Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/37

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OUT OF DUE TIME.

spoke I had some difficulty in recognising Mademoiselle d'Etranges.

"Mr. Sutcliffe thinks you won't be able to come down to dinner, is that so?"

"No, not at all. I would rather come down, thank you."

"Don't think of the trouble," she said. "Go to bed if you are tired, and Jacques can bring you your dinner. There are several things to eat—I forget what—but he will know."

There was a more kindly ring in her voice this time. I protested that I would rather come down, which was not strictly true.

"Ah, you have had tea," she said, only half-listening to my remarks. "The English always love tea;" then with a little shriek, "but it is my best Sèvres cup," and snatching it up she hastily left the room. When I got downstairs I heard her scolding Jacques in the dining-room. I made my way to the dusky drawing-room. Mr. Sutcliffe was leaning his broad shoulders against the chimney-piece with his head bent forward to listen to his companion. As I came in a man taller than he, and thin, very thin, rose from a chair, making Mr. Sutcliffe look more thick-set and more muscular by the contrast as they stood together.

"Will you present me?" said a low penetrating voice.

I shook hands with the Comte d'Etranges, meeting for the first time those strange, piercing, cold grey eyes of his. The face was clean-shaven and very thin—I never saw anybody so thin who was not actually ill. Grey and black would be the only colours needed by an artist to paint the Count's portrait. It was only at moments that he showed his full height, as he seldom held himself up properly. I think he was dressed for dinner that evening, but his clothes always seemed to me much the same, and had at least the merit of passing unnoticed.

"You have had a long journey," he said.

I was at once reminded as he spoke of the fact that the