Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Lady Rose's Daughter
Author: Ward, Humphry, Mrs., 1851-1920
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lady Rose's Daughter" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: See page 122
"AS THOUGH SHE LISTENED STILL TO WORDS IN HER EARS"]

Lady Rose's Daughter

A Novel

BY
MRS. HUMPHRY WARD
Author of "Eleanor" "Robert Elsmere" etc. etc.

ILLUSTRATED BY
HOWARD CHANDLER CHRISTY

1903



ILLUSTRATION
"AS THOUGH SHE LISTENED STILL TO WORDS IN HER EARS" . . . . _Frontispiece_

"LADY HENRY LISTENED EAGERLY" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Facing p_. 30

"'INDEED I WILL!' CRIED SIR WILFRID, AND THEY WALKED ON". . . . . . .   52

"LADY HENRY GASPED. SHE FELL BACK INTO HER CHAIR" . . . . . . . . . .  100

"HE ENTERED UPON A MERRY SCENE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  242

"'FOR MY ROSE'S CHILD,' HE SAID, GENTLY". . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  254

"HER HANDS CLASPED IN FRONT OF HER" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  356

"SHE FOUND HERSELF KNEELING BESIDE HIM" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  480



LADY ROSE'S DAUGHTER

I

"Hullo! No!--Yes!--upon my soul, it _is_ Jacob! Why, Delafield, my dear
fellow, how are you?"

So saying--on a February evening a good many years ago--an elderly
gentleman in evening dress flung himself out of his cab, which had just
stopped before a house in Bruton Street, and hastily went to meet a
young man who was at the same moment stepping out of another hansom a
little farther down the pavement.

The pleasure in the older man's voice rang clear, and the younger met
him with an equal cordiality, expressed perhaps through a manner more
leisurely and restrained.

"So you _are_ home, Sir Wilfrid? You were announced, I saw. But I
thought Paris would have detained you a bit."

"Paris? Not I! Half the people I ever knew there are dead, and the rest
are uncivil. Well, and how are you getting on? Making your fortune, eh?"

And, slipping his arm inside the young man's, the speaker walked back
with him, along a line of carriages, towards a house which showed a
group of footmen at its open door. Jacob Delafield smiled.

"The business of a land agent seems to be to spend some one else's--as
far as I've yet gone."

"Land agent! I thought you were at the bar?"

"I was, but the briefs didn't come in. My cousin offered me the care of
his Essex estates. I like the country--always have. So I thought I'd
better accept."

"What--the Duke? Lucky fellow! A regular income, and no anxieties. I
expect you're pretty well paid?"

"Oh, I'm not badly paid," replied the young man, tranquilly. "Of course
you're going to Lady Henry's?"

"Of course. Here we are."

The older man paused outside the line of servants waiting at the door,
and spoke in a lower tone. "How is she? Failing at all?"

Jacob Delafield hesitated. "She's grown very blind--and perhaps rather
more infirm, generally. But she is at home, as usual--every evening for
a few people, and for a good many on Wednesdays."

"Is she still alone--or is there any relation who looks after her?"

"Relation? No. She detests them all."

"Except you?"

Delafield raised his shoulders, without an answering smile. "Yes, she is
good enough to except me. You're one of her trustees, aren't you?"

"At present, the only one. But while I have been in Persia the lawyers
have done all that was necessary. Lady Henry herself never writes a
letter she can help. I really have heard next to nothing about her for
more than a year. This morning I arrived from Paris--sent round to ask
if she would be at home--and here I am."

"Ah!" said Delafield, looking down. "Well, there is a lady who has been
with her, now, for more than two years--"

"Ah, yes, yes, I remember. Old Lady Seathwaite told me--last year.
Mademoiselle Le Breton--isn't that her name? What--she reads to her, and
writes letters for her--that kind of thing?"

"Yes--that kind of thing," said the other, after a moment's hesitation.
"Wasn't that a spot of rain? Shall I charge these gentry?"

And he led the way through the line of footmen, which, however, was not
of the usual Mayfair density. For the party within was not a "crush."
The hostess who had collected it was of opinion that the chief object of
your house is not to entice the mob, but to keep it out. The two men
mounted the stairs together.

"What a charming house!" said the elder, looking round him. "I remember
when your uncle rebuilt it. And before that, I remember his mother, the
old Duchess here, with her swarm of parsons. Upon my word, London tastes
good--after Teheran!"

And the speaker threw back his fair, grizzled head, regarding the
lights, the house, the guests, with the air of a sensitive dog on a
familiar scent.

"Ah, you're fresh home," said Delafield, laughing. "But let's just try
to keep you here--"

"My dear fellow, who is that at the top of the stairs?"

The old diplomat paused. In front of the pair some half a dozen guests
were ascending, and as many coming down. At the top stood a tall lady in
black, receiving and dismissing.

Delafield looked up.

"That is Mademoiselle Le Breton," he said, quietly.

"She receives?"

"She distributes the guests. Lady Henry generally establishes herself in
the back drawing-room. It doesn't do for her to see too many people at
once. Mademoiselle arranges it."

"Lady Henry must indeed be a good deal more helpless that I remember
her," murmured Sir Wilfrid, in some astonishment.

"She is, physically. Oh, no doubt of it! Otherwise you won't find much
change. Shall I introduce you?"

They were approaching a woman whose tall slenderness, combined with a
remarkable physiognomy, arrested the old man's attention. She was not
handsome--that, surely, was his first impression? The cheek-bones were
too evident, the chin and mouth too strong. And yet the fine pallor of
the skin, the subtle black-and-white, in which, so to speak, the head
and face were drawn, the life, the animation of the whole--were these
not beauty, or more than beauty? As for the eyes, the carriage of the
head, the rich magnificence of hair, arranged with an artful
eighteenth-century freedom, as Madame Vigée Le Brun might have worn
it--with the second glance the effect of them was such that Sir Wilfrid
could not cease from looking at the lady they adorned. It was an effect
as of something over-living, over-brilliant--an animation, an intensity,
so strong that, at first beholding, a by-stander could scarcely tell
whether it pleased him or no.

"Mademoiselle Le Breton--Sir Wilfrid Bury," said Jacob Delafield,
introducing them.

"_Is_ she French?" thought the old diplomat, puzzled. "And--have I ever
seen her before?"

"Lady Henry will be so glad!" said a low, agreeable voice. "You are one
of the old friends, aren't you? I have often heard her talk of you."

"You are very good. Certainly, I am an old friend--a connection also."
There was the slightest touch of stiffness in Sir Wilfrid's tone, of
which the next moment he was ashamed. "I am very sorry to hear that Lady
Henry has grown so much more helpless since I left England."

"She has to be careful of fatigue. Two or three people go in to see her
at a time. She enjoys them more so."

"In my opinion," said Delafield, "one more device of milady's for
getting precisely what she wants."

The young man's gay undertone, together with the look which passed
between him and Mademoiselle Le Breton, added to Sir Wilfrid's stifled
feeling of surprise.

"You'll tell her, Jacob, that I'm here?" He turned abruptly to the young
man.

"Certainly--when mademoiselle allows me. Ah, here comes the Duchess!"
said Delafield, in another voice.

Mademoiselle Le Breton, who had moved a few steps away from the
stair-head with Sir Wilfrid Bury, turned hastily. A slight, small woman,
delicately fair and sparkling with diamonds, was coming up the
stairs alone.

"My dear," said the new-comer, holding out her hands eagerly to
Mademoiselle Le Breton, "I felt I must just run in and have a look at
you. But Freddie says that I've got to meet him at that tiresome Foreign
Office! So I can only stay ten minutes. How are you?"--then, in a lower
voice, almost a whisper, which, however, reached Sir Wilfrid Bury's
ears--"worried to death?"

Mademoiselle Le Breton raised eyes and shoulders for a moment, then,
smiling, put her finger to her lip.

"You're coming to me to-morrow afternoon?" said the Duchess, in the same
half-whisper.

"I don't think I can get away."

"Nonsense! My dear, you must have some air and exercise! Jacob, will you
see she comes?"

"Oh, I'm no good," said that young man, turning away. "Duchess, you
remember Sir Wilfrid Bury?"

"She would be an unnatural goddaughter if she didn't," said that
gentleman, smiling. "She may be your cousin, but I knew her before
you did."

The young Duchess turned with a start.

"Sir Wilfrid! A sight for sair een. When did you get back?"

She put her slim hands into both of his, and showered upon him all
proper surprise and the greetings due to her father's oldest friend.
Voice, gesture, words--all were equally amiable, well trained, and
perfunctory--Sir Wilfrid was well aware of it. He was possessed of a
fine, straw-colored mustache, and long eyelashes of the same color. Both
eyelashes and mustache made a screen behind which, as was well known,
their owner observed the world to remarkably good purpose. He perceived
the difference at once when the Duchess, having done her social and
family duty, left him to return to Mademoiselle Le Breton.

"It _was_ such a bore you couldn't come this afternoon! I wanted you to
see the babe dance--she's _too_ great a duck! And that Canadian girl
came to sing. The voice is magnificent--but she has some tiresome
tricks!--and _I_ didn't know what to say to her. As to the other music
on the 16th--I say, can't we find a corner somewhere?" And the Duchess
looked round the beautiful drawing-room, which she and her companions
had just entered, with a dissatisfied air.

"Lady Henry, you'll remember, doesn't like corners," said Mademoiselle
Le Breton, smiling. Her tone, delicately free and allusive, once more
drew Sir Wilfrid's curious eyes to her, and he caught also the impatient
gesture with which the Duchess received the remark.

"Ah, that's all right!" said Mademoiselle Le Breton, suddenly, turning
round to himself. "Here is Mr. Montresor--going on, too, I suppose, to
the Foreign Office. Now there'll be some chance of getting at
Lady Henry."

Sir Wilfrid looked down the drawing-room, to see the famous War Minister
coming slowly through the well-filled but not crowded room, stopping now
and then to exchange a greeting or a farewell, and much hampered, as it
seemed, in so doing, by a pronounced and disfiguring short-sight. He was
a strongly built man of more than middle height. His iron-gray hair,
deeply carved features, and cavernous black eyes gave him the air of
power that his reputation demanded. On the other hand, his difficulty of
eyesight, combined with the marked stoop of overwork, produced a
qualifying impression--as of power teased and fettered, a Samson among
the Philistines.

"My dear lady, good-night. I must go and fight with wild beasts in
Whitehall--worse luck! Ah, Duchess! All very well--but you can't
shirk either!"

So saying, Mr. Montresor shook hands with Mademoiselle Le Breton and
smiled upon the Duchess--both actions betraying precisely the same
degree of playful intimacy.

"How did you find Lady Henry?" said Mademoiselle Le Breton, in a lowered
voice.

"Very well, but very cross. She scolds me perpetually--I haven't got a
skin left. Ah, Sir Wilfrid!--_very_ glad to see you! When did you
arrive? I thought I might perhaps find you at the Foreign Office."

"I'm going on there presently," said Sir Wilfrid.

"Ah, but that's no good. Dine with me to-morrow night?--if you are free?
Excellent!--that's arranged. Meanwhile--send him in, mademoiselle--send
him in! He's fresh--let him take his turn." And the Minister, grinning,
pointed backward over his shoulder towards an inner drawing-room, where
the form of an old lady, seated in a wheeled invalid-chair between two
other persons, could be just dimly seen.

"When the Bishop goes," said Mademoiselle Le Breton, with a laughing
shake of the head. "But I told him not to stay long."

"He won't want to. Lady Henry pays no more attention to his cloth than
to my gray hairs. The rating she has just given me for my speech of last
night! Well, good-night, dear lady--good-night. You _are_ better,
I think?"

Mr. Montresor threw a look of scrutiny no less friendly than earnest at
the lady to whom he was speaking; and immediately afterwards Sir
Wilfrid, who was wedged in by an entering group of people, caught the
murmured words:

"Consult me when you want me--at any time."

Mademoiselle Le Breton raised her beautiful eyes to the speaker in a
mute gratitude.

"And five minutes ago I thought her plain!" said Sir Wilfrid to himself
as he moved away. "Upon my word, for a _dame de compagnie_ that young
woman is at her ease! But where the deuce have I seen her, or her
double, before?"

He paused to look round the room a moment, before yielding himself to
one of the many possible conversations which, as he saw, it contained
for him. It was a stately panelled room of the last century, furnished
with that sure instinct both for comfort and beauty which a small
minority of English rich people have always possessed. Two glorious
Gainsboroughs, clad in the subtlest brilliance of pearly white and
shimmering blue, hung on either side of the square opening leading to
the inner room. The fair, clouded head of a girl, by Romney, looked down
from the panelling above the hearth. A gowned abbé, by Vandyck, made the
centre of another wall, facing the Gainsboroughs. The pictures were all
famous, and had been associated for generations with the Delafield name.
Beneath them the carpets were covered by fine eighteenth-century
furniture, much of it of a florid Italian type subdued to a delicate and
faded beauty by time and use. The room was cleverly broken into various
circles and centres for conversation; the chairs were many and
comfortable; flowers sheltered tête-à-têtes or made a setting for
beautiful faces; the lamps were soft, the air warm and light. A cheerful
hum of voices rose, as of talk enjoyed for talking's sake; and a general
effect of intimacy, or gayety, of an unfeigned social pleasure, seemed
to issue from the charming scene and communicate itself to the onlooker.

And for a few moments, before he was discovered and tumultuously annexed
by a neighboring group, Sir Wilfrid watched the progress of Mademoiselle
Le Breton through the room, with the young Duchess in her wake. Wherever
she moved she was met with smiles, deference, and eager attention. Here
and there she made an introduction, she redistributed a group, she moved
a chair. It was evident that her eye was everywhere, that she knew every
one; her rule appeared to be at once absolute and welcome. Presently,
when she herself accepted a seat, she became, as Sir Wilfrid perceived
in the intervals of his own conversation, the leader of the most
animated circle in the room. The Duchess, with one delicate arm
stretched along the back of Mademoiselle Le Breton's chair, laughed and
chattered; two young girls in virginal white placed themselves on big
gilt footstools at her feet; man after man joined the group that stood
or sat around her; and in the centre of it, the brilliance of her black
head, sharply seen against a background of rose brocade, the grace of
her tall form, which was thin almost to emaciation, the expressiveness
of her strange features, the animation of her gestures, the sweetness of
her voice, drew the eyes and ears of half the room to Lady Henry's
"companion."

Presently there was a movement in the distance. A man in knee-breeches
and silver-buckled shoes emerged from the back drawing-room.
Mademoiselle Le Breton rose at once and went to meet him.

"The Bishop has had a long innings," said an old general to Sir Wilfrid
Bury. "And here is Mademoiselle Julie coming for you."

Sir Wilfrid rose, in obedience to a smiling sign from the lady thus
described, and followed her floating black draperies towards the
farther room.

"Who are those two persons with Lady Henry?" he asked of his guide, as
they approached the _penetralia_ where reigned the mistress of the
house. "Ah, I see!--one is Dr. Meredith--but the other?"

"The other is Captain Warkworth," said Mademoiselle Le Breton. "Do you
know him?"

"Warkworth--Warkworth? Ah--of course--the man who distinguished himself
in the Mahsud expedition. But why is he home again so soon?"

Mademoiselle Le Breton smiled uncertainly.

"I think he was invalided home," she said, with that manner, at once
restrained and gracious, that Sir Wilfrid had already observed in her.
It was the manner of some one who _counted_; and--through all outward
modesty--knew it.

"He wants something out of the ministry. I remember the man," was Sir
Wilfrid's unspoken comment.

But they had entered the inner room. Lady Henry looked round. Over her
wrinkled face, now parchment-white, there shone a ray of
pleasure--sudden, vehement, and unfeigned.

"Sir Wilfrid!"

She made a movement as though to rise from her chair, which was checked
by his gesture and her helplessness.

"Well, this is good fortune," she said, as she put both her hands into
both of his. "This morning, as I was dressing, I had a feeling that
something agreeable was going to happen at last--and then your note
came. Sit down there. You know Dr. Meredith. He's as quarrelsome as
ever. Captain Warkworth--Sir Wilfrid Bury."

The square-headed, spectacled journalist addressed as Dr. Meredith
greeted the new-comer with the quiet cordiality of one for whom the day
holds normally so many events that it is impossible to make much of any
one of them. And the man on the farther side of Lady Henry rose and
bowed. He was handsome, and slenderly built. The touch of impetuosity in
his movement, and the careless ease with which he carried his curly
head, somehow surprised Sir Wilfrid. He had expected another sort
of person.

"I will give you my chair," said the Captain, pleasantly. "I have had
more than my turn."

"Shall I bring in the Duchess?" said Mademoiselle Le Breton, in a low
tone, as she stooped over the back of Lady Henry's chair.

That lady turned abruptly to the speaker.

"Let her do precisely as she pleases," said a voice, sharp, lowered
also, but imperious, like the drawing of a sword. "If she wants me, she
knows where I am."

"She would be so sorry--"

"Ne jouez pas la comédie, ma chère! Where is Jacob?"

"In the other room. Shall I tell him you want him?"

"I will send for him when it suits me. Meanwhile, as I particularly
desired you to let me know when he arrived--"

"He has only been here twenty minutes," murmured Mademoiselle Le Breton.
"I thought while the Bishop was here you would not like to be
disturbed--"

"You thought!" The speaker raised her shoulders fiercely. "Comme
toujours, vous vous êtes trop bien amusée pour vous souvenir de mes
instructions--voilà la vérité! Dr. Meredith," the whole imperious form
swung round again towards the journalist, "unless you forbid me, I shall
tell Sir Wilfrid who it was reviewed his book for you."

"Oh, good Heavens! I forbid you with all the energy of which I am
capable," said the startled journalist, raising appealing hands, while
Lady Henry, delighted with the effect produced by her sudden shaft, sank
back in her chair and grimly smiled.

Meanwhile Sir Wilfrid Bury's attention was still held by Mademoiselle Le
Breton. In the conversation between her and Lady Henry he had noticed an
extraordinary change of manner on the part of the younger lady. Her
ease, her grace had disappeared. Her tone was humble, her manner
quivering with nervous anxiety. And now, as she stood a moment behind
Lady Henry's chair, one trembling hand steadying the other, Sir Wilfrid
was suddenly aware of yet another impression. Lady Henry had treated her
companion with a contemptuous and haughty ill-humor. Face to face with
her mistress, Mademoiselle Le Breton had borne it with submission,
almost with servility. But now, as she stood silent behind the blind old
lady who had flouted her, her wonderfully expressive face, her delicate
frame, spoke for her with an energy not to be mistaken. Her dark eyes
blazed. She stood for anger; she breathed humiliation.

"A dangerous woman, and an extraordinary situation," so ran his thought,
while aloud he was talking Central Asian politics and the latest Simla
gossip to his two companions.

Meanwhile, Captain Warkworth and Mademoiselle Le Breton returned
together to the larger drawing-room, and before long Dr. Meredith took
his leave. Lady Henry and her old friend were left alone.

"I am sorry to hear that your sight troubles you more than of old," said
Sir Wilfrid, drawing his chair a little nearer to her.

Lady Henry gave an impatient sigh. "Everything troubles me more than of
old. There is one disease from which no one recovers, my dear Wilfrid,
and it has long since fastened upon me."

"You mean old age? Oh, you are not so much to be pitied for that," said
Sir Wilfrid, smiling. "Many people would exchange their youth for
your old age."

"Then the world contains more fools than even I give it credit for!"
said Lady Henry, with energy. "Why should any one exchange with me--a
poor, blind, gouty old creature, with no chick or child to care whether
she lives or dies?"

"Ah, well, that's a misfortune--I won't deny that," said Sir Wilfrid,
kindly. "But I come home after three years. I find your house as
thronged as ever, in the old way. I see half the most distinguished
people in London in your drawing-room. It is sad that you can no longer
receive them as you used to do: but here you sit like a queen, and
people fight for their turn with you."

Lady Henry did not smile. She laid one of her wrinkled hands upon his
arm.

"Is there any one else within hearing?" she said, in a quick undertone.
Sir Wilfrid was touched by the vague helplessness of her gesture, as she
looked round her.

"No one--we are quite alone."

"They are not here for _me_--those people," she said, quivering, with a
motion of her hand towards the large drawing-room.

"My dear friend, what do you mean?"

"They are here--come closer, I don't want to be overheard--for a
_woman_--whom I took in, in a moment of lunacy--who is now robbing me of
my best friends and supplanting me in my own house."

The pallor of the old face had lost all its waxen dignity. The lowered
voice hissed in his ear. Sir Wilfrid, startled and repelled, hesitated
for his reply. Meanwhile, Lady Henry, who could not see it, seemed at
once to divine the change in his expression.

"Oh, I suppose you think I'm mad," she said, impatiently, "or
ridiculous. Well, see for yourself, judge for yourself. In fact, I have
been looking, hungering, for your return. You have helped me through
emergencies before now. And I am in that state at present that I trust
no one, talk to no one, except of _banalités_. But I should be greatly
obliged if _you_ would come and listen to me, and, what is more, advise
me some day."

"Most gladly," said Sir Wilfrid, embarrassed; then, after a pause, "Who
is this lady I find installed here?"

Lady Henry hesitated, then shut her strong mouth on the temptation to
speak.

"It is not a story for to-night," she said; "and it would upset me. But,
when you first saw her, how did she strike you?"

"I saw at once," said her companion after a pause, "that you had caught
a personality."

"A personality!" Lady Henry gave an angry laugh. "That's one way of
putting it. But physically--did she remind you of no one?"

Sir Wilfrid pondered a moment.

"Yes. Her face haunted me, when I first saw it. But--no; no, I can't put
any names."

Lady Henry gave a little snort of disappointment.

"Well, think. You knew her mother quite well. You have known her
grandfather all your life. If you're going on to the Foreign Office, as
I suppose you are, you'll probably see him to-night. She is uncannily
like him. As to her father, I don't know--but he was a rolling-stone of
a creature; you very likely came across him."

"I knew her mother and her father?" said Sir Wilfrid, astonished and
pondering.

"They had no right to be her mother and her father," said Lady Henry,
with grimness.

"Ah! So if one does guess--"

"You'll please hold your tongue."

"But at present I'm completely mystified," said Sir Wilfrid.

"Perhaps it'll come to you later. You've a good memory generally for
such things. Anyway, I can't tell you anything now. But when'll you come
again? To-morrow--luncheon? I really want you."

"Would you be alone?"

"Certainly. _That_, at least, I can still do--lunch as I please, and
with whom I please. Who is this coming in? Ah, you needn't tell me."

The old lady turned herself towards the entrance, with a stiffening of
the whole frame, an instinctive and passionate dignity in her whole
aspect, which struck a thrill through her companion.

The little Duchess approached, amid a flutter of satin and lace,
heralded by the scent of the Parma violets she wore in profusion at her
breast and waist. Her eye glanced uncertainly, and she approached with
daintiness, like one stepping on mined ground.

"Aunt Flora, I must have just a minute."

"I know no reason against your having ten, if you want them," said Lady
Henry, as she held-out three fingers to the new-comer. "You promised
yesterday to come and give me a full account of the Devonshire House
ball. But it doesn't matter--and you have forgotten."

"No, indeed, I haven't," said the Duchess, embarrassed. "But you seemed
so well employed to-night, with other people. And now--"

"Now you are going on," said Lady Henry, with a most unfriendly suavity.

"Freddie says I must," said the other, in the attitude of a protesting
child.

"_Alors_!" said Lady Henry, lifting her hand. "We all know how obedient
you are. Good-night!"

The Duchess flushed. She just touched her aunt's hand, and then, turning
an indignant face on Sir Wilfrid, she bade him farewell with an air
which seemed to him intended to avenge upon his neutral person the
treatment which, from Lady Henry, even so spoiled a child of fortune as
herself could not resent.

Twenty minutes later, Sir Wilfrid entered the first big room of the
Foreign Office party. He looked round him with a revival of the
exhilaration he had felt on Lady Henry's staircase, enjoying, after his
five years in Teheran, after his long homeward journey by desert and
sea, even the common trivialities of the scene--the lights, the gilding,
the sparkle of jewels, the scarlet of the uniforms, the noise and
movement of the well-dressed crowd. Then, after this first physical
thrill, began the second stage of pleasure--the recognitions and the
greetings, after long absence, which show a man where he stands in the
great world, which sum up his past and forecast his future. Sir Wilfrid
had no reason to complain. Cabinet ministers and great ladies, members
of Parliament and the permanent officials who govern but do not rule,
soldiers, journalists, barristers--were all glad, it seemed, to grasp
him by the hand. He had returned with a record of difficult service
brilliantly done, and the English world rewarded him in its
accustomed ways.

It was towards one o'clock that he found himself in a crowd pressing
towards the staircase in the wake of some departing royalties. A tall
man in front turned round to look for some ladies behind him from whom
he had been separated in the crush. Sir Wilfrid recognized old Lord
Lackington, the veteran of marvellous youth, painter, poet, and sailor,
who as a gay naval lieutenant had entertained Byron in the Ægean; whose
fame as one of the raciest of naval reformers was in all the newspapers;
whose personality was still, at seventy-five, charming to most women and
challenging to most men.

As the old man turned, he was still smiling, as though in unison with
something which had just been said to him; and his black eyes under his
singularly white hair searched the crowd with the animation of a lad of
twenty. Through the energy of his aspect the flame of life still
burned, as the evening sun through a fine sky. The face had a faulty yet
most arresting brilliance. The mouth was disagreeable, the chin common.
But the general effect was still magnificent.

Sir Wilfrid started. He recalled the drawing-room in Bruton Street; the
form and face of Mademoiselle Le Breton; the sentences by which Lady
Henry had tried to put him on the track. His mind ran over past years,
and pieced together the recollections of a long-past scandal. "Of
course! _Of course!_" he said to himself, not without excitement. "She
is not like her mother, but she has all the typical points of her
mother's race."



II

It was a cold, clear morning in February, with a little pale sunshine
playing on the bare trees of the Park. Sir Wilfrid, walking southward
from the Marble Arch to his luncheon with Lady Henry, was gladly
conscious of the warmth of his fur-collared coat, though none the less
ready to envy careless youth as it crossed his path now and then,
great-coatless and ruddy, courting the keen air.

Just as he was about to make his exit towards Mount Street he became
aware of two persons walking southward like himself, but on the other
side of the roadway. He soon identified Captain Warkworth in the slim,
soldierly figure of the man. And the lady? There also, with the help of
his glasses, he was soon informed. Her trim, black hat and her black
cloth costume seemed to him to have a becoming and fashionable
simplicity; and she moved in morning dress, with the same ease and
freedom that had distinguished her in Lady Henry's drawing-room the
night before.

He asked himself whether he should interrupt Mademoiselle Le Breton with
a view to escorting her to Bruton Street. He understood, indeed, that he
and Lady Henry were to be alone at luncheon; Mademoiselle Julie had, no
doubt, her own quarters and attendants. But she seemed to be on her way
home. An opportunity for some perhaps exploratory conversation with her
before he found himself face to face with Lady Henry seemed to him not
undesirable.

But he quickly decided to walk on. Mademoiselle Le Breton and Captain
Warkworth paused in their walk, about no doubt to say good-bye, but,
very clearly, loath to say it. They were, indeed, in earnest
conversation. The Captain spoke with eagerness; Mademoiselle Julie, with
downcast eyes, smiled and listened.

"Is the fellow making love to her?" thought the old man, in some
astonishment, as he turned away. "Hardly the place for it either, one
would suppose."

He vaguely thought that he would both sound and warn Lady Henry. Warn
her of what? He happened on the way home to have been thrown with a
couple of Indian officers whose personal opinion of Harry Warkworth was
not a very high one, in spite of the brilliant distinction which the
young man had earned for himself in the Afridi campaign just closed. But
how was he to hand that sort of thing on to Lady Henry?--and because he
happened to have seen her lady companion and Harry Warkworth together?
No doubt Mademoiselle Julie was on her employer's business.

Yet the little encounter added somehow to his already lively curiosity
on the subject of Lady Henry's companion. Thanks to a remarkable
physical resemblance, he was practically certain that he had guessed the
secret of Mademoiselle Le Breton's parentage. At any rate, on the
supposition that he had, his thoughts began to occupy themselves with
the story to which his guess pointed.

Some thirty years before, he had known, both in London and in Italy, a
certain Colonel Delaney and his wife, once Lady Rose Chantrey, the
favorite daughter of Lord Lackington. They were not a happy couple. She
was a woman of great intelligence, but endowed with one of those
natures--sensitive, plastic, eager to search out and to challenge
life--which bring their possessors some great joys, hardly to be
balanced against a final sum of pain. Her husband, absorbed in his
military life, silent, narrowly able, and governed by a strict
Anglicanism that seemed to carry with it innumerable "shalts" and "shalt
nots," disagreeable to the natural man or woman, soon found her a tiring
and trying companion. She asked him for what he could not give; she
coquetted with questions he thought it impious to raise; the persons she
made friends with were distasteful to him; and, without complaining, he
soon grew to think it intolerable that a woman married to a soldier
should care so little for his professional interests and ambitions.
Though when she pretended to care for them she annoyed him, if possible,
still more.

As for Lady Rose, she went through all the familiar emotions of the
_femme incomprise_. And with the familiar result. There presently
appeared in the house a man of good family, thirty-five or so,
traveller, painter, and dreamer, with fine, long-drawn features bronzed
by the sun of the East, and bringing with him the reputation of having
plotted and fought for most of the "lost causes" of our generation,
including several which had led him into conflict with British
authorities and British officials. To Colonel Delaney he was an
"agitator," if not a rebel; and the careless pungency of his talk soon
classed him as an atheist besides. In the case of Lady Rose, this man's
free and generous nature, his independence of money and convention, his
passion for the things of the mind, his contempt for the mode, whether
in dress or politics, his light evasions of the red tape of life as of
something that no one could reasonably expect of a vagabond like
himself--these things presently transformed a woman in despair to a
woman in revolt. She fell in love with an intensity befitting her true
temperament, and with a stubbornness that bore witness to the dreary
failure of her marriage. Marriott Dalrymple returned her love, and
nothing in his view of life predisposed him to put what probably
appeared to him a mere legality before the happiness of two people meant
for each other. There were no children of the Delaney marriage; and in
his belief the husband had enjoyed too long a companionship he had never
truly deserved.

So Lady Rose faced her husband, told him the truth, and left him. She
and Dalrymple went to live in Belgium, in a small country-house some
twenty or thirty miles from Brussels. They severed themselves from
England; they asked nothing more of English life. Lady Rose suffered
from the breach with her father, for Lord Lackington never saw her
again. And there was a young sister whom she had brought up, whose image
could often rouse in her a sense of loss that showed itself in
occasional spells of silence and tears. But substantially she never
repented what she had done, although Colonel Delaney made the penalties
of it as heavy as he could. Like Karennine in Tolstoy's great novel, he
refused to sue for a divorce, and for something of the same reasons.
Divorce was in itself impious, and sin should not be made easy. He was
at any time ready to take back his wife, so far as the protection of
his name and roof were concerned, should she penitently return to him.

So the child that was presently born to Lady Rose could not be
legitimized.

Sir Wilfrid stopped short at the Park end of Bruton Street, with a start
of memory.

"I saw it once! I remember now--perfectly."

And he went on to recall a bygone moment in the Brussels Gallery, when,
as he was standing before the great Quintin Matsys, he was accosted with
sudden careless familiarity by a thin, shabbily dressed man, in whose
dark distinction, made still more fantastic and conspicuous by the fever
and the emaciation of consumption, he recognized at once Marriott
Dalrymple.

He remembered certain fragments of their talk about the pictures--the
easy mastery, now brusque, now poetic, with which Dalrymple had shown
him the treasures of the gallery, in the manner of one whose learning
was merely the food of fancy, the stuff on which imagination and reverie
grew rich.

Then, suddenly, his own question--"And Lady Rose?"

And Dalrymple's quiet, "Very well. She'd see you, I think, if you want
to come. She has scarcely seen an English person in the last
three years."

And as when a gleam searches out some blurred corner of a landscape,
there returned upon him his visit to the pair in their country home. He
recalled the small eighteenth-century house, the "château" of the
village, built on the French model, with its high _mansarde_ roof; the
shabby stateliness of its architecture matching plaintively with the
field of beet-root that grew up to its very walls; around it the flat,
rich fields, with their thin lines of poplars; the slow, canalized
streams; the unlovely farms and cottages; the mire of the lanes; and,
shrouding all, a hot autumn mist sweeping slowly through the damp
meadows and blotting all cheerfulness from the sun. And in the midst of
this pale landscape, so full of ragged edges to an English eye, the
English couple, with their books, their child, and a pair of
Flemish servants.

It had been evident to him at once that their circumstances were those
of poverty. Lady Rose's small fortune, indeed, had been already mostly
spent on "causes" of many kinds, in many countries. She and Dalrymple
were almost vegetarians, and wine never entered the house save for the
servants, who seemed to regard their employers with a real but
half-contemptuous affection. He remembered the scanty, ill-cooked
luncheon; the difficulty in providing a few extra knives and forks; the
wrangling with the old _bonne_-housekeeper, which was necessary before
_serviettes_ could be produced.

And afterwards the library, with its deal shelves from floor to ceiling
put up by Dalrymple himself, its bare, polished floor, Dalrymple's table
and chair on one side of the open hearth, Lady Rose's on the other; on
his table the sheets of verse translation from Æschylus and Euripides,
which represented his favorite hobby; on hers the socialist and
economical books they both studied and the English or French poets they
both loved. The walls, hung with the faded damask of a past generation,
were decorated with a strange crop of pictures pinned carelessly into
the silk--photographs or newspaper portraits of modern men and women
representing all possible revolt against authority, political,
religious, even scientific, the Everlasting No of an untiring and
ubiquitous dissent.

Finally, in the centre of the polished floor, the strange child, whom
Lady Rose had gone to fetch after lunch, with its high crest of black
hair, its large, jealous eyes, its elfin hands, and the sudden smile
with which, after half an hour of silence and apparent scorn, it had
rewarded Sir Wilfrid's advances. He saw himself sitting bewitched
beside it.

Poor Lady Rose! He remembered her as he and she parted at the gate of
the neglected garden, the anguish in her eyes as they turned to look
after the bent and shrunken figure of Dalrymple carrying the child back
to the house.

"If you meet any of his old friends, don't--don't say anything! We've
just saved enough money to go to Sicily for the winter--that'll set
him right."

And then, barely a year later, the line in a London newspaper which had
reached him at Madrid, chronicling the death of Marriott Dalrymple, as
of a man once on the threshold of fame, but long since exiled from the
thoughts of practical men. Lady Rose, too, was dead--many years since;
so much he knew. But how, and where? And the child?

She was now "Mademoiselle Le Breton "?--the centre and apparently the
chief attraction of Lady Henry's once famous salon?

"And, by Jove! several of her kinsfolk there, relations of the mother or
the father, if what I suppose is true!" thought Sir Wilfrid, remembering
one or two of the guests. "Were they--was she--aware of it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The old man strode on, full of a growing eagerness, and was soon on Lady
Henry's doorstep.

"Her ladyship is in the dining-room," said the butler, and Sir Wilfrid
was ushered there straight.

"Good-morning, Wilfrid," said the old lady, raising herself on her
silver--headed sticks as he entered. "I prefer to come down-stairs by
myself. The more infirm I am, the less I like it--and to be helped
enrages me. Sit down. Lunch is ready, and I give you leave to eat some."

"And you?" said Sir Wilfrid, as they seated themselves almost side by
side at the large, round table in the large, dingy room.

The old lady shook her head.

"All the world eats too much. I was brought up with people who lunched
on a biscuit and a glass of sherry."

"Lord Russell?--Lord Palmerston?" suggested Sir Wilfrid, attacking his
own lunch meanwhile with unabashed vigor.

"That sort. I wish we had their like now."

"Their successors don't please you?"

Lady Henry shook her head.

"The Tories have gone to the deuce, and there are no longer enough Whigs
even to do that. I wouldn't read the newspapers at all if I could help
it. But I do."

"So I understand," said Sir Wilfrid; "you let Montresor know it last
night."

"Montresor!" said Lady Henry, with a contemptuous movement. "What a
_poseur_! He lets the army go to ruin, I understand, while he joins
Dante societies."

Sir Wilfrid raised his eyebrows.

"I think, if I were you, I should have some lunch," he said, gently
pushing the admirable _salmi_ which the butler had left in front of him
towards his old friend.

Lady Henry laughed.

"Oh, my temper will be better presently, when those men are gone"--she
nodded towards the butler and footman in the distance--"and I can
have my say."

Sir Wilfrid hurried his meal as much as Lady Henry--who, as it turned
out, was not at all minded to starve him--would allow. She meanwhile
talked politics and gossip to him, with her old, caustic force, nibbling
a dry biscuit at intervals and sipping a cup of coffee. She was a
wilful, characteristic figure as she sat there, beneath her own portrait
as a bride, which hung on the wall behind her. The portrait represented
a very young woman, with plentiful brown hair gathered into a knot on
the top of her head, a high waist, a blue waist-ribbon, and inflated
sleeves. Handsome, imperious, the corners of the mouth well down, the
look straight and daring--the Lady Henry of the picture, a bride of
nineteen, was already formidable. And the old woman sitting beneath it,
with the strong, white hair, which the ample cap found some difficulty
even now in taming and confining, the droop of the mouth accentuated,
the nose more masterful, the double chin grown evident, the light of the
eyes gone out, breathed pride and will from every feature of her still
handsome face, pride of race and pride of intellect, combined with a
hundred other subtler and smaller prides that only an intimate knowledge
of her could detect. The brow and eyes, so beautiful in the picture,
were, however, still agreeable in the living woman; if generosity
lingered anywhere, it was in them.

The door was hardly closed upon the servants when she bent forward.

"Well, have you guessed?"

Sir Wilfrid looked at her thoughtfully as he stirred the sugar in his
coffee.

"I think so," he said. "She is Lady Rose Delaney's daughter."

Lady Henry gave a sudden laugh.

"I hardly expected you to guess! What helped you?"

"First your own hints. Then the strange feeling I had that I had seen
the face, or some face just like it, before. And, lastly, at the Foreign
Office I caught sight, for a moment, of Lord Lackington. That
finished it."

"Ah!" said Lady Henry, with a nod. "Yes, that likeness is extraordinary.
Isn't it amazing that that foolish old man has never perceived it?"

"He knows nothing?"

"Oh, nothing! Nobody does. However, that'll do presently. But Lord
Lackington comes here, mumbles about his music and his water-colors, and
his flirtations--seventy-four, if you please, last birthday!--talks
about himself endlessly to Julie or to me--whoever comes handy--and
never has an inkling, an idea."

"And she?"

"Oh, _she_ knows. I should rather think she does." And Lady Henry pushed
away her coffee-cup with the ill-suppressed vehemence which any mention
of her companion seemed to produce in her. "Well, now, I suppose you'd
like to hear the story."

"Wait a minute. It'll surprise you to hear that I not only knew this
lady's mother and father, but that I've seen her, herself, before."

"You?" Lady Henry looked incredulous.

"I never told you of my visit to that _ménage_, four-and-twenty years
ago?"

"Never, that I remember. But if you had I should have forgotten. What
did they matter to me then? I myself only saw Lady Rose once, so far as
I remember, before she misconducted herself. And afterwards--well, one
doesn't trouble one's self about the women that have gone under."

Something lightened behind Sir Wilfrid's straw-colored lashes. He bent
over his coffee-cup and daintily knocked off the end of his cigarette
with a beringed little finger.

"The women who have--not been able to pull up?"

Lady Henry paused.

"If you like to put it so," she said, at last. Sir Wilfrid did not raise
his eyes. Lady Henry took up her strongest glasses from the table and
put them on. But it was pitifully evident that even so equipped she saw
but little, and that her strong nature fretted perpetually against the
physical infirmity that teased it. Nevertheless, some unspoken
communication passed between them, and Sir Wilfrid knew that he had
effectually held up a protecting hand for Lady Rose.

"Well, let me tell you my tale first," he said; and gave the little
reminiscence in full. When he described the child, Lady Henry
listened eagerly.

"Hm," she said, when he came to an end; "she was jealous, you say, of
her mother's attentions to you? She watched you, and in the end she took
possession of you? Much the same creature, apparently, then as now."

"No moral, please, till the tale is done," said Sir Wilfrid, smiling.
"It's your turn."

Lady Henry's face grew sombre.

[Illustration: "LADY HENRY LISTENED EAGERLY"]

"All very well," she said. "What did your tale matter to you? As for
mine--"

The substance of hers was as follows, put into chronological order:

Lady Rose had lived some ten years after Dalrymple's death. That time
she passed in great poverty in some _chambres garnies_ at Bruges, with
her little girl and an old Madame Le Breton, the maid, housekeeper, and
general factotum who had served them in the country. This woman, though
of a peevish, grumbling temper, was faithful, affectionate, and not
without education. She was certainly attached to little Julie, whose
nurse she had been during a short period of her infancy. It was natural
that Lady Rose should leave the child to her care. Indeed, she had no
choice. An old Ursuline nun, and a kind priest who at the nun's
instigation occasionally came to see her, in the hopes of converting
her, were her only other friends in the world. She wrote, however, to
her father, shortly before her death, bidding him good-bye, and asking
him to do something for the child. "She is wonderfully like you," so ran
part of the letter. "You won't ever acknowledge her, I know. That is
your strange code. But at least give her what will keep her from want,
till she can earn her living. Her old nurse will take care of her, I
have taught her, so far. She is already very clever. When I am gone she
will attend one of the convent schools here. And I have found an honest
lawyer who will receive and pay out money."

To this letter Lord Lackington replied, promising to come over and see
his daughter. But an attack of gout delayed him, and, before he was out
of his room, Lady Rose was dead. Then he no longer talked of coming
over, and his solicitors arranged matters. An allowance of a hundred
pounds a year was made to Madame Le Breton, through the "honest lawyer"
whom Lady Rose had found, for the benefit of "Julie Dalrymple," the
capital value to be handed over to that young lady herself on the
attainment of her eighteenth birthday--always provided that neither she
nor anybody on her behalf made any further claim on the Lackington
family, that her relationship to them was dropped, and her mother's
history buried in oblivion.

Accordingly the girl grew to maturity in Bruges. By the lawyer's advice,
after her mother's death, she took the name of her old _gouvernante_,
and was known thenceforward as Julie Le Breton. The Ursuline nuns, to
whose school she was sent, took the precaution, after her mother's
death, of having her baptized straightway into the Catholic faith, and
she made her _première communion_ in their church. In the course of a
few years she became a remarkable girl, the source of many anxieties to
the nuns. For she was not only too clever for their teaching, and an
inborn sceptic, but wherever she appeared she produced parties and the
passions of parties. And though, as she grew older, she showed much
adroitness in managing those who were hostile to her, she was never
without enemies, and intrigues followed her.

"I might have been warned in time," said Lady Henry, in whose wrinkled
cheeks a sharp and feverish color had sprung up as her story approached
the moment of her own personal acquaintance with Mademoiselle Le Breton.
"For one or two of the nuns when I saw them in Bruges, before the
bargain was finally struck, were candid enough. However, now I come to
the moment when I first set eyes on her. You know my little place in
Surrey? About a mile from me is a manor-house belonging to an old
Catholic family, terribly devout and as poor as church-mice. They sent
their daughters to school in Bruges. One summer holiday these girls
brought home with them Julie Dalrymple as their quasi-holiday governess.
It was three years ago. I had just seen Liebreich. He told me that I
should soon be blind, and, naturally, it was a blow to me."

Sir Wilfrid made a murmur of sympathy.

"Oh, don't pity me! I don't pity other people. This odious body of ours
has got to wear out sometime--it's in the bargain. Still, just then I
was low. There are two things I care about--one is talk, with the people
that amuse me, and the other is the reading of French books. I didn't
see how I was going to keep my circle here together, and my own mind in
decent repair, unless I could find somebody to be eyes for me, and to
read to me. And as I'm a bundle of nerves, and I never was agreeable to
illiterate people, nor they to me, I was rather put to it. Well, one day
these girls and their mother came over to tea, and, as you guess, of
course, they brought Mademoiselle Le Breton with them. I had asked them
to come, but when they arrived I was bored and cross, and like a sick
dog in a hole. And then, as you have seen her, I suppose you can guess
what happened."

"You discovered an exceptional person?"

Lady Henry laughed.

"I was limed, there and then, old bird as I am. I was first struck with
the girl's appearance--_une belle laide_--with every movement just as it
ought to be; infinitely more attractive to me than any pink-and-white
beauty. It turned out that she had just been for a month in Paris
with another school-fellow. Something she said about a new
play--suddenly--made me look at her. 'Venez vous asseoir ici,
mademoiselle, s'il vous plaît--près de moi,' I said to her--I can hear
my own voice now, poor fool, and see her flush up. Ah!" Lady Henry's
interjection dropped to a note of rage that almost upset Sir Wilfrid's
gravity; but he restrained himself, and she resumed: "We talked for two
hours; it seemed to me ten minutes. I sent the others out to the
gardens. She stayed with me. The new French books, the theatre, poems,
plays, novels, memoirs, even politics, she could talk of them all; or,
rather--for, mark you, that's her gift--she made _me_ talk. It seemed to
me I had not been so brilliant for months. I was as good, in fact, as I
had ever been. The difficulty in England is to find any one to keep up
the ball. She does it to perfection. She never throws to
win--never!--but so as to leave you all the chances. You make a
brilliant stroke; she applauds, and in a moment she has arranged you
another. Oh, it is the most extraordinary gift of conversation--and she
never says a thing that you want to remember."

There was a silence. Lady Henry's old fingers drummed restlessly on the
table. Her memory seemed to be wandering angrily among her first
experiences of the lady they were discussing.

"Well," said Sir Wilfrid, at last, "so you engaged her as _lectrice_,
and thought yourself very lucky?"

"Oh, don't suppose that I was quite an idiot. I made some inquiries--I
bored myself to death with civilities to the stupid family she was
staying with, and presently I made her stay with me. And of course I
soon saw there was a history. She possessed jewels, laces, little
personal belongings of various kinds, that wanted explaining. So I laid
traps for her; I let her also perceive whither my own plans were
drifting. She did not wait to let me force her hand. She made up her
mind. One day I found, left carelessly on the drawing-room table, a
volume of Saint-Simon, beautifully bound in old French morocco, with
something thrust between the leaves. I opened it. On the fly-leaf was
written the name Marriott Dalrymple, and the leaves opened, a little
farther, on a miniature of Lady Rose Delaney. So--"

"Apparently it was _her_ traps that worked," said Sir Wilfrid, smiling.
Lady Henry returned the smile unwillingly, as one loath to acknowledge
her own folly.

"I don't know that I was trapped. We both desired to come to close
quarters. Anyway, she soon showed me books, letters--from Lady Rose,
from Dalrymple, Lord Lackington--the evidence was complete....

"'Very well,' I said; 'it isn't your fault. All the better if you are
well born--I am not a person of prejudices. But understand, if you come
to me, there must be no question of worrying your relations. There are
scores of them in London. I know them all, or nearly all, and of course
you'll come across them. But unless you can hold your tongue, don't come
to me. Julie Dalrymple has disappeared, and I'll be no party to her
resurrection. If Julie Le Breton becomes an inmate of my house, there
shall be no raking up of scandals much better left in their graves. If
you haven't got a proper parentage, consistently thought out, we must
invent one--'"

"I hope I may some day be favored with it," said Sir Wilfrid.

Lady Henry laughed uncomfortably.

"Oh, I've had to tell lies," she said, "plenty of them."

"What! It was _you_ that told the lies?"

Lady Henry's look flashed.

"The open and honest ones," she said, defiantly.

"Well," said Sir Wilfrid, regretfully, "_some_ sort were indispensable.
So she came. How long ago?"

"Three years. For the first half of that time I did nothing but plume
myself on my good fortune. I said to myself that if I had searched
Europe through I could not have fared better. My household, my friends,
my daily ways, she fitted into them all to perfection. I told people
that I had discovered her through a Belgian acquaintance. Every one was
amazed at her manners, her intelligence. She was perfectly modest,
perfectly well behaved. The old Duke--he died six months after she came
to me--was charmed with her. Montresor, Meredith, Lord Robert, all my
_habitués_ congratulated me. 'Such cultivation, such charm, such
_savoir-faire!_ Where on earth did you pick up such a treasure? What are
her antecedents?' etc., etc. So then, of course--"

"I hope no more than were absolutely necessary!" said Sir Wilfrid,
hastily.

"I had to do it well," said Lady Henry, with decision; "I can't say I
didn't. That state of things lasted, more or less, about a year and a
half. And by now, where do you think it has all worked out?"

"You gave me a few hints last night," said Sir Wilfrid, hesitating.

Lady Henry pushed her chair back from the table. Her hands trembled on
her stick.

"Hints!" she said, scornfully. "I'm long past hints. I told you last
night--and I repeat--that woman has stripped me of all my friends! She
has intrigued with them all in turn against me. She has done the same
even with my servants. I can trust none of them where she is concerned.
I am alone in my own house. My blindness makes me her tool, her
plaything. As for my salon, as you call it, it has become hers. I am a
mere courtesy-figurehead--her chaperon, in fact. I provide the house,
the footmen, the champagne; the guests are hers. And she has done this
by constant intrigue and deception--by flattery--by lying!"

The old face had become purple. Lady Henry breathed hard.

"My dear friend," said Sir Wilfrid, quickly, laying a calming hand on
her arm, "don't let this trouble you so. Dismiss her."

"And accept solitary confinement for the rest of my days? I haven't the
courage--yet," said Lady Henry, bitterly. "You don't know how I have
been isolated and betrayed! And I haven't told you the worst of all.
Listen! Do you know whom she has got into her toils?"

She paused, drawing herself rigidly erect. Sir Wilfrid, looking up
sharply, remembered the little scene in the Park, and waited.

"Did you have any opportunity last night," said Lady Henry, slowly, "of
observing her and Jacob Delafield?"

She spoke with passionate intensity, her frowning brows meeting above a
pair of eyes that struggled to see and could not. But the effect she
listened for was not produced. Sir Wilfrid drew back uncertainly.

"Jacob Delafield?" he said. "Jacob Delafield? Are you sure?"

"Sure?" cried Lady Henry, angrily. Then, disdaining to support her
statement, she went on: "He hesitates. But she'll soon make an end of
that. And do you realize what that means--what Jacob's possibilities
are? Kindly recollect that Chudleigh has one boy--one sickly,
tuberculous boy--who might die any day. And Chudleigh himself is a poor
life. Jacob has more than a good chance--ninety chances out of a
hundred"--she ground the words out with emphasis--"of inheriting
the dukedom."

"Good gracious!" said Sir Wilfrid, throwing away his cigarette.

"There!" said Lady Henry, in sombre triumph. "Now you can understand
what I have brought on poor Henry's family."

A low knock was heard at the door.

"Come in," said Lady Henry, impatiently.

The door opened, and Mademoiselle Le Breton appeared on the threshold,
carrying a small gray terrier under each arm.

"I thought I had better tell you," she said, humbly, "that I am taking
the dogs out. Shall I get some fresh wool for your knitting?"



III

It was nearly four o'clock. Sir Wilfrid had just closed Lady Henry's
door behind him, and was again walking along Bruton Street.

He was thinking of the little scene of Mademoiselle Le Breton's
appearance on the threshold of Lady Henry's dining-room; of the insolent
sharpness with which Lady Henry had given her order upon order--as to
the dogs, the books for the circulating library, a message for her
dressmaker, certain directions for the tradesmen, etc., etc.--as though
for the mere purpose of putting the woman who had dared to be her rival
in her right place before Sir Wilfrid Bury. And at the end, as she was
departing, Mademoiselle Le Breton, trusting no doubt to Lady Henry's
blindness, had turned towards himself, raising her downcast eyes upon
him suddenly, with a proud, passionate look. Her lips had moved; Sir
Wilfrid had half risen from his chair. Then, quickly, the door had
closed upon her.

Sir Wilfrid could not think of it without a touch of excitement.

"Was she reminding me of Gherardtsloo?" he said to himself. "Upon my
word, I must find some means of conversation with her, in spite of
Lady Henry."

He walked towards Bond Street, pondering the situation of the two
women--the impotent jealousy and rancor with which Lady Henry was
devoured, the domestic slavery contrasted with the social power of
Mademoiselle Le Breton. Through the obscurity and difficulty of
circumstance, how marked was the conscience of race in her, and, as he
also thought, of high intelligence! The old man was deeply interested.
He felt a certain indulgent pity for his lifelong friend Lady Henry; but
he could not get Mademoiselle Julie out of his head.

"Why on earth does she stay where she is?"

He had asked the same question of Lady Henry, who had contemptuously
replied:

"Because she likes the flesh-pots, and won't give them up. No doubt she
doesn't find my manners agreeable; but she knows very well that she
wouldn't get the chances she gets in my house anywhere else. I give her
a foothold. She'll not risk it for a few sour speeches on my part. I may
say what I like to her--and I intend to say what I like! Besides, you
watch her, and see whether she's made for poverty. She takes to luxury
as a fish to water. What would she be if she left me? A little visiting
teacher, perhaps, in a Bloomsbury lodging. That's not her line at all."

"But somebody else might employ her as you do?" Sir Wilfrid had
suggested.

"You forget I should be asked for a character," said Lady Henry. "Oh, I
admit there are possibilities--on her side. That silly goose, Evelyn
Crowborough, would have taken her in, but I had a few words with
Crowborough, and he put his foot down. He told his wife he didn't want
an intriguing foreigner to live with them. No; for the present we are
chained to each other. I can't get rid of her, and she doesn't want to
get rid of me. Of course, things might become intolerable for either of
us. But at present self-interest on both sides keeps us going. Oh, don't
tell me the thing is odious! I know it. Every day she stays in the house
I become a more abominable old woman."

A more exacting one, certainly. Sir Wilfrid thought with pity and
amusement of the commissions with which Mademoiselle Julie had been
loaded. "She earns her money, any way," he thought. "Those things will
take her a hard afternoon's work. But, bless my soul!"--he paused in his
walk--"what about that engagement to Duchess Evelyn that I heard her
make? Not a word, by-the-way, to Lady Henry about it! Oh, this
is amusing!"

He went meditatively on his way, and presently turned into his club to
write some letters. But at five o'clock he emerged, and told a hansom to
drive him to Grosvenor Square. He alighted at the great red-brick
mansion of the Crowboroughs, and asked for the Duchess. The magnificent
person presiding over the hall, an old family retainer, remembered him,
and made no difficulty about admitting him.

"Anybody with her grace?" he inquired, as the man handed him over to the
footman who was to usher him up-stairs.

"Only Miss Le Breton and Mr. Delafield, Sir Wilfrid. Her grace told me
to say 'not at home' this afternoon, but I am sure, sir, she will
see you."

Sir Wilfrid smiled.

As he entered the outer drawing-room, the Duchess and the group
surrounding her did not immediately perceive the footman nor himself,
and he had a few moments in which to take in a charming scene.

A baby girl in a white satin gown down to her heels, and a white satin
cap, lace-edged and tied under her chin, was holding out her tiny skirt
with one hand and dancing before the Duchess and Miss Le Breton, who was
at the piano. The child's other hand held up a morsel of biscuit
wherewith she directed the movements of her partner, a small black
spitz, of a slim and silky elegance, who, straining on his hind legs,
his eager attention fixed upon the biscuit, followed every movement of
his small mistress; while she, her large blue eyes now solemn, now
triumphant, her fair hair escaping from her cap in fluttering curls, her
dainty feet pointed, her dimpled arm upraised, repeated in living grace
the picture of her great-great-grandmother which hung on the wall in
front of her, a masterpiece from Reynolds's happiest hours.

Behind Mademoiselle Le Breton stood Jacob Delafield; while the Duchess,
in a low chair beside them, beat time gayly to the gavotte that
Mademoiselle Julie was playing and laughed encouragement and applause to
the child in front of her. She herself, with her cloud of fair hair, the
delicate pink and white of her skin, the laughing lips and small white
hands that rose and fell with the baby steps, seemed little more than a
child. Her pale blue dress, for which she had just exchanged her winter
walking-costume, fell round her in sweeping folds of lace and silk--a
French fairy dressed by Wörth, she was possessed by a wild gayety, and
her silvery laugh held the room.

Beside her, Julie Le Breton, very thin, very tall, very dark, was
laughing too. The eyes which Sir Wilfrid had lately seen so full of
pride were now alive with pleasure. Jacob Delafield, also, from behind,
grinned applause or shouted to the babe, "Brava, Tottie; well done!"
Three people, a baby, and a dog more intimately pleased with one
another's society it would have been difficult to discover.

"Sir Wilfrid!"

The Duchess sprang up astonished, and in a moment, to Sir Wilfrid's
chagrin, the little scene fell to pieces. The child dropped on the
floor, defending herself and the biscuit as best she could against the
wild snatches of the dog. Delafield composed his face in a moment to its
usual taciturnity. Mademoiselle Le Breton rose from the piano.

"No, no!" said Sir Wilfrid, stopping short and holding up a deprecating
hand. "Too bad! Go on."

"Oh, we were only fooling with baby!" said the Duchess. "It is high time
she went to her nurse. Sit here, Sir Wilfrid. Julie, will you take the
babe, or shall I ring for Mrs. Robson?"

"I'll take her," said Mademoiselle Le Breton.

She knelt down by the child, who rose with alacrity. Catching her skirts
round her, with one eye half laughing, half timorous, turned over her
shoulder towards the dog, the baby made a wild spring into Mademoiselle
Julie's arms, tucking up her feet instantly, with a shriek of delight,
out of the dog's way. Then she nestled her fair head down upon her
bearer's shoulder, and, throbbing with joy and mischief, was
carried away.

Sir Wilfrid, hat in hand, stood for a moment watching the pair. A bygone
marriage uniting the Lackington family with that of the Duchess had just
occurred to him in some bewilderment. He sat down beside his hostess,
while she made him some tea. But no sooner had the door of the farther
drawing-room closed behind Mademoiselle Le Breton, than with a dart of
all her lively person she pounced upon him.

"Well, so Aunt Flora has been complaining to you?"

Sir Wilfrid's cup remained suspended in his hand. He glanced first at
the speaker and then at Jacob Delafield.

"Oh, Jacob knows all about it!" said the Duchess, eagerly. "This is
Julie's headquarters; _we_ are on her staff. _You_ come from the enemy!"

Sir Wilfrid took out his white silk handkerchief and waved it.

"Here is my flag of truce," he said. "Treat me well."

"We are only too anxious to parley with you," said the Duchess,
laughing. "Aren't we, Jacob?"

Then she drew closer.

"What has Aunt Flora been saying to you?"

Sir Wilfrid paused. As he sat there, apparently studying his boots, his
blond hair, now nearly gray, carefully parted in the middle above his
benevolent brow, he might have been reckoned a tame and manageable
person. Jacob Delafield, however, knew him of old.

"I don't think that's fair," said Sir Wilfrid, at last, looking up. "I'm
the new-comer; I ought to be allowed the questions."

"Go on," said the Duchess, her chin on her hand. "Jacob and I will
answer all we know."

Delafield nodded. Sir Wilfrid, looking from one to the other, quickly
reminded himself that they had been playmates from the cradle--or might
have been.

"Well, in the first place," he said, slowly, "I am lost in admiration at
the rapidity with which Mademoiselle Le Breton does business. An hour
and a half ago"--he looked at his watch--"I stood by while Lady Henry
enumerated commissions it would have taken any ordinary man-mortal half
a day to execute."

The Duchess clapped her hands.

"My maid is now executing them," she said, with glee. "In an hour she
will be back. Julie will go home with everything done, and I shall have
had nearly two hours of her delightful society. What harm is there
in that?"

"Where are the dogs?" said Sir Wilfrid, looking round.

"Aunt Flora's dogs? In the housekeeper's room, eating sweet biscuit.
They adore the groom of the chambers."

"Is Lady Henry aware of this--this division of labor?" said Sir Wilfrid,
smiling.

"Of course not," said the Duchess, flushing. "She makes Julie's life
such a burden to her that something has to be done. Now what _has_ Aunt
Flora been telling you? We were certain she would take you into
council--she has dropped various hints of it. I suppose she has been
telling you that Julie has been intriguing against her--taking
liberties, separating her from her friends, and so on?"

Sir Wilfrid smilingly presented his cup for some more tea.

"I beg to point out," he said, "that I have only been allowed _two_
questions so far. But if things are to be at all fair and equal, I am
owed at least six."

The Duchess drew back, checked, and rather annoyed. Jacob Delafield, on
the other hand, bent forward.

"We are _anxious_, Sir Wilfrid, to tell you all we know," he replied,
with quiet emphasis.

Sir Wilfrid looked at him. The flame in the young man's eyes burned
clear and steady--but flame it was. Sir Wilfrid remembered him as a
lazy, rather somnolent youth; the man's advance in expression, in
significant power, of itself, told much.

"In the first place, can you give me the history of this lady's
antecedents?"

He glanced from one to the other.

The Duchess and Jacob Delafield exchanged glances. Then the Duchess
spoke--uncertainly.

"Yes, we know. She has confided in us. There is nothing whatever to her
discredit."

Sir Wilfrid's expression changed.

"Ah!" cried the Duchess, bending forward. "You know, too?"

"I knew her father and mother," said Sir Wilfrid, simply.

The Duchess gave a little cry of relief. Jacob Delafield rose, took a
turn across the room, and came back to Sir Wilfrid.

"Now we can really speak frankly," he said. "The situation has grown
very difficult, and we did not know--Evelyn and I--whether we had a
right to explain it. But now that Lady Henry--"

"Oh yes," said Sir Wilfrid, "that's all right. The fact of Mademoiselle
Le Breton's parentage--"

"Is really what makes Lady Henry so jealous!" cried the Duchess,
indignantly. "Oh, she's a tyrant, is Aunt Flora! It is because Julie is
of her own world--of _our_ world, by blood, whatever the law may
say--that she can't help making a rival out of her, and tormenting her
morning, noon, and night. I tell you, Sir Wilfrid, what that poor girl
has gone through no one can imagine but we who have watched it. Lady
Henry owes her _every_thing this last three years. Where would she have
been without Julie? She talks of Julie's separating her from her
friends, cutting her out, imposing upon her, and nonsense of that kind!
How would she have kept up that salon alone, I should like to know--a
blind old woman who can't write a note for herself or recognize a face?
First of all she throws everything upon Julie, is proud of her
cleverness, puts her forward in every way, tells most unnecessary
falsehoods about her--Julie has felt _that_ very much--and then when
Julie has a great success, when people begin to come to Bruton Street,
for her sake as well as Lady Henry's, then Lady Henry turns against her,
complains of her to everybody, talks about treachery and disloyalty and
Heaven knows what, and begins to treat her like the dirt under her feet!
How can Julie help being clever and agreeable--she _is_ clever and
agreeable! As Mr. Montresor said to me yesterday, 'As soon as that woman
comes into a room, my spirits go up!' And why? Because she never thinks
of herself, she always makes other people show at their best. And then
Lady Henry behaves like this!" The Duchess threw out her hands in
scornful reprobation. "And the question is, of course, Can it go on?"

"I don't gather," said Sir Wilfrid, hesitating, "that Lady Henry wants
immediately to put an end to it."

Delafield gave an angry laugh.

"The point is whether Mademoiselle Julie and Mademoiselle Julie's
friends can put up with it much longer."

"You see," said the Duchess, eagerly, "Julie is such a loyal,
affectionate creature. She knows Lady Henry was kind to her, to begin
with, that she gave her great chances, and that she's getting old and
infirm. Julie's awfully sorry for her. She doesn't want to leave her all
alone--to the mercy of her servants--"

"I understand the servants, too, are devoted to Mademoiselle Julie?"
said Sir Wilfrid.

"Yes, that's another grievance," said Delafield, contemptuously. "Why
shouldn't they be? When the butler had a child very ill, it was
Mademoiselle Julie who went to see it in the mews, who took it flowers
and grapes--"

"Lady Henry's grapes?" threw in Sir Wilfrid.

"What does it matter!" said Delafield, impatiently. "Lady Henry has more
of everything than she knows what to do with. But it wasn't grapes only!
It was time and thought and consideration. Then when the younger footman
wanted to emigrate to the States, it was Mademoiselle Julie who found a
situation for him, who got Mr. Montresor to write to some American
friends, and finally sent the lad off, devoted to her, of course, for
life. I should like to know when Lady Henry would have done that kind of
thing! Naturally the servants like her--she deserves it."

"I see--I see," said Sir Wilfrid, nodding gently, his eyes on the
carpet. "A very competent young lady."

Delafield looked at the older man, half in annoyance, half in
perplexity.

"Is there anything to complain of in that?" he said, rather shortly.

"Oh, nothing, nothing!" said Sir Wilfrid, hastily. "And this word
intrigue that Lady Henry uses? Has mademoiselle always steered a
straightforward course with her employer?"

"Oh, well," said the Duchess, shrugging her shoulders, "how can you
always be perfectly straightforward with such a tyrannical old person!
She _has_ to be managed. Lately, in order to be sure of every minute of
Julie's time, she has taken to heaping work upon her to such a
ridiculous extent that unless I come to the rescue the poor thing gets
no rest and no amusement. And last summer there was an explosion,
because Julie, who was supposed to be in Paris for her holiday with a
school-friend, really spent a week of it with the Buncombes, Lady
Henry's married niece, who has a place in Kent. The Buncombes knew her
at Lady Henry's parties, of course. Then they met her in the Louvre,
took her about a little, were delighted with her, and begged her to come
and stay with them--they have a place near Canterbury--on the way home.
They and Julie agreed that it would be best to say nothing to Lady Henry
about it--she is too absurdly jealous--but then it leaked out,
unluckily, and Lady Henry was furious."

"I must say," said Delafield, hurriedly, "I always thought frankness
would have been best there."

"Well, perhaps," said the Duchess, unwillingly, with another shrug. "But
now what is to be done? Lady Henry really must behave better, or Julie
can't and sha'n't stay with her. Julie has a great following--hasn't
she, Jacob? They won't see her harassed to death."

"Certainly not," said Delafield. "At the same time we all see"--he
turned to Sir Wilfrid--"what the advantages of the present combination
are. Where would Lady Henry find another lady of Mademoiselle Le
Breton's sort to help her with her house and her salon? For the last two
years the Wednesday evenings have been the most brilliant and successful
things of their kind in London. And, of course, for Mademoiselle Le
Breton it is a great thing to have the protection of Lady
Henry's name--"

"A great thing?" cried Sir Wilfrid. "Everything, my dear Jacob!"

"I don't know," said Delafield, slowly. "It may be bought too dear."

Sir Wilfrid looked at the speaker with curiosity. It had been at all
times possible to rouse Jacob Delafield--as child, as school-boy, as
undergraduate--from an habitual carelessness and idleness by an act or a
tale of injustice or oppression. Had the Duchess pressed him into her
service, and was he merely taking sides for the weaker out of a natural
bent towards that way of looking at things? Or--

"Well, certainly we must do our best to patch it up," said Sir Wilfrid,
after a pause. "Perhaps Mademoiselle Le Breton will allow me a word with
her by-and-by. I think I have still some influence with Lady Henry. But,
dear goddaughter"--he bent forward and laid his hand on that of the
Duchess--"don't let the maid do the commissions."

"But I must!" cried the Duchess. "Just think, there is my big bazaar on
the 16th. You don't know how clever Julie is at such things. I want to
make her recite--her French is too beautiful! And then she has such
inventiveness, such a head! Everything goes if she takes it in hand. But
if I say anything to Aunt Flora, she'll put a spoke in all our wheels.
She'll hate the thought of anything in which Julie is successful and
conspicuous. Of course she will!"

"All the same, Evelyn," said Delafield, uncomfortable apparently for the
second time, "I really think it would be best to let Lady Henry know."

"Well, then, we may as well give it up," said the Duchess, pettishly,
turning aside.

Delafield, who was still pacing the carpet, suddenly raised his hand in
a gesture of warning. Mademoiselle Le Breton was crossing the outer
drawing-room.

"Julie, come here!" cried the Duchess, springing up and running towards
her. "Jacob is making himself so disagreeable. He thinks we ought to
tell Lady Henry about the 16th."

The speaker put her arm through Julie Le Breton's, looking up at her
with a frowning brow. The contrast between her restless prettiness, the
profusion of her dress and hair, and Julie's dark, lissome strength,
gowned and gloved in neat, close black, was marked enough.

As the Duchess spoke, Julie looked smiling at Jacob Delafield.

"I am in your hands," she said, gently. "Of course I don't want to keep
anything from Lady Henry. Please decide for me."

Sir Wilfrid's mouth showed a satirical line. He turned aside and began
to play with a copy of the _Spectator_.

"Julie," said the Duchess, hesitating, "I hope you won't mind, but we
have been discussing things a little with Sir Wilfrid. I felt sure Aunt
Flora had been talking to him."

"Of course," said Julie, "I knew she would." She looked towards Sir
Wilfrid, slightly drawing herself up. Her manner was quiet, but all her
movements were somehow charged with a peculiar and interesting
significance. The force of the character made itself felt through all
disguises.

In spite of himself, Sir Wilfrid began to murmur apologetic things.

"It was natural, mademoiselle, that Lady Henry should confide in me. She
has perhaps told you that for many years I have been one of the trustees
of her property. That has led to her consulting me on a good many
matters. And evidently, from what she says and what the Duchess says,
nothing could be of more importance to her happiness, now, in her
helpless state, than her relations to you."

He spoke with a serious kindness in which the tinge of mocking habitual
to his sleek and well-groomed visage was wholly lost. Julie Le Breton
met him with dignity.

"Yes, they are important. But, I fear they cannot go on as they are."

There was a pause. Then Sir Wilfrid approached her:

"I hear you are returning to Bruton Street immediately. Might I be your
escort?"

"Certainly."

The Duchess, a little sobered by the turn events had taken and the
darkened prospects of her bazaar, protested in vain against this sudden
departure. Julie resumed her furs, which, as Sir Wilfrid, who was
curious in such things; happened to notice, were of great beauty, and
made her farewells. Did her hand linger in Jacob Delafield's? Did the
look with which that young man received it express more than the
steadfast support which justice offers to the oppressed? Sir Wilfrid
could not be sure.

[Illustration: "'INDEED I WILL!' CRIED SIR WILFRID, AND THEY WALKED ON"]

As they stepped out into the frosty, lamp-lit dark of Grosvenor Square,
Julie Le Breton turned to her companion.

"You knew my mother and father," she said, abruptly. "I remember your
coming,"

What was in her voice, her rich, beautiful voice? Sir Wilfrid only knew
that while perfectly steady, it seemed to bring emotion near, to make
all the aspects of things dramatic.

"Yes, yes," he replied, in some confusion. "I knew her well, from the
time when she was a girl in the school-room. Poor Lady Rose!"

The figure beside him stood still.

"Then if you were my mother's friend," she said, huskily, "you will hear
patiently what I have to say, even though you are Lady Henry's trustee."

"Indeed I will!" cried Sir Wilfrid, and they walked on.



IV

"But, first of all," said Mademoiselle Le Breton, looking in some
annoyance at the brace of terriers circling and barking round them, "we
must take the dogs home, otherwise no talk will be possible."

"You have no more business to do?"

His companion smiled.

"Everything Lady Henry wants is here," she said, pointing to the bag
upon her arm which had been handed to her, as Sir Wilfrid remembered,
after some whispered conversation, in the hall of Crowborough House by
an elegantly dressed woman, who was no doubt the Duchess's maid.

"Allow me to carry it for you."

"Many thanks," said Mademoiselle Le Breton, firmly retaining it, "but
those are not the things I mind."

They walked on quickly to Bruton Street. The dogs made conversation
impossible. If they were on the chain it was one long battle between
them and their leader. If they were let loose, it seemed to Sir Wilfrid
that they ranged every area on the march, and attacked all elderly
gentlemen and most errand-boys.

"Do you always take them out?" he asked, when both he and his companion
were crimson and out of breath.

"Always."

"Do you like dogs?"

"I used to. Perhaps some day I shall again."

"As for me, I wish they had but one neck!" said Sir Wilfrid, who had but
just succeeded in dragging Max, the bigger of the two, out of the
interior of a pastry-cook's hand-cart which had been rashly left with
doors open for a few minutes in the street, while its responsible
guardian was gossiping in an adjacent kitchen. Mademoiselle Julie
meanwhile was wrestling with Nero, the younger, who had dived to the
very heart of a peculiarly unsavory dust-box, standing near the entrance
of a mews.

"So you commonly go through the streets of London in this whirlwind?"
asked Sir Wilfrid, again, incredulous, when at last they had landed
their charges safe at the Bruton Street door.

"Morning and evening," said Mademoiselle Julie, smiling. Then she
addressed the butler: "Tell Lady Henry, please, that I shall be at home
in half an hour."

As they turned westward, the winter streets were gay with lights and
full of people. Sir Wilfrid was presently conscious that among all the
handsome and well-dressed women who brushed past them, Mademoiselle Le
Breton more than held her own. She reminded him now not so much of her
mother as of Marriott Dalrymple. Sir Wilfrid had first seen this woman's
father at Damascus, when Dalrymple, at twenty-six, was beginning the
series of Eastern journeys which had made him famous. He remembered the
brillance of the youth; the power, physical and mental, which radiated
from him, making all things easy; the scorn of mediocrity, the
incapacity for subordination.

"I should like you to understand," said the lady beside him, "that I
came to Lady Henry prepared to do my very best."

"I am sure of that," said Sir Wilfrid, hastily recalling his thoughts
from Damascus. "And you must have had a very difficult task."

Mademoiselle Le Breton shrugged her shoulders.

"I knew, of course, it must be difficult. And as to the drudgery of
it--the dogs, and that kind of thing--nothing of that sort matters to me
in the least. But I cannot be humiliated before those who have become my
friends, entirely because Lady Henry wished it to be so."

"Lady Henry at first showed you every confidence?"

"After the first month or two she put everything into my hands--her
household, her receptions, her letters, you may almost say her whole
social existence. She trusted me with all her secrets." ("No, no, my
dear lady," thought Sir Wilfrid.) "She let me help her with all her
affairs. And, honestly, I did all I could to make her life easy."

"That I understand from herself."

"Then why," cried Mademoiselle Le Breton, turning round to him with
sudden passion--"why couldn't Lady Henry leave things alone? Are
devotion, and--and the kind of qualities she wanted, so common? I said
to myself that, blind and helpless as she was, she should lose nothing.
Not only should her household be well kept, her affairs well managed,
but her salon should be as attractive, her Wednesday evenings as
brilliant, as ever. The world was deserting her; I helped her to bring
it back. She cannot live without social success; yet now she hates me
for what I have done. Is it sane--is it reasonable?"

"She feels, I suppose," said Sir Wilfrid, gravely, "that the success is
no longer hers."

"So she says. But will you please examine that remark? When her guests
assemble, can I go to bed and leave her to grapple with them? I have
proposed it often, but of course it is impossible. And if I am to be
there I must behave, I suppose, like a lady, not like the housemaid.
Really, Lady Henry asks too much. In my mother's little flat in Bruges,
with the two or three friends who frequented it, I was brought up in as
good society and as good talk as Lady Henry has ever known."

They were passing an electric lamp, and Sir Wilfrid, looking up, was
half thrilled, half repelled by the flashing energy of the face beside
him. Was ever such language on the lips of a paid companion before? His
sympathy for Lady Henry revived.

"Can you really give me no clew to the--to the sources of Lady Henry's
dissatisfaction?" he said, at last, rather coldly.

Mademoiselle Le Breton hesitated.

"I don't want to make myself out a saint," she said, at last, in another
voice and with a humility which was, in truth, hardly less proud than
her self-assertion. "I--I was brought up in poverty, and my mother died
when I was fifteen. I had to defend myself as the poor defend
themselves--by silence. I learned not to talk about my own affairs. I
couldn't afford to be frank, like a rich English girl. I dare say,
sometimes I have concealed things which had been better made plain. They
were never of any real importance, and if Lady Henry had shown any
consideration--"

Her voice failed her a little, evidently to her annoyance. They walked
on without speaking for a few paces. "Never of any real importance?" Sir
Wilfrid wondered.

Their minds apparently continued the conversation though their lips were
silent, for presently Julie Le Breton said, abruptly:

"Of course I am speaking of matters where Lady Henry might have some
claim to information. With regard to many of my thoughts and feelings,
Lady Henry has no right whatever to my confidence."

"She gives us fair warning," thought Sir Wilfrid.

Aloud he said:

"It is not a question of thoughts and feelings, I understand, but of
actions."

"Like the visit to the Duncombes'?" said Mademoiselle Le Breton,
impatiently. "Oh, I quite admit it--that's only one of several instances
Lady Henry might have brought forward. You see, she led me to make these
friendships; and now, because they annoy her, I am to break them. But
she forgets. Friends are too--too new in my life, too precious--"

Again the voice wavered. How it thrilled and penetrated! Sir Wilfrid
found himself listening for every word.

"No," she resumed. "If it is a question of renouncing the friends I have
made in her house, or going--it will be going. That may as well be
quite clear."

Sir Wilfrid looked up.

"Let me ask you one question, mademoiselle."

"Certainly. Whatever you like."

"Have you ever had, have you now, any affection for Lady Henry?"

"Affection? I could have had plenty. Lady Henry is most interesting to
watch. It is magnificent, the struggles she makes with her infirmities."

Nothing could have been more agreeable than the modulation of these
words, the passage of the tone from a first note of surprise to its
grave and womanly close. Again, the same suggestions of veiled and
vibrating feeling. Sir Wilfrid's nascent dislike softened a little.

"After all," he said, with gentleness, "one must make allowance for old
age and weakness, mustn't one?"

