She pulled a little pad from her bag covered with a maze of figuring.
“But where do you come from?” I asked. “Where is your father?”
Again I saw that look of terror come into her eyes. She glanced quickly about her, and I was sure she was thinking of escaping from me.
I hastened to reassure her.
“Forgive me,” I said. “It is no business of mine. And now, if you will trust me a little further I will try to find a hotel for you.”
It would have disarmed the worst man to feel her little hand slipped into his arm in that docile manner of hers. I took her to the Seward, the Grand, the Cornhil, and the Merrimac—each in turn.
Vain hope! You know what the New York hotels are. When I asked for a room for her the clerk would eye her furs dubiously, look over his book in pretense, and then inform me that the hotel was full.
At the Merrimac I sat down in the lobby and sent her to the clerk’s desk alone, but that was equally useless. I realized pretty soon that no reputable hotel in New York City would accommodate her at that hour.
We were standing presently in front of the Herald office. Her hand still touched my arm, and I was conscious of an absurd desire to keep it there as long as possible.
My curiosity had given place to deep anxiety on her account. What was this child doing in New York alone, what sort of father had let her come, if her story were true? What was she? A European? Too unconventional for that. An Argentine? A runaway from some South American convent?
Her skin was too fair for Spanish blood to flow beneath it. She looked French and had something of the French frankness.
Canadian? I dared not ask her any more questions. There was only one thing to do, and, though I shrank from the suggestion, it had to be made.
“It is evident that you must go somewhere to-night,” I said. “I have two rooms on Tenth Street which I am vacating to-morrow. They are poorly furnished, but there is clean linen; and if you will occupy them for the night I can go elsewhere, and I will call for you at nine in the morning.”
She smiled at me gratefully—she did not seem surprised at all.
“You have some baggage?” I asked.
“No, monsieur,” she answered.
She was French, then—Canadian-French, I had no doubt. I was hardly surprised at her answer. I had ceased to be surprised at anything she told me.
“To-morrow I shall show you where to make some purchases, then,” I said. “And now, mademoiselle, suppose we take a taxicab.”
As her hand tightened upon my arm I saw a man standing on the west side of Broadway and staring intently at us.
He was of a singular appearance. He wore a fur coat with a collar of Persian lamb, and on his head was a black lambskin cap such as is worn in colder climates, but it seldom seen in New York. He looked about thirty years of age, he had an aspect decidedly foreign, and I imagined that he was scowling at us malignantly.