On the doorstep Adele met Tony Limpsfield. She hurried him into her motor, and told the chauffeur not to drive on. "News!" she said. "Lucia's going to...

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On the doorstep Adele met Tony Limpsfield. She hurried him into her motor, and told the chauffeur not to drive on.

On the doorstep Adele met Tony Limpsfield. She hurried him into her motor, and told the chauffeur not to drive on. "News!" she said. "Lucia's going to have a lover." "No!" said Tony in the Riseholme manner "But I tell you she is. He's with her now." "They won't want me then, " said Tony. "And yet she asked me to come at half-past five." "Nonsense, my dear. They will want you, both of them... Oh Tony, don't you see? It's a stunt." Tony assumed the rapt expression of Luciaphils receiving intelligence. "Tell me all about it, " he said. "I'm sure I'm right, " said she. "Her poppet came in just now, and she held his hand as women do, and made him draw his chair up to her, and said he scolded her. I'm not sure that he knows yet. But I saw that he guessed something was up. I wonder if he's clever enough to do it properly... I wish she had chosen you, Tony, you'd have done it perfectly. They have got-don't you understand?-to have the appearance of being lovers, everyone must think they are lovers, while all the time there's nothing at all of any sort in it. It's a stunt: it's a play: it's a glory." "But perhaps there is something in it, " said Tony. "I really think I had better not go in." "Tony, trust me. Lucia has no more idea of keeping a real lover than of keeping a chimpanzee. She's as chaste as snow, a kiss would scorch her. Besides, she hasn't time. She asked Stephen there in order to show him to me, and to show him to you. It's the most wonderful plan; and it's wonderful of me to have understood it so quickly. You must go in: there's nothing private of any kind: indeed, she thirsts for publicity." Her confidence inspired confidence, and Tony was naturally consumed with curiosity. He got out, told Adele's chauffeur to drive on, and went upstairs. Stephen was no longer sitting in the chair next to Lucia, but on the sofa at the other side of the tea-table. This rather looked as if Adele was right: it was consistent anyhow with their being lovers in public, but certainly not lovers in private. "Dear Lord Tony, " said Lucia-this appellation was a halfway house between Lord Limpsfield and Tony, and she left out the "Lord" except to him-"how nice of you to drop in. You have just missed Adele. Stephen, you know Lord Limpsfield?" Lucia gave him his tea, and presently getting up, reseated herself negligently on the sofa beside Stephen. She was a shade too close at first, and edged slightly away. "Wonderful play of Tchekov's the other day, " she said. "Such a strange, unhappy atmosphere. We came out, didn't we, Stephen, feeling as if we had been in some remote dream. I saw you there, Lord Tony, with Adele who had been lunching with me." Tony knew that: was not that the birthday of the Luciaphils?

-E.F. Benson

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