very dangerous. What’s to say that Miss Holland isn’t setting you up for a facer?”
Sir Frederick laughed. “If you knew her, Henry, you would recognize that Miss Holland hasn’t an ounce of coquetry in her. She’s a sweet innocent who doesn’t know the first thing about how to go on. On top of it all, I discovered this morning that she can translate Latin and Greek and speaks French and Italian.”
“A bluestocking, is she?” said Mr. Duckwood, pursing his lips as he turned it over in his mind. He shook his head. “She’ll never go off in style if that becomes known. A pity, but there it is.”
“You’re right,” said Sir Frederick thoughtfully. He glanced at his companion. “Miss Holland has more than enough to overcome as it is. I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t tout this about, Henry.”
“Oh, I’m not one to spread damaging tales. You may count on me to keep quiet Freddy,” said Mr. Duckwood amiably.
“I knew I could,” said Sir Frederick casually.
A good understanding being established, the two gentlemen dismissed the subject of Miss Holland from their minds and began discussing horseflesh.
Sir Frederick accepted the invitation to Mrs. Holland’s rout with mixed feelings. Though he had committed himself to lending a helping hand to Miss Holland socially, he had the feeling that he was letting himself in for just the sort of entertainment he most disliked. Within minutes of entering the town house, he realized that he was right.
Mrs. Holland had filled her guest list with as many notables as she could possibly lay claim. Since she was not acquainted with the sort of personages which made up diplomatic or government circles and was on terms with very few fashionables, the result was a majority of many of the same sort of pretentious personalities that she was herself.
Sir Frederick recognized most of the guests and exchanged polite nods or bows with several of them, though privately deploring the necessity. His dark brows rose when he saw two or three gentlemen present he would have hesitated to introduce to any of the ladies of his acquaintance. He particularly disliked the gushing familiarity of one lady whom he cataloged as an encroaching mushroom. He would probably hear it rumored before the week was out that she was quite one of his closest acquaintances, he reflected disparagingly.
“My, my, aren’t we vicious this evening,” murmured Sir Frederick to himself disgustedly. He regarded the assemblage through his quizzing glass in an aloof manner calculated to give pause to anyone else who did not know him well. Even altruism stopped short of encouraging the sort of toadeating he found singularly deplorable. Dropping the glass, he decided he would make the opportunity to leave early. Having already spoken to his hostess and to Colonel Caldar, it but remained to do his duty toward Lord Holybrooke and Miss Holland.
A drawling, cheerful voice broke into his thoughts. “Is that what happens to diplomats when they are kept dangling at the Foreign Office without assignment? Do they gibber madly to themselves?”
Sir Frederick turned swiftly. He threw out a hand. “Thank God! A friendly face.”
Sir Peregrine Ashford laughed and shook Sir Frederick’s outstretched hand. “Not your style of thing, is it?” He glanced around them and grimaced slightly. “Truth to tell, it isn’t mine, either. But when young Holybrooke invited me, I thought I should accept. I didn’t like to disappoint him, especially when he told me how devilish it would be and that it was some sort of coming-out party for his sister.”
“I didn’t know you and Lord Holybrooke were on such friendly terms, Peregrine,” said Sir Frederick, surprised.
“We had met before, of course, but I fell into conversation with him at a mill last week. I liked him. He is very unaffected, quite unlike what one might have expected,” said Sir Peregrine with a shrug.
“You mean, after one had