Delafield was walking through the Park towards Victoria Gate. A pair of beautiful roans pulled up suddenly beside him, and a little figure with a waving hand bent to him from a carriage.
“Jacob, where are you off to? Let me give you a lift?”
The gentleman addressed took off his hat.
“Much obliged to you, but I want some exercise. I say, where did Freddie get that pair?”
“I don’t know, he doesn’t tell me. Jacob, you must get in. I want to speak to you.”
Rather unwillingly, Delafield obeyed, and away they sped.
“J’ai un tas de choses a vous dire,” she said, speaking low, and in French, so as to protect herself from the servants in front. “Jacob, I’m very unhappy about Julie.”
Delafield frowned uncomfortably.
“Why? Hadn’t you better leave her alone?”
“Oh, of course, I know you think me a chatterbox. I don’t care. You must let me tell you some fresh news about her. It isn’t gossip, and you and I are her best friends. Oh, Freddie’s so disagreeable about her. Jacob, you’ve got to help and advise a little. Now, do listen. It’s your duty—your downright catechism duty.”
And she poured into his reluctant ear the tale which Miss Emily Lawrence nearly a fortnight before had confided to her.
“Of course,” she wound up, “you’ll say it’s only what we knew or guessed long ago. But you see, Jacob, we didn’t know. It might have been just gossip. And then, besides”—she frowned and dropped her voice till it was only just audible—“this horrid man hadn’t made our Julie so—so conspicuous, and Lady Henry hadn’t turned out such a toad—and, altogether, Jacob, I’m dreadfully worried.”
“Don’t be,” said Jacob, dryly.
“And what a creature!” cried the Duchess, unheeding. “They say that poor Moffatt child will soon have fretted herself ill, if the guardians don’t give way about the two years.”
“What two years?”
“The two years that she must wait—till she is twenty-one. Oh, Jacob, you know that!” exclaimed the Duchess, impatient with him. “I’ve told you scores of times.”
“I’m not in the least interested in Miss Moffatt’s affairs.”
“But you ought to be, for they concern Julie,” cried the Duchess. “Can’t you imagine what kind of things people are saying? Lady Henry has spread it about that it was all to see him she bribed the Bruton Street servants to let her give the Wednesday party as usual—that she had been flirting with him abominably for months, and using Lady Henry’s name in the most impertinent ways. And now, suddenly, everybody seems to know something about this Indian engagement. You may imagine it doesn’t look very well for our poor Julie. The other night at Chatton House I was furious. I made Julie go. I wanted her to show herself, and keep up her friends. Well, it was horrid! One or two old frights, who used to be only too thankful to Julie for reminding Lady Henry to invite them, put their noses in the air and behaved odiously. And even some of the nicer ones seemed changed—I could see Julie felt it.”