She was in his arms for a moment, her lips had clung to his. Then she was away, flying along the sands at a pace which seemed to him miraculous, swinging her hat in her hands, and humming the maddening refrain of some French song, which it seemed to him was always upon her lips, and which had haunted him for days. He hesitated, uncertain whether to follow, ashamed of himself, ashamed of the passion which was burning in his blood. And while he hesitated she passed out of sight, turning only once to wave her hand as she crossed the line of grass-grown hillocks which shut him out from her view.
“To-morrow,” the Princess said softly, “we shall have been here a fortnight.”
Cecil de la Borne came and sat by her side upon the sofa.
“I am afraid,” he said, “that leaving out everything else, you have been terribly bored.”
“I have been nothing of the sort,” she answered. “Of course, the last week has been a strain, but we are not going to talk any more about that. You prepared us for semi-barbarism, and instead you have made perfect sybarites of us. I can assure you that though in one way to go will be a release, in another I shall be very sorry.”
“And I,” he said, in a low tone, “shall always be sorry.”
He let his hand fall upon hers, and looked into her eyes. The Princess stifled a yawn. This country style of love-making was a thing which she had outgrown many years ago.
“You will find other distractions very soon,” she said, “and besides, the world is a small place. We shall see something of you, I suppose, always. By the by, you have not been particularly attentive to my stepdaughter during the last few days, have you?”
“She gives me very little chance,” he answered, in a slightly aggrieved tone.
“She is very young,” the Princess said, “too young, I suppose, to take things seriously. I do not think that she will marry very early.”
Cecil bent over his companion till his head almost touched hers.
“Dear lady,” he said, “I am afraid that I am not very interested in your stepdaughter while you are here.”
“Absurd!” she murmured. “I am nearly twice your age.”
“If you were,” he answered, “so much the better, but you are not. Do you know, I think that you have been rather unkind to me. I have scarcely seen you alone since you have been here.”
She laughed softly, and took up her little dog into her arm as though to use him for a shield.
“My dear Cecil,” she said earnestly, “please don’t make love to me. I like you so much, and I should hate to feel that you were boring me. Every man with whom I am alone for ten minutes thinks it his duty to say foolish things to me, and I can assure you that I am past it all. A few years ago it was different. To-day there are only three things in the world I care for—my little spaniel here, bridge, and money.”