“We met him a week or so ago,” she answered, “and he has been very attentive. He has a country place down in Norfolk, which from his description is, I should think, like a castle in Hermitland. Jeanne and I are dining with him to-night at the Savoy. You and Engleton must come, too. I can arrange it. It is just possible that we may be able to manage something. He told me yesterday that he was going back to Norfolk very soon. I fancy that he has a brother who keeps rather a strict watch over him, and he is not allowed to stay up in town very long at a time.”
“I know the name,” Forrest remarked. “They are a very old Roman Catholic family. We’ll come and dine, if you say that you can arrange it. But I don’t see how we can all hope to get an invitation out of him on such a short acquaintance.”
The Princess was looking thoughtful.
“Leave it to me,” she said. “I have an idea. Be at the Savoy at a quarter past eight, and bring Lord Ronald.”
Forrest took up his hat. He looked at the Princess with something very much like admiration in his face. For years he had dominated this woman. To-day, for the first time, she had had the upper hand.
“We will be there all right,” he said. “Engleton will only be too glad to be where Jeanne is. I suppose young De la Borne is the same way.”
The Princess sighed.
“Every one,” she remarked, “is so shockingly mercenary!”
The Princess helped herself to a salted almond and took her first sip of champagne. The almonds were crisp and the champagne dry. She was wearing a new and most successful dinner-gown of black velvet, and she was quite sure that in the subdued light no one could tell that the pearls in the collar around her neck were imitation. Her afternoon’s indisposition was quite forgotten. She nodded at her host approvingly.
“Cecil,” she said, “it is really very good of you to take in my two friends like this. Major Forrest has just arrived from Ostend, and I was very anxious to hear about the people I know there, and the frocks, and all the rest of it. Lord Ronald always amuses me, too. I suppose most people would call him foolish, but to me he only seems very, very young.”
The young man who was host raised his glass and bowed towards the Princess.
“I can assure you,” he said, “that it has given me a great deal of pleasure to make the acquaintance of Major Forrest and Lord Ronald, but it has given me more pleasure still to be able to do anything for you. You know that.”
She looked at him quickly, and down at her plate. Such glances had become almost a habit with her, but they were still effectual. Cecil de la Borne leaned across towards Forrest.
“I hear that you have been to Ostend lately, Major Forrest,” he said. “I thought of going over myself a little later in the season for a few days.”