Billie bubbled over with laughter.
“Of all the impulsive kids!” she gurgled. “I never met anyone like you, dadda! You don’t even know that I can use a typewriter.”
“I do. Mr. Bevan told me you were an excellent stenographer.”
“So George has been boosting me, too, has he?” She mused. “I must say, I’d love to come. That old place got me when I saw it that day.”
“That’s settled, then,” said Lord Marshmoreton masterfully. “Go to the theatre and tell them—tell whatever is usual in these cases. And then go home and pack, and meet me at Waterloo at six o’clock. The train leaves at six-fifteen.”
“Return of the wanderer, accompanied by dizzy blonde! You’ve certainly got it all fixed, haven’t you! Do you think the family will stand for me?”
“Damn the family!” said Lord Marshmoreton, stoutly.
“There’s one thing,” said Billie complacently, eyeing her reflection in the mirror of her vanity-case, “I may glitter in the fighting-top, but it is genuine. When I was a kid, I was a regular little tow-head.”
“I never supposed for a moment that it was anything but genuine.”
“Then you’ve got a fine, unsuspicious nature, dadda, and I admire you for it.”
“Six o’clock at Waterloo,” said the earl. “I will be waiting for you.”
Billie regarded him with affectionate admiration.
“Boys will be boys,” she said. “All right. I’ll be there.”
“Young blighted Albert,” said Keggs the butler, shifting his weight so that it distributed itself more comfortably over the creaking chair in which he reclined, “let this be a lesson to you, young feller me lad.”
The day was a week after Lord Marshmoreton’s visit to London, the hour six o’clock. The housekeeper’s room, in which the upper servants took their meals, had emptied. Of the gay company which had just finished dinner only Keggs remained, placidly digesting. Albert, whose duty it was to wait on the upper servants, was moving to and fro, morosely collecting the plates and glasses. The boy was in no happy frame of mind. Throughout dinner the conversation at table had dealt almost exclusively with the now celebrated elopement of Reggie Byng and his bride, and few subjects could have made more painful listening to Albert.
“What’s been the result and what I might call the upshot,” said Keggs, continuing his homily, “of all your making yourself so busy and thrusting of yourself forward and meddling in the affairs of your elders and betters? The upshot and issue of it ’as been that you are out five shillings and nothing to show for it. Five shillings what you might have spent on some good book and improved your mind! And goodness knows it wants all the improving it can get, for of all the worthless, idle little messers it’s ever been my misfortune to have dealings with, you are the champion. Be careful of them plates, young man, and don’t breathe so hard. You ’aven’t got hasthma or something, ’ave you?”