"Oh, as to that, you can't say anything to me that I am not perpetually
saying to myself," was her somewhat impetuous reply. "Only there is a
point when ill-temper becomes not only tormenting to me but degrading to
herself.... Oh, if you only knew!"--the speaker drew an indignant
breath. "I can hardly bring myself to speak of such _misères_. But
everything excites her, everything makes her jealous. It is a grievance
that I should have a new dress, that Mr. Montresor should send me an
order for the House of Commons, that Evelyn Crowborough should give me a
Christmas present. Last Christmas, Evelyn gave me these furs--she is the
only creature in London from whom I would accept a farthing or the value
of a farthing."

She paused, then rapidly threw him a question:

"Why, do you suppose, did I take it from her?"

"She is your kinswoman," said Wilfrid, quietly.

"Ah, you knew that! Well, then, mayn't Evelyn be kind to me, though I am
what I am? I reminded Lady Henry, but she only thought me a mean
parasite, sponging on a duchess for presents above my station. She said
things hardly to be forgiven. I was silent. But I have never ceased to
wear the furs."

With what imperious will did the thin shoulders straighten themselves
under the folds of chinchilla! The cloak became symbolic, a flag not to
be struck.

"I never answer back, please understand--never," she went on, hurriedly.
"You saw to-day how Lady Henry gave me her orders. There is not a
servant in the house with whom she would dare such a manner. Did I
resent it?"

"You behaved with great forbearance. I watched you with admiration."

"Ah, _forbearance!_ I fear you don't understand one of the strangest
elements in the whole case. I am _afraid_ of Lady Henry, mortally
afraid! When she speaks to me I feel like a child who puts up its hands
to ward off a blow. My instinct is not merely to submit, but to grovel.
When you have had the youth that I had, when you have existed, learned,
amused yourself on sufferance, when you have had somehow to maintain
yourself among girls who had family, friends, money, name, while you--"

Her voice stopped, resolutely silenced before it broke. Sir Wilfrid
uncomfortably felt that he had no sympathy to produce worthy of the
claim that her whole personality seemed to make upon it. But she
recovered herself immediately.

"Now I think I had better give you an outline of the last six months,"
she said, turning to him. "Of course it is my side of the matter. But
you have heard Lady Henry's."

And with great composure she laid before him an outline of the chief
quarrels and grievances which had embittered the life of the Bruton
Street house during the period she had named. It was a wretched story,
and she clearly told it with repugnance and disgust. There was in her
tone a note of offended personal delicacy, as of one bemired against
her will.

Evidently, Lady Henry was hardly to be defended. The thing had been
"odious," indeed. Two women of great ability and different ages, shut up
together and jarring at every point, the elder furiously jealous and
exasperated by what seemed to her the affront offered to her high rank
and her past ascendency by the social success of her dependant, the
other defending herself, first by the arts of flattery and submission,
and then, when these proved hopeless, by a social skill that at least
wore many of the aspects of intrigue--these were the essential elements
of the situation; and, as her narrative proceeded, Sir Wilfrid admitted
to himself that it was hard to see any way out of it. As to his own
sympathies, he did not know what to make of them.

"No. I have been only too yielding," said Mademoiselle Le Breton,
sorely, when her tale was done. "I am ashamed when I look back on what I
have borne. But now it has gone too far, and something must be done. If
I go, frankly, Lady Henry will suffer."

Sir Wilfrid looked at his companion.

"Lady Henry is well aware of it."

"Yes," was the calm reply, "she knows it, but she does not realize it.
You see, if it comes to a rupture she will allow no half-measures. Those
who stick to me will have to quarrel with her. And there will be a great
many who will stick to me."

Sir Wilfrid's little smile was not friendly.

"It is indeed evident," he said, "that you have thought it all out."

Mademoiselle Le Breton did not reply. They walked on a few minutes in
silence, till she said, with a suddenness and in a low tone that
startled her companion:

"If Lady Henry could ever have felt that she _humbled_ me, that I
acknowledged myself at her mercy! But she never could. She knows that I
feel myself as well born as she, that I am _not_ ashamed of my parents,
that my principles give me a free mind about such things."

"Your principles?" murmured Sir Wilfrid.

"You were right," she turned upon him with a perfectly quiet but most
concentrated passion. "I have _had_ to think things out. I know, of
course, that the world goes with Lady Henry. Therefore I must be
nameless and kinless and hold my tongue. If the world knew, it would
expect me to hang my head. I _don't!_ I am as proud of my mother as of
my father. I adore both their memories. Conventionalities of that kind
mean nothing to me."

"My dear lady--"

"Oh, I don't expect you or any one else to feel with me," said the voice
which for all its low pitch was beginning to make him feel as though he
were in the centre of a hail-storm. "You are a man of the world, you
knew my parents, and yet I understand perfectly that for you, too, I am
disgraced. So be it! So be it! I don't quarrel with what any one may
choose to think, but--"

She recaptured herself with difficulty, and there was silence. They were
walking through the purple February dusk towards the Marble Arch. It was
too dark to see her face under its delicate veil, and Sir Wilfrid did
not wish to see it. But before he had collected his thoughts
sufficiently his companion was speaking again, in a wholly
different manner.

"I don't know what made me talk in this way. It was the contact with
some one, I suppose, who had seen us at Gherardtsloo." She raised her
veil, and he thought that she dashed away some tears. "That never
happened to me before in London. Well, now, to return. If there is
a breach--"

"Why should there be a breach?" said Sir Wilfrid. "My dear Miss Le
Breton, listen to me for a few minutes. I see perfectly that you have a
great deal to complain of, but I also see that Lady Henry has something
of a case."

And with a courteous authority and tact worthy of his trade, the old
diplomat began to discuss the situation.

Presently he found himself talking with an animation, a friendliness, an
intimacy that surprised himself. What was there in the personality
beside him that seemed to win a way inside a man's defences in spite of
him? Much of what she had said had seemed to him arrogant or morbid. And
yet as she listened to him, with an evident dying down of passion, an
evident forlornness, he felt in her that woman's weakness and timidity
of which she had accused herself in relation to Lady Henry, and was
somehow, manlike, softened and disarmed. She had been talking wildly,
because no doubt she felt herself in great difficulties. But when it was
his turn to talk she neither resented nor resisted what he had to say.
The kinder he was, the more she yielded, almost eagerly at times, as
though the thorniness of her own speech had hurt herself most, and there
were behind it all a sad life, and a sad heart that only asked in truth
for a little sympathy and understanding.

"I shall soon be calling her 'my dear' and patting her hand," thought
the old man, at last, astonished at himself. For the dejection in her
attitude and gait began to weigh upon him; he felt a warm desire to
sustain and comfort her. More and more thought, more and more
contrivance did he throw into the straightening out of this tangle
between two excitable women, not, it seemed, for Lady Henry's sake, not,
surely, for Miss Le Breton's sake. But--ah! those two poor, dead folk,
who had touched his heart long ago, did he feel the hovering of their
ghosts beside him in the wintry wind?

At any rate, he abounded in shrewd and fatherly advice, and Mademoiselle
Le Breton listened with a most flattering meekness.

"Well, now I think we have come to an understanding," he urged,
hopefully, as they turned down Bruton Street again.

Mademoiselle Le Breton sighed.

"It is very kind of you. Oh, I will do my best. But--"

She shook her head uncertainly.

"No--no 'buts,'" cried Sir Wilfrid, cheerfully. "Suppose, as a first
step," he smiled at his companion, "you tell Lady Henry about
the bazaar?"

"By all means. She won't let me go. But Evelyn will find some one else."

"Oh, we'll see about that," said the old man, almost crossly. "If you'll
allow me I'll try my hand."

Julie Le Breton did not reply, but her face glimmered upon him with a
wistful friendliness that did not escape him, even in the darkness. In
this yielding mood her voice and movements had so much subdued
sweetness, so much distinction, that he felt himself more than melting
towards her.

Then, of a sudden, a thought--a couple of thoughts--sped across him. He
drew himself rather sharply together.

"Mr. Delafield, I gather, has been a good deal concerned in the whole
matter?"

Mademoiselle Le Breton laughed and hesitated.

"He has been very kind. He heard Lady Henry's language once when she was
excited. It seemed to shock him. He has tried once or twice to smooth
her down. Oh, he has been most kind!"

"Has he any influence with her?"

"Not much."

"Do you think well of him?"

He turned to her with a calculated abruptness. She showed a little
surprise.

"I? But everybody thinks well of him. They say the Duke trusts
everything to him."

"When I left England he was still a rather lazy and unsatisfactory
undergraduate. I was curious to know how he had developed. Do you know
what his chief interests are now?"

Mademoiselle Le Breton hesitated.

"I'm really afraid I don't know," she said, at last, smiling, and, as it
were, regretful. "But Evelyn Crowborough, of course, could tell you all
about him. She and he are very old friends."

"No birds out of that cover," was Sir Wilfrid's inward comment.

The lamp over Lady Henry's door was already in sight when Sir Wilfrid,
after some talk of the Montresors, with whom he was going to dine that
night, carelessly said:

"That's a very good-looking fellow, that Captain Warkworth, whom I saw
with Lady Henry last night."

"Ah, yes. Lady Henry has made great friends with him," said Mademoiselle
Julie, readily. "She consults him about her memoir of her husband."

"Memoir of her husband!" Sir Wilfrid stopped short. "Heavens above!
Memoir of Lord Henry?"

"She is half-way through it. I thought you knew."

"Well, upon my word! Whom shall we have a memoir of next? Henry
Delafield! Henry Delafield! Good gracious!"

And Sir Wilfrid walked along, slashing at the railings with his stick,
as though the action relieved him. Julie Le Breton quietly resumed:

"I understand that Lord Henry and Captain Warkworth's father went
through the Indian Mutiny together, and Captain Warkworth has some
letters--"

"Oh, I dare say--I dare say," muttered Sir Wilfrid. "What's this man
home for just now?"

"Well, I _think_ Lady Henry knows," said Mademoiselle Julie, turning to
him an open look, like one who, once more, would gladly satisfy a
questioner if they could. "He talks to her a great deal. But why
shouldn't he come home?"

"Because he ought to be doing disagreeable duty with his regiment
instead of always racing about the world in search of something to get
his name up," said Sir Wilfrid, rather sharply. "At least, that's the
view his brother officers mostly take of him."

"Oh," said Mademoiselle Julie, with amiable vagueness, "is there
anything particular that you suppose he wants?"

"I am not at all in the secret of his ambitions," said Sir Wilfrid,
lifting his shoulders. "But you and Lady Henry seemed well acquainted
with him."

The straw-colored lashes veered her way.

"I had some talk with him in the Park this morning," said Julie Le
Breton, reflectively. "He wants me to copy his father's letters for Lady
Henry, and to get her to return the originals as soon as possible. He
feels nervous when they are out of his hands."

"Hm!" said Sir Wilfrid.

At that moment Lady Henry's door-bell presented itself. The vigor with
which Sir Wilfrid rang it may, perhaps, have expressed the liveliness of
his unspoken scepticism. He did not for one moment believe that General
Warkworth's letters had been the subject of the conversation he had
witnessed that morning in the Park, nor that filial veneration had had
anything whatever to say to it.

Julie Le Breton gave him her hand.

"Thank you very much," she said, gravely and softly.

Sir Wilfrid at the moment before had not meant to press it at all. But
he did press it, aware the while of the most mingled feelings.

"On the contrary, you were very good to allow me this conversation.
Command me at any time if I can be useful to you and Lady Henry."

Julie Le Breton smiled upon him and was gone.

Sir Wilfrid ran down the steps, chafing at himself.

"She somehow gets round one," he thought, with a touch of annoyance. "I
wonder whether I made any real impression upon her. Hm! Let's see
whether Montresor can throw any more light upon her. He seemed to be
pretty intimate. Her 'principles,' eh? A dangerous view to take, for a
woman of that _provenance._"

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour or two later Sir Wilfrid Bury presented himself in the
Montresors' drawing-room in Eaton Place. He had come home feeling it
essential to impress upon the cabinet a certain line of action with
regard to the policy of Russia on the Persian Gulf. But the first person
he perceived on the hearth-rug, basking before the Minister's ample
fire, was Lord Lackington. The sight of that vivacious countenance, that
shock of white hair, that tall form still boasting the spareness and
almost the straightness of youth, that unsuspecting complacency,
confused his ideas and made him somehow feel the whole world a little
topsy-turvy.

Nevertheless, after dinner he got his fifteen minutes of private talk
with his host, and conscientiously made use of them. Then, after an
appointment had been settled for a longer conversation on another day,
both men felt that they had done their duty, and, as it appeared, the
same subject stirred in both their minds.

"Well, and what did you think of Lady Henry?" said Montresor, with a
smile, as he lighted another cigarette.

"She's very blind," said Sir Wilfrid, "and more rheumatic. But else
there's not much change. On the whole she wears wonderfully well."

"Except as to her temper, poor lady!" laughed the Minister. "She has
really tried all our nerves of late. And the worst of it is that most
of it falls upon that poor woman who lives with her"--the Minister
lowered his voice--"one of the most interesting and agreeable creatures
in the world."

Sir Wilfrid glanced across the table. Lord Lackington was telling
scandalous tales of his youth to a couple of Foreign Office clerks, who
sat on either side of him, laughing and spurring him on. The old man's
careless fluency and fun were evidently contagious; animation reigned
around him; he was the spoiled child of the dinner, and knew it.

"I gather that you have taken a friendly interest in Miss Le Breton,"
said Bury, turning to his host.

"Oh, the Duchess and Delafield and I have done our best to protect her,
and to keep the peace. I am quite sure Lady Henry has poured out her
grievances to you, hasn't she?"

"Alack, she has!"

"I knew she couldn't hold her tongue to you, even for a day. She has
really been losing her head over it. And it is a thousand pities."

"So you think all the fault's on Lady Henry's side?"

The Minister gave a shrug.

"At any rate, I have never myself seen anything to justify Lady Henry's
state of feeling. On the famous Wednesdays, Mademoiselle Julie always
appears to make Lady Henry her first thought. And in other ways she has
really worn herself to death for the old lady. It makes one rather
savage sometimes to see it."

"So in your eyes she is a perfect companion?"

Montresor laughed.

"Oh, as to perfection--"

"Lady Henry accuses her of intrigue. You have seen no traces of it?"

The Minister smiled a little oddly.

"Not as regards Lady Henry. Oh, Mademoiselle Julie is a very astute
lady."

A ripple from some source of secret amusement spread over the dark-lined
face.

"What do you mean by that?"

"She knows how to help her friends better than most people. I have known
three men, at least, _made_ by Mademoiselle Le Breton within the last
two or three years. She has just got a fresh one in tow."

Sir Wilfrid moved a little closer to his host. They turned slightly from
the table and seemed to talk into their cigars.

"Young Warkworth?" said Bury.

The Minister smiled again and hesitated.

"Oh, she doesn't bother me, she is much too clever. But she gets at me
in the most amusing, indirect ways. I know perfectly well when she has
been at work. There are two or three men--high up, you understand--who
frequent Lady Henry's evenings, and who are her very good friends....
Oh, I dare say she'll get what she wants," he added, with nonchalance.

"Between you and me, do you suspect any direct interest in the young
man?"

Montresor shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't know. Not necessarily. She loves to feel herself a power--all
the more, I think, because of her anomalous position. It is very
curious--at bottom very feminine and amusing--and quite harmless."

"You and others don't resent it?"

"No, not from her," said the Minister, after a pause. "But she is rather
going it, just now. Three or four batteries have opened upon me at once.
She must be thinking of little else."

Sir Wilfrid grew a trifle red. He remembered the comedy of the
door-step. "Is there anything that he particularly wants?" His tone
assumed a certain asperity.

"Well, as for me, I cannot help feeling that Lady Henry has something to
say for herself. It is very strange--mysterious even--the kind of
ascendency this lady has obtained for herself in so short a time."

"Oh, I dare say it's hard for Lady Henry to put up with," mused
Montresor. "Without family, without connections--"

He raised his head quietly and put on his eye-glasses. Then his look
swept the face of his companion.

Sir Wilfrid, with a scarcely perceptible yet significant gesture,
motioned towards Lord Lackington. Mr. Montresor started. The eyes of
both men travelled across the table, then met again.

"You know?" said Montresor, under his breath.

Sir Wilfrid nodded. Then some instinct told him that he had now
exhausted the number of the initiated.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the men reached the drawing-room, which was rather emptily waiting
for the "reception" Mrs. Montresor was about to hold in it, Sir Wilfrid
fell into conversation with Lord Lackington. The old man talked well,
though flightily, with a constant reference of all topics to his own
standards, recollections, and friendships, which was characteristic, but
in him not unattractive. Sir Wilfrid noticed certain new and pitiful
signs of age. The old man was still a rattle. But every now and then the
rattle ceased abruptly and a breath of melancholy made itself felt--like
a chill and sudden gust from some unknown sea.

They were joined presently, as the room filled up, by a young
journalist--an art critic, who seemed to know Lord Lackington and his
ways. The two fell eagerly into talk about pictures, especially of an
exhibition at Antwerp, from which the young man had just returned.

"I looked in at Bruges on the way back for a few hours," said the
new-comer, presently. "The pictures there are much better seen than they
used to be. When were you there last?" He turned to Lord Lackington.

"Bruges?" said Lord Lackington, with a start. "Oh, I haven't been there
for twenty years."

And he suddenly sat down, dangling a paper-knife between his hands, and
staring at the carpet. His jaw dropped a little. A cloud seemed to
interpose between him and his companions.

Sir Wilfrid, with Lady Henry's story fresh in his memory, was somehow
poignantly conscious of the old man. Did their two minds hold the same
image--of Lady Rose drawing her last breath in some dingy room beside
one of the canals that wind through Bruges, laying down there the last
relics of that life, beauty, and intelligence that had once made her the
darling of the father, who, for some reason still hard to understand,
had let her suffer and die alone?



V

On leaving the Montresors, Sir Wilfrid, seeing that it was a fine night
with mild breezes abroad, refused a hansom, and set out to walk home to
his rooms in Duke Street, St. James's. He was so much in love with the
mere streets, the mere clatter of the omnibuses and shimmer of the
lamps, after his long absence, that every step was pleasure. At the top
of Grosvenor Place he stood still awhile only to snuff up the soft,
rainy air, or to delight his eye now with the shining pools which some
showers of the afternoon had left behind them on the pavement, and now
with the light veil of fog which closed in the distance of Piccadilly.

"And there are silly persons who grumble about the fogs!" he thought,
contemptuously, while he was thus yielding himself heart and sense to
his beloved London.

As for him, dried and wilted by long years of cloudless heat, he drank
up the moisture and the mist with a kind of physical passion--the noises
and the lights no less. And when he had resumed his walk along the
crowded street, the question buzzed within him, whether he must indeed
go back to his exile, either at Teheran, or nearer home, in some more
exalted post? "I've got plenty of money; why the deuce don't I give it
up, and come home and enjoy myself? Only a few more years, after all;
why not spend them here, in one's own world, among one's own kind?"

It was the weariness of the governing Englishman, and it was answered
immediately by that other instinct, partly physical, partly moral, which
keeps the elderly man of affairs to his task. Idleness? No! That way
lies the end. To slacken the rush of life, for men of his sort, is to
call on death--death, the secret pursuer, who is not far from each one
of us. No, no! Fight on! It was only the long drudgery behind, under
alien suns, together with the iron certainty of fresh drudgery ahead,
that gave value, after all, to this rainy, this enchanting
Piccadilly--that kept the string of feeling taut and all its
notes clear.

"Going to bed, Sir Wilfrid?" said a voice behind him, as he turned down
St. James's Street.

"Delafield!" The old man faced round with alacrity. "Where have you
sprung from?"

Delafield explained that he had been dining with the Crowboroughs, and
was now going to his club to look for news of a friend's success or
failure in a north-country election.

"Oh, that'll keep!" said Sir Wilfrid. "Turn in with me for half an hour.
I'm at my old rooms, you know, in Duke Street."

"All right," said the young man, after what seemed to Sir Wilfrid a
moment of hesitation.

"Are you often up in town this way?" asked Bury, as they walked on.
"Land agency seems to be a profession with mitigations."

"There is some London business thrown in. We have some large milk depots
in town that I look after."

There was just a trace of hurry in the young man's voice, and Bury
surveyed him with a smile.

"No other attractions, eh?"

"Not that I know of. By-the-way, Sir Wilfrid, I never asked you how Dick
Mason was getting on?"

"Dick Mason? Is he a friend of yours?"

"Well, we were at Eton and Oxford together."

"Were you? I never heard him mention your name."

The young man laughed.

"I don't mean to suggest he couldn't live without me. You've left him in
charge, haven't you, at Teheran?"

"Yes, I have--worse luck. So you're deeply interested in Dick Mason?"

"Oh, come--I liked him pretty well."

"Hm--I don't much care about him. And I don't somehow believe you do."

And Bury, with a smile, slipped a friendly hand within the arm of his
companion.

Delafield reddened.

"It's decent, I suppose, to inquire after an old school-fellow?"

"Exemplary. But--there are things more amusing to talk about."

Delafield was silent. Sir Wilfrid's fair mustaches approached his ear.

"I had my interview with Mademoiselle Julie."

"So I suppose. I hope you did some good."

"I doubt it. Jacob, between ourselves, the little Duchess hasn't been a
miracle of wisdom."

"No--perhaps not," said the other, unwillingly.

"She realizes, I suppose, that they are connected?"

"Of course. It isn't very close. Lady Rose's brother married Evelyn's
aunt, her mother's sister."

"Yes, that's it. She and Mademoiselle Julie _ought_ to have called the
same person uncle; but, for lack of certain ceremonies, they don't.
By-the-way, what became of Lady Rose's younger sister?"

"Lady Blanche? Oh, she married Sir John Moffatt, and has been a widow
for years. He left her a place in Westmoreland, and she lives there
generally with her girl."

"Has Mademoiselle Julie ever come across them?"

"No."

"She speaks of them?"

"Yes. We can't tell her much about them, except that the girl was
presented last year, and went to a few balls in town. But neither she
nor her mother cares for London."

"Lady Blanche Moffatt--Lady Blanche Moffatt?" said Sir Wilfrid, pausing.
"Wasn't she in India this winter?"

"Yes. I believe they went out in November and are to be home by April."

"Somebody told me they had met her and the girl at Peshawar and then at
Simla," said Sir Wilfrid, ruminating. "Now I remember! She's a great
heiress, isn't she, and pretty to boot? I know! Somebody told me that
fellow Warkworth had been making up to her."

"Warkworth?" Jacob Delafield stood still a moment, and Sir Wilfrid
caught a sudden contraction of the brow. "That, of course, was just a
bit of Indian gossip."

"I don't think so," said Sir Wilfrid, dryly. "My informants were two
frontier officers--I came from Egypt with them--who had recently been at
Peshawar; good fellows both of them, not at all given to take young
ladies' names in vain."

Jacob made no reply. They had let themselves into the Duke Street house
and were groping their way up the dim staircase to Sir Wilfrid's rooms.

There all was light and comfort. Sir Wilfrid's valet, much the same age
as himself, hovered round his master, brought him his smoking-coat,
offered Delafield cigars, and provided Sir Wilfrid, strange to say, with
a large cup of tea.

"I follow Mr. Gladstone," said Sir Wilfrid, with a sigh of luxury, as he
sank into an easy-chair and extended a very neatly made pair of legs and
feet to the blaze. "He seems to have slept the sleep of the just--on a
cup of tea at midnight--through the rise and fall of cabinets. So I'm
trying the receipt."

"Does that mean that you are hankering after politics?"

"Heavens! When you come to doddering, Jacob, it's better to dodder in
the paths you know. I salute Mr. G.'s physique, that's all. Well, now,
Jacob, do you know anything about this Warkworth?"

"Warkworth?" Delafield withdrew his cigar, and seemed to choose his
words a little. "Well, I know what all the world knows."

"Hm--you seemed very sure just now that he wasn't going to marry Miss
Moffatt."

"Sure? I'm not sure of anything," said the young man, slowly.

"Well, what I should like to know," said Sir Wilfrid, cradling his
teacup in both hands, "is, what particular interest has Mademoiselle
Julie in that young soldier?"

Delafield looked into the fire.

"Has she any?"

"She seems to be moving heaven and earth to get him what he wants.
By-the-way, what does he want?"

"He wants the special mission to Mokembe, as I understand," said
Delafield, after a moment. "But several other people want it too."

"Indeed!" Sir Wilfrid nodded reflectively. "So there is to be one! Well,
it's about time. The travellers of the other European firms have been
going it lately in that quarter. Jacob, your mademoiselle also is a bit
of an intriguer!"

Delafield made a restless movement. "Why do you say that?"

"Well, to say the least of it, frankness is not one of her
characteristics. I tried to question her about this man. I had seen them
together in the Park, talking as intimates. So, when our conversation
had reached a friendly stage, I threw out a feeler or two, just to
satisfy myself about her. But--"

He pulled his fair mustaches and smiled.

"Well?" said the young man, with a kind of reluctant interrogation.

"She played with me, Jacob. But really she overdid it. For such a clever
woman, I assure you, she overdid it!"

"I don't see why she shouldn't keep her friendships to herself," said
Delafield, with sudden heat.

"Oh, so you admit it is a friendship?"

Delafield did not reply. He had laid down his cigar, and with his hands
on his knees was looking steadily into the fire. His attitude, however,
was not one of reverie, but rather of a strained listening.

"What is the meaning, Jacob, of a young woman taking so keen an interest
in the fortunes of a dashing soldier--for, between you and me, I hear
she is moving heaven and earth to get him this post--and then
concealing it?"

"Why should she want her kindnesses talked of?" said the young man,
impetuously. "She was perfectly right, I think, to fence with your
questions, Sir Wilfrid. It's one of the secrets of her influence that
she can render a service--and keep it dark."

Sir Wilfrid shook his head.

"She overdid it," he repeated. "However, what do you think of the man
yourself, Jacob?"

"Well, I don't take to him," said the other, unwillingly. "He isn't my
sort of man."

"And Mademoiselle Julie--you think nothing but well of her? I don't like
discussing a lady; but, you see, with Lady Henry to manage, one must
feel the ground as one can."

Sir Wilfrid looked at his companion, and then stretched his legs a
little farther towards the fire. The lamp-light shone full on his silky
eyelashes and beard, on his neatly parted hair, and the diamond on his
fine left hand. The young man beside him could not emulate his easy
composure. He fidgeted nervously as he replied, with warmth:

"I think she has had an uncommonly hard time, that she wants nothing but
what is reasonable, and that if she threw you off the scent, Sir
Wilfrid, with regard to Warkworth, she was quite within her rights. You
probably deserved it."

He threw up his head with a quick gesture of challenge. Sir Wilfrid
shrugged his shoulders.

"I vow I didn't," he murmured. "However, that's all right. What do you
do with yourself down in Essex, Jacob?"

The lines of the young man's attitude showed a sudden unconscious relief
from tension. He threw himself back in his chair.

"Well, it's a big estate. There's plenty to do."

"You live by yourself?"

"Yes. There's an agent's house--a small one--in one of the villages."

"How do you amuse yourself? Plenty of shooting, I suppose?"

"Too much. I can't do with more than a certain amount."

"Golfing?"

"Oh yes," said the young man, indifferently. "There's a fair links."

"Do you do any philanthropy, Jacob?"

"I like 'bossing' the village," said Delafield, with a laugh. "It
pleases one's vanity. That's about all there is to it."

"What, clubs and temperance, that kind of thing? Can you take any real
interest in the people?"

Delafield hesitated.

"Well, yes," he said, at last, as though he grudged the admission.
"There's nothing else to take an interest in, is there? By-the-way"--he
jumped up--"I think I'll bid you good-night, for I've got to go down
to-morrow in a hurry. I must be off by the first train in the morning."

"What's the matter?"

"Oh, it's only a wretched old man--that two beasts of women have put
into the workhouse infirmary against his will. I only heard it to-night.
I must go and get him out."

He looked round for his gloves and stick.

"Why shouldn't he be there?"

"Because it's an infernal shame!" said the other, shortly. "He's an old
laborer who'd saved quite a lot of money. He kept it in his cottage, and
the other day it was all stolen by a tramp. He has lived with these two
women--his sister-in-law and her daughter--for years and years. As long
as he had money to leave, nothing was too good for him. The shock half
killed him, and now that he's a pauper these two harpies will have
nothing to say to nursing him and looking after him. He told me the
other day he thought they'd force him into the infirmary. I didn't
believe it. But while I've been away they've gone and done it."

"Well, what'll you do now?"

"Get him out."

"And then?"

Delafield hesitated. "Well, then, I suppose, he can come to my place
till I can find some decent woman to put him with."

Sir Wilfrid rose.

"I think I'll run down and see you some day. Will there be paupers in
all the bedrooms?"

Delafield grinned.

"You'll find a rattling good cook and a jolly snug little place, I can
tell you. Do come. But I shall see you again soon. I must be up next
week, and very likely I shall be at Lady Henry's on Wednesday."

"All right. I shall see her on Sunday, so I can report."

"Not before Sunday?" Delafield paused. His clear blue eyes looked down,
dissatisfied, upon Sir Wilfrid.

"Impossible before. I have all sorts of official people to see to-morrow
and Saturday. And, Jacob, keep the Duchess quiet. She may have to give
up Mademoiselle Julie for her bazaar."

"I'll tell her."

"By-the-way, is that little person happy?" said Sir Wilfrid, as he
opened the door to his departing guest. "When I left England she was
only just married."

"Oh yes, she's happy enough, though Crowborough's rather an ass."

"How--particularly?"

Delafield smiled.

"Well, he's rather a sticky sort of person. He thinks there's something
particularly interesting in dukes, which makes him a bore."

"Take care, Jacob! Who knows that you won't be a duke yourself some
day?"

"What _do_ you mean?" The young man glowered almost fiercely upon his
old friend.

"I hear Chudleigh's boy is but a poor creature," said Sir Wilfrid,
gravely. "Lady Henry doesn't expect him to live."

"Why, that's the kind that always does live!" cried Delafield, with
angry emphasis. "And as for Lady Henry, her imagination is a perfect
charnel-house. She likes to think that everybody's dead or dying but
herself. The fact is that Mervyn is a good deal stronger this year than
he was last. Really, Lady Henry--" The tone lost itself in a growl
of wrath.

"Well, well," said Sir Wilfrid, smiling, "'A man beduked against his
will,' etcetera. Good-night, my dear Jacob, and good luck to your
old pauper."

But Delafield turned back a moment on the stairs.

"I say"--he hesitated--"you won't shirk talking to Lady Henry?"

"No, no. Sunday, certainly--honor bright. Oh, I think we shall
straighten it out."

Delafield ran down the stairs, and Sir Wilfrid returned to his warm room
and the dregs of his tea.

"Now--is he in love with her, and hesitating for social reasons? Or--is
he jealous of this fellow Warkworth? Or--has she snubbed him, and both
are keeping it dark? Not very likely, that, in view of his prospects.
She must want to regularize her position. Or--is he not in love with
her at all?"

On which cogitations there fell presently the strokes of many bells
tolling midnight, and left them still unresolved. Only one positive
impression remained--that Jacob Delafield had somehow grown, vaguely but
enormously, in mental and moral bulk during the years since he had left
Oxford--the years of Bury's Persian exile. Sir Wilfrid had been an
intimate friend of his dead father, Lord Hubert, and on very friendly
terms with his lethargic, good-natured mother. She, by-the-way, was
still alive, and living in London with a daughter. He must go and
see them.

As for Jacob, Sir Wilfrid had cherished a particular weakness for him
in the Eton-jacket stage, and later on, indeed, when the lad enjoyed a
brief moment of glory in the Eton eleven. But at Oxford, to Sir
Wilfrid's thinking, he had suffered eclipse--had become a somewhat
heavy, apathetic, pseudo-cynical youth, displaying his mother's inertia
without her good temper, too slack to keep up his cricket, too slack to
work for the honor schools, at no time without friends, but an enigma to
most of them, and, apparently, something of a burden to himself.

And now, out of that ugly slough, a man had somehow emerged, in whom Sir
Wilfrid, who was well acquainted with the race, discerned the stirring
of all sorts of strong inherited things, formless still, but struggling
to expression.

"He looked at me just now, when I talked of his being duke, as his
father would sometimes look."

His father? Hubert Delafield had been an obstinate, dare-devil, heroic
sort of fellow, who had lost his life in the Chudleigh salmon river
trying to save a gillie who had missed his footing. A man much
hated--and much beloved; capable of the most contradictory actions. He
had married his wife for money, would often boast of it, and would, none
the less, give away his last farthing recklessly, passionately, if he
were asked for it, in some way that touched his feelings. Able, too;
though not so able as the great Duke, his father.

"Hubert Delafield was never _happy_, that I can remember," thought
Wilfrid Bury, as he sat over his fire, "and this chap has the same
expression. That woman in Bruton Street would never do for him--apart
from all the other unsuitability. He ought to find something sweet and
restful. And yet I don't know. The Delafields are a discontented lot. If
you plague them, they are inclined to love you. They want something hard
to get their teeth in. How the old Duke adored his termagant of a wife!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was late on Sunday afternoon before Sir Wilfrid was able to present
himself in Lady Henry's drawing-room; and when he arrived there, he
found plenty of other people in possession, and had to wait for
his chance.

Lady Henry received him with a brusque "At last," which, however, he
took with equanimity. He was in no sense behind his time. On Thursday,
when parting with her, he had pleaded for deliberation. "Let me study
the situation a little; and don't, for Heaven's sake, let's be too
tragic about the whole thing."

Whether Lady Henry was now in the tragic mood or no, he could not at
first determine. She was no longer confined to the inner shrine of the
back drawing-room. Her chair was placed in the large room, and she was
the centre of a lively group of callers who were discussing the events
of the week in Parliament, with the light and mordant zest of people
well acquainted with the personalities they were talking of. She was
apparently better in health, he noticed; at any rate, she was more at
ease, and enjoying herself more than on the previous Wednesday. All her
social characteristics were in full play; the blunt and careless freedom
which made her the good comrade of the men she talked with--as good a
brain and as hard a hitter as they--mingled with the occasional sally or
caprice which showed her very much a woman.

Very few other women were there. Lady Henry did not want women on
Sundays, and was at no pains whatever to hide the fact. But Mademoiselle
Julie was at the tea-table, supported by an old white-haired general, in
whom Sir Wilfrid recognized a man recently promoted to one of the higher
posts in the War Office. Tea, however, had been served, and Mademoiselle
Le Breton was now showing her companion a portfolio of photographs, on
which the old man was holding forth.

"Am I too late for a cup?" said Sir Wilfrid, after she had greeted him
with cordiality. "And what are those pictures?"

"They are some photos of the Khaibar and Tirah," said Mademoiselle Le
Breton. "Captain Warkworth brought them to show Lady Henry."

"Ah, the scene of his exploits," said Sir Wilfrid, after a glance at
them. "The young man distinguished himself, I understand?"

"Oh, very much so," said General M'Gill, with emphasis. "He showed
brains, and he had luck."

"A great deal of luck, I hear," said Sir Wilfrid, accepting a piece of
cake. "He'll get his step up, I suppose. Anything else?"

"Difficult to say. But the good men are always in request," said General
M'Gill, smiling.

"By-the-way, I heard somebody mention his name last night for this
Mokembe mission," said Sir Wilfrid, helping himself to tea-cake.

"Oh, that's quite undecided," said the General, sharply. "There is no
immediate hurry for a week or two, and the government must send the best
man possible."

"No doubt," said Sir Wilfrid.

It interested him to observe that Mademoiselle Le Breton was no longer
pale. As the General spoke, a bright color had rushed into her cheeks.
It seemed to Sir Wilfrid that she turned away and busied herself with
the photographs in order to hide it.

The General rose, a thin, soldierly figure, with gray hair that drooped
forward, and two bright spots of red on the cheek-bones. In contrast
with the expansiveness of his previous manner to Mademoiselle Le Breton,
he was now a trifle frowning and stiff--the high official once more, and
great man.

"Good-night, Sir Wilfrid. I must be off."

"How are your sons?" said Sir Wilfrid, as he rose.

"The eldest is in Canada with his regiment."

"And the second?"

"The second is in orders."

"Overworking himself in the East End, as all the young parsons seem to
be doing?"

"That is precisely what he _has_ been doing. But now, I am thankful to
say, a country living has been offered him, and his mother and I have
persuaded him to take it."

"A country living? Where?"

"One of the Duke of Crowborough's Shropshire livings," said the General,
after what seemed to be an instant's hesitation. Mademoiselle Le Breton
had moved away, and was replacing the photographs in the drawer of a
distant bureau.

"Ah, one of Crowborough's? Well, I hope it is a living with something to
live on."

"Not so bad, as times go," said the General, smiling. "It has been a
great relief to our minds. There were some chest symptoms; his mother
was alarmed. The Duchess has been most kind; she took quite a fancy to
the lad, and--"

"What a woman wants she gets. Well, I hope he'll like it. Good-night,
General. Shall I look you up at the War Office some morning?"

"By all means."

The old soldier, whose tanned face had shown a singular softness while
he was speaking of his son, took his leave.

Sir Wilfrid was left meditating, his eyes absently fixed on the graceful
figure of Mademoiselle Le Breton, who shut the drawer she had been
arranging and returned to him.

"Do you know the General's sons?" he asked her, while she was preparing
him a second cup of tea.

"I have seen the younger."

She turned her beautiful eyes upon him. It seemed to Sir Wilfrid that he
perceived in them a passing tremor of nervous defiance, as though she
were in some way bracing herself against him. But her self-possession
was complete.

"Lady Henry seems in better spirits," he said, bending towards her.

She did not reply for a moment. Her eyes dropped. Then she raised them
again, and gently shook her head without a word. The melancholy energy
of her expression gave him a moment's thrill.

"Is it as bad as ever?" he asked her, in a whisper.

"It's pretty bad. I've tried to appease her. I told her about the
bazaar. She said she couldn't spare me, and, of course, I acquiesced.
Then, yesterday, the Duchess--hush!"

"Mademoiselle!"

Lady Henry's voice rang imperiously through the room.

"Yes, Lady Henry."

Mademoiselle Le Breton stood up expectant.

"Find me, please, that number of the _Revue des Deux Mondes_ which came
in yesterday. I can prove it to you in two minutes," she said, turning
triumphantly to Montresor on her right.

"What's the matter?" said Sir Wilfrid, joining Lady Henry's circle,
while Mademoiselle Le Breton disappeared into the back drawing-room.

"Oh, nothing," said Montresor, tranquilly. "Lady Henry thinks she has
caught me out in a blunder--about Favre, and the negotiations at
Versailles. I dare say she has. I am the most ignorant person alive."

"Then are the rest of us spooks?" said Sir Wilfrid, smiling, as he
seated himself beside his hostess. Montresor, whose information on most
subjects was prodigious, laughed and adjusted his eye-glass. These
battles royal on a date or a point of fact between him and Lady Henry
were not uncommon. Lady Henry was rarely victorious. This time, however,
she was confident, and she sat frowning and impatient for the book that
didn't come.

Mademoiselle Le Breton, indeed, returned from the back drawing-room
empty-handed; left the room apparently to look elsewhere, and came back
still without the book.

"Everything in this house is always in confusion!" said Lady Henry,
angrily. "No order, no method anywhere!"

Mademoiselle Julie said nothing. She retreated behind the circle that
surrounded Lady Henry. But Montresor jumped up and offered her
his chair.

"I wish I had you for a secretary, mademoiselle," he said, gallantly. "I
never before heard Lady Henry ask you for anything you couldn't find."

Lady Henry flushed, and, turning abruptly to Bury, began a new topic.
Julie quietly refused the seat offered to her, and was retiring to an
ottoman in the background when the door was thrown open and the footman
announced:

"Captain Warkworth."



VI

The new-comer drew all eyes as he approached the group surrounding Lady
Henry. Montresor put up his glasses and bestowed on him a few moments of
scrutiny, during which the Minister's heavily marked face took on the
wary, fighting aspect which his department and the House of Commons
knew. The statesman slipped in for an instant between the trifler coming
and the trifler gone.

As for Wilfrid Bury, he was dazzled by the young man's good looks.
"'Young Harry with his beaver up!'" he thought, admiring against his
will, as the tall, slim soldier paid his respects to Lady Henry, and,
with a smiling word or two to the rest of those present, took his place
beside her in the circle.

"Well, have you come for your letters?" said Lady Henry, eying him with
a grim favor.

"I think I came--for conversation," was Warkworth's laughing reply, as
he looked first at his hostess and then at the circle.

"Then I fear you won't get it," said Lady Henry, throwing herself back
in her chair. "Mr. Montresor can do nothing but quarrel and contradict."

Montresor lifted his hands in wonder.

"Had I been Æsop," he said, slyly, "I would have added another touch to
a certain tale. Observe, please!--even after the Lamb has been devoured
he is still the object of calumny on the part of the Wolf! Well, well!
Mademoiselle, come and console me. Tell me what new follies the Duchess
has on foot."

And, pushing his chair back till he found himself on a level with Julie
Le Breton, the great man plunged into a lively conversation with her.
Sir Wilfrid, Warkworth, and a few other _habitués_ endeavored meanwhile
to amuse Lady Henry. But it was not easy. Her brow was lowering, her
talk forced. Throughout, Sir Wilfrid perceived in her a strained
attention directed towards the conversation on the other side of the
room. She could neither see it nor hear it, but she was jealously
conscious of it. As for Montresor, there was no doubt an element of
malice in the court he was now paying to Mademoiselle Julie. Lady Henry
had been thorny over much during the afternoon; even for her oldest
friend she had passed bounds; he desired perhaps to bring it home
to her.

Meanwhile, Julie Le Breton, after a first moment of reserve and
depression, had been beguiled, carried away. She yielded to her own
instincts, her own gifts, till Montresor, drawn on and drawn out, found
himself floating on a stream of talk, which Julie led first into one
channel and then into another, as she pleased; and all to the flattery
and glorification of the talker. The famous Minister had come to visit
Lady Henry, as he had done for many Sundays in many years; but it was
not Lady Henry, but her companion, to whom his homage of the afternoon
was paid, who gave him his moment of enjoyment--the moment that would
bring him there again. Lady Henry's fault, no doubt; but Wilfrid Bury,
uneasily aware every now and then of the dumb tumult that was raging in
the breast of the haughty being beside him, felt the pathos of this slow
discrowning, and was inclined, once more, rather to be sorry for the
older woman than to admire the younger.

At last Lady Henry could bear it no longer.

"Mademoiselle, be so good as to return his father's letters to Captain
Warkworth," she said, abruptly, in her coldest voice, just as Montresor,
dropping his--head thrown back and knees crossed--was about to pour into
the ears of his companion the whole confidential history of his
appointment to office three years before.

Julie Le Breton rose at once. She went towards a table at the farther
end of the large room, and Captain Warkworth followed her. Montresor,
perhaps repenting himself a little, returned to Lady Henry; and though
she received him with great coolness, the circle round her, now
augmented by Dr. Meredith, and another politician or two, was
reconstituted; and presently, with a conscious effort, visible at least
to Bury, she exerted herself to hold it, and succeeded.

Suddenly--just as Bury had finished a very neat analysis of the Shah's
public and private character, and while the applauding laughter of the
group of intimates amid which he sat told him that his epigrams had been
good--he happened to raise his eyes towards the distant settee where
Julie Le Breton was sitting.

His smile stiffened on his lips. Like an icy wave, a swift and tragic
impression swept through him. He turned away, ashamed of having seen,
and hid himself, as it were, with relief, in the clamor of amusement
awakened by his own remarks.

What had he seen? Merely, or mainly, a woman's face. Young Warkworth
stood beside the sofa, on which sat Lady Henry's companion, his hands in
his pockets, his handsome head bent towards her. They had been talking
earnestly, wholly forgetting and apparently forgotten by the rest of the
room. On his side there was an air of embarrassment. He seemed to be
choosing his words with difficulty, his eyes on the floor. Julie Le
Breton, on the contrary, was looking at him--looking with all her soul,
her ardent, unhappy soul--unconscious of aught else in the wide world.

"Good God! she is in love with him!" was the thought that rushed through
Sir Wilfrid's mind. "Poor thing! Poor thing!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Wilfrid outstayed his fellow-guests. By seven o'clock all were gone.
Mademoiselle Le Breton had retired. He and Lady Henry were left alone.

"Shut the doors!" she said, peremptorily, looking round her as the last
guest disappeared. "I must have some private talk with you. Well, I
understand you walked home from the Crowboroughs' the other night
with--that woman."

She turned sharply upon him. The accent was indescribable. And with a
fierce hand she arranged the folds of her own thick silk dress, as
though, for some relief to the stormy feeling within, she would rather
have torn than smoothed it.

Sir Wilfrid seated himself beside her, knees crossed, finger-tips
lightly touching, the fair eyelashes somewhat lowered--Calm
beside Tempest.

"I am sorry to hear you speak so," he said, gravely, after a pause.
"Yes, I talked with her. She met me very fairly, on the whole. It seemed
to me she was quite conscious that her behavior had not been always what
it should be, and that she was sincerely anxious to change it. I did my
best as a peacemaker. Has she made no signs since--no advances?"

Lady Henry threw out her hand in disdain.

"She confessed to me that she had pledged a great deal of the time for
which I pay her to Evelyn Crowborough's bazaar, and asked what she was
to do. I told her, of course, that I would put up with nothing of
the kind."

"And were more annoyed, alack! than propitiated by her confession?" said
Sir Wilfrid, with a shrug.

"I dare say," said Lady Henry. "You see, I guessed that it was not
spontaneous; that you had wrung it out of her."

"What else did you expect me to do?" cried Sir Wilfrid. "I seem, indeed,
to have jolly well wasted my time."

"Oh no. You were very kind. And I dare say you might have done some
good. I was beginning to--to have some returns on myself, when the
Duchess appeared on the scene."

"Oh, the little fool!" ejaculated Sir Wilfrid, under his breath.

"She came, of course, to beg and protest. She offered me her valuable
services for all sorts of superfluous things that I didn't want--if only
I would spare her Julie for this ridiculous bazaar. So then my back was
put up again, and I told her a few home truths about the way in which
she had made mischief and forced Julie into a totally false position.
On which she flew into a passion, and said a lot of silly nonsense about
Julie, that showed me, among other things, that Mademoiselle Le Breton
had broken her solemn compact with me, and had told her family history
both to Evelyn and to Jacob Delafield. That alone would be sufficient to
justify me in dismissing her. _N'est-ce pas?_"

"Oh yes," murmured Sir Wilfrid, "if you want to dismiss her."

"We shall come to that presently," said Lady Henry, shortly. "Imagine,
please, the kind of difficulties in which these confidences, if they
have gone any further--and who knows?--may land me. I shall have old
Lord Lackington--who behaved like a brute to his daughter while she was
alive, and is, all the same, a _poseur_ from top to toe--walking in here
one night and demanding his granddaughter--spreading lies, perhaps, that
I have been ill-treating her. Who can say what absurdities may happen if
it once gets out that she is Lady Rose's child? I could name half a
dozen people, who come here habitually, who would consider themselves
insulted if they knew--what you and I know."

"Insulted? Because her mother--"

"Because her mother broke the seventh commandment? Oh, dear, no! That,
in my opinion, doesn't touch people much nowadays. Insulted because they
had been kept in the dark--that's all. Vanity, not morals."

"As far as I can ascertain," said Sir Wilfrid, meditatively, "only the
Duchess, Delafield, Montresor, and myself are in the secret."

"Montresor!" cried Lady Henry, beside herself. "_Montresor!_ That's new
to me. Oh, she shall go at once--at once!" She breathed hard.

"Wait a little. Have you had any talk with Jacob?"

"I should think not! Evelyn, of course, brings him in perpetually--Jacob
this and Jacob that. He seems to have been living in her pocket, and the
three have been intriguing against me, morning, noon, and night. Where
Julie has found the time I can't imagine; I thought I had kept her
pretty well occupied."

Sir Wilfrid surveyed his angry companion and held his peace.

"So you don't know what Jacob thinks?"

"Why should I want to know?" said Lady Henry, disdainfully. "A lad whom
I sent to Eton and Oxford, when his father couldn't pay his bills--what
does it matter to me what he thinks?"

"Women are strange folk," thought Sir Wilfrid. "A man wouldn't have said
that."

Then, aloud:

"I thought you were afraid lest he should want to marry her?"

"Oh, let him cut his throat if he likes!" said Lady Henry, with the
inconsistency of fury. "What does it matter to me?"

"By-the-way, as to that"--he spoke as though feeling his way--"have you
never had suspicions in quite another direction?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I hear a good deal in various quarters of the trouble
Mademoiselle Le Breton is taking--on behalf of that young soldier who
was here just now--Harry Warkworth."

Lady Henry laughed impatiently.

"I dare say. She is always wanting to patronize or influence somebody.
It's in her nature. She's a born _intrigante_. If you knew her as well
as I do, you wouldn't think much of that. Oh no--make your mind easy.
It's Jacob she wants--it's Jacob she'll get, very likely. What can an
old, blind creature like me do to stop it?"

"And as Jacob's wife--the wife perhaps of the head of the family--you
still mean to quarrel with her?"

"Yes, I _do_ mean to quarrel with her!" and Lady Henry lifted herself in
her chair, a pale and quivering image of war--"Duchess or no Duchess!
Did you see the audacious way in which she behaved this
afternoon?--_how_ she absorbs my guests?--how she allows and encourages
a man like Montresor to forget himself?--eggs him on to put slights on
me in my own drawing-room!"

"No, no! You are really unjust," said Sir Wilfrid, laying a kind hand
upon her arm. "That was not her fault."

"It _is_ her fault that she is what she is!--that her character is such
that she _forces_ comparisons between us--between _her_ and _me!_--that
she pushes herself into a prominence that is intolerable, considering
who and what she is--that she makes me appear in an odious light to my
old friends. No, no, Wilfrid, your first instinct was the true one. I
shall have to bring myself to it, whatever it costs. She must take her
departure, or I shall go to pieces, morally and physically. To be in a
temper like this, at my age, shortens one's life--you know that."

"And you can't subdue the temper?" he asked, with a queer smile.

"No, I can't! That's flat. She gets on my nerves, and I'm not
responsible. _C'est fini_."

"Well," he said, slowly, "I hope you understand what it means?"

"Oh, I know she has plenty of friends!" she said, defiantly. But her old
hands trembled on her knee.

"Unfortunately they were and are yours. At least," he entreated, "don't
quarrel with everybody who may sympathize with her. Let them take what
view they please. Ignore it--be as magnanimous as you can."

"On the contrary!" She was now white to the lips. "Whoever goes with her
gives me up. They must choose--once for all."

"My dear friend, listen to reason."

And, drawing his chair close to her, he argued with her for half an
hour. At the end of that time her gust of passion had more or less
passed away; she was, to some extent, ashamed of herself, and, as he
believed, not far from tears.

"When I am gone she will think of what I have been saying," he assured
himself, and he rose to take his leave. Her look of exhaustion
distressed him, and, for all her unreason, he felt himself astonishingly
in sympathy with her. The age in him held out secret hands to the age in
her--as against encroaching and rebellious youth.

Perhaps it was the consciousness of this mood in him which at last
partly appeased her.

"Well, I'll try again. I'll _try_ to hold my tongue," she granted him,
sullenly. "But, understand, she, sha'n't go to that bazaar!"

"That's a great pity," was his naïve reply. "Nothing would put you in a
better position than to give her leave."

"I shall do nothing of the kind," she vowed. "And now good-night,
Wilfrid--good-night. You're a very good fellow, and if I _can_ take your
advice, I will."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lady Henry sat alone in her brightly lighted drawing-room for some time.
She could neither read nor write nor sew, owing to her blindness, and in
the reaction from her passion of the afternoon she felt herself very old
and weary.

But at last the door opened and Julie Le Breton's light step approached.

"May I read to you?" she said, gently.

Lady Henry coldly commanded the _Observer_ and her knitting.

She had no sooner, however, begun to knit than her very acute sense of
touch noticed something wrong with the wool she was using.

"This is not the wool I ordered," she said, fingering it carefully. "You
remember, I gave you a message about it on Thursday? What did they say
about it at Winton's?"

Julie laid down the newspaper and looked in perplexity at the ball of
wool.

"I remember you gave me a message," she faltered.

"Well, what did they say?"

"I suppose that was all they had."

Something in the tone struck Lady Henry's quick ears. She raised a
suspicious face.

"Did you ever go to Winton's at all?" she said, quickly.

[Illustration: "LADY HENRY GASPED. SHE FELL BACK INTO HER CHAIR"]

"I am so sorry. The Duchess's maid was going there," said Julie,
hurriedly, "and she went for me. I thought I had given her your message
most carefully."

"Hm," said Lady Henry, slowly. "So you didn't go to Winton's. May I ask
whether you went to Shaw's, or to Beatson's, or the Stores, or any of
the other places for which I gave you commissions?" Her voice cut like
a knife.

Julie hesitated. She had grown very white. Suddenly her face settled and
steadied.

"No," she said, calmly. "I meant to have done all your commissions. But
I was persuaded by Evelyn to spend a couple of hours with her, and her
maid undertook them."

Lady Henry flushed deeply.

"So, mademoiselle, unknown to me, you spent two hours of my time amusing
yourself at Crowborough House. May I ask what you were doing there?"

"I was trying to help the Duchess in her plans for the bazaar."

"Indeed? Was any one else there? Answer me, mademoiselle."

Julie hesitated again, and again spoke with a kind of passionate
composure.

"Yes. Mr. Delafield was there."

"So I supposed. Allow me to assure you, mademoiselle"--Lady Henry rose
from her seat, leaning on her stick; surely no old face was ever more
formidable, more withering--"that whatever ambitions you may cherish,
Jacob Delafield is not altogether the simpleton you imagine. I know him
better than you. He will take some time before he really makes up his
mind to marry a woman of your disposition--and your history."

Julie Le Breton also rose.

"I am afraid, Lady Henry, that here, too, you are in the dark," she
said, quietly, though her thin arm shook against her dress. "I shall not
marry Mr. Delafield. But it is because--I have refused him twice."

Lady Henry gasped. She fell back into her chair, staring at her
companion.

"You have--refused him?"

"A month ago, and last year. It is horrid of me to say a word. But you
forced me."

Julie was now leaning, to support herself, on the back of an old French
chair. Feeling and excitement had blanched her no less than Lady Henry,
but her fine head and delicate form breathed a will so proud, a dignity
so passionate, that Lady Henry shrank before her.

"Why did you refuse him?"

Julie shrugged her shoulders.

"That, I think, is my affair. But if--I had loved him--I should not have
consulted your scruples, Lady Henry."

"That's frank," said Lady Henry. "I like that better than anything
you've said yet. You are aware that he _may_ inherit the dukedom of
Chudleigh?"

"I have several times heard you say so," said the other, coldly.

Lady Henry looked at her long and keenly. Various things that Wilfrid
Bury had said recurred to her. She thought of Captain Warkworth.
She wondered.

Suddenly she held out her hand.

"I dare say you won't take it, mademoiselle. I suppose I've been
insulting you. But--you have been playing tricks with me. In a good many
ways, we're quits. Still, I confess, I admire you a good deal. Anyway, I
offer you my hand. I apologize for my recent remarks. Shall we bury the
hatchet, and try and go on as before?"

Julie Le Breton turned slowly and took the hand--without unction.

"I make you angry," she said, and her voice trembled, "without knowing
how or why."

Lady Henry gulped.

"Oh, it mayn't answer," she said, as their hands dropped. "But we may as
well have one more trial. And, mademoiselle, I shall be delighted that
you should assist the Duchess with her _bazaar_."

Julie shook her head.

"I don't think I have any heart for it," she said, sadly; and then, as
Lady Henry sat silent, she approached.

"You look very tired. Shall I send your maid?"

That melancholy and beautiful voice laid a strange spell on Lady Henry.
Her companion appeared to her, for a moment, in a new light--as a
personage of drama or romance. But she shook off the spell.

"At once, please. Another day like this would put an end to me."



VII

Julie le Breton was sitting alone in her own small sitting-room. It was
the morning of the Tuesday following her Sunday scene with Lady Henry,
and she was busy with various household affairs. A small hamper of
flowers, newly arrived from Lady Henry's Surrey garden, and not yet
unpacked, was standing open on the table, with various empty
flower-glasses beside it. Julie was, at the moment, occupied with the
"Stores order" for the month, and Lady Henry's cook-housekeeper had but
just left the room after delivering an urgent statement on the need for
"relining" a large number of Lady Henry's copper saucepans.

The room was plain and threadbare. It had been the school-room of
various generations of Delafields in the past. But for an observant eye
it contained a good many objects which threw light upon its present
occupant's character and history. In a small bookcase beside the fire
were a number of volumes in French bindings. They represented either the
French classics--Racine, Bossuet, Châteaubriand, Lamartine--which had
formed the study of Julie's convent days, or those other books--George
Sand, Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, Mazzini, Leopardi, together with
the poets and novelists of revolutionary Russia or Polish nationalism or
Irish rebellion--which had been the favorite reading of both Lady Rose
and her lover. They were but a hundred in all; but for Julie Le Breton
they stood for the bridge by which, at will, memory and dreamful pity
might carry her back into that vanished life she had once shared with
her parents--those strange beings, so calm and yet so passionate in
their beliefs, so wilful and yet so patient in their deeds, by whose
acts her own experience was still wholly conditioned. In her little room
there were no portraits of them visible. But on a side-table stood a
small carved triptych. The oblong wings, which were open, contained
photographs of figures from one of the great Bruges Memlings. The centre
was covered by two wooden leaves delicately carved, and the leaves were
locked. The inquisitive housemaid who dusted the room had once tried to
open them.--in vain.

On a stand near the fire lay two or three yellow volumes--some recent
French essays, a volume of memoirs, a tale of Bourget's, and so forth.
These were flanked by Sir Henry Maine's _Popular Government_, and a
recent brilliant study of English policy in Egypt--both of them with the
name "Richard J. Montresor" on the title-page. The last number of Dr.
Meredith's paper, _The New Rambler_, was there also; and, with the
paper-knife still in its leaves, the journal of the latest French
traveller in Mokembe, a small "H.W." inscribed in the top right-hand
corner of its gray cover.

Julie finished her Stores order with a sigh of relief. Then she wrote
half a dozen business notes, and prepared a few checks for Lady Henry's
signature. When this was done the two dachshunds, who had been lying on
the rug spying out her every movement, began to jump upon her.

But Julie laughed in their faces. "It's raining," she said, pointing to
the window--"_raining!_ So there! Either you won't go out at all, or
you'll go with John."

John was the second footman, whom the dogs hated. They returned
crestfallen to the rug and to a hungry waiting on Providence. Julie took
up a letter on foreign paper which had reached her that morning, glanced
at the door, and began to reread its closely written sheets. It was from
an English diplomat on a visit to Egypt, a man on whom the eyes of
Europe were at that moment fixed. That he should write to a woman at
all, on the subjects of the letter, involved a compliment _hors ligne_;
that he should write with this ease, this abandonment, was indeed
remarkable. Julie flushed a little as she read. But when she came to the
end she put it aside with a look of worry. "I _wish_ he'd write to Lady
Henry," was her thought. "She hasn't had a line from him for weeks. I
shouldn't wonder if she suspects already. When any one talks of Egypt, I
daren't open my lips."

For fear of betraying the very minute and first-hand information that
was possessed by Lady Henry's companion? With a smile and a shrug she
locked the letter away in one of the drawers of her writing-table, and
took up an envelope which had lain beneath it. From this--again with a
look round her--she half drew out a photograph. The grizzled head and
spectacled eyes of Dr. Meredith emerged. Julie's expression softened;
her eyebrows went up a little; then she slightly shook her head, like
one who protests that if something has gone wrong, it
isn't--isn't--their fault. Unwillingly she looked at the last words of
the letter:

     "So, remember, I can give you work if you want it, and paying
     work. I would rather give you my life and my all. But these,
     it seems, are commodities for which you have no use. So be
     it. But if you refuse to let me serve you, when the time
     comes, in such ways as I have suggested in this letter, then,
     indeed, you would be unkind--I would almost dare to say
     ungrateful! Yours always

     "F.M."

This letter also she locked away. But her hand lingered on the last of
all. She had read it three times already, and knew it practically by
heart. So she left the sheets undisturbed in their envelope. But she
raised the whole to her lips, and pressed it there, while her eyes, as
they slowly filled with tears, travelled--unseeing--to the wintry street
beyond the window. Eyes and face wore the same expression as Wilfrid
Bury had surprised there--the dumb utterance of a woman hard pressed,
not so much by the world without as by some wild force within.

In that still moment the postman's knock was heard in the street
outside. Julie Le Breton started, for no one whose life is dependent on
a daily letter can hear that common sound without a thrill. Then she
smiled sadly at herself. "_My_ joy is over for to-day!" And she turned
away with the letter in her hand.

But she did not place it in the same drawer with the others. She moved
across to the little carved triptych, and, after listening a moment to
the sounds in the house, she opened its closed doors with a gold key
that hung on her watch-chain and had been hidden in the bosom of
her dress.

The doors fell open. Inside, on a background of dark velvet, hung two
miniatures, lightly framed in gold and linked together by a graceful
scroll-work in gold. They were of fine French work, and they represented
a man and woman, both handsome, young, and of a remarkable distinction
of aspect. The faces, nevertheless, hardly gave pleasure. There was in
each of them a look at once absent and eager--the look of those who have
cared much and ardently for "man," and very little, comparatively,
for men.

The miniatures had not been meant for the triptych, nor the triptych for
them. It had been adapted to them by loving hands; but there was room
for other things in the velvet-lined hollow, and a packet of letters was
already reposing there. Julie slipped the letter of the morning inside
the elastic band which held the packet; then she closed and locked the
doors, returning the key to its place in her dress. Both the lock and
hinges of this little hiding-place were well and strongly made, and when
the wings also were shut and locked one saw nothing but a massively
framed photograph of the Bruges belfry resting on a wooden support.

She had hardly completed her little task when there was a sudden noise
of footsteps in the passage outside.

"Julie!" said a light voice, subdued to a laughing whisper. "May I come
in?"

The Duchess stood on the threshold, her small, shell-pink face emerging
from a masterly study in gray, presented by a most engaging costume.

Julie, in surprise, advanced to meet her visitor, and the old butler,
who was Miss Le Breton's very good friend, quickly and discreetly shut
the door upon the two ladies.

"Oh, my dear!" said the Duchess, throwing herself into Julie's arms. "I
came up so quietly! I told Hutton not to disturb Lady Henry, and I just
crept up-stairs, holding my skirts. Wasn't it heroic of me to put my
poor little head into the lion's den like this? But when I got your
letter this morning saying you couldn't come to me, I vowed I would just
see for myself how you were, and whether there was anything left of you.
Oh, you poor, pale thing!"

And drawing Julie to a chair, the little Duchess sat down beside her,
holding her friend's hands and studying her face.

"Tell me what's been happening--I believe you've been crying! Oh, the
old wretch!"

"You're quite mistaken," said Julie, smiling. "Lady Henry says I may
help you with the bazaar."

"No!" The Duchess threw up her hands in amazement. "How have you managed
that?"

"By giving in. But, Evelyn, I'm not coming."

"Oh, Julie!" The Duchess threw herself back in her chair and fixed a
pair of very blue and very reproachful eyes on Miss Le Breton.

"No, I'm not coming. If I'm to stay here, even for a time, I mustn't
provoke her any more. She says I may come, but she doesn't mean it."

"She couldn't mean anything civil or agreeable. How has she been
behaving--since Sunday?"

Julie looked uncertain.

"Oh, there is an armed truce. I was made to have a fire in my bedroom
last night. And Hutton took the dogs out yesterday."

The Duchess laughed.

"And there was quite a scene on Sunday? You don't tell me much about it
in your letter. But, Julie"--her voice dropped to a whisper--"was
anything said about Jacob?"

Julie looked down. A bitterness crept into her face.

"Yes. I can't forgive myself. I was provoked into telling the truth."

"You did! Well? I suppose Aunt Flora thought it was all your fault that
he proposed, and an impertinence that you refused?"

"She was complimentary at the time," said Julie, half smiling. "But
since--No, I don't feel that she is appeased."

"Of course not. Affronted, more likely."

There was a silence. The Duchess was looking at Julie, but her thoughts
were far away. And presently she broke out, with the _étourderie_ that
became her:

"I wish I understood it myself, Julie. I know you like him."

"Immensely. But--we should fight!"

Miss Le Breton looked up with animation.

"Oh, that's not a reason," said the Duchess, rather annoyed.

"It's _the_ reason. I don't know--there is something of _iron_ in Mr.
Delafield;" and Julie emphasized the words with a shrug which was almost
a shiver. "And as I'm not in love with him, I'm afraid of him."

"That's the best way of being in love," cried the Duchess. "And then,
Julie"--she paused, and at last added, naïvely, as she laid her little
hands on her friend's knee--"haven't you got _any_ ambitions?"

"Plenty. Oh, I should like very well to play the duchess, with you to
instruct me," said Julie, caressing the hands. "But I must choose my
duke. And till the right one appears, I prefer my own wild ways."

"Afraid of Jacob Delafield? How odd!" said the Duchess, with her chin on
her hands.

"It may be odd to you," said Julie, with vivacity. "In reality, it's not
in the least odd. There's the same quality in him that there is in Lady
Henry--something that beats you down," she added, under her breath.
"There, that's enough about Mr. Delafield--quite enough."

And, rising, Julie threw up her arms and clasped her hands above her
head. The gesture was all strength and will, like the stretching of a
sea-bird's wings.

The Duchess looked at her with eyes that had begun to waver.

"Julie, I heard such an odd piece of news last night."

Julie turned.

"You remember the questions you asked me about Aileen Moffatt?"

"Perfectly."

"Well, I saw a man last night who had just come home from Simla. He saw
a great deal of her, and he says that she and her mother were adored in
India. They were thought so quaint and sweet--unlike other people--and
the girl so lovely, in a sort of gossamer way. And who do you think was
always about with them--at Peshawar first, and then at Simla--so that
everybody talked? Captain Warkworth! My man believed there was an
understanding between them."

Julie had begun to fill the flower-glasses with water and unpack the
flower-basket. Her back was towards the Duchess. After a moment she
replied, her hands full of forced narcissuses:

"Well, that would be a _coup_ for him."

"I should think so. She is supposed to have half a million in coal-mines
alone, besides land. Has Captain Warkworth ever said anything to you
about them?"

"No. He has never mentioned them."

The Duchess reflected, her eyes still on Julie's back.

"Everybody wants money nowadays. And the soldiers are just as bad as
anybody else. They don't _look_ money, as the City men do--that's why we
women fall in love with them--but they _think_ it, all the same."

Julie made no reply. The Duchess could see nothing of her. But the
little lady's face showed the flutter of one determined to venture yet a
little farther on thin ice.

"Julie, I've done everything you've asked me. I sent a card for the 20th
to that _rather_ dreadful woman, Lady Froswick. I was very clever with
Freddie about that living; and I've talked to Mr. Montresor. But, Julie,
if you don't mind, I really should like to know why you're so keen
about it?"

The Duchess's cheeks were by now one flush. She had a romantic affection
for Julie, and would not have offended her for the world.

Julie turned round. She was always pale, and the Duchess saw nothing
unusual.

"Am I so keen?"

"Julie, you have done everything in the world for this man since he came
home."

"Well, he interested me," said Julie, stepping back to look at the
effect of one of the vases. "The first evening he was here, he saved me
from Lady Henry--twice. He's alone in the world, too, which attracts
me. You see, I happen to know what it's like. An only son, and an
orphan, and no family interest to push him--"

"So you thought you'd push him? Oh, Julie, you're a darling--but you're
rather a wire-puller, aren't you?"

Julie smiled faintly.

"Well, perhaps I like to feel, sometimes, that I have a little power. I
haven't much else."

The Duchess seized one of her hands and pressed it to her cheek.

"You have power, because every one loves and admires you. As for me, I
would cut myself in little bits to please you.... Well, I only hope,
when he's married his heiress, if he does marry her, they'll remember
what they owe to you."

Did she feel the hand lying in her own shake? At any rate, it was
brusquely withdrawn, and Julie walked to the end of the table to fetch
some more flowers.

"I don't want any gratitude," she said, abruptly, "from any one. Well,
now, Evelyn, you understand about the bazaar? I wish I could, but
I can't."

"Yes, I understand. Julie!" The Duchess rose impulsively, and threw
herself into a chair beside the table where she could watch the face and
movements of Mademoiselle Le Breton. "Julie, I want so much to talk to
you--about _business_. You're not to be offended. Julie, _if_ you leave
Lady Henry, how will you manage?"

"How shall I live, you mean?" said Julie, smiling at the euphemism in
which this little person, for whom existence had rained gold
and flowers since her cradle, had enwrapped the hard facts of
bread-and-butter--facts with which she was so little acquainted that
she approached them with a certain delicate mystery.

"You must have some money, you know, Julie," said the Duchess, timidly,
her upraised face and Paris hat well matched by the gay poinsettias, the
delicate eucharis and arums with which the table was now covered.

"I shall earn some," said Julie, quietly.

"Oh, but, Julie, you can't be bothered with any other tiresome old
lady!"

"No. I should keep my freedom. But Dr. Meredith has offered me work, and
got me a promise of more."

The Duchess opened her eyes.

"Writing! Well, of course, we all know you can do anything you want to
do. And you won't let anybody help you at all?"

"I won't let anybody give me money, if that's what you mean," said
Julie, smiling. But it was a smile without accent, without gayety.

The Duchess, watching her, said to herself, "Since I came in she is
changed--quite changed."

"Julie, you're horribly proud!"

Julie's face contracted a little.

"How much 'power' should I have left, do you think--how much
self-respect--if I took money from my friends?"

"Well, not money, perhaps. But, Julie, you know all about Freddie's
London property. It's abominable how much he has. There are always a few
houses he keeps in his own hands. If Lady Henry _does_ quarrel with you,
and we could lend you a little house--for a time--_wouldn't_ you take
it, Julie?"

Her voice had the coaxing inflections of a child. Julie hesitated.

"Only if the Duke himself offered it," she said, finally, with a brusque
stiffening of her whole attitude.

The Duchess flushed and stood up.

"Oh, well, that's all right," she said, but no longer in the same voice.
"Remember, I have your promise. Good-bye, Julie, you darling!... Oh,
by-the-way, what an idiot I am! Here am I forgetting the chief thing I
came about. Will you come with me to Lady Hubert to-night? Do! Freddie's
away, and I hate going by myself."

"To Lady Hubert's?" said Julie, starting a little. "I wonder what Lady
Henry would say?"

"Tell her Jacob won't be there," said the Duchess, laughing. "Then she
won't make any difficulties."

"Shall I go and ask her?"

"Gracious! let me get out of the house first. Give her a message from me
that I will come and see her to-morrow morning. We've got to make it up,
Freddie says; so the sooner it's over, the better. Say all the civil
things you can to her about to-night, and wire me this afternoon. If
all's well, I come for you at eleven."

The Duchess rustled away. Julie was left standing by the table, alone.
Her face was very still, but her eyes shone, her teeth pressed her lip.
Unconsciously her hand closed upon a delicate blossom of eucharis and
crushed it.

"I'll go," she said, to herself. "Yes, I'll go."

Her letter of the morning, as it happened, had included the following
sentences:

"I think to-night I must put in an appearance at the Hubert Delafields',
though I own that neither the house nor the son of the house is very
much to my liking. But I hear that he has gone back to the country. And
there are a few people who frequent Lady Hubert, who might just now
be of use."

Lady Henry gave her consent that Mademoiselle Le Breton should accompany
the Duchess to Lady Hubert's party almost with effusion. "It will be
very dull," she said. "My sister-in-law makes a desert and calls it
society. But if you want to go, go. As to Evelyn Crowborough, I am
engaged to my dentist to-morrow morning."

When at night this message was reported to the Duchess, as she and Julie
were on their way to Rutland Gate, she laughed.

"How much leek shall I have to swallow? What's to-morrow? Wednesday.
Hm--cards in the afternoon; in the evening I appear, sit on a stool at
Lady Henry's feet, and look at you through my glasses as though I had
never seen you before. On Thursday I leave a French book; on Friday I
send the baby to see her. Goodness, what a time it takes!" said the
Duchess, raising her very white and very small shoulders. "Well, for my
life, I mustn't fail to-morrow night."

At Lady Hubert's they found a very tolerable, not to say lively,
gathering, which quite belied Lady Henry's slanders. There was not the
same conscious brilliance, the same thrill in the air, as pertained to
the gatherings in Bruton Street. But there was a more solid social
comfort, such as befits people untroubled by the certainty that the
world is looking on. The guests of Bruton Street laughed, as well-bred
people should, at the estimation in which Lady Henry's salon was held,
by those especially who did not belong to it. Still, the mere knowledge
of this outside estimate kept up a certain tension. At Lady Hubert's
there was no tension, and the agreeable nobodies who found their way in
were not made to blush for the agreeable nothings of their conversation.

Lady Hubert herself made for ease--partly, no doubt, for stupidity. She
was fair, sleepy, and substantial. Her husband had spent her fortune,
and ruffled all the temper she had. The Hubert Delafields were now,
however, better off than they had been--investments had recovered--and
Lady Hubert's temper was once more placid, as Providence had meant it to
be. During the coming season it was her firm intention to marry her
daughter, who now stood beside her as she received her guests--a blonde,
sweet-featured girl, given, however, so it was said, to good works, and
not at all inclined to trouble herself overmuch about a husband.

The rooms were fairly full; and the entry of the Duchess and
Mademoiselle Le Breton was one of the incidents of the evening, and
visibly quickened the pulses of the assembly. The little Dresden-china
Duchess, with her clothes, her jewels, and her smiles, had been, since
her marriage, one of the chief favorites of fashion. She had been
brought up in the depths of the country, and married at eighteen. After
six years she was not in the least tired of her popularity or its
penalties. All the life in her dainty person, her glancing eyes, and
small, smiling lips rose, as it were, to meet the stir that she evoked.
She vaguely saw herself as Titania, and played the part with childish
glee. And like Titania, as she had more than once ruefully reflected,
she was liable to be chidden by her lord.

But the Duke was on this particular evening debating high subjects in
the House of Lords, and the Duchess was amusing herself. Sir Wilfrid
Bury, who arrived not long after his goddaughter, found her the centre
first of a body-guard of cousins, including among them apparently a
great many handsome young men, and then of a small crowd, whose vaguely
smiling faces reflected the pleasure that was to be got, even at a
distance, out of her young and merry beauty.

Julie Le Breton was not with her. But in the next room Sir Wilfrid soon
perceived the form and face which, in their own way, exacted quite as
much attention from the world as those of the Duchess. She was talking
with many people, and, as usual, he could not help watching her. Never
yet had he seen her wide, black eyes more vivid than they were to-night.
Now, as on his first sight of her, he could not bring himself to call
them beautiful. Yet beautiful they were, by every canon of form and
color. No doubt it was something in their expression that offended his
own well-drilled instincts.

He found himself thinking suspicious thoughts about most of the
conversations in which he saw her engaged. Why was she bestowing those
careful smiles on that intolerable woman, Lady Froswick? And what an
acquaintance she seemed to have among these elderly soldiers, who might
at all times be reckoned on at Lady Hubert's parties! One gray-haired
veteran after another recalled himself to her attention, got his few
minutes with her, and passed on smiling. Certain high officials, too,
were no less friendly. Her court, it seemed to him, was mainly composed
of the middle-aged; to-night, at any rate, she left the young to the
Duchess. And it was on the whole a court of men. The women, as he now
perceived, were a trifle more reserved. There was not, indeed, a trace
of exclusion. They were glad to see her; glad, he thought, to be noticed
by her. But they did not yield themselves--or so he fancied--with the
same wholeness as their husbands.

"How old is she?" he asked himself. "About nine-and-twenty?... Jacob's
age--or a trifle older."

After a time he lost sight of her, and in the amusement of his own
evening forgot her. But as the rooms were beginning to thin he walked
through them, looking for a famous collection of miniatures that
belonged to Lady Hubert. English family history was one of his hobbies,
and he was far better acquainted with the Delafield statesmen, and the
Delafield beauties of the past, than were any of their modern
descendants. Lady Hubert's Cosways and Plimers had made a lively
impression upon him in days gone by, and he meant to renew acquaintance
with them.

But they had been moved from the room in which he remembered them, and
he was led on through a series of drawing-rooms, now nearly empty, till
on the threshold of the last he paused suddenly.

A lady and gentleman rose from a sofa on which they had been sitting.
Captain Warkworth stood still. Mademoiselle Le Breton advanced to the
new-comer.

"Is it very late?" she said, gathering up her fan and gloves. "We have
been looking at Lady Hubert's miniatures. That lady with the muff"--she
pointed to the case which occupied a conspicuous position in the
room--"is really wonderful. Can you tell me, Sir Wilfrid, where the
Duchess is?"

"No, but I can help you find her," said that gentleman, forgetting the
miniatures and endeavoring to look at neither of his companions.

"And I must rush," said Captain Warkworth, looking at his watch. "I told
a man to come to my rooms at twelve. Heavens!"

He shook hands with Miss Le Breton and hurried away.

Sir Wilfrid and Julie moved on together. That he had disturbed a most
intimate and critical conversation was somehow borne in upon Sir
Wilfrid. But kind and even romantic as was the old man's inmost nature,
his feelings were not friendly.

"How does the biography get on?" he asked his companion, with a smile.

A bright flush appeared in Mademoiselle Le Breton's cheek.

"I think Lady Henry has dropped it."

"Ah, well, I don't imagine she will regret it;" he said, dryly.

