The worry on the Minister’s face deepened.
“This complicates matters, Wratslav,” he said, “and makes it more imperative that Her Highness be kept most strictly secluded. Go to bed now. We shall have enough to keep us awake for the next ten days.”
Wratslav left, but the Minister sat down at his desk. Morning found him there asleep.
HIS EXCELLENCY IS WORRIED
At eleven o’clock, His Excellency the Minister was handed a card which read:
“RIGHT REV. DONALD MURRAY, D.D.”
Touching a bell, His Excellency summoned Wratslav.
“There is a clergyman,” he said, “who calls on me. I do not know him, and of course I cannot guess his business. Perhaps you will see him.”
The secretary bowed and went out. As he entered the reception room, Father Murray arose. Before the priest could speak, the secretary began:
“You desire to see His Excellency?”
Father Murray bowed.
“I am sorry, but His Excellency is very much engaged. He has requested me to ascertain the nature of your business.”
“I regret that I may not tell you the nature of my business.” Father Murray’s reply was instant. “I may speak only to the Minister himself.”
“Then,” answered the secretary, “I regret to say that he cannot receive you. A diplomat’s time is not his own. I am in his confidence. Could you not give me some inkling as to what you desire?”
“Since I cannot see him without giving you the information, you might say to His Excellency that I have come to speak to him in reference to Miss Ruth Atheson—” Father Murray paused, then added coolly: “He will understand.”
The secretary bowed courteously. “I will deliver your message at once,” he said.
In exactly one minute the Minister himself was bowing to Father Murray.
“I beg your pardon for detaining you, Reverend Sir, but, as my secretary explained, I am extremely busy. You mentioned Miss Atheson and, at least so I understand from my secretary, seemed to think I would know of her. In deference to your cloth, I thought I would see you personally, though I do not recall knowing anyone by that name. Perhaps she wishes a vise for a passport?”
“That might explain it,” answered Father Murray; “but I think she desires a passport without the vise. I have reason to believe that Your Excellency knows something of her—rather—unexpected departure from her home in Sihasset. In fact, my information on that point is quite clear. I am informed that she was mistaken for another, a visitor in her home. Possibly she is here now. The passport desired is your permission for her to return to her friends.”
The Minister’s face expressed blankness.
“You have been misinformed,” he answered. “I know nothing of Miss Atheson. Would you kindly give me some of the facts? That is, if you think it necessary to do so. It is possible I might be able to be of service to you; if so, do not hesitate to command me.”