“I am perfectly willing,” Forrest answered smoothly. “Shall we cut for deal?”
Cecil de la Borne leaned over and turned up a card.
“I am quite content,” he remarked. “What do you say, Engleton?”
Engleton hesitated for a moment. The Princess turned and looked at him. He was standing upon the hearthrug smoking, his face as expressionless as ever.
“Let us cut for partners,” he drawled. “I am afraid of the Princess and Forrest. The last time I found them a quite invincible couple.”
There was a moment’s silence. The Princess glanced toward Forrest, who only shrugged his shoulders.
“Just as you will,” he answered.
He turned up an ace and the Princess a three.
“After all,” he remarked, with a smile, “it seems as though fate were going to link us together.”
“I am not so sure,” Cecil de la Borne said, also throwing down an ace. “It depends now upon Engleton.”
Engleton came to the table, and drew a card at random from the pack. Forrest’s eyes seemed to narrow a little as he looked down at it. Engleton had drawn another ace.
“Forrest and I,” he remarked. “Jolly low cutting, too. I have played against you often, Forrest, but I think this is our first rubber together. Here’s good luck to us!”
He tossed off his liqueur and sat down. They cut again for deal, and the game proceeded.
Jeanne had moved across towards the window, and laid her fingers upon the heavy curtains. Cecil de la Borne, who was dummy, got up and stood by her side.
“Do you know,” she said, “although your frescoes are flowers, I feel that there are eyes in this room, too, only that they are looking in from the night. Can one see the sea from here, Mr. De la Borne?”
“It is scarcely a hundred yards away,” he answered. “This window looks straight across the German Ocean, and if you look long enough you will see the white of the breakers. Listen! You will hear, too, what my forefathers, and those who begat them, have heard, from the birth of the generations.”
The girl, with strained face, stood looking out into the darkness. Outside, the wind and sea imposed their thunder upon the land. Within, there was no sound but the softer patter of the cards, the languid voices of the four who played bridge. A curious little company, on the whole. The Princess of Strurm, whose birth was as sure as her social standing was doubtful, the heroine of countless scandals, ignored by the great heads of her family, impoverished, living no one knew how, yet remaining the legal guardian of a stepdaughter, who was reputed to be one of the greatest heiresses in Europe. The courts had moved to have her set aside, and failed. A Cardinal of her late husband’s faith, empowered to treat with her on behalf of his relations, offered a fortune for her cession of Jeanne, and was laughed at for his pains. Whatever her life had been, she remained