“People who own things,” she remarked, “never look upon them with proper reverence. Don’t you see that my mother is dying for some bridge?”
The Princess was only obeying a faint sign from Forrest. She leaned forward and addressed her host.
“It isn’t a bad idea,” she declared. “Where are we going to play bridge, Cecil? In some smaller room, I hope. This one is really beginning to get on my nerves a little. There is an ancestor exactly opposite who has fixed me with a luminous and a disapproving eye. And the blank spaces on the wall! Ugh! I feel like a Goth. We are too modern for this place, Cecil.”
Their host laughed as he rose and turned towards Jeanne.
“Your mother,” he said, “is beginning to be conscious of her environment. I know exactly how she is feeling, for I myself am a constant sufferer. Are you, too, sighing for the gilded salons of civilization?”
“Not in the least,” Jeanne answered frankly. “I am tired of mirrors and electric lights and babble. I prefer our present surroundings, and I should not mind at all if some of those disapproving ancestors of yours stepped out of their frames and took their places with us here.”
“If they have been listening to our conversation,” he said, “I think that they will stay where they are. Like royalty,” he continued, “we can boast an octagonal chamber. I fear that its glories are of the past, but it is at least small, and the wallpaper is modern. I have ordered coffee and the card-tables there. Shall we go?”
He led the way out of the gloomy room, chilly and bare, yet in a way magnificent still with its reminiscences of past splendour, across the hall, modernized with rugs and recent furnishing, into a smaller apartment, where cheerfulness reigned. A wood fire burnt in an open grate. Lamps and a fine candelabrum gave a sufficiency of light. The furniture, though old, was graceful, and of French design. It had been the sitting chamber of the ladies of the De la Borne family for generations, and it bore traces of its gentler occupation. One thing alone remained of primevalism to remind them of their closer contact with the great forces of nature. The chamber was built in the tower, which stood exposed to the sea, and the roar of the wind was ceaseless.
“Here at least we shall be comfortable, I think,” Cecil remarked, as they all entered. “My frescoes are faded, but they represent flowers, not faces. There are no eyes to stare at you from out of the walls here, Princess.”
The Princess laughed gaily as she seated herself before a Louis Quinze card-table, and threw a pack of cards across the faded green baize cloth.
“It is charming, this,” she declared. “Shall we challenge these two boys, Nigel? You are the only man who understands my leads, and who does not scold me for my declarations.”