“We will risk that,” I answered, rising. “Let me come with you and I will judge for myself.”
Louis followed my example, but I fancied that I still detected a slight unwillingness in his movements. My request for the bill had been met with a smile and a polite shake of the head. Louis whispered in my ear that we were the guests of the management,—that it would not be correct to offer the money for our entertainment. So I was forced to content myself with tipping the head-waiter and the vestiaire, the chausseur who opened the door, and the tall commissionnaire who welcomed us upon the pavement and whistled for a petite voiture.
“Where to, messieurs?” the man asked, as the carriage drew up.
Even then Louis hesitated. He was sitting on the side of the carriage nearest to the pavement, and he rose to his feet as the question was asked. It seemed to me that he almost whispered the address into the ear of the coachman. At any rate, I heard nothing of it. The man nodded, and turned eastward.
“Bon soir, messieurs!” the commissionnaire called out, with his hat in his hand.
“Bon soir!” I answered, with my eyes fixed upon the flaring lights of the Boulevard, towards which we had turned.
I found Louis, during that short drive, most unaccountably silent. Several times I made casual remarks. Once or twice I tried to learn from him what sort of a place this was to which we were bound. He answered me only in monosyllables. I was conscious all the time of a certain subtle but unmistakable change in his manner. Up to the moment of his suggesting this expedition he had remained the suave, perfectly mannered superior servant, accepted into equality for a time by one of his clients, and very careful not to presume in any way upon his position. It is not snobbish to say this, because it was the truth. Louis was chief maitre d’hotel at one of the best restaurants in London. I was an ex-officer in a cavalry regiment, brother of the Earl of Welmington, with a moderate income, and a more than moderate idea of how to spend it. Louis was servant and I was master. It had pleased me to make a companion of him for a short time, and his manner had been a perfect acknowledgment of our relative positions. And now it seemed to me that there was a change. Louis had become more like a man, less like a waiter. There was a strength in his face which I had not previously observed, a darkening anxiety which puzzled me. He treated my few remarks with scant courtesy. He was obviously thinking about something else. It seemed as though, for some inexplicable reason, he had already repented of his suggestion.
“Look here, Louis,” I said, “you seem a little bothered about taking me to this place. Perhaps they do not care about strangers there. I am not at all keen, really, and I am afraid I am not fit company for anybody. Better drop me here and go on by yourself. I can amuse myself all right at some of these little out-of-the-way places until I feel inclined to go home.”