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 somber 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-defense—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 toward Warkworth. “He is my friend, and whatever anyone 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 toward 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 toward 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 upstairs 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, newborn 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 before; 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 I won’t write anymore. 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—quarreled 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.”
Today 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.
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.
“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?”
“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 anymore. 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 somber 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 fullness.
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 tonight 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.