Lucille rose. When the servant had disappeared she turned round for a moment, and faced the Prince. A spot of colour burned in her cheeks, her eyes were bright with anger.
“I shall remember your words, Prince,” she said. “So far from mine being, however, a holiday task, it is one of the most wearisome and unpleasant I ever undertook. And in return for your warnings let me tell you this. If you should bring any harm upon my husband you shall answer for it all your days to me. I will do my duty. Be careful that you do not exceed yours.”
She swept out of the room. Lady Carey laughed mockingly at the Prince.
“Poor Ferdinand!” she exclaimed.
He had been kept waiting longer than usual, and he had somehow the feeling that his visit was ill-timed, when at last she came to him. He looked up eagerly as she entered the little reception room which he had grown to know so well during the last few weeks, and it struck him for the first time that her welcome was a little forced, her eyes a little weary.
“I haven’t,” he said apologetically, “the least right to be here.”
“At least,” she murmured, “I may be permitted to remind you that you are here without an invitation.”
“The worse luck,” he said, “that one should be necessary.”
“This is the one hour of the day,” she remarked, sinking into a large easy-chair, “which I devote to repose. How shall I preserve my fleeting youth if you break in upon it in this ruthless manner?”
“If I could only truthfully say that I was sorry,” he answered, “but I can’t. I am here—and I would rather be here than anywhere else in the world.”
She looked at him with curving lips; and even he, who had watched her often, could not tell whether that curve was of scorn or mirth.
“They told me,” she said impressively, “that you were different—a woman-hater, honest, gruff, a little cynical. Yet those are the speeches of your salad days. What a disenchantment!”
“The things which one invents when one is young,” he said, “come perhaps fresh from the heart in later life. The words may sound the same, but there is a difference.”
“Come,” she said, “you are improving. That at any rate is ingenious. Suppose you tell me now what has brought you here before four o’clock, when I am not fit to be seen?”
He smiled. She shrugged her shoulders.
“I mean it. I haven’t either my clothes or my manners on yet. Come, explain.”
“I met a man who interested me,” he answered. “He comes from America, from Lenox!”
He saw her whiten. He saw her fingers clutch the sides of her chair.
“From Lenox? And his name?”
“The Duke of Souspennier! He takes himself so seriously that he even travels incognito. At the hotel he calls himself Mr. Sabin.”