I am so glad to meet you, Mr. Winwood,” she said. “Mr. Overton mentioned that he thought your father was acquainted with mine long ago.”

“I was under that impression—in fact, I am nearly sure—however——”

Amber gave him a chance of finishing his sentence; but he did not take advantage of her offer.

“You think that it is possible he may have made a mistake?” she said.

He did not answer immediately. He followed with his eyes the irritating sweep of his Malacca cane.

“I should like you to ask Sir Creighton if he has any recollection of my father before I make any further claims,” he said, suddenly looking at her straight in the face.

“I have already done so,” said Amber.

He was so startled that he coloured beneath the brown surface of his skin. The effect was a picturesque one.

“And he said that he remembered—that——”

“He said that we should ask you to dinner.”

“Then that’s all right,” put in Guy Overton, for he could not but notice the expression of disappointment on the face of the Australian. And when he noticed that expression, of course Amber noticed it.

“We hope that you will come and dine with us, Mr. Winwood,” she said.

“That is how things begin—and end, in England, I think,” cried Winwood with a laugh that had a note of contempt in its ring. “A dinner is supposed to do duty for welcome as well as for congé. I am always wondering which of the two every invitation that I get is meant to be—a welcome or the other. I knew a man who used to say that an invitation to dinner in England is the height of inhospitality.”

“I say, that’s a bit of freehand drawing, isn’t it?” said Guy. “You seem to have left your manners in the unclaimed luggage department, Winwood. Besides—well, I give a little dinner to my friends now and again—yes, in the Frangipanni: the only place where you get the real macaroni in London. Their Chianti is really not half bad, when you get——”

“I understand exactly what Mr. Winwood means, and I quite agree with him: a dinner is the most cordial form of inhospitality,” said Amber. “But if——”

“I really must ask your pardon, Miss Severn,” interposed Winwood. “I did not mean quite that——”

“You meant that you gathered from what I said that my father had no recollection of yours.”


“Then you were—not quite right. My father said he was sure that—that—yes, that you were certain to be able to convince him that he knew your father.”


“I shall ask my mother to send you a card for—but I suppose you are like the rest of us: you need at least a month’s notice?”

“I only need a day’s notice, Miss Severn.”

“You shall have a week at the least.”

“And you can get up your affidavits in the meantime,” suggested Mr. Overton.

“I think I shall convince Sir Creighton of my identity without the adventitious aid of affidavits,” said Winwood.

“My solicitor—an excellent chap, and so cheap!—says that it is only people who know nothing about the law courts who say that there is no other form of perjury except an affidavit. He once knew a man who made an affidavit that turned out to be true, though no one believed it at the time.”

It was at this point that Mr. Shirley came up and took away Winwood to present him to Miss West, explaining that he had arranged his table so that he was to sit next to Miss West.

“I hope that he is putting me beside you,” said Mr. Overton with a look of longing that is not strictly according to Plato. He now and again made these lapses. They were very irritating to Amber (she thought).

But his hope in regard to the regulation of the table was not destined to be realised for Mr. Shirley brought up to her a young man who was the son of a marquis and a member of the Cabinet as well—Mr. Shirley knew how to choose his guests and how to place them so well.

“I have asked Lord Lullworth to sit beside you, Miss Severn,” he said, and immediately went off to welcome the last two of his guests who were coming down the lawn.

So that it was to a certain Miss Craythorpe—she was the daughter of the under secretary of the annexation department (Mr. Shirley had reduced the disposal of his guests to an exact science)—that Guy had an opportunity of the remarkable chance offered to him the day before—the chance of backing at a theatre a comedy by a dramatist who had made fourteen consecutive failures at London theatres alone. But although the agent of the actor manager who had just acquired for a considerable sum of money the rights of the new comedy had pointed out to him that it was almost sure to be a success, the fact being that it was beyond the bounds of possibility for any dramatist to make fifteen consecutive failures, he had decided to decline the offer.

“I prefer to spend my money myself,” this possible patron of art explained to the young woman as soon as he had settled down in his chair beside her.

Miss Craythorpe thought him very amusing and even went the length of saying so: she had been told that Mr. Overton had at least half a million of a fortune. She had also heard it mentioned casually that he was not given to spending his money. This information was stimulating.

And all the time that Amber Severn was pretending to give all attention to the description of the polo match of the day before which was given to her by the young man next to her, she was looking across the table at Ernest Clifton wondering if he was wishing that, instead of being by the side of Josephine’s mother, he were by the side of Josephine herself. She also looked down the table to where Josephine was sitting and wondered if she was wishing that she were by the side of Ernest Clifton instead of that rather abrupt Mr. Pierce Winwood.

She was of the opinion, being something of a philosopher with more than the average philosopher’s experience, that society is usually made up of people who are evermore longing to be by the side of other people; and that what is meant by good manners is trying to appear content with the people who have been placed beside you.