She made no reply. He mentally accused himself for a brute, and then
shook off the charge. Surely a few pin-pricks were her desert! That she
should defend her own secrets was, as Delafield had said, legitimate
enough. But when a man offers you his services, you should not befool
him beyond a certain point.

She must be aware of what he was thinking. He glanced at her curiously;
at the stately dress gleaming with jet, which no longer affected
anything of the girl; at the fine but old-fashioned necklace of pearls
and diamonds--no doubt her mother's--which clasped her singularly
slender throat. At any rate, she showed nothing. She began to talk again
of the Delafield miniatures, using her fan the while with graceful
deliberation; and presently they found the Duchess.

"Is she an adventuress, or is she not?" thought Bury, as his hansom
carried him away from Rutland Gate. "If she marries Jacob, it will be a
queer business."



VIII

Meanwhile the Duchess had dropped Julie Le Breton at Lady Henry's door.
Julie groped her way up-stairs through the sleeping house. She found her
room in darkness, and she turned on no light. There was still a last
glimmer of fire, and she sank down by it, her long arms clasped round
her knees, her head thrown back as though she listened still to words
in her ears.

"Oh, such a child! Such a dear, simple-minded child! Report engaged her
to at least ten different people at Simla. She had a crowd of cavaliers
there--I was one of them. The whole place adored her. She is a very rare
little creature, but well looked after, I can tell you--a long array of
guardians in the background."

How was it possible not to trust that aspect and that smile? Her mind
travelled back to the autumn days when she had seen them first; reviewed
the steps, so little noticed at first, so rapid lately and full of fate,
by which she had come into this bondage wherein she stood. She saw the
first appearance of the young soldier in Lady Henry's drawing-room; her
first conversation with him; and all the subtle development of that
singular relation between them, into which so many elements had entered.
The flattering sense of social power implied both in the homage of this
young and successful man, and in the very services that she, on her
side, was able to render him; impulsive gratitude for that homage, at a
time when her very soul was smarting under Lady Henry's contemptuous
hostility; and then the sweet advances of a "friendship" that was to
unite them in a bond, secret and unique, a bond that took no account of
the commonplaces of love and marriage, the link of equal and kindred
souls in a common struggle with hard and sordid circumstance.

"I have neither family nor powerful friends," he had written to her a
few weeks after their first meeting; "all that I have won, I have won
for myself. Nobody ever made 'interest' for me but you. You, too, are
alone in the world. You, too, have to struggle for yourself. Let us
unite our forces--cheer each other, care for each other--and keep our
friendship a sacred secret from the world that would misunderstand it. I
will not fail you, I will give you all my confidence; and I will try and
understand that noble, wounded heart of yours, with its memories, and
all those singular prides and isolations that have been imposed on it by
circumstance. I will not say, let me be your brother; there is something
_banal_ in that; 'friend' is good enough for us both; and there is
between us a community of intellectual and spiritual interest which will
enable us to add new meaning even to that sacred word. I will write to
you every day; you shall know all that happens to me; and whatever
grateful devotion can do to make your life smoother shall be done."

Five months ago was it, that that letter was written?

Its remembered phrases already rang bitterly in an aching heart. Since
it reached her, she had put out all her powers as a woman, all her
influence as an intelligence, in the service of the writer.

And now, here she sat in the dark, tortured by a passion of which she
was ashamed, before which she was beginning to stand helpless in a kind
of terror. The situation was developing, and she found herself wondering
how much longer she would be able to control herself or it. Very
miserably conscious, too, was she all the time that she was now playing
for a reward that was secretly, tacitly, humiliatingly denied her. How
could a poor man, with Harry Warkworth's ambitions, think for a moment
of marriage with a woman in her ambiguous and dependent position? Her
common-sense told her that the very notion was absurd. And yet, since
the Duchess's gossip had given point and body to a hundred vague
suspicions, she was no longer able to calm, to master herself.

Suddenly a thought of another kind occurred to her. It added to her
smart that Sir Wilfrid, in their meeting at Lady Hubert's, had spoken to
her and looked at her with that slight touch of laughing contempt. There
had been no insincerity in that emotion with which she had first
appealed to him as her mother's friend; she did truly value the old
man's good opinion. And yet she had told him lies.

"I can't help it," she said to herself, with a little shiver. The story
about the biography had been the invention of a moment. It had made
things easy, and it had a small foundation in the fact that Lady Henry
had talked vaguely of using the letters lent her by Captain Warkworth
for the elucidation--perhaps in a _Nineteenth Century_ article--of
certain passages in her husband's Indian career.

Jacob Delafield, too. There also it was no less clear to her than to Sir
Wilfrid that she had "overdone it." It was true, then, what Lady Henry
said of her--that she had an overmastering tendency to intrigue--to a
perpetual tampering with the plain fact?

"Well, it is the way in which such people as I defend themselves," she
said, obstinately, repeating to herself what she had said to Sir
Wilfrid Bury.

And then she set against it, proudly, that disinterestedness of which,
as she vowed to herself, no one but she knew the facts. It was true,
what she had said to the Duchess and to Sir Wilfrid. Plenty of people
would give her money, would make her life comfortable, without the need
for any daily slavery. She would not take it. Jacob Delafield would
marry her, if she lifted her finger; and she would not lift it. Dr.
Meredith would marry her, and she had said him nay. She hugged the
thought of her own unknown and unapplauded integrity. It comforted her
pride. It drew a veil over that wounding laughter which had gleamed for
a moment through those long lashes of Sir Wilfrid Bury.

Last of all, as she sank into her restless sleep, came the remembrance
that she was still under Lady Henry's roof. In the silence of the night
the difficulties of her situation pressed upon and tormented her. What
was she to do? Whom was she to trust?

       *       *       *       *       *

"Dixon, how is Lady Henry?"

"Much too ill to come down-stairs, miss. She's very much put out; in
fact, miss (the maid lowered her voice), you hardly dare go near her.
But she says herself it would be absurd to attempt it."

"Has Hatton had any orders?"

"Yes, miss. I've just told him what her ladyship wishes. He's to tell
everybody that Lady Henry's very sorry, and hoped up to the last moment
to be able to come down as usual."

"Has Lady Henry all she wants, Dixon? Have you taken her the evening
papers?"

"Oh yes, miss. But if you go in to her much her ladyship says you're
disturbing her; and if you don't go, why, of course, everybody's
neglecting her."

"Do you think I may go and say good-night to her, Dixon?"

The maid hesitated.

"I'll ask her, miss--I'll certainly ask her."

The door closed, and Julie was left alone in the great drawing-room of
the Bruton Street house. It had been prepared as usual for the
Wednesday--evening party. The flowers were fresh; the chairs had been
arranged as Lady Henry liked to have them; the parquet floors shone
under the electric light; the Gainsboroughs seemed to look down from the
walls with a gay and friendly expectancy.

For herself, Julie had just finished her solitary dinner, still buoyed
up while she was eating it by the hope that Lady Henry would be able to
come down. The bitter winds of the two previous days, however, had much
aggravated her chronic rheumatism. She was certainly ill and suffering;
but Julie had known her make such heroic efforts before this to keep her
Wednesdays going that not till Dixon appeared with her verdict did she
give up hope.

So everybody would be turned away. Julie paced the drawing-room a
solitary figure amid its lights and flowers--solitary and dejected. In a
couple of hours' time all her particular friends would come to the door,
and it would be shut against them. "Of course, expect me to-night," had
been the concluding words of her letter of the morning. Several people
also had announced themselves for this evening whom it was extremely
desirable she should see. A certain eminent colonel, professor at the
Staff College, was being freely named in the papers for the Mokembe
mission. Never was it more necessary for her to keep all the threads of
her influence in good working order. And these Wednesday evenings
offered her the occasions when she was most successful, most at her
ease--especially whenever Lady Henry was not well enough to leave the
comparatively limited sphere of the back drawing-room.

Moreover, the gatherings themselves ministered to a veritable craving in
Julie Le Breton--the craving for society and conversation. She shared it
with Lady Henry, but in her it was even more deeply rooted. Lady Henry
had ten talents in the Scriptural sense--money, rank, all sorts of
inherited bonds and associations. Julie Le Breton had but this one.
Society was with her both an instinct and an art. With the subtlest and
most intelligent ambition she had trained and improved her natural gift
for it during the last few years. And now, to the excitement of society
was added the excitement of a new and tyrannous feeling, for which
society was henceforth a mere weapon to be used.

She fumed and fretted for a while in silence. Every now and then she
would pause in front of one of the great mirrors of the room, and look
at the reflection of her tall thinness and the trailing satin of
her gown.

"The girl--so pretty, in a gossamer sort of way," The words echoed in
her mind, and vaguely, beside her own image in the glass, there rose a
vision of girlhood--pale, gold hair, pink cheeks, white frock--and she
turned away, miserable, from that conscious, that intellectual
distinction with which, in general, she could persuade herself to be
very fairly satisfied.

Hutton, the butler, came in to look at the fire.

"Will you be sitting here to-night, miss?"

"Oh no, Hutton. I shall go back to the library. I think the fire in my
own room is out."

"I had better put out these lights, anyway," said the man, looking round
the brilliant room.

"Oh, certainly," said Julie, and she began to assist him to do so.

Suddenly a thought occurred to her.

"Hutton!" She went up to him and spoke in a lower tone. "If the Duchess
of Crowborough comes to-night, I should very much like to see her, and I
know she wants to see me. Do you think it could possibly disturb Lady
Henry if you were to show her into the library for twenty minutes?"

The man considered.

"I don't think there could be anything heard up-stairs, miss. I should,
of course, warn her grace that her ladyship was ill."

"Well, then, Hutton, please ask her to come in," said Miss Le Breton,
hurriedly. "And, Hutton, Dr. Meredith and Mr. Montresor, you know how
disappointed they'll be not to find Lady Henry at home?"

"Yes, miss. They'll want to know how her ladyship is, no doubt. I'll
tell them you're in the library. And Captain Warkworth, miss?--he's
never missed a Wednesday evening for weeks."

"Oh, well, if he comes--you must judge for yourself, Hutton," said Miss
Le Breton, occupying herself with the electric switches. "I should like
to tell them all--the old friends--how Lady Henry is."

The butler's face was respectful discretion itself.

"Of course, miss. And shall I bring tea and coffee?"

"Oh no," said Miss Le Breton, hastily; and then, after reflection,
"Well, have it ready; but I don't suppose anybody will ask for it. Is
there a good fire in the library?"

"Oh yes, miss. I thought you would be coming down there again. Shall I
take some of these flowers down? The room looks rather bare, if
anybody's coming in."

Julie colored a little.

"Well, you might--not many. And, Hutton, you're sure we can't disturb
Lady Henry?"

Hutton's expression was not wholly confident.

"Her ladyship's very quick of hearing, miss. But I'll shut those doors
at the foot of the back stairs, and I'll ask every one to come
in quietly."

"Thank you, Hutton--thank you. That'll be very good of you. And,
Hutton--"

"Yes, miss." The man paused with a large vase of white arums in his
hand.

"You'll say a word to Dixon, won't you? If anybody comes in, there'll be
no need to trouble Lady Henry about it. I can tell her to-morrow."

"Very good, miss. Dixon will be down to her supper presently."

The butler departed. Julie was left alone in the now darkened room,
lighted only by one lamp and the bright glow of the fire. She caught her
breath--suddenly struck with the audacity of what she had been doing.
Eight or ten of these people certainly would come in--eight or ten of
Lady Henry's "intimates." If Lady Henry discovered it--after this
precarious truce between them had just been patched up!

Julie made a step towards the door as though to recall the butler, then
stopped herself. The thought that in an hour's time Harry Warkworth
might be within a few yards of her, and she not permitted to see him,
worked intolerably in heart and brain, dulling the shrewd intelligence
by which she was ordinarily governed. She was conscious, indeed, of some
profound inner change. Life had been difficult enough before the Duchess
had said those few words to her. But since!

Suppose he had deceived her at Lady Hubert's party! Through all her
mounting passion her acute sense of character did not fail her. She
secretly knew that it was quite possible he had deceived her. But the
knowledge merely added to the sense of danger which, in this case, was
one of the elements of passion itself.

"He must have money--of course he must have money," she was saying,
feverishly, to herself. "But I'll find ways. Why should he marry
yet--for years? It would be only hampering him."

Again she paused before the mirrored wall; and again imagination evoked
upon the glass the same white and threatening image--her own near
kinswoman--the child of her mother's sister! How strange! Where was the
little gossamer creature now--in what safe haven of money and family
affection, and all the spoiling that money brings? From the climbing
paths of her own difficult and personal struggle Julie Le Breton looked
down with sore contempt on such a degenerate ease of circumstance. She
had heard it said that the mother and daughter were lingering abroad for
a time on their way home from India. Yet was the girl all the while
pining for England, thinking not of her garden, her horse, her pets, but
only of this slim young soldier who in a few minutes, perhaps, would
knock at Lady Henry's door, in quest of Aileen Moffatt's unknown,
unguessed-of cousin? These thoughts sent wild combative thrills through
Julie's pulses. She turned to one of the old French clocks. How much
longer now--till he came?

"Her ladyship would like to see you, miss."

The voice was Dixon's, and Julie turned hurriedly, recalling all her
self-possession. She climbed some steep stairs, still unmodernized, to
Lady Henry's floor. That lady slept at the back of the house, so as to
be out of noise. Her room was an old-fashioned apartment, furnished
about the year Queen Victoria came to the throne, with furniture,
chintzes, and carpet of the most approved early Victorian pattern. What
had been ugly then was dingy now; and its strong mistress, who had known
so well how to assimilate and guard the fine decorations and noble
pictures of the drawing-rooms, would not have a thing in it touched. "It
suits me," she would say, impatiently, when her stout sister-in-law
pleaded placidly for white paint and bright colors. "If it's ugly, so
am I."

Fierce, certainly, and forbidding she was on this February evening. She
lay high on her pillow, tormented by her chronic bronchitis and by
rheumatic pain, her brows drawn together, her vigorous hands clasped
before her in an evident tension, as though she only restrained herself
with difficulty from defying maid, doctor, and her own sense
of prudence.

"Well, you have dressed?" she said, sharply, as Julie Le Breton entered
her room.

"I did not get your message till I had finished dinner. And I dressed
before dinner."

Lady Henry looked her up and down, like a cat ready to pounce.

"You didn't bring me those letters to sign?"

"No, I thought you were not fit for it."

"I said they were to go to-night. Kindly bring them at once."

Julie brought them. With groans and flinchings that she could not
repress, Lady Henry read and signed them. Then she demanded to be read
to. Julie sat down, trembling. How fast the hands of Lady Henry's clock
were moving on!

Mercifully, Lady Henry was already somewhat sleepy, partly from
weakness, partly from a dose of bromide.

"I hear nothing," she said, putting out an impatient hand. "You should
raise your voice. I didn't mean you to shout, of course. Thank
you--that'll do. Good-night. Tell Hutton to keep the house as quiet as
he can. People must knock and ring, I suppose; but if all the doors are
properly shut it oughtn't to bother me. Are you going to bed?"

"I shall sit up a little to write some letters. But--I sha'n't be
late."

"Why should you be late?" said Lady Henry, tartly, as she turned away.

       *       *       *       *       *

Julie made her way down-stairs with a beating heart. All the doors were
carefully shut behind her. When she reached the hall it was already
half-past ten o'clock. She hurried to the library, the large panelled
room behind the dining-room. How bright Hutton had made it look! Up shot
her spirits. With a gay and dancing step she went from chair to chair,
arranging everything instinctively as she was accustomed to do in the
drawing-room. She made the flowers less stiff; she put on another light;
she drew one table forward and pushed its fellow back against the wall.
What a charming old room, after all! What a pity Lady Henry so seldom
used it! It was panelled in dark oak, while the drawing-room was white.
But the pictures, of which there were two or three, looked even better
here than up-stairs. That beautiful Lawrence--a "red boy" in gleaming
satin--that pair of Hoppners, fine studies in blue, why, who had ever
seen them before? And another light or two would show them still better.

A loud knock and ring. Julie held her breath. Ah! A distant voice in the
hall. She moved to the fire, and stood quietly reading an evening paper.

"Captain Warkworth would be glad if you would see him for a few minutes,
miss. He would like to ask you himself about her ladyship."

"Please ask him to come in, Hutton."

Hutton effaced himself, and the young man entered, Then Julie raised her
voice.

"Remember, please, Hutton, that I _particularly_ want to see the
Duchess."

Hutton bowed and retired. Warkworth came forward.

"What luck to find you like this!"

He threw her one look--Julie knew it to be a look of scrutiny--and then,
as she held out her hand, he stooped and kissed it.

"He wants to know that my suspicions are gone," she thought. "At any
rate, he should believe it."

"The great thing," she said, with her finger to her lip, "is that Lady
Henry should hear nothing."

She motioned her somewhat puzzled guest to a seat on one side of the
fire, and, herself, fell into another opposite. A wild vivacity was in
her face and manner.

"Isn't this amusing? Isn't the room charming? I think I should receive
very well"--she looked round her--"in my own house."

"You would receive well in a garret--a stable," he said. "But what is
the meaning of this? Explain."

"Lady Henry is ill and is gone to bed. That made her very cross--poor
Lady Henry! She thinks I, too, am in bed. But you see--you forced your
way in--didn't you?--to inquire with greater minuteness after Lady
Henry's health."

She bent towards him, her eyes dancing.

"Of course I did. Will there presently be a swarm on my heels, all
possessed with a similar eagerness, or--?"

He drew his chair, smiling, a little closer to her. She, on the
contrary, withdrew hers.

"There will, no doubt, be six or seven," she said, demurely, "who will
want personal news. But now, before they come"--her tone changed--"is
there anything to tell me?"

"Plenty," he said, drawing a letter out of his pocket. "Your writ, my
dear lady, runs as easily in the City as elsewhere." And he held up
an envelope.

She flushed.

"You have got your allotment? But I knew you would. Lady Froswick
promised."

"And a large allotment, too," he said, joyously. "I am the envy of all
my friends. Some of them have got a few shares, and have already sold
them--grumbling. I keep mine three days more on the best advice--the
price may go higher yet. But, anyway, there"--he shook the
envelope--"there it is--deliverance from debt--peace of mind for the
first time since I was a lad at school--the power of going, properly
fitted out and equipped, to Africa--_if_ I go--and not like a
beggar--all in that bit of paper, and all the work of--some one you and
I know. Fairy godmother! tell me, please, how to say a proper
thank you."

The young soldier dropped his voice. Those blue eyes which had done him
excellent service in many different parts of the globe were fixed with
brilliance on his companion; the lines of a full-lipped mouth quivered
with what seemed a boyish pleasure. The comfort of money relief was
never acknowledged more frankly or more handsomely.

Julie hurriedly repressed him. Did she feel instinctively that there are
thanks which it sometimes humiliates a man to remember, lavishly as he
may have poured them out at the moment--thanks which may easily count in
the long run, not for, but against, the donor? She rather haughtily
asked what she had done but say a chance word to Lady Froswick? The
shares had to be allotted to somebody. She was glad, of course, very
glad, if he were relieved from anxiety....

So did she free herself and him from a burdensome gratitude; and they
passed to discussing the latest chances of the Mokembe appointment. The
Staff-College Colonel was no doubt formidable; the Commander-in-Chief,
who had hitherto allowed himself to be much talked to on the subject of
young Warkworth's claims by several men in high place--General M'Gill
among them--well known in Lady Henry's drawing-room, was perhaps
inclining to the new suggestion, which was strongly supported by
important people in Egypt; he had one or two recent appointments on his
conscience not quite of the highest order, and the Staff-College man, in
addition to a fine military record, was virtue, poverty, and industry
embodied; was nobody's cousin, and would, altogether, produce a
good effect.

Could anything more be done, and fresh threads set in motion?

They bandied names a little, Julie quite as subtly and minutely informed
as the man with regard to all the sources of patronage. New devices,
fresh modes of approach revealed themselves to the woman's quick brain.
Yet she did not chatter about them; still less parade her own resources.
Only, in talking with her, dead walls seemed to give way; vistas of hope
and possibility opened in the very heart of discouragement. She found
the right word, the right jest, the right spur to invention or effort;
while all the time she was caressing and appeasing her companion's
self-love--placing it like a hot-house plant in an atmosphere of
expansion and content--with that art of hers, which, for the ambitious
and irritable man, more conscious of the kicks than of the kisses of
fortune, made conversation with her an active and delightful pleasure.

"I don't know how it is," Warkworth presently declared; "but after I
have been talking to you for ten minutes the whole world seems changed.
The sky was ink, and you have turned it rosy. But suppose it is all
mirage, and you the enchanter?"

He smiled at her--consciously, superabundantly. It was not easy to keep
quite cool with Julie Le Breton; the self-satisfaction she could excite
in the man she wished to please recoiled upon the woman offering the
incense. The flattered one was apt to be foolishly responsive.

"That is my risk," she said, with a little shrug. "If I make you
confident, and nothing comes of it--"

"I hope I shall know how to behave myself," cried Warkworth. "You see,
you hardly understand--forgive me!--your own personal effect. When
people are face to face with you, they want to please you, to say what
will please you, and then they go away, and--"

"Resolve not to be made fools of?" she said, smiling. "But isn't that
the whole art--when you're guessing what will happen--to be able to
strike the balance of half a dozen different attractions?"

"Montresor as the ocean," said Warkworth, musing, "with half a dozen
different forces tugging at him? Well, dear lady, be the moon to these
tides, while this humble mortal looks on--and hopes."

He bent forward, and across the glowing fire their eyes met. She looked
so cool, so handsome, so little yielding at that moment, that, in
addition to gratitude and nattered vanity, Warkworth was suddenly
conscious of a new stir in the blood. It begat, however, instant recoil.
Wariness!--let that be the word, both for her sake and his own. What had
he to reproach himself with so far? Nothing. He had never offered
himself as the lover, as the possible husband. They were both _esprits
faits_--they understood each other. As for little Aileen, well, whatever
had happened, or might happen, that was not his secret to give away. And
a woman in Julie Le Breton's position, and with her intelligence, knows
very well what the difficulties of her case are. Poor Julie! If she had
been Lady Henry, what a career she would have made for herself! He was
very curious as to her birth and antecedents, of which he knew little or
nothing; with him she had always avoided the subject. She was the child,
he understood, of English parents who had lived abroad; Lady Henry had
come across her by chance. But there must be something in her past to
account for this distinction, this ease with which she held her own in
what passes as the best of English society.

Julie soon found herself unwilling to meet the gaze fixed upon her. She
flushed a little and began to talk of other things.

"Everybody, surely, is unusually late. It will be annoying, indeed, if
the Duchess doesn't come."

"The Duchess is a delicious creature, but not for me," said Warkworth,
with a laugh. "She dislikes me. Ah, now then for the fray!"

For the outer bell rang loudly, and there were steps in the hall.

"Oh, Julie"--in swept a white whirlwind with the smallest white satin
shoes twinkling in front of it--"how clever of you--you naughty angel!
Aunt Flora in bed--and you down here! And I who came prepared for such a
dose of humble-pie! What a relief! Oh, how do you do?"

The last words were spoken in quite another tone, as the Duchess, for
the first time perceiving the young officer on the more shaded side of
the fireplace, extended to him a very high wrist and a very stiff hand.
Then she turned again to Julie.

"My dear, there's a small mob in the hall. Mr. Montresor--and General
Somebody--and Jacob--and Dr. Meredith with a Frenchman. Oh, and old Lord
Lackington, and Heaven knows who! Hutton told me I might come in, so I
promised to come first and reconnoitre. But what's Hutton to do? You
really must take a line. The carriages are driving up at a fine rate."

"I'll go and speak to Hutton," said Julie.

And she hurried into the hall.



IX

When Miss Le Breton reached the hall, a footman was at the outer door
reciting Lady Henry's excuses as each fresh carriage drove up; while in
the inner vestibule, which was well screened from the view of the
street, was a group of men, still in their hats and over-coats, talking
and laughing in subdued voices.

Julie Le Breton came forward. The hats were removed, and the tall,
stooping form of Montresor advanced.

"Lady Henry is _so_ sorry," said Julie, in a soft, lowered voice. "But I
am sure she would like me to give you her message and to tell you how
she is. She would not like her old friends to be alarmed. Would you come
in for a moment? There is a fire in the library. Mr. Delafield, don't
you think that would be best?... Will you tell Hutton not to let in
_anybody_ else?"

She looked at him uncertainly, as though appealing to him, as a relation
of Lady Henry's, to take the lead.

"By all means," said that young man, after perhaps a moment's
hesitation, and throwing off his coat.

"Only _please_ make no noise!" said Miss Le Breton, turning to the
group. "Lady Henry might be disturbed."

Every one came in, as it were, on tiptoe. In each face a sense of the
humor of the situation fought with the consciousness of its dangers. As
soon as Montresor saw the little Duchess by the fire, he threw up his
hands in relief.

"I breathe again," he said, greeting her with effusion. "Duchess, where
thou goest, I may go. But I feel like a boy robbing a hen-roost. Let me
introduce my friend, General Fergus. Take us both, pray, under your
protection!"

"On the contrary," said the Duchess, as she returned General Fergus's
bow, "you are both so magnificent that no one would dare to
protect you."

For they were both in uniform, and the General was resplendent with
stars and medals.

"We have been dining with royalty." said Montresor. "We want some
relaxation."

He put on his eye-glasses, looked round the room, and gently rubbed his
hands.

"How very agreeable this is! What a charming room! I never saw it
before. What are we doing here? Is it a party? Why shouldn't it be?
Meredith, have you introduced M. du Bartas to the Duchess? Ah, I see--"

For Julie Le Breton was already conversing with the distinguished
Frenchman wearing the rosette of the Legion of Honor in his button-hole,
who had followed Dr. Meredith into the room. As Montresor spoke,
however, she came forward, and in a French which was a joy to the ear,
she presented M. du Bartas, a tall, well-built Norman with a fair
mustache, first to the Duchess and then to Lord Lackington and Jacob.

"The director of the French Foreign Office," said Montresor, in an aside
to the Duchess. "He hates us like poison. But if you haven't already
asked him to dinner--I warned you last week he was coming--pray do
it at once!"

Meanwhile the Frenchman, his introductions over, looked curiously round
the room, studied its stately emptiness, the books on the walls under a
trellis-work, faintly gilt, the three fine pictures; then his eyes
passed to the tall and slender lady who had addressed him in such
perfect French, and to the little Duchess in her flutter of lace and
satin, the turn of her small neck, and the blaze of her jewels. "These
Englishwomen overdo their jewels," he thought, with distaste. "But they
overdo everything. That is a handsome fellow, by-the-way, who was with
_la petite fée_ when we arrived."

And his shrewd, small eyes travelled from Warkworth to the Duchess, his
mind the while instinctively assuming some hidden relation between them.

Meanwhile, Montresor was elaborately informing himself as to Lady Henry.

"This is the first time for twenty years that I have not found her on a
Wednesday evening," he said, with a sudden touch of feeling which became
him. "At our age, the smallest break in the old habit--"

He sighed, and then quickly threw off his depression.

"Nonsense! Next week she will be scolding us all with double energy.
Meanwhile, may we sit down, mademoiselle? Ten minutes? And, upon my
word, the very thing my soul was longing for--a cup of coffee!"

For at the moment Hutton and two footmen entered with trays containing
tea and coffee, lemonade and cakes.

"Shut the door, Hutton, _please_," Mademoiselle Le Breton implored, and
the door was shut at once.

"We mustn't, _mustn't_ make any noise!" she said, her finger on her
lip, looking first at Montresor and then at Delafield. The group
laughed, moved their spoons softly, and once more lowered their voices.

But the coffee brought a spirit of festivity. Chairs were drawn up. The
blazing fire shone out upon a semicircle of people representing just
those elements of mingled intimacy and novelty which go to make
conversation. And in five minutes Mademoiselle Le Breton was leading it
as usual. A brilliant French book had recently appeared dealing with
certain points of the Egyptian question in a manner so interesting,
supple, and apparently impartial that the attention of Europe had been
won. Its author had been formerly a prominent official of the French
Foreign Office, and was now somewhat out of favor with his countrymen.
Julie put some questions about him to M. du Bartas.

The Frenchman feeling himself among comrades worthy of his steel, and
secretly pricked by the presence of an English cabinet minister,
relinquished the half-disdainful reserve with which he had entered, and
took pains. He drew the man in question, _en silhouette_, with a hostile
touch so sure, an irony so light, that his success was instant
and great.

Lord Lackington woke up. Handsome, white-haired dreamer that he was, he
had been looking into the fire, half--smiling, more occupied, in truth,
with his own thoughts than with his companions. Delafield had brought
him in; he did not exactly know why he was there, except that he liked
Mademoiselle Le Breton, and often wondered how the deuce Lady Henry had
ever discovered such an interesting and delightful person to fill such
an uncomfortable position. But this Frenchman challenged and excited
him. He, too, began to talk French, and soon the whole room was talking
it, with an advantage to Julie Le Breton which quickly made itself
apparent. In English she was a link, a social conjunction; she eased all
difficulties, she pieced all threads. But in French her tongue was
loosened, though never beyond the point of grace, the point of delicate
adjustment to the talkers round her.

So that presently, and by insensible gradations, she was the queen of
the room. The Duchess in ecstasy pinched Jacob Delafield's wrist, and
forgetting all that she ought to have remembered, whispered,
rapturously, in his ear, "Isn't she enchanting--Julie--to-night?" That
gentleman made no answer. The Duchess, remembering, shrank back, and
spoke no more, till Jacob looked round upon her with a friendly smile
which set her tongue free again.

M. du Bartas, meanwhile, began to consider this lady in black with more
and more attention. The talk glided into a general discussion of the
Egyptian position. Those were the days before Arabi, when elements of
danger and of doubt abounded, and none knew what a month might bring
forth. With perfect tact Julie guided the conversation, so that all
difficulties, whether for the French official or the English statesman,
were avoided with a skill that no one realized till each separate rock
was safely passed. Presently Montresor looked from her to Du Bartas with
a grin. The Frenchman's eyes were round with astonishment. Julie had
been saying the lightest but the wisest things; she had been touching
incidents and personalities known only to the initiated with a
restrained gayety which often broke down into a charming shyness, which
was ready to be scared away in a moment by a tone--too serious or too
polemical--which jarred with the general key of the conversation, which
never imposed itself, and was like the ripple on a summer sea. But the
summer sea has its depths, and this modest gayety was the mark of an
intimate and first-hand knowledge.

"Ah, I see," thought Montresor, amused. "P---- has been writing to her,
the little minx. He seems to have been telling her all the secrets. I
think I'll stop it. Even she mayn't quite understand what should and
shouldn't be said before this gentleman."

So he gave the conversation a turn, and Mademoiselle Le Breton took the
hint at once. She called others to the front--it was like a change of
dancers in the ballet--while she rested, no less charming as a listener
than as a talker, her black eyes turning from one to another and radiant
with the animation of success.

But one thing--at last--she had forgotten. She had forgotten to impose
any curb upon the voices round her. The Duchess and Lord Lackington were
sparring like a couple of children, and Montresor broke in from time to
time with his loud laugh and gruff throat voice. Meredith, the
Frenchman, Warkworth, and General Fergus were discussing a grand review
which had been held the day before. Delafield had moved round to the
back of Julie's chair, and she was talking to him, while all the time
her eyes were on General Fergus and her brain was puzzling as to how she
was to secure the five minutes' talk with him she wanted. He was one of
the intimates of the Commander-in-Chief. She herself had suggested to
Montresor, of course in Lady Henry's name, that he should be brought to
Bruton Street some Wednesday evening.

Presently there was a little shifting of groups. Julie saw that
Montresor and Captain Warkworth were together by the fireplace, that the
young man with his hands held out to the blaze and his back to her was
talking eagerly, while Montresor, looking outward into the room, his
great black head bent a little towards his companion, was putting sharp
little questions from time to time, with as few words as might be. Julie
understood that an important conversation was going on--that Montresor,
whose mind various friends of hers had been endeavoring to make up for
him, was now perhaps engaged in making it up for himself.

With a quickened pulse she turned to find General Fergus beside her.
What a frank and soldierly countenance!--a little roughly cut, with a
strong mouth slightly underhung, and a dogged chin, the whole lit by
eyes that were the chosen homes of truth, humanity, and will. Presently
she discovered, as they drew their chairs a little back from the circle,
that she, too, was to be encouraged to talk about Warkworth. The General
was, of course, intimately 'acquainted with his professional record; but
there were certain additional Indian opinions--a few incidents in the
young man's earlier career, including, especially, a shooting expedition
of much daring in the very district to which the important Mokembe
mission was now to be addressed, together with some quotations from
private letters of her own, or Lady Henry's, which Julie, with her usual
skill, was able to slip into his ear, all on the assumption, delicately
maintained, that she was merely talking of a friend of Lady Henry's, as
Lady Henry herself would have talked, to much better effect, had she
been present.

The General gave her a grave and friendly attention. Few men had done
sterner or more daring feats in the field. Yet here he sat, relaxed,
courteous, kind, trusting his companions simply, as it was his instinct
to trust all women. Julie's heart beat fast. What an exciting, what an
important evening!...

Suddenly there was a voice in her ear.

"Do you know, I think we ought to clear out. It must be close on
midnight."

She looked up, startled, to see Jacob Delafield. His expression--of
doubt or discomfort--recalled her at once to the realities of her own
situation.

But before she could reply, a sound struck on her ear. She sprang to her
feet.

"What was that?" she said.

A voice was heard in the hall.

Julie Le Breton caught the chair behind her, and Delafield saw her turn
pale. But before she or he could speak again, the door of the library
was thrown open.

"Good Heavens!" said Montresor, springing to his feet. "Lady Henry!"

       *       *       *       *       *

M. du Bartas lifted astonished eyes. On the threshold of the room stood
an old lady, leaning heavily on two sticks. She was deathly pale, and
her fierce eyes blazed upon the scene before her. Within the bright,
fire-lit room the social comedy was being played at its best; but here
surely was Tragedy--or Fate. Who was she? What did it mean?

The Duchess rushed to her, and fell, of course, upon the one thing she
should not have said.

"Oh, Aunt Flora, dear Aunt Flora! But we thought you were too ill to
come down!"

"So I perceive," said Lady Henry, putting her aside. "So you, and this
lady"--she pointed a shaking finger at Julie--"have held my reception
for me. I am enormously obliged. You have also"--she looked at the
coffee-cups--"provided my guests with refreshment. I thank you. I trust
my servants have given you satisfaction.

"Gentlemen"--she turned to the rest of the company, who stood
stupefied--"I fear I cannot ask you to remain with me longer. The hour
is late, and I am--as you see--indisposed. But I trust, on some future
occasion, I may have the honor--"

She looked round upon them, challenging and defying them all.

Montresor went up to her.

"My dear old friend, let me introduce to you M. du Bartas, of the French
Foreign Office."

At this appeal to her English hospitality and her social chivalry, Lady
Henry looked grimly at the Frenchman.

"M. du Bartas, I am charmed to make your acquaintance. With your leave,
I will pursue it when I am better able to profit by it. To-morrow I will
write to you to propose another meeting--should my health allow."

"Enchanté, madame," murmured the Frenchman, more embarrassed than he had
ever been in his life. "Permettez--moi de vous faire mes plus sincères
excuses."

"Not at all, monsieur, you owe me none."

Montresor again approached her.

"Let me tell you," he said, imploringly, "how this has happened--how
innocent we all are--"

"Another time, if you please," she said, with a most cutting calm. "As I
said before, it is late. If I had been equal to entertaining you"--she
looked round upon them all--"I should not have told my butler to make my
excuses. As it is, I must beg you to allow me to bid you good-night.
Jacob, will you kindly get the Duchess her cloak? Good-night.
Good-night. As you see"--she pointed to the sticks which supported
her--"I have no hands to-night. My infirmities have need of them."

Montresor approached her again, in real and deep distress.

"Dear Lady Henry--"

"Go!" she said, under her breath, looking him in the eyes, and he turned
and went without a word. So did the Duchess, whimpering, her hand in
Delafield's arm. As she passed Julie, who stood as though turned to
stone, she made a little swaying movement towards her.

"Dear Julie!" she cried, imploringly.

But Lady Henry turned.

"You will have every opportunity to-morrow," she said. "As far as I am
concerned, Miss Le Breton will have no engagements."

Lord Lackington quietly said, "Good-night, Lady Henry," and, without
offering to shake hands, walked past her. As he came to the spot where
Julie Le Breton stood, that lady made a sudden, impetuous movement
towards him. Strange words were on her lips, a strange expression
in her eyes.

"_You_ must help me," she said, brokenly. "It is my right!"

Was that what she said? Lord Lackington looked at her in astonishment.
He did not see that Lady Henry was watching them with eagerness, leaning
heavily on her sticks, her lips parted in a keen expectancy.

Then Julie withdrew.

"I beg your pardon," she said, hurriedly. "I beg your pardon.
Good-night."

Lord Lackington hesitated. His face took a puzzled expression. Then he
held out his hand, and she placed hers in it mechanically.

"It will be all right," he whispered, kindly. "Lady Henry will soon be
herself again. Shall I tell the butler to call for some one--her maid?"

Julie shook her head, and in another moment he, too, was gone. Dr.
Meredith and General Fergus stood beside her. The General had a keen
sense of humor, and as he said good-night to this unlawful hostess,
whose plight he understood no more than his own, his mouth twitched with
repressed laughter. But Dr. Meredith did not laugh. He pressed Julie's
hand in both of his. Looking behind him, he saw that Jacob Delafield,
who had just returned from the hall, was endeavoring to appease Lady
Henry. He bent towards Julie.

"Don't deceive yourself," he said, quickly, in a low voice; "this is the
end. Remember my letter. Let me hear to-morrow."

As Dr. Meredith left the room, Julie lifted her eyes. Only Jacob
Delafield and Lady Henry were left.

Harry Warkworth, too, was gone--without a word? She looked round her
piteously. She could not remember that he had spoken--that he had bade
her farewell. A strange pang convulsed her. She scarcely heard what Lady
Henry was saying to Jacob Delafield. Yet the words were emphatic enough.

"Much obliged to you, Jacob. But when I want your advice in my household
affairs, I will ask it. You and Evelyn Crowborough have meddled a good
deal too much in them already. Good-night. Hutton will get you a cab."

And with a slight but imperious gesture, Lady Henry motioned towards the
door. Jacob hesitated, then quietly took his departure. He threw Julie a
look of anxious appeal as he went out. But she did not see it; her
troubled gaze was fixed on Lady Henry.

       *       *       *       *       *

That lady eyed her companion with composure, though by now even the old
lips were wholly blanched.

"There is really no need for any conversation between us, Miss Le
Breton," said the familiar voice. "But if there were, I am not to-night,
as you see, in a condition to say it. So--when you came up to say
good-night to me--you had determined on this adventure? You had been
good enough, I see, to rearrange my room--to give my servants
your orders."

Julie stood stonily erect. She made her dry lips answer as best they
could.

"We meant no harm," she said, coldly. "It all came about very simply. A
few people came in to inquire after you. I regret they should have
stayed talking so long."

Lady Henry smiled in contempt.

"You hardly show your usual ability by these remarks. The room you stand
in"--she glanced significantly at the lights and the chairs--"gives you
the lie. You had planned it all with Hutton, who has become your tool,
before you came to me. Don't contradict. It distresses me to hear you.
Well, now we part."

"Of course. Perhaps to-morrow you will allow me a few last words?"

"I think not. This will cost me dear," said Lady Henry, her white lips
twitching. "Say them now, mademoiselle."

"You are suffering." Julie made an uncertain step forward. "You ought to
be in bed."

"That has nothing to do with it. What was your object to-night?"

"I wished to see the Duchess--"

"It is not worth while to prevaricate. The Duchess was not your first
visitor."

Julie flushed.

"Captain Warkworth arrived first; that was a mere chance."

"It was to see him that you risked the whole affair. You have used my
house for your own intrigues."

Julie felt herself physically wavering under the lash of these
sentences. But with a great effort she walked towards the fireplace,
recovered her gloves and handkerchief, which were on the mantel-piece,
and then turned slowly to Lady Henry.

"I have done nothing in your service that I am ashamed of. On the
contrary, I have borne what no one else would have borne. I have devoted
myself to you and your interests, and you have trampled upon and
tortured me. For you I have been merely a servant, and an inferior--"

Lady Henry nodded grimly.

"It is true," she said, interrupting, "I was not able to take your
romantic view of the office of companion."

"You need only have taken a human view," said Julie, in a voice that
pierced; "I was alone, poor--worse than motherless. You might have done
what you would with me. A little indulgence, and I should have been your
devoted slave. But you chose to humiliate and crush me; and in return,
to protect myself, I, in defending myself, have been led, I admit it,
into taking liberties. There is no way out of it. I shall, of course,
leave you to-morrow morning."

"Then at last we understand each other," said Lady Henry, with a laugh.
"Good-night, Miss Le Breton."

She moved heavily on her sticks. Julie stood aside to let her pass. One
of the sticks slipped a little on the polished floor. Julie, with a cry,
ran forward, but Lady Henry fiercely motioned her aside.

"Don't touch me! Don't come near me!"

She paused a moment to recover breath and balance. Then she resumed her
difficult walk. Julie followed her.

"Kindly put out the electric lights," said Lady Henry, and Julie obeyed.

They entered the hall in which one little light was burning. Lady Henry,
with great difficulty, and panting, began to pull herself up the stairs.

"Oh, _do_ let me help you!" said Julie, in an agony. "You will kill
yourself. Let me at least call Dixon."

"You will do nothing of the kind," said Lady Henry, indomitable, though
tortured by weakness and rheumatism. "Dixon is in my room, where I bade
her remain. You should have thought of the consequences of this before
you embarked upon it. If I were to die in mounting these stairs, I would
not let you help me."

"Oh!" cried Julie, as though she had been struck, and hid her eyes with
her hand.

Slowly, laboriously, Lady Henry dragged herself from step to step. As
she turned the corner of the staircase, and could therefore be no longer
seen from below, some one softly opened the door of the dining-room and
entered the hall.

Julie looked round her, startled. She saw Jacob Delafield, who put his
finger to his lip.

Moved by a sudden impulse, she bowed her head on the banister of the
stairs against which she was leaning and broke into stifled sobs.

Jacob Delafield came up to her and took her hand. She felt his own
tremble, and yet its grasp was firm and supporting.

"Courage!" he said, bending over her. "Try not to give way. You will
want all your fortitude."

"Listen!" She gasped, trying vainly to control herself, and they both
listened to the sounds above them in the dark house--the labored breath,
the slow, painful step.

"Oh, she wouldn't let me help her. She said she would rather die.
Perhaps I have killed her. And I could--I could--yes, I _could_ have
loved her."

She was in an anguish of feeling--of sharp and penetrating remorse.

Jacob Delafield held her hand close in his, and when at last the sounds
had died in the distance he lifted it to his lips.

"You know that I am your friend and servant," he said, in a queer,
muffled voice. "You promised I should be."

She tried to withdraw her hand, but only feebly. Neither physically nor
mentally had she the strength to repulse him. If he had taken her in his
arms, she could hardly have resisted. But he did not attempt to conquer
more than her hand. He stood beside her, letting her feel the whole
mute, impetuous offer of his manhood--thrown at her feet to do what she
would with.

Presently, when once more she moved away, he said to her, in a whisper:

"Go to the Duchess to-morrow morning, as soon as you can get away. She
told me to say that--Hutton gave me a little note from her. Your home
must be with her till we can all settle what is best. You know very well
you have devoted friends. But now good-night. Try to sleep. Evelyn and I
will do all we can with Lady Henry."

Julie drew herself out of his hold. "Tell Evelyn I will come to see her,
at any rate, as soon as I can put my things together. Good-night."

And she, too, dragged herself up-stairs sobbing, starting at every
shadow. All her nerve and daring were gone. The thought that she must
spend yet another night under the roof of this old woman who hated her
filled her with terror. When she reached her room she locked her door
and wept for hours in a forlorn and aching misery.



X

The Duchess was in her morning-room. On the rug, in marked and, as it
seemed to her plaintive eyes, brutal contrast with the endless
photographs of her babies and women friends which crowded her
mantel-piece, stood the Duke, much out of temper. He was a powerfully
built man, some twenty years older than his wife, with a dark
complexion, enlivened by ruddy cheeks and prominent, red lips. His eyes
were of a cold, clear gray; his hair very black, thick, and wiry. An
extremely vigorous person, more than adequately aware of his own
importance, tanned and seasoned by the life of his class, by the
yachting, hunting, and shooting in which his own existence was largely
spent, slow in perception, and of a sulky temper--so one might have read
him at first sight. But these impressions only took you a certain way in
judging the character of the Duchess's husband.

As to the sulkiness, there could be no question on this particular
morning--though, indeed, his ill-humor deserved a more positive and
energetic name.

"You have got yourself and me," he was declaring, "into a most
disagreeable and unnecessary scrape. This letter of Lady Henry's"--he
held it up--"is one of the most annoying that I have received for many a
day. Lady Henry seems to me perfectly justified. You _have_ been
behaving in a quite unwarrantable way. And now you tell me that this
woman, who is the cause of it all, of whose conduct I thoroughly and
entirely disapprove, is coming to stay here, in my house, whether I like
it or not, and you expect me to be civil to her. If you persist, I shall
go down to Brackmoor till she is pleased to depart. I won't countenance
the thing at all, and, whatever you may do, _I_ shall apologize to
Lady Henry."

"There's nothing to apologize for," cried the drooping Duchess, plucking
up a little spirit. "Nobody meant any harm. Why shouldn't the old
friends go in to ask after her? Hutton--that old butler that has been
with Aunt Flora for twenty years--_asked_ us to come in."

"Then he did what he had no business to do, and he deserves to be
dismissed at a day's notice. Why, Lady Henry tells me that it was a
regular party--that the room was all arranged for it by that most
audacious young woman--that the servants were ordered about--that it
lasted till nearly midnight, and that the noise you all made positively
woke Lady Henry out of her sleep. Really, Evelyn, that you should have
been mixed up in such an affair is more unpalatable to me than I can
find words to describe." And he paced, fuming, up and down before her.

"Anybody else than Aunt Flora would have laughed," said the Duchess,
defiantly. "And I declare, Freddie, I won't be scolded in such a tone.
Besides, if you only knew--"

She threw back her head and looked at him, her cheeks flushed, her lips
quivering with a secret that, once out, would perhaps silence him at
once--would, at any rate, as children do when they give a shake to their
spillikins, open up a number of new chances in the game.

"If I only knew what?"

The Duchess pulled at the hair of the little spitz on her lap without
replying.

"What is there to know that I don't know?" insisted the Duke. "Something
that makes the matter still worse, I suppose?"

"Well, that depends," said the Duchess, reflectively. A gleam of
mischief had slipped into her face, though for a moment the tears had
not been far off.

The Duke looked at his watch.

"Don't keep me here guessing riddles longer than you can help," he said,
impatiently. "I have an appointment in the City at twelve, and I want to
discuss with you the letter that must be written to Lady Henry."

"That's your affair," said the Duchess. "I haven't made up my mind yet
whether I mean to write at all. And as for the riddle, Freddie, you've
seen Miss Le Breton?"

"Once. I thought her a very pretentious person," said the Duke, stiffly.

"I know--you didn't get on. But, Freddie, didn't she remind you of
somebody?"

The Duchess was growing excited. Suddenly she jumped up; the little
spitz rolled off her lap; she ran to her husband and took him by the
fronts of his coat.

"Freddie, you'll be very much astonished." And suddenly releasing him,
she began to search among the photographs on the mantel-piece. "Freddie,
you know who that is?" She held up a picture.

"Of course I know. What on earth has that got to do with the subject we
have been discussing?"

"Well, it has a good deal to do with it," said the Duchess, slowly.
"That's my uncle, George Chantrey, isn't it, Lord Lackington's second
son, who married mamma's sister? Well--oh, you won't like it, Freddie,
but you've got to know--that's--Julie's uncle, too!"

"What in the name of fortune do you mean?" said the Duke, staring at
her.

His wife again caught him by the coat, and, so imprisoning him, she
poured out her story very fast, very incoherently, and with a very
evident uncertainty as to what its effect might be.

And indeed the effect was by no means easy to determine. The Duke was
first incredulous, then bewildered by the very mixed facts which she
poured out upon him. He tried to cross-examine her _en route_, but he
gained little by that; she only shook him a little, insisting the more
vehemently on telling the story her own way. At last their two
impatiences had nearly come to a dead-lock. But the Duke managed to free
himself physically, and so regained a little freedom of mind.

"Well, upon my word," he said, as he resumed his march up and
down--"upon my word!" Then, as he stood still before her, "You say she
is Marriott Dalrymple's daughter?"

"And Lord Lackington's granddaughter." said the Duchess, panting a
little from her exertions. "And, oh, what a blind bat you were not to
see it at once--from the likeness!"

"As if one had any right to infer such a thing from a likeness!" said
the Duke, angrily. "Really, Evelyn, your talk is most--most unbecoming.
It seems to me that Mademoiselle Le Breton has already done you harm.
All that you have told me, supposing it to be true--oh, of course, I
know you believe it to be true--only makes me"--he stiffened his
back--"the more determined to break off the connection between her and
you. A woman of such antecedents is not a fit companion for my wife,
independently of the fact that she seems to be, in herself, an
intriguing and dangerous character."

"How could she help her antecedents?" cried the Duchess.

"I didn't say she could help them. But if they are what you say, she
ought--well, she ought to be all the more careful to live in a modest
and retired way, instead of, as I understand, making herself the rival
of Lady Henry. I never heard anything so preposterous--so--so indecent!
She shows no proper sense, and, as for you, I deeply regret you should
have been brought into any contact with such a disgraceful story."

"Freddie!" The Duchess went into a helpless, half-hysterical fit of
laughter.

But the Duke merely expanded, as it seemed, still further--to his utmost
height and bulk. "Oh, dear," thought the Duchess, in despair, "now he is
going to be like his mother!" Her strictly Evangelical mother-in-law,
with whom the Duke had made his bachelor home for many years, had been
the scourge of her early married life; and though for Freddie's sake she
had shed a few tears over her death, eighteen months before this date,
the tears--as indeed the Duke had thought at the time--had been only too
quickly dried.

There could be no question about it, the Duke was painfully like his
mother as he replied:

"I fear that your education, Evelyn, has led you to take such things far
more lightly than you ought. I am old-fashioned. Illegitimacy with me
_does_ carry a stigma, and the sins of the fathers _are_ visited upon
the children. At any rate, we who occupy a prominent social place have
no right to do anything which may lead others to think lightly of God's
law. I am sorry to speak plainly, Evelyn. I dare say you don't like
these sentiments, but you know, at least, that I am quite honest in
expressing them."

The Duke turned to her, not without dignity. He was and had been from
his boyhood a person of irreproachable morals--earnest and religious
according to his lights, a good son, husband, and father. His wife
looked at him with mingled feelings.

"Well, all I know is," she said, passionately beating her little foot on
the carpet before her, "that, by all accounts, the only thing to do with
Colonel Delaney was to run away from him."

The Duke shrugged his shoulders.

"You don't expect me to be much moved by a remark of that kind? As to
this lady, your story does not affect me in her favor in the smallest
degree. She has had her education; Lord Lackington gives her one hundred
pounds a year; if she is a self-respecting woman she will look after
herself. I _don't_ want to have her here, and I beg you won't invite
her. A couple of nights, perhaps--I don't mind that--but not
for longer."

"Oh, as to that, you may be very sure she won't stay here unless you're
very particularly nice to her. There'll be plenty of people
glad--enchanted--to have her! I don't care about that, but what I _do_
want is"--the Duchess looked up with calm audacity--"that you should
find her a house."

The Duke paused in his walk and surveyed his wife with amazement.

"Evelyn, are you _quite_ mad?"

"Not in the least. You have more houses than you know what to do with,
and a _great_ deal more money than anybody in the world ought to have.
If they ever do set up the guillotine at Hyde Park Corner, we shall be
among the first--we ought to be!"

"What is the good of talking nonsense like this, Evelyn?" said the Duke,
once more consulting his watch. "Let's go back to the subject of my
letter to Lady Henry."

"It's most excellent sense!" cried the Duchess, springing up. "You
_have_ more houses than you know what to do with; and you have one house
in particular--that little place at the back of Cureton Street where
Cousin Mary Leicester lived so long--which is in your hands still, I
know, for you told me so last week--which is vacant and
furnished--Cousin Mary left you the furniture, as if we hadn't got
enough!--and it would be the _very_ thing for Julie, if only you'd lend
it to her till she can turn round."

The Duchess was now standing up, confronting her lord, her hands
grasping the chair behind her, her small form alive with eagerness and
the feminine determination to get her own way, by fair means or foul.

"Cureton Street!" said the Duke, almost at the end of his tether. "And
how do you propose that this young woman is to live--in Cureton Street,
or anywhere else?"

"She means to write," said the Duchess, shortly. "Dr. Meredith has
promised her work."

"Sheer lunacy! In six months time you'd have to step in and pay all her
bills."

"I should like to see anybody dare to propose to Julie to pay her
bills!" cried the Duchess, with scorn. "You see, the great pity is,
Freddie, that you don't know anything at all about her. But that
house--wasn't it made out of a stable? It has got six rooms, I
know--three bedrooms up-stairs, and two sitting-rooms and a kitchen
below. With one good maid and a boy Julie could be perfectly
comfortable. She would earn four hundred pounds--Dr. Meredith has
promised her--she has one hundred pounds a year of her own. She would
pay no rent, of course. She would have just enough to live on, poor,
dear thing! And she would be able to gather her old friends
round her when she wanted them. A cup of tea and her delightful
conversation--that's all they'd ever want."

"Oh, go on--go on!" said the Duke, throwing himself exasperated into an
arm-chair; "the ease with which you dispose of my property on behalf of
a young woman who has caused me most acute annoyance, who has embroiled
us with a near relation for whom I have a very particular respect! _Her
friends_, indeed! Lady Henry's friends, you mean. Poor Lady Henry tells
me in this letter that her circle will be completely scattered. This
mischievous woman in three years has destroyed what it has taken Lady
Henry nearly thirty to build up. Now look here, Evelyn"--the Duke sat up
and slapped his knee--"as to this Cureton Street plan, I will do nothing
of the kind. You may have Miss Le Breton here for two or three nights if
you like--I shall probably go down to the country--and, of course, I
have no objection to make if you wish to help her find another
situation--"

"Another situation!" cried the Duchess, beside herself. "Freddie, you
really are impossible! Do you understand that I regard Julie Le Breton
as _my relation_, whatever you may say--that I love her dearly--that
there are fifty people with money and influence ready to help her if you
won't, because she is one of the most charming and distinguished women
in London--that you ought to be _proud_ to do her a service--that I want
you to have the _honor_ of it--there! And if you won't do this little
favor for me--when I ask and beg it of you--I'll make you remember it
for a very long time to come--you may be sure of that!"

And his wife turned upon him as an image of war, her fair hair ruffling
about her ears, her cheeks and eyes brilliant with anger--and
something more.

The Duke rose in silent ferocity and sought for some letters which he
had left on the mantel-piece.

"I had better leave you to come to your senses by yourself, and as
quickly as possible," he said, as he put them into his pockets. "No good
can come of any more discussion of this sort."

The Duchess said nothing. She looked out of the window busily, and bit
her lip. Her silence served her better than her speech, for suddenly the
Duke looked round, hesitated, threw down a book he carried, walked up to
her, and took her in his arms.

"You are a very foolish child," he declared, as he held her by main
force and kissed away her tears. "You make me lose my temper--and waste
my time--for nothing."

"Not at all," said the sobbing Duchess, trying to push herself away, and
denying him, as best she could, her soft, flushed face. "You don't, or
you won't, understand! I was--I was very fond of Uncle George Chantrey.
_He_ would have helped Julie if he were alive. And as for you, you're
Lord Lackington's godson, and you're always preaching what he's done for
the army, and what the nation owes him--and--and--"

"Does he know?" said the Duke, abruptly, marvelling at the irrelevance
of these remarks.

"No, not a word. Only six people in London know--Aunt Flora, Sir Wilfrid
Bury"--the Duke made an exclamation--"Mr. Montresor, Jacob, you, and I."

"Jacob!" said the Duke. "What's he got to do with it?"

The Duchess suddenly saw her opportunity, and rushed upon it.

"Only that he's madly in love with her, that's all. And, to my
knowledge, she has refused him both last year and this. Of course,
naturally, if you won't do anything to help her, she'll probably marry
him--simply as a way out."

"Well, of all the extraordinary affairs!"

The Duke released her, and stood bewildered. The Duchess watched him in
some excitement. He was about to speak, when there was a sound in the
anteroom. They moved hastily apart. The door was thrown open, and the
footman announced, "Miss Le Breton."

       *       *       *       *       *

Julie Le Breton entered, and stood a moment on the threshold, looking,
not in embarrassment, but with a certain hesitation, at the two persons
whose conversation she had disturbed. She was pale with sleeplessness;
her look was sad and weary. But never had she been more composed, more
elegant. Her closely fitting black cloth dress; her strangely expressive
face, framed by a large hat, very simple, but worn as only the woman of
fashion knows how; her miraculous yet most graceful slenderness; the
delicacy of her hands; the natural dignity of her movements--these
things produced an immediate, though, no doubt, conflicting impression
upon the gentleman who had just been denouncing her. He bowed, with an
involuntary deference which he had not at all meant to show to Lady
Henry's insubordinate companion, and then stood frowning.

But the Duchess ran forward, and, quite heedless of her husband, threw
herself into her friend's arms.

"Oh, Julie, is there anything left of you? I hardly slept a wink for
thinking of you. What did that old--oh, I forgot--do you know my
husband? Freddie, this is my _great_ friend, Miss Le Breton."

The Duke bowed again, silently. Julie looked at him, and then, still
holding the Duchess by the hand, she approached him, a pair of very fine
and pleading eyes fixed upon his face.

"You have probably heard from Lady Henry, have you not?" she said,
addressing him. "In a note I had from her this morning she told me she
had written to you. I could not help coming to-day, because Evelyn has
been so kind. But--is it your wish that I should come here?"

The Christian name slipped out unawares, and the Duke winced at it. The
likeness to Lord Lackington--it was certainly astonishing. There ran
through his mind the memory of a visit paid long ago to his early home
by Lord Lackington and two daughters, Rose and Blanche. He, the Duke,
had then been a boy home from school. The two girls, one five or six
years older than the other, had been the life and charm of the party. He
remembered hunting with Lady Rose.

But the confusion in his mind had somehow to be mastered, and he made an
effort.

"I shall be glad if my wife is able to be of any assistance to you, Miss
Le Breton," he said, coldly; "but it would not be honest if I were to
conceal my opinion--so far as I have been able to form it--that Lady
Henry has great and just cause of complaint."

"You are quite right--quite right," said Julie, almost with eagerness.
"She has, indeed."

The Duke was taken by surprise. Imperious as he was, and stiffened by a
good many of those petty prides which the spoiled children of the world
escape so hardly, he found himself hesitating--groping for his words.

The Duchess meanwhile drew Julie impulsively towards a chair.

"Do sit down. You look so tired."

But Julie's gaze was still bent upon the Duke. She restrained her
friend's eager hand, and the Duke collected himself. _He_ brought a
chair, and Julie seated herself.

"I am deeply, deeply distressed about Lady Henry," she said, in a low
voice, by which the Duke felt himself most unwillingly penetrated. "I
don't--oh no, indeed, I don't defend last night. Only--my position has
been very difficult lately. I wanted very much to see the
Duchess--and--it was natural--wasn't it?--that the old friends should
like to be personally informed about Lady Henry's illness? But, of
course, they stayed too long; it was my fault--I ought to have
prevented it."

She paused. This stern-looking man, who stood with his back to the
mantel-piece regarding her, Philistine though he was, had yet a
straight, disinterested air, from which she shrank a little. Honestly,
she would have liked to tell him the truth. But how could she? She did
her best, and her account certainly was no more untrue than scores of
narratives of social incident which issue every day from lips the most
respected and the most veracious. As for the Duchess, she thought it the
height of candor and generosity. The only thing she could have wished,
perhaps, in her inmost heart, was that she had _not_ found Julie alone
with Harry Warkworth. But her loyal lips would have suffered torments
rather than accuse or betray her friend.

The Duke meanwhile went through various phases of opinion as Julie laid
her story before him. Perhaps he was chiefly affected by the tone of
quiet independence--as from equal to equal--in which she addressed him.
His wife's cousin by marriage; the granddaughter of an old and intimate
friend of his own family; the daughter of a man known at one time
throughout Europe, and himself amply well born--all these facts, warm,
living, and still efficacious, stood, as it were, behind this manner of
hers, prompting and endorsing it. But, good Heavens! was illegitimacy to
be as legitimacy?--to carry with it no stains and penalties? Was vice to
be virtue, or as good? The Duke rebelled.

"It is a most unfortunate affair, of that there can be no doubt," he
said, after a moment's silence, when Julie had brought her story to an
end; and then, more sternly, "I shall certainly apologize for my wife's
share in it."

"Lady Henry won't be angry with the Duchess long," said Julie Le Breton.
"As for me"--her voice sank--"my letter this morning was returned to me
unopened."

There was an uncomfortable pause; then Julie resumed, in another tone:

"But what I am now chiefly anxious to discuss is, how can we save Lady
Henry from any further pain or annoyance? She once said to me in a fit
of anger that if I left her in consequence of a quarrel, and any of her
old friends sided with me, she would never see them again."

"I know," said the Duke, sharply. "Her salon will break up. She already
foresees it."

"But why?--why?" cried Julie, in a most becoming distress. "Somehow, we
must prevent it. Unfortunately I must live in London. I have the offer
of work here--journalist's work which cannot be done in the country or
abroad. But I would do all I could to shield Lady Henry."

"What about Mr. Montresor?" said the Duke, abruptly. Montresor had been
the well-known Châteaubriand to Lady Henry's Madame Récamier for more
than a generation.

Julie turned to him with eagerness.

"Mr. Montresor wrote to me early this morning. The letter reached me at
breakfast. In Mrs. Montresor's name and his own, he asked me to stay
with them till my plans developed. He--he was kind enough to say he felt
himself partly responsible for last night."

"And you replied?" The Duke eyed her keenly.

Julie sighed and looked down.

"I begged him not to think any more of me in the matter, but to write at
once to Lady Henry. I hope he has done so."

"And so you refused--excuse these questions--Mrs. Montresor's
invitation?"

The working of the Duke's mind was revealed in his drawn and puzzled
brows.

"Certainly." The speaker looked at him with surprise. "Lady Henry would
never have forgiven that. It could not be thought of. Lord Lackington
also"--but her voice wavered.

"Yes?" said the Duchess, eagerly, throwing herself on a stool at Julie's
feet and looking up into her face.

"He, too, has written to me. He wants to help me. But--I can't let him."

The words ended in a whisper. She leaned back in her chair, and put her
handkerchief to her eyes. It was very quietly done, and very touching.
The Duchess threw a lightning glance at her husband; and then,
possessing herself of one of Julie's hands, she kissed it and
murmured over it.

"Was there ever such a situation?" thought the Duke, much shaken. "And
she has already, if Evelyn is to be believed, refused the chance--the
practical certainty--of being Duchess of Chudleigh!"

He was a man with whom a _gran rifiuto_ of this kind weighed heavily.
His moral sense exacted such things rather of other people than himself.
But, when made, he could appreciate them.

After a few turns up and down the room, he walked up to the two women.

"Miss Le Breton," he said, in a far more hurried tone than was usual to
him, "I cannot approve--and Evelyn ought not to approve--of much that
has taken place during your residence with Lady Henry. But I understand
that your post was not an easy one, and I recognize the forbearance of
your present attitude. Evelyn is much distressed about it all. On the
understanding that you will do what you can to soften this breach for
Lady Henry, I shall be, glad if you will allow me to come partially to
your assistance."

Julie looked up gravely, her eyebrows lifting. The Duke found himself
reddening as he went on.

"I have a little house near here--a little furnished house--Evelyn will
explain to you. It happens to be vacant. If you will accept a loan of
it, say for six months"--the Duchess frowned--"you will give me
pleasure. I will explain my action to Lady Henry, and endeavor to soften
her feelings."

He paused. Miss Le Breton's face was grateful, touched with emotion, but
more than hesitating.

"You are very good. But I have no claim upon you at all. And I can
support myself."

A touch of haughtiness slipped into her manner as she gently rose to her
feet. "Thank God, I did not offer her money!" thought the Duke,
strangely perturbed.

"Julie, dear Julie," implored the Duchess. "It's such a tiny little
place, and it is quite musty for want of living in. Nobody has set foot
in it but the caretaker for two years, and it would be really a kindness
to us to go and live there--wouldn't it, Freddie? And there's all the
furniture just as it was, down to the bellows and the snuffers. If you'd
only use it and take care of it; Freddie hasn't liked to sell it,
because it's all old family stuff, and he was very fond of Cousin Mary
Leicester. Oh, do say yes, Julie! They shall light the fires, and I'll
send in a few sheets and things, and you'll feel as though you'd been
there for years. Do, Julie!"

Julie shook her head.

"I came here," she said, in a voice that was still unsteady, "to ask for
advice, not favors. But it's very good of you."

And with trembling fingers she began to refasten her veil.

"Julie!--where are you going?" cried the Duchess "You're staying here."

"Staying here?" said Julie, turning round upon her. "Do you think I
should be a burden upon you, or any one?"

"But, Julie, you told Jacob you would come."

"I have come. I wanted your sympathy, and your counsel. I wished also to
confess myself to the Duke, and to point out to him how matters could be
made easier for Lady Henry."

The penitent, yet dignified, sadness of her manner and voice completed
the discomfiture--the temporary discomfiture--of the Duke.

"Miss Le Breton," he said, abruptly, coming to stand beside her, "I
remember your mother."

Julie's eyes filled. Her hand still held her veil, but it paused in its
task.

"I was a small school-boy when she stayed with us," resumed the Duke.
"She was a beautiful girl. She let me go out hunting with her. She was
very kind to me, and I thought her a kind of goddess. When I first heard
her story, years afterwards, it shocked me awfully. For her sake,
accept my offer. I don't think lightly of such actions as your
mother's--not at all. But I can't bear to think of her daughter alone
and friendless in London."

Yet even as he spoke he seemed to be listening to another person. He did
not himself understand the feelings which animated him, nor the strength
with which his recollections of Lady Rose had suddenly invaded him.

Julie leaned her arms on the mantel-piece, and hid her face. She had
turned her back to them, and they saw that she was crying softly.

The Duchess crept up to her and wound her arms round her.

"You will, Julie!--you will! Lady Henry has turned you out-of-doors at a
moment's notice. And it was a great deal my fault. You _must_ let us
help you!"

Julie did not answer, but, partially disengaging herself, and without
looking at him, she held out her hand to the Duke.

He pressed it with a cordiality that amazed him.

"That's right--that's right. Now, Evelyn, I leave you to make the
arrangements. The keys shall be here this afternoon. Miss Le Breton, of
course, stays here till things are settled. As for me, I must really be
off to my meeting. One thing, Miss Le Breton--"

"Yes."

"I think," he said, gravely, "you ought to reveal yourself to Lord
Lackington."

She shrank.

"You'll let me take my own time for that?" was her appealing reply.

"Very well--very well. We'll speak of it again."

And he hurried away. As he descended his own stairs astonishment at what
he had done rushed upon him and overwhelmed him.

"How on earth am I ever to explain the thing to Lady Henry?"

And as he went citywards in his cab, he felt much more guilty than his
wife had ever done. What _could_ have made him behave in this
extraordinary, this preposterous way? A touch of foolish
romance--immoral romance--of which he was already ashamed? Or the one
bare fact that this woman had refused Jacob Delafield?



XI

"Here it is," said the Duchess, as the carriage stopped. "Isn't it an
odd little place?"

And as she and Julie paused on the pavement, Julie looked listlessly at
her new home. It was a two-storied brick house, built about 1780. The
front door boasted a pair of Ionian columns and a classical canopy or
pediment. The windows had still the original small panes; the _mansarde_
roof, with its one dormer, was untouched. The little house had rather
deep eaves; three windows above; two, and the front door, below. It wore
a prim, old-fashioned air, a good deal softened and battered, however,
by age, and it stood at the corner of two streets, both dingily quiet,
and destined, no doubt, to be rebuilt before long in the general
rejuvenation of Mayfair.

As the Duchess had said, it occupied the site of what had once--about
1740--been the westerly end of a mews belonging to houses in Cureton
Street, long since pulled down. The space filled by these houses was now
occupied by one great mansion and its gardens. The rest of the mews had
been converted into three-story houses of a fair size, looking south,
with a back road between them and the gardens of Cureton House. But at
the southwesterly corner of what was now Heribert Street, fronting west
and quite out of line and keeping with the rest, was this curious little
place, built probably at a different date and for some special family
reason. The big planes in the Cureton House gardens came close to it and
overshadowed it; one side wall of the house, in fact, formed part of the
wall of the garden.

The Duchess, full of nervousness, ran up the steps, put in the key
herself, and threw open the door. An elderly Scotchwoman, the caretaker,
appeared from the back and stood waiting to show them over.

"Oh, Julie, perhaps it's _too_ queer and musty!" cried the Duchess,
looking round her in some dismay. "I thought, you know, it would be a
little out-of-the-way and quaint--unlike other people--just what you
ought to have. But--"

"I think it's delightful," said Julie, standing absently before a case
of stuffed birds, somewhat moth-eaten, which took up a good deal of
space in the little hall. "I love stuffed birds."

The Duchess glanced at her uneasily. "What is she thinking about?" she
wondered. But Julie roused herself.

"Why, it looks as though everything here had gone to sleep for a hundred
years," she said, gazing in astonishment at the little hall, with its
old clock, its two or three stiff hunting-pictures, its drab-painted
walls, its poker-work chest.

And the drawing-room! The caretaker had opened the windows. It was a
mild March day, and there were misty sun-gleams stealing along the lawns
of Cureton House. None entered the room itself, for its two
semi-circular windows looked north over the gardens. Yet it was not
uncheerful. Its faded curtains of blue rep, its buff walls, on which the
pictures and miniatures in their tarnished gilt frames were arranged at
intervals in stiff patterns and groups; the Italian glass, painted with
dilapidated Cupids, over the mantel-piece; the two or three Sheraton
arm-chairs and settees, covered with threadbare needle-work from the
days of "Evelina"; a carpet of old and well-preserved Brussels--blue
arabesques on a white ground; one or two pieces of old satin-wood
furniture, very fine and perfect; a heavy centre-table, its cloth
garnished with some early Victorian wool-work, and a pair of pink glass
vases; on another small table close by, of a most dainty and
spindle-legged correctness, a set of Indian chessmen under a glass
shade; and on another a collection of tiny animals, stags and dogs for
the most part, deftly "pinched" out of soft paper, also under glass, and
as perfect as when their slender limbs were first fashioned by Cousin
Mary Leicester's mother, somewhere about the year that Marie Antoinette
mounted the scaffold. These various elements, ugly and beautiful,
combined to make a general effect--clean, fastidious, frugal, and
refined--that was, in truth, full of a sort of acid charm.

"Oh, I like it! I like it so much!" cried Julie, throwing herself down
into one of the straight-backed arm-chairs and looking first round the
walls and then through the windows to the gardens outside.

"My dear," said the Duchess, flitting from one thing to another,
frowning and a little fussed, "those curtains won't do at all. I must
send some from home."

"No, no, Evelyn. Not a thing shall be changed. You shall lend it me just
as it is or not at all. What a character it has! I _taste_ the person
who lived here."

"Cousin Mary Leicester?" said the Duchess. "Well, she was rather an
oddity. She was Low Church, like my mother-in-law; but, oh, so much
nicer! Once I let her come to Grosvenor Square and speak to the servants
about going to church. The groom of the chambers said she was 'a dear
old lady, and if she were _his_ cousin he wouldn't mind her being a bit
touched,' My maid said she had no idea poke-bonnets could be so _sweet_.
It made her understand what the Queen looked like when she was young.
And none of them have ever been to church since that I can make out.
There was one very curious thing about Cousin Mary Leicester," added the
Duchess, slowly--"she had second sight. She _saw_ her old mother, in
this room, once or twice, after she had been dead for years. And she saw
Freddie once, when he was away on a long voyage--"

"Ghosts, too!" said Julie, crossing her hands before her with a little
shiver--"that completes it."

"Sixty years," said the Duchess, musing. "It was a long time--wasn't
it?--to live in this little house, and scarcely ever leave it. Oh, she
had quite a circle of her own. For many years her funny little sister
lived here, too. And there was a time, Freddie says, when there was
almost a rivalry between them and two other famous old ladies who lived
in Bruton Street--what _was_ their name? Oh, the Miss Berrys! Horace
Walpole's Miss Berrys. All sorts of famous people, I believe, have sat
in these chairs. But the Miss Berrys won."

"Not in years? Cousin Mary outlived them."

"Ah, but she was dead long before she died," said the Duchess as she
came to perch on the arm of Julie's chair, and threw her arm round her
friend's neck. "After her little sister departed this life she became a
very silent, shrivelled thing--except for her religion--and very few
people saw her. She took a fancy to me--which was odd, wasn't it, when
I'm such a worldling?--and she let me come in and out. Every morning she
read the Psalms and Lessons, with her old maid, who was just her own
age--in this very chair. And two or three times a month Freddie would
slip round and read them with her--you know Freddie's very religious.
And then she'd work at flannel petticoats for the poor, or something of
that kind, till lunch. Afterwards she'd go and read the Bible to people
in the workhouse or in hospital. When she came home, the butler brought
her the _Times_; and sometimes you'd find her by the fire, straining her
old eyes over 'a little Dante.' And she always dressed for
dinner--everything was quite smart--and her old butler served her.
Afterwards her maid played dominoes or spillikins with her--all her life
she never touched a card--and they read a chapter, and Cousin Mary
played a hymn on that funny little old piano there in the corner, and at
ten they all went to bed. Then, one morning, the maid went in to wake
her, and she saw her dear sharp nose and chin against the light, and her
hands like that, in front of her--and--well, I suppose, she'd gone to
play hymns in heaven--dear Cousin Mary! Julie, isn't it strange the kind
of lives so many of us have to lead? Julie"--the little Duchess laid her
cheek against her friend's--"do you believe in another life?"

"You forget I'm a Catholic," said Julie, smiling rather doubtfully.

"_Are_ you, Julie? I'd forgotten."

"The good nuns at Bruges took care of that."

"Do you ever go to mass?"

"Sometimes."

"Then you're not a good Catholic, Julie?"

"No," said Julie, after a pause, "not at all. But it sometimes catches
hold of me."

The old clock in the hall struck. The Duchess sprang up.

"Oh, Julie, I have got to be at Clarisse's by four. I _promised_ her I'd
go and settle about my Drawing-room dress to-day. Let's see the rest of
the house."

And they went rapidly through it. All of it was stamped with the same
character, representing, as it were, the meeting-point between an
inherited luxury and a personal asceticism. Beautiful chairs, or
cabinets transported sixty years before from one of the old Crowborough
houses in the country to this little abode, side by side with things the
cheapest and the commonest--all that Cousin Mary Leicester could ever
persuade herself to buy with her own money. For all the latter part of
her life she had been half a mystic and half a great lady, secretly
hating the luxury from which she had not the strength to free herself,
dressing ceremoniously, as the Duchess had said, for a solitary dinner,
and all the while going in sore remembrance of a Master who "had not
where to lay his head."

At any rate, there was an ample supply of household stuff for a single
woman and her maids. In the china cupboard there were still the
old-fashioned Crown Derby services, the costly cut glass, the Leeds and
Wedgewood dessert dishes that Cousin Mary Leicester had used for half a
century. The caretaker produced the keys of the iron-lined plate
cupboard, and showed its old-world contents, clean and in order.

"Why, Julie! If we'd only ordered the dinner I might have come to dine
with you to-night!" cried the Duchess, enjoying and peering into
everything like a child with its doll's house. "And the
linen--gracious!" as the doors of another cupboard were opened to her.
"But now I remember, Freddie said nothing was to be touched till he made
up his mind what to do with the little place. Why, there's everything!"

And they both looked in astonishment at the white, fragrant rows, at the
worn monogram in the corners of the sheets, at the little bags of
lavender and pot-pourri ranged along the shelves.

Suddenly Julie turned away and sat down by an open window, carrying her
eyes far from the house and its stores.

"It is too much, Evelyn," she said, sombrely. "It oppresses me. I don't
think I can live up to it."

"Julie!" and again the little Duchess came to stand caressingly beside
her. "Why, you must have sheets--and knives and forks! Why should you
get ugly new ones, when you can use Cousin Mary's? She would have loved
you to have them."

"She would have hated me with all her strength," said Miss Le Breton,
probably with much truth.

The two were silent a little. Through Julie's stormy heart there swept
longings and bitternesses inexpressible. What did she care for the
little house and all its luxuries! She was sorry that she had fettered
herself with it.... Nearly four o'clock in the afternoon, and no
letter--not a word!

"Julie," said the Duchess, softly, in her ear, "you know you can't live
here alone. I'm afraid Freddie would make a fuss."

"I've thought of that," said Julie, wearily. "But, shall we really go on
with it, Evelyn?"

The Duchess looked entreaty. Julie repented, and, drawing her friend
towards her, rested her head against the chinchilla cloak.

"I'm tired, I suppose," she said, in a low voice. "Don't think me an
ungrateful wretch. Well, there's my foster-sister and her child."

"Madame Bornier and the little cripple girl?" cried the Duchess.
"Excellent! Where are they?"

