“I was asking him if he had a brother.”
Miss Faraday glanced quickly at him. She had had a feeling for some time during the evening that his manner had been strange.
“A brother? What made you ask him that?”
“He—I mean—that is to say—what I mean is, he looked the sort of chap who might have a brother. Lots of those fellows have!”
Alice Faraday’s face took on a motherly look. She was fonder of Reggie than that love-sick youth supposed, and by sheer accident he had stumbled on the right road to her consideration. Alice Faraday was one of those girls whose dream it is to be a ministering angel to some chosen man, to be a good influence to him and raise him to an appreciation of nobler things. Hitherto, Reggie’s personality had seemed to her agreeable, but negative. A positive vice like over-indulgence in alcohol altered him completely. It gave him a significance.
“I told him to get you a lemonade,” said Reggie. “He seems to be taking his time about it. Hi!”
George approached deferentially.
“Where’s that lemonade?”
“Didn’t I ask you to bring this lady a glass of lemonade?”
“I did not understand you to do so, sir.”
“But, Great Scott! What were we chatting about, then?”
“You were telling me a diverting story about an Irishman who landed in New York looking for work, sir. You would like a glass of lemonade, sir? Very good, sir.”
Alice placed a hand gently on Reggie’s arm.
“Don’t you think you had better lie down for a little and rest, Mr. Byng? I’m sure it would do you good.”
The solicitous note in her voice made Reggie quiver like a jelly. He had never known her speak like that before. For a moment he was inclined to lay bare his soul; but his nerve was broken. He did not want her to mistake the outpouring of a strong man’s heart for the irresponsible ravings of a too hearty diner. It was one of Life’s ironies. Here he was for the first time all keyed up to go right ahead, and he couldn’t do it.
“It’s the heat of the room,” said Alice. “Shall we go and sit outside on the terrace? Never mind about the lemonade. I’m not really thirsty.”
Reggie followed her like a lamb. The prospect of the cool night air was grateful.
“That,” murmured George, as he watched them depart, “ought to hold you for a while!”
He perceived Albert hastening towards him.
Albert was in a hurry. He skimmed over the carpet like a water-beetle.
“Quick!” he said.
He cast a glance at the maid, George’s co-worker. She was reading a novelette with her back turned.
“Tell ’er you’ll be back in five minutes,” said Albert, jerking a thumb.
“Unnecessary. She won’t notice my absence. Ever since she discovered that I had never met her cousin Frank in America, I have meant nothing in her life.”