Felix was standing out from the next table whilst his hand was being played by General Dolinski, his partner. He drew her a little on one side.
“Do not irritate Saxe Leinitzer,” he whispered. “Remember, everything must rest with him. Twice to-night you have brought that smile to his lips, and I never see it without thinking of unpleasant things.”
“You are right,” she answered; “but I hate him so. He and Muriel Carey seem to have entered into some conspiracy to lead me on to say things which I might regret.”
“Saxe Leinitzer,” he said, “has never forgotten that he once aspired to be your lover.”
“He has not failed to let me know it,” she answered. “He has even dared—ah!”
There was a sudden stir in the room. The library door was thrown open. The solemn-visaged butler stood upon the threshold.
“His Grace the Duke of Souspennier!” he announced.
There was for the moment a dead silence. The soft patter of cards no longer fell upon the table. The eyes of every one were turned upon the newcomers. And he, leaning upon his stick, looked only for one person, and having found her, took no heed of any one else.
She rose from her seat and stood with hands outstretched towards him, her lips parted in a delightful smile, her eyes soft with happiness.
“Victor, welcome! It is like you to have found me, and I knew that you would come.”
He raised her fingers to his lips—tenderly—with the grace of a prince, but all the affection of a lover. What he said to her none could hear, for his voice was lowered almost to a whisper. But the colour stained her cheeks, and her blush was the blush of a girl.
A movement of the Duchess recalled him to a sense of his social duty. He turned courteously to her with extended hand.
“I trust,” he said, “that I may be forgiven my temporary fit of aberration. I cannot thank you sufficiently, Duchess, for your kind invitation.”
Her answering smile was a little dubious.
“I am sure,” she said “that we are delighted to welcome back amongst us so old and valued a friend. I suppose you know every one?”
Mr. Sabin looked searchingly around, exchanging bows with those whose faces were familiar to him. But between him and the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer there passed no pretense at any greeting. The two men eyed one another for a moment coldly. Each seemed to be trying to read the other through.
“I believe,” Mr. Sabin said, “that I have that privilege. I see, however, that I am interrupting your game. Let me beg you to continue. With your permission, Duchess, I will remain a spectator. There are many things which my wife and I have to say to one another.”
The Prince of Saxe Leinitzer laid his cards softly upon the table. He smiled upon Mr. Sabin—a slow, unpleasant smile.