'I shouldn't mention Soho if I were you,' he said in the cab. 'It's rather a shady part of London; and you're altogether above that restaurant business now; I mean,' he added, 'I want you to know nice people, and the English are fearful snobs.'
Annette's clear eyes opened; a little smile came on her lips.
'Yes?' she said.
'H'm!' thought Soames, 'that's meant for me!' and he looked at her hard. 'She's got good business instincts,' he thought. 'I must make her grasp it once for all!'
'Look here, Annette! it's very simple, only it wants understanding. Our professional and leisured classes still think themselves a cut above our business classes, except of course the very rich. It may be stupid, but there it is, you see. It isn't advisable in England to let people know that you ran a restaurant or kept a shop or were in any kind of trade. It may have been extremely creditable, but it puts a sort of label on you; you don't have such a good time, or meet such nice people--that's all.'
'I see,' said Annette; 'it is the same in France.'
'Oh!' murmured Soames, at once relieved and taken aback. 'Of course, class is everything, really.'
'Yes,' said Annette; 'comme vous êtes sage.'*
'That's all right,' thought Soames, watching her lips, 'only she's pretty cynical.' His knowledge of French was not yet such as to make him grieve that she had not said 'tu.' He slipped his arm round her, and murmured with an effort:
'Et vous êres ma belle femme.'*
Annette went off into a little fit of laughter.
'Oh, non!' she said. 'Oh, non! ne parlez pas français,* Soames. What is that old lady, your aunt, looking forward to?'
Soames bit his lip. 'God knows!' he said; 'she's always saying something;' but he knew better than God.
THE war dragged on. Nicholas had been heard to say that it would cost three hundred millions if it cost a penny before they'd done with it! The income-tax was seriously threatened.