"Léonie is in the French Governesses' Home, as it happens, looking out
for a situation, and the child is in the Orthopædic Hospital. They've
been straightening her foot. It's wonderfully better, and she's nearly
ready to come out."

"Are they nice, Julie?"

"Thérèse is an angel--you must be the one thing or the other,
apparently, if you're a cripple. And as for Léonie--well, if she comes
here, nobody need be anxious about my finances. She'd count every crust
and cinder. We couldn't keep any English servant; but we could get a
Belgian one."

"But is she nice?" repeated the Duchess.

"I'm used to her," said Julie, in the same inanimate voice.

Suddenly the clock in the hall below struck four.

"Heavens!" cried the Duchess. "You don't know how Clarisse keeps you to
your time. Shall I go on, and send the carriage back for you?"

"Don't trouble about me. I should like to look round me here a little
longer."

"You'll remember that some of our fellow-criminals may look in after
five? Dr. Meredith and Lord Lackington said, as we were getting away
last night--oh, how that doorstep of Aunt Flora's burned my shoes!--that
they should come round. And Jacob is coming; he'll stay and dine. And,
Julie, I've asked Captain Warkworth to dine to-morrow night."

"Have you? That's noble of you--for you don't like him."

"I don't know him!" cried the Duchess, protesting. "If you like him--of
course it's all right. Was he--was he very agreeable last night?" she
added, slyly.

"What a word to apply to anybody or anything connected with last night!"

"Are you very sore, Julie?"

"Well, on this very day of being turned out it hurts. I wonder who is
writing Lady Henry's letters for her this afternoon?"

"I hope they are not getting written," said the Duchess, savagely; "and
that she's missing you abominably. Good-bye--_au revoir!_ If I am twenty
minutes late with Clarisse, I sha'n't get any fitting, duchess or
no duchess."

And the little creature hurried off; not so fast, however, but that she
found time to leave a number of parting instructions as to the house
with the Scotch caretaker, on her way to her carriage.

Julie rose and made her way down to the drawing-room again. The
Scotchwoman saw that she wanted to be alone and left her.

The windows were still open to the garden outside. Julie examined the
paths, the shrubberies, the great plane-trees; she strained her eyes
towards the mansion itself. But not much of it could be seen. The little
house at the corner had been carefully planted out.

What wealth it implied--that space and size, in London! Evidently the
house was still shut up. The people who owned it were now living the
same cumbrous, magnificent life in the country which they would soon
come up to live in the capital. Honors, parks, money, birth--all were
theirs, as naturally as the sun rose. Julie envied and hated the big
house and all it stood for; she flung a secret defiance at this coveted
and elegant Mayfair that lay around her, this heart of all that is
recognized, accepted, carelessly sovereign in our "materialized"
upper class.

And yet all the while she knew that it was an unreal and passing
defiance. She would not be able in truth to free herself from the
ambition to live and shine in this world of the English rich and well
born. For, after all, as she told herself with rebellious passion, it
was or ought to be her world. And yet her whole being was sore from the
experiences of these three years with Lady Henry--from those, above all,
of the preceding twenty-four hours. She wove no romance about herself.
"I should have dismissed myself long ago," she would have said,
contemptuously, to any one who could have compelled the disclosure of
her thoughts. But the long and miserable struggle of her self-love with
Lady Henry's arrogance, of her gifts with her circumstances; the
presence in this very world, where she had gained so marked a personal
success, of two clashing estimates of herself, both of which she
perfectly understood--the one exalting her, the other merely implying
the cool and secret judgment of persons who see the world as it
is--these things made a heat and poison in her blood.

She was not good enough, not desirable enough, to be the wife of the man
she loved. Here was the plain fact that stung and stung.

Jacob Delafield had thought her good enough! She still felt the pressure
of his warm, strong fingers, the touch of his kiss upon her hand. What a
paradox was she living in! The Duchess might well ask: why, indeed, had
she refused Jacob Delafield--that first time? As to the second refusal,
that needed no explanation, at least for herself. When, upon that winter
day, now some six weeks past, which had beheld Lady Henry more than
commonly tyrannical, and her companion more than commonly weary and
rebellious, Delafield's stammered words--as he and she were crossing
Grosvenor Square in the January dusk--had struck for the second time
upon her ear, she was already under Warkworth's charm. But before--the
first time? She had come to Lady Henry firmly determined to marry as
soon and as well as she could--to throw off the slur on her life--to
regularize her name and place in the world. And then the possible heir
of the Chudleighs proposes to her--and she rejects him!

It was sometimes difficult for her now to remember all the whys and
wherefores of this strange action of which she was secretly so proud.
But the explanation was in truth not far from that she had given to the
Duchess. The wild strength in her own nature had divined and shrunk from
a similar strength in Delafield's. Here, indeed, one came upon the fact
which forever differentiated her from the adventuress, had Sir Wilfrid
known. She wanted money and name; there were days when she hungered for
them. But she would not give too reckless a price for them. She was a
personality, a soul--not a vulgar woman--not merely callous or greedy.
She dreaded to be miserable; she had a thirst for happiness, and the
heart was, after all, stronger than the head.

Jacob Delafield? No! Her being contracted and shivered at the thought of
him. A will tardily developed, if all accounts of his school and college
days were true, but now, as she believed, invincible; a mystic; an
ascetic; a man under whose modest or careless or self-mocking ways she,
with her eye for character, divined the most critical instincts, and a
veracity, iron, scarcely human--a man before whom one must be always
posing at one's best--that was a personal risk too great to take for a
Julie Le Breton.

Unless, indeed, if it came to this--that one must think no more of
love--but only of power--why, then--

A ring at the door, resounding through the quiet side street. After a
minute the Scotchwoman opened the drawing-room door.

"Please, miss, is this meant for you?"

Julie took the letter in astonishment. Then through the door she saw a
man standing in the hall and recognized Captain Warkworth's
Indian servant.

"I don't understand him," said the Scotchwoman, shaking her head.

Julie went out to speak with him. The man had been sent to Crowborough
House with instructions to inquire for Miss Le Breton and deliver his
note. The groom of the chambers, misinterpreting the man's queer
English, and thinking the matter urgent--the note was marked
"immediate"--had sent him after the ladies to Heribert Street.

The man was soon feed and dismissed, and Miss Le Breton took the letter
back to the drawing-room.

So, after all, he had not failed; there on her lap was her daily letter.
Outside the scanty March sun, now just setting, was touching the garden
with gold. Had it also found its way into Julie's eyes?

Now for his explanation:

     "First, how and where are you? I called in Bruton Street at
     noon. Hutton told me you had just gone to Crowborough House.
     Kind--no, wise little Duchess! She honors herself in
     sheltering you.

     "I could not write last night--I was too uncertain, too
     anxious. All I said might have jarred. This morning came your
     note, about eleven. It was angelic to think so kindly and
     thoughtfully of a friend--angelic to write such a letter at
     such a time. You announced your flight to Crowborough House,
     but did not say when, so I crept to Bruton Street, seeing
     Lady Henry in every lamp-post, got a few clandestine words
     with Hutton, and knew, at least, what had happened to
     you--outwardly and visibly.

     "Last night did you think me a poltroon to vanish as I did?
     It was the impulse of a moment. Mr. Montresor had pulled me
     into a corner of the room, away from the rest of the party,
     nominally to look at a picture, really that I might answer a
     confidential question he had just put to me with regard to a
     disputed incident in the Afridi campaign. We were in the dark
     and partly behind a screen. Then the door opened. I confess
     the sight of Lady Henry paralyzed me. A great, murderous,
     six-foot Afridi--that would have been simple enough. But a
     woman--old and ill and furious--with that Medusa's face--no!
     My nerves suddenly failed me. What right had I in her house,
     after all? As she advanced into the room, I slipped out
     behind her. General Fergus and M. du Bartas joined me in the
     hall. We walked to Bond Street together. They were divided
     between laughter and vexation. I should have laughed--if I
     could have forgotten you.

     "But what could I have done for you, dear lady, if I had
     stayed out the storm? I left you with three or four devoted
     adherents, who had, moreover, the advantage over me of either
     relationship or old acquaintance with Lady Henry. Compared to
     them, I could have done nothing to shield you. Was it not
     best to withdraw? Yet all the way home I accused myself
     bitterly. Nor did I feel, when I reached home, that one who
     had not grasped your hand under fire had any right to rest or
     sleep. But anxiety for you, regrets for myself, took care of
     that; I got my deserts.

     "After all, when the pricks and pains of this great wrench
     are over, shall we not all acknowledge that it is best the
     crash should have come? You have suffered and borne too much.
     Now we shall see you expand in a freer and happier life. The
     Duchess has asked me to dinner to-morrow--the note has just
     arrived--so that I shall soon have the chance of hearing from
     you some of those details I so much want to know. But before
     then you will write?

     "As for me, I am full of alternate hopes and fears. General
     Fergus, as we walked home, was rather silent and bearish--I
     could not flatter myself that he had any friendly intentions
     towards me in his mind. But Montresor was more than kind, and
     gave me some fresh opportunities of which I was very glad to
     avail myself. Well, we shall know soon.

     "You told me once that if, or when, this happened, you would
     turn to your pen, and that Dr. Meredith would find you
     openings. That is not to be regretted, I think. You have
     great gifts, which will bring you pleasure in the using. I
     have got a good deal of pleasure out of my small ones. Did
     you know that once, long ago, when I was stationed at
     Gibraltar, I wrote a military novel?

     "No, I don't pity you because you will need to turn your
     intellect to account. You will be free, and mistress of your
     fate. That, for those who, like you and me, are the 'children
     of their works,' as the Spaniards say, is much.

     "Dear friend--kind, persecuted friend!--I thought of you in
     the watches of the night--I think of you this morning. Let me
     soon have news of you."

Julie put the letter down upon her knee. Her face stiffened. Nothing
that she had ever received from him yet had rung so false.

Grief? Complaint? No! Just a calm grasp of the game--a quick playing of
the pieces--so long as the game was there to play. If he was appointed
to this mission, in two or three weeks he would be gone--to the heart of
Africa. If not--

Anyway, two or three weeks were hers. Her mind seemed to settle and
steady itself.

She got up and went once more carefully through the house, giving her
attention to it. Yes, the whole had character and a kind of charm. The
little place would make, no doubt, an interesting and distinguished
background for the life she meant to put into it. She would move in at
once--in three days at most. Ways and means were for the moment not
difficult. During her life with Lady Henry she had saved the whole of
her own small _rentes_. Three hundred pounds lay ready to her hand in
an investment easily realized. And she would begin to earn at once.

Thérèse--that should be her room--the cheerful, blue-papered room with
the south window. Julie felt a strange rush of feeling as she thought of
it. How curious that these two--Léonie and little Thérèse--should be
thus brought back into her life! For she had no doubt whatever that they
would accept with eagerness what she had to offer. Her foster-sister had
married a school-master in one of the Communal schools of Bruges while
Julie was still a girl at the convent. Léonie's lame child had been much
with her grandmother, old Madame Le Breton. To Julie she had been at
first unwelcome and repugnant. Then some quality in the frail creature
had unlocked the girl's sealed and often sullen heart.

While she had been living with Lady Henry, these two, the mother and
child, had been also in London; the mother, now a widow, earning her
bread as an inferior kind of French governess, the child boarded out
with various persons, and generally for long periods of the year in
hospital or convalescent home. To visit her in her white hospital
bed--to bring her toys and flowers, or merely kisses and chat--had been,
during these years, the only work of charity on Julie's part which had
been wholly secret, disinterested, and constant.



XII

It was a somewhat depressed company that found its straggling way into
the Duchess's drawing-room that evening between tea and dinner.

Miss Le Breton did not appear at tea. The Duchess believed that, after
her inspection of the house in Heribert Street, Julie had gone on to
Bloomsbury to find Madame Bornier. Jacob Delafield was there, not much
inclined to talk, even as Julie's champion. And, one by one, Lady
Henry's oldest _habitués_, the "criminals" of the night before,
dropped in.

Dr. Meredith arrived with a portfolio containing what seemed to be
proof-sheets.

"Miss Le Breton not here?" he said, as he looked round him.

The Duchess explained that she might be in presently. The great man sat
down, his portfolio carefully placed beside him, and drank his tea under
what seemed a cloud of preoccupation.

Then appeared Lord Lackington and Sir Wilfrid Bury. Montresor had sent a
note from the House to say that if the debate would let him he would
dash up to Grosvenor Square for some dinner, but could only stay
an hour.

"Well, here we are again--the worst of us!" said the Duchess, presently,
with a sigh of bravado, as she handed Lord Lackington his cup of tea
and sank back in her chair to enjoy her own.

"Speak for yourselves, please," said Sir Wilfrid's soft, smiling voice,
as he daintily relieved his mustache of some of the Duchess's cream.

"Oh, that's all very well," said the Duchess, throwing up a hand in mock
annoyance; "but why weren't you there?"

"I knew better."

"The people who keep out of scrapes are not the people one loves," was
the Duchess's peevish reply.

"Let him alone," said Lord Lackington, coming for some more tea-cake.
"He will get his deserts. Next Wednesday he will be _tête-à-tête_ with
Lady Henry."

"Lady Henry is going to Torquay to-morrow," said Sir Wilfrid, quietly.

"Ah!"

There was a general chorus of interrogation, amid which the Duchess made
herself heard.

"Then you've seen her?"

"To-day, for twenty minutes--all she was able to bear. She was ill
yesterday. She is naturally worse to-day. As to her state of mind--"

The circle of faces drew eagerly nearer.

"Oh, it's war," said Sir Wilfrid, nodding--"undoubtedly war--upon the
Cave--if there is a Cave."

"Well, poor things, we must have something to shelter us!" cried the
Duchess. "The Cave is being aired to-day."

The interrogating faces turned her way. The Duchess explained the
situation, and drew the house in Heribert Street--with its Cyclops-eye
of a dormer window, and its Ionian columns--on the tea-cloth with
her nail.

"Ah," said Sir Wilfrid, crossing his knees reflectively. "Ah, that makes
it serious."

"Julie must have a place to live in," said the Duchess, stiffly.

"I suppose Lady Henry would reply that there are still a few houses in
London which do not belong to her kinsman, the Duke of Crowborough."

"Not perhaps to be had for the lending, and ready to step into at a
day's notice," said Lord Lackington, with his queer smile, like the play
of sharp sunbeams through a mist. "That's the worst of our class. The
margin between us and calamity is too wide. We risk too little. Nobody
goes to the workhouse."

Sir Wilfrid looked at him curiously. "Do I catch your meaning?" he said,
dropping his voice; "is it that if there had been no Duchess, and no
Heribert Street, Miss Le Breton would have managed to put up with
Lady Henry?"

Lord Lackington smiled again. "I think it probable.... As it is,
however, we are all the gainers. We shall now see Miss Julie at her ease
and ours."

"You have been for some time acquainted with Miss Le Breton?"

"Oh, some time. I don't exactly remember. Lady Henry, of course, is an
old friend of mine, as she is of yours. Sometimes she is rude to me.
Then I stay away. But I always go back. She and I can discuss things and
people that nobody else recollects--no, as far as that's concerned,
you're not in it, Bury. Only this winter, somehow, I have often gone
round to see Lady Henry, and have found Miss Le Breton instead so
attractive--"

"Precisely," said Sir Wilfrid, laughing; "the whole case in a nutshell."

"What puzzles me," continued his companion, in a musing voice, "is how
she can be so English as she is--with her foreign bringing up. She has a
most extraordinary instinct for people--people in London--and their
relations. I have never known her make a mistake. Yet it is only five
years since she began to come to England at all; and she has lived but
three with Lady Henry. It was clear, I thought, that neither she nor
Lady Henry wished to be questioned. But, do you, for instance--I have no
doubt Lady Henry tells you more than she tells me--do you know anything
of Mademoiselle Julie's antecedents?"

Sir Wilfrid started. Through his mind ran the same reflection as that to
which the Duke had given expression in the morning--"_she ought to
reveal herself!_" Julie Le Breton had no right to leave this old man in
his ignorance, while those surrounding him were in the secret. Thereby
she made a spectacle of her mother's father--made herself and him the
sport of curious eyes. For who could help watching them--every movement,
every word? There was a kind of indelicacy in it.

His reply was rather hesitating. "Yes, I happen to know something. But I
feel sure Miss Le Breton would prefer to tell you herself. Ask her.
While she was with Lady Henry there were reasons for silence--"

"But, of course, I'll ask her," said his companion, eagerly, "if you
suppose that I may. A more hungry curiosity was never raised in a human
breast than in mine with regard to this dear lady. So charming,
handsome, and well bred--and so forlorn! That's the paradox of it. The
personality presupposes a _milieu_--else how produce it? And there is no
_milieu_, save this little circle she has made for herself through Lady
Henry.... Ah, and you think I may ask her? I will--that's flat--I will!"

And the old man gleefully rubbed his hands, face and form full of the
vivacity of his imperishable youth.

"Choose your time and place," said Sir Wilfrid, hastily. "There are very
sad and tragic circumstances--"

Lord Lackington looked at him and nodded gayly, as much as to say, "You
distrust me with the sex? Me, who have had the whip-hand of them since
my cradle!"

Suddenly the Duchess interrupted. "Sir Wilfrid, you have seen Lady
Henry; which did she mind most--the coming-in or the coffee?"

Bury returned, smiling, to the tea-table.

"The coming-in would have been nothing if it had led quickly to the
going-out. It was the coffee that ruined you."

"I see," said the Duchess, pouting--"it meant that it was possible for
us to enjoy ourselves without Lady Henry. That was the offence."

"Precisely. It showed that you _were_ enjoying yourselves. Otherwise
there would have been no lingering, and no coffee."

"I never knew coffee so fatal before," sighed the Duchess. "And now"--it
was evident that she shrank from the answer to her own question--"she is
really irreconcilable?"

"Absolutely. Let me beg you to take it for granted."

"She won't see any of us--not me?"

Sir Wilfrid hesitated.

"Make the Duke your ambassador."

The Duchess laughed, and flushed a little.

"And Mr. Montresor?"

"Ah," said Sir Wilfrid in another tone, "that's not to be lightly spoken
of."

"You don't mean--"

"How many years has that lasted?" said Sir Wilfrid, meditatively.

"Thirty, I think--if not more. It was Lady Henry who told him of his
son's death, when his wife daren't do it."

There was a silence. Montresor had lost his only son, a subaltern in the
Lancers, in the action of Alumbagh, on the way to the relief of Lucknow.

Then the Duchess broke out:

"I know that you think in your heart of hearts that Julie has been in
fault, and that we have all behaved abominably!"

"My dear lady," said Sir Wilfrid, after a moment, "in Persia we believe
in fate; I have brought the trick home."

"Yes, yes, that's it!" exclaimed Lord Lackington--it! When Lady Henry
wanted a companion--and fate brought her Miss Le Breton--"

"Last night's coffee was already drunk," put in Sir Wilfrid.

Meredith's voice, raised and a trifle harsh, made itself heard.

"Why you should dignify an ugly jealousy by fine words I don't know. For
some women--women like our old friend--gratitude is hard. That is the
moral of this tale."

"The only one?" said Sir Wilfrid, not without a mocking twist of the
lip.

"The only one that matters. Lady Henry had found, or might have found, a
daughter--"

"I understand she bargained for a companion."

"Very well. Then she stands upon her foolish rights, and loses both
daughter and companion. At seventy, life doesn't forgive you a blunder
of that kind."

Sir Wilfrid silently shook his head. Meredith threw back his blanched
mane of hair, his deep eyes kindling under the implied contradiction.

"I am an old comrade of Lady Henry's," he said, quickly. "My record,
you'll find, comes next to yours, Bury. But if Lady Henry is determined
to make a quarrel of this, she must make it. I regret nothing."

"What madness has seized upon all these people?" thought Bury, as he
withdrew from the discussion. The fire, the unwonted fire, in Meredith's
speech and aspect, amazed him. From the corner to which he had retreated
he studied the face of the journalist. It was a face subtly and strongly
lined by much living--of the intellectual, however, rather than the
physical sort; breathing now a studious dignity, the effect of the broad
sweep of brow under the high-peaked lines of grizzled hair, and now
broken, tempestuous, scornful, changing with the pliancy of an actor.
The head was sunk a little in the shoulders, as though dragged back by
its own weight. The form which it commanded had the movements of a man
no less accustomed to rule in his own sphere than Montresor himself.

To Sir Wilfrid the famous editor was still personally mysterious, after
many years of intermittent acquaintance. He was apparently unmarried; or
was there perhaps a wife, picked up in a previous state of existence,
and hidden away with her offspring at Clapham or Hornsey or Peckham?
Bury could remember, years before, a dowdy old sister, to whom Lady
Henry had been on occasion formally polite. Otherwise, nothing. What
were the great man's origins and antecedents--his family, school,
university? Sir Wilfrid did not know; he did not believe that any one
knew. An amazing mastery of the German, and, it was said, the Russian
tongues, suggested a foreign education; but neither on this ground nor
any other connected with his personal history did Meredith encourage the
inquirer. It was often reported that he was of Jewish descent, and there
were certain traits, both of feature and character, that lent support to
the notion. If so, the strain was that of Heine or Disraeli, not the
strain of Commerce.

At any rate, he was one of the most powerful men of his day--the owner,
through _The New Rambler_, of an influence which now for some fifteen
years had ranked among the forces to be reckoned with. A man in whom
politics assumed a tinge of sombre poetry; a man of hatreds, ideals,
indignations, yet of habitually sober speech. As to passions, Sir
Wilfrid could have sworn that, wife or no wife, the man who could show
that significance of mouth and eye had not gone through life without
knowing the stress and shock of them.

Was he, too, beguiled by this woman?--_he, too?_ For a little behind
him, beside the Duchess, sat Jacob Delafield; and, during his painful
interview that day with Lady Henry, Sir Wilfrid had been informed of
several things with regard to Jacob Delafield he had not known before.
So she had refused him--this lady who was now the heart of this
whirlwind? Permanently? Lady Henry had poured scorn on the notion. She
was merely sure of him; could keep him in a string to play with as she
chose. Meanwhile the handsome soldier was metal more attractive. Sir
Wilfrid reflected, with an inward shrug, that, once let a woman give
herself to such a fury as possessed Lady Henry, and there did not seem
to be much to choose between her imaginings and those of the most vulgar
of her sex.

So Jacob could be played with--whistled on and whistled off as Miss Le
Breton chose? Yet his was not a face that suggested it, any more than
the face of Dr. Meredith. The young man's countenance was gradually
changing its aspect for Sir Wilfrid, in a somewhat singular way, as old
impressions of his character died away and new ones emerged. The face,
now, often recalled to Bury a portrait by some Holbeinesque master,
which he had seen once in the Basle Museum and never forgotten. A large,
thin-lipped mouth that, without weakness, suggested patience; the long
chin of a man of will; nose, bluntly cut at the tip, yet in the nostril
and bridge most delicate; grayish eyes, with a veil of reverie drawn, as
it were, momentarily across them, and showing behind the veil a kind of
stern sweetness; fair hair low on the brow, which was heavy, and made a
massive shelter for the eyes. So looked the young German who had perhaps
heard Melanchthon; so, in this middle nineteenth century, looked Jacob
Delafield. No, anger makes obtuse; that, no doubt, was Lady Henry's
case. At any rate, in Delafield's presence her theory did not
commend itself.

But if Delafield had not echoed them, the little Duchess had received
Meredith's remarks with enthusiasm.

"Regret! No, indeed! Why should we regret anything, except that Julie
has been miserable so long? She _has_ had a bad time. Every day and all
day. Ah, you don't know--none of you. You haven't seen all the little
things as I have."

"The errands, and the dogs," said Sir William, slyly.

The Duchess threw him a glance half conscious, half resentful, and went
on:

"It has been one small torture after another. Even when a person's old
you can't bear more than a certain amount, can you? You oughtn't to. No,
let's be thankful it's all over, and Julie--our dear, delightful
Julie--who has done everybody in this room all sorts of kindnesses,
hasn't she?"

An assenting murmur ran round the circle.

"Julie's _free_! Only she's _very_ lonely. We must see to that, mustn't
we? Lady Henry can buy another companion to-morrow--she will. She has
heaps of money and heaps of friends, and she'll tell her own story to
them all. But Julie has only us. If we desert her--"

"Desert her!" said a voice in the distance, half amused, half
electrical. Bury thought it was Jacob's.

"Of course we sha'n't desert her!" cried the Duchess. "We shall rally
round her and carry her through. If Lady Henry makes herself
disagreeable, then we'll fight. If not, we'll let her cool down. Oh,
Julie, darling--here you are!"

The Duchess sprang up and caught her entering friend by the hand.

"And here are we," with a wave round the circle. "This is your
court--your St. Germain."

"So you mean me to die in exile," said Julie, with a quavering smile, as
she drew off her gloves. Then she looked at her friends. "Oh, how good
of you all to come! Lord Lackington!" She went up to him impetuously,
and he, taken by surprise, yielded his hands, which she took in both
hers. "It was foolish, I know, but you don't think it was so _bad_,
do you?"

She gazed up at him wistfully. Her lithe form seemed almost to cling to
the old man. Instinctively, Jacob, Meredith, Sir Wilfrid Bury withdrew
their eyes. The room held its breath. As for Lord Lackington, he colored
like a girl.

"No, no; a mistake, perhaps, for all of us; but more ours than yours,
mademoiselle--much more! Don't fret. Indeed, you look as if you hadn't
slept, and that mustn't be. You must think that, sooner or later, it was
bound to come. Lady Henry will soften in time, and you will know so well
how to meet her. But now we have your future to think of. Only sit down.
You mustn't look so tired. Where have you been wandering?"

And with a stately courtesy, her hand still in his, he took her to a
chair and helped her to remove her heavy cloak.

"My future!" She shivered as she dropped into her seat.

How weary and beaten-down she looked--the heroine of such a turmoil! Her
eyes travelled from face to face, shrinking--unconsciously appealing. In
the dim, soft color of the room, her white face and hands, striking
against her black dress, were strangely living and significant. They
spoke command--through weakness, through sex. For that, in spite of
intellectual distinction, was, after all, her secret. She breathed
femininity--the old common spell upon the blood.

"I don't know why you're all so kind to me," she murmured. "Let me
disappear. I can go into the country and earn my living there. Then I
shall be no more trouble."

Unseen himself, Sir Wilfrid surveyed her. He thought her a consummate
actress, and revelled in each new phase.

The Duchess, half laughing, half crying, began to scold her friend.
Delafield bent over Julie Le Breton's chair.

"Have you had some tea?"

The smile in his eyes provoked a faint answer in hers. While she was
declaring that she was in no need whatever of physical sustenance,
Meredith advanced with his portfolio. He looked the editor merely, and
spoke with a business-like brevity.

"I have brought the sheets of the new Shelley book, Miss Le Breton. It
is due for publication on the 22d. Kindly let me have your review within
a week. It may run to two columns--possibly even two and a half. You
will find here also the particulars of one or two other things--let me
know, please, what you will undertake."

Julie put out a languid hand for the portfolio.

"I don't think you ought to trust me."

"What do you want of her?" said Lord Lackington, briskly. "'Chatter
about Harriet?' I could write you reams of that myself. I once saw
Harriet."

"Ah!"

Meredith, with whom the Shelley cult was a deep-rooted passion, started
and looked round; then sharply repressed the eagerness on his tongue and
sat down by Miss Le Breton, with whom, in a lowered voice, he began to
discuss the points to be noticed in the sheets handed over to her. No
stronger proof could he have given of his devotion to her. Julie knew
it, and, rousing herself, she met him with a soft attention and
docility; thus tacitly relinquishing, as Bury noticed with amusement,
all talk of "disappearance."

Only with himself, he suspected, was the fair lady ill at ease. And,
indeed, it was so. Julie, by her pallor, her humility, had thrown
herself, as it were, into the arms of her friends, and each was now
vying with the other as to how best to cheer and console her. Meanwhile
her attention was really bent upon her critic--her only critic in this
assembly; and he discovered various attempts to draw him into
conversation. And when Lord Lackington, discomfited by Meredith, had
finished discharging his literary recollections upon him, Sir Wilfrid
became complaisant; Julie slipped in and held him.

Leaning her chin on both hands, she bent towards him, fixing him with
her eyes. And in spite of his antagonism he no longer felt himself
strong enough to deny that the eyes were beautiful, especially with this
tragic note in them of fatigue and pain.

"Sir Wilfrid"--she spoke in low entreaty--"you _must_ help me to prevent
any breach between Lady Henry and Mr. Montresor."

He looked at her gayly.

"I fear," he said, "you are too late. That point is settled, as I
understand from herself."

"Surely not--so soon!"

"There was an exchange of letters this morning."

"Oh, but you can prevent it--you must!" She clasped her hands.

"No," he said, slowly, "I fear you must accept it. Their relation was a
matter of old habit. Like other things old and frail, it bears shock and
disturbance badly."

She sank back in her chair, raising her hands and letting them fall with
a gesture of despair.

One little stroke of punishment--just one! Surely there was no cruelty
in that. Sir Wilfrid caught the Horatian lines dancing through his head:

     "Just oblige me and touch
       With your wand that minx Chloe--
     But don't hurt her much!"

Yet here was Jacob interposing!--Jacob, who had evidently been watching
his mild attempt at castigation, no doubt with disapproval. Lover or no
lover--what did the man expect? Under his placid exterior, Sir Wilfrid's
mind was, in truth, hot with sympathy for the old and helpless.

Delafield bent over Miss Le Breton.

"You will go and rest? Evelyn advises it."

She rose to her feet, and most of the party rose, too.

"Good-bye--good-bye," said Lord Lackington, offering her a cordial hand.
"Rest and forget. Everything blows over. And at Easter you must come to
me in the country. Blanche will be with me, and my granddaughter
Aileen, if I can tempt them away from Italy. Aileen's a little fairy;
you'd be charmed with her. Now mind, that's a promise. You must
certainly come."

The Duchess had paused in her farewell nothings with Sir Wilfrid to
observe her friend. Julie, with her eyes on the ground, murmured thanks;
and Lord Lackington, straight as a dart to-night, carrying his
seventy-five years as though they were the merest trifle, made a stately
and smiling exit. Julie looked round upon the faces left. In her own
heart she read the same judgment as in their eyes: "_The old man
must know!_"

The Duke came into the drawing-room half an hour later in quest of his
wife. He was about to leave town by a night train for the north, and his
temper was, apparently, far from good.

The Duchess was stretched on the sofa in the firelight, her hands behind
her head, dreaming. Whether it was the sight of so much ease that jarred
on the Duke's ruffled nerves or no, certain it is that he inflicted a
thorny good-bye. He had seen Lady Henry, he said, and the reality was
even worse than he had supposed. There was absolutely nothing to be said
for Miss Le Breton, and he was ashamed of himself to have been so weakly
talked over in the matter of the house. His word once given, of course,
there was an end of it--for six months. After that, Miss Le Breton must
provide for herself. Meanwhile, Lady Henry refused to receive the
Duchess, and would be some time before she forgave himself. It was all
most annoying, and he was thankful to be going away, for, Lady Rose or
no Lady Rose, he really could not have entertained the lady with
civility.

"Oh, well, never mind, Freddie," said the Duchess, springing up. "She'll
be gone before you come back, and I'll look after her."

The Duke offered a rather sulky embrace, walked to the door, and came
back.

"I really very much dislike this kind of gossip," he said, stiffly, "but
perhaps I had better say that Lady Henry believes that the affair with
Delafield was only one of several. She talks of a certain Captain
Warkworth--"

"Yes," said the Duchess, nodding. "I know; but he sha'n't have Julie."

Her smile completed the Duke's annoyance.

"What have you to do with it? I beg, Evelyn--I insist--that you leave
Miss Le Breton's love affairs alone."

"You forget, Freddie, that she is my _friend_."

The little creature fronted him, all wilfulness and breathing hard, her
small hands clasped on her breast.

With an angry exclamation the Duke departed.

       *       *       *       *       *

At half-past eight a hansom dashed up to Crowborough House. Montresor
emerged.

He found the two ladies and Jacob Delafield just beginning dinner, and
stayed with them an hour; but it was not an hour of pleasure. The great
man was tired with work and debate, depressed also by the quarrel with
his old friend. Julie did not dare to put questions, and guiltily shrank
into herself. She divined that a great price was being paid on her
behalf, and must needs bitterly ask whether anything that she could
offer or plead was worth it--bitterly suspect, also, that the query had
passed through other minds than her own.

After dinner, as Montresor rose with the Duchess to take his leave,
Julie got a word with him in the corridor.

"You will give me ten minutes' talk?" she said, lifting her pale face to
him. "You mustn't, mustn't quarrel with Lady Henry because of me."

He drew himself up, perhaps with a touch of haughtiness.

"Lady Henry could end it in a moment. Don't, I beg of you, trouble your
head about the matter. Even as an old friend, one must be allowed one's
self-respect."

"But mayn't I--"

"Nearly ten o'clock!" he cried, looking at his watch. "I must be off
this moment. So you are going to the house in Heribert Street? I
remember Lady Mary Leicester perfectly. As soon as you are settled, tell
me, and I will present myself. Meanwhile "--he smiled and bent his black
head towards her--"look in to-morrow's papers for some interesting
news."

He sprang into his hansom and was gone.

Julie went slowly up-stairs. Of course she understood. The long intrigue
had reached its goal, and within twelve hours the _Times_ would announce
the appointment of Captain Warkworth, D.S.O., to the command of the
Mokembe military mission. He would have obtained his heart's
desire--through her.

How true were those last words, perhaps only Julie knew. She looked back
upon all the manoeuvres and influences she had brought to bear--flattery
here, interest or reciprocity there, the lures of Crowborough House, the
prestige of Lady Henry's drawing-room. Wheel by wheel she had built up
her cunning machine, and the machine had worked. No doubt the last
completing touch had been given the night before. Her culminating
offence against Lady Henry--the occasion of her disgrace and
banishment--had been to Warkworth the stepping-stone of fortune.

What "gossamer girl" could have done so much? She threw back her head
proudly and heard the beating of her heart.

Lady Henry was fiercely forgotten. She opened the drawing-room door,
absorbed in a counting of the hours till she and Warkworth should meet.

Then, amid the lights and shadows of the Duchess's drawing-room, Jacob
Delafield rose and came towards her. Her exaltation dropped in a moment.
Some testing, penetrating influence seemed to breathe from this man,
which filled her with a moral discomfort, a curious restlessness. Did he
guess the nature of her feeling for Warkworth? Was he acquainted with
the efforts she had been making for the young soldier? She could not be
sure; he had never given her the smallest sign. Yet she divined that few
things escaped him where the persons who touched his feelings were
concerned. And Evelyn--the dear chatterbox--certainly suspected.

"How tired you are!" he said to her, gently. "What a day it has been for
you! Evelyn is writing letters. Let me bring you the papers--and please
don't talk."

She submitted to a sofa, to an adjusted light, to the papers on her
knee. Then Delafield withdrew and took up a book.

She could not rest, however; visions of the morrow and of Warkworth's
triumphant looks kept flashing through her. Yet all the while
Delafield's presence haunted her--she could not forget him, and
presently she addressed him.

"Mr. Delafield!"

He heard the low voice and came.

"I have never thanked you for your goodness last night. I do thank you
now--most earnestly."

"You needn't. You know very well what I would do to serve you if I
could."

"Even when you think me in the wrong?" said Julie, with a little,
hysterical laugh.

Her conscience smote her. Why provoke this intimate talk--wantonly--with
the man she had made suffer? Yet her restlessness, which was partly
nervous fatigue, drove her on.

Delafield flushed at her words.

"How have I given you cause to say that?"

"Oh, you are very transparent. One sees that you are always troubling
yourself about the right and wrong of things."

"All very well for one's self," said Delafield, trying to laugh. "I hope
I don't seem to you to be setting up as a judge of other people's right
and wrong?"

"Yes, yes, you do!" she said, passionately. Then, as he winced, "No, I
don't mean that. But you do judge--it is in your nature--and other
people feel it."

"I didn't know I was such a prig," said Delafield, humbly. "It is true I
am always puzzling over things."

Julie was silent. She was indeed secretly convinced that he no more
approved the escapade of the night before than did Sir Wilfrid Bury.
Through the whole evening she had been conscious of a watchful anxiety
and resistance on his part. Yet he had stood by her to the end--so
warmly, so faithfully.

He sat down beside her, and Julie felt a fresh pang of remorse, perhaps
of alarm. Why had she called him to her? What had they to do with each
other? But he soon reassured her. He began to talk of Meredith, and the
work before her--the important and glorious work, as he naïvely termed
it, of the writer.

And presently he turned upon her with sudden feeling.

"You accused me, just now, of judging what I have no business to judge.
If you think that I regret the severance of your relation with Lady
Henry, you are quite, quite mistaken. It has been the dream of my life
this last year to see you free--mistress of your own life. It--it made
me mad that you should be ordered about like a child--dependent upon
another person's will."

She looked at him curiously.

"I know. That revolts you always--any form of command? Evelyn tells me
that you carry it to curious lengths with your servants and laborers."

He drew back, evidently disconcerted.

"Oh, I try some experiments. They generally break down."

"You try to do without servants, Evelyn says, as much as possible."

"Well, if I do try, I don't succeed," he said, laughing. "But"--his eyes
kindled--"isn't it worth while, during a bit of one's life, to escape,
if one can, from some of the paraphernalia in which we are all
smothered? Look there! What right have I to turn my fellow-creatures
into bedizened automata like that?"

And he threw out an accusing hand towards the two powdered footmen, who
were removing the coffee-cups and making up the fire in the next room,
while the magnificent groom of the chambers stood like a statue,
receiving some orders from the Duchess.

Julie, however, showed no sympathy.

"They are only automata in the drawing-room. Down-stairs they are as
much alive as you or I."

"Well, let us put it that I prefer other kinds of luxury," said
Delafield. "However, as I appear to have none of the qualities necessary
to carry out my notions, they don't get very far."

"You would like to shake hands with the butler?" said Julie, musing. "I
knew a case of that kind. But the butler gave warning."

Delafield laughed.

"Perhaps the simpler thing would be to do without the butler."

"I am curious," she said, smiling--"very curious. Sir Wilfrid, for
instance, talks of going down to stay with you?"

"Why not? He'd come off extremely well. There's an ex-butler, and an
ex-cook of Chudleigh's settled in the village. When I have a visitor,
they come in and take possession. We live like fighting-cocks."

"So nobody knows that, in general, you live like a workman?"

Delafield looked impatient.

"Somebody seems to have been cramming Evelyn with ridiculous tales, and
she's been spreading them. I must have it out with her."

"I expect there is a good deal in them," said Julie. Then, unexpectedly,
she raised her eyes and gave him a long and rather strange look. "Why
do you dislike having servants and being waited upon so much, I wonder?
Is it--you won't be angry?--that you have such a strong will, and you do
these things to tame it?"

Delafield made a sudden movement, and Julie had no sooner spoken the
words than she regretted them.

"So you think I should have made a jolly tyrannical slave-owner?" said
Delafield, after a moment's pause.

Julie bent towards him with a charming look of appeal--almost of
penitence. "On the contrary, I think you would have been as good to your
slaves as you are to your friends."

His eyes met hers quietly.

"Thank you. That was kind of you. And as to giving orders, and getting
one's way, don't suppose I let Chudleigh's estate go to ruin! It's
only"--he hesitated--"the small personal tyrannies of every day that I'd
like to minimize. They brutalize half the fellows I know."

"You'll come to them," said Julie, absently. Then she colored, suddenly
remembering the possible dukedom that awaited him.

His brow contracted a little, as though he understood. He made no reply.
Julie, with her craving to be approved--to say what pleased--could not
leave it there.

"I wish I understood," she said, softly, after a moment, "what, or who
it was that gave you these opinions."

Getting still no answer, she must perforce meet the gray eyes bent upon
her, more expressively, perhaps, than their owner knew. "That you shall
understand," he said, after a minute, in a voice which was singularly
deep and full, "whenever you choose to ask."

Julie shrank and drew back.

"Very well," she said, trying to speak lightly. "I'll hold you to that.
Alack! I had forgotten a letter I must write."

And she pretended to write it, while Delafield buried himself in the
newspapers.



XIII

Julie's curiosity--passing and perfunctory as it was--concerning the
persons and influences that had worked upon Jacob Delafield since his
college days, was felt in good earnest by not a few of Delafield's
friends. For he was a person rich in friends, reserved as he generally
was, and crotchety as most of them thought him. The mixture of
self-evident strength and manliness in his physiognomy with something
delicate and evasive, some hindering element of reflection or doubt, was
repeated in his character. On the one side he was a robust, healthy
Etonian, who could ride, shoot, and golf like the rest of his kind, who
used the terse, slangy ways of speech of the ordinary Englishman, who
loved the land and its creatures, and had a natural hatred for a
poacher; and on another he was a man haunted by dreams and spiritual
voices, a man for whom, as he paced his tired horse homeward after a
day's run, there would rise on the grays and purples of the winter dusk
far-shining "cities of God" and visions of a better life for man. He
read much poetry, and the New Testament spoke to him imperatively,
though in no orthodox or accustomed way. Ruskin, and the earlier work of
Tolstoy, then just beginning to take hold of the English mind, had
affected his thought and imagination, as the generation before him had
been affected by Carlyle, Emerson, and George Sand.

This present phase of his life, however, was the outcome of much that
was turbulent and shapeless in his first youth. He seemed to himself to
have passed through Oxford under a kind of eclipse. All that he could
remember of two-thirds of his time there was an immoderate amount of
eating, drinking, and sleeping. A heavy animal existence, disturbed by
moments of unhappiness and remorse, or, at best, lightened by intervals
and gleams of friendship with two or three men who tried to prod him out
of his lethargy, and cherished what appeared, to himself in particular,
a strange and unreasonable liking for him. Such, to his own thinking,
had been his Oxford life, up to the last year of his residence there.

Then, when he was just making certain of an ignominious failure in the
final schools, he became more closely acquainted with one of the college
tutors, whose influence was to be the spark which should at last fire
the clay. This modest, heroic, and learned man was a paralyzed invalid,
owing to an accident in the prime of life. He had lost the use of his
lower limbs--"dead from the waist down." Yet such was the strength of
his moral and intellectual life that he had become, since the
catastrophe, one of the chief forces of his college. The invalid-chair
on which he wheeled himself, recumbent, from room to room, and from
which he gave his lectures, was, in the eyes of Oxford, a symbol not of
weakness, but of touching and triumphant victory. He gave himself no
airs of resignation or of martyrdom. He simply lived his life--except
during those crises of weakness or pain when his friends were shut
out--as though it were like any other life, save only for what he made
appear an insignificant physical limitation. Scholarship, college
business or college sports, politics and literature--his mind, at
least, was happy, strenuous, and at home in them all. To have pitied him
would have been a mere impertinence. While in his own heart, which never
grieved over himself, there were treasures of compassion for the weak,
the tempted, and the unsuccessful, which spent themselves in secret,
simple ways, unknown to his most intimate friends.

This man's personality it was which, like the branch of healing on
bitter waters, presently started in Jacob Delafield's nature obscure
processes of growth and regeneration. The originator of them knew little
of what was going on. He was Delafield's tutor for Greats, in the
ordinary college routine; Delafield took essays to him, and occasionally
lingered to talk. But they never became exactly intimate. A few
conversations of "pith and moment"; a warm shake of the hand and a keen
look of pleasure in the blue eyes of the recumbent giant when, after one
year of superhuman but belated effort, Delafield succeeded in obtaining
a second class; a little note of farewell, affectionate and regretful,
when Delafield left the university; an occasional message through a
common friend--Delafield had little more than these to look back upon,
outside the discussions of historical or philosophical subjects which
had entered into their relation as pupil and teacher.

And now the paralyzed tutor was dead, leaving behind him a volume of
papers on classical subjects, the reputation of an admirable scholar,
and the fragrance of a dear and honored name. His pupils had been many;
they counted among the most distinguished of England's youth; and all of
them owed him much. Few people thought of Delafield when the list of
them was recited; and yet, in truth, Jacob's debt was greater than any;
for he owed this man nothing less than his soul.

No doubt the period at Oxford had been rather a period of obscure
conflict than of mere idleness and degeneracy, as it had seemed to be.
But it might easily have ended in physical and moral ruin, and, as it
was--thanks to Courtenay--Delafield went out to the business of life, a
man singularly master of himself, determined to live his own life for
his own ends.

In the first place, he was conscious, like many other young men of his
time, of a strong repulsion towards the complexities and artificialities
of modern society. As in the forties, a time of social stir was rising
out of a time of stagnation. Social settlements were not yet founded,
but the experiments which led to them were beginning. Jacob looked at
the life of London, the clubs and the country-houses, the normal life of
his class, and turned from it in aversion. He thought, sometimes, of
emigrating, in search of a new heaven and a new earth, as men emigrated
in the forties.

But his mother and sister were alone in the world--his mother a somewhat
helpless being, his sister still very young and unmarried. He could not
reconcile it to his conscience to go very far from them.

He tried the bar, amid an inner revolt that only increased with time.
And the bar implied London, and the dinners and dances of London, which,
for a man of his family, the probable heir to the lands and moneys of
the Chudleighs, were naturally innumerable. He was much courted, in
spite, perhaps because, of his oddities; and it was plain to him that
with only a small exercise of those will-forces he felt accumulating
within him, most of the normal objects of ambition were within his
grasp. The English aristocratic class, as we all know, is no longer
exclusive. It mingles freely with the commoner world on apparently equal
terms. But all the while its personal and family cohesion is perhaps
greater than ever. The power of mere birth, it seemed to Jacob, was
hardly less in the England newly possessed of household suffrage than in
the England of Charles James Fox's youth, though it worked through other
channels. And for the persons in command of this power, a certain
_appareil de vie_ was necessary, taken for granted. So much income, so
many servants, such and such habits--these things imposed themselves.
Life became a soft and cushioned business, with an infinity of layers
between it and any hard reality--a round pea in a silky pod.

And he meanwhile found himself hungry to throw aside these tamed and
trite forms of existence, and to penetrate to the harsh, true, simple
things behind. His imagination and his heart turned towards the
primitive, indispensable labors on which society rests--the life of the
husbandman, the laborer, the smith, the woodman, the builder; he dreamed
the old, enchanted dream of living with nature; of becoming the brother
not of the few, but of the many. He was still reading in chambers,
however, when his first cousin, the Duke, a melancholy semi-invalid, a
widower, with an only son tuberculous almost from his birth, arrived
from abroad. Jacob was brought into new contact with him. The Duke liked
him, and offered him the agency of his Essex property. Jacob accepted,
partly that he might be quit of the law, partly that he might be in the
country and among the poor, partly for reasons, or ghosts of reasons,
unavowed even to himself. The one terror that haunted his life was the
terror of the dukedom. This poor, sickly lad, the heir, with whom he
soon made warm friends, and the silent, morbid Duke, with the face of
Charles V. at St. Just--he became, in a short time, profoundly and
pitifully attached to them. It pleased him to serve them; above all did
it please him to do all he could, and to incite others to do all they
could, to keep these two frail persons cheered and alive. His own
passionate dread lest he should suddenly find himself in their place,
gave a particular poignancy to the service he was always ready to render
them of his best.

The Duke's confidence in him had increased rapidly. Delafield was now
about to take over the charge of another of the Duke's estates, in the
Midlands, and much of the business connected with some important London
property was also coming into his hands. He had made himself a good man
of business where another's interests were concerned, and his dreams did
no harm to the Duke's revenues. He gave, indeed, a liberal direction to
the whole policy of the estate, and, as he had said to Julie, the Duke
did not forbid experiments.

As to his own money, he gave it away as wisely as he could, which is,
perhaps, not saying very much for the schemes and Quixotisms of a young
man of eight-and-twenty. At any rate, he gave it away--to his mother and
sister first, then to a variety of persons and causes. Why should he
save a penny of it? He had some money of his own, besides his income
from the Duke. It was disgusting that he should have so much, and that
it should be, apparently, so very easy for him to have indefinitely
more if he wanted it.

He lived in a small cottage, in the simplest, plainest way compatible
with his work and with the maintenance of two decently furnished rooms
for any friend who might chance to visit him. He read much and thought
much. But he was not a man of any commanding speculative or analytic
ability. It would have been hard for him to give any very clear or
logical account of himself and his deepest beliefs. Nevertheless, with
every year that passed he became a more remarkable _character_--his will
stronger, his heart gentler. In the village where he lived they wondered
at him a good deal, and often laughed at him. But if he had left them,
certainly the children and the old people would have felt as though the
sun had gone out.

In London he showed little or nothing of his peculiar ways and pursuits;
was, in fact, as far as anybody knew--outside half a dozen friends--just
the ordinary, well-disposed young man, engaged in a business that every
one understood. With Lady Henry, his relations, apart from his sympathy
with Julie Le Breton, had been for some time rather difficult. She made
gratitude hard for one of the most grateful of men. When the
circumstances of the Hubert Delafields had been much straitened, after
Lord Hubert's death, Lady Henry had come to their aid, and had, in
particular, spent fifteen hundred pounds on Jacob's school and college
education. But there are those who can make a gift burn into the bones
of those who receive it. Jacob had now saved nearly the whole sum, and
was about to repay her. Meanwhile his obligation, his relationship, and
her age made it natural, or rather imperative, that he should be often
in her house; but when he was with her the touch of arrogant brutality
in her nature, especially towards servants and dependants, roused him
almost to fury. She knew it, and would often exercise her rough tongue
merely for the pleasure of tormenting him.

No sooner, therefore, had he come to know the fragile, distinguished
creature whom Lady Henry had brought back with her one autumn as her
companion than his sympathies were instantly excited, first by the mere
fact that she was Lady Henry's dependant, and then by the confidence, as
to her sad story and strange position, which she presently reposed in
him and his cousin Evelyn. On one or two occasions, very early in his
acquaintance with her, he was a witness of some small tyranny of Lady
Henry's towards her. He saw the shrinking of the proud nature, and the
pain thrilled through his own nerves as though the lash had touched
himself. Presently it became a joy to him whenever he was in town to
conspire with Evelyn Crowborough for her pleasure and relief. It was the
first time he had ever conspired, and it gave him sometimes a slight
shock to see how readily these two charming women lent themselves, on
occasion, to devices that had the aspect of intrigue, and involved a
good deal of what, in his own case, he would have roundly dubbed lying.
And, in truth, if he had known, they did not find him a convenient ally,
and he was by no means always in their confidence.

Once, about six months after Julie's arrival in Bruton Street, he met
her on a spring morning crossing Kensington Gardens with the dogs. She
looked startlingly white and ill, and when he spoke to her with eager
sympathy her mouth quivered and her dark eyes clouded with tears. The
sight produced an extraordinary effect on a man large-hearted and
simple, for whom women still moved in an atmosphere of romance. His
heart leaped within him as she let herself be talked with and comforted.
And when her delicate hand rested in his as they said good-bye, he was
conscious of feelings--wild, tumultuous feelings--to which, in his walk
homeward through the spring glades of the park, he gave
impetuous course.

Romantic, indeed, the position was, for romance rests on contrast.
Jacob, who knew Julie Le Breton's secret, was thrilled or moved by the
contrasts of her existence at every turn. Her success and her
subjection; the place in Lady Henry's circle which Lady Henry had, in
the first instance, herself forced her to take, contrasted with the
shifts and evasions, the poor, tortuous ways by which, alas! she must
often escape Lady Henry's later jealousy; her intellectual strength and
her most feminine weaknesses; these things stirred and kept up in Jacob
a warm and passionate pity. The more clearly he saw the specks in her
glory, the more vividly did she appear to him a princess in distress,
bound by physical or moral fetters not of her own making. None of the
well-born, well-trained damsels who had been freely thrown across his
path had so far beguiled him in the least. Only this woman of doubtful
birth and antecedents, lonely, sad, and enslaved amid what people called
her social triumphs, stole into his heart--beautified by what he chose
to consider her misfortunes, and made none the less attractive by the
fact that as he pursued, she retreated; as he pressed, she grew cold.

When, indeed, after their friendship had lasted about a year, he
proposed to her and she refused him, his passion, instead of cooling,
redoubled. It never occurred to him to think that she had done a strange
thing from the worldly point of view--that would have involved an
appreciation of himself, as a prize in the marriage market, he would
have loathed to make. But he was one of the men for whom resistance
enhances the value of what they desire, and secretly he said to himself,
"Persevere!" When he was repelled or puzzled by certain aspects of her
character, he would say to himself:

"It is because she is alone and miserable. Women are not meant to be
alone. What soft, helpless creatures they are!--even when intellectually
they fly far ahead of us. If she would but put her hand in mine I would
so serve and worship her, she would have no need for these strange
things she does--the doublings and ruses of the persecuted." Thus the
touches of falsity that repelled Wilfrid Bury were to Delafield's
passion merely the stains of rough travel on a fair garment.

But she refused him, and for another year he said no more. Then, as
things got worse and worse for her, he spoke again--ambiguously--a word
or two, thrown out to sound the waters. Her manner of silencing him on
this second occasion was not what it had been before. His suspicions
were aroused, and a few days later he divined the Warkworth affair.

When Sir Wilfrid Bury spoke to him of the young officer's relations to
Mademoiselle Le Breton, Delafield's stiff defence of Julie's
prerogatives in the matter masked the fact that he had just gone through
a week of suffering, wrestling his heart down in country lanes; a week
which had brought him to somewhat curious results.

In the first place, as with Sir Wilfrid, he stood up stoutly for her
rights. If she chose to attach herself to this man, whose business was
it to interfere? If he was worthy and loved her, Jacob himself would see
fair play, would be her friend and supporter.

But the scraps of gossip about Captain Warkworth which the Duchess--who
had disliked the man at first sight--gathered from different quarters
and confided to Jacob were often disquieting. It was said that at Simla
he had entrapped this little heiress, and her obviously foolish and
incapable mother, by devices generally held to be discreditable; and it
had taken two angry guardians to warn him off. What was the state of the
case now no one exactly knew; though it was shrewdly suspected that the
engagement was only dormant. The child was known to have been in love
with him; in two years more she would be of age; her fortune was
enormous, and Warkworth was a poor and ambitious man.

There was also an ugly tale of a civilian's wife in a hill station,
referring to a date some years back; but Delafield did not think it
necessary to believe it.

As to his origins--there again, Delafield, making cautious inquiries,
came across some unfavorable details, confided to him by a man of
Warkworth's own regiment. His father had retired from the army
immediately after the Mutiny, broken in health, and much straitened in
means. Himself belonging to a family of the poorer middle class, he had
married late, a good woman not socially his equal, and without fortune.
They settled in the Isle of Wight, on his half-pay, and harassed by a
good many debts. Their two children, Henry and Isabella, were then
growing up, and the parents' hopes were fixed upon their promising and
good-looking son. With difficulty they sent him to Charterhouse and a
"crammer." The boy coveted a "crack" regiment; by dint of mustering all
the money and all the interest they could, they procured him his heart's
desire. He got unpardonably into debt; the old people's resources were
lessening, not expanding; and ultimately the poor father died broken
down by the terror of bankruptcy for himself and disgrace for Henry. The
mother still survived, in very straitened circumstances.

"His sister," said Delafield's informant, "married one of the big London
tailors, whom she met first on the Ryde pier. I happen to know the
facts, for my father and I have been customers of his for years, and one
day, hearing that I was in Warkworth's regiment, he told me some stories
of his brother-in-law in a pretty hostile tone. His sister, it appears,
has often financed him of late. She must have done. How else could he
have got through? Warkworth may be a fine, showy fellow when there's
fighting about. In private life he's one of the most self-indulgent dogs
alive. And yet he's ashamed of the sister and her husband, and turns his
back on them whenever he can. Oh, he's not a person of nice feeling, is
Warkworth--but, mark my words, he'll be one of the most successful men
in the army."

There was one side. On the other was to be set the man's brilliant
professional record; his fine service in this recent campaign; the
bull-dog defence of an isolated fort, which insured the safety of most
important communications; contempt of danger, thirst, exposure; the
rescue of a wounded comrade from the glacis of the fort, under a
murderous fire; facts, all of them, which had fired the public
imagination and brought his name to the front. No such acts as these
could have been done by any mere self-indulgent pretender.

Delafield reserved his judgment. He set himself to watch. In his inmost
heart there was a strange assumption of the right to watch, and, if need
be, to act. Julie's instinct had told her truly. Delafield, the
individualist, the fanatic for freedom--he, also, had his instinct of
tyranny. She should not destroy herself, the dear, weak, beloved woman!
He would prevent it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, during these hours of transition, Delafield thought much of Julie.
Julie, on the other hand, had no sooner said good-night to him after the
conversation described in the last chapter than she drove him from her
thoughts--one might have said, with vehemence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Times_ of the following morning duly contained the announcement of
the appointment of Captain Warkworth, D.S.O., of the Queen's Grays, to
the command of the military mission to Mokembe recently determined on by
her Majesty's government. The mission would proceed to Mokembe as soon
as possible, but of two officers who on the ground of especial knowledge
would form part of it, under Captain Warkworth's command, one was at
present in Canada and the other at the Cape. It would, therefore, hardly
be possible for the mission to start from the coast for the interior
before the beginning of May. In the same paper certain promotions and
distinctions on account of the recent Mahsud campaign were reprinted
from the _Gazette_. Captain Henry Warkworth's brevet majority was
among them.

The _Times_ leader on the announcement pointed out that the mission
would be concerned with important frontier questions, still more with
the revival of the prestige of England in regions where a supine
government had allowed it to wither unaccountably. Other powers had been
playing a filching and encroaching game at the expense of the British
lion in these parts, and it was more than time that he should open his
sleepy eyes upon what was going on. As to the young officer who was to
command the mission, the great journal made a few civil though guarded
remarks. His record in the recent campaign was indeed highly
distinguished; still it could hardly be said that, take it as a whole,
his history so far gave him a claim to promotion so important as that
which he had now obtained.

Well, now he had his chance. English soldiers had a way of profiting by
such chances. The _Times_ courteously gave him the benefit of the doubt,
prophesying that he would rise to the occasion and justify the choice of
his superiors.

The Duchess looked over Julie's shoulder as she read.

"Schemer," she said, as she dropped a kiss on the back of Julie's neck,
"I hope you're satisfied. The _Times_ doesn't know what to make of it."

Julie put down the paper with a glowing cheek.

"They'll soon know," she said, quietly.

"Julie, do you believe in him so much?"

"What does it matter what I think? It is not I who have appointed him."

"Not so sure," laughed the Duchess. "As if he would have had a chance
without you. Whom did he know last November when you took him up?"

Julie moved to and fro, her hands behind her. The tremor on her lip, the
light in her eye showed her sense of triumph.

"What have I done," she said, laughing, "but push a few stones out of
the way of merit?"

"Some of them were heavy," said the Duchess, making a little face. "Need
I invite Lady Froswick any more?"

Julie threw her arms about her.

"Evelyn, what a darling you've been! Now I'll never worry you again."

"Oh, for some people I would do ten times as much!" cried the Duchess.
"But, Julie, I wish I knew why you think so well of this man. I--I don't
always hear very nice things about him."

"I dare say not," said Julie, flushing. "It is easy to hate success."

"No, come, we're not as mean as that!" cried the Duchess. "I vow that
all the heroes I've ever known had a ripping time. Julie"--she kissed
her friend impulsively--"Julie, don't like him too much. I don't think
he's good enough."

"Good enough for what?" said Julie's bitter voice. "Make yourself easy
about Captain Warkworth, Evelyn; but please understand--_anything_ is
good enough for me. Don't let your dear head be troubled about my
affairs. They are never serious, and nothing counts--except," she added,
recklessly, "that I get a little amusement by the way."

"Julie," cried the Duchess, "as if Jacob--"

Julie frowned and released herself; then she laughed.

"Nothing that one ever says about ordinary mortals applies to Mr.
Delafield. He is, of course, _hors concours_."

"Julie!"

"It is you, Evelyn, who make me _méchante_. I could be grateful--and
excellent friends with that young man--in my own way."

The Duchess sighed, and held her tongue with difficulty.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the successful hero arrived that night for dinner he found a
solitary lady in the drawing-room.

Was this, indeed, Julie Le Breton--this soft, smiling vision in white?

He expected to have found a martyr, pale and wan from the shock of the
catastrophe which had befallen her, and, even amid the intoxication of
his own great day, he was not easy as to how she might have taken his
behavior on the fatal night. But here was some one, all joy, animation,
and indulgence--a glorified Julie who trod on air. Why? Because
good-fortune had befallen her friend? His heart smote him. He had never
seen her so touching, so charming. Since the incubus of Lady Henry's
house and presence had been removed she seemed to have grown years
younger. A white muslin dress of her youth, touched here and there by
the Duchess's maid, replaced the familiar black satin. When Warkworth
first saw her he paused unconsciously in surprise.

Then he advanced to meet her, broadly smiling, his blue eyes dancing.

"You got my note this morning?"

"Yes," she said, demurely. "You were much too kind, and much--much too
absurd. I have done nothing."

"Oh, nothing, of course." Then, after a moment: "Are you going to tie me
to that fiction, or am I to be allowed a little decent sincerity? You
know perfectly well that you have done it all. There, there; give me
your hand."

She gave it, shrinking, and he kissed it joyously.

"Isn't it jolly!" he said, with a school-boy's delight as he released
her hand. "I saw Lord M---- this morning." He named the Prime Minister.
"Very civil, indeed. Then the Commander-in-Chief--and Montresor gave me
half an hour. It is all right. They are giving me a capital staff.
Excellent fellows, all of them. Oh, you'll see, I shall pull it
through--I shall pull it through. By George! it is a chance!"

And he stood radiant, rubbing his hands over the blaze.

The Duchess came in accompanied by an elderly cousin of the Duke's, a
white-haired, black-gowned spinster, Miss Emily Lawrence--one of those
single women, travelled, cultivated, and good, that England produces in
such abundance.

"Well, so you're going," said the Duchess, to Warkworth. "And I hear
that we ought to think you a lucky man."

"Indeed you ought, and you must," he said, gayly. "If only the climate
will behave itself. The blackwater fever has a way of killing you in
twenty-four hours if it gets hold of you; but short of that--"

"Oh, you will be quite safe," said the Duchess. "Let me introduce you to
Miss Lawrence. Emily, this is Captain Warkworth."

The elderly lady gave a sudden start. Then she quietly put on her
spectacles and studied the young soldier with a pair of intelligent
gray eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nothing could have been more agreeable than Warkworth at dinner. Even
the Duchess admitted as much. He talked easily, but not too much, of the
task before him; told amusing tales of his sporting experience of years
back in the same regions which were now to be the scene of his mission;
discussed the preparations he would have to make at Denga, the coast
town, before starting on his five weeks' journey to the interior; drew
the native porter and the native soldier, not to their advantage, and
let fall, by the way, not a few wise or vivacious remarks as to the
races, resources, and future of this illimitable and mysterious
Africa--this cavern of the unknown, into which the waves of white
invasion, one upon another, were now pressing fast and ceaselessly,
towards what goal, only the gods knew.

A few other men were dining; among them two officers from the staff of
the Commander-in-Chief. Warkworth, much their junior, treated them with
a skilful deference; but through the talk that prevailed his military
competence and prestige appeared plainly enough, even to the women. His
good opinion of himself was indeed sufficiently evident; but there was
no crude vainglory. At any rate, it was a vainglory of youth, ability,
and good looks, ratified by these budding honors thus fresh upon him,
and no one took it amiss.

When the gentlemen returned to the drawing-room, Warkworth and Julie
once more found themselves together, this time in the Duchess's little
sitting-room at the end of the long suite of rooms.

"When do you go?" she asked him, abruptly.

"Not for about a month." He mentioned the causes of delay.

"That will bring you very late--into the worst of the heat?" Her voice
had a note of anxiety.

"Oh, we shall all be seasoned men. And after the first few days we shall
get into the uplands."

"What do your home people say?" she asked him, rather shyly. She knew,
in truth, little about them.

"My mother? Oh, she will be greatly pleased. I go down to the Isle of
Wight for a day or two to see her to-morrow. But now, dear lady, that is
enough of my wretched self. You--do you stay on here with the Duchess?"

She told him of the house in Heribert Street. He listened with
attention.

"Nothing could be better. You will have a most distinguished little
setting of your own, and Lady Henry will repent at leisure. You won't
be lonely?"

"Oh no!" But her smile was linked with a sigh.

He came nearer to her.

"You should never be lonely if I could help it," he said, in a low
voice.

"When people are nameless and kinless," was her passionate reply, in the
same undertone as his, "they must be lonely."

He looked at her with eagerness. She lay back in the firelight, her
beautiful brow and eyes softly illuminated. He felt within him a sudden
snapping of restraints. Why--why refuse what was so clearly within his
grasp? Love has many manners--many entrances--and many exits.

"When will you tell me all that I want to know about you?" he said,
bending towards her with tender insistence. "There is so much I have
to ask."

"Oh, some time," she said, hurriedly, her pulses quickening. "Mine is
not a story to be told on a great day like this."

He was silent a moment, but his face spoke for him.

"Our friendship has been a beautiful thing, hasn't it?" he said, at
last, in a voice of emotion. "Look here!" He thrust his hand into his
breast-pocket and half withdrew it. "Do you see where I carry
your letters?"

"You shouldn't--they are not worthy."

"How charming you are in that dress--in that light! I shall always see
you as you are to-night."

A silence. Excitement mounted in their veins. Suddenly he stooped and
kissed her hands. They looked into each other's eyes, and the seconds
passed like hours.

Presently, in the nearer drawing-room, there was a sound of approaching
voices and they moved apart.

"Julie, Emily Lawrence is going," said the Duchess's voice, pitched in
what seemed to Julie a strange and haughty note. "Captain Warkworth,
Miss Lawrence thinks that you and she have common friends--Lady Blanche
Moffatt and her daughter."

Captain Warkworth murmured some conventionality, and passed into the
next drawing-room with Miss Lawrence.

Julie rose to her feet, the color dying out of her face, her passionate
eyes on the Duchess, who stood facing her friend, guiltily pale, and
ready to cry.



XIV

On the morning following these events, Warkworth went down to the Isle
of Wight to see his mother. On the journey he thought much of Julie.
They had parted awkwardly the night before. The evening, which had
promised so well, had, after all, lacked finish and point. What on earth
had that tiresome Miss Lawrence wanted with him? They had talked of
Simla and the Moffatts. The conversation had gone in spurts, she looking
at him every now and then with eyes that seemed to say more than her
words. All that she had actually said was perfectly insignificant and
trivial. Yet there was something curious in her manner, and when the
time came for him to take his departure she had bade him a frosty
little farewell.

She had described herself once or twice as a _great_ friend of Lady
Blanche Moffatt. Was it possible?

But if Lady Blanche, whose habits of sentimental indiscretion were
ingrained, _had_ gossiped to this lady, what then? Why should he be
frowned on by Miss Lawrence, or anybody else? That malicious talk at
Simla had soon exhausted itself. His present appointment was a
triumphant answer to it all. His slanderers--including Aileen's
ridiculous guardians--could only look foolish if they pursued the matter
any further. What "trap" was there--what _mésalliance_? A successful
soldier was good enough for anybody. Look at the first Lord Clyde, and
scores besides.

The Duchess, too. Why had she treated him so well at first, and so
cavalierly after dinner? Her manners were really too uncertain.

What was the matter, and why did she dislike him? He pondered over it a
good deal, and with much soreness of spirit. Like many men capable of
very selfish or very cruel conduct, he was extremely sensitive, and took
keen notice of the fact that a person liked or disliked him.

If the Duchess disliked him it could not be merely on account of the
Simla story, even though the old maid might conceivably have given her a
jaundiced account. The Duchess knew nothing of Aileen, and was little
influenced, so far as he had observed her, by considerations of abstract
justice or propriety, affecting persons whom she had never seen.

No, she was Julie's friend, the little wilful lady, and it was for Julie
she ruffled her feathers, like an angry dove.

So his thoughts had come back to Julie, though, indeed, it seemed to him
that they were never far from her. As he looked absently from the train
windows on the flying landscape, Julie's image hovered between him and
it--a magic sun, flooding soul and senses with warmth. How
unconsciously, how strangely his feelings had changed towards her! That
coolness of temper and nerve he had been able to preserve towards her
for so long was, indeed, breaking down. He recognized the danger, and
wondered where it would lead him. What a fascinating, sympathetic
creature!--and, by George! what she had done for him!

Aileen! Aileen was a little sylph, a pretty child-angel, white-winged
and innocent, who lived in a circle of convent thoughts, knowing nothing
of the world, and had fallen in love with him as the first man who had
ever made love to her. But this intelligent, full-blooded woman, who
could understand at a word, or a half word, who had a knowledge of
affairs which many a high-placed man might envy, with whom one never had
a dull moment--this courted, distinguished Julie Le Breton--his mind
swelled with half-guilty pride at the thought that for six months he had
absorbed all her energies, that a word from him could make her smile or
sigh, that he could force her to look at him with eyes so melting and so
troubled as those with which she had given him her hands--her slim,
beautiful hands--that night in Grosvenor Square.

How freedom became her! Dependency had dropped from her, like a cast-off
cloak, and beside her fresh, melancholy charm, the airs and graces of a
child of fashion and privilege like the little Duchess appeared almost
cheap and trivial. Poor Julie! No doubt some social struggle was before
her. Lady Henry was strong, after all, in this London world, and the
solider and stupider people who get their way in the end were not, she
thought, likely to side with Lady Henry's companion in a quarrel where
the facts of the story were unquestionably, at first sight, damaging to
Miss Le Breton. Julie would have her hours of bitterness and
humiliation; and she would conquer by boldness, if she conquered at
all--by originality, by determining to live her own life. That would
preserve for her the small circle, if it lost her the large world. And
the small circle was what she lived for, what she ought, at any rate,
to live for.

It was not likely she would marry. Why should she desire it? From any
blundering tragedy a woman of so acute a brain would, of course, know
how to protect herself. But within the limits of her life, why should
she refuse herself happiness, intimacy, love?

His heart beat fast; his thoughts were in a whirl. But the train was
nearing Portsmouth, and with an effort he recalled his mind to the
meeting with his mother, which was then close upon him.

He spent nearly a week in the little cottage at Sea View, and Mrs.
Warkworth got far more pleasure than usual, poor lady, out of his visit.
She was a thin, plain woman, not devoid of either ability or character.
But life had gone hardly with her, and since her husband's death what
had been reserve had become melancholy. She had always been afraid of
her only son since they had sent him to Charterhouse, and he had become
so much "finer" than his parents. She knew that he must consider her a
very ignorant and narrow-minded person; when he was with her she was
humiliated in her own eyes, though as soon as he was gone she resumed
what was in truth a leading place among her own small circle.

She loved him, and was proud of him; yet at the bottom of her heart she
had never absolved him from his father's death. But for his
extravagance, and the misfortunes he had brought upon them, her old
general would be alive still--pottering about in the spring sunshine,
spudding the daisies from the turf, or smoking his pipe beneath the
thickening trees. Silently her heart still yearned and hungered for the
husband of her youth; his son did not replace him.

Nevertheless, when he came down to her with this halo of glory upon him,
and smoked up and down her small garden through the mild spring days,
gossiping to her of all the great things that had befallen him,
repeating to her, word for word, his conversation with the Prime
Minister, and his interview with the Commander-in-Chief, or making her
read all the letters of congratulation he had received, her mother's
heart thawed within her as it had not done for long. Her ears told her
that he was still vain and a boaster; her memory held the indelible
records of his past selfishness; but as he walked beside her, his fair
hair blown back from his handsome brow, and eyes that were so much
younger than the rest of the face, his figure as spare and boyish now as
when he had worn the colors of the Charterhouse eleven, she said to
herself, in that inward and unsuspected colloquy she was always holding
with her own heart about him, that if his father could have seen him now
he would have forgiven him everything. According to her secret
Evangelical faith, God "deals" with every soul he has created--through
joy or sorrow, through good or evil fortune. He had dealt with herself
through anguish and loss. Henry, it seemed, was to be moulded through
prosperity. His good fortune was already making a better man of him.

Certainly he was more affectionate and thoughtful than before. He would
have liked to give her money, of which he seemed to have an unusual
store; but she bade him keep what he had for his own needs. Her own
little bit of money, saved from the wreck of their fortunes, was enough
for her. Then he went into Ryde and brought her back a Shetland shawl
and a new table-cloth for her little sitting-room, which she accepted
with a warmer kiss than she had given him for years.

He left her on a bright, windy morning which flecked the blue Solent
with foam and sent the clouds racing to westward. She walked back along
the sands, thinking anxiously of the African climate and the desert
hard-ships he was going to face. And she wondered what significance
there might be in the fact that he had written twice during his stay
with her to a Miss Le Breton, whose name, nevertheless, he had not
mentioned in their conversations. Well, he would marry soon, she
supposed, and marry well, in circles out of her ken. With the common
prejudice of the English middle class, she hoped that if this Miss Le
Breton were his choice, she might be only French in name and not
in blood.

Meanwhile, Warkworth sped up to London in high spirits, enjoying the
comforts of a good conscience.

He drove first to his club, where a pile of letters awaited him--some
letters of congratulation, others concerned with the business of his
mission. He enjoyed the first, noticing jealously who had and who had
not written to him; then he applied himself to the second. His mind
worked vigorously and well; he wrote his replies in a manner that
satisfied him. Then throwing himself into a chair, with a cigar, he gave
himself up to the close and shrewd planning of the preparations
necessary for his five weeks' march, or to the consideration of two or
three alternative lines of action which would open before him as soon as
he should find himself within the boundaries of Mokembe. Some five years
before, the government of the day had sent a small expedition to this
Debatable Land, which had failed disastrously, both from the diplomatic
and the military points of view. He went backward and forward to the
shelves of the fine "Service" library which surrounded him, taking down
the books and reports which concerned this expedition. He buried himself
in them for an hour, then threw them aside with contempt. What blunders
and short-sight everywhere! The general public might well talk of the
stupidity of English officers. And blunders so easily avoided, too! It
was sickening. He felt within himself a fulness of energy and
intelligence, a perspicacity of brain which judged mistakes of this kind
unpardonable.

As he was replacing some of the books he had been using in the shelves,
the club began to fill up with men coming in to lunch. A great many
congratulated him; and a certain number who of old had hardly professed
to know him greeted him with cordiality. He found himself caught in a
series of short but flattering conversations, in which he bore himself
well--neither over-discreet nor too elate. "I declare that fellow's
improved," said one man, who might certainly have counted as Warkworth's
enemy the week before, to his companion at table. "The government's been
beastly remiss so far. Hope he'll pull it off. Ripping chance, anyway.
Though what they gave it to him for, goodness knows! There were a dozen
fellows, at least, did as well as he in the Mahsud business. And the
Staff-College man had a thousand times more claim."

Nevertheless, Warkworth felt the general opinion friendly, a little
surprised, no doubt, but showing that readiness to believe in the man
coming to the front, which belongs much more to the generous than to the
calculating side of the English character. Insensibly his mental and
moral stature rose. He exchanged a few words on his way out with one of
the most distinguished members of the club, a man of European
reputation, whom he had seen the week before in the Commander-in-Chief's
room at the War Office. The great man spoke to him with marked
friendliness, and Warkworth walked on air as he went his way.
Potentially he felt himself the great man's equal; the gates of life
seemed to be opening before him.

And with the rise of fortune came a rush of magnanimous resolution. No
more shady episodes; no more mean devices; no more gambling, and no more
debt. _Major_ Warkworth's sheet was clean, and it should remain so. A
man of his prospects must run straight.

He felt himself at peace with all the world. By-the-way, just time to
jump into a cab and get to Park Crescent in time for his sister's
luncheon. His last interview with his brother-in-law had not been
agreeable. But now--he felt for the check-book in his pocket--he was in
a position to repay at least half the last sum of money which Bella had
lent him. He would go and give it her now, and report news of the
mother. And if the two chicks were there--why, he had a free hour and he
would take them to the Zoo--he vowed he would!--give them something
pleasant to remember their uncle by.

And a couple of hours later a handsome, soldierly man might have been
seen in the lion-house at the Zoo, leading a plump little girl by either
hand. Rose and Katie Mullins enjoyed a golden time, and started a
wholly new adoration for the uncle who had so far taken small notice of
them, and was associated in their shrewd, childish minds rather with
tempests at home than buns abroad. But this time buns, biscuits,
hansom-drives and elephant-rides were showered upon them by an uncle who
seemed to make no account of money, while his gracious and captivating
airs set their little hearts beating in a common devotion.

"Now go home--go home, little beggars!" said that golden gentleman, as
he packed them into a hansom and stood on the step to accept a wet kiss
on his mustache from each pink mouth. "Tell your mother all about it,
and don't forget your uncle Harry. There's a shilling for each of you.
Don't you spend it on sweets. You're quite fat enough already.
Good-bye!"

"That's the hardest work I've done for many a long day," he said to
himself, with a sigh of relief, as the hansom drove away. "I sha'n't
turn nurse-maid when other trades fail. But they're nice little kids
all the same.

"Now, then, Cox's--and the City"--he ran over the list of his
engagements for the afternoon--"and by five o'clock shall I find my fair
lady--at home--and established? Where on earth is Heribert Street?"

       *       *       *       *       *

He solved the question, for a few minutes after five he was on Miss Le
Breton's doorstep. A quaint little house--and a strange parlor-maid! For
the door was opened to him by a large-eyed, sickly child, who looked at
him with the bewilderment of one trying to follow out instructions still
strange to her.

[Illustration: "HE ENTERED UPON A MERRY SCENE"]

"Yes, sir, Miss Le Breton is in the drawing-room," she said, in a
sweet, deliberate voice with a foreign accent, and she led the way
through the hall.

Poor little soul--what a twisted back, and what a limp! She looked about
fourteen, but was probably older. Where had Julie discovered her?

