She tapped with her fingers upon the little table by their side.
“He is rich,” she said, “and an uncommon mixture of the student and the man of society. He refuses many more invitations than he accepts, he entertains very seldom but very magnificently. He has never been known to pay marked attentions to any woman, even the scandal of the clubs has passed him by. What else can I say about him, I wonder?” she continued reflectively. “Nothing, I think, except this. He is a strong man. You know that that counts for much.”
Mr. Sabin was silent. Perhaps he was measuring his strength in some imagined encounter with this man. Something in his face alarmed Helene. She suddenly leaned forward and looked at him more closely.
“Uncle,” she exclaimed in a low voice, “there is something on your mind. Do not tell me that once more you are in the maze, that again you have schemes against this country.”
He smiled at her sadly enough, but she was reassured.
“You need have no fear,” he told her. “With politics—I have finished. Why I am here, what I am here for I will tell you very soon. It is to find one whom I have lost—and who is dear to me. Forgive me if for to-day I say no more. Come, if you will you shall drive me to my hotel.”
He offered his arm with the courtly grace which he knew so well how to assume. Together they passed out to her carriage.
“After all,” Lady Carey sighed, throwing down a racing calendar and lighting a cigarette, “London is the only thoroughly civilized Anglo-Saxon capital in the world. Please don’t look at me like that, Duchess. I know—this is your holy of holies, but the Duke smokes here—I’ve seen him. My cigarettes are very tiny and very harmless.”
The Duchess, who wore gold-rimmed spectacles, and was a person of weight in the councils of the Primrose League, went calmly on with her knitting.
“My dear Muriel,” she said, “if my approval or disapproval was of the slightest moment to you, it is not your smoking of which I should first complain. I know, however, that you consider yourself a privileged person. Pray do exactly as you like, but don’t drop the ashes upon the carpet.”
Lady Carey laughed softly.
“I suppose I am rather a thorn in your side as a relative,” she remarked. “You must put it down to the roving blood of my ancestors. I could no more live the life of you other women than I could fly. I must have excitement, movement, all the time.”
A tall, heavily built man, who had been reading some letters at the other end of the room, came sauntering up to them.
“Well,” he said, “you assuredly live up to your principles, for you travel all over the world as though it were one vast playground.”
“And sometimes,” she remarked, “my journeys are not exactly successful. I know that that is what you are dying to say.”