He looked at her with more attention than he had as yet bestowed upon her. She was very slim, but wonderfully elegant, and her clothes, though simple, were absolutely perfect. Her eyes certainly were marvellous. Her complexion had not altogether lost the duskiness which came from her outdoor life. Her hair was parted in the middle, after a fashion of her own, and coming rather low on the back of her head, gave her the appearance of being younger even than she was. Stella’s beauty was perhaps the most pronounced, but this girl, he felt, was unique. He looked thoughtfully into her eyes. Her whole expression and manner were so delightfully simple and girlish, that he found it almost impossible to believe that she was playing a part.
They talked for a little while upon purely general subjects, the Opera, her new friends, the whole social life of the city, of which he was a somewhat prominent part. She talked easily and naturally, and he flattered himself that he was making a good impression. When at last he rose to take his leave, he made one more venture.
“I don’t know,” he said, “whether you get bothered by your uncle’s business affairs at all while he is laid up, but I hope you will remember that if I can be of any service, I am practically one of his partners, and I understand all his affairs. You must please send for me if I can be of the slightest use to you.”
She had apparently listened to him for the first part of his sentence with her usual air of polite interest. Suddenly, however, she started, and her attention wandered. She crossed quickly toward the bell and rang it.
“Thank you so much, Mr. Littleson,” she said. “I won’t forget what you have said. Do you mind excusing me? I fancy that I am wanted.”
She left the room as the servant whom she had summoned arrived to show her visitor out. Was it her fancy, or had she indeed heard the soft ringing of the burglar alarm which she had had attached to the library door on the other side of the hall!
Virginia crossed the hall with rapid footsteps, and entered the library. She realized at once that she had not been deceived, but she started back in surprise when she discovered who it was standing before the roll-top desk and regarding it contemplatively. Stella looked up, and the eyes of the two girls met. Stella nodded, apparently quite at her ease.
“How are you, cousin Virginia?” she said. “You see I have come back home to play the part of the repentant daughter.”
Virginia was a little distressed. She closed the door behind her and came further into the room.
“Stella,” she said, “I am very sorry, but while your father is ill he does not like any one to come into this room.”
Stella seated herself in his chair.
“Quite right,” she said. “I hope you will be careful to keep them out. He always has such a lot of secrets, and I know that he hates to have people prying round.”