Warkworth looked round him at the little hall with its relics of
country-house sports and amusements; his eye travelled through an open
door to the little dining-room and the Russell pastels of Lady Mary's
parents, as children, hanging on the wall. The _character_ of the little
dwelling impressed itself at once. Smiling; he acknowledged its
congruity with Julie. Here was a lady who fell on her feet!

The child, leading him, opened the door to the left.

"Please walk in, sir," she said, shyly, and stood aside.

As the door opened, Warkworth was conscious of a noise of tongues.

So Julie was not alone? He prepared his manner accordingly.

He entered upon a merry scene. Jacob Delafield was standing on a chair,
hanging a picture, while Dr. Meredith and Julie, on either side,
directed or criticised the operation. Meredith carried picture-cord and
scissors; Julie the hammer and nails. Meredith was expressing the
profoundest disbelief in Jacob's practical capacities; Jacob was
defending himself hotly; and Julie laughed at both.

Towards the other end of the room stood the tea-table, between the fire
and an open window. Lord Lackington sat beside it, smiling to himself,
and stroking a Persian kitten. Through the open window the twinkling
buds on the lilacs in the Cureton House garden shone in the still
lingering sun. A recent shower had left behind it odors of earth and
grass. Even in this London air they spoke of the spring--the spring
which already in happier lands was drawing veils of peach and cherry
blossom, over the red Sienese earth or the green terraces of Como. The
fire crackled in the grate. The pretty, old-fashioned room was fragrant
with hyacinth and narcissus; Julie's books lay on the tables; Julie's
hand and taste were already to be felt everywhere. And Lord Lackington
with the kitten, beside the fire, gave the last touch of home and
domesticity.

"So I find you established?" said Warkworth, smiling, to the lady with
the nails, while Delafield nodded to him from the top of the steps and
Meredith ceased to chatter.

"I haven't a hand, I fear," said Julie. "Will you have some tea? Ah,
Léonie, tu vas en faire de nouveau, n'est-ce pas, pour ce monsieur?"

A little woman in black, with a shawl over her shoulders, had just
glided into the room. She had a small, wrinkled face, bright eyes, and a
much-flattened nose.

"Tout de suite, monsieur," she said, quickly, and disappeared with the
teapot. Warkworth guessed, of course, that she was Madame Bornier, the
foster-sister--the "Propriety" of this _ménage_.

"Can't I help?" he said to Julie, with a look at Delafield.

"It's just done," she said, coldly, handing a nail to Delafield. "_Just_
a trifle more to the right. Ecco! Perfection!"

"Oh, you spoil him," said Meredith, "And not one word of praise for
me!"

"What have you done?" she said, laughing. "Tangled the cord--that's
all!"

Warkworth turned away. His face, so radiant as he entered, had settled
into sharp, sudden lines. What was the meaning of this voice, this
manner? He remembered that to his three letters he had received no word
of reply. But he had interpreted that to mean that she was in the throes
of moving and could find no time to write.

As he neared the tea-table, Lord Lackington looked up. He greeted the
new-comer with the absent stateliness he generally put on when his mind
was in a state of confusion as to a person's identity.

"Well, so they're sending you to D----? There'll be a row there before
long. Wish you joy of the missionaries!"

"No, not D----," said Warkworth, smiling. "Nothing so amusing. Mokembe's
my destination."

"Oh, Mokembe!" said Lord Lackington, a little abashed. "That's where
Cecil Ray, Lord R's second son, was killed last year--lion-hunting? No,
it was of fever that he died. By-the-way, a vile climate!"

"In the plains, yes," said Warkworth, seating himself. "As to the
uplands, I understand they are to be the Switzerland of Africa."

Lord Lackington did not appear to listen.

"Are you a homoeopath?" he said, suddenly, rising to his full and
immense stature and looking down with eagerness on Warkworth.

"No. Why?"

"Because it's your only chance, for those parts. If Cecil Ray had had
their medicines with him he'd be alive now. Look here; when do you
start?" The speaker took out his note-book.

"In rather less than a month I start for Denga."

"All right. I'll send you a medicine-case--from Epps. If you're ill,
take 'em."

"You're very good."

"Not at all. It's my hobby--one of the last." A broad, boyish smile
flashed over the handsome old face. "Look at me; I'm seventy-five, and I
can tire out my own grandsons at riding and shooting. That comes of
avoiding all allopathic messes like the devil. But the allopaths are
such mean fellows they filch all our ideas."

The old man was off. Warkworth submitted to five minutes' tirade,
stealing a glance sometimes at the group of Julie, Meredith, and
Delafield in the farther window--at the happy ease and fun that seemed
to prevail in it. He fiercely felt himself shut out and trampled on.

Suddenly, Lord Lackington pulled up, his instinct for declamation
qualified by an equally instinctive dread of boring or being bored.
"What did you think of Montresor's statement?" he said, abruptly,
referring to a batch of army reforms that Montresor the week before had
endeavored to recommend to a sceptical House of Commons.

"All very well, as far as it goes," said Warkworth, with a shrug.

"Precisely! We English want an army and a navy; we don't like it when
those fellows on the Continent swagger in our faces, and yet we won't
pay either for the ships or the men. However, now that they've done away
with purchase--Gad! I could fight them in the streets for the way in
which they've done it!--now that they've turned the army into an
examination-shop, tempered with jobbery, whatever we do, we shall go to
the deuce. So it don't matter."

"You were against the abolition?"

"I was, sir--with Wellington and Raglan and everybody else of any
account. And as for the violence, the disgraceful violence with which it
was carried--"

"Oh no, no," said Warkworth, laughing. "It was the Lords who behaved
abominably, and it'll do a deal of good."

Lord Lackington's eyes flashed.

"I've had a long life," he said, pugnaciously. "I began as a middy in
the American war of 1812, that nobody remembers now. Then I left the sea
for the army. I knocked about the world. I commanded a brigade in
the Crimea--"

"Who doesn't remember that?" said Warkworth, smiling.

The old man acknowledged the homage by a slight inclination of his
handsome head.

"And you may take my word for it that this new system will not give you
men worth _a tenth part_ of those fellows who bought and bribed their
way in under the old. The philosophers may like it, or lump it, but
so it is."

Warkworth dissented strongly. He was a good deal of a politician,
himself a "new man," and on the side of "new men." Lord Lackington
warmed to the fight, and Warkworth, with bitterness in his
heart--because of that group opposite--was nothing loath to meet him.
But presently he found the talk taking a turn that astonished him. He
had entered upon a drawing-room discussion of a subject which had, after
all, been settled, if only by what the Tories were pleased to call the
_coup d'état_ of the Royal Warrant, and no longer excited the passions
of a few years back. What he had really drawn upon himself was a
hand-to-hand wrestle with a man who had no sooner provoked contradiction
than he resented it with all his force, and with a determination to
crush the contradictor.

Warkworth fought well, but with a growing amazement at the tone and
manner of his opponent. The old man's eyes darted war-flames under his
finely arched brows. He regarded the younger with a more and more
hostile, even malicious air; his arguments grew personal, offensive; his
shafts were many and barbed, till at last Warkworth felt his face
burning and his temper giving way.

"What _are_ you talking about?" said Julie Le Breton, at last, rising
and coming towards them.

Lord Lackington broke off suddenly and threw himself into his chair.

Warkworth rose from his.

"We had better have been handing nails," he said, "but you wouldn't give
us any work." Then, as Meredith and Delafield approached, he seized the
opportunity of saying, in a low voice:

"Am I not to have a word?"

She turned with composure, though it seemed to him she was very pale.

"Have you just come back from the Isle of Wight?"

"This morning." He looked her in the eyes. "You got my letters?"

"Yes, but I have had no time for writing. I hope you found your mother
well."

"Very well, thank you. You have been hard at work?"

"Yes, but the Duchess and Mr. Delafield have made it all easy."

And so on, a few more insignificant questions and answers.

"I must go," said Delafield, coming up to them, "unless there is any
more work for me to do. Good-bye, Major, I congratulate you. They have
given you a fine piece of work."

Warkworth made a little bow, half ironical. Confound the fellow's grave
and lordly ways! He did not want his congratulations.

He lingered a little, sorely, full of rage, yet not knowing how to go.

Lord Lackington's eyes ceased to blaze, and the kitten ventured once
more to climb upon his knee. Meredith, too, found a comfortable
arm-chair, and presently tried to beguile the kitten from his neighbor.
Julie sat erect between them, very silent, her thin, white hands on her
lap, her head drooped a little, her eyes carefully restrained from
meeting Warkworth's. He meanwhile leaned against the mantel-piece,
irresolute.

Meredith, it was clear, made himself quite happy and at home in the
little drawing-room. The lame child came in and took a stool beside him.
He stroked her head and talked nonsense to her in the intervals of
holding forth to Julie on the changes necessary in some proofs of his
which he had brought back. Lord Lackington, now quite himself again,
went back to dreams, smiling over them, and quite unaware that the
kitten had been slyly ravished from him. The little woman in black sat
knitting in the background. It was all curiously intimate and domestic,
only Warkworth had no part in it.

"Good-bye, Miss Le Breton," he said, at last, hardly knowing his own
voice. "I am dining out."

She rose and gave him her hand. But it dropped from his like a thing
dead and cold. He went out in a sudden suffocation of rage and pain; and
as he walked in a blind haste to Cureton Street, he still saw her
standing in the old-fashioned, scented room, so coldly graceful, with
those proud, deep eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

When he had gone, Julie moved to the window and looked out into the
gathering dusk. It seemed to her as if those in the room must hear the
beating of her miserable heart.

When she rejoined her companions, Dr. Meredith had already risen and was
stuffing various letters and papers into his pockets with a view to
departure.

"Going?" said Lord Lackington. "You shall see the last of me, too,
Mademoiselle Julie."

And he stood up. But she, flushing, looked at him with a wistful smile.

"Won't you stay a few minutes? You promised to advise me about Thérèse's
drawings."

"By all means."

Lord Lackington sat down again. The lame child, it appeared, had some
artistic talent, which Miss Le Breton wished to cultivate. Meredith
suddenly found his coat and hat, and, with a queer look at Julie,
departed in a hurry.

"Thérèse, darling," said Julie, "will you go up-stairs, please, and
fetch me that book from my room that has your little drawings
inside it?"

The child limped away on her errand. In spite of her lameness she moved
with wonderful lightness and swiftness, and she was back again quickly
with a calf-bound book in her hand.

"Léonie!" said Julie, in a low voice, to Madame Bornier.

The little woman looked up startled, nodded, rolled up her knitting in a
moment, and was gone.

"Take the book to his lordship, Thérèse," she said, and then, instead of
moving with the child, she again walked to the window, and, leaning her
head against it, looked out. The hand hanging against her dress trembled
violently.

"What did you want me to look at, my dear?" said Lord Lackington, taking
the book in his hand and putting on his glasses.

But the child was puzzled and did not know. She gazed at him silently
with her sweet, docile look.

"Run away, Thérèse, and find mother," said Julie, from the window.

The child sped away and closed the door behind her.

Lord Lackington adjusted his glasses and opened the book. Two or three
slips of paper with drawings upon them fluttered out and fell on the
table beneath. Suddenly there was a cry. Julie turned round, her
lips parted.

Lord Lackington walked up to her.

"Tell me what this means," he said, peremptorily. "How did you come by
it?"

It was a volume of George Sand. He pointed, trembling, to the name and
date on the fly-leaf--"Rose Delaney, 1842."

"It is mine," she said, softly, dropping her eyes.

"But how--how, in God's name, did you come by it?"

"My mother left it to me, with all her other few books and possessions."

There was a pause. Lord Lackington came closer.

"Who was your mother?" he said, huskily.

The words in answer were hardly audible. Julie stood before him like a
culprit, her beautiful head humbly bowed.

Lord Lackington dropped the book and stood bewildered.

"Rose's child?" he said--"Rose's child?"

Then, approaching her, he placed his hand on her arm.

"Let me look at you," he commanded.

Julie raised her eyes to him, and at the same time dumbly held out to
him a miniature she had been keeping hidden in her hand. It was one of
the miniatures from the locked triptych.

He took it, looked from the pictured to the living face, then, turning
away with a groan, he covered his face with his hands and fell again
into the chair from which he had risen.

Julie hurried to him. Her own eyes were wet with tears. After a moment's
hesitation she knelt down beside him.

"I ought to ask your pardon for not having told you before," she
murmured.

It was some time before Lord Lackington looked up. When at last his
hands dropped, the face they uncovered was very white and old.

"So you," he said, almost in a whisper, "are the child she wrote to me
about before she died?"

Julie made a sign of assent.

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-nine."

"_She_ was thirty-two when I saw her last."

There was a silence. Julie lifted one of his hands and kissed it. But he
took no notice.

"You know that I was going to her, that I should have reached her in
time"--the words seemed wrung from him--"but that I was myself
dangerously ill?"

"I know. I remember it all."

"Did she speak of me?"

"Not often. She was very reserved, you remember. But not long before she
died--she seemed half asleep--I heard her say, 'Papa!--Blanche!' and
she smiled."

Lord Lackington's face contracted, and the slow tears of old age stood
in his eyes.

"You are like her in some ways," he said, brusquely, as though to cover
his emotion; "but not very like her."

"She always thought I was like you."

A cloud came over Lord Lackington's face. Julie rose from her knees and
sat beside him. He lost himself a few moments amid the painful ghosts of
memory. Then, turning to her abruptly, he said:

"You have wondered, I dare say, why I was so hard--why, for seventeen
years, I cast her off?"

"Yes, often. You could have come to see us without anybody knowing.
Mother loved you very much."

Her voice was low and sad. Lord Lackington rose, fidgeted restlessly
with some of the small ornaments on the mantel-piece, and at last
turned to her.

"She brought dishonor," he said, in the same stifled voice, "and the
women of our family have always been stainless. But that I could have
forgiven. After a time I should have resumed relations--private
relations--with her. But it was your father who stood in the way. I was
then--I am now--you saw me with that young fellow just now--quarrelsome
and hot-tempered. It is my nature." He drew himself up obstinately. "I
can't help it. I take great pains to inform myself, then I cling to my
opinions tenaciously, and in argument my temper gets the better of me.
Your father, too, was hot-tempered. He came, with my consent, once to
see me--after your mother had left her husband--to try and bring about
some arrangement between us. It was the Chartist time. He was a Radical,
a Socialist of the most extreme views. In the course of our conversation
something was said that excited him. He went off at score. I became
enraged, and met him with equal violence. We had a furious argument,
which ended in each insulting the other past forgiveness. We parted
enemies for life. I never could bring myself to see him afterwards, nor
to run the risk of seeing him. Your mother took his side and espoused
his opinions while he lived. After his death, I suppose, she was too
proud and sore to write to me. I wrote to her once--it was not the
letter it might have been. She did not reply till she felt herself
dying. That is the explanation of what, no doubt, must seem strange
to you."

[Illustration: "'FOR MY ROSE'S CHILD,' HE SAID, GENTLY"]

He turned to her almost pleadingly. A deep flush had replaced the pallor
of his first emotion, as though in the presence of these primal
realities of love, death, and sorrow which she had recalled to him, his
old quarrel, on a political difference, cut but a miserable figure.

"No," she said, sadly, "not very strange. I understood my father--my
dear father," she added, with soft, deliberate tenderness.

Lord Lackington was silent a little, then he threw her a sudden,
penetrating look.

"You have been in London three years. You ought to have told me before."

It was Julie's turn to color.

"Lady Henry bound me to secrecy."

"Lady Henry did wrong," he said, with emphasis. Then he asked,
jealously, with a touch of his natural irascibility, "Who else has been
in the secret?"

"Four people, at most--the Duchess, first of all. I couldn't help it,"
she pleaded. "I was so unhappy with Lady Henry."

"You should have come to me. It was my right."

"But"--she dropped her head--"you had made it a condition that I should
not trouble you."

He was silenced; and once more he leaned against the mantel-piece and
hid his face from her, till, by a secret impulse, both moved. She rose
and approached him; he laid his hands on her arms. With his persistent
instinct for the lovely or romantic he perceived, with sudden pleasure,
the grave, poetic beauty of her face and delicate form. Emotion had
softened away all that was harsh; a quivering charm hovered over the
features. With a strange pride, and a sense of mystery, he recognized
his daughter and his race.

"For my Rose's child," he said, gently, and, stooping, he kissed her on
the brow. She broke out into weeping, leaning against his shoulder,
while the old man comforted and soothed her.



XV

After the long conversation between herself and Lord Lackington which
followed on the momentous confession of her identity, Julie spent a
restless and weary evening, which passed into a restless and weary
night. Was she oppressed by this stirring of old sorrows?--haunted
afresh by her parents' fate?

Ah! Lord Lackington had no sooner left her than she sank motionless into
her chair, and, with the tears excited by the memories of her mother
still in her eyes, she gave herself up to a desperate and sombre
brooding, of which Warkworth's visit of the afternoon was, in truth, the
sole cause, the sole subject.

Why had she received him so? She had gone too far--much too far. But,
somehow, she had not been able to bear it--that buoyant, confident air,
that certainty of his welcome. No! She would show him that she was _not_
his chattel, to be taken or left on his own terms. The, careless
good-humor of his blue eyes was too much, after those days she had
passed through.

He, apparently, to judge from his letters to her from the Isle of Wight,
had been conscious of no crisis whatever. Yet he must have seen from the
little Duchess's manner, as she bade farewell to him that night at
Crowborough House, that something was wrong. He must have realized that
Miss Lawrence was an intimate friend of the Moffatts, and that--Or was
he really so foolish as to suppose that his quasi-engagement to this
little heiress, and the encouragement given him, in defiance of the
girl's guardians, by her silly and indiscreet mother, were still hidden
and secret matters?--that he could still conceal them from the world,
and deny them to Julie?

Her whole nature was sore yet from her wrestle with the Duchess on that
miserable evening.

"Julie, I can't help it! I know it's impertinent--but--Julie,
darling!--do listen! What business has that man to make love to you as
he does, when all the time--Yes, he does make love to you--he does!
Freddie had a most ill-natured letter from Lady Henry this morning. Of
course he had--and of course she'll write that kind of letter to as many
people as she can. And it wouldn't matter a bit, if--But, you see, you
_have_ been moving heaven and earth for him! And now his manner to you"
(while the sudden flush burned her cheek, Julie wondered whether by
chance the Duchess had seen anything of the yielded hands and the kiss)
"and that ill-luck of his being the first to arrive, last night, at Lady
Henry's! Oh, Julie, he's a wretch--_he is!_ Of course he is in love with
you. That's natural enough. But all the time--listen, that nice woman
told me the whole story--he's writing regularly to that little girl. She
and her mother, in spite of the guardians, regard it as an engagement
signed and sealed, and all his friends believe he's _quite_ determined
to marry her because of the money. You may think me an odious little
meddler, Julie, if you like, but I vow I could stab him to the heart,
with all the pleasure in life!"

And neither the annoyance, nor the dignity, nor the ridicule of the
supposed victim--not Julie's angry eyes, nor all her mocking words from
tremulous lips--had availed in the least to silence the tumult of
alarmed affection in the Duchess's breast. Her Julie had been flouted
and trifled with; and if she was so blind, so infatuated, as not to see
it, she should at least be driven to realize what other people
felt about it.

So she had her say, and Julie had been forced, willy-nilly, upon
discussion and self-defence--nay, upon a promise also. Pale, and stiffly
erect, yet determined all the same to treat it as a laughing matter, she
had vouchsafed the Duchess some kind of assurance that she would for the
future observe a more cautious behavior towards Warkworth. "He is my
_friend_, and whatever any one may say, he shall remain so," she had
said, with a smiling stubbornness which hid something before which the
little Duchess shrank. "But, of course, if I can do anything to please
you, Evelyn--you know I like to please you."

But she had never meant, she had never promised to forswear his society,
to ban him from the new house. In truth she would rather have left home
and friends and prospects, at one stroke, rather than have pledged
herself to anything of the sort. Evelyn should never bind her to that.

Then, during his days of absence, she had passed through wave after wave
of feeling, while all the time to the outer eye she was occupied with
nothing but the settlement into Lady Mary's strange little house. She
washed, dusted, placed chairs and tables. And meanwhile a wild
expectancy of his first letter possessed her. Surely there would be some
anxiety in it, some fear, some disclosure of himself, and of the
struggle in his mind between interest and love?

Nothing of the kind. His first letter was the letter of one sure of his
correspondent, sure of his reception and of his ground; a happy and
intimate certainty shone through its phrases; it was the letter, almost,
of a lover whose doubts are over.

The effect of it was to raise a tempest, sharp and obscure, in Julie's
mind. The contrast between the _pose_ of the letter and the sly reality
behind bred a sudden anguish of jealousy, concerned not so much with
Warkworth as with this little, unknown creature, who, without any
effort, any desert--by the mere virtue of money and blood--sat waiting
in arrogant expectancy till what she desired should come to her. How was
it possible to feel any compunction towards her? Julie felt none.

As to the rest of Miss Lawrence's gossip--that Warkworth was supposed to
have "behaved badly," to have led the pretty child to compromise herself
with him at Simla in ways which Simla society regarded as inadmissible
and "bad form"; that the guardians had angrily intervened, and that he
was under a promise, habitually broken by the connivance of the girl's
mother, not to see or correspond with the heiress till she was
twenty-one, in other words, for the next two years--what did these
things matter to her? Had she ever supposed that Warkworth, in regard to
money or his career, was influenced by any other than the ordinary
worldly motives? She knew very well that he was neither saint nor
ascetic. These details--or accusations--did not, properly speaking,
concern her at all. She had divined and accepted his character, in all
its average human selfishness and faultiness, long ago. She loved him
passionately in spite of it--perhaps, if the truth were known,
because of it.

As for the marrying, or rather the courting, for money, that excited in
her no repulsion whatever. Julie, in her own way, was a great romantic;
but owing to the economic notions of marriage, especially the whole
conception of the _dot_, prevailing in the French or Belgian minds amid
whom she had passed her later girlhood, she never dreamed for a moment
of blaming Warkworth for placing money foremost in his plans of
matrimony. She resembled one of the famous _amoureuses_ of the
eighteenth century, who in writing to the man she loved but could not
marry, advises him to take a wife to mend his fortunes, and proposes to
him various tempting morsels--_une jeune personne_, sixteen, with
neither father nor mother, only a brother. "They will give her on her
marriage thirteen thousand francs a year, and the aunt will be quite
content to keep her and look after her for some time." And if that won't
do--"I know a man who would be only too happy to have you for a
son-in-law; but his daughter is only eleven; she is an only child,
however, and she will be _very_ rich. You know, _mon ami_, I desire your
happiness above all things; how to procure it--there lies the chief
interest of my life."

This notion of things, more or less disguised, was to Julie customary
and familiar; and it was no more incompatible in her with the notions
and standards of high sentiment, such as she might be supposed to have
derived from her parents, than it is in the Latin races generally.

No doubt it had been mingled in her, especially since her settlement in
Lady Henry's house, with the more English idea of "falling in love"--the
idea which puts personal choice first in marriage, and makes the matter
of dowry subordinate to that mysterious election and affinity which the
Englishman calls "love." Certainly, during the winter, Julie had hoped
to lead Warkworth to marry her. As a poor man, of course, he must have
money. But her secret feeling had been that her place in society, her
influence with important people, had a money value, and that he would
perceive this.

Well, she had been a mere trusting fool, and he had deceived her. There
was his crime--not in seeking money and trusting to money. He had told
her falsehoods and misled her. He was doing it still. His letter implied
that he loved her? Possibly. It implied to Julie's ear still more
plainly that he stood tacitly and resolutely by Aileen Moffatt and her
money, and that all he was prepared to offer to the dear friend of his
heart was a more or less ambiguous relation, lasting over two years
perhaps--till his engagement might be announced.

A dumb and bitter anger mounted within her. She recalled the manner in
which he had evaded her first questions, and her opinion became very
much that of the Duchess. She had, indeed, been mocked, and treated like
a child. So she sent no answer to his first letter, and when his second
came she forbade herself to open it. It lay there on her writing-table.
At night she transferred it to the table beside her bed, and early in
the spring dawn her groping fingers drew it trembling towards her and
slipped it under her pillow. By the time the full morning had come she
had opened it, read and reread it--had bathed it, indeed, with
her tears.

But her anger persisted, and when Warkworth appeared on her threshold it
flamed into sudden expression. She would make him realize her friends,
her powerful friends--above all, she would make him realize Delafield.

Well, now it was done. She had repelled her lover. She had shown herself
particularly soft and gracious to Delafield. Warkworth now would break
with her--might, perhaps, be glad of the chance to return safely and
without further risks to his heiress.

She sat on in the dark, thinking over every word, every look. Presently
Thérèse stole in.

"Mademoiselle, le souper sera bientôt prêt."

Julie rose wearily, and the child slipped a thin hand into hers.

"J'aime tant ce vieux monsieur," she said, softly. "Je l'aime tant!"

Julie started. Her thoughts had wandered far, indeed, from Lord
Lackington.

As she went up-stairs to her little room her heart reproached her. In
their interview the old man had shown great sweetness of feeling, a
delicate and remorseful tenderness, hardly to have been looked for in a
being so fantastic and self-willed. The shock of their conversation had
deepened the lines in a face upon which age had at last begun to make
those marks which are not another beauty, but the end of beauty. When
she had opened the door for him in the dusk, Julie had longed, indeed,
to go with him and soothe his solitary evening. His unmarried son,
William, lived with him intermittently; but his wife was dead. Lady
Blanche seldom came to town, and, for the most part, he lived alone in
the fine house in St. James's Square, of which she had heard her
mother talk.

He liked her--had liked her from the first. How natural that she should
tend and brighten his old age--how natural, and how impossible! He was
not the man to brave the difficulties and discomforts inseparable from
the sudden appearance of an illegitimate granddaughter in his household,
and if he had been, Julie, in her fierce, new-born independence, would
have shrunk from such a step. But she had been drawn to him; her heart
had yearned to her kindred.

No; neither love nor kindred were for her. As she entered the little,
bare room over the doorway, which she had begun to fill with books and
papers, and all the signs of the literary trade, she miserably bid
herself be content with what was easily and certainly within her grasp.
The world was pleased to say that she had a remarkable social talent.
Let her give her mind to the fight with Lady Henry, and prove whether,
after all, the salon could not be acclimatized on English soil. She had
the literary instinct and aptitude, and she must earn money. She looked
at her half-written article, and sighed to her books to save her.

That evening Thérèse, who adored her, watched her with a wistful and
stealthy affection. Her idol was strangely sad and pale. But she asked
no questions. All she could do was to hover about "mademoiselle" with
soft, flattering services, till mademoiselle went to bed, and then to
lie awake herself, quietly waiting till all sounds in the room opposite
had died away, and she might comfort her dumb and timid devotion with
the hope that Julie slept.

Sleep, however, or no sleep, Julie was up early next day. Before the
post arrived she was already dressed, and on the point of descending to
the morning coffee, which, in the old, frugal, Bruges fashion, she and
Léonie and the child took in the kitchen together. Lady Henry's opinion
of her as a soft and luxurious person dependent on dainty living was, in
truth, absurdly far from the mark. After those years of rich food and
many servants in Lady Henry's household, she had resumed the penurious
Belgian ways at once, without effort--indeed, with alacrity. In the
morning she helped Léonie and Thérèse with the housework. Her quick
fingers washed and rubbed and dusted. In less than a week she knew every
glass and cup in Cousin Mary Leicester's well-filled china cupboard, and
she and Thérèse between them kept the two sitting-rooms spotless. She
who had at once made friends and tools of Lady Henry's servants,
disdained, so it appeared, to be served beyond what was absolutely
necessary in her own house. A charwoman, indeed, came in the morning for
the roughest work, but by ten o'clock she was gone, and Julie, Madame
Bornier, and the child remained in undisputed possession. Little,
flat-nosed, silent Madame Bornier bought and brought in all they ate.
She denounced the ways, the viands, the brigand's prices of English
_fournisseurs_, but it seemed to Julie, all the same, that she handled
them with a Napoleonic success. She bought as the French poor buy, so
far as the West End would let her, and Julie had soon perceived that
their expenditure, even in this heart of Mayfair, would be incredibly
small. Whereby she felt herself more and more mistress of her fate. By
her own unaided hands would she provide for herself and her household.
Each year there should be a little margin, and she would owe no man
anything. After six months, if she could not afford to pay the Duke a
fair rent for his house--always supposing he allowed her to remain in
it--she would go elsewhere.

As she reached the hall, clad in an old serge dress, which was a
survival from Bruges days, Thérèse ran up to her with the letters.

Julie looked through them, turned and went back to her room. She had
expected the letter which lay on the top, and she must brace herself
to read it.

It began abruptly:

     "You will hardly wonder that I should write at once to ask if
     you have no explanation to give me of your manner of this
     afternoon. Again and again I go over what happened, but no
     light comes. It was as though you had wiped out all the six
     months of our friendship; as though I had become for you once
     more the merest acquaintance. It is impossible that I can
     have been mistaken. You meant to make me--and
     others?--clearly understand--what? That I no longer deserved
     your kindness--that you had broken altogether with the man on
     whom you had so foolishly bestowed it?

     "My friend, what have I done? How have I sinned? Did that
     sour lady, who asked me questions she had small business to
     ask, tell you tales that have set your heart against me? But
     what have incidents and events that happened, or may have
     happened, in India, got to do with our friendship, which grew
     up for definite reasons and has come to mean so much--has it
     not?--to both of us? I am not a model person, Heaven
     knows!--very far from it. There are scores of things in my
     life to be ashamed of. And please remember that last year I
     had never seen you; if I had, much might have gone
     differently.

     "But how can I defend myself? I owe you so much. Ought not
     that, of itself, to make you realize how great is your power
     to hurt me, and how small are my powers of resistance? The
     humiliations you can inflict upon me are infinite, and I have
     no rights, no weapons, against you.

     "I hardly know what I am saying. It is very late, and I am
     writing this after a dinner at the club given me by two or
     three of my brother officers. It was a dinner in my honor, to
     congratulate me on my good fortune. They are good fellows,
     and it should have been a merry time. But my half hour in
     your room had killed all power of enjoyment for me. They
     found me a wretched companion, and we broke up early. I came
     home through the empty streets, wishing myself, with all my
     heart, away from England--facing the desert. Let me just say
     this. It is not of good omen that now, when I want all my
     faculties at their best, I should suddenly find myself
     invaded by this distress and despondency. You have some
     responsibility now in my life and career; if you would, you
     cannot get rid of it. You have not increased the chances of
     your friend's success in his great task.

     "You see how I restrain myself. I could write as madly as I
     feel--violently and madly. But of set purpose we pitched our
     relation in a certain key and measure; and I try, at least,
     to keep the measure, if the music and the charm must go. But
     why, in God's name, should they go? Why have you turned
     against me? You have listened to slanderers; you have
     secretly tried me by tests that are not in the bargain, and
     you have judged and condemned me without a hearing, without a
     word. I can tell you I am pretty sore.

     "I will come and see you no more in company for the present.
     You gave me a footing with you, which has its own dignity.
     I'll guard it; not even from you will I accept anything else.
     But--unless, indeed, the grove is cut down and the bird flown
     forever--let me come when you are alone. Then charge me with
     what you will. I am an earthy creature, struggling through
     life as I best can, and, till I saw you, struggling often, no
     doubt, in very earthy ways. I am not a philosopher, nor an
     idealist, with expectations, like Delafield. This
     rough-and-tumble world is all I know. It's good enough for
     me--good enough to love a friend in, as--I vow to God,
     Julie!--I have loved you.

     "There, it's out, and you must put up with it. I couldn't
     help it. I am too miserable.

     "But--

     "But I won't write any more. I shall stay in my rooms till
     twelve o'clock. You owe me promptness."

       *       *       *       *       *

Julie put down the letter.

She looked round her little study with a kind of despair--the despair
perhaps of the prisoner who had thought himself delivered, only to find
himself caught in fresh and stronger bonds. As for ambition, as for
literature--here, across their voices, broke this voice of the senses,
this desire of "the moth for the star." And she was powerless to resist
it. Ah, why had he not accepted his dismissal--quarrelled with her at
once and forever?

She understood the letter perfectly--what it offered, and what it
tacitly refused. An intimate and exciting friendship--for two years. For
two years he was ready to fill up such time as he could spare from his
clandestine correspondence with her cousin, with this romantic,
interesting, but unprofitable affection. And then?

She fell again upon his letter. Ah, but there was a new note in it--a
hard, strained note, which gave her a kind of desperate joy. It seemed
to her that for months she had been covetously listening for it in vain.

She was beginning to be necessary to him; he had _suffered_--through
her. Never before could she say that to herself. Pleasure she had given
him, but not pain; and it is pain that is the test and consecration of--

Of what?... Well, now for her answer. It was short.

     "I am very sorry you thought me rude. I was tired with
     talking and unpacking, and with literary work--housework,
     too, if the truth were known. I am no longer a fine lady, and
     must slave for myself. The thought, also, of an interview
     with Lord Lackington which faced me, which I went through as
     soon as you, Dr. Meredith, and Mr. Delafield had gone,
     unnerved me. You were good to write to me, and I am grateful
     indeed. As to your appointment, and your career, you owe no
     one anything. Everything is in your own hands. I rejoice in
     your good fortune, and I beg that you will let no false ideas
     with regard to me trouble your mind.

     "This afternoon at five, if you can forgive me, you will find
     me. In the early afternoon I shall be in the British Museum,
     for my work's sake."

She posted her letter, and went about her daily housework, oppressed the
while by a mental and moral nausea. As she washed and tidied and dusted,
a true housewife's love growing up in her for the little house and its
charming, old-world appointments--a sort of mute relation between her
and it, as though it accepted her for mistress, and she on her side
vowed it a delicate and prudent care--she thought how she could have
delighted in this life which had opened upon her had it come to her a
year ago. The tasks set her by Meredith were congenial and within her
power. Her independence gave her the keenest pleasure. The effort and
conquests of the intellect--she had the mind to love them, to desire
them; and the way to them was unbarred.

What plucked her back?

A tear fell upon the old china cup that she was dusting. A sort of
maternal element had entered into her affection for Warkworth during the
winter. She had upheld him and fought for him. And now, like a mother,
she could not tear the unworthy object from her heart, though all the
folly of their pseudo-friendship and her secret hopes lay bare
before her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Warkworth came at five.

He entered in the dusk; a little pale, with his graceful head thrown
back, and that half-startled, timid look in his wide, blue eyes--that
misleading look--which made him the boy still, when he chose.

Julie was standing near the window as he came in. As she turned and saw
him there, a flood of tenderness and compunction swept over her. He was
going away. What if she never saw him again?

She shuddered and came forward rapidly, eagerly. He read the meaning of
her movement, her face; and, wringing her hands with a violence that
hurt her, he drew a long breath of relief.

"Why--why"--he said, under his breath--"have you made me so unhappy?"

The blood leaped in her veins. These, indeed, were new words in a new
tone.

"Don't let us reproach each other," she said. "There is so much to say.
Sit down."

To-day there were no beguiling spring airs. The fire burned merrily in
the grate; the windows were closed.

A scent of narcissus--the Duchess had filled the tables with
flowers--floated in the room. Amid its old-fashioned and distinguished
bareness--tempered by flowers, and a litter of foreign books--Julie
seemed at last to have found her proper frame. In her severe black
dress, opening on a delicate vest of white, she had a muselike grace;
and the wreath made by her superb black hair round the fine intelligence
of her brow had never been more striking. Her slender hands busied
themselves with Cousin Mary Leicester's tea-things; and every movement
had in Warkworth's eyes a charm to which he had never yet been sensible,
in this manner, to this degree.

"Am I really to say no more of yesterday?" he said, looking at her
nervously.

Her flush, her gesture, appealed to him.

"Do you know what I had before me--that day--when you came in?" she
said, softly.

"No. I cannot guess. Ah, you said something about Lord Lackington?"

She hesitated. Then her color deepened.

"You don't know my story. You suppose, don't you, that I am a Belgian
with English connections, whom Lady Henry met by chance? Isn't that how
you explain me?"

Warkworth had pushed aside his cup.

"I thought--"

He paused in embarrassment, but there was a sparkle of astonished
expectancy in his eyes.

"My mother"--she looked away into the blaze of the fire, and her voice
choked a little--"my mother was Lord Lackington's daughter."

"Lord Lackington's daughter?" echoed Warkworth, in stupefaction. A rush
of ideas and inferences sped through his mind. He thought of Lady
Blanche--things heard in India--and while he stared at her in an
agitated silence the truth leaped to light.

"Not--not Lady Rose Delaney?" he said, bending forward to her.

She nodded.

"My father was Marriott Dalrymple. You will have heard of him. I should
be Julie Dalrymple, but--they could never marry--because of
Colonel Delaney."

Her face was still turned away.

All the details of that famous scandal began to come back to him. His
companion, her history, her relations to others, to himself, began to
appear to him in the most astonishing new lights. So, instead of the
mere humble outsider, she belonged all the time to the best English
blood? The society in which he had met her was full of her kindred. No
doubt the Duchess knew--and Montresor.... He was meshed in a net of
thoughts perplexing and confounding, of which the total result was
perhaps that she appeared to him as she sat there, the slender outline
so quiet and still, more attractive and more desirable than ever. The
mystery surrounding her in some way glorified her, and he dimly
perceived that so it must have been for others.

"How did you ever bear the Bruton Street life?" he said, presently, in
a low voice of wonder. "Lady Henry knew?"

"Oh yes!"

"And the Duchess?"

"Yes. She is a connection of my mother's."

Warkworth's mind went back to the Moffatts. A flush spread slowly over
the face of the young officer. It was indeed an extraordinary imbroglio
in which he found himself.

"How did Lord Lackington take it?" he asked, after a pause.

"He was, of course, much startled, much moved. We had a long talk.
Everything is to remain just the same. He wishes to make me an
allowance, and, if he persists, I suppose I can't hurt him by refusing.
But for the present I have refused. It is more amusing to earn one's own
living." She turned to him with a sharp brightness in her black eyes.
"Besides, if Lord Lackington gives me money, he will want to give me
advice. And I would rather advise myself."

Warkworth sat silent a moment. Then he took a great resolve.

"I want to speak to you," he said, suddenly, putting out his hand to
hers, which lay on her knee.

She turned to him, startled.

"I want to have no secrets from you," he said, drawing his breath
quickly. "I told you lies one day, because I thought it was my duty to
tell lies. Another person was concerned. But now I can't. Julie!--you'll
let me call you so, won't you? The name is already"--he hesitated; then
the words rushed out--"part of my life! Julie, it's quite true, there is
a kind of understanding between your little cousin Aileen and me. At
Simla she attracted me enormously. I lost my head one day in the woods,
when she--whom we were all courting--distinguished me above two or three
other men who were there. I proposed to her upon a sudden impulse, and
she accepted me. She is a charming, soft creature. Perhaps I wasn't
justified. Perhaps she ought to have had more chance of seeing the
world. Anyway, there was a great row. Her guardians insisted that I had
behaved badly. They could not know all the details of the matter, and I
was not going to tell them. Finally I promised to withdraw for
two years."

He paused, anxiously studying her face. It had grown very white, and, he
thought, very cold. But she quickly rose, and, looking down upon
him, said:

"Nothing of that is news to me. Did you think it was?"

And moving to the tea-table, she began to make provision for a fresh
supply of tea.

Both words and manner astounded him. He, too, rose and followed her.

"How did you first guess?" he said, abruptly.

"Some gossip reached me." She looked up with a smile. "That's what
generally happens, isn't it?"

"There are no secrets nowadays," he said, sorely. "And then, there was
Miss Lawrence?"

"Yes, there was Miss Lawrence."

"Did you think badly of me?"

"Why should I? I understand Aileen is very pretty, and--"

"And will have a large fortune. You understand that?" he said, trying to
carry it off lightly.

"The fact is well known, isn't it?"

He sat down, twisting his hat between his hands. Then with an
exclamation he dashed it on the floor, and, rising, he bent over Julie,
his hands in his pockets.

"Julie," he said, in a voice that shook her, "don't, for God's sake,
give me up! I have behaved abominably, but don't take your friendship
from me. I shall soon be gone. Our lives will go different ways. That
was settled--alack!--before we met. I am honorably bound to that poor
child. She cares for me, and I can't get loose. But these last months
have been happy, haven't they? There are just three weeks left. At
present the strongest feeling in my heart is--" He paused for his word,
and he saw that she was looking through the window to the trees of the
garden, and that, still as she was, her lip quivered.

"What shall I say?" he resumed, with emotion. "It seems to me our case
stands all by itself, alone in the world. We have three weeks--give them
to me. Don't let's play at cross purposes any more. I want to be
sincere--I want to hide nothing from you in these days. Let us throw
aside convention and trust each other, as friends may, so that when I go
we may say to each other, 'Well, it was worth the pain. These have been
days of gold--we shall get no better if we live to be a hundred.'"

She turned her face to him in a tremulous amazement and there were tears
on her cheek. Never had his aspect been so winning. What he proposed
was, in truth, a mean thing; all the same, he proposed it nobly.

It was in vain that something whispered in her ear: "This girl to whom
he describes himself as 'honorably bound' has a fortune of half a
million. He is determined to have both her money and my heart." Another
inward voice, tragically generous, dashed down the thought, and, at the
moment, rightly; for as he stood over her, breathless and imperious, to
his own joy, to his own exaltation, Warkworth was conscious of a new
sincerity flowing in a tempestuous and stormy current through all the
veins of being.

With a sombre passion which already marked an epoch in their relation,
and contained within itself the elements of new and unforeseen
developments, she gazed silently into his face. Then, leaning back in
her chair, she once more held out to him both her hands.

He gave an exclamation of joy, kissed the hands tenderly, and sat down
beside her.

"Now, then, all your cares, all your thoughts, all your griefs are to be
mine--till fate call us. And I have a thousand things to tell you, to
bless you for, to consult you about. There is not a thought in my mind
that you shall not know--bad, good, and indifferent--if you care to turn
out the rag-bag. Shall I begin with the morning--my experiences at the
club, my little nieces at the Zoo?" He laughed, but suddenly grew
serious again. "No, your story first; you owe it me. Let me know all
that concerns you. Your past, your sorrows, ambitions--everything."

He bent to her imperiously. With a faint, broken smile, her hands still
in his, she assented. It was difficult to begin, then difficult to
control the flood of memory; and it had long been dark when Madame
Bornier, coming in to light the lamp and make up the fire, disturbed an
intimate and searching conversation, which had revealed the two natures
to each other with an agitating fulness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet the results of this memorable evening upon Julie Le Breton were
ultimately such as few could have foreseen.

When Warkworth had left her, she went to her own room and sat for a long
while beside the window, gazing at the dark shrubberies of the Cureton
House garden, at the few twinkling, distant lights.

The vague, golden hopes she had cherished through these past months of
effort and scheming were gone forever. Warkworth would marry Aileen
Moffatt, and use her money for an ambitious career. After these weeks
now lying before them--weeks of dangerous intimacy, dangerous
emotion--she and he would become as strangers to each other. He would be
absorbed by his profession and his rich marriage. She would be left
alone to live her life.

A sudden terror of her own weakness overcame her. No, she could not be
alone. She must place a barrier between herself and this--this strange
threatening of illimitable ruin that sometimes rose upon her from the
dark. "I have no prejudices," she had said to Sir Wilfrid. There were
many moments when she felt a fierce pride in the element of lawlessness,
of defiance, that seemed to be her inheritance from her parents. But
to-night she was afraid of it.

Again, if love was to go, _power_, the satisfaction of ambition,
remained. She threw a quick glance into the future--the future beyond
these three weeks. What could she make of it? She knew well that she was
not the woman to resign herself to a mere pining obscurity.

Jacob Delafield? Was it, after all, so impossible?

For a few minutes she set herself deliberately to think out what it
would mean to marry him; then suddenly broke down and wept, with
inarticulate cries and sobs, with occasional reminiscences of her old
convent's prayers, appeals half conscious, instinctive, to a God only
half believed.



XVI

Delafield was walking through the Park towards Victoria Gate. A pair of
beautiful roans pulled up suddenly beside him, and a little figure with
a waving hand bent to him from a carriage.

"Jacob, where are you off to? Let me give you a lift?"

The gentleman addressed took off his hat.

"Much obliged to you, but I want some exercise. I say, where did Freddie
get that pair?"

"I don't know, he doesn't tell me. Jacob, you must get in. I want to
speak to you."

Rather unwillingly, Delafield obeyed, and away they sped.

"J'ai un tas de choses à vous dire," she said, speaking low, and in
French, so as to protect herself from the servants in front. "Jacob, I'm
_very_ unhappy about Julie."

Delafield frowned uncomfortably.

"Why? Hadn't you better leave her alone?"

"Oh, of course, I know you think me a chatterbox. I don't care. You
_must_ let me tell you some fresh news about her. It _isn't_ gossip, and
you and I are her best friends. Oh, Freddie's so disagreeable about her.
Jacob, you've got to help and advise a little. Now, do listen. It's your
duty--your downright catechism duty."

And she poured into his reluctant ear the tale which Miss Emily
Lawrence nearly a fortnight before had confided to her.

"Of course," she wound up, "you'll say it's only what we knew or guessed
long ago. But you see, Jacob, we didn't _know_. It might have been just
gossip. And then, besides"--she frowned and dropped her voice till it
was only just audible--"this horrid man hadn't made our Julie so--so
conspicuous, and Lady Henry hadn't turned out such a toad--and,
altogether, Jacob, I'm dreadfully worried."

"Don't be," said Jacob, dryly.

"And what a creature!" cried the Duchess, unheeding. "They say that poor
Moffatt child will soon have fretted herself ill, if the guardians don't
give way about the two years."

"What two years?"

"The two years that she must wait--till she is twenty-one. Oh, Jacob,
you know that!" exclaimed the Duchess, impatient with him. "I've told
you scores of times."

"I'm not in the least interested in Miss Moffatt's affairs."

"But you ought to be, for they concern Julie," cried the Duchess. "Can't
you imagine what kind of things people are saying? Lady Henry has spread
it about that it was all to see him she bribed the Bruton Street
servants to let her give the Wednesday party as usual--that she had been
flirting with him abominably for months, and using Lady Henry's name in
the most impertinent ways. And now, suddenly, everybody seems to know
_something_ about this Indian engagement. You may imagine it doesn't
look very well for our poor Julie. The other night at Chatton House I
was furious. I made Julie go. I wanted her to show herself, and keep up
her friends. Well, it was _horrid_! One or two old frights, who used to
be only too thankful to Julie for reminding Lady Henry to invite them,
put their noses in the air and behaved odiously. And even some of the
nicer ones seemed changed--I could see Julie felt it."

"Nothing of all that will do her any real harm," said Jacob, rather
contemptuously.

"Well, no. I know, of course, that her real friends will never forsake
her--never, never! But, Jacob"--the Duchess hesitated, her charming
little face furrowed with thought--"if only so much of it weren't true.
She herself--"

"Please, Evelyn," said Delafield, with decision, "don't tell me anything
she may have said to you."

The Duchess flushed.

"I shouldn't have betrayed any confidence," she said, proudly. "And I
must consult with some one who cares about her. Dr. Meredith lunched
with me to-day, and he said a few words to me afterwards. He's quite
anxious, too--and unhappy. Captain Warkworth's always there--always!
Even I have been hardly able to see her the last few days. Last Sunday
they took the little lame child and went into the country for the
whole day--"

"Well, what is there to object to in that?" cried Jacob.

"I didn't say there was anything to object to," said the Duchess,
looking at him with eyes half angry, half perplexed. "Only it's so
unlike her. She had promised to be at home that afternoon for several
old friends, and they found her flown, without a word. And think how
sweet Julie is always about such things--what delicious notes she
writes, how she hates to put anybody out or disappoint them! And now,
not a word of excuse to anybody. And she looks so _ill_--so white, so
fixed--like a person in a dream which she can't shake off. I'm just
miserable about her. And I hate, _hate_ that man--engaged to her own
cousin all the time!" cried the little Duchess, under her breath, as she
passionately tore some violets at her waist to pieces and flung them out
of the carriage. Then she turned to Jacob.

"But, of course, if you don't care twopence about all this, Jacob, it's
no good talking to you!"

Her taunt fell quite unnoticed. Jacob turned to her with smiling
composure.

"You have forgotten, my dear Evelyn, all this time, that Warkworth goes
away--to mid-Africa--in little more than two weeks."

"I wish it was two minutes," said the Duchess, fuming.

Delafield made no reply for a while. He seemed to be studying the effect
of a pale shaft of sunlight which had just come stealing down through
layers of thin gray cloud to dance upon the Serpentine. Presently, as
they left the Serpentine behind them, he turned to his companion with
more apparent sympathy.

"We can't do anything, Evelyn, and we've no right whatever to talk of
alarm, or anxiety--to _talk_ of it, mind! It's--it's disloyal. Forgive
me," he added, hastily, "I know you don't gossip. But it fills me with
rage that other people should be doing it."

The brusquerie of his manner disconcerted the little lady beside him.
She recovered herself, however, and said, with a touch of sarcasm,
tempered by a rather trembling lip:

"Your rage won't prevent their gossiping, Mr. Jacob, I thought, perhaps,
your _friendship_ might have done something to stop it--to--to influence
Julie," she added, uncertainly.

"My friendship, as you call it, is of no use whatever," he said,
obstinately. "Warkworth will go away, and if you and others do their
best to protect Miss Le Breton, talk will soon die out. Behave as if you
had never heard the man's name before--stare the people down. Why, good
Heavens! you have a thousand arts! But, of course, if the little flame
is to be blown into a blaze by a score of so-called friends--"

He shrugged his shoulders.

The Duchess did not take his rebukes kindly, not having, in truth,
deserved them.

"You are rude and unkind, Jacob," she said, almost with the tears in her
eyes. "And you don't understand--it is because I myself am so anxious--"

"For that reason, play the part with all your might," he said,
unyieldingly. "Really, even you and I oughtn't to talk of it any more.
But there _is_ one thing I want very much to know about Miss Le Breton."

He bent towards her, smiling, though in truth he was disgusted with
himself, vexed with her, and out of tune with all the world.

The Duchess made a little face.

"All very well, but after such a lecture as you have indulged in, I
think I prefer not to say any more about Julie."

"Do. I'm ashamed of myself--except that I don't retract one word, not
one. Be kind, all the same, and tell me--if you know--has she spoken to
Lord Lackington?"

The Duchess still frowned, but a few more apologetic expressions on his
part restored a temper that had always a natural tendency to peace.
Indeed, Jacob's _boutades_ never went long unpardoned. An only child
herself, he, her first cousin, had played the part of brother in her
life, since the days when she first tottered in long frocks, and he had
never played it in any mincing fashion. His words were often blunt. She
smarted and forgave--much more quickly than she forgave her husband. But
then, with him, she was in love.

So she presently vouchsafed to give Jacob the news that Lord Lackington
at last knew the secret--that he had behaved well--had shown much
feeling, in fact--so that poor Julie--

But Jacob again cut short the sentimentalisms, the little touching
phrases in which the woman delighted.

"What is he going to do for her?" he said, impatiently. "Will he make
any provision for her? Is there any way by which she can live in his
house--take care of him?"

The Duchess shook her head.

"At seventy-five one can't begin to explain a thing as big as that.
Julie perfectly understands, and doesn't wish it."

"But as to money?" persisted Jacob.

"Julie says nothing about money. How odd you are, Jacob! I thought that
was the last thing needful in your eyes."

Jacob did not reply. If he had, he would probably have said that what
was harmful or useless for men might be needful for women--for the
weakness of women. But he kept silence, while the vague intensity of the
eyes, the pursed and twisted mouth, showed that his mind was full
of thoughts.

Suddenly he perceived that the carriage was nearing Victoria Gate. He
called to the coachman to stop, and jumped out.

"Good-bye, Evelyn. Don't bear me malice. You're a good friend," he said
in her ear--"a real good friend. But don't let people talk to you--not
even elderly ladies with the best intentions. I tell you it will be a
fight, and one of the best weapons is"--he touched his lips
significantly, smiled at her, and was gone.

The Duchess passed out of the Park. Delafield turned as though in the
direction of the Marble Arch, but as soon as the carriage was out of
sight he paused and quickly retraced his steps towards Kensington
Gardens. Here, in this third week of March, some of the thorns and
lilacs were already in leaf. The grass was springing, and the chatter of
many sparrows filled the air. Faint patches of sun flecked the ground
between the trees, and blue hazes, already redeemed from the dreariness
of winter, filled the dim planes of distance and mingled with the low,
silvery clouds. He found a quiet spot, remote from nursery-maids and
children, and there he wandered to and fro, indefinitely, his hands
behind his back. All the anxieties for which he had scolded his cousin
possessed him, only sharpened tenfold; he was in torture, and he
was helpless.

However, when at last he emerged from his solitude, and took a hansom to
the Chudleigh estate office in Spring Gardens, he resolutely shook off
the thoughts which had been weighing upon him. He took his usual
interest in his work, and did it with his usual capacity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Towards five o'clock in the afternoon, Delafield found himself in
Cureton Street. As he turned down Heribert Street he saw a cab in front
of him. It stopped at Miss Le Breton's door, and Warkworth jumped out.
The door was quickly opened to him, and he went in without having turned
his eyes towards the man at the far corner of the street.

Delafield paused irresolute. Finally he walked back to his club in
Piccadilly, where he dawdled over the newspapers till nearly seven.

Then he once more betook himself to Heribert Street.

"Is Miss Le Breton at home?"

Thérèse looked at him with a sudden flickering of her clear eyes.

"I think so, sir," she said, with soft hesitation, and she slowly led
him across the hall.

The drawing-room door opened. Major Warkworth emerged.

"Ah, how do you do?" he said, shortly, staring in a kind of bewilderment
as he saw Delafield. Then he hurriedly looked for his hat, ran down the
stairs, and was gone.

"Announce me, please," said Delafield, peremptorily, to the little girl.
"Tell Miss Le Breton that I am here." And he drew back from the open
door of the drawing-room. Thérèse slipped in, and reappeared.

"Please to walk in, sir," she said, in her shy, low voice, and Delafield
entered. From the hall he had caught one involuntary glimpse of Julie,
standing stiff and straight in the middle of the room, her hands clasped
to her breast--a figure in pain. When he went in, she was in her usual
seat by the fire, with her embroidery frame in front of her.

"May I come in? It is rather late."

"Oh, by all means! Do you bring me any news of Evelyn? I haven't seen
her for three days."

He seated himself beside her. It was hard, indeed, for him to hide all
signs of the tumult within. But he held a firm grip upon himself.

"I saw Evelyn this afternoon. She complained that you had had no time
for her lately."

Julie bent over her work. He saw that her fingers were so unsteady that
she could hardly make them obey her.

"There has been a great deal to do, even in this little house. Evelyn
forgets; she has an army of servants; we have only our hands and
our time."

She looked up, smiling. He made no reply, and the smile died from her
face, suddenly, as though some one had blown out a light. She returned
to her work, or pretended to. But her aspect had left him inwardly
shaken. The eyes, disproportionately large and brilliant, were of an
emphasis almost ghastly, the usually clear complexion was flecked and
cloudy, the mouth dry-lipped. She looked much older than she had done a
fortnight before. And the fact was the more noticeable because in her
dress she had now wholly discarded the touch of stateliness--almost
old-maidishness--which had once seemed appropriate to the position of
Lady Henry's companion. She was wearing a little gown of her youth, a
blue cotton, which two years before had been put aside as too slight
and juvenile. Never had the form within it seemed so girlish, so
appealing. But the face was heart-rending.

After a pause he moved a little closer to her.

"Do you know that you are looking quite ill?"

"Then my looks are misleading. I am very well."

"I am afraid I don't put much faith in that remark. When do you mean to
take a holiday?"

"Oh, very soon. Léonie, my little housekeeper, talks of going to Bruges
to wind up all her affairs there and bring back some furniture that she
has warehoused. I may go with her. I, too, have some property stored
there. I should go and see some old friends--the _soeurs_, for instance,
with whom I went to school. In the old days I was a torment to them, and
they were tyrants to me. But they are quite nice to me now--they give me
_patisserie_, and stroke my hands and spoil me."

And she rattled on about the friends she might revisit, in a hollow,
perfunctory way, which set him on edge.

"I don't see that anything of that kind will do you any good. You want
rest of mind and body. I expect those last scenes with Lady Henry cost
you more than you knew. There are wounds one does not notice at
the time--"

"Which afterwards bleed inwardly?" She laughed. "No, no, I am not
bleeding for Lady Henry. By-the-way, what news of her?"

"Sir Wilfrid told me to-day that he had had a letter. She is at Torquay,
and she thinks there are too many curates at Torquay. She is not at all
in a good temper."

Julie looked up.

"You know that she is trying to punish me. A great many people seem to
have been written to."

"That will blow over."

"I don't know. How confident I was at one time that, if there was a
breach, it would be Lady Henry that would suffer! It makes me hot to
remember some things I said--to Sir Wilfrid, in particular. I see now
that I shall not be troubled with society in this little house."

"It is too early for you to guess anything of that kind."

"Not at all! London is pretty full. The affair has made a noise. Those
who meant to stand by me would have called, don't you think?"

The quivering bitterness of her face was most pitiful in Jacob's eyes.

"Oh, people take their time," he said, trying to speak lightly.

She shook her head.

"It's ridiculous that I should care. One's self-love, I suppose--_that_
bleeds! Evelyn has made me send out cards for a little house-warming.
She said I must. She made me go to that smart party at Chatton House the
other night. It was a great mistake. People turned their backs on me.
And this, too, will be a mistake--and a failure."

"You were kind enough to send me a card."

"Yes--and you must come?"

She looked at him with a sudden nervous appeal, which made another tug
on his self-control.

"Of course I shall come."

"Do you remember your own saying--that awful evening--that I had devoted
friends? Well, we shall soon see."

"That depends only on yourself," he replied, with gentle deliberation.

She started--threw him a doubtful look.

"If you mean that I must take a great deal of trouble, I am afraid I
can't. I am too tired."

And she sank back in her chair.

The sigh that accompanied the words seemed to him involuntary,
unconscious.

"I didn't mean that--altogether," he said, after a moment.

She moved restlessly.

"Then, really, I don't know what you meant. I suppose all friendship
depends on one's self."

She drew her embroidery frame towards her again, and he was left to
wonder at his own audacity. "Do you know," she said, presently, her eyes
apparently busy with her silks, "that I have told Lord Lackington?"

"Yes. Evelyn gave me that news. How has the old man behaved?"

"Oh, very well--most kindly. He has already formed a habit, almost, of
'dropping in' upon me at all hours. I have had to appoint him times and
seasons, or there would be no work done. He sits here and raves about
young Mrs. Delaray--you know he is painting her portrait, for the famous
series?--and draws her profile on the backs of my letters. He recites
his speeches to me; he asks my advice as to his fights with his tenants
or his miners. In short, I'm adopted--I'm almost the real thing."

She smiled, and then again, as she turned over her silks, he heard her
sigh--a long breath of weariness. It was strange and terrible in his
ear--the contrast between this unconscious sound, drawn as it were from
the oppressed heart of pain, and her languidly, smiling words.

"Has he spoken to you of the Moffatts?" he asked her, presently, not
looking at her.

A sharp crimson color rushed over her face.

"Not much. He and Lady Blanche are not great friends. And I have made
him promise to keep my secret from her till I give him leave to
tell it."

"It will have to be known to her some time, will it not?"

"Perhaps," she said, impatiently. "Perhaps, when I can make up my mind."

Then she pushed aside her frame and would talk no more about Lord
Lackington. She gave him, somehow, the impression of a person
suffocating, struggling for breath and air. And yet her hand was icy,
and she presently went to the fire, complaining of the east wind; and as
he put on the coal he saw her shiver.

"Shall I force her to tell me everything?" he thought to himself.

Did she divine the obscure struggle in his mind? At any rate she seemed
anxious to cut short their _tête-à-tête_. She asked him to come and look
at some engravings which the Duchess had sent round for the
embellishment of the dining-room. Then she summoned Madame Bornier, and
asked him a number of questions on Léonie's behalf, with reference to
some little investment of the ex-governess's savings, which had been
dropping in value. Meanwhile, as she kept him talking, she leaned
herself against the lintel of the door, forgetting every now and then
that any one else was there, and letting the true self appear, like some
drowned thing floating into sight. Delafield disposed of Madame
Bornier's affairs, hardly knowing what he said, but showing in truth his
usual conscience and kindness. Then when Léonie was contented, Julie saw
the little cripple crossing the hall, and called to her.

"Ah, ma chérie! How is the poor little foot?"

And turning to Delafield, she explained volubly that Thérèse had given
herself a slight twist on the stairs that morning, pressing the child to
her side the while with a tender gesture. The child nestled against her.

"Shall maman keep back supper?" Thérèse half whispered, looking at
Delafield.

"No, no, I must go!" cried Delafield, rousing himself and looking for
his hat.

"I would ask you to stay," said Julie, smiling, "just to show off
Léonie's cooking; but there wouldn't be enough for a great big man. And
you're probably dining with dukes."

Delafield disclaimed any such intention, and they went back to the
drawing-room to look for his hat and stick. Julie still had her arm
round Thérèse and would not let the child go. She clearly avoided being
left alone with him; and yet it seemed, even to his modesty, that she
was loath to see him depart. She talked first of her little _ménage_, as
though proud of their daily economies and contrivances; then of her
literary work and its prospects; then of her debt to Meredith. Never
before had she thus admitted him to her domestic and private life. It
was as though she leaned upon his sympathy, his advice, his mere
neighborhood. And her pale, changed face had never seemed to him so
beautiful--never, in fact, truly beautiful till now. The dying down of
the brilliance and energy of the strongly marked character, which had
made her the life of the Bruton Street salon, into this mildness, this
despondency, this hidden weariness, had left her infinitely more lovely
in his eyes. But how to restrain himself much longer from taking the
sad, gracious woman in his arms and coercing her into sanity and
happiness!

At last he tore himself away.

"You won't forget Wednesday?" she said to him, as she followed him into
the hall.

"No. Is there anything else that you wish--that I could do?"

"No, nothing. But if there is I will ask."

Then, looking up, she shrank from something in his face--something
accusing, passionate, profound.

He wrung her hand.

"Promise that you will ask."

She murmured something, and he turned away.

       *       *       *       *       *

She came back alone into the drawing-room.

"Oh, what a good man!" she said, sighing. "What a good man!"

And then, all in a moment, she was thankful that he was gone--that she
was alone with and mistress of her pain.

The passion and misery which his visit had interrupted swept back upon
her in a rushing swirl, blinding and choking every sense. Ah, what a
scene, to which his coming had put an end--scene of bitterness, of
recrimination, not restrained even by this impending anguish
of parting!

It came as a close to a week during which she and Warkworth had been
playing the game which they had chosen to play, according to its
appointed rules--the delicacies and restraints of friendship masking,
and at the same time inflaming, a most unhappy, poisonous, and growing
love. And, finally, there had risen upon them a storm-wave of
feeling--tyrannous, tempestuous--bursting in reproach and agitation,
leaving behind it, bare and menacing, the old, ugly facts, unaltered and
unalterable.

Warkworth was little less miserable than herself. That she knew. He
loved her, as it were, to his own anger and surprise. And he suffered in
deserting her, more than he had ever suffered yet through any human
affection.

But his purpose through it all remained stubbornly fixed; that, also,
she knew. For nearly a year Aileen Moffatt's fortune and Aileen
Moffatt's family connections had entered into all his calculations of
the future. Only a few more years in the army, then retirement with
ample means, a charming wife, and a seat in Parliament. To jeopardize a
plan so manifestly desirable, so easy to carry out, so far-reaching in
its favorable effects upon his life, for the sake of those hard and
doubtful alternatives in which a marriage with Julie would involve him,
never seriously entered his mind. When he suffered he merely said to
himself, steadily, that time would heal the smart for both of them.

"Only one thing would be absolutely fatal for all of us--that I should
break with Aileen."

Julie read these obscure processes in Warkworth's mind with perfect
clearness. She was powerless to change them; but that afternoon she had,
at any rate, beaten her wings against the bars, and the exhaustion and
anguish of her revolt, her reproaches, were still upon her.

The spring night had fallen. The room was hot, and she threw a window
open. Some thorns in the garden beneath had thickened into leaf. They
rose in a dark mass beneath the window. Overhead, beyond the haze of the
great city, a few stars twinkled, and the dim roar of London life beat
from all sides upon this quiet corner which still held Lady Mary's
old house.

Julie's eyes strained into the darkness; her head swam with weakness and
weariness. Suddenly she gave a cry--she pressed her hands to her heart.
Upon the darkness outside there rose a face, so sharply drawn, so
life-like, that it printed itself forever upon the quivering tissues of
the brain. It was Warkworth's face, not as she had seen it last, but in
some strange extremity of physical ill--drawn, haggard, in a cold
sweat--the eyes glazed, the hair matted, the parched lips open as though
they cried for help. She stood gazing. Then the eyes turned, and the
agony in them looked out upon her.

Her whole sense was absorbed by the phantom; her being hung upon it.
Then, as it faded on the quiet trees, she tottered to a chair and hid
her face. Common sense told her that she was the victim of her own tired
nerves and tortured fancy. But the memory of Cousin Mary Leicester's
second sight, of her "visions" in this very room, crept upon her and
gripped her heart. A ghostly horror seized her of the room, the house,
and her own tempestuous nature. She groped her way out, in blind and
hurrying panic--glad of the lamp in the hall, glad of the sounds in the
house, glad, above all, of Thérèse's thin hands as they once more stole
lovingly round her own.



XVII

The Duchess and Julie were in the large room of Burlington House. They
had paused before a magnificent Turner of the middle period, hitherto
unseen by the public, and the Duchess was reading from the catalogue in
Julie's ear.

She had found Julie alone in Heribert Street, surrounded by books and
proofs, endeavoring, as she reported, to finish a piece of work for Dr.
Meredith. Distressed by her friend's pale cheeks, the Duchess had
insisted on dragging her from the prison-house and changing the current
of her thoughts. Julie, laughing, hesitating, indignant, had at last
yielded--probably in order to avoid another _tête-à-tête_ and another
scene with the little, impetuous lady, and now the Duchess had her safe
and was endeavoring to amuse her.

But it was not easy. Julie, generally so instructed and sympathetic, so
well skilled in the difficult art of seeing pictures with a friend,
might, to-day, never have turned a phrase upon a Constable or a Romney
before. She tried, indeed, to turn them as usual; but the Duchess,
sharply critical and attentive where her beloved Julie was concerned,
perceived the difference acutely! Alack, what languor, what fatigue!
Evelyn became more and more conscious of an inward consternation.

"But, thank goodness, he goes to-morrow--the villain! And when that's
over, it will be all right."

Julie, meanwhile, knew that she was observed, divined, and pitied. Her
pride revolted, but it could wring from her nothing better than a
passive resistance. She could prevent Evelyn from expressing her
thoughts; she could not so command her own bodily frame that the Duchess
should not think. Days of moral and mental struggle, nights of waking,
combined with the serious and sustained effort of a new profession, had
left their mark. There are, moreover, certain wounds to self-love and
self-respect which poison the whole being.

"Julie! you _must_ have a holiday!" cried the Duchess, presently, as
they sat down to rest.

Julie replied that she, Madame Bornier, and the child were going to
Bruges for a week.

"Oh, but that won't be comfortable enough! I'm sure I could arrange
something. Think of all our tiresome houses--eating their heads off!"

Julie firmly refused. She was going to renew old friendships at Bruges;
she would be made much of; and the prospect was as pleasant as any one
need wish.

"Well, of course, if you have made up your mind. When do you go?"

"In three or four days--just before the Easter rush. And you?"

"Oh, we go to Scotland to fish. We must, of course, be killing
something. How long, darling, will you be away?"

"About ten days." Julie pressed the Duchess's little hand in
acknowledgment of the caressing word and look.

"By-the-way, didn't Lord Lackington invite you? Ah, there he is!"

And suddenly, Lord Lackington, examining with fury a picture of his own
which some rascally critic had that morning pronounced to be "Venetian
school" and not the divine Giorgione himself, lifted an angry
countenance to find the Duchess and Julie beside him.

The start which passed through him betrayed itself. He could not yet see
Julie with composure. But when he had pressed her hand and inquired
after her health, he went back to his grievance, being indeed rejoiced
to have secured a pair of listeners.

"Really, the insolence of these fellows in the press! I shall let the
Academy know what I think of it. Not a rag of mine shall they ever see
here again. Ears and little fingers, indeed! Idiots and owls!"

Julie smiled. But it had to be explained to the Duchess that a wise man,
half Italian, half German, had lately arisen who proposed to judge the
authenticity of a picture by its ears, assisted by any peculiarities of
treatment in the little fingers.

"What nonsense!" said the Duchess, with a yawn. "If I were an artist, I
should always draw them different ways."

"Well, not exactly," said Lord Lackington, who, as an artist himself,
was unfortunately debarred from statements of this simplicity. "But the
_ludicrous_ way in which these fools overdo their little discoveries!"

And he walked on, fuming, till the open and unmeasured admiration of the
two ladies for his great Rembrandt, the gem of his collection, now
occupying the place of honor in the large room of the Academy, restored
him to himself.

"Ah, even the biggest ass among them holds his tongue about that!" he
said, exultantly. "But, hallo! What does that call itself?" He looked at
a picture in front of him, then at the catalogue, then at the Duchess.

"That picture is ours," said the Duchess. "Isn't it a dear? It's a
Leonardo da Vinci."

"Leonardo fiddlesticks!" cried Lord Lackington. "Leonardo, indeed! What
absurdity! Really, Duchess, you should tell Crowborough to be more
careful about his things. We mustn't give handles to these fellows."

"What do you mean?" said the Duchess, offended. "If it isn't a Leonardo,
pray what is it?"

"Why, a bad school copy, of course!" said Lord Lackington, hotly. "Look
at the eyes"--he took out a pencil and pointed--"look at the neck, look
at the fingers!"

The Duchess pouted.

"Oh!" she said. "Then there is something in fingers!"

Lord Lackington's face suddenly relaxed. He broke into a shout of
laughter, _bon enfant_ that he was; and the Duchess laughed, too; but
under cover of their merriment she, mindful of quite other things, drew
him a little farther away from Julie.

"I thought you had asked her to Nonpareil for Easter?" she said, in his
ear, with a motion of her pretty head towards Julie in the distance.

"Yes, but, my dear lady, Blanche won't come home! She and Aileen put it
off, and put it off. Now she says they mean to spend May in
Switzerland--may perhaps be away the whole summer! I had counted on
them for Easter. I am dependent on Blanche for hostess. It is really too
bad of her. Everything has broken down, and William and I (he named his
youngest son) are going to the Uredales' for a fortnight."

Lord Uredale, his eldest son, a sportsman and farmer, troubled by none
of his father's originalities, reigned over the second family "place,"
in Herefordshire, beside the Wye.

"Has Aileen any love affairs yet?" said the Duchess, abruptly, raising
her face to his.

Lord Lackington looked surprised.

"Not that I know of. However, I dare say they wouldn't tell me. I'm a
sieve, I know. Have you heard of any? Tell me." He stooped to her with
roguish eagerness. "I like to steal a march on Blanche."

So he knew nothing--while half their world was talking! It was very
characteristic, however. Except for his own hobbies, artistic, medical,
or military, Lord Lackington had walked through life as a Johnny
Head-in-Air, from his youth till now. His children had not trusted him
with their secrets, and he had never discovered them for himself.

"Is there any likeness between Julie and Aileen?" whispered the Duchess.

Lord Lackington started. Both turned their eyes towards Julie, as she
stood some ten yards away from them, in front of a refined and
mysterious profile of the cinque-cento--some lady, perhaps, of the
d'Este or Sforza families, attributed to Ambrogio da Predis. In her
soft, black dress, delicately folded and draped to hide her excessive
thinness, her small toque fitting closely over her wealth of hair, her
only ornaments a long and slender chain set with uncut jewels which Lord
Lackington had brought her the day before, and a bunch of violets which
the Duchess had just slipped into her belt, she was as rare and delicate
as the picture. But she turned her face towards them, and Lord
Lackington made a sudden exclamation.

"No! Good Heavens, no! Aileen was a dancing-sprite when I saw her last,
and this poor girl!--Duchess, why does she look like that? So sad, so
bloodless!"

He turned upon her impetuously, his face frowning and disturbed.

The Duchess sighed.

"You and I have just got to do all we can for her," she said, relieved
to see that Julie had wandered farther away, as though it pleased her to
be left to herself.

"But I would do anything--everything!" cried Lord Lackington. "Of
course, none of us can undo the past. But I offered yesterday to make
full provision for her. She has refused. She has the most Quixotic
notions, poor child!"

"No, let her earn her own living yet awhile. It will do her good.
But--shall I tell you secrets?" The Duchess looked at him, knitting her
small brows.

"Tell me what I ought to know--no more," he said, gravely, with a
dignity contrasting oddly with his school-boy curiosity in the matter of
little Aileen's lover.

The Duchess hesitated. Just in front of her was a picture of the
Venetian school representing St. George, Princess Saba, and the dragon.
The princess, a long and slender victim, with bowed head and fettered
hands, reminded her of Julie. The dragon--perfidious, encroaching
wretch!--he was easy enough of interpretation. But from the blue
distance, thank Heaven! spurs the champion. Oh, ye heavenly powers, give
him wings and strength! "St. George--St. George to the rescue!"

"Well," she said, slowly, "I can tell you of some one who is very
devoted to Julie--some one worthy of her. Come with me."

And she took him away into the next room, still talking in his ear.

       *       *       *       *       *

When they returned, Lord Lackington was radiant. With a new eagerness he
looked for Julie's distant figure amid the groups scattered about the
central room. The Duchess had sworn him to secrecy, indeed; and he meant
to be discretion itself. But--Jacob Delafield! Yes, that, indeed, would
be a solution. His pride was acutely pleased; his affection--of which he
already began to feel no small store for this charming woman of his own
blood, this poor granddaughter _de la main gauche_--was strengthened and
stimulated. She was sad now and out of spirits, poor thing, because, no
doubt, of this horrid business with Lady Henry, to whom, by-the-way, he
had written his mind. But time would see to that--time--gently and
discreetly assisted by himself and the Duchess. It was impossible that
she should finally hold out against such a good fellow--impossible, and
most unreasonable. No. Rose's daughter would be brought back safely to
her mother's world and class, and poor Rose's tragedy would at last work
itself out for good. How strange, romantic, and providential!

In such a mood did he now devote himself to Julie. He chattered about
the pictures; he gossiped about their owners; he excused himself for
the absence of "that gad-about Blanche"; he made her promise him a
Whitsuntide visit instead, and whispered in her ear, "You shall have
_her_ room"; he paid her the most handsome and gallant attentions,
natural to the man of fashion _par excellence_, mingled with something
intimate, brusque, capricious, which marked her his own, and of the
family. Seventy-five!--with that step, that carriage of the shoulders,
that vivacity! Ridiculous!

And Julie could not but respond.

Something stole into her heart that had never yet lodged there. She must
love the old man--she did. When he left her for the Duchess her eyes
followed him--her dark-rimmed, wistful eyes.

"I must be off," said Lord Lackington, presently, buttoning up his coat.
"This, ladies, has been dalliance. I now go to my duties. Read me in the
_Times_ to-morrow. I shall make a rattling speech. You see, I shall
rub it in."

"Montresor?" said the Duchess.

Lord Lackington nodded. That afternoon he proposed to strew the floor of
the House of Lords with the _débris_ of Montresor's farcical reforms.

Suddenly he pulled himself up.

"Duchess, look round you, at those two in the doorway. Isn't it--by
George, it is!--Chudleigh and his boy!"

"Yes--yes, it is," said the Duchess, in some excitement. "Don't
recognize them. Don't speak to him. Jacob implored me not."

And she hurried her companions along till they were well out of the
track of the new-comers; then on the threshold of another room she
paused, and, touching Julie on the arm, said, in a whisper:

"Now look back. That's Jacob's Duke, and his poor, poor boy!"

Julie threw a hurried glance towards the two figures; but that glance
impressed forever upon her memory a most tragic sight.

A man of middle height, sallow, and careworn, with jet-black hair and
beard, supported a sickly lad, apparently about seventeen, who clung to
his arm and coughed at intervals. The father moved as though in a dream.
He looked at the pictures with unseeing, lustreless eyes, except when
the boy asked him a question. Then he would smile, stoop his head and
answer, only to resume again immediately his melancholy passivity. The
boy, meanwhile, his lips gently parted over his white teeth, his blue
eyes wide open and intent upon the pictures, his emaciated cheeks deeply
flushed, wore an aspect of patient suffering, of docile dependence,
peculiarly touching.

It was evident the father and son thought of none but each other. From
time to time the man would make the boy rest on one of the seats in the
middle of the room, and the boy would look up and chatter to his
companion standing before him. Then again they would resume their walk,
the boy leaning on his father. Clearly the poor lad was marked for
death; clearly, also, he was the desire of his father's heart.

"The possessor, and the heir, of perhaps the finest houses and the most
magnificent estates in England," said Lord Lackington, with a shrug of
pity. "And Chudleigh would gladly give them all to keep that
boy alive."

Julie turned away. Strange thoughts had been passing and repassing
through her brain.

Then, with angry loathing, she flung her thoughts from her. What did the
Chudleigh inheritance matter to her? That night she said good-bye to the
man she loved. These three miserable, burning weeks were done. Her
heart, her life, would go with Warkworth to Africa and the desert. If at
the beginning of this period of passion--so short in prospect, and, to
look back upon, an eternity--she had ever supposed that power or wealth
could make her amends for the loss of her lover, she was in no mood to
calculate such compensations to-day. Parting was too near, the anguish
in her veins too sharp.

