“Four people, at most—the Duchess, first of all. I couldn’t help it,” she pleaded. “I was so unhappy with Lady Henry.”
“You should have come to me. It was my right.”
“But”—she dropped her head—“you had made it a condition that I should not trouble you.”
He was silenced; and once more he leaned against the mantel-piece and hid his face from her, till, by a secret impulse, both moved. She rose and approached him; he laid his hands on her arms. With his persistent instinct for the lovely or romantic he perceived, with sudden pleasure, the grave, poetic beauty of her face and delicate form. Emotion had softened away all that was harsh; a quivering charm hovered over the features. With a strange pride, and a sense of mystery, he recognized his daughter and his race.
“For my Rose’s child,” he said, gently, and, stooping, he kissed her on the brow. She broke out into weeping, leaning against his shoulder, while the old man comforted and soothed her.
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 sombre 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.