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People were dancing now. It has been claimed by patriots that American dyspeptics lead the world. This supremacy, though partly due, no doubt, to vast supplies of pie absorbed in youth, may be attributed to a certain extent also to the national habit of dancing during meals. Lord Dawlish had that sturdy reverence for his interior organism which is the birthright of every Briton. And at the beginning of supper he had resolved that nothing should induce him to court disaster in this fashion. But as the time went on he began to waver.

The situation was awkward. Nutty and Miss Leonard were repeatedly leaving the table to tread the measure, and on these occasions the Good Sport's wistfulness was a haunting reproach. Nor was the spectacle of Nutty in action without its effect on Bill's resolution. Nutty dancing was a sight to stir the most stolid.

Bill wavered. The music had started again now, one of those twentieth-century eruptions of sound that begin like a train going through a tunnel and continue like audible electric shocks, that set the feet tapping beneath the table and the spine thrilling with an unaccustomed exhilaration. Every drop of blood in his body cried to him 'Dance!' He could resist no longer.

'Shall we?' he said.

Bill should not have danced. He was an estimable young man, honest, amiable, with high ideals. He had played an excellent game of football at the university; his golf handicap was plus two; and he was no mean performer with the gloves. But we all of us have our limitations, and Bill had his. He was not a good dancer. He was energetic, but he required more elbow room than the ordinary dancing floor provides. As a dancer, in fact, he closely resembled a Newfoundland puppy trying to run across a field.

It takes a good deal to daunt the New York dancing man, but the invasion of the floor by Bill and the Good Sport undoubtedly caused a profound and even painful sensation. Linked together they formed a living projectile which might well have intimidated the bravest. Nutty was their first victim. They caught him in mid-step--one of those fancy steps which he was just beginning to exhume from the cobwebbed recesses of his memory--and swept him away. After which they descended resistlessly upon a stout gentleman of middle age, chiefly conspicuous for the glittering diamonds which he wore and the stoical manner in which he danced to and fro on one spot of not more than a few inches in size in the exact centre of the room. He had apparently staked out a claim to this small spot, a claim which the other dancers had decided to respect; but Bill and the Good Sport, coming up from behind, had him two yards away from it at the first impact. Then, scattering apologies broadcast like a medieval monarch distributing largesse, Bill whirled his partner round by sheer muscular force and began what he intended to be a movement toward the farther corner, skirting the edge of the floor. It was his simple belief that there was more safety there than in the middle.

He had not reckoned with Heinrich Joerg. Indeed, he was not aware of Heinrich Joerg's existence. Yet fate was shortly to bring them together, with far-reaching results. Heinrich Joerg had left the Fatherland a good many years before with the prudent purpose of escaping military service. After various vicissitudes in the land of his adoption--which it would be extremely interesting to relate, but which must wait for a more favourable opportunity--he had secured a useful and not ill-recompensed situation as one of the staff of Reigelheimer's Restaurant. He was, in point of fact, a waiter, and he comes into the story at this point bearing a tray full of glasses, knives, forks, and pats of butter on little plates. He was setting a table for some new arrivals, and in order to obtain more scope for that task he had left the crowded aisle beyond the table and come round to the edge of the dancing-floor.

He should not have come out on to the dancing-floor. In another moment he was admitting that himself. For just as he was lowering his tray and bending over the table in the pursuance of his professional duties, along came Bill at his customary high rate of speed, propelling his partner before him, and for the first time since he left home Heinrich was conscious of a regret that he had done so. There are worse things than military service!

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It was the table that saved Bill. He clutched at it and it supported him. He was thus enabled to keep the Good Sport from falling and to assist Heinrich to rise from the morass of glasses, knives, and pats of butter in which he was wallowing. Then, the dance having been abandoned by mutual consent, he helped his now somewhat hysterical partner back to their table.

