She was a woman bordering on the forties, with a face of masculine vigor, redeemed and effeminized, by splendid hazel eyes, the kindliest imaginable. Obviously, the lady was one who had never married, who despised, or affected to despise, members of the other sex, but who had never learned to hate them; who had never grown soured, but who found the world a garden of heedless children—of children who called for mothering. Her athletic figure was clothed in a “sensible” tweed traveling dress, and she wore a tweed hat pressed well on to her head, and brown boots with the flattest heels conceivable. Add to this a Scotch woolen muffler, and a pair of woolen gloves, and you have a mental picture of the second traveler—a truly incongruous companion for the first.
Joining the crowd pouring in the direction of the exit gates, the two chatted together animatedly, both speaking English, and the man employing that language with a perfect ease and command of words which nevertheless failed to disguise his French nationality. He spoke with an American accent; a phenomenon sometimes observable in one who has learned his English in Paris.
The irritating formalities which beset the returning traveler—and the lady distinctly was of the readily irritated type—were smoothed away by the magic personality of her companion. Porters came at the beck of his gloved hand; guards, catching his eye, saluted and were completely his servants; ticket inspectors yielded to him the deference ordinarily reserved for directors of the line.
Outside the station, then, her luggage having been stacked upon a cab, the lady parted from her companion with assurances, which were returned, that she should hope to improve the acquaintance.
The address to which the French gentleman politely requested the cabman to drive, was that of a sound and old-established hotel in the neighborhood of the Strand, and at no great distance from the station.
Then, having stood bareheaded until the cab turned out into the traffic stream of that busy thoroughfare, the first traveler, whose baggage consisted of a large suitcase, hailed a second cab and drove to the Hotel Astoria—the usual objective of Americans.
Taking leave of him for the moment, let us follow the lady.
Her arrangements were very soon made at the hotel, and having removed some of the travel-stains from her person and partaken of one cup of China tea, respecting the quality whereof she delivered herself of some caustic comments, she walked down into the Strand and mounted to the top of a Victoria bound ’bus.
That she was not intimately acquainted with London, was a fact readily observable by her fellow passengers; for as the ’bus went rolling westward, from the large pocket of her Norfolk jacket she took out a guide-book provided with numerous maps, and began composedly to consult its complexities.
When the conductor came to collect her fare, she had made up her mind, and was replacing the guidebook in her pocket.