'Well, what's it to be?' I said. 'Here's the Schwannallée.'
'I don't like it,' said he; 'but I trust your judgement.'
We turned slowly down, running over a few last points where prior agreement was essential. As we stood at the very gate of the villa: 'Don't commit yourself to dates,' I said; 'say nothing that will prevent you from being here at least a week hence with the yacht still afloat.' And my final word, as we waited at the door for the bell to be answered, was: 'Don't mind what I say. If things look queer we may have to lighten the ship.'
'Lighten?' whispered Davies; 'oh, I hope I shan't bosh it.'
'I hope I shan't get cramp,' I muttered between my teeth.
It will be remembered that Davies had never been to the villa before.
The door of a room on the ground floor was opened to us by a manservant. As we entered the rattle of a piano stopped, and a hot wave of mingled scent and cigar smoke struck my nostrils. The first thing I noticed over Davies's shoulder, as he preceded me into the room, was a woman--the source of the perfume I decided--turning round from the piano as he passed it and staring him up and down with a disdainful familiarity that I at once hotly resented. She was in evening dress, pronounced in cut and colour; had a certain exuberant beauty, not wholly ascribable to nature, and a notable lack of breeding. Another glance showed me Dollmann putting down a liqueur glass of brandy, and rising from a low chair with something of a start; and another, von Brüning, lying back in a corner of a sofa, smoking; on the same sofa, vis-à-vis to him, was--yes, of course it was--Clara Dollmann; but how their surroundings alter people, I caught myself thinking. For the rest, I was aware that the room was furnished with ostentation, and was stuffy with stove-engendered warmth. Davies