"Jacob takes them to Paris to-morrow," said the Duchess to Lord
Lackington. "The Duke has heard of some new doctor."

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour or two later, Sir Wilfrid Bury, in the smoking-room of his club,
took out a letter which he had that morning received from Lady Henry
Delafield and gave it a second reading.

     "So I hear that mademoiselle's social prospects are not,
     after all, so triumphant as both she and I imagined. I gave
     the world credit for more fools than it seems actually to
     possess; and she--well, I own I am a little puzzled. Has she
     taken leave of her senses? I am told that she is constantly
     seen with this man; that in spite of all denials there can be
     no doubt of his engagement to the Moffatt girl; and that _en
     somme_ she has done herself no good by the whole affair. But,
     after all, poor soul, she is disinterested. She stands to
     gain nothing, as I understand; and she risks a good deal.
     From this comfortable distance, I really find something
     touching in her behavior.

     "She gives her first 'Wednesday,' I understand, to-morrow.
     'Mademoiselle Le Breton at home!' I confess I am curious. By
     all means go, and send me a full report. Mr. Montresor and
     his wife will certainly be there. He and I have been
     corresponding, of course. He wishes to persuade me that he
     feels himself in some way responsible for mademoiselle's
     position, and for my dismissal of her; that I ought to allow
     him in consequence full freedom of action. I cannot see
     matters in the same light. But, as I tell him, the change
     will be all to his advantage. He exchanges a fractious old
     woman, always ready to tell him unpleasant truths, for one
     who has made flattery her _métier_. If he wants quantity she
     will give it him. Quality he can dispense with--as I have
     seen for some time past.

     "Lord Lackington has written me an impertinent letter. It
     seems she has revealed herself, and _il s'en prend à moi_,
     because I kept the secret from him, and because I have now
     dared to dismiss his granddaughter. I am in the midst of a
     reply which amuses me. He is to cast off his belongings as he
     pleases; but when a lady of the Chantrey blood--no matter how
     she came by it--condescends to enter a paid employment,
     legitimate or illegitimate, she must be treated _en reine_,
     or Lord L. will know the reason why. 'Here is one hundred
     pounds a year, and let me hear no more of you,' he says to
     her at sixteen. Thirteen years later I take her in, respect
     his wishes, and keep the secret. She misbehaves herself, and
     I dismiss her. Where is the grievance? He himself made her a
     _lectrice_, and now complains that she is expected to do her
     duty in that line of life. He himself banished her from the
     family, and now grumbles that I did not at once foist her
     upon him. He would like to escape the odium of his former
     action by blaming me; but I am not meek, and I shall make him
     regret his letter.

     "As for Jacob Delafield, don't trouble yourself to write me
     any further news of him. He has insulted me lately in a way I
     shall not soon forgive--nothing to do, however, with the lady
     who says she refused him. Whether her report be veracious or
     no matters nothing to me, any more than his chances of
     succeeding to the Captain's place. He is one of the ingenious
     fools who despise the old ways of ruining themselves, and in
     the end achieve it as well as the commoner sort. He owes me a
     good deal, and at one time it pleased me to imagine that he
     was capable both of affection and gratitude. That is the
     worst of being a woman; we pass from one illusion to another;
     love is only the beginning; there are a dozen to come after.

     "You will scold me for a bitter tongue. Well, my dear
     Wilfrid, I am not gay here. There are too many women, too
     many church services, and I see too much of my doctor. I pine
     for London, and I don't see why I should have been driven out
     of it by an _intrigante_.

     "Write to me, my dear Wilfrid. I am not quite so bad as I
     paint myself; say to yourself she has arthritis, she is
     sixty-five, and her new companion reads aloud with a twang;
     then you will only wonder at my moderation."

Sir Wilfrid returned the letter to his pocket. That day, at luncheon
with Lady Hubert, he had had the curiosity to question Susan Delafield,
Jacob's fair-haired sister, as to the reasons for her brother's quarrel
with Lady Henry.

It appeared that being now in receipt of what seemed to himself, at any
rate, a large salary as his cousin's agent, he had thought it his duty
to save up and repay the sums which Lady Henry had formerly spent upon
his education.

His letter enclosing the money had reached that lady during the first
week of her stay at Torquay. It was, no doubt, couched in terms less
cordial or more formal than would have been the case before Miss Le
Breton's expulsion. "Not that he defends her altogether," said Susan
Delafield, who was herself inclined to side with Lady Henry; "but as
Lady Henry has refused to see him since, it was not much good being
friendly, was it?"

Anyway, the letter and its enclosure had completed a breach already
begun. Lady Henry had taken furious offence; the check had been
insultingly returned, and had now gone to swell the finances of a
London hospital.

Sir Wilfrid was just reflecting that Jacob's honesty had better have
waited for a more propitious season, when, looking up, he saw the War
Minister beside him, in the act of searching for a newspaper.

"Released?" said Bury, with a smile.

"Yes, thank Heaven. Lackington is, I believe, still pounding at me in
the House of Lords. But that amuses him and doesn't hurt me."

"You'll carry your resolutions?"

"Oh, dear, yes, with no trouble at all," said the Minister, almost with
sulkiness, as he threw himself into a chair and looked with distaste at
the newspaper he had taken up.

Sir Wilfrid surveyed him.

"We meet to-night?" he said, presently.

"You mean in Heribert Street? I suppose so," said Montresor, without
cordiality.

"I have just got a letter from her ladyship."

"Well, I hope it is more agreeable than those she writes to me. A more
unreasonable old woman--"

The tired Minister took up _Punch_, looked at a page, and flung it down
again. Then he said:

"Are you going?"

"I don't know. Lady Henry gives me leave, which makes me feel myself a
kind of spy."

"Oh, never mind. Come along. Mademoiselle Julie will want all our
support. I don't hear her as kindly spoken of just now as I
should wish."

"No. Lady Henry has more personal hold than we thought."

"And Mademoiselle Julie less tact. Why, in the name of goodness, does
she go and get herself talked about with the particular man who is
engaged to her little cousin? You know, by-the-way, that the story of
her parentage is leaking out fast? Most people seem to know something
about it."

"Well, that was bound to come. Will it do her good or harm?"

"Harm, for the present. A few people are straitlaced, and a good many
feel they have been taken in. But, anyway, this flirtation is
a mistake."

"Nobody really knows whether the man is engaged to the Moffatt girl or
no. The guardians have forbidden it."

"At any rate, everybody is kind enough to say so. It's a blunder on
Mademoiselle Julie's part. As to the man himself, of course, there is
nothing to say. He is a very clever fellow." Montresor looked at his
companion with a sudden stiffness, as though defying contradiction. "He
will do this piece of work that we have given him to do extremely well."

"The Mokembe mission?"

Montresor nodded.

"He had very considerable claims, and was appointed entirely on his
military record. All the tales as to Mademoiselle's influence--with me,
for instance--that Lady Henry has been putting into circulation are
either absurd fiction or have only the very smallest foundation
in fact."

Sir Wilfrid smiled amicably and diverted the conversation.

"Warkworth starts at once?"

"He goes to Paris to-morrow. I recommended him to see Pattison, the
Military Secretary there, who was in the expedition of five years back."

       *       *       *       *       *

"This hasn't gone as well as it ought," said Dr. Meredith, in the ear of
the Duchess.

They were standing inside the door of Julie's little drawing-room. The
Duchess, in a dazzling frock of white and silver, which placed Clarisse
among the divinities of her craft, looked round her with a look
of worry.

"What's the matter with the tiresome creatures? Why is everybody going
so early? And there are not half the people here who ought to be here."

Meredith shrugged his shoulders.

"I saw you at Chatton House the other night," he said, in the same tone.

"Well?" said the Duchess, sharply.

"It seemed to me there was something of a demonstration."

"Against Julie? Let them try it!" said the little lady, with evasive
defiance. "We shall be too strong for them."

"Lady Henry is putting her back into it. I confess I never thought she
would be either so venomous or so successful."

"Julie will come out all right."

"She would--triumphantly--if--"

The Duchess glanced at him uneasily.

"I believe you are overworking her. She looks skin and bone."

Dr. Meredith shook his head.

"On the contrary, I have been holding her back. But it seems she wants
to earn a good deal of money."

"That's so absurd," cried the Duchess, "when there are people only
pining to give her some of theirs."

"No, no," said the journalist, brusquely. "She is quite right there. Oh,
it would be all right if she were herself. She would make short work of
Lady Henry. But, Mademoiselle Julie"--for she glided past them, and he
raised his voice--"sit down and rest yourself. Don't take so
much trouble."

She flung them a smile.

"Lord Lackington is going," and she hurried on.

Lord Lackington was standing in a group which contained Sir Wilfrid Bury
and Mr. Montresor.

"Well, good-bye, good-bye," he said, as she came up to him. "I must go.
I'm nearly asleep."

"Tired with abusing me?" said Montresor, nonchalantly, turning round
upon him.

"No, only with trying to make head or tail of you," said Lackington,
gayly. Then he stooped over Julie.

"Take care of yourself. Come back rosier--and _fatter_."

"I'm perfectly well. Let me come with you."

"No, don't trouble yourself." For she had followed him into the hall
and found his coat for him. All the arrangements for her little
"evening" had been of the simplest. That had been a point of pride with
her. Madame Bornier and Thérèse dispensing tea and coffee in the
dining-room, one hired parlor-maid, and she herself active and busy
everywhere. Certain French models were in her head, and memories of her
mother's bare little salon in Bruges, with its good talk, and its
thinnest of thin refreshments--a few cups of weak tea, or glasses of
_eau sucrée_, with a plate of _patisserie_.

The hired parlor-maid was whistling for a cab in the service of some
other departing guest; so Julie herself put Lord Lackington into his
coat, much to his discomfort.

"I don't think you ought to have come," she said to him, with soft
reproach. "Why did you have that fainting fit before dinner?"

"I say! Who's been telling tales?"

"Sir Wilfrid Bury met your son, Mr. Chantrey, at dinner."

"Bill can never hold his tongue. Oh, it was nothing; not with the proper
treatment, mind you. Of course, if the allopaths were to get their
knives into me--but, thank God! I'm out of that _galère_. Well, in a
fortnight, isn't it? We shall both be in town again. I don't like saying
good-bye."

And he took both her hands in his.

"It all seems so strange to me still--so strange!" he murmured.

"Next week I shall see mamma's grave," said Julie, under her breath.
"Shall I put some flowers there for you?"

The fine blue eyes above her wavered. He bent to her.

"Yes. And write to me. Come back soon. Oh, you'll see. Things will all
come right, perfectly right, in spite of Lady Henry."

Confidence, encouragement, a charming raillery, an enthusiastic
tenderness--all these beamed upon her from the old man's tone and
gesture. She was puzzled. But with another pressure of the hand he was
gone. She stood looking after him. And as the carriage drove away, the
sound of the wheels hurt her. It was the withdrawal of something
protecting--something more her own, when all was said, than anything
else which remained to her.

As she returned to the drawing-room, Dr. Meredith intercepted her.

"You want me to send you some work to take abroad?" he said, in a low
voice. "I shall do nothing of the kind."

"Why?"

"Because you ought to have a complete holiday."

"Very well. Then I sha'n't be able to pay my way," she said, with a
tired smile.

"Remember the doctor's bills if you fall ill."

"Ill! I am never ill," she said, with scorn. Then she looked round the
room deliberately, and her gaze returned to her companion. "I am not
likely to be fatigued with society, am I?" she added, in a voice that
did not attempt to disguise the bitterness within.

"My dear lady, you are hardly installed."

"I have been here a month--the critical month. Now was the moment to
stand by me, or throw me over--n'est-ce pas? This is my first party, my
house-warming. I gave a fortnight's notice; I asked about sixty people,
whom I knew _well_. Some did not answer at all. Of the rest, half
declined--rather curtly, in many instances. And of those who accepted,
not all are here. And, oh, how it dragged!"

Meredith looked at her rather guiltily, not knowing what to say. It was
true the evening had dragged. In both their minds there rose the memory
of Lady Henry's "Wednesdays," the beautiful rooms, the varied and
brilliant company, the power and consideration which had attended Lady
Henry's companion.

"I suppose," said Julie, shrugging her shoulders, "I had been thinking
of the French _maîtresses de salon_, like a fool; of Mademoiselle de
l'Espinasse--or Madame Mohl--imagining that people would come to _me_
for a cup of tea and an agreeable hour. But in England, it seems, people
must be paid to talk. Talk is a business affair--you give it for a
consideration."

"No, no! You'll build it up," said Meredith. In his heart of hearts he
said to himself that she had not been herself that night. Her wonderful
social instincts, her memory, her adroitness, had somehow failed her.
And from a hostess strained, conscious, and only artificially gay, the
little gathering had taken its note.

"You have the old guard, anyway," added the journalist, with a smile, as
he looked round the room. The Duchess, Delafield, Montresor and his
wife, General McGill, and three or four other old _habitués_ of the
Bruton Street evenings were scattered about the little drawing-room.
General Fergus, too, was there--had arrived early, and was staying late.
His frank soldier's face, the accent, cheerful, homely, careless, with
which he threw off talk full of marrow, talk only possible--for all its
simplicity--to a man whose life had been already closely mingled with
the fortunes of his country, had done something to bind Julie's poor
little party together. Her eye rested on him with gratitude. Then she
replied to Meredith.

"Mr. Montresor will scarcely come again."

"What do you mean? Ungrateful lady! Montresor! who has already
sacrificed Lady Henry and the habits of thirty years to your
_beaux yeux_!"

"That is what he will never forgive me," said Julie, sadly. "He has
satisfied his pride, and I--have lost a friend."

"Pessimist! Mrs. Montresor seemed to me most friendly."

Julie laughed.

"_She_, of course, is enchanted. Her husband has never been her own till
now. She married him, subject to Lady Henry's rights. But all that she
will soon forget--and my existence with it."

"I won't argue. It only makes you more stubborn," said Meredith. "Ah,
still they come!"

For the door opened to admit the tall figure of Major Warkworth.

"Am I very late?" he said, with a surprised look as he glanced at the
thinly scattered room. Julie greeted him, and he excused himself on the
ground of a dinner which had begun just an hour late, owing to the
tardiness of a cabinet minister.

Meredith observed the young man with some attention, from the dark
corner in which Julie had left him. The gossip of the moment had
reached him also, but he had not paid much heed to it. It seemed to him
that no one knew anything first-hand of the Moffatt affair. And for
himself, he found it difficult to believe that Julie Le Breton was any
man's dupe.

She must marry, poor thing! Of course she must marry. Since it had been
plain to him that she would never listen to his own suit, this
great-hearted and clear-brained man had done his best to stifle in
himself all small or grasping impulses. But this fellow--with his
inferior temper and morale--alack! why are the clever women such fools?

If only she had confided in him--her old and tried friend--he thought he
could have put things before her, so as to influence without offending
her. But he suffered--had always suffered--from the jealous reserve
which underlay her charm, her inborn tendency to secretiveness
and intrigue.

Now, as he watched her few words with Warkworth, it seemed to him that
he saw the signs of some hidden relation. How flushed she was suddenly,
and her eyes so bright!

He was not allowed much time or scope, however, for observation.
Warkworth took a turn round the room, chatted a little with this person
and that, then, on the plea that he was off to Paris early on the
following morning, approached his hostess again to take his leave.

"Ah, yes, you start to-morrow," said Montresor, rising. "Well, good luck
to you--good luck to you."

General Fergus, too, advanced. The whole room, indeed, awoke to the
situation, and all the remaining guests grouped themselves round the
young soldier. Even the Duchess was thawed a little by this actual
moment of departure. After all, the man was going on his
country's service.

"No child's play, this mission, I can assure you," General McGill had
said to her. "Warkworth will want all the powers he has--of mind
or body."

The slim, young fellow, so boyishly elegant in his well-cut
evening-dress, received the ovation offered to him with an evident
pleasure which tried to hide itself in the usual English ways. He had
been very pale when he came in. But his cheek reddened as Montresor
grasped him by the hand, as the two generals bade him a cordial
godspeed, as Sir Wilfrid gave him a jesting message for the British
representative in Egypt, and as the ladies present accorded him those
flattering and admiring looks that woman keeps for valor.

Julie counted for little in these farewells. She stood _apart_ and
rather silent. "_They_ have had their good-bye," thought the Duchess,
with a thrill she could not help.

"Three days in Paris?" said Sir Wilfrid. "A fortnight to Denga--and then
how long before you start for the interior?"

"Oh, three weeks for collecting porters and supplies. They're drilling
the escort already. We should be off by the middle of May."

"A bad month," said General Fergus, shrugging his shoulders.

"Unfortunately, affairs won't wait. But I am already stiff with
quinine," laughed Warkworth--"or I shall be by the time I get to Denga.
Good-bye--good-bye."

And in another moment he was gone. Miss Le Breton had given him her
hand and wished him "Bon voyage," like everybody else.

The party broke up. The Duchess kissed her Julie with peculiar
tenderness; Delafield pressed her hand, and his deep, kind eyes gave her
a lingering look, of which, however, she was quite unconscious; Meredith
renewed his half-irritable, half-affectionate counsels of rest and
recreation; Mrs. Montresor was conventionally effusive; Montresor alone
bade the mistress of the house a somewhat cold and perfunctory farewell.
Even Sir Wilfrid was a little touched, he knew not why; he vowed to
himself that his report to Lady Henry on the morrow should contain no
food for malice, and inwardly he forgave Mademoiselle Julie the old
romancings.



XVIII

It was twenty minutes since the last carriage had driven away. Julie was
still waiting in the little hall, pacing its squares of black-and-white
marble, slowly, backward and forward.

There was a low knock on the door.

She opened it. Warkworth appeared on the threshold, and the high moon
behind him threw a bright ray into the dim hall, where all but one faint
light had been extinguished. She pointed to the drawing-room.

"I will come directly. Let me just go and ask Léonie to sit up."

Warkworth went into the drawing-room. Julie opened the dining-room door.
Madame Bornier was engaged in washing and putting away the china and
glass which had been used for Julie's modest refreshments.

"Léonie, you won't go to bed? Major Warkworth is here."

Madame Bornier did not raise her head.

"How long will he be?"

"Perhaps half an hour."

"It is already past midnight."

"Léonie, he goes to-morrow."

"Très bien. Mais--sais-tu, ma chère, ce n'est pas convenable, ce que tu
fais là!"

And the older woman, straightening herself, looked her foster-sister
full in the face. A kind of watch-dog anxiety, a sulky, protesting
affection breathed from her rugged features.

Julie went up to her, not angrily, but rather with a pleading humility.

The two women held a rapid colloquy in low tones--Madame Bornier
remonstrating, Julie softly getting her way.

Then Madame Bornier returned to her work, and Julie went to the
drawing-room.

Warkworth sprang up as she entered. Both paused and wavered. Then he
went up to her, and roughly, irresistibly, drew her into his arms. She
held back a moment, but finally yielded, and clasping her hands round
his neck she buried her face on his breast.

They stood so for some minutes, absolutely silent, save for her hurried
breathing, his head bowed upon hers.

"Julie, how can we say good-bye?" he whispered, at last.

She disengaged herself, and, seeing his face, she tried for composure.

"Come and sit down."

She led him to the window, which he had thrown open as he entered the
room, and they sat beside it, hand in hand. A mild April night shone
outside. Gusts of moist air floated in upon them. There were dim lights
and shadows in the garden and on the shuttered facade of the
great house.

"Is it forever?" said Julie, in a low, stifled voice.
"Good-bye--forever?"

She felt his hand tremble, but she did not look at him. She seemed to
be reciting words long since spoken in the mind.

"You will be away--perhaps a year? Then you go back to India, and
then--"

She paused.

Warkworth was physically conscious, as it were, of a letter he carried
in his coat-pocket--a letter from Lady Blanche Moffatt which had reached
him that morning, the letter of a _grande dame_, reduced to undignified
remonstrance by sheer maternal terror--terror for the health and life of
a child as fragile and ethereal as a wild rose in May. Reports had
reached her; but no--they could not be true! She bade him be thankful
that not a breath of suspicion had yet touched Aileen. As for herself,
let him write and reassure her at once. Otherwise--

And the latter part of the letter conveyed a veiled menace that
Warkworth perfectly understood.

No--in that direction, no escape; his own past actions closed him in.
And henceforth, it was clear, he must walk more warily.

But how blame himself for these feelings of which he was now conscious
towards Julie Le Breton--the strongest, probably, that a man not built
for passion would ever know. His relation towards her had grown upon him
unawares, and now their own hands were about to cut it at the root. What
blame to either of them? Fate had been at work; and he felt himself
glorified by a situation so tragically sincere, and by emotions of which
a month before he would have secretly held himself incapable.

Resolutely, in this last meeting with Julie, he gave these emotions
play. He possessed himself of her cold hands as she put her desolate
question--"And then?"--and kissed them fervently.

"Julie, if you and I had met a year ago, what happened in India would
never have happened. You know that!"

"Do I? But it only hurts me to _think it away_ like that. There it
is--it has happened."

She turned upon him suddenly.

"Have you any picture of her?"

He hesitated.

"Yes," he said, at last.

"Have you got it here?"

"Why do you ask, dear one? This one evening is _ours_."

And again he tried to draw her to him. But she persisted.

"I feel sure you have it. Show it me."

"Julie, you and you only are in my thoughts!"

"Then do what I ask." She bent to him with a wild, entreating air; her
lips almost touched his cheek. Unwillingly he drew out a letter-case
from his breast-pocket, and took from it a little photograph which he
handed to her.

She looked at it with eager eyes. A face framed, as it were, out of snow
and fire lay in her hand, a thing most delicate, most frail, yet steeped
in feeling and significance--a child's face with its soft curls of brown
hair, and the upper lip raised above the white, small teeth, as though
in a young wonder; yet behind its sweetness, what suggestions of a
poetic or tragic sensibility! The slender neck carried the little head
with girlish dignity; the clear, timid eyes seemed at once to shrink
from and trust the spectator.

Julie returned the little picture, and hid her face with her hands.
Warkworth watched her uncomfortably, and at last drew her hands away.

"What are you thinking of?" he said, almost with violence. "Don't shut
me out!"

"I am not jealous now," she said, looking at him piteously. "I don't
hate her. And if she knew all--she couldn't--hate me."

"No one could hate her. She is an angel. But she is not my Julie!" he
said, vehemently, and he thrust the little picture into his
pocket again.

"Tell me," she said, after a pause, laying her hand on his knee, "when
did you begin to think of me--differently? All the winter, when we used
to meet, you never--you never loved me then?"

"How, placed as I was, could I let myself think of love? I only knew
that I wanted to see you, to talk to you, to write to you--that the day
when we did not meet was a lost day. Don't be so proud!" He tried to
laugh at her. "You didn't think of me in any special way, either. You
were much too busy making bishops, or judges, or academicians. Oh,
Julie, I was so afraid of you in those early days!"

"The first night we met," she said, passionately, "I found a carnation
you had worn in your button-hole. I put it under my pillow, and felt for
it in the dark like a talisman. You had stood between me and Lady Henry
twice. You had smiled at me and pressed my hand--not as others did, but
as though you understood _me_, myself--as though, at least, you wished
to understand. Then came the joy of joys, that I could help you--that I
could do something for you. Ah, how it altered life for me! I never
turned the corner of a street that I did not count on the chance of
seeing you beyond--suddenly--on my path. I never heard your voice that
it did not thrill me from head to foot. I never made a new friend or
acquaintance that I did not ask myself first how I could thereby serve
you. I never saw you come into the room that my heart did not leap. I
never slept but you were in my dreams. I loathed London when you were
out of it. It was paradise when you were there."

Straining back from him as he still held her hands, her whole face and
form shook with the energy of her confession. Her wonderful hair,
loosened from the thin gold bands in which it had been confined during
the evening, fell in a glossy confusion about her brow and slender neck;
its black masses, the melting brilliance of the eyes, the tragic freedom
of the attitude gave both to form and face a wild and poignant beauty.

Warkworth, beside her, was conscious first of amazement, then of a kind
of repulsion--a kind of fear--till all else was lost in a hurry of joy
and gratitude.

The tears stood on his cheek. "Julie, you shame me--you trample me into
the earth!"

He tried to gather her in his arms, but she resisted, Caresses were not
what those eyes demanded--eyes feverishly bright with the memory of her
own past dreams, Presently, indeed, she withdrew herself from him. She
rose and closed the window; she put the lamp in another place; she
brought her rebellious hair into order.

"We must not be so mad," she said, with a quivering smile, as she again
seated herself, but at some distance from him. "You see, for me the
great question is "--her voice became low and rapid--"What am I going to
do with the future? For you it is all plain. We part to-night. You have
your career, your marriage. I withdraw from your life--absolutely.
But for me--"

She paused. It was the manner of one trying to see her way in the dark.

"Your social gifts," said Warkworth, in agitation, "your friends,
Julie--these will occupy your mind. Then, of course, you will, you must
marry! Oh, you'll soon forget me, Julie! I pray you may!"

"My social gifts?" she repeated, disregarding the rest of his speech. "I
have told you already they have broken down. Society sides with Lady
Henry. I am to be made to know my place--I do know it!"

"The Duchess will fight for you."

She laughed.

"The Duke won't let her--nor shall I."

"You'll marry," he repeated, with emotion. "You'll find some one worthy
of you--some one who will give you the great position for which you
were born."

"I could have it at any moment," she said, looking him quietly in the
eyes.

Warkworth drew back, conscious of a disagreeable shock. He had been
talking in generalities, giving away the future with that fluent
prodigality, that easy prophecy which costs so little. What did
she mean?

"_Delafield?"_ he cried.

And he waited for her reply--which lingered--in a tense and growing
eagerness. The notion had crossed his mind once or twice during the
winter, only to be dismissed as ridiculous. Then, on the occasion of
their first quarrel, when Julie had snubbed him in Delafield's presence
and to Delafield's advantage, he had been conscious of a momentary
alarm. But Julie, who on that one and only occasion had paraded her
intimacy with Delafield, thenceforward said not a word of him, and
Warkworth's jealousy had died for lack of fuel. In relation to Julie,
Delafield had been surely the mere shadow and agent of his little cousin
the Duchess--a friendly, knight-errant sort of person, with a liking for
the distressed. What! the heir-presumptive of Chudleigh Abbey, and one
of the most famous of English dukedoms, when even he, the struggling,
penurious officer, would never have dreamed of such a match?

Julie, meanwhile, heard only jealousy in his exclamation, and it
caressed her ear, her heart. She was tempted once more, woman-like, to
dwell upon the other lover, and again something compelling and delicate
in her feeling towards Delafield forbade.

"No, you mustn't make me tell you any more," she said, putting the name
aside with a proud gesture. "It would be poor and mean. But it's true. I
have only to put out my hand for what you call 'a great position,' I
have refused to put it out. Sometimes, of course, it has dazzled me.
To-night it seems to me--dust and ashes. No; when we two have said
good-bye, I shall begin life again. And this time I shall live it in my
own way, for my own ends. I'm very tired. Henceforth 'I'll walk where my
own nature would be leading--it vexes me to choose another guide.'"

And as she spoke the words of one of the chainless souls of history, in
a voice passionately full and rich, she sprang to her feet, and, drawing
her slender form to its full height, she locked her hands behind her,
and began to pace the room with a wild, free step.

Every nerve in Warkworth's frame was tingling. He was carried out of
himself, first by the rebellion of her look and manner, then by this
fact, so new, so astounding, which her very evasion had confirmed.
During her whole contest with Lady Henry, and now, in her present
ambiguous position, she had Delafield, and through Delafield the English
great world, in the hollow of her hand? This nameless woman--no longer
in her first youth. And she had refused? He watched her in a speechless
wonder and incredulity.

The thought leaped. "And this sublime folly--this madness--was for
_me_?"

It stirred and intoxicated him. Yet she was not thereby raised in his
eyes. Nay, the contrary. With the passion which was rapidly mounting in
his veins there mingled--poor Julie!--a curious diminution of respect.

"Julie!" He held out his hand to her peremptorily. "Come to me again.
You are so wonderful to-night, in that white dress--like a wild muse. I
shall always see you so. Come!"

She obeyed, and gave him her hands, standing beside his chair. But her
face was still absorbed.

"To be free," she said, under her breath--"free, like my parents, from
all these petty struggles and conventions!"

Then she felt his kisses on her hands, and her expression changed.

"How we cheat ourselves with words!" she whispered, trembling, and,
withdrawing one hand, she smoothed back the light-brown curls from his
brow with that protecting tenderness which had always entered into her
love for him. "To-night we are here--together--this one last night! And
to-morrow, at this time, you'll be in Paris; perhaps you'll be looking
out at the lights--and the crowds on the Boulevard--and the
chestnut-trees. They'll just be in their first leaf--I know so
well!--and the little thin leaves will be shining so green under the
lamps--and I shall be here--and it will be all over and done
with--forever. What will it matter whether I am free or not free? I
shall be _alone_! That's all a woman knows."

Her voice died away. Warkworth rose. He put his arms round her, and she
did not resist.

"Julie," he said in her ear, "why should you be alone?"

A silence fell between them.

"I--I don't understand," she said, at last.

"Julie, listen! I shall be three days in Paris, but my business can be
perfectly done in one. What if you met me there after to-morrow? What
harm would it be? We are not babes, we two. We understand life. And who
would have any right to blame or to meddle? Julie, I know a little inn
in the valley of the Bièvre, quite near Paris, but all wood and field.
No English tourists ever go there. Sometimes an artist or two--but this
is not the time of year. Julie, why shouldn't we spend our last two days
there--together--away from all the world, before we say good-bye? You've
been afraid here of prying people--of the Duchess even--of Madame
Bornier--how she scowls at me sometimes! Why shouldn't we sweep all that
away--and be happy! Nobody should ever--nobody _could_ ever know." His
voice dropped, became still more hurried and soft. "We might go as
brother and sister--that would be quite simple. You are practically
French. I speak French well. Who is to have an idea, a suspicion of our
identity? The spring there is mild and warm. The Bois de Verrières close
by is full of flowers. When my father was alive, and I was a child, we
went once, to economize, for a year, to a village a mile or two away.
But I knew this place quite well. A lovely, green, quiet spot! With your
poetical ideas, Julie, you would delight in it. Two days--wandering in
the woods--together! Then I put you into the train for Brussels, and I
go my way. But to all eternity, Julie, those days will have been ours!"

At the first words, almost, Julie had disengaged herself. Pushing him
from her with both hands, she listened to him in a dumb amazement. The
color first deserted her face, then returned in a flood.

"So you despise me?" she said, catching her breath.

"No. I adore you."

She fell upon a chair and hid her eyes. He first knelt beside her,
arguing and soothing; then he paced up and down before her, talking very
fast and low, defending and developing the scheme, till it stood before
them complete and tempting in all its details.

Julie did not look up, nor did she speak. At last, Warkworth, full of
tears, and stifled with his own emotions, threw open the window again in
a craving for air and coolness. A scent of fresh leaves and moistened
earth floated up from the shrubbery beneath the window. The scent, the
branching trees, the wide, mild spaces of air brought relief. He leaned
out, bathing his brow in the night. A tumult of voices seemed to be
echoing through his mind, dominated by one which held the rest
defiantly in check.

"Is she a mere girl, to be 'led astray'? A moment of happiness--what
harm?--for either of us?"

Then he returned to Julie.

"Julie!" He touched her shoulder, trembling. Had she banished him
forever? It seemed to him that in these minutes he had passed through an
infinity of experience. Was he not the nobler, the more truly man? Let
the moralists talk.

"Julie!" he repeated, in an anguish.

She raised her head, and he saw that she had been crying. But there was
in her face a light, a wildness, a yearning that reassured him. She put
her arm round him and pressed her cheek to his. He divined that she,
too, had lived and felt a thousand hours in one. With a glow of ecstatic
joy he began to talk to her again, her head resting on his shoulder, her
slender hands crushed in his.

And Julie, meanwhile, was saying to herself, "Either I go to him, as he
asks, or in a few minutes I must send him away--forever."

And then as she clung to him, so warm and near, her strength failed her.
Nothing in the world mattered to her at that moment but this handsome,
curly head bowed upon her own, this voice that called her all the names
of love, this transformation of the man's earlier prudence, or ambition,
or duplicity, into this eager tenderness, this anguish in separation....

"Listen, dear!" He whispered to her. "All my business can be got through
the day before you come. I have two men to see. A day will be ample. I
dine at the Embassy to-morrow night--that is arranged; the day after I
lunch with the Military Secretary; then--a thousand regrets, but I must
hurry on to meet some friends in Italy. So I turn my back on Paris, and
for two days I belong to Julie--and she to me. Say yes,
Julie--my Julie!"

He bent over her, his hands framing her face.

"Say yes," he urged, "and put off for both of us that word--_alone_!"

His low voice sank into her heart. He waited, till his strained sense
caught the murmured words which conveyed to him the madness and the
astonishment of victory.

       *       *       *       *       *

Léonie had shut up the house, in a grim silence, and had taken her way
up-stairs to bed.

Julie, too, was in her room. She sat on the edge of her bed, her head
drooped, her hands clasped before her absently, like Hope still
listening for the last sounds of the harp of life. The candle beside her
showed her, in the big mirror opposite, her grace, the white confusion
of her dress.

She had expected reaction, but it did not come. She was still borne on a
warm tide of will and energy. All that she was about to do seemed to her
still perfectly natural and right. Petty scruples, conventional
hesitations, the refusal of life's great moments--these are what are
wrong, these are what disgrace!

Romance beckoned to her, and many a secret tendency towards the lawless
paths of conduct, infused into her by the associations and affections of
her childhood. The _horror naturalis_ which protects the great majority
of women from the wilder ways of passion was in her weakened or dormant.
She was the illegitimate child of a mother who had defied law for love,
and of that fact she had been conscious all her life.

A sharp contempt, indeed, arose within her for the interpretation that
the common mind would be sure to place upon her action.

"What matter! I am my own mistress--responsible to no one. I choose for
myself--I dare for myself!"

And when at last she rose, first loosening and then twisting the black
masses of her hair, it seemed to her that the form in the glass was that
of another woman, treading another earth. She trampled cowardice under
foot; she freed herself from--"was uns alle bändigt, das Gemeine!"

Then as she stood before the oval mirror in a classical frame, which
adorned the mantel-piece of what had once been Lady Mary Leicester's
room, her eye was vaguely caught by the little family pictures and texts
which hung on either side of it. Lady Mary and her sister as children,
their plain faces emerging timidly from their white, high-waisted
frocks; Lady 'Mary's mother, an old lady in a white coif and kerchief,
wearing a look austerely kind; on the other side a clergyman, perhaps
the brother of the old lady, with a similar type of face, though
gentler--a face nourished on the _Christian Year_; and above and below
them two or three card-board texts, carefully illuminated by Lady Mary
Leicester herself:

"Thou, Lord, knowest my down-sitting and my uprising."

"Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

"Fear not, little flock. It is your Father's good pleasure to give you
the kingdom."

       *       *       *       *       *

Julie observed these fragments, absently at first, then with repulsion.
This Anglican pietism, so well fed, so narrowly sheltered, which
measured the universe with its foot-rule, seemed to her quasi-Catholic
eye merely fatuous and hypocritical. It is not by such forces, she
thought, that the true world of men and women is governed.

As she turned away she noticed two little Catholic pictures, such as she
had been accustomed in her convent days to carry in her books of
devotion, carefully propped up beneath the texts.

"Ah, Thérèse!" she said to herself, with a sudden feeling of pain. "Is
the child asleep?"

She listened. A little cough sounded from the neighboring room. Julie
crossed the landing.

"Thérèse! tu ne dors pas encore?"

A voice said, softly, in the darkness, "Je t'attendais, mademoiselle."

Julie went to the child's bed, put down her candle, and stooped to kiss
her.

The child's thin hand caressed her cheek.

"Ah, it will be good--to be in Bruges--with mademoiselle."

Julie drew herself away.

"I sha'n't be there to-morrow, dear."

"Not there! Oh, mademoiselle!"

The child's voice was pitiful.

"I shall join you there. But I find I must go to Paris first. I--I have
some business there."

"But maman said--"

"Yes, I have only just made up my mind. I shall tell maman to-morrow
morning,"

"You go alone, mademoiselle?"

"Why not, dear goose?"

"Vous êtes fatiguée. I would like to come with you, and carry your cloak
and the umbrellas."

"You, indeed!" said Julie. "It would end, wouldn't it, in my carrying
you--besides the cloak and the umbrellas?"

Then she knelt down beside the child and took her in her arms.

"Do you love me, Thérèse?"

The child drew a long breath. With her little, twisted hands she stroked
the beautiful hair so close to her.

"Do you, Thérèse?"

A kiss fell on Julie's cheek.

"Ce soir, j'ai beaucoup prié la Sainte Vierge pour vous!" she said, in a
timid and hurried whisper.

Julie made no immediate reply. She rose from her knees, her hand still
clasped in that of the crippled girl.

"Did you put those pictures on my mantel-piece, Thérèse?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

The child hesitated.

"It does one good to look at them--n'est-ce pas?--when one is sad?"

"Why do you suppose I am sad?"

Thérèse was silent a moment; then she flung her little skeleton arms
round Julie, and Julie felt her crying.

"Well, I won't be sad any more," said Julie, comforting her. "When we're
all in Bruges together, you'll see."

And smiling at the child, she tucked her into her white bed and left
her.

Then from this exquisite and innocent affection she passed back into the
tumult of her own thoughts and plans. Through the restless night her
parents were often in her mind. She was the child of revolt, and as she
thought of the meeting before her she seemed to be but entering upon a
heritage inevitable from the beginning. A sense of enfranchisement, of
passionate enlargement, upheld her, as of a life coming to its fruit.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Creil!"

A flashing vision of a station and its lights, and the Paris train
rushed on through cold showers of sleet and driving wind, a return of
winter in the heart of spring.

On they sped through the half-hour which still divided them from the
Gare du Nord. Julie, in her thick veil, sat motionless in her corner.
She was not conscious of any particular agitation. Her mind was strained
not to forget any of Warkworth's directions. She was to drive across
immediately to the Gare de Sceaux, in the Place Denfert-Rochereau, where
he would meet her. They were to dine at an obscure inn near the station,
and go down by the last train to the little town in the wooded valley of
the Bièvre, where they were to stay.

She had her luggage with her in the carriage. There would be no
custom-house delays.

Ah, the lights of Paris beginning! She peered into the rain, conscious
of a sort of home-coming joy. She loved the French world and the French
sights and sounds--these tall, dingy houses of the _banlieue_, the dregs
of a great architecture; the advertisements; the look of the streets.

The train slackened into the Nord Station. The blue-frocked porters
crowded into the carriages.

"C'est tout, madame? Vous n'avez pas de grands bagages?"

"No, nothing. Find me a cab at once."

There was a great crowd outside. She hurried on as quickly as she could,
revolving what was to be said if any acquaintance were to accost her. By
great good luck, and by travelling second class both in the train and on
the boat, she had avoided meeting anybody she knew. But the Nord Station
was crowded with English people, and she pushed her way through in a
nervous terror.

"Miss Le Breton!"

She turned abruptly. In the white glare of the electric lights she did
not at first recognize the man who had spoken to her. Then she drew
back. Her heart beat wildly. For she had distinguished the face of Jacob
Delafield.

He came forward to meet her as she passed the barrier at the end of the
platform, his aspect full of what seemed to her an extraordinary
animation, significance, as though she were expected.

"Miss Le Breton! What an astonishing, what a fortunate meeting! I have a
message for you from Evelyn."

"From Evelyn?" She echoed the words mechanically as she shook hands.

"Wait a moment," he said, leading her aside towards the waiting-room,
while the crowd that was going to the _douane_ passed them by. Then he
turned to Julie's porter.

"Attendez un instant."

The man sulkily shook his head, dropped Julie's bag at their feet, and
hurried off in search of a more lucrative job.

"I am going back to-night," added Delafield, hurriedly. "How strange
that I should have met you, for I have very sad news for you! Lord
Lackington had an attack this morning, from which he cannot recover. The
doctors give him perhaps forty-eight hours. He has asked for
you--urgently. The Duchess tells me so in a long telegram I had from her
to-day. But she supposed you to be in Bruges. She has wired there. You
will go back, will you not?"

"Go back?" said Julie, staring at him helplessly. "Go back to-night?"

"The evening train starts in little more than an hour. You would be just
in time, I think, to see the old man alive."

She still looked at him in bewilderment, at the blue eyes under the
heavily moulded brows, and the mouth with its imperative, and yet
eager--or tremulous?--expression. She perceived that he hung upon
her answer.

She drew her hand piteously across her eyes as though to shut out the
crowds, the station, and the urgency of this personality beside her.
Despair was in her heart. How to consent? How to refuse?

"But my friends," she stammered--"the friends with whom I was going to
stay--they will be alarmed."

"Could you not telegraph to them? They would understand, surely. The
office is close by."

She let herself be hurried along, not knowing what to do. Delafield
walked beside her. If she had been able to observe him, she must have
been struck afresh by the pale intensity, the controlled agitation
of his face.

"Is it really so serious?" she asked, pausing a moment, as though in
resistance.

"It is the end. Of that there can be no question. You have touched his
heart very deeply. He longs to see her, Evelyn says. And his daughter
and granddaughter are still abroad--Miss Moffatt, indeed, is ill at
Florence with a touch of diphtheria. He is alone with his two sons.
You will go?"

Even in her confusion, the strangeness of it all was borne in upon
her--his insistence, the extraordinary chance of their meeting, his
grave, commanding manner.

"How could you know I was here?" she said, in bewilderment.

"I didn't know," he said, slowly. "But, thank God, I have met you. I
dread to think of your fatigue, but you will be glad just to see him
again--just to give him his last wish--won't you?" he said, pleadingly.
"Here is the telegraph-office. Shall I do it for you?"

"No, thank you. I--I must think how to word it. Please wait."

She went in alone. As she took the pencil into her hands a low groan
burst from her lips. The man writing in the next compartment turned
round in astonishment. She controlled herself and began to write. There
was no escape. She must submit; and all was over.

She telegraphed to Warkworth, care of the Chef de Gare, at the Sceaux
Station, and also to the country inn.

"Have met Mr. Delafield by chance at Nord Station. Lord Lackington
dying. Must return to-night. Where shall I write? Good-bye."

When it was done she could hardly totter out of the office. Delafield
made her take his arm.

"You must have some food. Then I will go and get a sleeping-car for you
to Calais. There will be no crowd to-night. At Calais I will look after
you if you will allow me."

"You are crossing to-night?" she said, vaguely. Her lips framed the
words with difficulty.

"Yes. I came over with my cousins yesterday."

She asked nothing more. It did not occur to her to notice that he had no
luggage, no bag, no rug, none of the paraphernalia of travel. In her
despairing fatigue and misery she let him guide her as he would.

He made her take some soup, then some coffee, all that she could make
herself swallow. There was a dismal period of waiting, during which she
was hardly conscious of where she was or of what was going on round her.

Then she found herself in the sleeping-car, in a reserved compartment,
alone. Once more the train moved through the night. The miles flew
by--the miles that forever parted her from Warkworth.



XIX

The train was speeding through the forest country of Chantilly. A pale
moon had risen, and beneath its light the straight forest roads,
interminably long, stretched into the distance; the vaporous masses of
young and budding trees hurried past the eye of the traveller; so, also,
the white hamlets, already dark and silent; the stations with their
lights and figures; the great wood-piles beside the line.

Delafield, in his second-class carriage, sat sleepless and erect. The
night was bitterly cold. He wore the light overcoat in which he had left
the Hôtel du Rhin that afternoon for a stroll before dinner, and had no
other wrap or covering. But he felt nothing, was conscious of nothing
but the rushing current of his own thoughts.

The events of the two preceding days, the meaning of them, the
significance of his own action and its consequences--it was with these
materials that his mind dealt perpetually, combining, interpreting,
deducing, now in one way, now in another. His mood contained both
excitement and dread. But with a main temper of calmness, courage,
invincible determination, these elements did not at all interfere.

The day before, he had left London with his cousins, the Duke of
Chudleigh, and young Lord Elmira, the invalid boy. They were bound to
Paris to consult a new doctor, and Jacob had offered to convey them
there. In spite of all the apparatus of servants and couriers with which
they were surrounded, they always seemed to him, on their journeys, a
singularly lonely and hapless pair, and he knew that they leaned upon
him and prized his company.

On the way to Paris, at the Calais buffet, he had noticed Henry
Warkworth, and had given him a passing nod. It had been understood the
night before in Heribert Street that they would both be crossing on
the morrow.

On the following day--the day of Julie's journey--Delafield, who was
anxiously awaiting the return of his two companions from their interview
with the great physician they were consulting, was strolling up the Rue
de la Paix, just before luncheon, when, outside the Hôtel Mirabeau, he
ran into a man whom he immediately perceived to be Warkworth.

Politeness involved the exchange of a few sentences, although a secret
antagonism between the two men had revealed itself from the first day of
their meeting in Lady Henry's drawing-room. Each word of their short
conversation rang clearly through Delafield's memory.

"You are at the 'Rhin'?" said Warkworth.

"Yes, for a couple more days. Shall we meet at the Embassy to-morrow?"

"No. I dined there last night. My business here is done. I start for
Rome to-night."

"Lucky man. They have put on a new fast train, haven't they?"

"Yes. You leave the Gare de Lyon at 7.15, and you are at Rome the second
morning, in good time."

"Magnificent! Why don't we all rush south? Well, good-bye again, and
good luck."

They touched hands perfunctorily and parted.

This happened about mid-day. While Delafield and his cousins were
lunching, a telegram from the Duchess of Crowborough was handed to
Jacob. He had wired to her early in the morning to ask for the address
in Paris of an old friend of his, who was also a cousin of hers. The
telegram contained:

     "Thirty-six Avenue Friedland. Lord Lackington heart-attack
     this morning. Dying. Has asked urgently for Julie. Blanche
     Moffatt detained Florence by daughter's illness. All
     circumstances most sad. Woman Heribert Street gave me Bruges
     address. Have wired Julie there."

The message set vibrating in Delafield's mind the tender memory which
already existed there of his last talk with Julie, of her strange
dependence and gentleness, her haunting and pleading personality. He
hoped with all his heart she might reach the old man in time, that his
two sons, Uredale and William, would treat her kindly, and that it would
be found when the end came that he had made due provision for her as his
granddaughter.

But he had small leisure to give to thoughts of this kind. The
physician's report in the morning had not been encouraging, and his two
travelling companions demanded all the sympathy and support he could
give them. He went out with them in the afternoon to the Hôtel de la
Terrasse at St. Germain. The Duke, a nervous hypochondriac, could not
sleep in the noise of Paris, and was accustomed to a certain apartment
in this well-known hotel, which was often reserved for him. Jacob left
them about six o'clock to return to Paris. He was to meet one of the
Embassy attachés--an old Oxford friend--at the Café Gaillard for dinner.
He dressed at the "Rhin," put on an overcoat, and set out to walk to the
Rue Gaillard about half-past seven. As he approached the "Mirabeau," he
saw a cab with luggage standing at the door. A man came out with the
hotel _concierge_. To his astonishment, Delafield recognized Warkworth.

The young officer seemed in a hurry and out of temper. At any rate, he
jumped into the cab without taking any notice of the two _sommeliers_
and the _concierge_ who stood round expectant of francs, and when the
_concierge_ in his stiffest manner asked where the man was to drive,
Warkworth put his head out of the window and said, hastily, to
the _cocher_:

"D'abord, à la Gare de Sceaux! Puis, je vous dirai. Mais dépêchez-vous!"

The cab rolled away, and Delafield walked on.

Half-past seven, striking from all the Paris towers! And Warkworth's
intention in the morning was to leave the Gare de Lyon at 7.15. But it
seemed he was now bound, at 7.30, for the Gare de Sceaux, from which
point of departure it was clear that no reasonable man would think of
starting for the Eternal City.

"_D'abord,_ à la Gare de Sceaux!"

Then he was not catching a train?--at any rate, immediately. He had some
other business first, and was perhaps going to the station to deposit
his luggage?

Suddenly a thought, a suspicion, flashed through Delafield's mind, which
set his heart thumping in his breast. In after days he was often puzzled
to account for its origin, still more for the extraordinary force with
which it at once took possession of all his energies. In his more
mystical moments of later life he rose to the secret belief that God had
spoken to him.

At any rate, he at once hailed a cab, and, thinking no more of his
dinner engagement, he drove post-haste to the Nord Station. In those
days the Calais train arrived at eight. He reached the station a few
minutes before it appeared. When at last it drew up, amid the crowd on
the platform it took him only a few seconds to distinguish the dark and
elegant head of Julie Le Breton.

A pang shot through him that pierced to the very centre of life. He was
conscious of a prayer for help and a clear mind. But on his way to the
station he had rapidly thought out a plan on which to act should this
mad notion in his brain turn out to have any support in reality.

It had so much support that Julie Le Breton was there--in Paris--and not
at Bruges, as she had led the Duchess to suppose. And when she turned
her startled face upon him, his wild fancy became, for himself, a
certainty.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Amiens! Cinq minutes d'arrêt."

Delafield got out and walked up and down the platform. He passed the
closed and darkened windows of the sleeping-car; and it seemed to his
abnormally quickened sense that he was beside her, bending over her, and
that he said to her:

"Courage! You are saved! Let us thank God!"

A boy from the refreshment-room came along, wheeling a barrow on which
were tea and coffee.

Delafield eagerly drank a cup of tea and put his hand into his pocket to
pay for it. He found there three francs and his ticket. After paying for
the tea he examined his purse. That contained an English half-crown.

So he had had with him just enough to get his own second-class ticket,
her first-class, and a sleeping-car. That was good fortune, seeing that
the bulk of his money, with his return ticket, was reposing in his
dressing-case at the Hôtel du Rhin.

"En voiture! En voiture, s'il vous plaît!"

He settled himself once more in his corner, and the train rushed on.
This time it was the strange hour at the Gare du Nord which he lived
through again, her white face opposite to him in the refreshment-room,
the bewilderment and misery she had been so little able to conceal, her
spasmodic attempts at conversation, a few vague words about Lord
Lackington or the Duchess, and then pauses, when her great eyes, haggard
and weary, stared into vacancy, and he knew well enough that her
thoughts were with Warkworth, and that she was in fierce rebellion
against his presence there, and this action into which he had
forced her.

As for him, he perfectly understood the dilemma in which she stood.
Either she must accept the duty of returning to the death-bed of the old
man, her mother's father, or she must confess her appointment with
Warkworth.

Yet--suppose he had been mistaken? Well, the telegram from the Duchess
covered his whole action. Lord Lackington _was_ dying; and apart from
all question of feeling, Julie Le Breton's friends must naturally desire
that he should see her, acknowledge her before his two sons, and, with
their consent, provide for her before his death.

But, ah, he had not been mistaken! He remembered her hurried refusal
when he had asked her if he should telegraph for her to her Paris
"friends"--how, in a sudden shame, he had turned away that he might not
see the beloved false face as she spoke, might not seem to watch or
suspect her.

He had just had time to send off a messenger, first to his friend at the
Café Gaillard, and then to the Hôtel du Rhin, before escorting her to
the sleeping-car.

Ah, how piteous had been that dull bewilderment with which she had
turned to him!

"But--my ticket?"

"Here they are. Oh, never mind--we will settle in town. Try to sleep.
You must be very tired."

And then it seemed to him that her lips trembled, like those of a
miserable child; and surely, surely, she must hear that mad beating of
his pulse!

Boulogne was gone in a flash. Here was the Somme, stretched in a pale
silver flood beneath the moon--a land of dunes and stunted pines, of
wide sea-marshes, over which came the roar of the Channel. Then again
the sea was left behind, and the rich Picard country rolled away to
right and left. Lights here and there, in cottage or villa--the lights,
perhaps, of birth or death--companions of hope or despair.

Calais!

The train moved slowly up to the boat-side. Delafield jumped out. The
sleeping-car was yielding up its passengers. He soon made out the small
black hat and veil, the slender form in the dark travelling-dress.

Was she fainting? For she seemed to him to waver as he approached her,
and the porter who had taken her rugs and bag was looking at her in
astonishment. In an instant he had drawn her arm within his, and was
supporting her as he best could,

"The car was very hot, and I am so tired. I only want some air."

They reached the deck.

"You will go down-stairs?"

"No, no--some air!" she murmured, and he saw that she could hardly keep
her feet.

But in a few moments they had reached the shelter on the upper deck
usually so well filled with chairs and passengers on a day crossing. Now
it was entirely deserted. The boat was not full, the night was cold and
stormy, and the stream of passengers had poured down into the shelter of
the lower deck.

Julie sank into a chair. Delafield hurriedly loosened the shawl she
carried with her from its attendant bag and umbrella, and wrapped it
round her.

"It will be a rough crossing," he said, in her ear. "Can you stand it on
deck?"

"I am a good sailor. Let me stay here."

Her eyes closed. He stooped over her in an anguish. One of the boat
officials approached him.

"Madame ferait mieux de descendre, monsieur. La traversée ne sera pas
bonne."

Delafield explained that the lady must have air, and was a good sailor.
Then he pressed into the man's hand his three francs, and sent him for
brandy and an extra covering of some kind. The man went unwillingly.

During the whole bustle of departure, Delafield saw nothing but Julie's
helpless and motionless form; he heard nothing but the faint words by
which, once or twice, she tried to convey to him that she was not
unconscious.

The brandy came. The man who brought it again objected to Julie's
presence on deck. Delafield took no heed. He was absorbed in making
Julie swallow some of the brandy.

At last they were off. The vessel glided slowly out of the old harbor,
and they were immediately in rough water.

Delafield was roused by a peremptory voice at his elbow.

"This lady ought not to stay here, sir. There is plenty of room in the
ladies' cabin."

Delafield looked up and recognized the captain of the boat, the same man
who, thirty-six hours before, had shown special civilities to the Duke
of Chudleigh and his party.

"Ah, you are Captain Whittaker," he said.

The shrewd, stout man who had accosted him raised his eyebrows in
astonishment.

Delafield drew him aside a moment. After a short conversation the
captain lifted his cap and departed, with a few words to the subordinate
officer who had drawn his attention to the matter. Henceforward they
were unmolested, and presently the officer brought a pillow and striped
blanket, saying they might be useful to the lady. Julie was soon
comfortably placed, lying down on the seat under the wooden shelter.
Delicacy seemed to suggest that her companion should leave her
to herself.

Jacob walked up and down briskly, trying to shake off the cold which
benumbed him. Every now and then he paused to look at the lights on the
receding French coast, at its gray phantom line sweeping southward under
the stormy moon, or disappearing to the north in clouds of rain. There
was a roar of waves and a dashing of spray. The boat, not a large one,
was pitching heavily, and the few male passengers who had at first
haunted the deck soon disappeared.

Delafield hung over the surging water in a strange exaltation, half
physical, half moral. The wild salt strength and savor of the sea
breathed something akin to that passionate force of will which had
impelled him to the enterprise in which he stood. No mere man of the
world could have dared it; most men of the world, as he was well aware,
would have condemned or ridiculed it. But for one who saw life and
conduct _sub specie æternitatis_ it had seemed natural enough.

The wind blew fierce and cold. He made his way back to Julie's side. To
his surprise, she had raised herself and was sitting propped up against
the corner of the seat, her veil thrown back.

"You are better?" he said, stooping to her, so as to be heard against
the boom of the waves. "This rough weather does not affect you?"

She made a negative sign. He drew his camp-stool beside her. Suddenly
she asked him what time it was. The haggard nobleness of her pale face
amid the folds of black veil, the absent passion of the eye, thrilled to
his heart. Where were her thoughts?

"Nearly four o'clock." He drew out his watch. "You see it is beginning
to lighten,"

And he pointed to the sky, in which that indefinable lifting of the
darkness which precedes the dawn was taking place, and to the far
distances of sea, where a sort of livid clarity was beginning to absorb
and vanquish that stormy play of alternate dark and moonlight which had
prevailed when they left the French shore.

He had hardly spoken, when he felt that her eyes were fixed upon him.

To look at his watch, he had thrown open his long Newmarket coat,
forgetting that in so doing he disclosed the evening-dress in which he
had robed himself at the Hôtel du Rhin for his friend's dinner at the
Café Gaillard.

He hastily rebuttoned his coat, and turned his face seaward once more.
But he heard her voice, and was obliged to come close to her that he
might catch the words.

"You have given me your wraps," she said, with difficulty. "You will
suffer."

"Not at all. You have your own rug, and one that the captain provided. I
keep myself quite warm with moving about."

There was a pause. His mind began to fill with alarm. He was not of the
men who act a part with ease; but, having got through so far, he had
calculated on preserving his secret.

Flight was best, and he was just turning away when a gesture of hers
arrested him. Again he stooped till their faces were near enough to let
her voice reach him.

"Why are you in evening-dress?"

"I had intended to dine with a friend. There was not time to change."

"Then you did not mean to cross to-night?"

He delayed a moment, trying to collect his thoughts.

"Not when I dressed for dinner, but some sudden news decided me."

Her head fell back wearily against the support behind it. The eyes
closed, and he, thinking she would perhaps sleep, was about to rise from
his seat, when the pressure of her hand upon his arm detained him. He
sat still and the hand was withdrawn.

There was a lessening of the roar in their ears. Under the lee of the
English shore the wind was milder, the "terror-music" of the sea less
triumphant. And over everything was stealing the first discriminating
touch of the coming light. Her face was clear now; and Delafield, at
last venturing to look at her, saw that her eyes were open again, and
trembled at their expression. There was in them a wild suspicion.
Secretly, steadily, he nerved himself to meet the blow that he foresaw.

"Mr. Delafield, have you told me all the truth?"

She sat up as she spoke, deadly pale but rigid. With an impatient hand
she threw off the wraps which had covered her. Her face commanded
an answer.

"Certainly I have told you the truth."

"Was it the whole truth? It seems--it seems to me that you were not
prepared yourself for this journey--that there is some mystery--which I
do not understand--which I resent!"

"But what mystery? When I saw you, I of course thought of Evelyn's
telegram."

"I should like to see that telegram."

He hesitated. If he had been more skilled in the little falsehoods of
every day he would simply have said that he had left it at the hotel.
But he lost his chance. Nor at the moment did he clearly perceive what
harm it would do to show it to her. The telegram was in his pocket, and
he handed it to her.

There was a dim oil-lamp in the shelter. With difficulty she held the
fluttering paper up and just divined the words. Then the wind carried it
away and blew it overboard. He rose and leaned against the edge of the
shelter, looking down upon her. There was in his mind a sense of
something solemn approaching, round which this sudden lull of blast and
wave seemed to draw a "wind-warm space," closing them in.

"Why did you come with me?" she persisted, in an agitation she could now
scarcely control. "It is evident you had not meant to travel. You have
no luggage, and you are in evening-dress. And I remember now--you sent
two letters from the station!"

"I wished to be your escort."

Her gesture was almost one of scorn at the evasion.

"Why were you at the station at all? Evelyn had told you I was at
Bruges. And--you were dining out. I--I can't understand!"

She spoke with a frowning intensity, a strange queenliness, in which was
neither guilt nor confusion.

A voice spoke in Delafield's heart. "Tell her!" it said.

He bent nearer to her.

"Miss Le Breton, with what friends were you going to stay in Paris?"

She breathed quick.

"I am not a school-girl, I think, that I should be asked questions of
that kind."

"But on your answer depends mine."

She looked at him in amazement. His gentle kindness had disappeared. She
saw, instead, that Jacob Delafield whom her instinct had divined from
the beginning behind the modest and courteous outer man, the Jacob
Delafield of whom she had told the Duchess she was afraid.

But her passion swept every other thought out of its way. With dim agony
and rage she began to perceive that she had been duped.

"Mr. Delafield"--she tried for calm--"I don't understand your attitude,
but, so far as I do understand it, I find it intolerable. If you have
deceived me--"

"I have not deceived you. Lord Lackington is dying."

"But that is not why you were at the station," she repeated,
passionately. "Why did you meet the English train?"

Her eyes, clear now in the cold light, shone upon him imperiously.

Again the inner voice said: "Speak--get away from conventionalities.
Speak--soul to soul!"

He sat down once more beside her. His gaze sought the ground. Then, with
sharp suddenness, he looked her in the face.

"Miss Le Breton, you were going to Paris to meet Major Warkworth?"

She drew back.

"And if I was?" she said, with a wild defiance.

"I had to prevent it, that was all."

His tone was calm and resolution itself.

"Who--who gave you authority over me?"

"One may save--even by violence. You were too precious to be allowed to
destroy yourself."

His look, so sad and strong, the look of a deep compassion, fastened
itself upon her. He felt himself, indeed, possessed by a force not his
own, that same force which in its supreme degree made of St. Francis
"the great tamer of souls."

"Who asked you to be our judge? Neither I nor Major Warkworth owe you
anything."

"No. But I owed you help--as a man--as your friend. The truth was
somehow borne in upon me. You were risking your honor--I threw myself
in the way."

Every word seemed to madden her.

"What--what could you know of the circumstances?" cried her choked,
laboring voice. "It is unpardonable--an outrage! You know nothing either
of him or of me."

She clasped her hands to her breast in a piteous, magnificent gesture,
as though she were defending her lover and her love.

"I know that you have suffered much," he said, dropping his eyes before
her, "but you would suffer infinitely more if--"

"If you had not interfered." Her veil had fallen over her face again.
She flung it back in impatient despair. "Mr. Delafield, I can do without
your anxieties."

"But not"--he spoke slowly--"without your own self-respect."

Julie's face trembled. She hid it in her hands.

"Go!" she said. "Go!"

He went to the farther end of the ship and stood there motionless,
looking towards the land but seeing nothing. On all sides the darkness
was lifting, and in the distance there gleamed already the whiteness
that was Dover. His whole being was shaken with that experience which
comes so rarely to cumbered and superficial men--the intimate wrestle of
one personality with another. It seemed to him he was not worthy of it.

After some little time, when only a quarter of an hour lay between the
ship and Dover pier, he went back to Julie.

She was sitting perfectly still, her hands clasped in front of her, her
veil drawn down.

"May I say one word to you?" he said, gently.

She did not speak.

"It is this. What I have confessed to you to-night is, of course, buried
between us. It is as though it had never been said. I have given you
pain. I ask your pardon from the bottom of my heart, and, at the same
time"--his voice trembled--"I thank God that I had the courage to
do it!"

She threw him a glance that showed her a quivering lip and the pallor of
intense emotion.

"I know you think you were right," she said, in a voice dull and
strained, "but henceforth we can only be enemies. You have tyrannized
over me in the name of standards that you revere and I reject. I can
only beg you to let my life alone for the future."

He said nothing. She rose, dizzily, to her feet. They were rapidly
approaching the pier.

[Illustration: "HER HANDS CLASPED IN FRONT OF HER"]

With the cold aloofness of one who feels it more dignified to submit
than to struggle, she allowed him to assist her in landing. He put her
into the Victoria train, travelling himself in another carriage.

As he walked beside her down the platform of Victoria Station, she said
to him:

"I shall be obliged if you will tell Evelyn that I have returned."

"I go to her at once."

She suddenly paused, and he saw that she was looking helplessly at one
of the newspaper placards of the night before. First among its items
appeared: "Critical state of Lord Lackington."

He hardly knew how far she would allow him to have any further
communication with her, but her pale exhaustion made it impossible not
to offer to serve her.

"It would be early to go for news now," he said, gently. "It would
disturb the house. But in a couple of hours from now"--the station clock
pointed to 6.15--"if you will allow me, I will leave the morning
bulletin at your door."

She hesitated.

"You must rest, or you will have no strength for nursing," he continued,
in the same studiously guarded tone. "But if you would prefer another
messenger--"

"I have none," and she raised her hand to her brow in mute, unconscious
confession of an utter weakness and bewilderment.

"Then let me go," he said, softly.

It seemed to him that she was so physically weary as to be incapable
either of assent or resistance. He put her into her cab, and gave the
driver his directions. She looked at him uncertainly. But he did not
offer his hand. From those blue eyes of his there shot out upon her one
piercing glance--manly, entreating, sad. He lifted his hat and was gone.



XX

"Jacob, what brings you back so soon?" The Duchess ran into the room, a
trim little figure in her morning dress of blue-and-white cloth, with
her small spitz leaping beside her.

Delafield advanced.

"I came to tell you that I got your telegram yesterday, and that in the
evening, by an extraordinary and fortunate chance, I met Miss Le Breton
in Paris--"

"You met Julie in Paris?" echoed the Duchess, in astonishment.

"She had come to spend a couple of days with some friends there before
going on to Bruges. I gave her the news of Lord Lackington's illness,
and she at once turned back. She was much fatigued and distressed, and
the night was stormy. I put her into the sleeping-car, and came back
myself to see if I could be any assistance to her. And at Calais I was
of some use. The crossing was very rough."

"Julie was in Paris?" repeated the Duchess, as though she had heard
nothing else of what he had been saying.

Her eyes, so blue and large in her small, irregular face, sought those
of her cousin and endeavored to read them.

"It seems to have been a rapid change of plan. And it was a great stroke
of luck my meeting her."

"But how--and where?"

"Oh, there is no time for going into that," said Delafield, impatiently.
"But I knew you would like to know that she was here--after your message
yesterday. We arrived a little after six this morning. About nine I went
for news to St. James's Square. There is a slight rally."

"Did you see Lord Uredale? Did you say anything about Julie?" asked the
Duchess, eagerly.

"I merely asked at the door, and took the bulletin to Miss Le Breton.
Will you see Uredale and arrange it? I gather you saw him yesterday."

"By all means," said the Duchess, musing. "Oh, it was so curious
yesterday. Lord Lackington had just told them. You should have seen
those two men."

"The sons?"

The Duchess nodded.

"They don't like it. They were as stiff as pokers. But they will do
absolutely the right thing. They see at once that she must be provided
for. And when he asked for her they told me to telegraph, if I could
find out where she was. Well, of all the extraordinary chances."

She looked at him again, oddly, a spot of red on either small cheek.
Delafield took no notice. He was pacing up and down, apparently
in thought.

"Suppose you take her there?" he said, pausing abruptly before her.

"To St. James's Square? What did you tell her?"

"That he was a trifle better, and that you would come to her."

"Yes, it would be hard for her to go alone," said the Duchess,
reflectively. She looked at her watch. "Only a little after eleven.
Ring, please, Jacob."

The carriage was ordered. Meanwhile the little lady inquired eagerly
after her Julie. Had she been exhausted by the double journey? Was she
alone in Paris, or was Madame Bornier with her?

Jacob had understood that Madame Bornier and the little girl had gone
straight to Bruges.

The Duchess looked down and then looked up.

"Did--did you come across Major Warkworth?"

"Yes, I saw him for a moment in the Rue de la Paix, He was starting for
Rome."

The Duchess turned away as though ashamed of her question, and gave her
orders for the carriage. Then her attention was suddenly drawn to her
cousin. "How pale you look, Jacob," she said, approaching him. "Won't
you have something--some wine?"

Delafield refused, declaring that all he wanted was an hour or two's
sleep.

"I go back to Paris to-morrow," he said, as he prepared to take his
leave. "Will you be here to-night if I look in?"

"Alack! we go to Scotland to-night! It was just a piece of luck that you
found me this morning. Freddie is fuming to get away."

Delafield paused a moment. Then he abruptly shook hands and went.

"He wants news of what happens at St. James's Square," thought the
Duchess, suddenly, and she ran after him to the top of the stairs.
"Jacob! If you don't mind a horrid mess to-night, Freddie and I shall be
dining alone--of course we must have something to eat. Somewhere about
eight. Do look in. There'll be a cutlet--on a trunk--anyway."

Delafield laughed, hesitated, and finally accepted.

The Duchess went back to the drawing-room, not a little puzzled and
excited.

"It's very, _very_ odd," she said to herself. "And what _is_ the matter
with Jacob?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour later she drove to the splendid house in St. James's Square
where Lord Lackington lay dying.

She asked for Lord Uredale, the eldest son, and waited in the library
till he came.

He was a tall, squarely built man, with fair hair already gray, and
somewhat absent and impassive manners.

At sight of him the Duchess's eyes filled with tears. She hurried to
him, her soft nature dissolved in sympathy.

"How is your father?"

"A trifle easier, though the doctors say there is no real improvement.
But he is quite conscious--knows us all. I have just been reading him
the debate."

"You told me yesterday he had asked for Miss Le Breton," said the
Duchess, raising herself on tiptoe as though to bring her low tones
closer to his ear. "She's here--in town, I mean. She came back from
Paris last night."

Lord Uredale showed no emotion of any kind. Emotion was not in his line.

"Then my father would like to see her," he said, in a dry, ordinary
voice, which jarred upon the sentimental Duchess.

"When shall I bring her?"

"He is now comfortable and resting. If you are free--"

The Duchess replied that she would go to Heribert Street at once. As
Lord Uredale took her to her carriage a young man ran down the steps
hastily, raised his hat, and disappeared.

Lord Uredale explained that he was the husband of the famous young
beauty, Mrs. Delaray, whose portrait Lord Lackington had been engaged
upon at the time of his seizure. Having been all his life a skilful
artist, a man of fashion, and a harmless haunter of lovely women, Lord
Lackington, as the Duchess knew, had all but completed a gallery of a
hundred portraits, representing the beauty of the reign. Mrs. Delaray's
would have been the hundredth in a series of which Mrs. Norton was
the first.

"He has been making arrangements with the husband to get it finished,"
said Lord Uredale; "it has been on his mind."

The Duchess shivered a little.

"He knows he won't finish it?"

"Quite well."

"And he still thinks of those things?"

"Yes--or politics," said Lord Uredale, smiling faintly. "I have written
to Mr. Montresor. There are two or three points my father wants to
discuss with him."

"And he is not depressed, or troubled about himself?"

"Not in the least. He will be grateful if you will bring him Miss Le
Breton."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Julie, my darling, are you fit to come with me?"

The Duchess held her friend in her arms, soothing and caressing her.
How forlorn was the little house, under its dust-sheets, on this rainy,
spring morning! And Julie, amid the dismantled drawing-room, stood
spectrally white and still, listening, with scarcely a word in reply, to
the affection, or the pity, or the news which the Duchess poured
out upon her.

"Shall we go now? I am quite ready."

And she withdrew herself from the loving grasp which held her, and put
on her hat and gloves.

"You ought to be in bed," said the Duchess. "Those night journeys are
too abominable. Even Jacob looks a wreck. But what an extraordinary
chance, Julie, that Jacob should have found you! How did you come across
each other?"

"At the Nord Station," said Julie, as she pinned her veil before the
glass over the mantel-piece.

Some instinct silenced the Duchess. She asked no more questions, and
they started for St. James's Square.

"You won't mind if I don't talk?" said Julie, leaning back and closing
her eyes. "I seem still to have the sea in my ears."

The Duchess looked at her tenderly, clasping her hand close, and the
carriage rolled along. But just before they reached St. James's Square,
Julie hastily raised the fingers which held her own and kissed them.

"Oh, Julie," said the Duchess, reproachfully, "I don't like you to do
that!"

She flushed and frowned. It was she who ought to pay such acts of
homage, not Julie.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Father, Miss Le Breton is here."

"Let her come in, Jack--and the Duchess, too."

Lord Uredale went back to the door. Two figures came noiselessly into
the room, the Duchess in front, with Julie's hand in hers.

Lord Lackington was propped up in bed, and breathing fast. But he smiled
as they approached him.

"This is good-bye, dear Duchess," he said, in a whisper, as she bent
over him. Then, with a spark of his old gayety in the eyes, "I should be
a cur to grumble. Life has been very agreeable. Ah, Julie!"

Julie dropped gently on her knees beside him and laid her cheek against
his arm. At the mention of her name the old man's face had clouded as
though the thoughts she called up had suddenly rebuked his words to the
Duchess. He feebly moved his hands towards hers, and there was silence
in the room for a few moments.

"Uredale!"

"Yes, father."

"This is Rose's daughter."

His eyes lifted themselves to those of his son.

"I know, father. If Miss Le Breton will allow us, we will do what we can
to be of service to her."

Bill Chantrey, the younger brother, gravely nodded assent. They were
both men of middle age, the younger over forty. They did not resemble
their father, nor was there any trace in either of them of his wayward
fascination. They were a pair of well-set-up, well-bred Englishmen,
surprised at nothing, and quite incapable of showing any emotion in
public; yet just and kindly men. As Julie entered the house they had
both solemnly shaken hands with her, in a manner which showed at once
their determination, as far as they were concerned, to avoid anything
sentimental or in the nature of a scene, and their readiness to do what
could be rightly demanded of them.

Julie hardly listened to Lord Uredale's little speech. She had eyes and
ears only for her grandfather. As she knelt beside him, her face bowed
upon his hand, the ice within her was breaking up, that dumb and
straitening anguish in which she had lived since that moment at the Nord
Station in which she had grasped the meaning and the implications of
Delafield's hurried words. Was everything to be swept away from her at
once--her lover, and now this dear old man, to whom her heart, crushed
and bleeding as it was, yearned with all its strength?

Lord Lackington supposed that she was weeping.

"Don't grieve, my dear," he murmured. "It must come to an end some
time--'_cette charmante promenade à travers la réalité_!'"

And he smiled at her, agreeably vain to the last of that French accent
and that French memory which--so his look implied--they two could
appreciate, each in the other. Then he turned to the Duchess.

"Duchess, you knew this secret before me. But I forgive _you_, and thank
you. You have been very good to Rose's child. Julie has told me--and--I
have observed--"

"Oh, dear Lord Lackington!" Evelyn bent over him. "Trust her to me," she
said, with a lovely yearning to comfort and cheer him breathing from her
little face.

He smiled.

"To you--and--"

He did not finish the sentence.

After a pause he made a little gesture of farewell which the Duchess
understood. She kissed his hand and turned away weeping.

"Nurse--where is nurse?" said Lord Lackington.

Both the nurse and the doctor, who had withdrawn a little distance from
the family group, came forward.

"Doctor, give me some strength," said the laboring voice, not without
its old wilfulness of accent.

He moved his arm towards the young homoeopath, who injected strychnine.
Then he looked at the nurse.

"Brandy--and--lift me."

All was done as he desired.

"Now go, please," he said to his sons. "I wish to be left with Julie."

       *       *       *       *       *

For some moments, that seemed interminable to Julie, Lord Lackington lay
silent. A feverish flush, a revival of life in the black eyes had
followed on the administration of the two stimulants. He seemed to be
gathering all his forces.

At last he laid his hand on her arm. "You shouldn't be alone," he said,
abruptly.

His expression had grown anxious, even imperious. She felt a vague pang
of dread as she tried to assure him that she had kind friends, and that
her work would be her resource.

Lord Lackington frowned.

"That won't do," he said, almost vehemently. "You have great talents,
but you are weak--you are a woman--you must marry."

Julie stared at him, whiter even than when she had entered his
room--helpless to avert what she began to foresee.

"Jacob Delafield is devoted to you. You should marry him, dear--you
should marry him."

The room seemed to swim around her. But his face was still plain--the
purpled lips and cheeks, the urgency in the eyes, as of one pursued by
an overtaking force, the magnificent brow, the crown of white hair.

She summoned all her powers and told him hurriedly that he was
mistaken--entirely mistaken. Mr. Delafield had, indeed, proposed to her,
but, apart from her own unwillingness, she had reason to know that his
feelings towards her were now entirely changed. He neither loved her nor
thought well of her.

Lord Lackington lay there, obstinate, patient, incredulous. At last he
interrupted her.

"You make yourself believe these things. But they are not true.
Delafield is attached to you. I know it."

He nodded to her with his masterful, affectionate look. And before she
could find words again he had resumed.

"He could give you a great position. Don't despise it. We English
big-wigs have a good time."

A ghostly, humorous ray shot out upon her; then he felt for her hand.

"Dear Julie, why won't you?"

"If you were to ask him," she cried, in despair, "he would tell you as I
do."

And across her miserable thoughts there flashed two mingled
images--Warkworth waiting, waiting for her at the Sceaux Station, and
that look of agonized reproach in Delafield's haggard face as he had
parted from her in the dawn of this strange, this incredible day.

And here beside her, with the tyranny of the dying, this dear babbler
wandered on in broken words, with painful breath, pleading, scolding,
counselling. She felt that he was exhausting himself. She begged him to
let her recall nurse and doctor. He shook his head, and when he could no
longer speak, he clung to her hand, his gaze solemnly, insistently,
fixed upon her.

Her spirit writhed and rebelled. But she was helpless in the presence of
this mortal weakness, this affection, half earthly, half beautiful, on
its knees before her.

A thought struck her. Why not content him? Whatever pledges she gave
would die with him. What did it matter? It was cruelty to deny him the
words--the mere empty words--he asked of her.

"I--I would do anything to please you!" she said, with a sudden burst of
uncontrollable tears, as she laid her head down beside him on the
pillow. "If he _were_ to ask me again, of course, for your sake, I would
consider it once more. Dear, dear friend, won't that satisfy you?"

Lord Lackington was silent a few moments, then he smiled.

"That's a promise?"

She raised herself and looked at him, conscious of a sick movement of
terror. What was there in his mind, still so quick, fertile, ingenious,
under the very shadow of death?

He waited for her answer, feebly pressing her hand.

"Yes," she said, faintly, and once more hid her face beside him.

Then, for some little time, the dying man neither stirred nor spoke. At
last Julie heard:

"I used to be afraid of death--that was in middle life. Every night it
was a torment. But now, for many years, I have not been afraid at
all.... Byron--Lord Byron--said to me, once, he would not change
anything in his life; but he would have preferred not to have lived at
all. I could not say that. I have enjoyed it all--being an Englishman,
and an English peer--pictures, politics, society--everything. Perhaps it
wasn't fair. There are so many poor devils."