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Remorse came upon Bill. He was sorry that he had danced; sorry that he had upset Heinrich; sorry that he had subjected the Good Sport's nervous system to such a strain; sorry that so much glass had been broken and so many pats of butter bruised beyond repair. But of one thing, even in that moment of bleak regrets, he was distinctly glad, and that was that all these things had taken place three thousand miles away from Claire Fenwick. He had not been appearing at his best, and he was glad that Claire had not seen him.

As he sat and smoked the remains of his cigar, while renewing his apologies and explanations to his partner and soothing the ruffled Nutty with well-chosen condolences, he wondered idly what Claire was doing at that moment.

Claire at that moment, having been an astonished eye-witness of the whole performance, was resuming her seat at a table at the other end of the room.

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There were two reasons why Lord Dawlish was unaware of Claire Fenwick's presence at Reigelheimer's Restaurant: Reigelheimer's is situated in a basement below a ten-storey building, and in order to prevent this edifice from falling into his patrons' soup the proprietor had been obliged to shore up his ceiling with massive pillars. One of these protruded itself between the table which Nutty had secured for his supper-party and the table at which Claire was sitting with her friend, Lady Wetherby, and her steamer acquaintance, Mr Dudley Pickering. That was why Bill had not seen Claire from where he sat; and the reason that he had not seen her when he left his seat and began to dance was that he was not one of your dancers who glance airily about them. When Bill danced he danced.

He would have been stunned with amazement if he had known that Claire was at Reigelheimer's that night. And yet it would have been remarkable, seeing that she was the guest of Lady Wetherby, if she had not been there. When you have travelled three thousand miles to enjoy the hospitality of a friend who does near-Greek dances at a popular restaurant, the least you can do is to go to the restaurant and watch her step. Claire had arrived with Polly Wetherby and Mr Dudley Pickering at about the time when Nutty, his gloom melting rapidly, was instructing the waiter to open the second bottle.

Of Claire's movements between the time when she secured her ticket at the steamship offices at Southampton and the moment when she entered Reigelheimer's Restaurant it is not necessary to give a detailed record. She had had the usual experiences of the ocean voyager. She had fed, read, and gone to bed. The only notable event in her trip had been her intimacy with Mr Dudley Pickering.

Dudley Pickering was a middle-aged Middle Westerner, who by thrift and industry had amassed a considerable fortune out of automobiles. Everybody spoke well of Dudley Pickering. The papers spoke well of him, Bradstreet spoke well of him, and he spoke well of himself. On board the liner he had poured the saga of his life into Claire's attentive ears, and there was a gentle sweetness in her manner which encouraged Mr Pickering mightily, for he had fallen in love with Claire on sight.

It would seem that a schoolgirl in these advanced days would know what to do when she found that a man worth millions was in love with her; yet there were factors in the situation which gave Claire pause. Lord Dawlish, of course, was one of them. She had not mentioned Lord Dawlish to Mr Pickering, and--doubtless lest the sight of it might pain him--she had abstained from wearing her engagement ring during the voyage. But she had not completely lost sight of the fact that she was engaged to Bill. Another thing that caused her to hesitate was the fact that Dudley Pickering, however wealthy, was a most colossal bore. As far as Claire could ascertain on their short acquaintance, he had but one subject of conversation--automobiles.

To Claire an automobile was a shiny thing with padded seats, in which you rode if you were lucky enough to know somebody who owned one. She had no wish to go more deeply into the matter. Dudley Pickering's attitude towards automobiles, on the other hand, more nearly resembled that of a surgeon towards the human body. To him a car was something to dissect, something with an interior both interesting to explore and fascinating to talk about. Claire listened with a radiant display of interest, but she had her doubts as to whether any amount of money would make it worth while to undergo this sort of thing for life. She was still in this hesitant frame of mind when she entered Reigelheimer's Restaurant, and it perturbed her that she could not come to some definite decision on Mr Pickering, for those subtle signs which every woman can recognize and interpret told her that the latter, having paved the way by talking machinery for a week, was about to boil over and speak of higher things.

At the very next opportunity, she was certain, he intended to propose.