He looked at her steadfastly.
“The folly of women—of clever women such as you,” he said, “is absolutely amazing. You have deliberately made a slave of yourself—”
“One must have distraction,” she murmured.
“Distraction! And so you play at this sort of thing. Is it worth while?”
Her eyes for a moment clouded over with weariness.
“When one has filled the cup of life to the brim for many years,” she said, “what remains that is worth while?”
“You are a young woman,” he said. “You should not yet have learned to speak with such bitterness. As for me—well, I am old indeed. In youth and age the affections claim us. I am approaching my second childhood.”
She laughed derisively, yet not unkindly. “What folly!” she exclaimed.
“You are right,” he admitted. “I suppose it is the fault of old associations.”
“In a few minutes,” she said, smiling at him, “we should have become sentimental.”
“I,” he admitted, “was floundering already.”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“You talk as though sentiment were a bog.”
“There have been worse similes,” he declared.
“How horrid! And do you know, sir, for all your indignation you have not yet even inquired after your wife’s health.”
“I trust,” he said, “that she is well.”
“She is in excellent health.”
“Your second visit to this country,” he remarked, “follows very swiftly upon your first.”
“I am here,” she said, “on your account.”
“You excite my interest,” he declared. “May I know your mission?”
“I have to remind you of your pledge,” she said, “to assure you of Lucille’s welfare, and to prevent your leaving the country.”
“Marvelous!” he exclaimed, with a slight mocking smile. “And may I ask what means you intend to employ to keep me here?”
“Well,” she said, “I have large discretionary powers. We have a very strong branch over on this side, but I would very much rather induce you to stay here without applying to them.”
“And the inducements?” he asked.
She took a cigarette from a box which stood on the table and lit one.
“Well,” she said, “I might appeal to your hospitality, might I not? I am in a strange country which you have made your home. I want to be shown round. Do you remember dining with me one night at the Ambassador’s? It was very hot, even for Paris, and we drove afterwards in the Bois. Ask me to dine with you here, won’t you? I have never quite forgotten the last time.”
Mr. Sabin laughed softly, but with undisguised mirth.
“Come,” he said, “this is an excellent start. You are to play the Circe up to date, and I am to be beguiled. How ought I to answer you? I do remember the Ambassador’s, and I do remember driving down the Bois in your victoria, and holding—I believe I am right —your hand. You have no right to disturb those charming memories by attempting to turn them into bathos.”