George was but an amateur physiognomist, but he could read what was obvious in the faces he encountered; and the more he looked at this girl, the less he was able to understand the scene which had just occurred. The thing mystified him completely. For all her good-humour, there was an air, a manner, a something capable and defensive, about this girl with which he could not imagine any man venturing to take liberties. The gold-brown eyes, as they met his now, were friendly and smiling, but he could imagine them freezing into a stare baleful enough and haughty enough to quell such a person as the silk-hatted young man with a single glance. Why, then, had that super-fatted individual been able to demoralize her to the extent of flying to the shelter of strange cabs? She was composed enough now, it was true, but it had been quite plain that at the moment when she entered the taxi her nerve had momentarily forsaken her. There were mysteries here, beyond George.
The girl looked steadily at George and George looked steadily at her for the space of perhaps ten seconds. She seemed to George to be summing him up, weighing him. That the inspection proved satisfactory was shown by the fact that at the end of this period she smiled. Then she laughed, a clear pealing laugh which to George was far more musical than the most popular song-hit he had ever written.
“I suppose you are wondering what it’s all about?” she said.
This was precisely what George was wondering most consumedly.
“No, no,” he said. “Not at all. It’s not my business.”
“And of course you’re much too well bred to be inquisitive about other people’s business?”
“Of course I am. What was it all about?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you.”
“But what am I to say to the cabman?”
“I don’t know. What do men usually say to cabmen?”
“I mean he will feel very hurt if I don’t give him a full explanation of all this. He stooped from his pedestal to make enquiries just now. Condescension like that deserves some recognition.”
“Give him a nice big tip.”
George was reminded of his reason for being in the cab.
“I ought to have asked before,” he said. “Where can I drive you?”
“Oh, I mustn’t steal your cab. Where were you going?”
“I was going back to my hotel. I came out without any money, so I shall have to go there first to get some.”
The girl started.
“What’s the matter?” asked George.
“I’ve lost my purse!”
“Good Lord! Had it much in it?”
“Not very much. But enough to buy a ticket home.”
“Any use asking where that is?”
“None, I’m afraid.”
“I wasn’t going to, of course.”
“Of course not. That’s what I admire so much in you. You aren’t inquisitive.”
“There’s only one thing to be done. You will have to wait in the cab at the hotel, while I go and get some money. Then, if you’ll let me, I can lend you what you require.”