“If he attacks,” she answered, “you must give me twenty-four hours clear notice before you move a hand against him. Afterwards—well, we will discuss that.”
“You had better,” he said, looking at her with an ugly gleam in his eyes, “persuade him to take you for a little tour on the Continent. It would be safer.”
“If he would come,” she said coolly, “I would go to-morrow. But he won’t—just yet. Never mind. You have heard what I wanted to say. Now shall we go? I am going to get some sleep this afternoon. Everybody tells me that I look like a ghost.”
“Why not come to Grosvenor Square with me?” he leaning a little across the table. “Patoff shall make you some Russian tea, and afterwards you shall sleep as long as you like.”
“How idyllic!” she answered, with a faint sarcastic smile. “It goes to my heart to decline so charming an invitation. But, to tell you the truth, it would bore me excessively.”
He muttered something under his breath which startled the waiter at his elbow. Then he followed her out of the room. She paused for a few moments in the portico to finish buttoning her gloves.
“Many thanks for my lunch,” she said, nodding to him carelessly. “I’m sure I’ve been a delightful companion.”
“You have been a very tormenting one,” he answered gloomily as he followed her out on to the pavement.
“You should try Lucille,” she suggested maliciously.
He stood by her side while they waited for her carriage, and looked at her critically. Her slim, elegant figure had never seemed more attractive to him. Even the insolence of her tone and manner had an odd sort of fascination. He tried to hold for a moment the fingers which grasped her skirt.
“I think,” he whispered, “that after you Lucille would be dull!”
“That is because Lucille has morals and a conscience,” she said, “and I have neither. But, dear me, how much more comfortably one gets on without them. No, thank you, Prince. My coupe is only built for one. Remember.”
She flung him a careless nod from the window. The Prince remained on the pavement until after the little brougham had driven away. Then he smiled softly to himself as he turned to follow it.
“No!” he said. “I think not! I think that she will not get our good friend Souspennier. We shall see!”
A barely furnished man’s room, comfortable, austere, scholarly. The refuge of a busy man, to judge by the piles of books and papers which littered the large open writing-table. There were despatch boxes turned upside down, a sea of parchment and foolscap. In the midst of it all a man deep in thought.
A visitor, entering with the freedom of an old acquaintance, laid his hand upon his shoulder and greeted him with an air of suppressed enthusiasm.