“It is easy to see that. Gentlemen of your cloth are as easily recognizable as if your names were printed on your back.”
“And as they are generally upon our travelling belongings.” I looked at her steadily with a light laugh, and a crimson flush came on her face. However hardened a character, she had preserved the faculty of blushing readily and deeply, the natural adjunct of a cream-like complexion.
“Let me introduce myself in full,” I said, pitying her obvious confusion; and I handed her my card, which she took with a shamefaced air, rather foreign to her general demeanour.
“Lieut.-Colonel Basil Annesley, Mars and Neptune Club,” she read aloud. “What was your regiment?”
“The Princess Ulrica Rifles, but I left it on promotion. I am unattached for the moment, and waiting for reemployment.”
“Your own master then?”
“Practically, until I am called upon to serve. I hope to get a staff appointment. Meanwhile I am loafing about Europe.”
“Do you go beyond Lucerne?”
“Across the St. Gothard certainly, and as far as Como, perhaps beyond. And you? Am I right in supposing we are to be fellow travellers by the Engadine express?” I went on by way of saying something. “To Lucerne or further?”
“Probably.” The answer was given with great hesitation. “If I go by this train at all, that is to say.”
“Have you any doubts?”
“Why, yes. To tell you the truth, I dread the journey. I have been doing so ever since—since I felt it must be made. Now I find it ever so much worse than I expected.”
“Why is that, if I may ask?”
“You see, I am travelling alone, practically alone that is to say, with only my maid.”
“And your child,” I added rather casually, with no second thought, and I was puzzled to understand why the chance phrase evoked another vivid blush.
“The child! Oh, yes, the child,” and I was struck that she did not say “my” child, but laid rather a marked stress on the definite article.
“That of course increases your responsibility,” I hazarded, and she seized the suggestion.
“Quite so. You see how I am placed. The idea of going all that way in an empty train quite terrifies me.”
“I don’t see why it should.”
“But just think. There will be no one in it, no one but ourselves. We two lone women and you, single-handed. Suppose the five attendants and the others were to combine against us? They might rob and murder us.”
“Oh, come, come. You must not let foolish fears get the better of your common sense. Why should they want to make us their victims? I believe they are decent, respectable men, the employes of a great company, carefully selected. At any rate, I am not worth robbing, are you? Have you any special reason for fearing thieves? Ladies are perhaps a little too reckless in carrying their valuables about with them. Your jewel-case may be exceptionally well lined.”