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Chapter 7

The elderly gentleman obeyed. He entered the wagon cautiously, divesting himself of exquisitely white kid gloves. His cane, she noticed, had a jeweled top. His aquiline face was thin and tired. Never, never before had she seen a swell at close quarters. This one, she decided, approximated closely to her ideas of a foreign count. She particularly admired the white gardenia in his buttonhole. She brought forward their one chair.

"This is weak in one leg, but I think it will be all right if you sit down carefully."

"Then I shall be very careful, I assure you."

And he smiled at her, adding, as he took his seat gingerly: "I do not think this encounter is to be as formidable as I supposed. Why, you are only a little girl!"

"I am fifteen and a bit," she told him impressively.

"Ah, I understand. Not, of course, a little girl, but a young lady. Is that better? And, forgive me, but I see you are not French. Would you prefer it if we talked in German, or English?"

"English," Paulina said hastily.

"Then you are English? Is it possible? I can only confess to you, Mademoiselle, that the older I grow, the more facilement je me trompe. Now I would have sworn that you were perhaps Italian, perhaps Hungarian, perhaps (although that is less likely) Russian, like myself. But English! No, never would I have guessed you to be of that nationality. Never. Never."

And he shook his head with so much vehemence that Paulina began to think him excessively peculiar. She began, with some hesitation:

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