“You see,” Cecil continued, “they’re not keen on sport at all, and you don’t play bridge—”
Andrew had already disappeared. Cecil turned back into the hall and lit a cigarette.
“Phew! What a relief!” he muttered to himself. “If only he has the sense to keep away all the time!”
He rang the bell, which was answered by a butler newly imported from town.
“Clear away all this mess, James,” Cecil ordered, pointing in disgust to the wet places upon the floor, and the still dripping southwester, “and serve tea here in an hour, or directly my friends arrive—tea, and whisky and soda, and liqueurs, you know, with sandwiches and things.”
“I will do my best, sir,” the man answered. “The kitchen arrangements are a little—behind the times, if I might venture to say so.”
“I know, I know,” Cecil answered irritably. “The place has been allowed to go on anyhow while I was away. Do what you can, and let them know outside that they must make room for one, or perhaps two automobiles....”
Upstairs Andrew was rapidly throwing a few things together. With an odd little laugh he threw into the bottom of a wardrobe an unopened parcel of new clothes and a dress suit which had been carefully brushed. In less than twenty minutes he had left the house by the back way, with a small portmanteau poised easily upon his massive shoulders. As he turned from the long ill-kept avenue, with its straggling wind-smitten trees all exposed to the tearing ocean gales, into the high road, a great automobile swung round the corner and slackened speed. Major Forrest leaned out and addressed him.
“Can you tell me if this is the Red Hall, my man—Mr. De la Borne’s place?” he asked.
Andrew nodded, without a glance at the veiled and shrouded women who were leaning forward to hear his answer.
“The next avenue is the front way,” he said. “Mind how you turn in— the corner is rather sharp.”
He spoke purposely in broad Norfolk, and passed on.
“What a Goliath!” Engleton remarked.
“I should like to sketch him,” the Princess drawled. “His shoulders were magnificent.”
But neither of them had any idea that they had spoken with the owner of the Red Hall.
About half-way through dinner that night, Cecil de la Borne drew a long sigh of relief. At last his misgivings were set at rest. His party was going to be, was already, in fact, pronounced, a success. A glance at his fair neighbour, however, who was lighting her third or fourth Russian cigarette since the caviare, sent a shiver of thankfulness through his whole being. What a sensible fellow Andrew had been to clear out. This sort of thing would not have appealed to him at all.
“My dear Cecil,” the Princess declared, “I call this perfectly delightful. Jeanne and I have wanted so much to see you in your own home. Jeanne, isn’t this nicer, ever so much nicer, than anything you had imagined?”