“Yes, I like you,” he admitted. “I have the most absurd feeling for you that any man ever found it impossible to put into words. We have indeed strayed outside the world of natural things,” he added.
“Why?” she murmured. “I never felt more natural or normal in my life. I can assure you that I am loving it. I feel like muslin gowns and primroses and the scent of those first March violets underneath a warm hedge where the sun comes sometimes. I feel very natural indeed, Sir Timothy.”
“What about me?” he asked harshly. “In three weeks’ time I shall be fifty years old.”
She laughed softly.
“And in no time at all I shall be thirty—and entering upon a terrible period of spinsterhood!”
“Spinsterhood!” he scoffed. “Why, whenever the Society papers are at a loss for a paragraph, they report a few more offers of marriage to the ever-beautiful Lady Cynthia.”
“Don’t be sarcastic,” she begged. “I haven’t yet had the offer of marriage I want, anyhow.”
“You’ll get one you don’t want in a moment,” he warned her.
She made a little grimace.
“Don’t!” she laughed nervously. “How am I to preserve my romantic notions of you as the emperor of the criminal world, if you kiss me as you did just now—you kissed me rather well—and then ask me to marry you? It isn’t your role. You must light a cigarette now, pat the back of my hand, and swagger off to another of your haunts of vice.”
“In other words, I am not to propose?” Sir Timothy said slowly.
“You see how decadent I am,” she sighed. “I want to toy with my pleasures. Besides, there’s that scamp of a brother of mine coming up to have a drink—I saw him get out of a taxi—and you couldn’t get it through in time, not with dignity.”
The rattle of the lift as it stopped was plainly audible. He stooped and kissed her fingers.
“I fear some day,” he murmured, “I shall be a great disappointment to you.”
There was a great deal of discussion, the following morning at the Sheridan Club, during the gossipy half-hour which preceded luncheon, concerning Sir Timothy Brast’s forthcoming entertainment. One of the men, Philip Baker, who had been for many years the editor of a famous sporting weekly, had a ticket of invitation which he displayed to an envious little crowd.
“You fellows who get invitations to these parties,” a famous actor declared, “are the most elusive chaps on earth. Half London is dying to know what really goes on there, and yet, if by any chance one comes across a prospective or retrospective guest, he is as dumb about it as though it were some Masonic function. We’ve got you this time, Baler, though. We’ll put you under the inquisition on Friday morning.”
“There a won’t be any need,” the other replied. “One hears a great deal of rot talked about these affairs, but so far as I know, nothing very much out of the way goes on. There are always one or two pretty stiff fights in the gymnasium, and you get the best variety show and supper in the world.”