“What have those people been doing here?” she asked. “What is happening?”
Her father unlocked his drawer once more and drew out another of the red cards.
“Margaret,” he said, “Ledsam here has accepted my invitation for Thursday night. You have never, up till now, honoured me, nor have I ever asked you. I suggest that for the first part of the entertainment, you give me the pleasure of your company.”
“For the first part?”
“For the first part only,” he repeated, as he wrote her name upon the card.
“What about Francis?” she asked. “Is he to stay all the time?”
Sir Timothy smiled. He locked up his drawer and slipped the key into his pocket.
“Ledsam and I,” he said, “have promised one another a more complete mutual understanding on Thursday night. I may not be able to part with him quite so soon.”
Bored and listless, like a tired and drooping lily in the arms of her somewhat athletic partner, Lady Cynthia brought her dance to a somewhat abrupt conclusion.
“There is some one in the lounge there to whom I wish to speak,” she said. “Perhaps you won’t mind if we finish later. The floor seems sticky tonight, or my feet are heavy.”
Her partner made the best of it, as Lady Cynthia’s partners, nowadays, generally had to. She even dispensed with his escort, and walked across the lounge of Claridge’s alone. Sir Timothy rose to his feet. He had been sitting in a corner, half sheltered by a pillar, and had fancied himself unseen.
“What a relief!” she exclaimed. “Another turn and I should have fainted through sheer boredom.”
“Yet you are quite wonderful dancing,” he said. “I have been watching you for some time.”
“It is one of my expiring efforts,” she declared, sinking into the chair by his side. “You know whose party it is, of course? Old Lady Torrington’s. Quite a boy and girl affair. Twenty-four of us had dinner in the worst corner of the room. I can hear the old lady ordering the dinner now. Charles with a long menu. She shakes her head and taps him on the wrist with her fan. ’Monsieur Charles, I am a poor woman. Give me what there is—a small, plain dinner—and charge me at your minimum.’ The dinner was very small and very plain, the champagne was horribly sweet. My partner talked of a new drill, his last innings for the Household Brigade, and a wonderful round of golf he played last Sunday week. I was turned on to dance with a man who asked me to marry him, a year ago, and I could feel him vibrating with gratitude, as he looked at me, that I had refused. I suppose I am very haggard.”
“Does that matter, nowadays?” Sir Timothy asked.
She shrugged her shoulders.
“I am afraid it does. The bone and the hank of hair stuff is played out. The dairy-maid style is coming in. Plump little Fanny Torrington had a great success to-night, in one of those simple white dresses, you know, which look like a sack with a hole cut in the top. What are you doing here by yourself?”