“Tell me about London, please,” she said.
“Historically,” he began, a little doubtfully. “I am afraid—”
She interrupted him, shaking her head. “No!” she said, “tell me about the best restaurants and theatres, and how the people live.” “That’s a large order,” he answered, “but I’ll try.”
They talked for an hour or more; neither, in fact, took an exact account of the time. Suddenly they looked up to see a dark-faced, correct-looking servant standing before them.
“The luncheon gong has gone, your Grace,” he said. “Shall I take the rugs?”
They made their way into the saloon together. Virginia looked up at him curiously.
“You said that your name was Mildmay,” she remarked. “What did your servant mean by calling you ’your Grace’?”
“Oh! I haven’t had the fellow very long,” he said, “and he came straight to me from some Italian duke, or nobleman of some sort. I suppose he hasn’t got out of the habit yet. I wonder whether I can arrange to come and sit at your table. The purser seems rather a decent fellow.”
“I haven’t been in the saloon at all yet,” Virginia said, “but it would be very nice if you could sit somewhere near me.”
Mr. Mildmay found it an easy matter to arrange. His seat at the captain’s table was exchanged for one at the purser’s, and the two were side by side. Then Virginia, looking around, received a little shock. She heard her name spoken across the table, and, looking up, found that she was exactly opposite Mr. Littleson.
“How do you do, Miss Longworth?” he said. “I had no idea that we were to be fellow passengers.”
She was almost too surprised to answer him coherently, but she faltered out something about an unexpected journey. Afterwards, on the way to her stateroom, she overtook him near one of the companion-ways, and laid her hand upon his arm.
“Mr. Littleson,” she said, “would you do me a favour?”
“Why, I should say so,” he answered. “Nothing I’d like better.”
“Don’t tell anybody anything about me,” she begged, “I mean about my uncle, or anything of that sort at all. I am going over to England on a very foolish errand, I think, and I wish to keep it to myself.”
Littleson became a trifle grave. He was not a bad sort of a fellow, and Virginia seemed little more than a charming child as she stood in the passage, looking up at him with appealing eyes and slightly parted lips.
“Do you mean,” he asked, “that you have run away from your uncle?”
“Not exactly that,” she answered. “My uncle was quite willing to have me leave him, but he does not know exactly where I am, nor do my people. Will you keep my secret, please?”
“Certainly!” he answered.
“From every one on board, as well as from your letters if you write from Queenstown?”
“Well, I’ll try to do as you say,” he answered, “but I should like to have a talk with you before we land.”