“Will you excuse me for a moment, Captain Horton,” she said to her escort. “I want particularly to speak to Mr. Brott.”
Captain Horton bowed with the slight disappointment of a hungry man on his way to the supper-room.
“Don’t be long,” he begged. “The places are filling up.”
Lady Carey nodded and walked swiftly across to where Brott was standing. He moved eagerly forward to meet her.
“Not dancing, Mr. Brott?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“This sort of thing isn’t much in my way,” he answered. “I was rather hoping to see the Countess here. I trust that she is not indisposed.”
She looked at him steadily.
“Do you mean,” she said, “that you do not know where she is?”
“I?” he answered in amazement. “How should I? I have not seen her at all this evening. I understood that she was to be here.”
Lady Carey hesitated. The man was too honest to be able to lie like this, even in a good cause. She stood quite still for a moment thinking. Several of her dearest friends had already told her that she was looking tired and ill this evening. At that moment she was positively haggard.
“I have been down at Ranelagh this afternoon,” she said slowly, “and dining out, so I have not seen Lucille. She was complaining of a headache yesterday, but I quite thought that she was coming here. Have you seen the Duchess?”
He shook his head.
“No. There is such a crowd.”
Lady Carey glanced towards her escort and turned away.
“I will try and find out what has become of her,” she said. “Don’t go away yet.”
She rejoined her escort.
“When we have found a table,” she said, “I want you to keep my place for a few moments while I try and find some of my party.”
They passed into the supper-room, and appropriated a small table. Lady Carey left her partner, and made her way to the farther end of the apartment, where the Prince of Saxe Leinitzer was supping with half a dozen men and women. She touched him on the shoulder.
“I want to speak to you for a moment, Ferdinand,” she whispered.
He rose at once, and she drew him a little apart.
“Brott is here,” she said slowly.
“Brott here!” he repeated. “And Lucille?”
“He is asking for her—expected to find her here. He is downstairs now, looking the picture of misery.”
He looked at her inquiringly. There was a curious steely light in her eyes, and she was showing her front teeth, which were a little prominent.
“Do you think,” he asked, “that she has deceived us?”
“What else? Where are the Dorsets?”
“The Duchess is with the Earl of Condon, and some more people at the round table under the balcony.”
“Give me your arm,” she whispered. “We must go and ask her;”
They crossed the room together. Lady Carey sank into a vacant chair by the side of the Duchess and talked for a few minutes to the people whom she knew. Then she turned and whispered in the Duchess’s ear.