“Dine with you? Au cabaret? Ah, that would be diverting—but impossible!”
“Well, dine with my cousin, then—I have a cousin, an American lady, who lives here,” said Durham, with suddenly-soaring audacity.
She paused with puzzled brows. “An American lady whom I know?”
“By name, at any rate. You send her cards for all your charity bazaars.”
She received the thrust with a laugh. “We do exploit your compatriots.”
“Oh, I don’t think she has ever gone to the bazaars.”
“But she might if I dined with her?”
“Still less, I imagine.”
She reflected on this, and then said with acuteness: “I like that, and I accept—but what is the lady’s name?”
On the way home, in the first drop of his exaltation, Durham had said to himself: “But why on earth should Bessy invite her?”
He had, naturally, no very cogent reasons to give Mrs. Boykin in support of his astonishing request, and could only, marvelling at his own growth in duplicity, suffer her to infer that he was really, shamelessly “smitten” with the lady he thus proposed to thrust upon her hospitality. But, to his surprise, Mrs. Boykin hardly gave herself time to pause upon his reasons. They were swallowed up in the fact that Madame de Treymes wished to dine with her, as the lesser luminaries vanish in the blaze of the sun.
“I am not surprised,” she declared, with a faint smile intended to check her husband’s unruly wonder. “I wonder you are, Elmer. Didn’t you tell me that Armillac went out of his way to speak to you the other day at the races? And at Madame d’Alglade’s sale—yes, I went there after all, just for a minute, because I found Katy and Nannie were so anxious to be taken—well, that day I noticed that Madame de Treymes was quite empressee when we went up to her stall. Oh, I didn’t buy anything: I merely waited while the girls chose some lampshades. They thought it would be interesting to take home something painted by a real Marquise, and of course I didn’t tell them that those women never make the things they sell at their stalls. But I repeat I’m not surprised: I suspected that Madame de Treymes had heard of our little dinners. You know they’re really horribly bored in that poky old Faubourg. My poor John, I see now why she’s been making up to you! But on one point I am quite determined, Elmer; whatever you say, I shall not invite the Prince d’Armillac.”
Elmer, as far as Durham could observe, did not say much; but, like his wife, he continued in a state of pleasantly agitated activity till the momentous evening of the dinner.
The festivity in question was restricted in numbers, either owing to the difficulty of securing suitable guests, or from a desire not to have it appear that Madame de Treymes’ hosts attached any special importance to her presence; but the smallness of the company was counterbalanced by the multiplicity of the courses.