In the big hall they were greeted by a well-preserved, grey-haired Englishwoman, Lady Ranscomb, the widow of old Sir Richard Ranscomb, who had been one of the greatest engineers and contractors of modern times. He had begun life as a small jerry-builder at Golder’s Green, and had ended it a millionaire and a knight. Lady Ranscomb was seated at a little wicker table with her daughter Dorise, a dainty, fair-haired girl with intense blue eyes, who was wearing a rather daring jazzing gown of pale-blue, the scantiness of which a year or two before would have been voted quite beyond the pale for a lady, and yet in our broad-minded to-day, the day of undressing on the stage and in the home, it was nothing more than “smart.”
Mother and daughter greeted the two men enthusiastically, and at Lady Ranscomb’s orders the waiter brought them small glasses of an aperitif.
“We’ve been all day motoring up to the Col di Tenda. Sospel is lovely!” declared Dorise’s mother. “Have you ever been there?” she asked of Brock, who was an habitue of the Riviera.
“Once and only once. I motored from Nice across to Turin,” was his reply. “Yes. It is truly a lovely run there. The Alps are gorgeous. I like San Dalmazzo and the chestnut groves there,” he added. “But the frontiers are annoying. All those restrictions. Nevertheless, the run to Turin is one of the finest I know.”
Presently they rose, and all four walked into the crowded salle-a-manger, where the chatter was in every European language, and the gay crowd were gossiping mostly of their luck or their bad fortune at the tapis vert. At Monte Carlo the talk is always of the run of sequences, the many times the zero-trois has turned up, and of how little one ever wins en plein on thirty-six.
To those who visit “Charley’s Mount” for the first time all this is as Yiddish, but soon he or she, when initiated into the games of roulette and trente-et-quarante, quickly gets bitten by the fever and enters into the spirit of the discussions. They produce their “records”—printed cards in red and black numbers with which they have carefully pricked off the winning numbers with a pin as they have turned up.
The quartette enjoyed a costly but exquisite dinner, chatting and laughing the while.
Both men were friends of Lady Ranscomb and frequent visitors to her fine house in Mount Street. Hugh’s father, a country landowner, had known Sir Richard for many years, while Walter Brock had made the acquaintance of Lady Ranscomb a couple of years ago in connexion with some charity in which she had been interested.
Both were also good friends of Dorise. Both were excellent dancers, and Lady Ranscomb often allowed them to take her daughter to the Grafton, Ciro’s, or the Embassy. Lady Ranscomb was Hugh’s old friend, and he and Dorise having been thrown together a good deal ever since the girl returned from Versailles after finishing her education, it was hardly surprising that the pair should have fallen in love with each other.