Julie pressed his hand to her lips. But in her thoughts there rose the
sudden, sharp memory of her mother's death--of that bitter stoicism and
abandonment in which the younger life had closed, in comparison with
this peace, this complacency.

Yet it was a complacency rich in sweetness. His next words were to
assure her tenderly that he had made provision for her. "Uredale and
Bill--will see to it. They're good fellows. Often--they've thought me--a
pretty fool. But they've been kind to me--always."

Then, after another interval, he lifted himself in bed, with more
strength than she had supposed he could exert, looked at her earnestly,
and asked her, in the same painful whisper, whether she believed in
another life.

"Yes," said Julie. But her shrinking, perfunctory manner evidently
distressed him. He resumed, with a furrowed brow:

"You ought. It is good for us to believe it."

"I must hope, at any rate, that I shall see you again--and mamma," she
said, smiling on him through her tears.

"I wonder what it will be like," he replied, after a pause. His tone and
look implied a freakish, a whimsical curiosity, yet full of charm.
Then, motioning to her to come nearer, and speaking into her ear:

"Your poor mother, Julie, was never happy--never! There must be laws,
you see--and churches--and religious customs. It's because--we're made
of such wretched stuff. My wife, when she died--made me promise to
continue going to church--and praying. And--without it--I should have
been a bad man. Though I've had plenty of sceptical thoughts--plenty.
Your poor parents rebelled--against all that. They suffered--they
suffered. But you'll make up--you're a noble woman--you'll make up."

He laid his hand on her head. She offered no reply; but through the
inner mind there rushed the incidents, passions, revolts of the
preceding days.

But for that strange chance of Delafield's appearance in her path--a
chance no more intelligible to her now, after the pondering of several
feverish hours, than it had been at the moment of her first
suspicion--where and what would she be now? A dishonored woman, perhaps,
with a life-secret to keep; cut off, as her mother had been, from the
straight-living, law-abiding world.

The touch of the old man's hand upon her hair roused in her a first
recoil, a first shattering doubt of the impulse which had carried her to
Paris. Since Delafield left her in the early dawn she had been pouring
out a broken, passionate heart in a letter to Warkworth. No misgivings
while she was writing it as to the all-sufficing legitimacy of love!

But here, in this cold neighborhood of the grave--brought back to gaze
in spirit; on her mother's tragedy--she shrank, she trembled. Her proud
intelligence denied the stain, and bade her hate and despise her
rescuer. And, meanwhile, things also inherited and inborn, the fruit of
a remoter ancestry, rising from the dimmest and deepest caverns of
personality, silenced the clamor of the naturalist mind. One moment she
felt herself seized with terror lest anything should break down the veil
between her real self and this unsuspecting tenderness of the dying man;
the next she rose in revolt against her own fear. Was she to find
herself, after all, a mere weak penitent--meanly grateful to Jacob
Delafield? Her heart cried out to Warkworth in a protesting anguish.

So absorbed in thought was she that she did not notice how long the
silence had lasted.

"He seems to be sleeping," said a low voice beside her.

She looked up to see the doctor, with Lord Uredale. Gently releasing
herself, she kissed Lord Lackington's forehead, and rose to her feet.

Suddenly the patient opened his eyes, and as he seemed to become aware
of the figures beside him, he again lifted himself in bed, and a gleam
most animated, most vivacious, passed over his features.

"Brougham's not asked," he said, with a little chuckle of amusement.
"Isn't it a joke?"

The two men beside him looked at each other. Lord Uredale approached the
bed.

"Not asked to what, father?" he said, gently.

"Why, to the Queen's fancy ball, of course," said Lord Lackington, still
smiling. "Such a to-do! All the elderly sticks practising minuets for
their lives!"

A voluble flow of talk followed--hardly intelligible. The words
"Melbourne" and "Lady Holland" emerged--the fragment, apparently, of a
dispute with the latter, in which "Allen" intervened--the names of
"Palmerston" and "that dear chap, Villiers."

Lord Uredale sighed. The young doctor looked at him interrogatively.

"He is thinking of his old friends," said the son. "That was the Queen's
ball, I imagine, of '42. I have often heard him describe my
mother's dress."

But while he was speaking the fitful energy died away. The old man
ceased to talk; his eyelids fell. But the smile still lingered about his
mouth, and as he settled himself on his pillows, like one who rests, the
spectators were struck by the urbane and distinguished beauty of his
aspect. The purple flush had died again into mortal pallor. Illness had
masked or refined the weakness of mouth and chin; the beautiful head and
countenance, with their characteristic notes of youth, impetuosity, a
kind of gay detachment, had never been more beautiful.

The young doctor looked stealthily from the recumbent figure to the tall
and slender woman standing absorbed and grief-stricken beside the bed.
The likeness was as evident to him as it had been, in the winter, to Sir
Wilfrid Bury.

       *       *       *       *       *

As he was escorting her down-stairs, Lord Uredale said to his companion,
"Foster thinks he may still live twenty-four hours."

"If he asks for me again," said Julie, now shrouded once more behind a
thick, black veil, "you will send?"

He gravely assented.

"It is a great pity," he said, with a certain stiffness--did it
unconsciously mark the difference between her and his legitimate
kindred?--"that my sister Lady Blanche and her daughter cannot be
with us."

"They are in Italy?"

"At Florence. My niece has had an attack of diphtheria. She could
neither travel nor could her mother leave her."

Then pausing in the hall, he added in a low voice, and with some
embarrassment:

"My father has told you, I believe, of the addition he has made to his
will?"

Julie drew back.

"I neither asked for it nor desired it," she said, in her coldest and
clearest voice.

"That I quite understand," said Lord Uredale. "But--you cannot hurt him
by refusing."

She hesitated.

"No. But afterwards--I must be free to follow my own judgment."

"We cannot take what does not belong to us," he said, with some
sharpness. "My brother and I are named as your trustees. Believe me, we
will do our best."

Meanwhile the younger brother had come out of the library to bid her
farewell. She felt that she was under critical observation, though both
pairs of gray eyes refrained from any appearance of scrutiny. Her pride
came to her aid, and she did not shrink from the short conversation
which the two brothers evidently desired. When it was over, and the
brothers returned to the hall after putting her into the Duchess's
carriage, the younger said to the elder:

"She can behave herself, Johnnie."

They looked at each other, with their hands in their pockets. A little
nod passed between them--an augur-like acceptance of this new and
irregular member of the family.

"Yes, she has excellent manners," said Uredale. "And really, after the
tales Lady Henry has been spreading--that's something!"

"Oh, I always thought Lady Henry an old cat," said Bill, tranquilly.
"That don't matter."

The Chantrey brothers had not been among Lady Henry's _habitués_. In her
eyes, they were the dull sons of an agreeable father. They were
humorously aware of it, and bore her little malice.

"No," said Uredale, raising his eyebrows; "but the 'affaire Warkworth'?
If there's any truth in what one hears, that's deuced unpleasant."

Bill Chantrey whistled.

"It's hard luck on that poor child Aileen that it should be her own
cousin interfering with her preserves. By-the-way"--he stooped to look
at the letters on the hall table--"do you see there's a letter for
father from Blanche? And in a letter I got from her by the same post,
she says that she has told him the whole story. According to her,
Aileen's too ill to be thwarted, and she wants the governor to see the
guardians. I say, Johnnie"--he looked at his brother--"we'll not trouble
the father with it now?"

"Certainly not," said Uredale, with a sigh. "I saw one of the
trustees--Jack Underwood--yesterday. He told me Blanche and the child
were more infatuated than ever. Very likely what one hears is a pack of
lies. If not, I hope this woman will have the good taste to drop it.
Father has charged me to write to Blanche and tell her the whole story
of poor Rose, and of this girl's revealing herself. Blanche, it appears,
is just as much in the dark as we were."

"If this gossip has got round to her, her feelings will be mixed. Oh,
well, I've great faith in the money," said Bill Chantrey, carelessly, as
they began to mount the stairs again. "It sounds disgusting; but if the
child wants him I suppose she must have him. And, anyway, the man's off
to Africa for a twelvemonth at least. Miss Le Breton will have time to
forget him. One can't say that either he or she has behaved with
delicacy--unless, indeed, she knew nothing of Aileen, which is quite
probable."

"Well, don't ask me to tackle her," said Uredale. "She has the ways of
an empress."

Bill Chantrey shrugged his shoulders. "And, by George! she looks as if
she could fall in love," he said, slowly. "Magnificent eyes, Johnnie. I
propose to make a study of our new niece."

"Lord Uredale!" said a voice on the stairs.

The young doctor descended rapidly to meet them.

"His lordship is asking for some one," he said. "He seems excited. But I
cannot catch the name."

Lord Uredale ran up-stairs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Later in the day a man emerged from Lackington House and walked rapidly
towards the Mall. It was Jacob Delafield.

He passed across the Mall and into St. James's Park. There he threw
himself on the first seat he saw, in an absorption so deep that it
excited the wondering notice of more than one passer-by.

After about half an hour he roused himself, and walked, still in the
same brown study, to his lodgings in Jermyn Street. There he found a
letter which he eagerly opened.

       *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR JACOB,--Julie came back this morning about one o'clock. I waited
for her--and at first she seemed quite calm and composed. But suddenly,
as I was sitting beside her, talking, she fainted away in her chair, and
I was terribly alarmed. We sent for a doctor at once. He shakes his head
over her, and says there are all the signs of a severe strain of body
and mind. No wonder, indeed--our poor Julie! Oh, how I _loathe_ some
people! Well, there she is in bed, Madame Bornier away, and everybody. I
simply _can't_ go to Scotland. But Freddie is just mad. Do, Jacob,
there's a dear, go and dine with him to-night and cheer him up. He vows
he won't go north without me. _Perhaps_ I'll come to-morrow. I could no
more leave Julie to-night than fly.

"She'll be ill for weeks. What I ought to do is to take her abroad.
She's _very_ dear and good; but, oh, Jacob, as she lies there I _feel_
her heart's broken. And it's not Lord Lackington. Oh no! though I'm sure
she loved him. _Do_ go to Freddie, there's a dear."

       *       *       *       *       *

"No, that I won't!" said Delafield, with a laugh that choked him, as he
threw the letter down.

He tried to write an answer, but could not achieve even the simplest
note. Then he began a pacing of his room, which lasted till he dropped
into his chair, worn out with the sheer physical exhaustion of the night
and day. When his servant came in he found his master in a heavy sleep.
And, at Crowborough House, the Duke dined and fumed alone.



XXI

"Why does any one stay in England who _can_ make the trip to Paradise?"
said the Duchess, as she leaned lazily back in the corner of the boat
and trailed her fingers in the waters of Como.

It was a balmy April afternoon, and she and Julie were floating through
a scene enchanted, incomparable. When spring descends upon the shores of
the Lago di Como, she brings with her all the graces, all the beauties,
all the fine, delicate, and temperate delights of which earth and sky
are capable, and she pours them forth upon a land of perfect loveliness.
Around the shores of other lakes--Maggiore, Lugano, Garda--blue
mountains rise, and the vineyards spread their green and dazzling
terraces to the sun. Only Como can show in unmatched union a main
composition, incomparably grand and harmonious, combined with every
jewelled, or glowing, or exquisite detail. Nowhere do the mountains lean
towards each other in such an ordered splendor as that which bends round
the northern shores of Como. Nowhere do buttressed masses rise behind
each other, to right and left of a blue water-way, in lines statelier or
more noble than those kept by the mountains of the Lecco Lake, as they
marshal themselves on either hand, along the approaches to Lombardy and
Venetia; bearing aloft, as though on the purple pillars of some majestic
gateway, the great curtain of dazzling cloud which, on a sunny day,
hangs over the Brescian plain--a glorious drop-scene, interposed between
the dwellers on the Como Mountains, and those marble towns, Brescia,
Verona, Padua, which thread the way to Venice.

And within this divine frame-work, between the glistening snows which
still, in April, crown and glorify the heights, and those reflections of
them which lie encalmed in the deep bosom of the lake, there's not a
foot of pasture, not a shelf of vineyard, not a slope of forest where
the spring is not at work, dyeing the turf with gentians, starring it
with narcissuses, or drawing across it the first golden net-work of the
chestnut leaves; where the mere emerald of the grass is not in itself a
thing to refresh the very springs of being; where the peach-blossom and
the wild-cherry and the olive are not perpetually weaving patterns on
the blue, which ravish the very heart out of your breast. And already
the roses are beginning to pour over the walls; the wistaria is climbing
up the cypresses; a pomp of camellias and azaleas is in all the gardens;
while in the grassy bays that run up into the hills the primrose banks
still keep their sweet austerity, and the triumph of spring over the
just banished winter is still sharp and new.

And in the heart and sense of Julie Le Breton, as she sat beside the
Duchess, listening absently to the talk of the old boatman, who, with
his oars resting idly in his hands, was chattering to the ladies, a
renewing force akin to that of the spring was also at its healing and
life-giving work. She had still the delicate, tremulous look of one
recovering from a sore wrestle with physical ill; but in her aspect
there were suggestions more intimate, more moving than this. Those who
have lain down and risen up with pain; those who have been face to face
with passion and folly and self-judgment; those who have been forced to
seek with eagerness for some answer to those questions which the
majority of us never ask, "Whither is my life leading me--and what is it
worth to me or to any other living soul?"--these are the men and women
who now and then touch or startle us with the eyes and the voice of
Julie, if, at least, we have the capacity that responds. Sir Wilfrid
Bury, for instance, prince of self-governed and reasonable men, was not
to be touched by Julie. For him, in spite of her keen intelligence, she
was the _type passionné_, from which he instinctively recoiled--the Duke
of Crowborough the same. Such men feel towards such women as Julie Le
Breton hostility or satire; for what they ask, above all, of the women
of their world is a kind of simplicity, a kind of lightness which makes
life easier for men.

But for natures like Evelyn Crowborough--or Meredith--or Jacob
Delafield--the Julie-type has perennial attractions. For these are all
_children of feeling_, allied in this, however different in intelligence
or philosophy. They are attracted by the storm-tossed temperament in
itself; by mere sensibility; by that which, in the technical language of
Catholicism, suggests or possesses "the gift of tears." At any rate,
pity and love for her poor Julie--however foolish, however faulty--lay
warm in Evelyn Crowborough's breast; they had brought her to Como; they
kept her now battling on the one hand with her husband's angry letters
and on the other with the melancholy of her most perplexing, most
appealing friend.

"I had often heard" [wrote the sore-tried Duke] "of the ravages wrought
in family life by these absurd and unreasonable female friendships, but
I never thought that it would be you, Evelyn, who would bring them home
to me. I won't repeat the arguments I have used a hundred times in vain.
But once again I implore and demand that you should find some kind,
responsible person to look after Miss Le Breton--I don't care what you
pay--and that you yourself should come home to me and the children and
the thousand and one duties you are neglecting.

"As for the spring month in Scotland, which I generally enjoy so much,
that has been already entirely ruined. And now the season is apparently
to be ruined also. On the Shropshire property there is an important
election coming on, as I am sure you know; and the Premier said to me
only yesterday that he hoped you were already up and doing. The Grand
Duke of C---- will be in London within the next fortnight. I
particularly want to show him some civility. But what can I do without
you--and how on earth am I to explain your absence?

"Once more, Evelyn, I beg and I demand that you should come home."

To which the Duchess had rushed off a reply without a post's delay.

"Oh, Freddie, you are such a wooden-headed darling! As if I hadn't
explained till I'm black in the face. I'm glad, anyway, you didn't say
command; that would really have made difficulties.

"As for the election, I'm sure if I was at home I should think it very
good fun. Out here I am extremely doubtful whether we ought to do such
things as you and Lord M---- suggest. A duke shouldn't interfere in
elections. Anyway, I'm sure it's good for my character to consider it a
little--though I quite admit you may lose the election.

"The Grand Duke is a horrid wretch, and if he wasn't a grand duke you'd
be the first to cut him. I had to spend a whole dinner-time last year in
teaching him his proper place. It was very humiliating, and not at all
amusing. You can have a men's dinner for him. That's all he's fit for.

"And as for the babies, Mrs. Robson sends me a telegram every morning. I
can't make out that they have had a finger-ache since I went away, and I
am sure mothers are entirely superfluous. All the same, I think about
them a great deal, especially at night. Last night I tried to think
about their education--if only I wasn't such a sleepy creature! But, at
any rate, I never in my life tried to think about it at home. So that's
so much to the good.

"Indeed, I'll come back to you soon, you poor, forsaken, old thing! But
Julie has no one in the world, and I feel like a Newfoundland dog who
has pulled some one out of the water. The water was deep; and the life's
only just coming back; and the dog's not much good. But he sits there,
for company, till the doctor comes, and that's just what I'm doing.

"I know you don't approve of the notions I have in my head now. But
that's because you don't understand. Why don't you come out and join us?
Then you'd like Julie as much as I do; everything would be quite simple;
and I shouldn't be in the least jealous.

"Dr. Meredith is coming here, probably to-night, and Jacob should arrive
to-morrow on his way to Venice, where poor Chudleigh and his boy are."

       *       *       *       *       *

The _breva_, or fair-weather wind, from the north was blowing freshly
yet softly down the lake. The afternoon sun was burning on Bellaggio, on
the long terrace of the Melzi villa, on the white mist of fruit-blossom
that lay lightly on the green slopes above San Giovanni.

Suddenly the Duchess and the boatman left the common topics of every day
by which the Duchess was trying to improve her Italian--such as the
proposed enlargement of the Bellevue Hotel, the new villas that were
springing up, the gardens of the Villa Carlotta, and so forth. Evelyn
had carelessly asked the old man whether he had been in any of the
fighting of '59, and in an instant, under her eyes, he became another
being. Out rolled a torrent of speech; the oars lay idly on the water;
and through the man's gnarled and wrinkled face there blazed a high and
illumining passion. Novara and its beaten king, in '49; the ten years of
waiting, when a whole people bode its time, in a gay, grim silence; the
grudging victory of Magenta; the fivefold struggle that wrenched the
hills of San Martino from the Austrians; the humiliations and the rage
of Villafranca--of all these had this wasted graybeard made a part. And
he talked of them with the Latin eloquence and facility, as no veteran
of the north could have talked; he was in a moment the equal of these
great affairs in which he had mingled; so that one felt in him the son
of a race which had been rolled and polished--a pebble, as it were, from
rocks which had made the primeval frame-work of the world--in the main
course and stream of history.

Then from the campaign of '59 he fell back on the Five Days of Milan in
'48--the immortal days, when a populace drove out an army, and what
began almost in jest ended in a delirium, a stupefaction of victory. His
language was hot, broken, confused, like the street fighting it
chronicled. Afterwards--a further sharpening and blanching of the old
face--and he had carried them deep into the black years of Italy's
patience and Austria's revenge. Throwing out a thin arm, he pointed
towards town after town on the lake shores, now in the brilliance of
sunset, now in the shadow of the northern slope--Gravedona, Varenna,
Argegno--towns which had each of them given their sons to the Austrian
bullet and the Austrian lash for the ransom of Italy.

He ran through the sacred names--Stazzonelli, Riccini, Crescieri,
Ronchetti, Ceresa, Previtali--young men, almost all of them, shot for
the possession of a gun or a knife, for helping their comrades in the
Austrian army to desert, for "insulting conduct" towards an Austrian
soldier or officer.

Of one of these executions, which he had himself witnessed at
Varese--the shooting of a young fellow of six-and-twenty, his own friend
and kinsman--he gave an account which blanched the Duchess's cheeks and
brought the big tears into her eyes. Then, when he saw the effect he had
produced, the old man trembled.

"Ah, eccellenza," he cried, "but it had to be! The Italians had to show
they knew how to die; then God let them live. Ecco, eccellenza!"

And he drew from his breast-pocket, with shaking hands, an old envelope
tied round with string. When he had untied it, a piece of paper emerged,
brown with age and worn with much reading. It was a rudely printed
broadsheet containing an account of the last words and sufferings of the
martyrs of Mantua--those conspirators of 1852--from whose graves and
dungeons sprang, tenfold renewed, the regenerating and liberating forces
which, but a few years later, drove out the Austrian with the Bourbon,
together.

"See here, eccellenza," he said, as he tenderly spread out its tattered
folds and gave it into the Duchess's hand. "Have the goodness to look
where is that black mark. There you will find the last words of Don
Enrico Tazzoli, the half-brother of my father. He was a priest,
eccellenza. Ah, it was not then as it is now! The priests were then for
Italy. They hanged three of them at Mantua alone. As for Don Enrico,
first they stripped him of his priesthood, and then they hanged him. And
those were his last words, and the last words of Scarsellini also, who
suffered with him. _Veda eccellenza_! As for me, I know them from
a boy."

And while the Duchess read, the old man repeated tags and fragments
under his breath, as he once more resumed the oars and drove the boat
gently towards Menaggio.

"_The multitude of victims has not robbed us of courage in the past, nor
will it so rob us in the future--till victory dawns. The cause of the
people is like the cause of religion--it triumphs only through its
martyrs.... You--who survive--will conquer, and in your victory we, the
dead, shall live_....

"_Take no thought for us; the blood of the forerunners is like the seed
which the wise husbandman scatters on the fertile ground_.... _Teach our
young men how to adore and how to suffer for a great idea. Work
incessantly at that; so shall our country come to birth; and grieve not
for us!... Yes, Italy shall be one! To that all things point._ WORK!
_There is no obstacle that cannot be overcome, no opposition that cannot
be destroyed. The_ HOW _and the_ WHEN _only remain to be solved. You,
more fortunate than we, will find the clew to the riddle, when all
things are accomplished, and the times are ripe.... Hope!--my parents,
and my brothers--hope always!--waste no time in weeping_."

The Duchess read aloud the Italian, and Julie stooped over her shoulder
to follow the words.

"Marvellous!" said Julie, in a low voice, as she sank back into her
place. "A youth of twenty-seven, with the rope round his neck, and he
comforts himself with 'Italy.' What's 'Italy' to him, or he to 'Italy'?"
Not even an immediate paradise. "Is there anybody capable of it now?"

Her face and attitude had lost their languor. As the Duchess returned
his treasure to the old man she looked at Julie with joy. Not since her
illness had there been any such sign of warmth and energy.

And, indeed, as they floated on, past the glow of Bellaggio, towards the
broad gold and azure of the farther lake, the world-defying passion that
breathed from these words of dead and murdered Italians played as a
bracing and renewing power on Julie's still feeble being. It was akin to
the high snows on those far Alps that closed in the lake--to the pure
wind that blew from them--to the "gleam, the shadow, and the peace
supreme," amid which their little boat pressed on towards the shore.

"What matter," cried the intelligence, but as though through sobs--"what
matter the individual struggle and misery? These can be lived down. The
heart can be silenced--nerves steadied--strength restored. Will and idea
remain--the eternal spectacle of the world, and the eternal thirst of
man to see, to know, to feel, to realize himself, if not in one passion,
then in another. If not in love, then in patriotism--art--thought."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Duchess and Julie landed presently beneath the villa of which they
were the passing tenants. The Duchess mounted the double staircase where
the banksia already hung in a golden curtain over the marble balustrade.
Her face was thoughtful. She had to write her daily letter to the absent
and reproachful Duke.

Julie parted from her with a caress, and paused awhile to watch the
small figure till it mounted out of sight. Her friend had become very
dear to her. A new humility, a new gratitude filled her heart. Evelyn
should not sacrifice herself much longer. When she had insisted on
carrying her patient abroad, Julie had neither mind nor will wherewith
to resist. But now--the Duke should soon come to his own again.

She herself turned inland for that short walk by which each day she
tested her returning strength. She climbed the winding road to Criante,
the lovely village above Cadenabbia; then, turning to the left, she
mounted a path that led to the woods which overhang the famous gardens
of the Villa Carlotta.

Such a path! To the left hand, and, as it seemed, steeply beneath her
feet, all earth and heaven--the wide lake, the purple mountains, the
glories of a flaming sky. On the calm spaces of water lay a shimmer of
crimson and gold, repeating the noble splendor of the clouds; the
midgelike boats crept from shore to shore; and, midway between Bellaggio
and Cadenabbia, the steam-boat, a white speck, drew a silver furrow. To
her right a green hill-side--each blade of grass, each flower, each
tuft of heath, enskied, transfigured, by the broad light that poured
across it from the hidden west. And on the very hill-top a few scattered
olives, peaches, and wild cherries scrawled upon the blue, their bare,
leaning stems, their pearly whites, their golden pinks and feathery
grays all in a glory of sunset that made of them things enchanted,
aerial, fantastical, like a dance of Botticelli angels on the height.

And presently a sheltered bank in a green hollow, where Julie sat down
to rest. But nature, in this tranquil spot, had still new pageants, new
sorceries wherewith to play upon the nerves of wonder. Across the hollow
a great crag clothed in still leafless chestnut-trees reared itself
against the lake. The innumerable lines of stem and branch, warm brown
or steely gray, were drawn sharp on silver air, while at the very summit
of the rock one superb tree with branching limbs, touched with intense
black, sprang high above the rest, the proud plume or ensign of the
wood. Through the trunks the blaze of distant snow and the purples of
craggy mountains; in front the glistening spray of peach or cherry
blossom, breaking the still wintry beauty of that majestic grove. And in
all the air, dropping from the heaven, spread on the hills, or
shimmering on the lake, a diffusion of purest rose and deepest blue,
lake and cloud and mountain each melting into the other, as though
heaven and earth conspired merely to give value and relief to the year's
new birth, to this near sparkle of young leaf and blossom which shone
like points of fire on the deep breast of the distance.

On the green ledge which ran round the hollow were children tugging at a
goat. Opposite was a _contadino's_ house of gray stone. A water-wheel
turned beside it, and a stream, brought down from the hills, ran
chattering past, a white and dancing thread of water. Everything was
very still and soft. The children and the river made their voices heard;
and there were nightingales singing in the woods below. Otherwise all
was quiet. With a tranquil and stealthy joy the spring was taking
possession. Nay--the Angelus! It swung over the lake and rolled from
village to village....

The tears were in Julie's eyes. Such beauty as this was apt now to crush
and break her. All her being was still sore, and this appeal of nature
was sometimes more than she could bear.

Only a few short weeks since Warkworth had gone out of her life--since
Delafield at a stroke had saved her from ruin--since Lord Lackington had
passed away.

One letter had reached her from Warkworth, a wild and incoherent letter,
written at night in a little room of a squalid hotel near the Gare de
Sceaux. Her telegram had reached him, and for him, as for her, all
was over.

But the letter was by no means a mere cry of baffled passion. There was
in it a new note of moral anguish, as fresh and startling in her ear,
coming from him, as the cry of passion itself. In the language of
religion, it was the utterance of a man "convicted of sin."

     "How long is it since that man gave me your telegram? I was
     pacing up and down the departure platform, working myself
     into an agony of nervousness and anxiety as the time went by,
     wondering what on earth had happened to you, when the _chef
     de gare_ came up: 'Monsieur attend une dépêche?' There were
     some stupid formalities--at last I got it. It seemed to me I
     had already guessed what it contained.

     "So it was _Delafield_ who met you--Delafield who turned you
     back?

     "I saw him outside the hotel yesterday, and we exchanged a
     few words. I have always disliked his long, pale face and his
     high and mighty ways--at any rate, towards plain fellows, who
     don't belong to the classes, like me. Yesterday I was more
     than usually anxious to get rid of him.

     "So he guessed?

     "It can't have been chance. In some way he guessed. And you
     have been torn from me. My God! If I could only reach him--if
     I could fling his contempt in his face! And yet--

     "I have been walking up and down this room all night. The
     longing for you has been the sharpest suffering I suppose
     that I have ever known. For I am not one of the many people
     who enjoy pain. I have kept as free of it as I could. This
     time it caught and gripped me. Yet that isn't all. There has
     been something else.

     "What strange, patched creatures we are! Do you know, Julie,
     that by the time the dawn came I was on my knees--thanking
     God that we were parted--that you were on your way
     home--safe--out of my reach? Was I mad, or what? I can't
     explain it. I only know that one moment I hated Delafield as
     a mortal enemy--whether he was conscious of what he had done
     or no--and the next I found myself blessing him!

     "I understand now what people mean when they talk of
     conversion. It seems to me that in the hours I have just
     passed through things have come to light in me that I myself
     never suspected. I came of an Evangelical stock--I was
     brought up in a religious household. I suppose that one
     can't, after all, get away from the blood and the life that
     one inherits. My poor, old father--I was a bad son, and I
     know I hastened his death--was a sort of Puritan saint, with
     very stern ideas. I seem to have been talking with him this
     night, and shrinking under his condemnation. I could see his
     old face, as he put before me the thoughts I had dared to
     entertain, the risks I had been ready to take towards the
     woman I loved--the woman to whom I owed a deep debt of
     eternal gratitude.

     "Julie, it is strange how this appointment affects me. Last
     night I saw several people at the Embassy--good fellows--who
     seemed anxious to do all they could for me. Such men never
     took so much notice of me before. It is plain to me that this
     task will make or mar me. I may fail. I may die. But if I
     succeed England will owe me something, and these men at the
     top of the tree--

     "Good God! how can I go on writing this to you? It's because
     I came back to the hotel and tossed about half the night
     brooding over the difference between what these men--these
     honorable, distinguished fellows--were prepared to think of
     me, and the blackguard I knew myself to be. What, take
     everything from a woman's hand, and then turn and try and
     drag her in the mire--propose to her what one would shoot a
     man for proposing to one's sister! Thief and cur.

     "Julie--kind, beloved Julie--forget it all! For God's sake,
     let's cast it all behind us! As long as I live, your name,
     your memory will live in my heart. We shall not meet,
     probably, for many years. You'll marry and be happy yet. Just
     now I know you're suffering. I seem to see you in the
     train--on the steamer--your pale face that has lighted up
     life for me--your dear, slender hands that folded so easily
     into one of mine. You are in pain, my darling. Your nature is
     wrenched from its natural supports. And you gave me all your
     fine, clear mind, and all your heart. I ought to be damned to
     the deepest hell!

     "Then, again, I say to myself, if only she were here! If only
     I had her _here_, with her arms round my neck, surely I might
     have found the courage and the mere manliness to extricate
     both herself and me from these entanglements. Aileen might
     have released and forgiven one.

     "No, no! It's all over! I'll go and do my task. You set it
     me. You sha'n't be ashamed of me there.

     "Good-bye, Julie, my love--good-bye--forever!"

These were portions of that strange document composed through the
intervals of a long night, which showed in Warkworth's mind the survival
of a moral code, inherited from generations of scrupulous and
God-fearing ancestors, overlaid by selfish living, and now revived under
the stress, the purification partly of deepening passion, partly of a
high responsibility. The letter was incoherent, illogical; it showed now
the meaner, now the nobler elements of character; but it was human; it
came from the warm depths of life, and it had exerted in the end a
composing and appeasing force upon the woman to whom it was addressed.
He had loved her--if only at the moment of parting--he had loved her! At
the last there had been feeling, sincerity, anguish, and to these all
things may be forgiven.

And, indeed, what in her eyes there was to forgive, Julie had long
forgiven. Was it his fault if, when they met first, he was already
pledged--for social and practical reasons which her mind perfectly
recognized and understood--to Aileen Moffatt? Was it his fault if the
relations between herself and him had ripened into a friendship which in
its turn could only maintain itself by passing into love? No! It was
she, whose hidden, insistent passion--nourished, indeed, upon a tragic
ignorance--had transformed what originally he had a perfect right to
offer and to feel.

So she defended him; for in so doing she justified herself. And as to
the Paris proposal, he had a right to treat her as a woman capable of
deciding for herself how far love should carry her; he had a right to
assume that her antecedents, her training, and her circumstances were
not those of the ordinary sheltered girl, and that for her love might
naturally wear a bolder and wilder aspect than for others. He blamed
himself too severely, too passionately; but for this very blame her
heart remembered him the more tenderly. For it meant that his mind was
torn and in travail for her, that his thoughts clung to her in a
passionate remorse; and again she felt herself loved, and forgave with
all her heart.

All the same, he was gone out of her life, and through the strain and
the unconscious progress to other planes and phases of being, wrought by
sickness and convalescence, her own passion for him even was now a
changed and blunted thing.

Was she ashamed of the wild impulse which had carried her to Paris? It
is difficult to say. She was often seized with the shuddering
consciousness of an abyss escaped, with wonder that she was still in the
normal, accepted world, that Evelyn might still be her companion, that
Thérèse still adored her more fervently than any saint in the calendar.
Perhaps, if the truth were known, she was more abased in her own eyes by
the self-abandonment which had preceded the assignation with Warkworth.
She had much intellectual arrogance, and before her acquaintance with
Warkworth she had been accustomed to say and to feel that love was but
one passion among many, and to despise those who gave it too great a
place. And here she had flung herself into it, like any dull or foolish
girl for whom a love affair represents the only stirring in the pool of
life that she is ever likely to know.

Well, she must recapture herself and remake her life. As she sat there
in the still Italian evening she thought of the old boatman, and those
social and intellectual passions to which his burst of patriotism had
recalled her thoughts. Society, literature, friends, and the ambitions
to which these lead--let her go back to them and build her days afresh.
Dr. Meredith was coming. In his talk and companionship she would once
more dip and temper the tools of mind and taste. No more vain
self-arraignment, no more useless regrets. She looked back with
bitterness upon a moment of weakness when, in the first stage of
convalescence, in mortal weariness and loneliness, she had slipped one
evening into the Farm Street church and unburdened her heart in
confession. As she had told the Duchess, the Catholicism instilled into
her youth by the Bruges nuns still laid upon her at times its ghostly
and compelling hand. Now in her renewed strength she was inclined to
look upon it as an element of weakness and disintegration in her nature.
She resolved, in future, to free herself more entirely from a useless
_Aberglaube_.

But Meredith was not the only visitor expected at the villa in the next
few days. She was already schooling herself to face the arrival of Jacob
Delafield.

It was curious how the mere thought of Delafield produced an agitation,
a shock of feeling, which seemed to spread through all the activities of
being. The faint, renascent glamour which had begun to attach to
literature and social life disappeared. She fell into a kind of
brooding, the sombre restlessness of one who feels in the dark the
recurrent presence of an attacking and pursuing power, and is in a
tremulous uncertainty where or how to meet it.

The obscure tumult within her represented, in fact, a collision between
the pagan and Christian conceptions of life. In self-dependence, in
personal pride, in her desire to refer all things to the arbitrament of
reason, Julie, whatever her practice, was theoretically a stoic and a
pagan. But Delafield's personality embodied another "must," another
"ought," of a totally different kind. And it was a "must" which, in a
great crisis of her life, she also had been forced to obey. There was
the thought which stung and humiliated. And the fact was irreparable;
nor did she see how she was ever to escape from the strange, silent,
penetrating relation it had established between her and the man who
loved her and had saved her, against her will.

During her convalescence at Crowborough House, Delafield had been often
admitted. It would have been impossible to exclude him, unless she had
confided the whole story of the Paris journey to the Duchess. And
whatever Evelyn might tremblingly guess, from Julie's own mouth she knew
nothing. So Delafield had come and gone, bringing Lord Lackington's last
words, and the account of his funeral, or acting as intermediary in
business matters between Julie and the Chantrey brothers. Julie could
not remember that she had ever asked him for these services. They fell
to him, as it were, by common consent, and she had been too weak
to resist.

At first, whenever he entered the room, whenever he approached her, her
sense of anger and resentment had been almost unbearable. But little by
little his courtesy, tact, and coolness had restored a relation between
them which, if not the old one, had still many of the outward characters
of intimacy. Not a word, not the remotest allusion reminded her of what
had happened. The man who had stood before her transfigured on the deck
of the steamer, stammering out, "I thank God I had the courage to do
it!"--it was often hard for her to believe, as she stole a look at
Delafield, chatting or writing in the Duchess's drawing-room, that such
a scene had ever taken place.

       *       *       *       *       *

The evening stole on. How was it that whenever she allowed the thought
of Delafield to obtain a real lodgment in the mind, even the memory of
Warkworth was for the time effaced? Silently, irresistibly, a wild heat
of opposition would develop within her. These men round whom, as it
were, there breathes an air of the heights; in whom one feels the secret
guard that religion keeps over thoughts and words and acts--her
passionate yet critical nature flung out against them. How are they
better than others, after all? What right have they over the wills
of others?

Nevertheless, as the rose of evening burned on the craggy mountain face
beyond Bellaggio, retreating upward, step by step, till the last
glorious summit had died into the cool and already starlit blues of
night, Julie, held, as it were, by a reluctant and half-jealous
fascination, sat dreaming on the hill-side, not now of Warkworth, not of
the ambitions of the mind, or society, but simply of the goings and
comings, the aspects and sayings of a man in whose eyes she had once
read the deepest and sternest things of the soul--a condemnation and an
anguish above and beyond himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Meredith arrived in due time, a jaded Londoner athirst for idleness
and fresh air. The Duchess and Julie carried him hither and thither
about the lake in the four-oar boat which had been hired for the
Duchess's pleasure. Here, enthroned between the two ladies, he passed
luxurious hours, and his talk of politics, persons, and books brought
just that stimulus to Julie's intelligence and spirits for which the
Duchess had been secretly longing.

A first faint color returned to Julie's cheeks. She began to talk again;
to resume certain correspondences; to show herself once more--at any
rate intermittently--the affectionate, sympathetic, and
beguiling friend.

As for Meredith, he knew little, but he suspected a good deal. There
were certain features in her illness and convalescence which suggested
to him a mental cause; and if there were such a cause, it must, of
course, spring from her relations to Warkworth.

The name of that young officer was never mentioned. Once or twice
Meredith was tempted to introduce it. It rankled in his mind that Julie
had never been frank with him, freely as he had poured his affection at
her feet. But a moment of languor or of pallor disarmed him.

"She is better," he said to the Duchess one day, abruptly. "Her mind is
full of activity. But why, at times, does she still look so
miserable--like a person without hope or future?"

The Duchess looked pensive. They were sitting in the corner of one of
the villa's terraced walks, amid a scented wilderness of flowers. Above
them was a canopy of purple and yellow--rose and wistaria; while through
the arches of the pergola which ran along the walk gleamed all those
various blues which make the spell of Como--the blue and white of the
clouds, the purple of the mountains, the azure of the lake.

"Well, she was in love with him. I suppose it takes a little time," said
the Duchess, sighing.

"Why was she in love with him?" said Meredith, impatiently. "As to the
Moffatt engagement, naturally, she was kept in the dark?"

"At first," said the Duchess, hesitating. "And when she knew, poor dear,
it was too late!"

"Too late for what?"

"Well, when one falls in love one doesn't all at once shake it off
because the man deceives you."

"One _should_," said Meredith, with energy. "Men are not worth all that
women spend upon them."

"Oh, that's true!" cried the Duchess--"so dreadfully true! But what's
the good of preaching? We shall go on spending it to the end of time."

"Well, at any rate, don't choose the dummies and the frauds."

"Ah, there you talk sense," said the Duchess. "And if only we had the
French system in England! If only one could say to Julie: 'Now look
here, _there's_ your husband! It's all settled--down to plate and
linen--and you've _got_ to marry him!' how happy we should all be."

Dr. Meredith stared.

"You have the man in your eye," he said.

The Duchess hesitated.

"Suppose you come a little walk with me in the wood," she said, at last,
gathering up her white skirts.

Meredith obeyed her. They were away for half an hour, and when they
returned the journalist's face, flushed and furrowed with thought, was
not very easy to read.

Nor was his temper in good condition. It required a climb to the very
top of Monte Crocione to send him back, more or less appeased, a
consenting player in the Duchess's game. For if there are men who are
flirts and egotists--who ought to be, yet never are, divined by the
sensible woman at a glance--so also there are men too well equipped for
this wicked world, too good, too well born, too desirable.

It was in this somewhat flinty and carping mood that Meredith prepared
himself for the advent of Jacob Delafield.

       *       *       *       *       *

But when Delafield appeared, Meredith's secret antagonisms were soon
dissipated. There was certainly no challenging air of prosperity about
the young man.

At first sight, indeed, he was his old cheerful self, always ready for a
walk or a row, on easy terms at once with the Italian servants or
boatmen. But soon other facts emerged--stealthily, as it were, from the
concealment in which a strong man was trying to keep them.

"That young man's youth is over," said Meredith, abruptly, to the
Duchess one evening. He pointed to the figure of Delafield, who was
pacing, alone with his pipe, up and down one of the lower terraces of
the garden.

The Duchess showed a teased expression.

"It's like something wearing through," she said, slowly. "I suppose it
was always there, but it didn't show."

"Name your 'it.'"

"I can't." But she gave a little shudder, which made Meredith look at
her with curiosity.

"You feel something ghostly--unearthly?"

She nodded assent; crying out, however, immediately afterwards, as
though in compunction, that he was one of the dearest and best
of fellows.

"Of course he is," said Meredith. "It is only the mystic in him coming
out. He is one of the men who have the sixth sense."

"Well, all I know is, he has the oddest power over people," said Evelyn,
with another shiver. "If Freddie had it, my life wouldn't be worth
living. Thank goodness, he hasn't a vestige!"

"At bottom it's the power of the priest," said Meredith. "And you women
are far too susceptible towards it. Nine times out of ten it plays the
mischief."

The Duchess was silent a moment. Then she bent towards her companion,
finger on lip, her charming eyes glancing significantly towards the
lower terrace. The figures on it were now two. Julie and Delafield
paced together.

"But this is the tenth!" she said, in an eager whisper.

Meredith smiled at her, then flung her a dubious "Chi sa?" and changed
the subject.

       *       *       *       *       *

Delafield, who was a fine oar, had soon taken command of the lake
expeditions; and by the help of two stalwart youths from Tremezzo, the
four-oar was in use from morning till night. Through the broad lake
which lies between Menaggio and Varenna it sped northward to Gravedona;
or beneath the shadowy cliffs of the Villa Serbelloni it slipped over
deep waters, haunted and dark, into the sunny spaces of Lecco; or it
coasted along the steep sides of Monte Primo, so that the travellers in
it might catch the blue stain of the gentians on the turf, where it
sloped into the lucent wave below, or watch the fishermen on the rocks,
spearing their prey in the green or golden shallows.

The weather was glorious--a summer before its time. The wild cherries
shook down their snow upon the grass; but the pears were now in bridal
white, and a warmer glory of apple-blossom was just beginning to break
upon the blue. The nights were calm and moonlit; the dawns were visions
of mysterious and incredible beauty, wherein mountain and forest and
lake were but the garments, diaphanous, impalpable, of some delicate,
indwelling light and fire spirit, which breathed and pulsed through the
solidity of rock, no less visibly than through the crystal leagues of
air or the sunlit spaces of water.

Yet presently, as it were, a hush of waiting, of tension, fell upon
their little party. Nature offered her best; but there was only an
apparent acceptance of her bounties. Through the outward flow of talk
and amusement, of wanderings on lake or hill, ugly hidden forces of pain
and strife, regret, misery, resistance, made themselves rarely yet
piercingly felt.

Julie drooped again. Her cheeks were paler even than when Meredith
arrived. Delafield, too, began to be more silent, more absent. He was
helpful and courteous as ever, but it began to be seen that his gayety
was an effort, and now and then there were sharp or bitter notes in
voice or manner, which jarred, and were not soon forgotten.

Presently, Meredith and the Duchess found themselves looking on,
breathless and astonished, at the struggle of two personalities, the
wrestle between two wills. They little knew that it was a renewed
struggle--second wrestle. But silently, by a kind of tacit agreement,
they drew away from Delafield and Julie. They dimly understood that he
pursued and she resisted; and that for him life was becoming gradually
absorbed into the two facts of her presence and her resistance.

"_On ne s'appuie que sur ce qui résiste_." For both of them these words
were true. Fundamentally, and beyond all passing causes of grief and
anger, each was fascinated by the full strength of nature in the other.
Neither could ever forget the other. The hours grew electric, and every
tiny incident became charged with spiritual meaning.

Often for hours together Julie would try to absorb herself in talk with
Meredith. But the poor fellow got little joy from it. Presently, at a
word or look of Delafield's she would let herself be recaptured, as
though with a proud reluctance; they wandered away together; and once
more Meredith and the Duchess became the merest by-standers.

The Duchess shrugged her shoulders over it, and, though she laughed,
sometimes the tears were in her eyes. She felt the hovering of passion,
but it was no passion known to her own blithe nature.

And if only this strange state of things might end, one way or other,
and set her free to throw her arms round her Duke's neck, and beg his
pardon for all these weeks of desertion! She said to herself, ruefully,
that her babies would indeed have forgotten her.

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet she stood stoutly to her post, and the weeks passed quickly by. It
was the dramatic energy of the situation--so much more dramatic in truth
than either she or Meredith suspected--that made it such a strain upon
the onlookers.

One evening they had left the boat at Tremezzo, that they might walk
back along that most winning of paths that skirts the lake between the
last houses of Tremezzo and the inn at Cadenabbia. The sunset was nearly
over, but the air was still suffused with its rose and pearl, and
fragrant with the scent of flowering laurels. Each mountain face, each
white village, either couched on the water's edge or grouped about its
slender campanile on some shoulder of the hills, each house and tree and
figure seemed still penetrated with light, the glorified creatures of
some just revealed and already fading world. The echoes of the evening
bell were floating on the lake, and from a boat in front, full of
peasant-folk, there rose a sound of singing, some litany of saint or
virgin, which stole in harmonies, rudely true, across the water.

"They have been to the pilgrimage church above Lenno," said Julie,
pointing to the boat, and in order to listen to the singing, she found a
seat on a low wall above the lake.

There was no reply, and, looking round her, she saw with a start that
only Delafield was beside her, that the Duchess and Meredith had
already rounded the corner of the Villa Carlotta and were out of sight.

Delafield's gaze was fixed upon her. He was very pale, and suddenly
Julie's breath seemed to fail her.

"I don't think I can bear it any longer," he said, as he came close to
her.

"Bear what?"

"That you should look as you do now."

Julie made no reply. Her eyes, very sad and bitter, searched the blue
dimness of the lake in silence.

Delafield sat down on the wall beside her. Not a soul was in sight. At
the Cadenabbia Hotel, the _table d'hôte_ had gathered in the visitors; a
few boats passed and repassed in the distance, but on land all
was still.

Suddenly he took her hand with a firm grasp.

"Are you never going to forgive me?" he said, in a low voice.

"I suppose I ought to bless you."

Her face seemed to him to express the tremulous misery of a heart
deeply, perhaps irrevocably, wounded. Emotion rose in a tide, but he
crushed it down.

He bent over her, speaking with deliberate tenderness.

"Julie, do you remember what you promised Lord Lackington when he was
dying?"

"Oh!" cried Julie.

She sprang to her feet, speechless and suffocated. Her eyes expressed a
mingled pride and terror.

He paused, confronting her with a pale resolution.

"You didn't know that I had seen him?"

"Know!"

She turned away fiercely, choking with sobs she could hardly control,
as the memory of that by-gone moment returned upon her.

"I thought as much," said Delafield, in a low voice. "You hoped never to
hear of your promise again."

She made no answer; but she sank again upon the seat beside the lake,
and supporting herself on one delicate hand, which clung to the coping
of the wall, she turned her pale and tear-stained face to the lake and
the evening sky. There was in her gesture an unconscious yearning, a
mute and anguished appeal, as though from the oppressions of human
character to the broad strength of nature, that was not lost on
Delafield. His mind became the centre of a swift and fierce debate. One
voice said: "Why are you persecuting her? Respect her weakness and her
grief." And another replied: "It is because she is weak that she must
yield--must allow herself to be guided and adored."

He came close to her again. Any passer-by might have supposed that they
were both looking at the distant boat and listening to the
pilgrimage chant.

"Do you think I don't understand why you made that promise?" he said,
very gently, and the mere self-control of his voice and manner carried a
spell with it for the woman beside him. "It was wrung out of you by
kindness for a dying man. You thought I should never know, or I should
never claim it. Well, I am selfish. I take advantage. I do claim it. I
saw Lord Lackington only a few hours before his death. 'She mustn't be
alone,' he said to me, several times. And then, almost at the last, 'Ask
her again. She'll consider it--she promised.'"

Julie turned impetuously.

"Neither of us is bound by that--neither of us."

Delafield smiled.

"Does that mean that I am asking you now because he bade me?"

A pause. Julie must needs raise her eyes to his. She flushed red and
withdrew them.

"No," he said, with a long breath, "you don't mean that, and you don't
think it. As for you--yes, you are bound! Julie, once more I bring you
my plea, and you must consider it."

"How can I be your wife?" she said, her breast heaving. "You know all
that has happened. It would be monstrous."

"Not at all," was his quiet reply. "It would be natural and right.
Julie, it is strange that I should be talking to you like this. You're
so much cleverer than I--in some ways, so much stronger. And yet, in
others--you'll let me say it, won't you?--I could help you. I could
protect you. It's all I care for in the world."

"How can I be your wife?" she repeated, passionately, wringing her
hands.

"Be what you will--at home. My friend, comrade, housemate. I ask nothing
more--_nothing_." His voice dropped, and there was a pause. Then he
resumed. "But, in the eyes of the world, make me your servant and
your husband!"

"I can't condemn you to such a fate," she cried. "You know where my
heart is."

Delafield did not waver.

"I know where your heart was," he said, with firmness. "You will banish
that man from your thoughts in time. He has no right to be there. I take
all the risks--all."

"Well, at least for you, I am no hypocrite," she said, with a quivering
lip. "You know what I am."

"Yes, I know, and I am at your feet."

The tears dropped from Julie's eyes. She turned away and hid her face
against one of the piers of the wall.

Delafield attempted no caress. He quietly set himself to draw the life
that he had to offer her, the comradeship that he proposed to her. Not a
word of what the world called his "prospects" entered in. She knew very
well that he could not bring himself to speak of them. Rather, a sort of
ascetic and mystical note made itself heard in all he said of the
future, a note that before now had fascinated and controlled a woman
whose ambition was always strangely tempered with high, poetical
imagination.

Yet, ambitious she was, and her mind inevitably supplied what his voice
left unsaid.

"He will have to fill his place whether he wishes it or no," she said to
herself. "And if, in truth, he desires my help--"

Then she shrank from her own wavering. Look where she would into her
life, it seemed to her that all was monstrous and out of joint.

"You don't realize what you ask," she said, at last, in despair. "I am
not what you call a good woman--you know it too well. I don't measure
things by your standards. I am capable of such a journey as you found me
on. I can't find in my own mind that I repent it at all. I can tell a
lie--you can't. I can have the meanest and most sordid thoughts--you
can't. Lady Henry thought me an intriguer--I am one. It is in my blood.
And I don't know whether, in the end, I could understand your language
and your life. And if I don't, I shall make you miserable."

She looked up, her slender frame straightening under what was, in truth,
a noble defiance.

Delafield bent over her and took both her hands forcibly in his own.

"If all that were true, I would rather risk it a thousand times over
than go out of your life again--a stranger. Julie, you have done mad
things for love--you should know what love is. Look in my
face--there--your eyes in mine! Give way! The dead ask it of you--and it
is God's will."

And as, drawn by the last, low-spoken words, Julie looked up into his
face, she felt herself enveloped by a mystical and passionate tenderness
that paralyzed her resistance. A force, superhuman, laid its grasp upon
her will. With a burst of tears, half in despair, half in revolt, she
submitted.



XXII

In the first week of May, Julie Le Breton married Jacob Delafield in the
English Church at Florence. The Duchess was there. So was the Duke--a
sulky and ill-resigned spectator of something which he believed to be
the peculiar and mischievous achievement of his wife.

At the church door Julie and Delafield left for Camaldoli.

"Well, if you imagine that I intend to congratulate you or anybody else
upon that performance you are very much mistaken," said the Duke, as he
and his wife drove back to the "Grand Bretagne" together.

"I don't deny it's--risky," said the Duchess, her hands on her lap, her
eyes dreamily following the streets.

"Risky!" repeated the Duke, shrugging his shoulders. "Well, I don't want
to speak harshly of your friends, Evelyn, but Miss Le Breton--"

"Mrs. Delafield," said the Duchess.

"Mrs. Delafield, then"--the name was evidently a difficult
mouthful--"seems to me a most undisciplined and unmanageable woman. Why
does she look like a tragedy queen at her marriage? Jacob is twice too
good for her, and she'll lead him a life. And how you can reconcile it
to your conscience to have misled me so completely as you have in this
matter, I really can't imagine."

"Misled you?" said Evelyn.

Her innocence was really a little hard to bear, and not even the beauty
of her blue eyes, now happily restored to him, could appease the mentor
at her side.

"You led me plainly to believe," he repeated, with emphasis, "that if I
helped her through the crisis of leaving Lady Henry she would relinquish
her designs on Delafield."

"Did I?" said the Duchess. And putting her hands over her face she
laughed rather hysterically. "But that wasn't why you lent her the
house, Freddie."

"You coaxed me into it, of course," said the Duke.

"No, it was Julie herself got the better of you," said Evelyn,
triumphantly. "You felt her spell, just as we all do, and wanted to do
something for her."

"Nothing of the sort," said the Duke, determined to admit no
recollection to his disadvantage. "It was your doing entirely."

The Duchess thought it discreet to let him at least have the triumph of
her silence, smiling, and a little sarcastic though it were.

"And of all the undeserved good fortune!" he resumed, feeling in his
irritable disapproval that the moral order of the universe had been
somehow trifled with. "In the first place, she is the daughter of people
who flagrantly misconducted themselves--_that_ apparently does her no
harm. Then she enters the service of Lady Henry in a confidential
position, and uses it to work havoc in Lady Henry's social relations.
That, I am glad to say, _has_ done her a little harm, although not
nearly as much as she deserves. And finally she has a most discreditable
flirtation with a man already engaged--to her own cousin, please
observe!--and pulls wires for him all over the place in the most
objectionable and unwomanly manner."

"As if everybody didn't do that!" cried the Duchess. "You know, Freddie,
that your own mother always used to boast that she had made six bishops
and saved the Establishment."

The Duke took no notice.

"And yet there she is! Lord Lackington has left her a fortune--a
competence, anyway. She marries Jacob Delafield--rather a fool, I
consider, but all the same one of the best fellows in the world. And at
any time, to judge from what one hears of the health both of Chudleigh
and his boy, she may find herself Duchess of Chudleigh."

The Duke threw himself back in the carriage with the air of one who
waits for Providence to reply.

"Oh, well, you see, you can't make the world into a moral tale to please
you," said the Duchess, absently.

Then, after a pause, she asked, "Are you still going to let them have
the house, Freddie?"

"I imagine that if Jacob Delafield applies to me to let it to _him_,
that I shall not refuse him," said the Duke, stiffly.

The Duchess smiled behind her fan. Yet her tender heart was not in
reality very happy about her Julie. She knew well enough that it was a
strange marriage of which they had just been witnesses--a marriage
containing the seeds of many untoward things only too likely to develop
unless fate were kinder than rash mortals have any right to expect.

"I wish to goodness Delafield weren't so religious," murmured the
Duchess, fervently, pursuing her own thoughts.

"Evelyn!"

"Well, you see, Julie isn't, at all," she added, hastily.

"You need not have troubled yourself to tell me that," was the Duke's
indignant reply.

       *       *       *       *       *

After a fortnight at Camaldoli and Vallombrosa the Delafields turned
towards Switzerland. Julie, who was a lover of Rousseau and Obermann,
had been also busy with the letters of Byron. She wished to see with her
own eyes St. Gingolphe and Chillon, Bevay and Glion.

So one day at the end of May they found themselves at Montreux. But
Montreux was already hot and crowded, and Julie's eyes turned in longing
to the heights. They found an old inn at Charnex, whereof the garden
commanded the whole head of the lake, and there they settled themselves
for a fortnight, till business, in fact, should recall Delafield to
England. The Duke of Chudleigh had shown all possible kindness and
cordiality with regard to the marriage, and the letter in which he
welcomed his cousin's new wife had both touched Julie's feelings and
satisfied her pride. "You are marrying one of the best of men," wrote
this melancholy father of a dying son. "My boy and I owe him more than
can be written. I can only tell you that for those he loves he grudges
nothing--no labor, no sacrifice of himself. There are no half-measures
in his affections. He has spent himself too long on sick and sorry
creatures like ourselves. It is time he had a little happiness on his
own account. You will give it him, and Mervyn and I will be most
grateful to you. If joy and health can never be ours, I am not yet so
vile as to grudge them to others. God bless you! Jacob will tell you
that my house is not a gay one; but if you and he will sometimes visit
it, you will do something to lighten its gloom."

Julie wondered, as she wrote her very graceful reply, how much the Duke
might know about herself. Jacob had told his cousin, as she knew, the
story of her parentage and of Lord Lackington's recognition of his
granddaughter. But as soon as the marriage was announced it was not
likely that Lady Henry had been able to hold her tongue.

A good many interesting tales of his cousin's bride had, indeed, reached
the melancholy Duke. Lady Henry had done all that she conceived it her
duty to do, filling many pages of note-paper with what the Duke regarded
as most unnecessary information.

At any rate, he had brushed it all aside with the impatience of one for
whom nothing on earth had now any savor or value beyond one or two
indispensable affections. "What's good enough for Jacob is good for me,"
he wrote to Lady Henry, "and if I may offer you some advice, it is that
you should not quarrel with Jacob about a matter so vital as his
marriage. Into the rights and wrongs of the story you tell me, I really
cannot enter; but rather than break with Jacob I would welcome _anybody_
he chose to present to me. And in this case I understand the lady is
very clever, distinguished, and of good blood on both sides. Have you
had no trouble in your life, my dear Flora, that you can make quarrels
with a light heart? If so, I envy you; but I have neither the energy nor
the good spirits wherewith to imitate you."

Julie, of course, knew nothing of this correspondence, though from the
Duke's letters to Jacob she divined that something of the kind had taken
place. But it was made quite plain to her that she was to be spared all
the friction and all the difficulty which may often attend the entrance
of a person like herself within the circle of a rich and important
family like the Delafields. With Lady Henry, indeed, the fight had still
to be fought. But Jacob's mother, influenced on one side by her son and
on the other by the head of the family, accepted her daughter-in-law
with the facile kindliness and good temper that were natural to her;
while his sister, the fair-haired and admirable Susan, owed her brother
too much and loved him too well to be other than friendly to his wife.

No; on the worldly side all was smooth. The marriage had been carried
through with ease and quietness The Duke, in spite of Jacob's
remonstrances, had largely increased his cousin's salary, and Julie was
already enjoying the income left her by Lord Lackington. She had only to
reappear in London as Jacob's wife to resume far more than her old
social ascendency. The winning cards had all passed into her hands, and
if now there was to be a struggle with Lady Henry, Lady Henry would
be worsted.

All this was or should have been agreeable to the sensitive nerves of a
woman who knew the worth of social advantages. It had no effect,
however, on the mortal depression which was constantly Julie's portion
during the early weeks of her marriage.

As for Delafield, he had entered upon this determining experiment of his
life--a marriage, which was merely a legalized comradeship, with the
woman he adored--in the mind of one resolved to pay the price of what he
had done. This graceful and stately woman, with her high intelligence
and her social gifts, was now his own property. She was to be the
companion of his days and the mistress of his house. But although he
knew well that he had a certain strong hold upon her, she did not love
him, and none of the fusion of true marriage had taken place or could
take place. So be it. He set himself to build up a relation between them
which should justify the violence offered to natural and spiritual law.
His own delicacy of feeling and perception combined with the strength of
his passion to make every action of their common day a symbol and
sacrament. That her heart regretted Warkworth, that bitterness and
longing, an unspent and baffled love, must be constantly overshadowing
her--these things he not only knew, he was forever reminding himself of
them, driving them, as it were, into consciousness, as the ascetic
drives the spikes into his flesh. His task was to comfort her, to make
her forget, to bring her back to common peace and cheerfulness of mind.

To this end he began with appealing as much as possible to her
intelligence. He warmly encouraged her work for Meredith. From the first
days of their marriage he became her listener, scholar, and critic.
Himself interested mainly in social, economical, or religious
discussion, he humbly put himself to school in matters of
_belles-lettres_. His object was to enrich Julie's daily life with new
ambitions and new pleasures, which might replace the broodings of her
illness and convalescence, and then, to make her feel that she had at
hand, in the companion of that life, one who felt a natural interest in
all her efforts, a natural pride in all her successes.

Alack! the calculation was too simple--and too visible. It took too
little account of the complexities of Julie's nature, of the ravages and
the shock of passion. Julie herself might be ready enough to return to
the things of the mind, but they were no sooner offered to her, as it
were, in exchange for the perilous delights of love, than she grew
dumbly restive. She felt herself, also, too much observed, too much
thought over, made too often, if the truth were known, the subject of
religious or mystical emotion.

More and more, also, was she conscious of strangeness and eccentricity
in the man she had married. It often seemed to that keen and practical
sense which in her mingled so oddly with the capacity for passion that,
as they grew older, and her mind recovered tone and balance, she would
probably love the world disastrously more and he disastrously less. And
if so, the gulf between them, instead of closing, could but widen.

One day--a showery day in early June--she was left alone for an hour,
while Delafield went down to Montreux to change some circular notes.
Julie took a book from the table and strolled out along the lovely road
that slopes gently downward from Charnex to the old field-embowered
village of Brent.

The rain was just over. It had been a cold rain, and the snow had crept
downward on the heights, and had even powdered the pines of the Cubly.
The clouds were sweeping low in the west. Towards Geneva the lake was
mere wide and featureless space--a cold and misty water, melting into
the fringes of the rain-clouds. But to the east, above the Rhône
valley, the sky was lifting; and as Julie sat down upon a midway seat
and turned herself eastward, she was met by the full and unveiled glory
of the higher Alps--the Rochers de Naye, the Velan, the Dent du Midi. On
the jagged peaks of the latter a bright shaft of sun was playing, and
the great white or rock-ribbed mass raised itself above the mists of the
lower world, once more unstained and triumphant.

But the cold _bise_ was still blowing, and Julie, shivering, drew her
wrap closer round her. Her heart pined for Como and the south; perhaps
for the little Duchess, who spoiled and petted her in the common,
womanish ways.

The spring--a second spring--was all about her; but in this chilly
northern form it spoke to her with none of the ravishment of Italy. In
the steep fields above her the narcissuses were bent and bowed with
rain; the red-browns of the walnuts glistened in the wet gleams of sun;
the fading apple-blossom beside her wore a melancholy beauty; only in
the rich, pushing grass, with its wealth of flowers and its branching
cow-parsley, was there the stubborn life and prophecy of summer.

Suddenly Julie caught up the book that lay beside her and opened it with
a hasty hand. It was one of that set of Saint-Simon which had belonged
to her mother, and had already played a part in her own destiny.

She turned to the famous "character" of the Dauphin, of that model
prince, in whose death Saint-Simon, and Fénelon, and France herself, saw
the eclipse of all great hopes.

"A prince, affable, gentle, humane, patient, modest, full of
compunctions, and, as much as his position allowed--sometimes beyond
it--humble, and severe towards himself."

Was it not to the life? "_Affable, doux, humain--patient,
modeste--humble et austère pour soi_"--beyond what was expected, beyond,
almost, what was becoming?

She read on to the mention of the Dauphine, terrified, in her human
weakness, of so perfect a husband, and trying to beguile or tempt him
from the heights; to the picture of Louis Quatorze, the grandfather,
shamed in his worldly old age by the presence beside him of this saintly
and high-minded youth; of the Court, looking forward with dismay to the
time when it should find itself under the rule of a man who despised and
condemned both its follies and its passions, until she reached that
final rapture, where, in a mingled anguish and adoration, Saint-Simon
bids eternal farewell to a character and a heart of which France was
not worthy.

The lines passed before her, and she was conscious, guiltily conscious,
of reading them with a double mind.

Then she closed the book, held by the thought of her husband--in a
somewhat melancholy reverie.

There is a Catholic word with which in her convent youth she had been
very familiar--the word _recueilli_--"recollected." At no time
had it sounded kindly in her ears; for it implied fetters and
self--suppressions--of the voluntary and spiritual sort--wholly
unwelcome to and unvalued by her own temperament. But who that knew him
well could avoid applying it to Delafield? A man of "recollection"
living in the eye of the Eternal; keeping a guard over himself in the
smallest matters of thought and action; mystically possessed by the
passion of a spiritual ideal; in love with charity, purity,
simplicity of life.

She bowed her head upon her hands in dreariness of spirit. Ultimately,
what could such a man want with her? What had she to give him? In what
way could she ever be _necessary_ to him? And a woman, even in
friendship, must feel herself that to be happy.

Already this daily state in which she found herself--of owing everything
and giving nothing--produced in her a secret irritation and repulsion;
how would it be in the years to come?

"He never saw me as I am," she thought to herself, looking fretfully
back to their past acquaintance. "I am neither as weak as he thinks
me--nor as clever. And how strange it is--this _tension_ in which
he lives!"

And as she sat there idly plucking at the wet grass, her mind was
overrun with a motley host of memories--some absurd, some sweet, some of
an austerity that chilled her to the core. She thought of the difficulty
she had in persuading Delafield to allow himself even necessary comforts
and conveniences; a laugh, involuntary, and not without tenderness,
crossed her face as she recalled a tale he had told her at Camaldoli, of
the contempt excited in a young footman of a smart house by the
mediocrity and exiguity of his garments and personal appointments
generally. "I felt I possessed nothing that he would have taken as a
gift," said Delafield, with a grin. "It was chastening."

Yet though he laughed, he held to it; and Julie was already so much of
the wife as to be planning how to coax him presently out of a
portmanteau and a top-hat that were in truth a disgrace to
their species.

And all the time _she_ must have the best of everything--a maid,
luxurious travelling, dainty food. They had had one or two wrestles on
the subject already. "Why are you to have all the high thinking and
plain living to yourself?" she had asked him, angrily, only to be met by
the plea, "Dear, get strong first--then you shall do what you like."

But it was at La Verna, the mountain height overshadowed by the memories
of St. Francis, that she seemed to have come nearest to the ascetic and
mystical tendency in Delafield. He went about the mountain-paths a
transformed being, like one long spiritually athirst who has found the
springs and sources of life. Julie felt a secret terror. Her impression
was much the same as Meredith's--as of "something wearing through" to
the light of day. Looking back she saw that this temperament, now so
plain to view, had been always there; but in the young and capable agent
of the Chudleigh property, in the Duchess's cousin, or Lady Henry's
nephew, it had passed for the most part unsuspected. How remarkably it
had developed!--whither would it carry them both in the future? When
thinking about it, she was apt to find herself seized with a sudden
craving for Mayfair, "little dinners," and good talk.

"What a pity you weren't born a Catholic!--you might have been a
religious," she said to him one night at La Verna, when he had been
reading her some of the _Fioretti_ with occasional comments of his own.

But he had shaken his head with a smile.

"You see, I have no creed--or next to none."

The answer startled her. And in the depths of his blue eyes there seemed
to her to be hovering a swarm of thoughts that would not let themselves
loose in her presence, but were none the less the true companions of his
mind. She saw herself a moment as Elsa, and her husband as a modern
Lohengrin, coming spiritually she knew not whence, bound on some quest
mysterious and unthinkable.

"What will you do," she said, suddenly, "when the dukedom comes to you?"

Delafield's aspect darkened in an instant. If he could have shown anger
to her, anger there would have been.

"That is a subject I never think of or discuss, if I can help it," he
said, abruptly; and, rising to his feet, he pointed out that the sun was
declining fast towards the plain of the Casentino, and they were far
from their hotel.

"Inhuman!--unreasonable!" was the cry of the critical sense in her as
she followed him in silence.

       *       *       *       *       *

Innumerable memories of this kind beat on Julie's mind as she sat
dreamily on her bench among the Swiss meadows. How natural that in the
end they should sweep her by reaction into imaginations wholly
indifferent--of a drum-and-trumpet history, in the actual
fighting world.

... Far, far in the African desert she followed the march of Warkworth's
little troop.

Ah, the blinding light--the African scrub and sand--the long, single
line--the native porters with their loads--the handful of English
officers with that slender figure at their head--the endless, waterless
path with its palms and mangoes and mimosas--the scene rushed upon the
inward eye and held it. She felt the heat, the thirst, the weariness of
bone and brain--all the spell and mystery of the unmapped,
unconquered land.

Did he think of her sometimes, at night, under the stars, or in the
blaze and mirage of noon? Yes, yes; he thought of her. Each to the other
their thoughts must travel while they lived.

In Delafield's eyes, she knew, his love for her had been mere outrage
and offence.

Ah, well, _he_, at least, had needed her. He had desired only very
simple, earthy things--money, position, success--things it was possible
for a woman to give him, or get for him; and at the last, though it were
only as a traitor to his word and his _fiancée_, he had asked for
love--asked commonly, hungrily, recklessly, because he could not help
it--and then for pardon! And those are things the memory of which lies
deep, deep in the pulsing, throbbing heart.

At this point she hurriedly checked and scourged herself, as she did a
hundred times a day.

No, no, _no_! It was all over, and she and Jacob would still make a fine
thing of their life together. Why not?

And all the time there were burning hot tears in her eyes; and as the
leaves of Saint-Simon passed idly through her fingers, the tears blotted
out the meadows and the flowers, and blurred the figure of a young girl
who was slowly mounting the long slope of road that led from the village
of Brent towards the seat on which Julie was sitting.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gradually the figure approached. The mist cleared from Julie's eyes.
Suddenly she found herself giving a close and passionate attention to
the girl upon the road.

Her form was slight and small; under her shady hat there was a gleam of
fair hair arranged in smooth, shining masses about her neck and temples.
As she approached Julie she raised her eyes absently, and Julie saw a
face of singular and delicate beauty, marred, however, by the suggestion
of physical fragility, even sickliness, which is carried with it. One
might have thought it a face blanched by a tropical climate, and for the
moment touched into faint color by the keen Alpine air. The eyes,
indeed, were full of life; they were no sooner seen but they defined and
enforced a personality. Eager, intent, a little fretful, they expressed
a nervous energy out of all proportion to their owner's slender
physique. In this, other bodily signs concurred. As she perceived Julie
on the bench, for instance, the girl's slight, habitual frown sharply
deepened; she looked at the stranger with keen observation, both glance
and gesture betraying a quick and restless sensibility.

As for Julie, she half rose as the girl neared her. Her cheeks were
flushed, her lips parted; she had the air of one about to speak. The
girl looked at her in a little surprise and passed on.

She carried a book under her arm, into which were thrust a few
just-opened letters. She had scarcely passed the bench when an envelope
fell out of the book and lay unnoticed on the road.

Julie drew a long breath. She picked up the envelope. It lay in her
hand, and the name she had expected to see was written upon it.

For a moment she hesitated. Then she ran after the owner of the letter.

"You dropped this on the road."

The girl turned hastily.

"Thank you very much. I am sorry to have given you the trouble--"

Then she paused, arrested evidently by the manner in which Julie stood
regarding her.

"Did--did you wish to speak to me?" she said, uncertainly.

"You are Miss Moffatt?"

"Yes. That is my name. But, excuse me. I am afraid I don't remember
you." The words were spoken with a charming sweetness and timidity.

"I am Mrs. Delafield."

The girl started violently.

"Are you? I--I beg your pardon!"

She stood in a flushed bewilderment, staring at the lady who had
addressed her, a troubled consciousness possessing itself of her face
and manner more and more plainly with every moment.

Julie asked herself, hurriedly: "How much does she know? What has she
heard?" But aloud she gently said: "I thought you must have heard of me.
Lord Uredale told me he had written--his father wished it--to Lady
Blanche. Your mother and mine were sisters."

The girl shyly withdrew her eyes.

"Yes, mother told me."

There was a moment's silence. The mingled fear and recklessness which
had accompanied Julie's action disappeared from her mind. In the girl's
manner there was neither jealousy nor hatred, only a young shrinking
and reserve.

"May I walk with you a little?"

"Please do. Are you staying at Montreux?"

"No; we are at Charnex--and you?"

"We came up two days ago to a little _pension_ at Brent. I wanted to be
among the fields, now the narcissuses are out. If it were warm weather
we should stay, but mother is afraid of the cold for me. I have
been ill."

"I heard that," said Julie, in a voice gravely kind and winning. "That
was why your mother could not come home."

The girl's eyes suddenly filled with tears.

"No; poor mother! I wanted her to go--we had a good nurse--but she would
not leave me, though she was devoted to my grandfather. She--"

"She is always anxious about you?"

"Yes. My health has been a trouble lately, and since father died--"

"She has only you."

They walked on a few paces in silence. Then the girl looked up eagerly.

"You saw grandfather at the last? Do tell me about it, please. My uncles
write so little."

Julie obeyed with difficulty. She had not realized how hard it would be
for her to talk of Lord Lackington. But she described the old man's
gallant dying as best she could; while Aileen Moffatt listened with that
manner at once timid and rich in feeling which seemed to be her
characteristic.

As they neared the top of the hill where the road begins to incline
towards Charnex, Julie noticed signs of fatigue in her companion.

"You have been an invalid," she said. "You ought not to go farther. May
I take you home? Would your mother dislike to see me?"

The girl paused perceptibly. "Ah, there she is!"

They had turned towards Brent, and Julie saw coming towards them, with
somewhat rapid steps, a small, elderly lady, gray-haired, her features
partly hidden by her country hat.

A thrill passed through Julie. This was the sister whose name her mother
had mentioned in her last hour. It was as though something of her
mother, something that must throw light upon that mother's life and
being, were approaching her along this Swiss road.

But the lady in question, as she neared them, looked with surprise, not
unmingled with hauteur, upon her daughter and the stranger beside her.

"Aileen, why did you go so far? You promised me only to be a quarter of
an hour."

"I am not tired, mother. Mother, this is Mrs. Delafield. You remember,
Uncle Uredale wrote--"

Lady Blanche Moffatt stood still. Once more a fear swept through Julie's
mind, and this time it stayed. After an evident hesitation, a hand was
coldly extended.

"How do you do? I heard from my brothers of your marriage, but they said
you were in Italy."

"We have just come from there."

"And your husband?"

"He has gone down to Montreux, but he should be home very soon now. We
are only a few steps from our little inn. Would you not rest there? Miss
Moffatt looks very tired."

There was a pause. Lady Blanche was considering her daughter. Julie saw
the trembling of her wide, irregular mouth, of which the lips were
slightly turned outward. Finally she drew her daughter's hand into her
arm, and bent anxiously towards her, scrutinizing her face.

"Thank you. We will rest a quarter of an hour. Can we get a carriage at
Charnex?"

"Yes, I think so, if you will wait a little on our balcony."

They walked on towards Charnex. Lady Blanche began to talk resolutely of
the weather, which was, indeed, atrocious. She spoke as she would have
done to the merest acquaintance. There was not a word of her father; not
a word, either, of her brother's letter, or of Julie's relationship to
herself. Julie accepted the situation with perfect composure, and the
three kept up some sort of a conversation till they reached the paved
street of Charnex and the old inn at its lower end.

Julie guided her companions through its dark passages, till they reached
an outer terrace where there were a few scattered seats, and among them
a deck-chair with cushions.

"Please," said Julie, as she kindly drew the girl towards it. Aileen
smiled and yielded. Julie placed her among the cushions, then brought
out a shawl, and covered her warmly from the sharp, damp air. Aileen
thanked her, and lightly touched her hand. A secret sympathy seemed to
have suddenly sprung up between them.

Lady Blanche sat stiffly beside her daughter, watching her face. The
warm touch of friendliness in Aileen's manner towards Mrs. Delafield
seemed only to increase the distance and embarrassment of her own. Julie
appeared to be quite unconscious. She ordered tea, and made no further
allusion of any kind to the kindred they had in common. She and Lady
Blanche talked as strangers.

Julie said to herself that she understood. She remembered the evening at
Crowborough House, the spinster lady who had been the Moffatts' friend,
her own talk with Evelyn. In that way, or in some other, the current
gossip about herself and Warkworth, gossip they had been too mad and
miserable to take much account of, had reached Lady Blanche. Lady
Blanche probably abhorred her; though, because of her marriage, there
was to be an outer civility. Meanwhile no sign whatever of any angry or
resentful knowledge betrayed itself in the girl's manner. Clearly the
mother had shielded her.

Julie felt the flutter of an exquisite relief. She stole many a look at
Aileen, comparing the reality with that old, ugly notion her jealousy
had found so welcome--of the silly or insolent little creature,
possessing all that her betters desired, by the mere brute force of
money or birth. And all the time the reality was _this_--so soft,
suppliant, ethereal! Here, indeed, was the child of Warkworth's
picture--the innocent, unknowing child, whom their passion had
sacrificed and betrayed. She could see the face now, as it lay piteous,
in Warkworth's hand. Then she raised her eyes to the original. And as it
looked at her with timidity and nascent love her own heart beat wildly,
now in remorse, now in a reviving jealousy.

Secretly, behind this mask of convention, were they both thinking of
him? A girl's thoughts are never far from her lover; and Julie was
conscious, this afternoon, of a strange and mysterious preoccupation,
whereof Warkworth was the centre.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gradually the great mountains at the head of the lake freed themselves
from the last wandering cloud-wreaths. On the rock faces of the Rochers
de Naye the hanging pine-woods, brushed with snow, came into sight. The
white walls of Glion shone faintly out, and a pearly gold, which was but
a pallid reflection of the Italian glory, diffused itself over mountain
and lake. The sun was grudging; there was no caress in the air. Aileen
shivered a little in her shawls, and when Julie spoke of Italy the
girl's enthusiasm and longing sprang, as it were, to meet her, and both
were conscious of another slight link between them.

Suddenly a sound of steps came to them from below.

