mind if they are lost. Jameson, of the 17th, gave them to me. Do you know Jameson? cousin of Jameson, in the 9th; he brought them from Italy, or Turkey, or somewhere. I am sure I don’t remember where amber comes from; do you, Mr. Wilde?”
Mr. Wilde, if he is vague as to where it comes from, is quite decided as to where he would desire it to go. At this moment he had crunched a tender tooth down upon one of these infernal beads, having helped himself to it unconsciously out of the sweetbread dish.
Is he doomed to swallow amber beads for the remainder of the repast? he asks himself.
“Did you ever meet Archdale, the man who was in the 16th?” continues Miss Frampton, glibly, unconscious of his agonies; “he exchanged afterwards into the 4th—he is such a nice fellow. I lunched every day at Ascot this year on the 16th’s drag. The first day I met Lester—that’s the major, you know—and Lester is such a pet! He told me to come every day to lunch, and bring any of my friends with me; so, of course, I did, and there wasn’t a better lunch on the course; and, on the cup-day, Archdale came up and talked to me—he abused the champagne-cup, though; he said there was more soda-water than champagne in it—the more he drank of it the more dreadfully sober he got. However, I am invited to lunch with the 4th at Goodwood. They are going to have a spread under the trees, so I shall be able to compare notes about the champagne-cup. I know two other men in the 4th; Hopkins and Lambert; do you know them?” and so on, until pretty well half the army list and all the luncheon-giving regiments in the service had been passed under review.
And there, straight opposite to him, was Vera, laughing at his discomfiture, he was sure, but also listening to the flattering rubbish which that odious little Frenchman was pouring into her ears.