The slim, young fellow, so boyishly elegant in his well-cut evening-dress, received the ovation offered to him with an evident pleasure which tried to hide itself in the usual English ways. He had been very pale when he came in. But his cheek reddened as Montresor grasped him by the hand, as the two generals bade him a cordial godspeed, as Sir Wilfrid gave him a jesting message for the British representative in Egypt, and as the ladies present accorded him those flattering and admiring looks that woman keeps for valor.
Julie counted for little in these farewells. She stood apart and rather silent. “They have had their good-bye,” thought the Duchess, with a thrill she could not help.
“Three days in Paris?” said Sir Wilfrid. “A fortnight to Denga—and then how long before you start for the interior?”
“Oh, three weeks for collecting porters and supplies. They’re drilling the escort already. We should be off by the middle of May.”
“A bad month,” said General Fergus, shrugging his shoulders.
“Unfortunately, affairs won’t wait. But I am already stiff with quinine,” laughed Warkworth—“or I shall be by the time I get to Denga. Good-bye—good-bye.”
And in another moment he was gone. Miss Le Breton had given him her hand and wished him “Bon voyage,” like everybody else.
The party broke up. The Duchess kissed her Julie with peculiar tenderness; Delafield pressed her hand, and his deep, kind eyes gave her a lingering look, of which, however, she was quite unconscious; Meredith renewed his half-irritable, half-affectionate counsels of rest and recreation; Mrs. Montresor was conventionally effusive; Montresor alone bade the mistress of the house a somewhat cold and perfunctory farewell. Even Sir Wilfrid was a little touched, he knew not why; he vowed to himself that his report to Lady Henry on the morrow should contain no food for malice, and inwardly he forgave Mademoiselle Julie the old romancings.
It was twenty minutes since the last carriage had driven away. Julie was still waiting in the little hall, pacing its squares of black-and-white marble, slowly, backward and forward.
There was a low knock on the door.
She opened it. Warkworth appeared on the threshold, and the high moon behind him threw a bright ray into the dim hall, where all but one faint light had been extinguished. She pointed to the drawing-room.
“I will come directly. Let me just go and ask Leonie to sit up.”
Warkworth went into the drawing-room. Julie opened the dining-room door. Madame Bornier was engaged in washing and putting away the china and glass which had been used for Julie’s modest refreshments.
“Leonie, you won’t go to bed? Major Warkworth is here.”
Madame Bornier did not raise her head.
“How long will he be?”