“Would you like me to help you tonight?” she asked brightly. “I thought I would ask if there was anything you wanted me to do.”
Lady Caroline snatched hurriedly at her aristocratic calm. She resented the interruption acutely, but her manner, when she spoke, was bland.
“Lord Marshmoreton will not require your help tonight,” she said. “He will not be working.”
“Good night,” said Billie.
“Good night,” said Lady Caroline.
Percy scowled a valediction.
“Money,” resumed Lady Caroline, “is immaterial. Maud is in no position to be obliged to marry a rich man. What makes the thing impossible is that Mr. Bevan is nobody. He comes from nowhere. He has no social standing whatsoever.”
“Don’t see it,” said Lord Marshmoreton. “The fellow’s a thoroughly decent fellow. That’s all that matters.”
“How can you be so pig-headed! You are talking like an imbecile. Your secretary, Miss Dore, is a nice girl. But how would you feel if Percy were to come to you and say that he was engaged to be married to her?”
“Exactly!” said Percy. “Quite!”
Lord Marshmoreton rose and moved to the door. He did it with a certain dignity, but there was a strange hunted expression in his eyes.
“That would be impossible,” he said.
“Precisely,” said his sister. “I am glad that you admit it.”
Lord Marshmoreton had reached the door, and was standing holding the handle. He seemed to gather strength from its support.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you about that,” he said.
“About Miss Dore. I married her myself last Wednesday,” said Lord Marshmoreton, and disappeared like a diving duck.
At a quarter past four in the afternoon, two days after the memorable dinner-party at which Lord Marshmoreton had behaved with so notable a lack of judgment, Maud sat in Ye Cosy Nooke, waiting for Geoffrey Raymond. He had said in his telegram that he would meet her there at four-thirty: but eagerness had brought Maud to the tryst a quarter of an hour ahead of time: and already the sadness of her surroundings was causing her to regret this impulsiveness. Depression had settled upon her spirit. She was aware of something that resembled foreboding.
Ye Cosy Nooke, as its name will immediately suggest to those who know their London, is a tea-shop in Bond Street, conducted by distressed gentlewomen. In London, when a gentlewoman becomes distressed—which she seems to do on the slightest provocation—she collects about her two or three other distressed gentlewomen, forming a quorum, and starts a tea-shop in the West-End, which she calls Ye Oak Leaf, Ye Olde Willow-Pattern, Ye Linden-Tree, or Ye Snug Harbour, according to personal taste. There, dressed in Tyrolese, Japanese, Norwegian, or some other exotic costume, she and her