“I decline to suppose anything so utterly absurd,” was the rejoinder.
Mr. Grimm sat with his elbows on his knees, idly twisting a seal ring on his little finger. The searching eyes of the ambassador found his face blankly inscrutable.
“Diplomatic representatives in Washington have certain obligations to this government,” the young man reminded him. “We—that is, the government of the United States—undertake to guarantee the personal safety of every accredited representative; in return for that protection we must insist upon the name and identity of a dangerous person who may be known to any foreign representative. Understand, please, I’m not asserting that Miss Thorne is a dangerous person. You are sponsor for her here. Is she, in every way, worthy of your protection?”
“Yes,” said the ambassador flatly.
“I can take it, then, that the introduction she brought to you is from a person whose position is high enough to insure Miss Thorne’s position?”
“That is correct.”
And Mr. Grimm went away.
Some vague, indefinable shadow darkened Miss Thorne’s clear, blue-gray eyes, in sharp contrast to the glow of radiant health in her cheeks, as she stepped from an automobile in front of the Venezuelan legation, and ran lightly up the steps. A liveried servant opened the door.
“A gentleman is waiting for you, Madam,” he announced. “His card is here on the—”
“I was expecting him,” she interrupted.
“Which room, please?”
“The blue room, Madam.”
Miss Thorne passed along the hallway which led to a suite of small drawing-rooms opening on a garden in the rear, pushed aside the portieres, and entered.
“I’m sorry I’ve kept you—” she began, and then, in a tone of surprise: “I beg your pardon.”
A gentleman rose and bowed gravely.
“I am Mr. Grimm of the Secret Service,” he informed her with frank courtesy. “I am afraid you were expecting some one else; I handed my card to the footman.”
For an instant the blue-gray eyes opened wide in astonishment, and then some quick, subtle change swept over Miss Thorne’s face. She smiled graciously and motioned him to a seat.
“This is quite a different meeting from the one Senorita Rodriguez had planned, isn’t it?” she asked.
There was a taunting curve on her scarlet lips; the shadow passed from her eyes; her slim, white hands lay idle in her lap. Mr. Grimm regarded her reflectively. There was a determination of steel back of this charming exterior; there was an indomitable will, a keen brain, and all of a woman’s intuition to reckon with. She was silent, with a questioning upward slant of her arched brows.
“I am not mistaken in assuming that you are a secret agent of the Italian government, am I?” he queried finally.