The crowd had thinned a little and they walked through it easily, three abreast. But Uncle William had moved to the other side of the girl, as far away from the Frenchman as he could get. Now and then he cast a glance of disapproval at the tall, dipping figure as it bent to the girl or lifted itself to gaze at some picture. There was distrust in Uncle William’s glance, mingled with vague disturbance. When they paused again, he moved around in front of the man. “The’ ‘s suthin’ kind o’ familiar about your face—” he began.
Sergia’s hand was again on his arm.
He patted it lightly. “Don’t you worry a mite, Sergia. I ain’t goin’ to say anything rash. But it does seem to me as if I’ve seen Mr. Curie’s face somewheres or other. ’T ain’t a face you’re liable to forget.”
The Frenchman acknowledged the compliment. “It is possible we have met. You have traveled?”
“A leetle,” admitted Uncle William.
Sergia’s face relaxed. She moved away for a minute.
The Frenchman nodded. “We have doubtless met; but one forgets—” He lifted his eyeglasses and surveyed Uncle William’s round, good face. “It doesn’t seem as if I could have forgotten yours,” he said thoughtfully. “And yet I don’t place it.”
Sergia had returned. “He has been to St. Petersburg,” she suggested.
The Frenchman’s look cleared. “Ah—! It must have been there. It is a privilege to have met you again, sir.” He held out his long, slim hand. “I wish you would come and see me. You have my address.” He motioned to the card.
Uncle William looked down at it. “I’m startin’ for home to-morrow,” he said dryly.
“Indeed! And your home is—”
Sergia interposed a graceful hand. “Good-night, M. Curie. You will come and see me. Mama would be glad I have found you again.”
He looked down at her mistily. His gaze lingered on her face. “I shall come, my child,” he said gallantly, almost tenderly. “I shall come many times.”
“Yes, I shall look for you. Be sure.” She took Uncle William’s arm and moved away to the staircase.
Uncle William’s mouth opened and closed once or twice with a little puff. When they reached the foot of the stairs he broke out. “He says he’s a Curie.” He flipped the card in his hand. “I’ve known Arichat, man and boy, for sixty year. The’ wa’n’t never any Curies there.”
She looked up at him a little perplexed. “Couldn’t you have forgotten?”
Uncle William shook his head. “I wish ‘t I had. You set a good deal o’ store by him, I can see. But I ain’t likely to forget anybody that’s been brought up there. The’ was suthin’ kind o’ familiar about him, too.” He said it almost irascibly.
The girl sighed softly. “Well, he may have been romancing. Frenchmen do—at times—”
“I call it lying,” snorted Uncle William.
“Yes, yes.” She patted his arm. “But can’t you understand how you would feel if you saw something beautiful—some place that made you feel the way you used to feel when you were a child? You might think for a moment that you had really been there, and say it—without meaning to tell a lie. That’s what I meant.”