“He is often in Paris, then?” I asked.
She started a little.
“Yes!” she said hurriedly. “He is often there, of course. But please do not forget,—to-night we do not talk about my uncle. We talk about ourselves. May I ask you something?”
“Certainly!” I answered.
“If my uncle says ’No!’—that I may not come—do you go away altogether, then, to-morrow?”
“No,” I answered, “I do not! I shall not leave you alone here. So long as you stay, I shall remain in London.”
She drew a little breath, and with a quick, impetuous movement her hand stole across the table and pressed mine.
“It is so good of you!” she murmured.
“I am afraid that it is selfishness, Felicia,” I answered. “I should not care to go away and leave you here. I am beginning to find,” I added, “that the pleasures in life which do not include you count for very little.”
“You will turn my head,” she declared, with a delightful little laugh.
“It is the truth,” I assured her.
“I am quite sure now,” she murmured, “that my great holiday has commenced!”
A TANTALIZING GLIMPSE
Felicia laid down the receiver and looked at me. There was scarcely any need for words. Her disappointment was written into her white face.
“You are not to come!” I said.
“I am not—to come,” she repeated. “After all, my holiday is not yet.”
“Will you tell me,” I asked, “where I can find your uncle?”
She shook her head.
“You must not ask me such a thing,” she declared.
“Remember,” I said, “that I have really called to make his acquaintance as a matter of courtesy on behalf of my brother. What excuse do you give me for his absence? Tell me what it is that you are supposed to say in such a case?”
“Simply that he is away for a few days, engaged in the most important business,” she answered. “He will rejoin me here directly it is settled.”
“And in the meantime,” I said thoughtfully, “you are left in a strange hotel without friends, without a chaperon, absolutely unprotected, and with only a head-waiter in your confidence. Felicia, there is something very wrong here. I am not sure,” I continued, “that it is not my duty to run away with you.”
She clasped her hands.
“Delightful!” she murmured. “But I mustn’t think of it,” she added, with a sudden gravity, “nor must you talk to me like that. What my uncle says is best to be done. He knows and understands. If he has had to leave me here alone, it is because it is necessary.”
“You have a great deal of faith in him,” I remarked.
“He has always been kind to me,” she answered, “and I know that the business upon which he is engaged just now is hazardous and difficult. There are men who do not wish it to go through, and they watch for him. If they knew his whereabouts they would try to stop him.”