When the trio entered the fun was already in full swing. The gay crowd disguised by their masks and fancy costumes were revelling as happily as school children. A party of girls dressed as clowns were playing leap-frog. Another party were dancing in a great and ever-widening ring. Girls armed with jesters’ bladders were being carried high on the shoulders of their male acquaintances, and striking all and sundry as they passed, staid, elderly folk were performing grotesque antics for persons of their age. The very air of the Riviera seems to be exhilarating to both old and young, and the constant church-goers at home quickly become infected by the spirit of gaiety, and conduct themselves on the Continental Sabbath in a manner which would horribly disgust their particular vicar.
“Hugh must have been detained by something very unexpected, mother,” Dorise said. “He never disappoints us.”
“Oh, yes, he does. One night we were going to the Embassy Club—don’t you recollect it—and he never turned up.”
“Oh, well, mother. It was really excusable. His cousin arrived from New York quite unexpectedly upon some family business. He phoned to you and explained,” said the girl.
“Well, what about that night when I asked him to dinner at the Ritz to meet the Courtenays and he rang up to say he was not well? Yet I saw him hale and hearty next day at a matinee at the Comedy.”
“He may have been indisposed, mother,” Dorise said. “Really I think you judge him just a little too harshly.”
“I don’t. I take people as I find them. Your father always said that, and he was no fool, my dear. He made a fortune by his cleverness, and we now enjoy it. Never associate with unsuccessful persons. It’s fatal!”
“That’s just what old Sir Dudley Ash, the steel millionaire, told me the other day when we were over at Cannes, mother. Never associate with the unlucky. Bad luck, he says, is a contagious malady.”
“And I believe it—I firmly believe it,” declared Lady Ranscomb. “Your poor father pointed it out to me long ago, and I find that what he said is too true.”
“But we can’t all be lucky, mother,” said the girl, watching the revelry before her blankly as she reflected upon the mystery of Hugh’s absence.
“No. But we can, nevertheless, be rich, if we look always to the main chance and make the best of our opportunities,” her mother said meaningly.
At that moment the Count d’Autun approached them. He was dressed as a pierrot, but being masked was only recognizable by the fine ruby ring upon his finger.
“Will mademoiselle do me the honour?” he said in French, bowing elegantly. “They are dancing in the theatre. Will you come, Mademoiselle Dorise?”
“Delighted,” she said, with an inward sigh, for the dressed-up Parisian always bored her. She rose quickly, and promising her mother to be back soon, she linked her arm to that of the notorious gambler and passed through the great palm-court into the theatre.