The Man and the Moment HTML version

L ORD FORDYCE found himself dressing in the usual way and with the usual care, such
creatures of habit are we—and yet, two hours earlier, he had felt that life was over for
him. Although he did not know it, Moravia had been like a strong restorative applied at
the right moment, and the crisis of his agony had gone by. It was not that he was not still
overcome by sorrow, or that moments of complete anguish would not recur, but the
current had been diverted from taking a fatal turn, and gradually things would mend. The
perfect, practical common sense of Moravia was so good for him. She was not
intellectual like Sabine, she was just a dear, beautiful, kind, ordinary woman, extremely
in love with him, but too truly American ever to lose her head, and now in real spirits at
the prospect of playing so delightful a game. She was thoroughly versed in the ways of
male creatures, and although she possessed none of Sabine's indescribable charm, she had
had numbers of admirers and would-be lovers and was in every way fitted to cope with
any man. This evening, she had determined so to soothe, flatter and pet Henry that he
should go to bed not realizing that there was any change in himself, but should be in
reality completely changed. Her preparations had been swift but elaborate. She had
rushed to Madame Imogen's room, and got her to take special messages to the chef, and
dinner would be waited on by her own maid—with Nicholas just to run in and open the
champagne. Then she selected a ravishing rose-pink chiffon tea-gown, all lacy and fresh,
and lastly she had a big fire made up and all the curtains drawn, and so she awaited
Henry's coming with anticipations of delight. She had even got Mr. Cloudwater (that père
aprivoisé!) to mix her two dry Martini cocktails, which were ready for her guest.
Henry knocked at the door exactly at eight o'clock, and she went to meet him with all the
air of authority of a mother, and led him into the room, pushing him gently into the chair
she had prepared for him. A man may have a broken heart—but the hurt cannot feel so
great when he is surrounded with every comfort and ministered to by a beautiful young
woman, who is not only in love with him, but has the nerve to keep her head and not
neglect a single point which can be of use in her game.
If she had shown him too much sympathy, or just been ultra-refined and silent and
adoring, Henry by this time would have been quite as unhappy as he had been at first; but
he was too courteous by nature not to try to be polite and appreciative of kindness when
she tendered it so frankly, no matter what his inward feelings might be—and this she
knew she could count upon and meant to exploit. She argued very truly that if he were
obliged to act, it would brace him up and be beneficial to him, even though at the
moment he would much prefer to be alone. So now she made him drink the cocktail, and
then she deliberately spoke of Sabine, wondering if she would be awfully surprised to see
Michael, and if he would take her back with him to Arranstoun. Henry winced at every
word, but he had to answer, and presently he found he did not feel so sad. Then, with
dexterity, she turned the conversation to English politics and got him to explain points to
her, and at every moment she poured in insidious flattery and frank, kind affection, so