“A frivolous turn of mind, I suppose,” he replied. “I certainly prefer to talk art with you.”
“But nowadays,” she protested, “it is altogether the fashion down at Chelsea to discard art and talk politics.”
“It’s a fashion I shouldn’t follow,” he advised. “I should stick to art, if I were you.”
“Well, that depends upon how you define politics, of course. I don’t mean Party politics. I mean the science of living, as a whole, not as a unit.”
The Princess ambled up to them.
“I don’t know what your political views are, Mr. Orden,” she said, “but you must look out for shocks if you discuss social questions with my niece. In the old days they would never have allowed her to live in Russia. Even now, I consider some of her doctrines the most pernicious I ever heard.”
“Isn’t that terrible from an affectionate aunt!”
Catherine laughed, as the Princess passed on. “Tell me some more about your adventures last night?”
She looked up into his face, and Julian was suddenly conscious from whence had come that faint sense of mysterious trouble which had been with him during the last few minutes. The slight quiver of her lips brought it all back to him. Her mouth, beyond a doubt, with its half tender, half mocking curve, was the mouth which he had seen in that tangled dream of his, when he had lain fighting for consciousness upon the marshes.
Julian, absorbed for the first few minutes of dinner by the crystallisation of this new idea which had now taken a definite place in his brain, found his conversational powers somewhat at a discount. Catherine very soon, however, asserted her claim upon his attention.
“Please do your duty and tell me about things,” she begged. “Remember that I am Cinderella from Bohemia, and I scarcely know a soul here.”
“Well, there aren’t many to find out about, are there?” he replied. “Of course you know Stenson?”
“I have been gazing at him with dilated eyes,” she confided. “Is that not the proper thing to do? He seems to me very ordinary and very hungry.”
“Well, then, there is the Bishop.”
“I knew him at once from his photographs. He must spend the whole of the time when he isn’t in church visiting the photographer. However, I like him. He is talking to my aunt quite amiably. Nothing does aunt so much good as to sit next a bishop.”
“The Shervintons you know all about, don’t you?” he went on. “The soldiers are just young men from the Norwich barracks, Doctor Lennard was my father’s tutor at Oxford, and Mr. Hannaway Wells is our latest Cabinet Minister.”
“He still has the novice’s smirk,” she remarked. “A moment ago I heard him tell his neighbour that he preferred not to discuss the war. He probably thinks that there is a spy under the table.”