"My husband," said Julie, rising, and, going to the balustrade, she
waved to Delafield, who had come up from Montreux by one of the steep
vineyard paths. "I will tell him you are here," she added, with what
might have been taken for the shyness of the young wife.

She ran down the steps leading from the terrace to the lower garden.
Aileen looked at her mother.

"Isn't she wonderful?" she said, in an ardent whisper. "I could watch
her forever. She is the most graceful person I ever saw. Mother, is she
like Aunt Rose?"

Lady Blanche shook her head.

"Not in the least," she said, shortly. "She has too much manner for me."

"Oh, mother!" And the girl caught her mother's hand in caressing
remonstrance, as though to say: "Dear little mother, you must like her,
because I do; and you mustn't think of Aunt Rose, and all those
terrible things, except for pity."

"Hush!" said Lady Blanche, smiling at her a little excitedly. "Hush;
they're coming!"

Delafield and Julie emerged from the iron staircase. Lady Blanche turned
and looked at the tall, distinguished pair, her ugly lower lip hardening
ungraciously. But she and Delafield had a slight previous acquaintance,
and she noticed instantly the charming and solicitous kindness with
which he greeted her daughter.

"Julie tells me Miss Moffatt is still far from strong," he said,
returning to the mother.

Lady Blanche only sighed for answer. He drew a chair beside her, and
they fell into the natural talk of people who belong to the same social
world, and are travelling in the same scenes.

Meanwhile Julie was sitting beside the heiress. Not much was said, but
each was conscious of a lively interest in the other, and every now and
then Julie would put out a careful hand and draw the shawls closer about
the girl's frail form. The strain of guilty compunction that entered
into Julie's feeling did but make it the more sensitive. She said to
herself in a vague haste that now she would make amends. If only Lady
Blanche were willing--

But she should be willing! Julie felt the stirrings of the old
self-confidence, the old trust in a social ingenuity which had, in
truth, rarely failed her. Her intriguing, managing instinct made itself
felt--the mood of Lady Henry's companion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Presently, as they were talking, Aileen caught sight of an English
newspaper which Delafield had brought up from Montreux. It lay still
unopened on one of the tables of the terrace.

"Please give it me," said the girl, stretching out an eager hand. "It
will have Tiny's marriage, mamma! A cousin of mine," she explained to
Julie, who rose to hand it to her. "A very favorite cousin. Oh,
thank you."

She opened the paper. Julie turned away, that she might relieve Lady
Blanche of her teacup.

Suddenly a cry rang out--a cry of mortal anguish. Two ladies who had
just stepped out upon the terrace from the hotel drawing-room turned in
terror; the gardener who was watering the flower-boxes at the farther
end stood arrested.

"Aileen!" shrieked Lady Blanche, running to her. "What--what is it?"

The paper had dropped to the floor, but the child still pointed to it,
gasping.

"Mother--mother!"

Some intuition woke in Julie. She stood dead-white and dumb, while Lady
Blanche threw herself on her daughter.

"Aileen, darling, what is it?"

The girl, in her agony, threw her arms frantically round her mother, and
dragged herself to her feet. She stood tottering, her hand over
her eyes.

"He's dead, mother! He's--dead!"

The last word sank into a sound more horrible even than the first cry.
Then she swayed out of her mother's arms. It was Julie who caught her,
who laid her once more on the deck-chair--a broken, shrunken form, in
whom all the threads and connections of life had suddenly, as it were,
fallen to ruin. Lady Blanche hung over her, pushing Julie away,
gathering the unconscious girl madly in her arms. Delafield rushed for
water-and-brandy. Julie snatched the paper and looked at the telegrams.

High up in the first column was the one she sought.

     "CAIRO, _June_ 12.--Great regret is felt here at the sudden
     and tragic news of Major Warkworth's death from fever, which
     seems to have occurred at a spot some three weeks' distance
     from the coast, on or about May 25. Letters from the officer
     who has succeeded him in the command of the Mokembe
     expedition have now reached Denga. A fortnight after leaving
     the coast Major Warkworth was attacked with fever; he made a
     brave struggle against it, but it was of a deadly type, and
     in less than a week he succumbed. The messenger brought also
     his private papers and diaries, which have been forwarded to
     his representatives in England. Major Warkworth was a most
     promising and able officer, and his loss will be keenly
     felt."

Julie fell on her knees beside her swooning cousin. Lady Blanche,
meanwhile, was loosening her daughter's dress, chafing her icy hands, or
moaning over her in a delirium of terror.

"My darling--my darling! Oh, my God! Why did I allow it? Why did I ever
let him come near her? It was my fault--my fault! And it's killed her!"

And clinging to her child's irresponsive hands, she looked down upon her
in a convulsion of grief, which included not a shadow of regret, not a
gleam of pity for anything or any one else in the world but this bone of
her bone and flesh of her flesh, which lay stricken there.

But Julie's mind had ceased to be conscious of the tragedy beside her.
It had passed for the second time into the grasp of an illusion which
possessed itself of the whole being and all its perceptive powers.
Before her wide, terror-stricken gaze there rose once more the same
piteous vision which had tortured her in the crisis of her love for
Warkworth. Against the eternal snows which close in the lake the phantom
hovered in a ghastly relief--emaciated, with matted hair, and purpled
cheeks, and eyes--not to be borne!--expressing the dumb anger of a man,
still young, who parts unwillingly from life in a last lonely spasm of
uncomforted pain.



XXIII

It was midnight in the little inn at Charnex. The rain which for so many
nights in this miserable June had been beating down upon the village had
at last passed away. The night was clear and still--a night when the
voice of mountain torrents, far distant, might reach the ear
suddenly--sharply pure--from the very depths of silence.

Julie was in bed. She had been scarcely aware of her maid's help in
undressing. The ordinary life was, as it were, suspended. Two scenes
floated alternately before her--one the creation of memory, the other of
imagination; and the second was, if possible, the more vivid, the more
real of the two. Now she saw herself in Lady Henry's drawing-room; Sir
Wilfrid Bury and a white-haired general were beside her. The door opened
and Warkworth entered--young, handsome, soldierly, with that boyish,
conquering air which some admired and others disliked. His eyes met
hers, and a glow of happiness passed through her.

Then, at a stroke, the London drawing-room melted away. She was in a low
bell-tent. The sun burned through its sides; the air was stifling. She
stood with two other men and the doctor beside the low camp-bed; her
heart was wrung by every movement, every sound; she heard the clicking
of the fan in the doctor's hands, she saw the flies on the poor,
damp brow.

And still she had no tears. Only, existence seemed to have ended in a
gulf of horror, where youth and courage, repentance and high resolve,
love and pleasure were all buried and annihilated together.

That poor girl up-stairs! It had not been possible to take her home. She
was there with nurse and doctor, her mother hanging upon every difficult
breath. The attack of diphtheria had left a weakened heart and nervous
system; the shock had been cruel, and the doctor could promise nothing
for the future.

"Mother--mother!... _Dead!_"

The cry echoed in Julie's ears. It seemed to fill the old, low-ceiled
room in which she lay. Her fancy, preternaturally alive, heard it thrown
back from the mountains outside--returned to her in wailing from the
infinite depths of the lake. She was conscious of the vast forms and
abysses of nature, there in the darkness, beyond the walls of her room,
as something hostile, implacable....

And while he lay there dead, under the tropical sand, she was still
living and breathing here, in this old Swiss inn--Jacob Delafield's
wife, at least in name.

There was a knock at her door. At first she did not answer it. It seemed
to be only one of the many dream sounds which tormented her nerves. Then
it was repeated. Mechanically she said "Come in."

The door opened, and Delafield, carrying a light, which he shaded with
his hand, stood on the threshold.

"May I come and talk to you?" he said, in a low voice. "I know you are
not sleeping."

It was the first time he had entered his wife's room. Through all her
misery, Julie felt a strange thrill as her husband's face was thus
revealed to her, brightly illumined, in the loneliness of the night.
Then the thrill passed into pain--the pain of a new and sharp
perception.

Delafield, in truth, was some two or three years younger than Warkworth.
But the sudden impression on Julie's mind, as she saw him thus, was of a
man worn and prematurely aged--markedly older and graver, even, since
their marriage, since that memorable evening by the side of Como when,
by that moral power of which he seemed often to be the mere channel and
organ, he had overcome her own will and linked her life with his.

She looked at him in a kind of terror. Why was he so pale--an embodied
grief? Warkworth's death was not a mortal stroke for _him_.

He came closer, and still Julie's eyes held him. Was it her fault,
this--this shadowed countenance, these suggestions of a dumb strain and
conflict, which not even his strong youth could bear without betrayal?
Her heart cried out, first in a tragic impatience; then it melted within
her strangely, she knew not how.

She sat up in bed and held out her hands. He thought of that evening in
Heribert Street, after Warkworth had left her, when she had been so sad
and yet so docile. The same yearning, the same piteous agitation was in
her attitude now.

He knelt down beside the bed and put his arms round her. She clasped her
hands about his neck and hid her face on his shoulder. There ran through
her the first long shudder of weeping.

"He was so young!" he heard her say through sobs. "So young!"

He raised his hand and touched her hair tenderly.

"He died serving his country," he said, commanding his voice with
difficulty. "And you grieve for him like this! I can't pity him
so much."

"You thought ill of him--I know you did." She spoke between deep,
sobbing breaths. "But he wasn't--he wasn't a bad man."

She fell back on her pillow and the tears rained down her cheeks.

Delafield kissed her hand in silence.

"Some day--I'll tell you," she said, brokenly.

"Yes, you shall tell me. It would help us both."

"I'll prove to you he wasn't vile. When--when he proposed that to me he
was distracted. So was I. How could he break off his engagement? Now you
see how she loved him. But we couldn't part--we couldn't say good-bye.
It had all come on us unawares. We wanted to belong to each other--just
for two days--and then part forever. Oh, I'll tell you--"

"You shall tell me all--here!" he said, firmly, crushing her delicate
hands in his own against his breast, so that she felt the beating of
his heart.

"Give me my hand. I'll show you his letter--his last letter to me." And,
trembling, she drew from under her pillow that last scrawled letter,
written from the squalid hotel near the Gare de Sceaux.

No sooner, however, had she placed it in Delafield's hands than she was
conscious of new forces of feeling in herself which robbed the act of
its simplicity. She had meant to plead her lover's cause and her own
with the friend who was nominally her husband. Her action had been a
cry for sympathy, as from one soul to another.

But as Delafield took the letter and began to read, her pulses began to
flutter strangely. She recalled the phrases of passion which the letter
contained. She became conscious of new fears, new compunctions.

For Delafield, too, the moment was one of almost intolerable complexity.
This tender intimacy of night--the natural intimacy of husband and wife;
this sense, which would not be denied, however sternly he might hold it
in check, of her dear form beside him; the little refinements and
self-revelations of a woman's room; his half-rights towards her,
appealing at once to love, and to the memory of that solemn pledge by
which he had won her--what man who deserved the name but must be
conscious, tempestuously conscious, of such thoughts and facts?

And then, wrestling with these smarts, these impulses, belonging to the
natural, physical life, the powers of the moral being--compassion,
self-mastery, generosity; while strengthening and directing all, the man
of faith was poignantly aware of the austere and tender voices
of religion.

Amid this play of influences he read the letter, still kneeling beside
her and holding her fingers clasped in his. She had closed her eyes and
lay still, save for the occasional tremulous movement of her free hand,
which dried the tears on her cheek.

"Thank you," he said, at last, with a voice that wavered, as he put the
letter down. "Thank you. It was good of you to let me see it. It changes
all my thoughts of him henceforward. If he had lived--"

"But he's dead! He's dead!" cried Julie, in a sudden agony, wrenching
her hand from his and burying her face in the pillow. "Just when he
wanted to live. Oh, my God--my God! No, there's no God--nothing that
cares--that takes any notice!"

She was shaken by deep, convulsive weeping. Delafield soothed her as
best he could. And presently she stretched out her hand with a quick,
piteous gesture, and touched his face.

"You, too! What have I done to you? How you looked, just now! I bring a
curse. Why did you want to marry me? I can't tear this out of my
heart--I can't!"

And again she hid herself from him. Delafield bent over her.

"Do you imagine that I should be poor-souled enough to ask you?"

Suddenly a wild feeling of revolt ran through Julie's mind. The
loftiness of his mood chilled her. An attitude more weakly, passionately
human, a more selfish pity for himself would, in truth, have served him
better. Had the pain of the living man escaped his control, avenging
itself on the supremacy that death had now given to the lover, Delafield
might have found another Julie in his arms. As it was, her husband
seemed to her perhaps less than man, in being more; she admired
unwillingly, and her stormy heart withdrew itself.

And when at last she controlled her weeping, and it became evident to
him that she wished once more to be alone, his sensitiveness perfectly
divined the secret reaction in her. He rose from his place beside her
with a deep, involuntary sigh. She heard it, but only to shrink away.

"You will sleep a little?" he said, looking down upon her.

"I will try, _mon ami_."

"If you don't sleep, and would like me to read to you, call me. I am in
the next room."

She thanked him faintly, and he went away. At the door he paused and
came back again.

"To-night"--he hesitated--"while the doctors were here, I ran down to
Montreux by the short path and telegraphed. The consul at Zanzibar is an
old friend of mine. I asked him for more particulars at once, by wire.
But the letters can't be here for a fortnight."

"I know. You're very, very good."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hour after hour Delafield sat motionless in his room, till "high in the
Valais depths profound" he "saw the morning break."

There was a little balcony at his command, and as he noiselessly stepped
out upon it, between three and four o'clock, he felt himself the
solitary comrade of the mist-veiled lake, of those high, rosy mountains
on the eastern verge, the first throne and harbor of the light--of the
lower forest-covered hills that "took the morning," one by one, in a
glorious and golden succession. All was fresh, austere, and vast--the
spaces of the lake, the distant hollows of high glaciers filled with
purple shadow, the precipices of the Rochers de Naye, where the new snow
was sparkling in the sun, the cool wind that blew towards him from the
gates of Italy, down the winding recesses of that superb valley which
has been a thoroughfare of nations from the beginning of time.

Not a boat on the wide reaches of the lake; not a voice or other sound
of human toil, either from the vineyards below or the meadows above.
Meanwhile some instinct, perhaps also some faint movements in her room,
told him that Julie was no less wakeful than himself. And was not that a
low voice in the room above him--the trained voice and footsteps of a
nurse? Ah, poor little heiress, she, too, watched with sorrow!

A curious feeling of shame, of self-depreciation crept into his heart.
Surely he himself of late had been lying down with fear and rising up
with bitterness? Never a day had passed since they had reached
Switzerland but he, a man of strong natural passions, had bade himself
face the probable truth that, by a kind of violence, he had married a
woman who would never love him--had taken irrevocably a false step, only
too likely to be fatal to himself, intolerable to her.

Nevertheless, steeped as he had been in sadness, in foreboding, and,
during this by-gone night, in passionate envy of the dead yet beloved
Warkworth, he had never been altogether unhappy. That mysterious
_It_--that other divine self of the mystic--God--the enwrapping,
sheltering force--had been with him always. It was with him now--it
spoke from the mysterious color and light of the dawn.

How, then, could he ever equal Julie in _experience_, in the true and
poignant feeling of any grief whatever? His mind was in a strange,
double state. It was like one who feels himself unfairly protected by a
magic armor; he would almost throw it aside in a remorseful eagerness
to be with his brethren, and as his brethren, in the sore weakness and
darkness of the human combat; and then he thinks of the hand that gave
the shield, and his heart melts in awe.

"_Friend of my soul and of the world, make me thy tool--thy instrument!
Thou art Love! Speak through me! Draw her heart to mine_."

At last, knowing that there was no sleep in him, and realizing that he
had brooded enough, he made his way out of the hotel and up through the
fresh and dew-drenched meadows, where the haymakers were just appearing,
to the Les Avants stream. A plunge into one of its cool basins
retempered the whole man. He walked back through the scented
field-paths, resolutely restraining his mind from the thoughts of the
night, hammering out, indeed, in his head a scheme for the establishment
of small holdings on certain derelict land in Wiltshire belonging to
his cousin.

As he was descending on Charnex, he met the postman and took his
letters. One among them, from the Duke of Chudleigh, contained a most
lamentable account of Lord Elmira. The father and son had returned to
England, and an angry, inclement May had brought a touch of pneumonia to
add to all the lad's other woes. In itself it was not much--was, indeed,
passing away. "But it has used up most of his strength," said the Duke,
"and you know whether he had any to waste. Don't forget him. He
constantly thinks and talks of you."

Delafield restlessly wondered when he could get home. But he realized
that Julie would now feel herself tragically linked to the Moffatts, and
how could he leave her? He piteously told himself that here, and now,
was his chance with her. As he bore himself now towards her, in this
hour of her grief for Warkworth, so, perhaps, would their future be.

Yet the claims of kindred were strong. He suffered much inward distress
as he thought of the father and son, and their old touching dependence
upon him. Chudleigh, as Jacob knew well, was himself incurably ill.
Could he long survive his poor boy?

And so that other thought, which Jacob spent so much ingenuity in
avoiding, rushed upon him unawares. The near, inevitable expectation of
the famous dukedom, which, in the case of almost any other man in
England, must at least have quickened the blood with a natural
excitement, produced in Delafield's mind a mere dull sense of
approaching torment. Perhaps there was something non-sane in his
repulsion, something that linked itself with his father's "queerness,"
or the bigotry and fanaticism of his grandmother, the Evangelical
Duchess, with her "swarm of parsons," as Sir Wilfrid remembered her. The
oddity, which had been violent or brutal in earlier generations, showed
itself in him, one might have said, in a radical transposition of
values, a singularity of criterion, which the ordinary robust Englishman
might very well dismiss with impatience as folly or cant.

Yet it was neither; and the feeling had, in truth, its own logic and
history. He had lived from his youth up among the pageants of rank and
possession. They had no glamour for him; he realized their burdens,
their ineffectiveness for all the more precious kinds of happiness--how
could he not, with these two forlorn figures of Chudleigh and his boy
always before him? As for imagination and poetry, Delafield, with a
mind that was either positive or mystical--the mind, one might say, of
the land-agent or the saint--failed to see where they came in. Family
tradition, no doubt, carries a thrill. But what thrill is there in the
mere possession of a vast number of acres of land, of more houses, new
and old, than any human being can possibly live in, of more money than
any reasonable man can ever spend, and more responsibilities than he can
ever meet? Such things often seemed to Delafield pure calamity--mere
burdens upon life and breath. That he could and must be forced, some
time, by law and custom, to take them up, was nothing but a social
barbarity.

Mingled with all which, of course, was his passionate sense of spiritual
democracy. To be throned apart, like a divine being, surrounded by the
bought homage of one's fellows, and possessed of more power than a man
can decently use, was a condition which excited in Delafield the same
kind of contemptuous revolt that it would have excited in St. Francis.
"Be not ye called master"--a Christian even of his transcendental and
heterodox sort, if he _were_ a Christian, must surely hold these words
in awe, at least so far as concerned any mastery of the external or
secular kind. To masteries of another order the saint has never been
disinclined.

As he once more struck the village street, this familiar whirl of
thoughts was buzzing in Delafield's mind, pierced, however, by one
sharper and newer. Julie! Did he know--had he ever dared to find
out--how she regarded this future which was overtaking them? She had
tried to sound _him_; she had never revealed herself.

In Lady Henry's house he had often noticed in Julie that she had an
imaginative tenderness for rank or great fortune. At first it had seemed
to him a woman's natural romanticism; then he explained it to himself as
closely connected with her efforts to serve Warkworth.

But suppose he were made to feel that there, after all, lay her
compensation? She had submitted to a loveless marriage and lost her
lover; but the dukedom was to make amends. He knew well that it would be
so with nine women out of ten. But the bare thought that it might be so
with Julie maddened him. He then was to be for her, in the future, the
mere symbol of the vulgarer pleasures and opportunities, while Warkworth
held her heart?

Nay!

He stood still, strengthening in himself the glad and sufficient answer.
She had refused him twice--knowing all his circumstances. At this moment
he adored her doubly for those old rebuffs.

       *       *       *       *       *

Within twenty-four hours Delafield had received a telegram from his
friend at Zanzibar. For the most part it recapitulated the news already
sent to Cairo, and thence transmitted to the English papers. But it
added the information that Warkworth had been buried in the neighborhood
of a certain village on the caravan route to Mokembe, and that special
pains had been taken to mark the spot. And the message concluded: "Fine
fellow. Hard luck. Everybody awfully sorry here."

These words brought Delafield a sudden look of passionate gratitude from
Julie's dark and sunken eyes. She rested her face against his sleeve and
pressed his hand.

Lady Blanche also wept over the telegram, exclaiming that she had
always believed in Henry Warkworth, and now, perhaps, those busybodies
who at Simla had been pleased to concern themselves with her affairs and
Aileen's would see cause to be ashamed of themselves.

To Delafield's discomfort, indeed, she poured out upon him a stream of
confidences he would have gladly avoided. He had brought the telegram to
her sitting-room. In the room adjoining it was Aileen, still, according
to her mother's account, very ill, and almost speechless. Under the
shadow of such a tragedy it seemed to him amazing that a mother could
find words in which to tell her daughter's story to a comparative
stranger. Lady Blanche appeared to him an ill-balanced and foolish
woman; a prey, on the one hand, to various obscure jealousies and
antagonisms, and on the other to a romantic and sentimental temper
which, once roused, gloried in despising "the world," by which she
generally meant a very ordinary degree of prudence.

She was in chronic disagreement, it seemed, with her daughter's
guardians, and had been so from the first moment of her widowhood, the
truth being that she was jealous of their legal powers over Aileen's
fortune and destiny, and determined, notwithstanding, to have her own
way with her own child. The wilfulness and caprice of the father, which
had taken such strange and desperate forms in Rose Delaney, appeared
shorn of all its attraction and romance in the smaller, more
conventional, and meaner egotisms of Lady Blanche.

And yet, in her own way, she was full of heart. She lost her head over a
love affair. She could deny Aileen nothing. That was what her casual
Indian acquaintances meant by calling her "sweet." When Warkworth's
attentions, pushed with an ardor which would have driven any prudent
mother to an instant departure from India, had made a timid and charming
child of eighteen the talk of Simla, Lady Blanche, excited and
dishevelled--was it her personal untidiness which accounted for the
other epithet of "quaint," which had floated to the Duchess's ear, and
been by her reported to Julie?--refused to break her daughter's heart.
Warkworth, indeed, had begun long before by flattering the mother's
vanity and sense of possession, and she now threw herself hotly into his
cause as against Aileen's odious trustees.

They, of course, always believed the worst of everybody. As for her, all
she wanted for the child was a good husband. Was it not better, in a
world of fortune-hunters, that Aileen, with her half-million, should
marry early? Of money, she had, one would think, enough. It was only the
greed of certain persons which could possibly desire more. Birth? The
young man was honorably born, good-looking, well mannered. What did you
want more? _She_ accepted a democratic age; and the obstacles thrown by
Aileen's guardians in the way of an immediate engagement between the
young people appeared to her, so she declared, either vulgar or
ridiculous.

Well, poor lady, she had suffered for her whims. First of all, her
levity had perceived, with surprise and terror, the hold that passion
was taking on the delicate and sensitive nature of Aileen. This young
girl, so innocent and spotless in thought, so virginally sweet in
manner, so guileless in action, developed a power of loving, an
absorption of the whole being in the beloved, such as our modern world
but rarely sees.

She lived, she breathed for Warkworth. Her health, always frail,
suffered from their separation. She became a thin and frail vision--a
"gossamer girl" indeed. The ordinary life of travel and society lost all
hold upon her; she passed through it in a mood of weariness and distaste
that was in itself a danger to vital force. The mother became
desperately alarmed, and made a number of flurried concessions. Letters,
at any rate, should be allowed, in spite of the guardians, and without
their knowledge. Yet each letter caused emotions which ran like a
storm-wind through the child's fragile being, and seemed to exhaust the
young life at its source. Then came the diphtheria, acting with
poisonous effect on a nervous system already overstrained.

And in the midst of the mother's anxieties there burst upon her the
sudden, incredible tale that Warkworth--to whom she herself was writing
regularly, and to whom Aileen, from her bed, was sending little
pencilled notes, sweetly meant to comfort a sighing lover--had been
entangling himself in London with another, a Miss Le Breton, positively
a nobody, as far as birth and position were concerned, the paid
companion of Lady Henry Delafield, and yet, as it appeared, a handsome,
intriguing, unscrupulous hussy, just the kind of hawk to snatch a morsel
from a dove's mouth--a woman, in fact, with whom a little
bread-and-butter girl like Aileen might very well have no chance.

Emily Lawrence's letter, in the tone of the candid friend, written after
her evening at Crowborough House, had roused a mingled anguish and fury
in the mother's breast. She lifted her eyes from it to look at Aileen,
propped up in bed, her head thrown back against the pillow, and her
little hands closed happily over Warkworth's letters; and she went
straight from that vision to write to the traitor.

The traitor defended and excused himself by return of post. He implored
her to pay no attention to the calumnious distortion of a friendship
which had already served Aileen's interests no less than his own. It was
largely to Miss Le Breton's influence that he owed the appointment which
was to advance him so materially in his career. At the same time he
thought it would be wise if Lady Blanche kept not only the silly gossip
that was going about, but even this true and innocent fact, from
Aileen's knowledge. One never knew how a girl would take such things,
and he would rather explain it himself at his own time.

Lady Blanche had to be content. And meanwhile the glory of the Mokembe
appointment was a strong factor in Aileen's recovery. She exulted over
it by day and night, and she wrote the letters of an angel.

The mother watched her writing them with mixed feelings. As to
Warkworth's replies, which she was sometimes allowed to see, Lady
Blanche, who had been a susceptible girl, and the heroine of several
"affairs," was secretly and strongly of opinion that men's love-letters,
at any rate, were poor things nowadays, compared with what they
had been.

But Aileen was more than satisfied with them. How busy he must be, and
with such important business! Poor, harassed darling, how good of him to
write her a word--to give her a thought!

       *       *       *       *       *

And now Lady Blanche beheld her child crushed and broken, a nervous
wreck, before her life had truly begun. The agonies which the mother
endured were very real, and should have been touching. But she was not a
touching person. All her personal traits--her red-rimmed eyes, her
straggling hair, the slight, disagreeable twist in her nose and
mouth--combined, with her signal lack of dignity and reticence, to stir
the impatience rather than the sympathy of the by-stander.

"And mamma was so fond of her," Julie would say to herself sometimes, in
wonder, proudly contrasting the wild grace and originality of her
disgraced mother with the awkward, slipshod ways of the sister who had
remained a great lady.

Meanwhile, Lady Blanche was, indeed, perpetually conscious of her
strange niece, perpetually thinking of the story her brothers had told
her, perpetually trying to recall the sister she had lost so young, and
then turning from all such things to brood angrily over the Lawrence
letter, and the various other rumors which had reached her of
Warkworth's relations to Miss Le Breton.

What was in the woman's mind now? She looked pale and tragic enough. But
what right had she to grieve--or, if she did grieve, to be pitied?

Jacob Delafield had been fool enough to marry her, and fate would make
her a duchess. So true it is that they who have no business to flourish
do flourish, like green bay-trees.

As to poor Rose--sometimes there would rise on Lady Blanche's mind the
sudden picture of herself and the lost, dark-eyed sister, scampering on
their ponies through the country lanes of their childhood; of her
lessons with Rose, her worship of Rose; and then of that black curtain
of mystery and reprobation which for the younger child of sixteen had
suddenly descended upon Rose and all that concerned her.

But Rose's daughter! All one could say was that she had turned out as
the child of such proceedings might be expected to turn out--a minx. The
aunt's conviction as to that stood firm. And while Rose's face and fate
had sunk into the shadows of the past, even for her sister, Aileen was
_here_, struggling for her delicate, threatened life, her hand always in
the hand of this woman who had tried to steal her lover from her, her
soft, hopeless eyes, so tragically unconscious, bent upon the bold
intriguer.

What possessed the child? Warkworth's letters, Julie's company--those
seemed to be all she desired.

And at last, in the June beauty and brilliance, when a triumphant summer
had banished the pitiful spring, when the meadows were all perfume and
color, and the clear mountains, in a clear sky, upheld the ever-new and
never-ending pomp of dawn and noon and night, the little, wasted
creature looked up into Julie's face, and, without tears, gasped out
her story.

"These are his letters. Some day I'll--I'll read you some of them; and
this--is his picture. I know you saw him at Lady Henry's. He mentioned
your name. Will you please tell me everything--all the times you saw
him, and what he talked of? You see I am much stronger. I can bear
it all now."

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, for Delafield, this fortnight of waiting--waiting for the
African letters, waiting for the revival of life in Aileen--was a period
of extraordinary tension, when all the powers of nerve and brain seemed
to be tested and tried to the utmost. He himself was absorbed in
watching Julie and in dealing with her.

In the first place, as he saw, she could give no free course to grief.
The tragic yearning, the agonized tenderness and pity which consumed
her, must be crushed out of sight as far as possible. They would have
been an offence to Lady Blanche, a bewilderment to Aileen. And it was on
her relation to her new-found cousin that, as Delafield perceived, her
moral life for the moment turned. This frail girl was on the brink of
perishing because death had taken Warkworth from her. And Julie knew
well that Warkworth had neither loved her nor deserved her--that he had
gone to Africa and to death with another image in his heart.

There was a perpetual and irreparable cruelty in the situation. And from
the remorse of it Julie could not escape. Day by day she was more
profoundly touched by the clinging, tender creature, more sharply
scourged by the knowledge that the affection developing between them
could never be without its barrier and its mystery, that something must
always remain undisclosed, lest Aileen cast her off in horror.

It was a new moral suffering, in one whose life had been based hitherto
on intellect, or passion. In a sense it held at bay even her grief for
Warkworth, her intolerable compassion for his fate. In sheer dread lest
the girl should find her out and hate her, she lost insensibly the first
poignancy of sorrow.

These secrets of feeling left her constantly pale and silent. Yet her
grace had never been more evident. All the inmates of the little
_pension_, the landlord's family, the servants, the visitors, as the
days passed, felt the romance and thrill of her presence. Lady Blanche
evoked impatience of ennui. She was inconsiderate; she was meddlesome;
she soon ceased even to be pathetic. But for Julie every foot ran, every
eye smiled.

Then, when the day was over, Delafield's opportunity began. Julie could
not sleep. He gradually established the right to read with her and talk
with her. It was a relation very singular, and very intimate. She would
admit him at his knock, and he would find her on her sofa, very sad,
often in tears, her black hair loose upon her shoulders. Outwardly there
was often much ceremony, even distance between them; inwardly, each was
exploring the other, and Julie's attitude towards Delafield was becoming
more uncertain, more touched with emotion.

What was, perhaps, most noticeable in it was a new timidity, a touch of
anxious respect towards him. In the old days, what with her literary
cultivation and her social success, she had always been the flattered
and admired one of their little group. Delafield felt himself clumsy and
tongue-tied beside her. It was a superiority on her part very natural
and never ungraceful, and it was his chief delight to bring it forward,
to insist upon it, to take it for granted.

But the relation between them had silently shifted.

"You _judge_--you are always judging," she had said once, impatiently,
to Delafield. And now it was round these judgments, these inward
verdicts of his, on life or character, that she was perpetually
hovering. She was infinitely curious about them. She would wrench them
from him, and then would often shiver away from him in resentment.

He, meanwhile, as he advanced further in the knowledge of her strange
nature, was more and more bewildered by her--her perversities and
caprices, her brilliancies and powers, her utter lack of any standard or
scheme of life. She had been for a long time, as it seemed to him, the
creature of her exquisite social instincts--then the creature of
passion. But what a woman through it all, and how adorable, with those
poetic gestures and looks, those melancholy, gracious airs that ravished
him perpetually! And now this new attitude, as of a child leaning,
wistfully looking in your face, asking to be led, to be wrestled and
reasoned with.

The days, as they passed, produced in him a secret and mounting
intoxication. Then, perhaps for a day or two, there would be a reaction,
both foreseeing that a kind of spiritual tyranny might arise from their
relation, and both recoiling from it....

One night she was very restless and silent. There seemed to be no means
of approach to her true mind. Suddenly he took her hand--it was some
days since they had spoken of Warkworth--and almost roughly reminded her
of her promise to tell him all.

She rebelled. But his look and manner held her, and the inner misery
sought an outlet. Submissively she began to speak, in her low, murmuring
voice; she went back over the past--the winter in Bruton Street; the
first news of the Moffatt engagement; her efforts for Warkworth's
promotion; the history of the evening party which had led to her
banishment; the struggle in her own mind and Warkworth's; the sudden mad
schemes of their last interview; the rush of the Paris journey.

The mingled exaltation and anguish, the comparative absence of regret
with which she told the story, produced an astonishing effect on
Delafield. And in both minds, as the story proceeded, there emerged ever
more clearly the consciousness of that imperious act by which he had
saved her.

Suddenly she stopped.

"I know you can find no excuse for it all," she said, in excitement.

"Yes; for all--but for one thing," was his low reply.

She shrank, her eyes on his face.

"That poor child," he said, under his breath.

She looked at him piteously.

"Did you ever realize what you were doing?" he asked her, raising her
hand to his lips.

"No, no! How could I? I thought of some one so different--I had never
seen her--"

She paused, her wide--seeking gaze fixed upon him through tears, as
though she pleaded with him to find explanations--palliatives.

But he gently shook his head.

Suddenly, shaken with weeping, she bowed her face upon the hands that
held her own. It was like one who relinquishes all pleading, all
defence, and throws herself on the mercy of the judge.

He tenderly asked her pardon if he had wounded her. But he shrank from
offering any caress. The outward signs of life's most poignant and most
beautiful moments are generally very simple and austere.



XXIV

"You have had a disquieting letter?"

The voice was Julie's. Delafield was standing, apparently in thought, at
the farther corner of the little, raised terrace of the hotel. She
approached him with an affectionate anxiety, of which he was instantly
conscious.

"I am afraid I may have to leave you to-night," he said, turning towards
her, and holding out the letter in his hand.

It contained a few agitated lines from the Duke of Chudleigh.

"They tell me my lad can't get over this. He's made a gallant fight, but
this beats us. A week or two--no more. Ask Mrs. Delafield to let you
come. She will, I know. She wrote to me very kindly. Mervyn keeps
talking of you. You'd come, if you heard him. It's ghastly--the cruelty
of it all. Whether I can live without him, that's the point."

"You'll go, of course?" said Julie, returning it.

"To-night, if you allow it."

"Of course. You ought."

"I hate leaving you alone, with this trouble on your hands," said Jacob,
in some agitation. "What are your plans?"

"I could follow you next week. Aileen comes down to-day. And I should
like to wait here for the mail."

"In five days, about, it should be here," said Delafield.

There was a silence. She dropped into a chair beside the balustrade of
the terrace, which was wreathed in wistaria, and looked out upon the
vast landscape of the lake. His thought was, "How can the mail matter to
her? She cannot suppose that he had written--"

Aloud he said, in some embarrassment, "You expect letters yourself?"

"I expect nothing," she said, after a pause. "But Aileen is living on
the chance of letters."

"There may be nothing for her--except, indeed, her letters to him--poor
child!"

"She knows that. But the hope keeps her alive."

"And you?" thought Delafield, with an inward groan, as he looked down
upon her pale profile. He had a moment's hateful vision of himself as
the elder brother in the parable. Was Julie's mind to be the home of an
eternal antithesis between the living husband and the dead lover--in
which the latter had forever the _beau rôle_?

Then, impatiently, Jacob wrenched himself from mean thoughts. It was as
though he bared his head remorse-fully before the dead man.

"I will go to the Foreign Office," he said, in her ear, "as I pass
through town. They will have letters. All the information I can get you
shall have at once."

"Thank you, _mon ami_", she said, almost inaudibly.

Then she looked up, and he was startled by her eyes. Where he had
expected grief, he saw a shrinking animation.

"Write to me often," she said, imperiously.

"Of course. But don't trouble to answer much. Your hands are so full
here."

She frowned.

"Trouble! Why do you spoil me so? Demand--insist--that I should write!"

"Very well," he said, smiling, "I demand--I insist!"

She drew a long breath, and went slowly away from him into the house.
Certainly the antagonism of her secret thoughts, though it persisted,
was no longer merely cold or critical. For it concerned one who was not
only the master of his own life, but threatened unexpectedly to become
the master of hers.

She had begun, indeed, to please her imagination with the idea of a
relation between them, which, while it ignored the ordinary relations of
marriage, should yet include many of the intimacies and refinements of
love. More and more did the surprises of his character arrest and occupy
her mind. She found, indeed, no "plaster saint." Her cool intelligence
soon detected the traces of a peevish or stubborn temper, and of a
natural inertia, perpetually combated, however, by the spiritual energy
of a new and other self exfoliating from the old; a self whose acts and
ways she watched, sometimes with the held breath of fascination,
sometimes with a return of shrinking or fear. That a man should not only
appear but be so good was still in her eyes a little absurd. Perhaps her
feeling was at bottom the common feeling of the sceptical nature. "We
should listen to the higher voices; but in such a way that if another
hypothesis were true, we should not have been too completely duped."

She was ready, also, to convict him of certain prejudices and
superstitions which roused in her an intellectual impatience. But when
all was said, Delafield, unconsciously, was drawing her towards him, as
the fowler draws a fluttering bird. It was the exquisite refinement of
those spiritual insights and powers he possessed which constantly
appealed, not only to her heart, but--a very important matter in Julie's
case--to her taste, to her own carefully tempered instinct for the rare
and beautiful.

He was the master, then, she admitted, of a certain vein of spiritual
genius. Well, here should he lead--and even, if he pleased, command her.
She would sit at his feet, and he should open to her ranges of feeling,
delights, and subtleties of moral sensation hitherto unknown to her.

Thus the feeling of ennui and reaction which had marked the first weeks
of her married life had now wholly disappeared. Delafield was no longer
dull or pedantic in her eyes. She passed alternately from moments of
intolerable smart and pity for the dead to moments of agitation and
expectancy connected with her husband. She thought over their meeting of
the night before; she looked forward to similar hours to come.

Meanwhile his relation towards her in many matters was still naïvely
ignorant and humble--determined by the simplicity of a man of some real
greatness, who never dreamed of claiming tastes or knowledge he did not
possess, whether in small things or large. This phase, however, only
gave the more value to one which frequently succeeded it. For suddenly
the conversation would enter regions where he felt himself peculiarly at
home, and, with the same unconsciousness on his part, she would be made
to feel the dignity and authority which surrounded his ethical and
spiritual life. And these contrasts--this weakness and this
strength--combined with the man-and-woman element which is always
present in any situation of the kind, gave rise to a very varied and
gradually intensifying play of feeling between them. Feeling only
possible, no doubt, for the _raffinés_ of this world; but for them full
of strange charm, and even of excitement.

       *       *       *       *       *

Delafield left the little inn for Montreux, Lausanne, and London that
afternoon. He bent to kiss his wife at the moment of his departure, in
the bare sitting-room that had been improvised for them on the ground
floor of the hotel, and as she let her face linger ever so little
against his she felt strong arms flung round her, and was crushed
against his breast in a hungry embrace. When he released her with a
flush and a murmured word of apology she shook her head, smiling sadly
but saying nothing. The door closed on him, and at the sound she made a
hasty step forward.

"Jacob! Take me with you!"

But her voice died in the rattle and bustle of the diligence outside,
and she was left trembling from head to foot, under a conflict of
emotions that seemed now to exalt, now to degrade her.

Half an hour after Delafield's departure there appeared on the terrace
of the hotel a tottering, emaciated form--Aileen Moffatt, in a black
dress and hat, clinging to her mother's arm. But she refused the
deck--chair, which they had spread with cushions and shawls.

"No; let me sit up." And she took an ordinary chair, looking round upon
the lake and the little flowery terrace with a slow, absorbed look, like
one trying to remember. Suddenly she bowed her head on her hands.

"Aileen!" cried Lady Blanche, in an agony.

But the girl motioned her away. "Don't, mummy. I'm all right."

And restraining any further emotion, she laid her arms on the balustrade
and gazed long and calmly into the purple depths and gleaming snows of
the Rhône valley. Her hat oppressed her and she took it off, revealing
the abundance of her delicately golden hair, which, in its lack of
lustre and spring, seemed to share in the physical distress and loss of
the whole personality.

The face was that of a doomed creature, incapable now of making any
successful struggle for the right to live. What had been sensibility had
become melancholy; the slight, chronic frown was deeper, the pale lips
more pinched. Yet intermittently there was still great sweetness, the
last effort of a "beautiful soul" meant for happiness, and withered
before its time.

As Julie stood beside her, while Lady Blanche had gone to fetch a book
from the salon, the poor child put out her hand and grasped that
of Julie.

"It is quite possible I may get the letter to-night," she said, in a
hurried whisper. "My maid went down to Montreux--there is a clever man
at the post-office who tried to make it out for us. He thinks it'll be
to-night."

"Don't be too disappointed if nothing comes," said Julie, caressing the
hand. Its thinness, its icy and lifeless touch, dismayed her. Ah, how
easily might this physical wreck have been her doing!

       *       *       *       *       *

The bells of Montreux struck half-past six. A restless and agonized
expectation began to show itself in all the movements of the invalid.
She left her chair and began to pace the little terrace on Julie's arm.
Her dragging step, the mournful black of her dress, the struggle between
youth and death in her sharpened face, made her a tragic presence. Julie
could hardly bear it, while all the time she, too, was secretly and
breathlessly waiting for Warkworth's last words.

Lady Blanche returned, and Julie hurried away.

She passed through the hotel and walked down the Montreux road. The post
had already reached the first houses of the village, and the postman,
who knew her, willingly gave her the letters.

Yes, a packet for Aileen, addressed in an unknown hand to a London
address, and forwarded thence. It bore the Denga postmark.

And another for herself, readdressed from London by Madame Bornier. She
tore off the outer envelope; beneath was a letter of which the address
was feebly written in Warkworth's hand: "Mademoiselle Le Breton, 3
Heribert Street, London."

She had the strength to carry her own letter to her room, to call
Aileen's maid and send her with the other packet to Lady Blanche. Then
she locked herself in....

Oh, the poor, crumpled page, and the labored hand-writing!

"Julie, I am dying. They are such good fellows, but they can't save me.
It's horrible.

"I saw the news of your engagement in a paper the day before I left
Denga. You're right. He'll make you happy. Tell him I said so. Oh, my
God, I shall never trouble you again! I bless you for the letter you
wrote me. Here it is.... No, I can't--can't read it. Drowsy. No pain--"

And here the pen had dropped from his hand. Searching for something
more, she drew from the envelope the wild and passionate letter she had
written him at Heribert Street, in the early morning after her return
from Paris, while she was waiting for Delafield to bring her the news of
Lord Lackington's state.

       *       *       *       *       *

The small _table d'hôte_ of the Hotel Michel was still further
diminished that night. Lady Blanche was with her daughter, and Mrs.
Delafield did not appear.

But the moon was hanging in glory over the lake when Julie, unable to
bear her room and her thoughts any longer, threw a lace scarf about her
head and neck, and went blindly climbing through the upward paths
leading to Les Avants. The roads were silver in the moonlight; so was
the lake, save where the great mountain shadows lay across the eastern
end. And suddenly, white, through pine-trees, "Jaman, delicately tall!"

The air cooled her brow, and from the deep, enveloping night her torn
heart drew balm, and a first soothing of the pulse of pain. Every now
and then, as she sat down to rest, a waking dream overshadowed her. She
seemed to be supporting Warkworth in her arms; his dying head lay upon
her breast, and she murmured courage and love into his ear. But not as
Julie Le Breton. Through all the anguish of what was almost an illusion
of the senses, she still felt herself Delafield's wife. And in that
flood of silent speech she poured out on Warkworth, it was as though she
offered him also Jacob's compassion, Jacob's homage, mingled with
her own.

Once she found herself sitting at the edge of a meadow, environed by the
heavy scents of flowers. Some apple-trees with whitened trunks rose
between her and the lake a thousand feet below. The walls of Chillon,
the houses of Montreux, caught the light; opposite, the deep forests of
Bouveret and St. Gingolphe lay black upon the lake; above them rode the
moon. And to the east the high Alps, their pure lines a little effaced
and withdrawn, as when a light veil hangs over a sanctuary.

Julie looked out upon a vast freedom of space, and by a natural
connection she seemed to be also surveying her own world of life and
feeling, her past and her future. She thought of her childhood and her
parents, of her harsh, combative youth, of the years with Lady Henry, of
Warkworth, of her husband, and the life into which his strong hand had
so suddenly and rashly drawn her. Her thoughts took none of the
religious paths so familiar to his. And yet her reverie was so far
religious that her mind seemed to herself to be quivering under the
onset of affections, emotions, awes, till now unknown, and that, looking
back, she was conscious of a groping sense of significance, of purpose,
in all that had befallen her. Yet to this sense she could put no words.
Only, in the end, through the constant action of her visualizing
imagination, it connected itself with Delafield's face, and with the
memory of many of his recent acts and sayings.

It was one of those hours which determine the history of a man or woman.
And the august Alpine beauty entered in, so that Julie, in this sad and
thrilling act of self-probing, felt herself in the presence of powers
and dominations divine.

Her face, stained with tears, took gradually some of the calm, the
loftiness of the night. Yet the close-shut, brooding mouth would slip
sometimes into a smile exquisitely soft and gentle, as though the heart
remembered something which seemed to the intelligence at once folly and
sweetness.

What was going on within her was, to her own consciousness, a strange
thing. It appeared to her as a kind of simplification, a return to
childhood; or, rather, was it the emergence in the grown mind, tired
with the clamor of its own egotistical or passionate life, of some
instincts, natural to the child, which she, nevertheless, as a child had
never known; instincts of trust, of self-abandonment, steeped, perhaps,
in those tears which are themselves only another happiness?...

But hush! What are our poor words in the presence of these nobler
secrets of the wrestling and mounting spirit!

       *       *       *       *       *

On the way down she saw another figure emerge from the dark.

"Lady Blanche!"

Lady Blanche stood still.

"The hotel was stifling," she said, in a voice that vainly tried for
steadiness.

Julie perceived that she had been weeping.

"Aileen is asleep?"

"Perhaps. They have given her something to make her sleep."

They walked on towards the hotel.

Julie hesitated.

"She was not disappointed?" she said, at last, in a low voice.

"No!" said the mother, sharply. "But one knew, of course, there must be
letters for her. Thank God, she can feel that his very last thought was
for her! The letters which have reached her are dated the day before the
fatal attack began--giving a complete account of his march--most
interesting--showing how he trusted her already--though she is such a
child. It will tranquillize her to feel how completely she possessed his
heart--poor fellow!"

Julie said nothing, and Lady Blanche, with bitter satisfaction, felt
rather than saw what seemed to her the just humiliation expressed in the
drooping and black-veiled figure beside her.

Next day there was once more a tinge of color on Aileen's cheeks. Her
beautiful hair fell round her once more in a soft life and confusion,
and the roses which her mother had placed beside her on the bed were not
in too pitiful contrast with her frail loveliness.

"Read it, please," she said, as soon as she found herself alone with
Julie, pushing her letter tenderly towards her. "He tells me
everything--everything! All he was doing and hoping--consults me in
everything. Isn't it an honor--when I'm so ignorant and childish? I'll
try to be brave--try to be worthy--"

And while her whole frame was shaken with deep, silent sobs, she
greedily watched Julie read the letter.

"Oughtn't I to try and live," she said, dashing away her tears, as Julie
returned it, "when he loved me so?"

Julie kissed her with a passionate and guilty pity. The letter might
have been written to any friend, to any charming child for whom a much
older man had a kindness. It gave a business-like account of their
march, dilated on one or two points of policy, drew some humorous
sketches of his companions, and concluded with a few affectionate and
playful sentences.

But when the wrestle with death began, Warkworth wrote but one last
letter, uttered but one cry of the heart, and it lay now in
Julie's bosom.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days passed. Delafield's letters were short and full of sadness.
Elmira still lived; but any day or hour might see the end. As for the
father--But the subject was too tragic to be written of, even to her.
Not to feel, not to realize; there lay the only chance of keeping one's
own courage, and so of being any help whatever to two of the most
miserable of human beings.

At last, rather more than a week after Delafield's departure, came
two telegrams. One was from Delafield--"Mervyn died this morning.
Duke's condition causes great anxiety." The other from Evelyn
Crowborough--"Elmira died this morning. Going down to Shropshire to
help Jacob."

Julie threw down the telegrams. A rush of proud tears came to her eyes.
She swept to the door of her room, opened it, and called her maid.

The maid came, and when she saw the sparkling looks and strained bearing
of her mistress, wondered what crime she was to be rebuked for. Julie
merely bade her pack at once, as it was her intention to catch the
eight o'clock through train at Lausanne that night for England.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twenty hours later the train carrying Julie to London entered Victoria
Station. On the platform stood the little Duchess, impatiently
expectant. Julie was clasped in her arms, and had no time to wonder at
the pallor and distraction of her friend before she was hurried into the
brougham waiting beyond the train.

"Oh, Julie!" cried the Duchess, catching the traveller's hands, as they
drove away. "Julie, darling!"

Julie turned to her in amazement. The blue eyes fixed upon her had no
tears, but in them, and in the Duchess's whole aspect, was expressed a
vivid horror and agitation which struck at Julie's heart.

"What is it?" she said, catching her breath. "What is it?"

"Julie, I was going to Faircourt this morning. First your telegram
stopped me. I thought I'd wait and go with you. Then came another, from
Delafield. The Duke! The poor Duke!"

Julie's attitude changed unconsciously--instantly.

"Yes; tell me!"

"It's in all the papers to-night--on the placards--don't look out!" And
the Duchess lifted her hand and drew down the blinds of the brougham.
"He was in a most anxious state yesterday, but they thought him calmer
at night, and he insisted on being left alone. The doctors still kept a
watch, but he managed in some mysterious way to evade them all, and this
morning he was missed. After two hours they found him--in the river
that runs below the house!"

There was a silence.

"And Jacob?" said Julie, hoarsely.

"That's what I'm so anxious about," exclaimed the Duchess. "Oh, I am
thankful you've come! You know how Jacob's always felt about the Duke
and Mervyn--how he's hated the notion of succeeding. And Susan, who went
down yesterday, telegraphed to me last night--before this horror--that
he was 'terribly strained and overwrought.'"

"Succeeding?" said Julie, vaguely. Mechanically she had drawn up the
blind again, and her eyes followed the dingy lines of the Vauxhall
Bridge Road, till suddenly they turned away from the placards outside a
small stationer's shop which announced: "Tragic death of the Duke of
Chudleigh and his son."

The Duchess looked at her curiously without replying. Julie seemed to be
grappling with some idea which escaped her, or, rather, was presently
expelled by one more urgent.

"Is Jacob ill?" she said, abruptly, looking her companion full in the
face.

"I only know what I've told you. Susan says 'strained and overwrought.'
Oh, it'll be all right when he gets you!"

Julie made no reply. She sat motionless, and the Duchess, stealing
another glance at her, must needs, even in this tragic turmoil, allow
herself the reflection that she was a more delicate study in
black-and-white, a more refined and accented personality than ever.

"You won't mind," said Evelyn, timidly, after a pause; "but Lady Henry
is staying with me, and also Sir Wilfrid Bury, who had such a bad cold
in his lodgings that I went down there a week ago, got the doctor's
leave, and carried him off there and then. And Mr. Montresor's coming
in. He particularly wanted, he said, just to press your hand. But they
sha'n't bother you if you're tired. Our train goes at 10.10, and Freddie
has got the express stopped for us at Westonport--about three in
the morning."

The carriage rolled into Grosvenor Square, and presently stopped before
Crowborough House. Julie alighted, looked round her at the July green of
the square, at the brightness of the window-boxes, and then at the groom
of the chambers who was taking her wraps from her--the same man who, in
the old days, used to feed Lady Henry's dogs with sweet biscuit. It
struck her that he was showing her a very particular and eager
attention.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile in the Duchess's drawing--room a little knot of people was
gathered--Lady Henry, Sir Wilfrid Bury, and Dr. Meredith. Their demeanor
illustrated both the subduing and the exciting influence of great
events. Lady Henry was more talkative than usual. Sir Wilfrid
more silent.

Lady Henry seemed to have profited by her stay at Torquay. As she sat
upright in a stiff chair, her hands resting on her stick, she presented
her characteristic aspect of English solidity, crossed by a certain free
and foreign animation. She had been already wrangling with Sir Wilfrid,
and giving her opinion freely on the "socialistic" views on rank and
property attributed to Jacob Delafield. "If _he_ can't digest the cake,
that doesn't mean it isn't good," had been her last impatient remark,
when Sir Wilfrid interrupted her.

"Only a few minutes more," he said, looking at his watch. "Now, then,
what line do we take? How much is our friend likely to know?"

"Unless she has lost her eyesight--which Evelyn has not reported--she
will know most of what matters before she has gone a hundred yards from
the station," said Lady Henry, dryly.

"Oh, the streets! Yes; but persons are often curiously dazed by such a
gallop of events."

"Not Julie Le Breton!"

"I should like to be informed as to the part you are about to play,"
said Sir Wilfrid, in a lower voice, "that I may play up to it. Where
are you?"

Both looked at Meredith, who had walked to a distant window and was
standing there looking out upon the square. Lady Henry was well aware
that _he_ had not forgiven her, and, to tell the truth, was rather
anxious that he should. So she, too, dropped her voice.

"I bow to the institutions of my country," she said, a little sparkle in
the strong, gray eye.

"In other words, you forgive a duchess?"

"I acknowledge the head of the family, and the greater carries the
less."

"Suppose Jacob should be unforgiving?"

"He hasn't the spirit."

"And she?"

"Her conscience will be on my side."

"I thought it was your theory that she had none?"

"Jacob, let us hope, will have developed some. He has a good deal to
spare."

Sir Wilfrid laughed. "So it is you who will do the pardoning?"

"I shall offer an armed and honorable peace. The Duchess of Chudleigh
may intrigue and tell lies, if she pleases. I am not giving her a
hundred a year."

There was a pause.

"Why, if I may ask," said Sir Wilfrid, at the end of it, "did you
quarrel with Jacob? I understand there was a separate cause:"

Lady Henry hesitated.

"He paid me a debt," she said, at last, and a sudden flush rose in her
old, blanched cheek.

"And that annoyed you? You have the oddest code!"

Lady Henry bit her lip.

"One does not like one's money thrown in one's face."

"Most unreasonable of women!"

"Never mind, Wilfrid. We all have our feelings."

"Precisely. Well, no doubt Jacob will make peace. As for--Ah, here comes
Montresor!"

A visible tremor passed through Lady Henry. The door was thrown open,
and the footman announced the Minister for War.

"Her grace, sir, is not yet returned."

Montresor stumbled into the room, and even with his eye-glasses
carefully adjusted, did not at once perceive who was in it.

Sir Wilfrid went towards him.

"Ah, Bury! Convalescent, I hope?"

"Quite. The Duchess has gone to meet Mrs. Delafield."

"Mrs.--?" Montresor's mouth opened. "But, of course, you know?"

"Oh yes, I know. But one's tongue has to get oiled. You see Lady Henry?"

Montresor started.

"I am glad to see Lady Henry," he replied, stiffly.

Lady Henry slowly rose and advanced two steps. She quietly held out her
hand to him, and, smiling, looked him in the face.

"Take it. There is no longer any cause of quarrel between us. I raise
the embargo."

The Minister took the hand, and shook his head.

"Ah, but you had no right to impose it," he said, with energy.

"Oh, for goodness sake, meet me half-way," cried Lady Henry, "or I shall
never hold out!"

Sir Wilfrid, whose half-embarrassed gaze was bent on the ground, looked
up and was certain that he saw a gleam of moisture in those
wrinkled eyes.

"Why have you held out so long? What does it matter to me whether Miss
Julie be a duchess or no? That doesn't make up to me for all the months
you've shut your door on me. And I was always given to understand,
by-the-way, that it wouldn't matter to you."

"I've had three months at Torquay," said Lady Henry, raising her
shoulders.

"I hope it was dull to distraction."

"It was. And my doctor tells me the more I fret the more gout I may
expect."

"So all this is not generosity, but health?"

"Kiss my hand, sir, and have done with it! You are all avenged. At
Torquay I had four companions in seven weeks."

"More power to them!" said Montresor. "Meredith, come here. Shall we
accept the pleas?"

Meredith came slowly from the window, his hands behind his back.

"Lady Henry commands and we obey," he said, slowly. "But to-day begins a
new world--founded in ruin, like the rest of them."

He raised his fine eyes, in which there was no laughter, rather a dreamy
intensity. Lady Henry shrank.

"If you're thinking of Chudleigh," she said, uncertainly, "be glad for
him. It was release. As for Henry Warkworth--"

"Ah, poor fellow!" said Montresor, perfunctorily. "Poor fellow!"

He had dropped Lady Henry's hand, but he now recaptured it, enclosing
the thin, jewelled fingers in his own.

"Well, well, then it's peace, with all my heart." He stooped and lightly
kissed the fingers. "And now, when do you expect our friend?"

"At any moment," said Lady Henry.

She seated herself, and Montresor beside her.

"I am told," said Montresor, "that this horror will not only affect
Delafield personally, but that he will regard the dukedom as a
calamity."

"Hm!--and you believe it?" said Lady Henry.

"I try to," was the Minister's laughing reply. "Ah, surely, here they
are!"

Meredith turned from the window, to which he had gone back.

"The carriage has just arrived," he announced, and he stood fidgeting,
standing first on one foot, then on the other, and running his hand
through his mane of gray hair. His large features were pale, and any
close observer would have detected the quiver of emotion.

A sound of voices from the anteroom, the Duchess's light tones floating
to the top. At the same time a door on the other side of the
drawing-room opened and the Duke of Crowborough appeared.

"I think I hear my wife," he said, as he greeted Montresor and hurriedly
crossed the room.

There was a rustle of quick steps, and the little Duchess entered.

"Freddie, here is Julie!"

Behind appeared a tall figure in black. Everybody in the room advanced,
including Lady Henry, who, however, after a few steps stood still behind
the others, leaning on her stick.

Julie looked round the little circle, then at the Duke of Crowborough,
who had gravely given her his hand. The suppressed excitement already in
the room clearly communicated itself to her. She did not lose her
self-command for an instant, but her face pleaded.

"Is it really true? Perhaps there is some mistake?"

"I fear there can be none," said the Duke, sadly. "Poor Chudleigh had
been long dead when they found him."

"Freddie," said the Duchess, interrupting, "I have told Greswell we
shall want the carriage at half-past nine for Euston. Will that do?"

"Perfectly."

Greswell, the handsome groom of the chambers, approached Julie.

"Your grace's maid wishes to know whether it is your grace's wish that
she should go round to Heribert Street before taking the luggage
to Euston?"

Julie looked at the man, bewildered. Then a stormy color rushed into her
cheeks.

"Does he mean my maid?" she said to the Duke, piteously.

"Certainly. Will you give your orders?"

She gave them, and then, turning again to the Duke, she covered her eyes
with her hands a moment.

"What does it all mean?" she said, faltering. "It seems as though we
were all mad."

"You understand, of course, that Jacob succeeds?" said the Duke, not
without coldness; and he stood still an instant, gazing at this woman,
who must now, he supposed, feel herself at the very summit of her
ambitions.

Julie drew a long breath. Then she perceived Lady Henry. Instantly,
impetuously, she crossed the room. But as she reached that composed and
formidable figure, the old timidity, the old fear, seized her. She
paused abruptly, but she held out her hand.

Lady Henry took it. The two women stood regarding each other, while the
other persons in the room instinctively turned away from their meeting.
Lady Henry's first look was one of curiosity. Then, before the
indefinable, ennobling change in Julie's face, now full of the pale
agitation of memory, the eyes of the older woman wavered and dropped.
But she soon recovered herself.

"We meet again under very strange circumstances," she said, quietly;
"though I have long foreseen them. As for our former experience, we were
in a false relation, and it made fools of us both. You and Jacob are now
the heads of the family. And if you like to make friends with me on this
new footing, I am ready. As to my behavior, I think it was natural; but
if it rankles in your mind, I apologize."

The personal pride of the owner, curbed in its turn by the pride of
tradition and family, spoke strangely from these words. Julie stood
trembling, her chest heaving.

"I, too, regret--and apologize," she said, in a low voice.

"Then we begin again. But now you must let Evelyn take you to rest for
an hour or two. I am sorry you have this hurried journey to-night."

Julie pressed her hands to her breast with one of those dramatic
movements that were natural to her.

"Oh, I must see Jacob!" she said, under her breath--"I must see Jacob!"

And she turned away, looking vaguely round her. Meredith approached.

"Comfort yourself," he said, very gently, pressing her hand in both of
his. "It has been a great shock, but when you get there he'll be
all right."

"Jacob?"

Her expression, the piteous note in her voice, awoke in him an answering
sense of pain. He wondered how it might be between the husband and wife.
Yet it was borne in upon him, as upon Lady Henry, that her marriage,
however interpreted, had brought with it profound and intimate
transformation. A different woman stood before him. And when, after a
few more words, the Duchess swept down upon them, insisting that Julie
must rest awhile, Meredith stood looking after the retreating figures,
filled with the old, bitter sense of human separateness, and the
fragmentariness of all human affections. Then he made his farewells to
the Duke and Lady Henry, and slipped away. He had turned a page in the
book of life; and as he walked through Grosvenor Square he applied his
mind resolutely to one of the political "causes" with which, as a
powerful and fighting journalist, he was at that moment occupied.

Lady Henry, too, watched Julie's exit from the room.

"So now she supposes herself in love with Jacob?" she thought, with
amusement, as she resumed her seat.

"What if Delafield refuses to be made a duke?" said Sir Wilfrid, in her
ear.

"It would be a situation new to the Constitution," said Lady Henry,
composedly. "I advise you, however, to wait till it occurs."

       *       *       *       *       *

The northern express rushed onward through the night. Rugby, Stafford,
Crewe had been left behind. The Yorkshire valleys and moors began to
show themselves in pale ridges and folds under the moon. Julie, wakeful
in her corner opposite the little, sleeping Duchess, was conscious of an
interminable rush of images through a brain that longed for a few
unconscious and forgetful moments. She thought of the deferential
station-master at Euston; of the fuss attending their arrival on the
platform; of the arrangements made for stopping the express at the
Yorkshire Station, where they were to alight.

Faircourt? Was it the great Early-Georgian house of which she had heard
Jacob speak--the vast pile, half barrack, half palace, in which,
according to him, no human being could be either happy or at home?

And this was now his--and hers? Again the whirl of thoughts swept and
danced round her.

A wild, hill country. In the valleys, the blackness of thick trees, the
gleam of rivers, the huge, lifeless factories; and beyond, the high,
silver edges, the sharp shadows of the moors.... The train slackened,
and the little Duchess woke at once.

"Ten minutes to three. Oh, Julie, here we are!"

The dawn was just coldly showing as they alighted. Carriages and
servants were waiting, and various persons whose identity and function
it was not easy to grasp. One of them, however, at once approached Julie
with a privileged air, and she perceived that he was a doctor.

"I am very glad that your grace has come," he said, as he raised his
hat. "The trouble with the Duke is shock, and want of sleep."

Julie looked at him, still bewildered.

"How long has my husband been ill?"

He walked on beside her, describing in as few words as possible the
harrowing days preceding the death of the boy, Delafield's attempts to
soothe and control the father, the stratagem by which the poor Duke had
outwitted them all, and the weary hours of search through the night,
under a drizzling rain, which had resulted, about dawn, in the discovery
of the Duke's body in one of the deeper holes of the river.

"When the procession returned to the house, your husband"--the speaker
framed the words uncertainly--"had a long fainting-fit. It was probably
caused by the exhaustion of the search--many hours without food--and
many sleepless nights. We kept him in his room all day. But towards
evening he insisted on getting up. The restlessness he shows is itself a
sign of shock. I trust, now you are here, you may be able to persuade
him to spare himself. Otherwise the consequences might be grave."

The drive to the house lay mainly through a vast park, dotted with stiff
and melancholy woods. The morning was cloudy; even the wild roses in the
hedges and the daisies in the grass had neither gayety nor color. Soon
the house appeared--an immense pile of stone, with a pillared centre,
and wings to east and west, built in a hollow, gray and sunless. The
mournful blinds drawn closely down made of it rather a mausoleum for the
dead than a home for the living.

At the approach of the carriage, however, doors were thrown open,
servants appeared, and on the steps, trembling and heavy-eyed, stood
Susan Delafield.

She looked timidly at Julie, and then, as they passed into the great
central hall, the two kissed each other with tears.

"He is in his room, waiting for you. The doctors persuaded him not to
come down. But he is dressed, and reading and writing. We don't believe
he has slept at all for a week."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Through there," said Susan Delafield, stepping back. "That is the
door."

[Illustration: "SHE FOUND HERSELF KNEELING BESIDE HIM"]

Julie softly opened it, and closed it behind her. Delafield had heard
her approach, and was standing by the table, supporting himself upon it.
His aspect filled Julie with horror. She ran to him and threw her
arms round him. He sank back into his chair, and she found herself
kneeling beside him, murmuring to him, while his head rested upon
her shoulder.

"Jacob, I am here! Oh, I ought to have been here all through! It's
terrible--terrible! But, Jacob, you won't suffer so--now I'm here--now
we're together--now I love you, Jacob?"

Her voice broke in tears. She put back the hair from his brow, kissing
him with a tenderness in which there was a yearning and lovely humility.
Then she drew a little away, waiting for him to speak, in an agony.

But for a time he seemed unable to speak. He feebly released himself, as
though he could not bear the emotion she offered him, and his
eyes closed.

"Jacob, come and lie down!" she said, in terror. "Let me call the
doctors."

He shook his head, and a faint pressure from his hand bade her sit
beside him.

"I shall be better soon. Give me time. I'll tell you--"

Then silence again. She sat holding his hand, her eyes fixed upon him.
Time passed, she knew not how. Susan came into the room--a small
sitting-room in the east wing--to tell her that the neighboring bedroom
had been prepared for herself. Julie only looked up for an instant with
a dumb sign of refusal. A doctor came in, and Delafield made a painful
effort to take the few spoonfuls of food and stimulant pressed upon him.
Then he buried his face in the side of the arm-chair.

"Please let us be alone," he said, with a touch of his old
peremptoriness, and both Susan and the doctor obeyed.

But it was long before he could collect energy enough to talk. When he
did, he made an effort to tell her the story of the boy's death, and the
father's self-destruction. He told it leaning forward in his chair, his
eyes on the ground, his hands loosely joined, his voice broken and
labored. Julie listened, gathering from his report an impression of
horror, tragic and irremediable, similar to that which had shaken the
balance of his own mind. And when he suddenly looked up with the words,
"And now _I_ am expected to take their place--to profit by their deaths!
What rightful law of God or man binds me to accept a life and a
responsibility that I loathe?" Julie drew back as though he had struck
her. His face, his tone were not his own--there was a violence, a threat
in them, addressed, as it were, specially to _her_. "If it were not for
you," his eyes seemed to say, "I could refuse this thing, which will
destroy me, soul and body."

She was silent, her pulses fluttering, and he resumed, speaking like one
groping his way:

"I could have done the work, of course--I have done it for five years. I
could have looked after the estate and the people. But the money, the
paraphernalia, the hordes of servants, the mummery of the life! Why,
Julie, should we be forced into it? What happiness--I ask you--what
happiness can it bring to either of us?"

And again he looked up, and again it seemed to Julie that his expression
was one of animated hostility and antagonism--antagonism to her, as
embodying for the moment all the arguments--of advantage, custom,
law--he was, in his own mind, fighting and denying. With a failing heart
she felt herself very far from him. Was there not also something in his
attitude, unconsciously, of that old primal antagonism of the man to
the woman, of the stronger to the weaker, the more spiritual to the
more earthy?

"You think, no doubt," he said, after a pause, "that it is my duty to
take this thing, even if I _could_ lay it down?"

"I don't know what I think," she said, hurriedly. "It is very strange,
of course, what you say. We ought to discuss it thoroughly. Let me have
a little time."

He gave an impatient sigh, then suddenly rose.

"Will you come and look at them?"

She, too, rose and put her hand in his.

"Take me where you will."

"It is not horrible," he said, shading his eyes a moment. "They are at
peace."

With a feeble step, leaning on her arm, he guided her through the great,
darkened house. Julie was dimly aware of wide staircases, of galleries
and high halls, of the pictures of past Delafields looking down upon
them. The morning was now far advanced. Many persons were at work in the
house, but Julie was conscious of them only as distant figures that
vanished at their approach. They walked alone, guarded from all
intrusion by the awe and sympathy of the unseen human beings
around them.

Delafield opened the closed door.

The father and son lay together, side by side, the boy's face in a very
winning repose, which at first sight concealed the traces of his long
suffering; the father's also--closed eyes and sternly shut
mouth--suggesting, not the despair which had driven him to his death,
but, rather, as in sombre triumph, the all-forgetting, all-effacing
sleep which he had won from death.

They stood a moment, till Delafield fell on his knees. Julie knelt
beside him. She prayed for a while; then she wearied, being, indeed,
worn out with her journey. But Delafield was motionless, and it seemed
to Julie that he hardly breathed.

She rose to her feet, and found her eyes for the first time flooded with
tears. Never for many weeks had she felt so lonely, or so utterly
unhappy. She would have given anything to forget herself in comforting
Jacob. But he seemed to have no need of her, no thought of her.

As she vaguely looked round her, she saw that beside the dead man was a
table holding some violets--the only flowers in the room--some
photographs, and a few well--worn books. Softly she took up one. It was
a copy of the _Meditations of Marcus Aurelius_, much noted and
underlined. It would have seemed to her sacrilege to look too close; but
she presently perceived a letter between its pages, and in the morning
light, which now came strongly into the room through a window looking on
the garden, she saw plainly that it was written on thin, foreign paper,
that it was closed, and addressed to her husband.

"Jacob!"

She touched him softly on the shoulder, alarmed by his long immobility.

He looked up, and it appeared to Julie as though he were shaking off
with difficulty some abnormal and trancelike state. But he rose, looking
at her strangely.

"Jacob, this is yours."

He took the book abruptly, almost as if she had no right to be holding
it. Then, as he saw the letter, the color rushed into his face. He took
it, and after a moment's hesitation walked to the window and opened it.

She saw him waver, and ran to his support. But he put out a hand which
checked her.

"It was the last thing he wrote," he said; and then, uncertainly, and
without reading any but the first words of the letter, he put it into
his pocket.

Julie drew back, humiliated. His gesture said that to a secret so
intimate and sacred he did not propose to admit his wife.

They went back silently to the room from which they had come. Sentence
after sentence came to Julie's lips, but it seemed useless to say them,
and once more, but in a totally new way, she was "afraid" of the man
beside her.

       *       *       *       *       *

She left him shortly after, by his own wish.

"I will lie down, and you must rest," he said, with decision.

So she bathed and dressed, and presently she allowed the kind,
fair-haired Susan to give her food, and pour out her own history of the
death-week which she and Jacob had passed through. But in all that was
said, Julie noticed that Susan spoke of her brother very little, and of
his inheritance and present position not at all. And once or twice she
noticed a wondering or meditative expression in the girl's charming eyes
as they rested on herself, and realized that the sense of mystery, of
hushed expectancy, was not confined to her own mind.

When Susan left her at nine o'clock, it was to give a number of
necessary orders in the house. The inquest was to be held in the
morning, and the whole day would be filled with arrangements for the
double funeral. The house would be thronged with officials of all sorts.
"Poor Jacob!" said the sister, sighing, as she went away.

But the tragic tumult had not yet begun. The house was still quiet, and
Julie was for the first time alone.

She drew up the blinds, and stood gazing out upon the park, now flooded
with light; at the famous Italian garden beneath the windows, with its
fountains and statues; at the wide lake which filled the middle
distance; and the hills beyond it, with the plantations and avenues
which showed the extension of the park as far as the eye could see.

Julie knew very well what it all implied. Her years with Lady Henry, in
connection with her own hidden sense of birth and family, had shown her
with sufficient plainness the conditions under which the English noble
lives. She _was_ actually, at that moment, Duchess of Chudleigh; her
strong intelligence faced and appreciated the fact; the social scope and
power implied in those three words were all the more vivid to her
imagination because of her history and up-bringing. She had not grown to
maturity _inside_, like Delafield, but as an exile from a life which was
yet naturally hers--an exile, full, sometimes, of envy, and the
passions of envy.

It had no terrors for her--quite the contrary--this high social state.
Rather, there were moments when her whole nature reached out to it, in a
proud and confident ambition. Nor had she any mystical demurrer to make.
The originality which in some ways she richly possessed was not
concerned in the least with the upsetting of class distinctions, and as
a Catholic she had been taught loyally to accept them.

The minutes passed away. Julie sank deeper and deeper into reverie, her
head leaning against the side of the window, her hands clasped before
her on her black dress. Once or twice she found the tears dropping from
her eyes, and once or twice she smiled.

She was not thinking of the tragic circumstances amid which she stood.
From that short trance of feeling even the piteous figures of the dead
father and son faded away. Warkworth entered into it, but already
invested with the passionless and sexless beauty of a world
where--whether it be to us poetry or reality--"they neither marry nor
are given in marriage." Her warm and living thoughts spent themselves on
one theme only--the redressing of a spiritual balance. She was no longer
a beggar to her husband; she had the wherewithal to give. She had been
the mere recipient, burdened with debts beyond her paying; now--

And then it was that her smiles came--tremluous, fugitive, exultant.

       *       *       *       *       *

A bell rang in the long corridor, and the slight sound recalled her to
life and action. She walked towards the door which separated her from
the sitting-room where she had left her husband, and opened it
without knocking.

Delafield was sitting at a writing-table in the window. He had
apparently been writing; but she found him in a moment of pause, playing
absently with the pen he still held.

As she entered he looked up, and it seemed to her that his aspect and
his mood had changed. Her sudden and indefinable sense of this made it
easier for her to hasten to him, and to hold out her hands to him.

"Jacob, you asked me a question just now, and I begged you to give me
time. But I am here to answer it. If it would be to your happiness to
refuse the dukedom, refuse it. I will not stand in your way, and I will
never reproach you. I suppose"--she made herself smile upon him--"there
are ways of doing such a strange thing. You will be much criticised,
perhaps much blamed. But if it seems to you right, do it. I'll just
stand by you and help you. Whatever makes you happy shall make me happy,
if only--"

Delafield had risen impetuously and held her by both hands. His breast
heaved, and the hurrying of her own breath would now hardly let
her speak.

"If only what?" he said, hoarsely.

She raised her eyes.

"If only, _mon ami_"--she disengaged one hand and laid it gently on his
shoulder--"you will give me your trust, and"--her voice
dropped--"your love!"

They gazed at each other. Between them, around them hovered thoughts of
the past--of Warkworth, of the gray Channel waves, of the spiritual
relation which had grown up between them in Switzerland, mingled with
the consciousness of this new, incalculable present, and of the growth
and change in themselves.

"You'd give it all up?" said Delafield, gently, still holding her at
arm's-length.

"Yes," she nodded to him, with a smile.

"For me? For my sake?"

She smiled again. He drew a long breath, and turning to the table
behind him, took up a letter which was lying there.

"I want you to read that," he said, holding it out to her.

She drew back, with a little, involuntary frown.

He understood.

"Dearest," he cried, pressing her hand passionately, "I have been in the
grip of all the powers of death! Read it--be good to me!"

Standing beside him, with his arm round her, she read the melancholy
Duke's last words:

     "My Dear Jacob,--I leave you a heavy task, which I know well
     is, in your eyes, a mere burden. But, for my sake, accept it.
     The man who runs away has small right to counsel courage. But
     you know what my struggle has been. You'll judge me
     mercifully, if no one else does. There is in you, too, the
     little, bitter drop that spoils us all; but you won't be
     alone. You have your wife, and you love her. Take my place
     here, care for our people, speak of us sometimes to your
     children, and pray for us. I bless you, dear fellow. The only
     moments of comfort I have ever known this last year have come
     from you. I would live on if I could, but I must--_must_ have
     sleep."

Julie dropped the paper. She turned to look at her husband.

"Since I read that," he said, in a low voice, "I have been sitting here
alone--or, rather, it is my belief that I have not been alone. But"--he
hesitated--"it is very difficult for me to speak of that--even to you.
At any rate, I have felt the touch of discipline, of command. My poor
cousin deserted. I, it seems"--he drew a long and painful breath--"must
keep to the ranks."

"Let us discuss it," said Julie; and sitting down, hand in hand, they
talked quietly and gravely.

Suddenly, Delafield turned to her with renewed emotion.

"I feel already the energy, the honorable ambition you will bring to it.
But still, you'd have given it up, Julie? You'd have given it up?"

Julie chose her words.

"Yes. But now that we are to keep it, will you hate me if, some
day--when we are less sad--I get pleasure from it? I sha'n't be able to
help it. When we were at La Verna, I felt that you ought to have been
born in the thirteenth century, that you were really meant to wed
poverty and follow St. Francis. But now you have got to be horribly,
hopelessly rich. And I, all the time, am a worldling, and a modern. What
you'll suffer from, I shall perhaps--enjoy."

The word fell harshly on the darkened room. Delafield shivered, as
though he felt the overshadowing dead. Julie impetuously took his hand.

"It will be my part to be a worldling--for your sake," she said, her
breath wavering. Their eyes met. From her face shone a revelation, a
beauty that enwrapped them both. Delafield fell on his knees beside her,
and laid his head upon her breast. The exquisite gesture with which she
folded her arms about him told her inmost thought. At last he needed
her, and the dear knowledge filled and tamed her heart.


THE END





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lady Rose's Daughter" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home