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.”
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.”