“Mr. Montresor will scarcely come again.”
“What do you mean? Ungrateful lady! Montresor! who has already sacrificed Lady Henry and the habits of thirty years to your beaux yeux!”
“That is what he will never forgive me,” said Julie, sadly. “He has satisfied his pride, and I—have lost a friend.”
“Pessimist! Mrs. Montresor seemed to me most friendly.”
“She, of course, is enchanted. Her husband has never been her own till now. She married him, subject to Lady Henry’s rights. But all that she will soon forget—and my existence with it.”
“I won’t argue. It only makes you more stubborn,” said Meredith. “Ah, still they come!”
For the door opened to admit the tall figure of Major Warkworth.
“Am I very late?” he said, with a surprised look as he glanced at the thinly scattered room. Julie greeted him, and he excused himself on the ground of a dinner which had begun just an hour late, owing to the tardiness of a cabinet minister.
Meredith observed the young man with some attention, from the dark corner in which Julie had left him. The gossip of the moment had reached him also, but he had not paid much heed to it. It seemed to him that no one knew anything first-hand of the Moffatt affair. And for himself, he found it difficult to believe that Julie Le Breton was any man’s dupe.
She must marry, poor thing! Of course she must marry. Since it had been plain to him that she would never listen to his own suit, this great-hearted and clear-brained man had done his best to stifle in himself all small or grasping impulses. But this fellow—with his inferior temper and morale—alack! why are the clever women such fools?
If only she had confided in him—her old and tried friend—he thought he could have put things before her, so as to influence without offending her. But he suffered—had always suffered—from the jealous reserve which underlay her charm, her inborn tendency to secretiveness and intrigue.
Now, as he watched her few words with Warkworth, it seemed to him that he saw the signs of some hidden relation. How flushed she was suddenly, and her eyes so bright!
He was not allowed much time or scope, however, for observation. Warkworth took a turn round the room, chatted a little with this person and that, then, on the plea that he was off to Paris early on the following morning, approached his hostess again to take his leave.
“Ah, yes, you start to-morrow,” said Montresor, rising. “Well, good luck to you—good luck to you.”
General Fergus, too, advanced. The whole room, indeed, awoke to the situation, and all the remaining guests grouped themselves round the young soldier. Even the Duchess was thawed a little by this actual moment of departure. After all, the man was going on his country’s service.
“No child’s play, this mission, I can assure you,” General McGill had said to her. “Warkworth will want all the powers he has—of mind or body.”