But when Mrs. Linton had picked it up from the ledge, beginning to oscillate it in front of her fair face, the nudging ceased. People looked at the thing with eyes wide with astonishment, but with lips mute.
A more satisfactory evening she had never spent, Mrs. Linton felt; and now the fan was hanging down among the brocaded flowers of her dress, making them look tawdry as she left the box, and noticed how at least two men were lying in wait for her party. There was, however, a frankness in Herbert Courtland's strategy which George Holland's did not possess. Mr. Courtland was looking directly at her; Mr. Holland was pretending to be engrossed in conversation with a man in one of the end stalls.
She lifted a finger and Courtland went to her side. The difficulties of the jungle along the banks of the Fly River were trifling compared with the obstacles he had to overcome in obeying her.
"I had no idea that you would be here," she said.
"Where else should I be?" he said, in so low a tone as to be heard only by her.
"We are so glad," said Mrs. Linton. "I want to present you to my dearest friend, Phyllis Ayrton."
"Not yet. She has never met a man. She will to-night," said Ella. Then she turned to Phyllis, who was walking beside Lord Earlscourt. "Come here, Phyllis," she said; "you are the only person in London who doesn't yet know Mr. Herbert Courtland. This is Mr. Courtland."
Thus it was that Phyllis went upon the stage of the Parthenon by the side of Herbert Courtland instead of by the side of George Holland; and the little laugh that Mrs. Linton gave was due to her careful observation of the latter's face when he perceived, as he did in spite of the engrossing nature of his conversation with his friend in the end stall, how his designs had been defeated by her tactics. She would not have minded having Herbert Courtland with her for the hour they might remain at the theater, but she had made up her mind that it was not to Phyllis' advantage that Mr. Holland should continue by her side in public after she had given him his dismissal.