“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.
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 mesalliance? A successful soldier was good enough for anybody. Look at the first Lord Clyde, and scores besides.