He went to his stateroom a little thoughtfully. It had not yet occurred to him that Virginia’s errand to London and his might possibly have something in common.
Littleson, before many hours of their voyage had passed, became conscious that Virginia was showing a slight but unmistakable desire to avoid his society. Being a Harvard graduate, something of an athlete, and a young man of fashion and popularity, he did not for a moment entertain the idea that there could be anything personal in her feeling. He came to the conclusion, therefore, that she had either discovered his connection with Stella’s behaviour, or that the object of her visit to Europe was one that she desired to conceal from him. On the afternoon of the day when he had received his first but distinct snub, he made a point of drawing his chair over to hers.
“I am not going to bother you very much, Miss Longworth,” he said, “but I feel that I must ask you a question. I don’t want you to break any confidences, and I haven’t much to tell you myself, but I should like to know whether your visit to England has anything to do with what happened one night in the library of your uncle’s house?”
“So you know about that then, do you?” she asked quietly.
“I do,” he answered. “I know that a paper was stolen by your cousin, and handed over to a person whom we will not name, but who is now in Europe. I will tell you this much—I am going across so as to keep in touch with that person. It seems odd that you, who are involved in the same affair, should be going over by the same steamer.”
“The object of my journey,” Virginia said, looking out seaward, “concerns nobody but myself.”
The young man nodded.
“I expected that you would say that,” he remarked coolly. “Still, our meeting like this induced me to ask you the question. If I can be of any service to you in London, I hope you will not fail to let me know. Your uncle would never forgive me if I did not do everything I could in the way of looking after you.”
Virginia smiled a little bitterly.
“My uncle,” she said, “is not likely to trouble his head about me. He has dispensed with my services for the future. When I go home, I am going back to my own people.”
Littleson was genuinely sorry. To a certain extent he felt that this was his fault.
“That’s just like Phineas,” he said. “Hard as nails, and without a dime’s worth of consideration. I don’t see how you could help what happened. You gave nothing up voluntarily. You told nobody anything.”
“My uncle,” Virginia said, “judges only by results. After all, it is the only infallible way. I am going to read a little now. Do you mind? Talking makes my head ache.”