The paper dropped from my hand. This was too horrible for anything! How I was ever to go through the ordeal of the landing at Quebec after that, I hadn’t the faintest conception. And was I to be dogged and annoyed like this through all my Canadian trip by anonymous scribblers? Had these people no hearts? no consideration for the sensitiveness of an English lady?
I looked over the side of the ship at the dark-blue water. Oh, how I longed to plunge into it and be released for ever from this abiding nightmare!
A NEW ACQUAINTANCE
The moment we reached the quay at Quebec, some two days later, a dozen young men, with little notebooks in their hands, jumped on board all at once.
“Miss Callingham!” they cried with one accord, making a dash for the quarter-deck. “Which is she? Oh, this!—If you please, Miss Callingham, I should like to have ten minutes of your time to interview you!”
I clapped my hands to my ears, and stood back, all horrified. What I should have done, I don’t know, but for a very kind man in a big rough overcoat, who had jumped on board at the same time, and made over to me like the reporters. He stepped up to me at once, pushed aside the young men, and said in a most friendly tone:
“Miss Callingham, I think? You’d better come with me, then. These people are all sharks. Everybody in Quebec’s agog to see the Two-souled Lady. Answer no questions at all. Take not the least notice of them. Just follow me to the Custom House. Let them rave, but don’t speak to them.”
“Who are you?” I asked blindly, clinging to his arm in my terror.
“I’m a policeman in plain clothes,” my new friend answered; “and I’ve been specially detailed by order for this duty. I’m here to look after you. You’ve friends in Canada, though you may have quite forgotten them. They’ve sent me to help you. Those are two of my chums there, standing aside by the gangway. We’ll walk you off between us. Don’t be afraid.—Here, you sir, there; make way!—No one shall come near you.”
I was so nervous, and so ashamed that I accepted my strange escort without inquiry or remonstrance. He helped me, with remarkable politeness for a common policeman, across to the Custom House, where I sat waiting for my luggage. Reporters and sightseers, meanwhile, pressed obtrusively around me. My protector held them back. I was half wild with embarrassment. I’m naturally a reserved and somewhat sensitive girl, and this American publicity made me crimson with bashfulness.
As I sat there waiting, however, the two other policemen to whom my champion had beckoned sat one on each side of me, keeping off the idle crowd, while my first friend looked after the luggage and saw it safely through the Customs for me. He must be an Inspector, I fancied, or some other superior officer, the officials were so deferential to him. I gave him my keys, and he looked after everything himself. I had nothing, for my part, to do but to sit and wait patiently for him.