He gave an exclamation of joy, kissed the hands tenderly, and sat down beside her.
“Now, then, all your cares, all your thoughts, all your griefs are to be mine—till fate call us. And I have a thousand things to tell you, to bless you for, to consult you about. There is not a thought in my mind that you shall not know—bad, good, and indifferent—if you care to turn out the rag-bag. Shall I begin with the morning—my experiences at the club, my little nieces at the Zoo?” He laughed, but suddenly grew serious again. “No, your story first; you owe it me. Let me know all that concerns you. Your past, your sorrows, ambitions—everything.”
He bent to her imperiously. With a faint, broken smile, her hands still in his, she assented. It was difficult to begin, then difficult to control the flood of memory; and it had long been dark when Madame Bornier, coming in to light the lamp and make up the fire, disturbed an intimate and searching conversation, which had revealed the two natures to each other with an agitating fulness.
* * * * *
Yet the results of this memorable evening upon Julie Le Breton were ultimately such as few could have foreseen.
When Warkworth had left her, she went to her own room and sat for a long while beside the window, gazing at the dark shrubberies of the Cureton House garden, at the few twinkling, distant lights.
The vague, golden hopes she had cherished through these past months of effort and scheming were gone forever. Warkworth would marry Aileen Moffatt, and use her money for an ambitious career. After these weeks now lying before them—weeks of dangerous intimacy, dangerous emotion—she and he would become as strangers to each other. He would be absorbed by his profession and his rich marriage. She would be left alone to live her life.
A sudden terror of her own weakness overcame her. No, she could not be alone. She must place a barrier between herself and this—this strange threatening of illimitable ruin that sometimes rose upon her from the dark. “I have no prejudices,” she had said to Sir Wilfrid. There were many moments when she felt a fierce pride in the element of lawlessness, of defiance, that seemed to be her inheritance from her parents. But to-night she was afraid of it.
Again, if love was to go, power, the satisfaction of ambition, remained. She threw a quick glance into the future—the future beyond these three weeks. What could she make of it? She knew well that she was not the woman to resign herself to a mere pining obscurity.
Jacob Delafield? Was it, after all, so impossible?
For a few minutes she set herself deliberately to think out what it would mean to marry him; then suddenly broke down and wept, with inarticulate cries and sobs, with occasional reminiscences of her old convent’s prayers, appeals half conscious, instinctive, to a God only half believed.