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.
“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 toward 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, Vevey 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 notepaper 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. Toward 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 around 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 toward 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 traveling, 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 toward 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 offense.
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 toward 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 toward 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 toward Brent, and Julie saw coming toward 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 toward 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 toward 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 toward 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 toward 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 center.
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 traveling 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.
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 anyone 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.