“Right oh!” Cecil answered. “But you can’t go just yet. Mademoiselle Le Mesurier sent me for you. She wants to speak to you at once.”
“Do you mean this, Cecil?” he asked.
“Of course I do,” Cecil answered. “I haven’t been rushing about looking into every corner of the place for nothing. Come along. I’ll take you to where she is.”
Andrew handed back his coat and hat to the attendant, and followed Cecil into the ballroom. In a passage leading to the billiard-room, where several chairs had been arranged for sitting out, Jeanne was ensconced, with two men leaning over her. She waved them away when she saw who it was coming. Without a smile, or the vestige of one, she motioned to Andrew to take the vacant seat by her side.
“I have executed your commission, Miss Le Mesurier,” Cecil said, bowing before her. “I will claim my reward when we meet again.”
He sauntered away, leaving them alone. Jeanne turned at once towards her companion.
“I am sorry,” she said, “if my sending for you was in any way an annoyance. I understand, of course, you have made it quite clear to me, that our little friendship, or whatever you may choose to call it, is at an end. But I do insist upon knowing what it was that you and my stepmother were discussing for nearly half an hour in the gardens of the Red Hall. The truth, mind. You and I should owe one another that.”
“We talked of you,” he answered. “What other subject can you possibly imagine your stepmother and I could have in common?”
“That is a good start,” she answered. “Now tell me the rest.”
“I am not sure,” he answered, “that I feel inclined to do that.”
She leaned forward and looked at him. Unwillingly he turned his head to meet her gaze.
“You must tell me, please,” she said. “I insist upon knowing.”
“Your stepmother,” he said, “was perfectly reasonable and very candid. She reminded me that you were a great heiress, and that as yet you had seen nothing of the world. I do not know why she thought it necessary to point this out to me, except that perhaps she thought that in some mad moment I might have conceived the idea that you—”
“That I?” she repeated softly, as he hesitated.
He set his teeth hard and frowned.
“You know what I mean,” he said coldly. “Your stepmother is a clever woman, and a woman of the world. She takes into account all contingencies, never mind how improbable they might be. She was afraid that I might think things were possible between us which after all must always remain outside serious consideration. She wanted to warn me. That was all. It was kindness, but I am sure that it was unnecessary.”
“You are not very lucid,” she murmured. “It is because I am a great heiress, then, that you go off fishing for three weeks without saying good-bye; that you leave our next meeting to happen by chance in the last place I should have expected to see you? What do you think of me, Mr. Andrew? Do you imagine that I am of my stepmother’s world, or ever could be? Have the hours we have spent together taught you nothing different?”