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.”
“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.