“Oh! I hope not,” she said fervently. “I don’t want to meet any one in London except one person. Good night, Mr. Mildmay!”
He turned away, and almost ran into the arms of Littleson, who had been watching them curiously.
“Come and have a drink,” the latter said.
The two men made their way to the smoking room. Littleson lit a cigarette as he sipped his whisky and soda.
“Charming young lady, Miss Longworth,” he remarked nonchalantly.
Mildmay agreed, but his acquiescence was stiff, and a little abrupt. He would have changed the subject, but Littleson was curious.
“Can’t understand,” he said, “what she’s doing crossing over here alone. I saw her the first day out. She came and asked me, in fact, to forget that I had ever seen her before. Queer thing, very!”
Mildmay deliberately set down his glass.
“Do you mind,” he said, “if we don’t discuss it? I fancy that Miss Longworth has her own reasons for wishing not to be talked about, and in any case a smoking-room is scarcely the proper place to discuss her. I think I will go to bed, if you don’t mind.”
Littleson shrugged his shoulders as the Englishman disappeared.
“Touchy lot, these Britishers,” he remarked.
THE AMERICAN AMBASSADOR
Conversation had begun to languish between the two men. Vine had answered all his host’s inquiries about old friends and acquaintances on the other side, inquiries at first eager, then more spasmodic, until at last they were interspersed with brief periods of silence. And all the time Vine had said nothing as to the real object of his visit. Obviously he had come with something to say; almost as obviously he seemed to find a certain difficulty in approaching the subject. It was his host, after all, who paved the way.
“Tell me, Vine,” he said, knocking the ash from his cigar, and leaning a little forward in his chair, “what has brought you to London just now. It was only a fortnight ago that I heard you were up to your neck in work, and had no hopes of leaving New York before the autumn.”
“I thought so then,” he said quietly. “The fact is, something has happened which brought me over here with one object, and one object only—to ask your advice.”
The elder man nodded, and if he felt any surprise, successfully concealed it. Even then Vine still hesitated.
“It’s a difficult matter,” he said, “and a very important one. I have thought it out myself from every point of view, and I came to the conclusion that it would be better for me to come over to Europe for a week or two, and change my environment completely. Besides, I believe that you are the one man whom I can rely upon to give me sound and practical advice.”
“It does not concern,” the other asked, “my diplomatic position in any way?”