“Certainly,” he said. “We will go and play bridge. But I will tell you what it is, my dear Princess. I think I am very near falling in love with your little stepdaughter.”
Forrest crossed the room and waited his opportunity until the Princess was alone.
“Let me take you somewhere,” he said. “I want to talk to you.”
She laid her fingers upon his arm, and they walked slowly away from the crowded part of the ballroom.
“So you are up again,” she remarked looking at him curiously. “Does that mean—?”
“It means nothing, worse luck,” he answered, “except that I have twenty-four hours’ leave. I am off back again at eight o’clock to-morrow morning. Tell me about this De Brensault affair. How is it going on?”
“Well enough on his side,” she answered. “The amusing part of it is that the more Jeanne snubs him, the keener he gets. He sends roses and chocolates every day, and positively haunts the house. I never was so tired of any one.”
“Make him your son-in-law quickly,” he said grimly. “You’ll see little enough of him then.”
“I’m not sure,” the Princess said reflectively, “whether it is quite wise to hurry Jeanne so much.”
“Wise or not,” Forrest said, “it must be done. Even supposing the other affair comes out all right, London is getting impossible for me. I don’t know who’s at the bottom of it, but people have stopped sending me invitations, and even at my pothouse of a club the men seem to have as little to say to me as possible. Some one’s at work spreading reports of some sort or another. I am not over sensitive, but the thing’s becoming an impossibility.”
“Do you suppose,” she asked quietly, “that it is the Engleton affair?”
“People are saying all sorts of things,” he answered. “I’d go abroad to-morrow and leave De la Borne to look out for himself, but I haven’t even the money to pay my railway fare.”
The Princess shrugged her shoulders expressively.
“Oh, I’m not begging!” he continued. “I know you’re pretty well in the same box.”
“That,” the Princess remarked, “scarcely expresses it. I am a great deal worse off than you, because I have a houseful of unpaid servants, and a mob of tradespeople, who are just beginning to clamour. I see that you are looking at my necklace,” she continued. “I can assure you that I have not a single real stone left. Everything I possess that isn’t in pawn is of paste.”
“Then don’t you see, Ena,” he said, “that this thing really must be hurried forward? De Brensault is ready enough, isn’t he?”
“Quite,” she answered.
“And he understands the position?”
“I think so,” the Princess answered. “I have given him to understand it pretty clearly.”
“Then have a clear business talk with him,” Forrest said, “and then have it out with Jeanne. You could all go abroad together, and they could be married at the Embassy, say at Paris.”