“I do not know,” Virginia said, “whether my uncle would wish me to do so. In any case, I shall do nothing without his consent.”
The young man frowned slightly. This was not to be so easy as he thought.
“Well,” he said, “I can get the names from your servants, without bothering your uncle. Must be rather interesting for you, Miss Longworth, to hear these famous men talk,”
She shook her head.
“I do not understand one half of what they say,” she answered, “but what I do understand doesn’t sound in the least wonderful.”
He smiled appreciatively.
“I can quite understand that,” he said; “but there must have been some of the conversation that you understood. For instance, the Anti-Trust Bill that is coming before the House in a few weeks. They ought to have said some interesting things about that.”
Virginia moved calmly across the room, and before the young man had perceived her intention she had rung the bell.
“I think,” she said, “that you are a very impertinent person. Please go away at once.”
He shrugged his shoulders as he turned towards the door. His expression was still entirely good-humoured.
“Don’t be angry with me, Miss Longworth,” he said, as he paused for a moment with his hand upon the knob of the door; “it’s all in my day’s work, you know. One has to try and find out these things, or one wouldn’t be worth one’s place. We had word down at the office that you had just come from the country, and that something might be done with you.”
“And I think it was most unfair and ungentlemanly,” Virginia began.
“It seems so, I dare say,” he admitted, “from your point of view; but you must remember, Miss Longworth, that it is all part of a game which is played here all the time. Each side knows the other’s moves; there is no deceit about it. Men like your uncle, who want to cover up their actions, take as much pains to hoodwink us, and use any means that occur to them to keep us in the dark when they want to. They just make use of us, and we have to try and make use of them. Good night, Miss Longworth!”
He left the room, and Virginia returned to the piano. Her fingers were shaking, however, and she was unable to play. She took up a book and tried to read. All the time she kept glancing at the clock. At last she rose to her feet and left the room. The hour and a half was up.
Somewhat to Virginia’s surprise, when at last she stepped with beating heart into the library, she found her uncle alone. He was sitting in front of his open desk, a pile of papers before him, and a long, black-looking cigar between his teeth. Scarcely glancing up, he motioned her to a seat.
“In five minutes,” he said, “I shall want to talk to you.”