Rupert Kelso shivered as he settled himself in his seat. Outside it was raw and damp, with the streets streaming with moisture; indeed, it was more like November than June, but there, in the supper room of the Regent Restaurant, everything was warm and bright and alluring to a degree. It was a glorious change for Kelso, after three years' hard work in Nigeria, and he was appreciating it to the tips of his long, brown fingers. He had a pleasing vision of colour in which coral pink predominated, a dazzling ...
Rupert Kelso shivered as he settled himself in his seat. Outside it was raw and damp, with the streets streaming with moisture; indeed, it was more like November than June, but there, in the supper room of the Regent Restaurant, everything was warm and bright and alluring to a degree. It was a glorious change for Kelso, after three years' hard work in Nigeria, and he was appreciating it to the tips of his long, brown fingers. He had a pleasing vision of colour in which coral pink predominated, a dazzling kaleidoscope of silken draperies broken here and there by the flashing of many gems. For it was Sunday evening, in the height of the season, and the most exclusive restaurant in Europe was thronged. As a matter of fact, Kelso was very lucky to be there at all, and he was congratulating himself that he had come here with Mark Denver, the brilliant and popular dramatist, who was welcomed everywhere and who always commanded that which less-favoured mortals sighed for in vain. But then, Denver was something more than a successful playwright; indeed, some day he would be the Earl of Denver, and his mother's fortune rendered him independent of the profession which he had adopted. He and Kelso had been at Harrow and Trinity together, and the warm friendship which had sprung up there had never slackened. It was good to be home again, good to feel the glow and thrill of life and once more to be in touch with civilisation.
For some little time Kelso sat there, taking in the whole vivid scheme of colour until gradually everything seemed to narrow down into the focus of one beautiful, pathetic, pleading face. It was a white face with the faintest touch of colour in it, and framed in a mass of glorious chestnut hair. Kelso noted the ivory smoothness of the brow and the eyes blue and clear like pools of blue under a summer starlight sky. It seemed to Kelso that it was the most dainty and fascinating face that he had ever seen. The red lips smiled from time to time, but the smile was unsteady; indeed, it had been the half-unconscious appeal of those eyes that touched Kelso even more than the girl's beauty had done.
She was sitting very close indeed, so close that it was possible to distinguish the pattern of the embroidery on her corsage and to note the purple shadow of the lashes that fringed her eyes from time to time. She was not alone, for at the table with her was a young man immaculately dressed, vapid and expressionless in the well-bred way, and, as Kelso glanced at him with a certain faint contempt, he was conscious that the young man was just as disturbed and uneasy as the girl on the opposite side of the table.
The third member of the party at that table was entirely at her ease. She was magnificently, not to say daringly, dressed, and her bosom literally blazed with diamonds. There was, moreover, a diamond in her dusky hair, before which all the rest of the stones seemed to dwindle and grow pale, like rush lights by the side of an electric flare. There was no occasion for Kelso to ask Denver who this woman was, for he recognised her at a glance. Blanche Trevenner, of operatic fame, had been a great theatrical star long before Kelso had left England, and, apparently, she was still riding high in a firmament of her own.
"Wears well," Denver said, as if following his friend's thoughts. "And yet she must be thirty-five if she is a day."
"Yes. Still at Covent Garden, I suppose?"
"Well, no. Between ourselves, my dear fellow, the divine Blanche's voice is not exactly what it was. It takes a good judge to note the difference, but, still, there is the difference, and that's why the great diva elected to leave the operatic stage to shine resplendent in musical comedy. It sounded all very pretty and patronising and caused a good deal of stir at the time. Really, it produced an enormous increase of salary, which our fair friend sadly needed, for she is up to her neck in debt, though you wouldn't think it to look at her this moment."
"You are right there," Kelso smiled. "Those diamonds!"
"Yes. Then, you see, they may be diamonds and they may be paste."