Next day the ordinary course of things was resumed at the Gezireh Palace Hotel, and the delights and flirtations of the fancy-ball began to vanish into what Hans Breitmann calls “the ewigkeit”. Men were lazier than usual and came down later to breakfast, and girls looked worn and haggard with over-much dancing, but otherwise there was no sign to indicate that the festivity of the past evening had left “tracks behind,” or made a lasting impression of importance on any human life. Lady Chetwynd Lyle, portly and pig-faced, sat on the terrace working at an elaborate piece of cross-stitch, talking scandal in the civilest tone imaginable, and damning all her “dear friends” with that peculiar air of entire politeness and good breeding which distinguishes certain ladies when they are saying nasty things about one another. Her daughters, Muriel and Dolly, sat dutifully near her, one reading the Daily Dial, as befitted the offspring of the editor and proprietor thereof, the other knitting. Lord Fulkeward lounged on the balustrade close by, and his lovely mother, attired in quite a charming and girlish costume of white foulard exquisitely cut and fitting into a waist not measuring more than twenty-two inches, reclined in a long deck-chair, looking the very pink of painted and powdered perfection.
“You are so very lenient,” Lady Chetwynd Lyle was saying, as she bent over her needlework. “So very lenient, my dear Lady Fulkeward, that I am afraid you do not read people’s characters as correctly as I do. I have had, owing to my husband’s position in journalism, a great deal of social experience, and I assure you I do not think the Princess Ziska a safe person. She may be perfectly proper—she may be—but she is not the style we are accustomed to in London.”
“I should rather think not!” interrupted Lord Fulkeward, hastily. “By Jove! She wouldn’t have a hair left on her head in London, don’cher know!”
“What do you mean?” inquired Muriel Chetwynd Lyle, simpering. “You really do say such funny things, Lord Fulkeward!”
“Do I?” and the young nobleman was so alarmed and embarrassed at the very idea of his ever saying funny things that he was rendered quite speechless for a moment. Anon he took heart and resumed: “Er—well—I mean that the society women would tear her to bits in no time. She’d get asked nowhere, but she’d get blackguarded everywhere; she couldn’t help herself with that face and those eyes.”
His mother laughed.
“Dear Fulke! You are such a naughty boy! You shouldn’t make such remarks before Lady Lyle. She never says anything against anyone!”
“Dear Fulke” stared. Had he given vent to his feelings he would have exclaimed: “Oh, Lord!—isn’t the old lady a deep one!” But as it was he attended to his young moustache anxiously and remained silent. Lady Chetwynd Lyle meanwhile flushed with annoyance; she felt that Lady Fulkeward’s remark was sarcastic, but she could not very well resent it, seeing that Lady Fulkeward was a peeress of the realm, and that she herself, by the strict laws of heraldry, was truly only “Dame” Chetwynd Lyle, as wife of an ordinary knight, and had no business to be called “her ladyship” at all.