“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Forrest answered. “It is overrun just now with the wrong sort of people. There is nothing to do but gamble, which doesn’t interest me particularly; or dress in a ridiculous costume and paddle about in a few feet of water, which appeals to me even less.”
“You were there a little early in the season,” the Princess reminded him.
Major Forrest assented.
“A little later,” he admitted, “it may be tolerable. On the whole, however, I was disappointed.”
Lord Ronald spoke for the first time. He was very thin, very long, and very tall. He wore a somewhat unusually high collar, but he was very carefully, not to say exactly, dressed. His studs and links and waistcoat buttons were obviously fresh from the Rue de la Paix. The set of his tie was perfection. His features were not unintelligent, but his mouth was weak.
“One thing I noticed about Ostend,” he remarked, “they charge you a frightful price for everything. We never got a glass of champagne there like this.”
“I am glad you like it,” their host said. “From what you say I don’t imagine that I should care for Ostend. I am not rich enough to gamble, and as I have lived by the sea all my days, bathing does not attract me particularly. I think I shall stay at home.” “By the by, where is your home, Mr. De la Borne?” the Princess asked. “You told me once, but I have forgotten. Some of your English names are so queer that I cannot even pronounce them, much more remember them.”
“I live in a very small village in Norfolk, called Salthouse,” Cecil de la Borne answered. “It is quite close to a small market-town called Wells, if you know where that is. I don’t suppose you do, though,” he added. “It is an out-of-the-way corner of the world.”
The Princess shook her head.
“I never heard of it,” she said. “I am going to motor through Norfolk soon, though, and I think that I shall call upon you.”
Cecil de la Borne looked up eagerly.
“I wish you would,” he begged, “and bring your step-daughter. You can’t imagine,” he added, with a glance at the girl who was sitting at his left hand, “how much pleasure it would give me. The roads are really not bad, and every one admits that the country is delightful.”
“You had better be careful,” the Princess said, “or we may take you at your word. I warn you, though, that it would be a regular invasion. Major Forrest and Lord Ronald are talking about coming with us.”
“It’s just an idea,” Forrest remarked carelessly. “I wouldn’t mind it myself, but I don’t fancy we should get Engleton away from town before Goodwood.”
“Well, I like that,” Engleton remarked. “Forrest’s a lot keener on these social functions than I am. As a matter of fact I am for the tour, on one condition.”
“And that?” the Princess asked.
“That you come in my car,” Lord Ronald answered. “I haven’t really had a chance to try it yet, but it’s a sixty horse Mercedes, and it’s fitted up for touring. Take the lot of us easy, luggage and everything.”