The little party at the next table were breaking up at last. Lady Carey, pale and bored, with tired, swollen eyes—they were always a little prominent—rose languidly and began to gather together her belongings. As she did so she looked over the back of her chair and met Mr. Sabin’s eyes. He rose at once and bowed. She cast a quick sidelong glance at her companions, which he at once understood.
“I have the honour, Lady Carey,” he said, “of recalling myself to your recollection. We met in Paris and London not so very many years ago. You perhaps remember the cardinal’s dinner?”
A slight smile flickered upon her lips. The man’s adroitness always excited her admiration.
“I remember it perfectly, and you, Duke,” she answered. “Have you made your home on this side of the water?”
Mr. Sabin shook his head slowly.
“Home!” he repeated. “Ah, I was always a bird of passage, you remember. Yet I have spent three very delightful years in this country.”
“And I,” she said, lowering her tone and leaning towards him, “one very stupid, idiotic day.”
Mr. Sabin assumed the look of a man who denies any personal responsibility in an unfortunate happening.
“It was regrettable,” he murmured, “but I assure you that it was unavoidable. Lucille’s brother must have a certain claim upon me, and it was his first day in America.”
She was silent for a moment. Then she turned abruptly towards the door. Her friends were already on the way.
“Come with me,” she said. “I want to speak to you.”
He followed her out into the lobby. Felix came a few paces behind. The restaurant was still full of people, the hum of conversation almost drowning the music. Every one glanced curiously at Lady Carey, who was a famous woman. She carried herself with a certain insolent indifference, the national deportment of her sex and rank. The women whispered together that she was “very English.”
In the lobby she turned suddenly upon Mr. Sabin.
“Will you take me back to my hotel?” she asked pointedly.
“I regret that I cannot,” he answered. “I have promised to show Felix some of the wonders of New York by night.”
“You can take him to-morrow.”
“To-morrow,” Mr. Sabin said, “he leaves for the West.”
She looked closely into his impassive face.
“I suppose that you are lying,” she said shortly.
“Your candour,” he answered coldly, “sometimes approaches brutality.”
She leaned towards him, her face suddenly softened.
“We are playing a foolish game with one another,” she murmured. “I offer you an alliance, my friendship, perhaps my help.”
“What can I do,” he answered gravely, “save be grateful—and accept?”
She stopped short. It was Mr. Sabin’s luck which had intervened. Herbert Daikeith stood at her elbow.