“Julie, I can’t help it! I know it’s impertinent—but—Julie, darling!—do listen! What business has that man to make love to you as he does, when all the time—Yes, he does make love to you—he does! Freddie had a most ill-natured letter from Lady Henry this morning. Of course he had—and of course she’ll write that kind of letter to as many people as she can. And it wouldn’t matter a bit, if—But, you see, you have been moving heaven and earth for him! And now his manner to you” (while the sudden flush burned her cheek, Julie wondered whether by chance the Duchess had seen anything of the yielded hands and the kiss) “and that ill-luck of his being the first to arrive, last night, at Lady Henry’s! Oh, Julie, he’s a wretch—he is! Of course he is in love with you. That’s natural enough. But all the time—listen, that nice woman told me the whole story—he’s writing regularly to that little girl. She and her mother, in spite of the guardians, regard it as an engagement signed and sealed, and all his friends believe he’s quite determined to marry her because of the money. You may think me an odious little meddler, Julie, if you like, but I vow I could stab him to the heart, with all the pleasure in life!”
And neither the annoyance, nor the dignity, nor the ridicule of the supposed victim—not Julie’s angry eyes, nor all her mocking words from tremulous lips—had availed in the least to silence the tumult of alarmed affection in the Duchess’s breast. Her Julie had been flouted and trifled with; and if she was so blind, so infatuated, as not to see it, she should at least be driven to realize what other people felt about it.
So she had her say, and Julie had been forced, willy-nilly, upon discussion and self-defence—nay, upon a promise also. Pale, and stiffly erect, yet determined all the same to treat it as a laughing matter, she had vouchsafed the Duchess some kind of assurance that she would for the future observe a more cautious behavior towards Warkworth. “He is my friend, and whatever any one may say, he shall remain so,” she had said, with a smiling stubbornness which hid something before which the little Duchess shrank. “But, of course, if I can do anything to please you, Evelyn—you know I like to please you.”
But she had never meant, she had never promised to forswear his society, to ban him from the new house. In truth she would rather have left home and friends and prospects, at one stroke, rather than have pledged herself to anything of the sort. Evelyn should never bind her to that.
Then, during his days of absence, she had passed through wave after wave of feeling, while all the time to the outer eye she was occupied with nothing but the settlement into Lady Mary’s strange little house. She washed, dusted, placed chairs and tables. And meanwhile a wild expectancy of his first letter possessed her. Surely there would be some anxiety in it, some fear, some disclosure of himself, and of the struggle in his mind between interest and love?