A FORMAL CALL
I changed my mind about calling at the Milan that morning, but toward five o’clock in the afternoon I presented myself there, and gave the hall-porter my card to send up to Miss Delora. He received me with some surprise, but I explained that I had been obliged to postpone my visit into the country.
“Miss Delora has asked twice about you this morning, sir,” he announced. “I gave her your country address.”
“Quite right,” I answered. “By the bye, is Mr. Delora visible yet?”
“Not yet, sir,” the man answered. “Rather a curious thing about his return, sir,” he added. “Not a soul has even seen him yet.”
I nodded, but made no remark. Presently the boy who had taken my card up returned.
“Miss Delora would be glad if you would step upstairs, sir,” he announced.
I followed him into the lift and up to number 157. Felicia was there alone. She rose from the couch as I entered, and waited until the door had closed behind the disappearing page. Then she held out her hands, and there was something in her eyes which I could not resist. I was suddenly ashamed of all my suspicions.
“So you have come back,” she said softly. “That is very kind of you, Capitaine Rotherby. I have been lonely—very lonely, indeed.”
“I have come back,” I answered, taking her hands into mine and holding them for a moment.
“I am nervous all the time, and afraid,” she continued, standing close by my side and looking up. “Only think of it, Capitaine Rotherby,—it is this journey to London to which I have been looking forward for so many, many years, and now that it has come I am miserable!”
“Your uncle—” I asked.
“They told me what was not true!” she exclaimed. “He is not back. I am here all alone. He does not come to me, and he will not let me go to him. But you will sit down, Capitaine Rotherby?” she added. “You are not in a hurry? You are not going away again?”
“Not just yet, at any rate,” I admitted. “Do you know that after all this is a very small world! I have come to pay you a formal call on behalf of my brother who is an invalid.”
Her eyes grew round with surprise.
“But I do not understand!” she said.
I told her of my brother’s letter from South America. She listened with interest which seemed mingled with anxiety.
“It is very strange,” she said, when I had finished,—“very delightful, too, of course!” she added hurriedly. “Tell me, is it my uncle Maurice or my uncle Ferdinand of whom your brother spoke most in his letter?”
“He did not mention the Christian names of either,” I told her. “He simply said that one of the Mr. Deloras and his niece were coming to London, and he begged us to do all we could to make their visit pleasant. Do you know,” I continued, “that as I came along I had an idea?”