“You here?” she exclaimed, “and Muriel gone? What does this mean?”
The Prince leaned forward.
“It means,” he said, “that after you left I was in torment. I felt that you had no one with you who could be of assistance supposing the worst happened. Muriel is all very well, but she is a woman, and she has no diplomacy, no resource. I felt, Lucille, that I should not be happy unless I myself saw you into safety.”
“So you followed us here,” Lucille remarked quietly.
“Exactly! You do not blame me. It was for your sake—as well as my own.”
“And Muriel—why has she left me without farewell—without warning of any sort?”
The Prince smiled and stroked his fair moustache.
“Well,” he said, “it is rather an awkward thing for me to explain, but to tell you the truth, Muriel was a little—more than a little —annoyed at my coming. She has no right to be, but—well, you know, she is what you call a monopolist. She and I have been friends for many years.”
“I understand perfectly what you have wished to convey,” Lucille said. “But what I do not understand are the exact reasons which brought you here.”
The Prince took up the carte de jour.
“As we dine,” he said, “I will tell you. You will permit me to order?”
Lucille rose to her feet.
“For yourself, certainly,” she answered. “As for me, I have accepted no invitation to dine with you, nor do I propose to do so.”
The Prince frowned.
“Be reasonable, Lucille,” he pleaded. “I must talk with you. There are important plans to be made. I have a great deal to say to you. Sit down.”
Lucille looked across at him with a curious smile upon her lips.
“You have a good deal to say to me?” she remarked. “Yes, I will believe that. But of the truth how much, I wonder?”
“By and bye,” he said, “you will judge me differently. For hors d’oeuvres what do you say to oeufs de pluvier? Then—”
“Pardon me,” she interrupted, “I am not interested in your dinner!”
“In our dinner,” he ventured gently.
“I am not dining with you,” she declared firmly. “If you insist upon remaining here I shall have something served in my room. You know quite well that we are certain to be recognised. One would imagine that this was a deliberate attempt on your part to compromise me.”
“Lucille,” he said, “do not be foolish! Why do you persist in treating me as though I were your persecutor?”
“Because you are,” she said coolly.
“It is ridiculous,” he declared. “You are in the most serious danger, and I have come only to save you. I can do it, and I will. But listen—not unless you change your demeanour towards me.”
She laughed scornfully. She had risen to her feet now, and he was perforce compelled to follow her example.
“Is that a challenge?” she asked.