The Prince glanced at his watch, and then at the bridge tables ready set out.
“I think,” he said, “that a little diversion—what does our hostess say?”
“Two sets can start at least,” the Duchess said. “Lucille and I will stay out, and the Count de Brouillac does not play.”
The Prince rose.
“It is agreed,” he said. “Duke, will you honour me? Felix and Dolinski are our ancient adversaries. It should be an interesting trial of strength.”
There was a general movement, a re-arrangement of seats, and a little buzz of conversation. Then silence. Lucille sat back in a great chair, and Lady Carey came over to her side.
“You are nervous to-night, Lucille,” she said.
“Yes, I am nervous,” Lucille admitted. “Why not? At any moment he may be here.”
“And you care—so much?” Lady Carey said, with a hard little laugh.
“I care so much,” Lucille echoed.
Lady Carey shook out her amber satin skirt and sat down upon a low divan. She held up her hands, small white hands, ablaze with jewels, and looked at them for a moment thoughtfully.
“He was very much in earnest when I saw him at Sherry’s in New York,” she remarked, “and he was altogether too clever for Mr. Horser and our friends there. After all their talk and boasting too. Why, they are ignorant of the very elements of intrigue.”
“Here,” she said, “it is different. The Prince and he are ancient rivals, and Raoul de Brouillac is no longer his friend. Muriel, I am afraid of what may happen.”
Lady Carey shrugged her shoulders.
“He is no fool,” she said in a low tone. “He will not come here with a magistrate’s warrant and a policeman to back it up, nor will he attempt to turn the thing into an Adelphi drama. I know him well enough to be sure that he will attempt nothing crude. Lucille, don’t you find it exhilarating?”
“Exhilarating? But why?”
“It will be a game played through to the end by masters, and you, my dear woman, are the inspiration. I think that it is most fascinating.”
Lucille looked sadly into the fire.
“I think,” she said, “that I am weary of all these things. I seem to have lived such a very long time. At Lenox I was quite happy. Of my own will I would never have left it.”
Lady Carey’s thin lips curled a little, her blue eyes were full of scorn. She was not altogether a pleasant woman to look upon. Her cheeks were thin and hollow, her eyes a little too prominent, some hidden expression which seemed at times to flit from one to the other of her features suggested a sensuality which was a little incongruous with her somewhat angular figure and generally cold demeanour. But that she was a woman of courage and resource history had proved.
“How idyllic!” she exclaimed. “Positively medieval! Fancy living with one man three years.”