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“The tea will be quite cold, you’d better ring for some more,” said the Dowager Lady Beanford.

Susan Lady Beanford was a vigorous old woman who had coquetted with imaginary ill-health for the greater part of a lifetime; Clovis Sangrail irreverently declared that she had caught a chill at the Coronation of Queen Victoria and had never let it go again. Her sister, Jane Thropplestance, who was some years her junior, was chiefly remarkable for being the most absent-minded woman in Middlesex.

“I’ve really been unusually clever this afternoon,” she remarked gaily, as she rang for the tea. “I’ve called on all the people I meant to call on; and I’ve done all the shopping that I set out to do. I even remembered to try and match that silk for you at Harrod’s, but I’d forgotten to bring the pattern with me, so it was no use. I really think that was the only important thing I forgot during the whole afternoon. Quite wonderful for me, isn’t it?”

“What have you done with Louise?” asked her sister. “Didn’t you take her out with you? You said you were going to.”

“Good gracious,” exclaimed Jane, “what have I done with Louise? I must have left her somewhere.”

“But where?”

“That’s just it. Where have I left her? I can’t remember if the Carrywoods were at home or if I just left cards. If there were at home I may have left Louise there to play bridge. I’ll go and telephone to Lord Carrywood and find out.”

“Is that you, Lord Carrywood?” she queried over the telephone; “it’s me, Jane Thropplestance. I want to know, have you seen Louise?”

“‘Louise,'” came the answer, “it’s been my fate to see it three times. At first, I must admit, I wasn’t impressed by it, but the music grows on one after a bit. Still, I don’t think I want to see it again just at present. Were you going to offer me a seat in your box?”

“Not the opera ‘Louise’–my niece, Louise Thropplestance. I thought I might have left her at your house.”

“You left cards on us this afternoon, I understand, but I don’t think you left a niece. The footman would have been sure to have mentioned it if you had. Is it going to be a fashion to leave nieces on people as well as cards? I hope not; some of these houses in Berkeley-square have practically no accommodation for that sort of thing.”

“She’s not at the Carrywoods’,” announced Jane, returning to her tea; “now I come to think of it, perhaps I left her at the silk counter at Selfridge’s. I may have told her to wait there a moment while I went to look at the silks in a better light, and I may easily have forgotten about her when I found I hadn’t your pattern with me. In that case she’s still sitting there. She wouldn’t move unless she was told to; Louise has no initiative.”

“You said you tried to match the silk at Harrod’s,” interjected the dowager.

“Did I? Perhaps it was Harrod’s. I really don’t remember. It was one of those places where every one is so kind and sympathetic and devoted that one almost hates to take even a reel of cotton away from such pleasant surroundings.”

“I think you might have taken Louise away. I don’t like the idea of her being there among a lot of strangers. Supposing some unprincipled person was to get into conversation with her.”

“Impossible. Louise has no conversation. I’ve never discovered a single topic on which she’d anything to say beyond ‘Do you think so? I dare say you’re right.’ I really thought her reticence about the fall of the Ribot Ministry was ridiculous, considering how much her dear mother used to visit Paris. This bread and butter is cut far too thin; it crumbles away long before you can get it to your mouth. One feels so absurd, snapping at one’s food in mid-air, like a trout leaping at may-fly.”