“That’s good,” said the youth cordially. “If I hadn’t a fine start already, and wasn’t in a hurry to dress, we’d have another.”
“You were pointed out to me in Paris,” continued Cornish. “I found where you were staying and called on you the next day, but you had just started for the Riviera.” He hesitated, glancing at Mellin. “Can you give me half a dozen words with you in private?”
“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m afraid. I’ve only got about ten minutes to dress. See you to-morrow.”
“I should like it to be as soon as possible,” the journalist said seriously. “It isn’t on my own account, and I—”
“All right. You come to my room at ten t’morrow morning?”
“Well, if you can’t possibly make it to-night,” said Cornish reluctantly. “I wish—”
And Cooley, taking Mellin by the arm, walked rapidly down the corridor. “Funny ole correspondent,” he murmured. “What do I know about the Vatican?”
The four friends of Madame de Vaurigard were borne to her apartment from the Magnifique in Cooley’s big car. They sailed triumphantly down and up the hills in a cool and bracing air, under a moon that shone as brightly for them as it had for Caesar, and Mellin’s soul was buoyant within him. He thought of Cranston and laughed aloud. What would Cranston say if it could see him in a sixty-horse touring-car, with two millionaires and an English diplomat, brother of an earl, and all on the way to dine with a countess? If Mary Kramer could see him!... Poor Mary Kramer! Poor little Mary Kramer!
A man-servant took their coats in Madame de Vaurigard’s hall, where they could hear through the curtains the sound of one or two voices in cheerful conversation.
Sneyd held up his hand.
“Listen,” he said. “Shawly, that isn’t Lady Mount-Rhyswicke’s voice! She couldn’t be in Reom—always a Rhyswicke Caws’l for Decembah. By Jev, it is!”
“Nothin’ of the kind,” said Pedlow. “I know Lady Mount-Rhyswicke as well as I know you. I started her father in business when he was clerkin’ behind a counter in Liverpool. I give him the money to begin on. ’Make good,’ says I, ‘that’s all. Make good!’ And he done it, too. Educated his daughter fit fer a princess, married her to Mount-Rhyswicke, and when he died left her ten million dollars if he left her a cent! I know Madge Mount-Rhyswicke and that ain’t her voice.”
A peal of silvery laughter rang from the other side of the curtain.
“They’ve heard you,” said Cooley.
“An’ who could help it?” Madame de Vaurigard herself threw back the curtains. “Who could help hear our great, dear, ole lion? How he roar’!”
She wore a white velvet “princesse” gown of a fashion which was a shade less than what is called “daring,” with a rope of pearls falling from her neck and a diamond star in her dark hair. Standing with one arm uplifted to the curtains, and with the mellow glow of candles and firelight behind her, she was so lovely that both Mellin and Cooley stood breathlessly still until she changed her attitude. This she did only to move toward them, extending a hand to each, letting Cooley seize the right and Mellin the left.