Josephine certainly had good manners; she seemed to be more than content with Mr. Winwood. She seemed actually to be interested in his conversation—nay absorbed; and as for Ernest Clifton—well, Amber knew enough of men and women to be well aware of the fact that if Ernest Clifton was full of longing to be by the side of Josephine his first impulse would be to make himself as agreeable as possible to Josephine’s mother.

And this was just what Ernest Clifton was doing. He was one of those clever people who are actually better pleased to have a chance of being agreeable to the mother than to the daughter, knowing that the mother may be captured by the art of being agreeable, whereas the daughter is rarely influenced by this rarest of the arts.

And then Amber, somewhat to her own surprise, ceased to give any attention to the people at the other side of the table or at the other end of the table, for she found herself constrained to give all her attention to Lord Lullworth, and his polo. She found that he had at his command a phraseology which without being highly scientific was extremely picturesque, and besides that, he hated Mr. Cupar. Mr. Cupar was the novelist who wrote with the shriek of a street preacher, and was for one season widely discussed.

A common enemy constitutes a bond of friendship far more enduring than any other the wit of man, money, or woman, can devise; so that after Lord Lullworth had pointed out to her some of the ridiculous mistakes which Mr. Cupar had made with all the ostentation of a great teacher—mistakes about horses that a child would never have fallen into, and mistakes about the usages of society that no one who had ever seen anything decent would ever fall into—she found herself more than interested in Lord Lull-worth, and by no means felt inclined to share Guy Overton’s regret that he, Guy Overton, had not been beside her.

She began to wonder if it might not be possible to annex Lord Lullworth for his own good as she had annexed Guy Overton, Arthur Galmyn, Willie Bateman and a few others, with such profitable results—to them all. She thought, after he had agreed with her on some points that were usually regarded as contentious, that he was perhaps the nicest of all the men in whom she had interested herself—for their own good.

Before the glacial period of the dinner had arrived, they had become friendly enough to quarrel.

It was over the Technical School of Literature. She wondered if she could induce him to join, and he assured her that she needn’t allow the question to occupy her thoughts for a moment; for there wasn’t the slightest chance of his joining so ridiculous a scheme. She replied warmly on behalf of the system of imparting instruction on what was undoubtedly one of the arts; and he said he did not believe in machine-made literature.

Of course she could not be expected to let this pass, and she asked him if he did not believe in machine-made pictures, or machine-made statues.

He told her that he did; and then laughed. She gave him to understand that she was hurt by his declining to take her seriously; and she became very frigid over her ice, an attitude which, he assured her, was one that no girl anxious to do her best for her host would assume. A right-minded girl approached her ice with geniality, thereby allowing that particular delicacy to “earn its living”—that was the phrase which he employed and Amber thought it so queer that she allowed herself to glow once more and so to give the ices a chance—a second phrase which originated with him when he heard her laugh.

By the time the strawberries arrived she was surprised to find that she was actually in the position of being under the influence of a man instead of finding the man drawn under her influence. This was a position to which she was not accustomed; therefore it had a certain fascination of its own and by thinking of the fascination of the position she was foolish enough to confound the man with the position and to feel ready to acknowledge that the man was fascinating.

The babble of the large dining-room almost overcame the soft melody of the band playing on the terrace while the dinner was proceeding, but when the soft hour of cigarettes had come, there seemed to be a general feeling that the music was worthy of more attention than had yet been given to it. A movement was made to the Terrace by Mr. Shirley’s party and at first there was some talk of wraps. When, however, one got opposite the door and felt the warm breath of the perfect evening upon one’s face no suggestion that a wrap was needed was heard.

There was a scent of roses and mignonette in the air, and now and again at unaccountable intervals a whiff of the new made hay from the paddock. The lawns were spread forth in the softest of twilights, and the trees beyond looked very black, for the moonlight was too faint to show even upon the edge of the bourgeoning June foliage.

“I have got a table for our coffee,” said Mr. Shirley, “also some chairs; try if you can pick up a few more, Lord Lullworth—and you, Overton—get a couple of the easiest cane ones and we shall be all right.”

Thus it was that the sweet companionship of the dinner-table was broken up. Mr. Shirley was too well accustomed to dinner-giving to fancy that one invariably longs to retain in the twilight and among the scent of roses the companion one has had at the dinner-table. And thus it was that Mr. Ernest Clifton found that the only vacant chair was that beside Josephine—it took him as much manoeuvring to accomplish this as would have enabled him, if he had been a military commander, to convince the War Office that he was the right man to conduct a campaign.

And thus it was that Pierce Winwood found himself by the side of Amber, while Lord Lullworth had fallen quite naturally into pony talk with a young woman who, having been left pretty well off at her father’s death the year before, had started life on her own account with a hunting stable within easy reach of the Pytchley.

And then the coffee came, with the sapphire gleam of green Chartreuse here and there, and the topaz twinkle of a Benedictine, and the ruby glow of cherry brandy. It was all very artistic.

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