“Perhaps half an hour.”
“It is already past midnight.”
“Leonie, he goes to-morrow.”
“Tres bien. Mais—sais-tu, ma chere, ce n’est pas convenable, ce que tu fais la!”
And the older woman, straightening herself, looked her foster-sister full in the face. A kind of watch-dog anxiety, a sulky, protesting affection breathed from her rugged features.
Julie went up to her, not angrily, but rather with a pleading humility.
The two women held a rapid colloquy in low tones—Madame Bornier remonstrating, Julie softly getting her way.
Then Madame Bornier returned to her work, and Julie went to the drawing-room.
Warkworth sprang up as she entered. Both paused and wavered. Then he went up to her, and roughly, irresistibly, drew her into his arms. She held back a moment, but finally yielded, and clasping her hands round his neck she buried her face on his breast.
They stood so for some minutes, absolutely silent, save for her hurried breathing, his head bowed upon hers.
“Julie, how can we say good-bye?” he whispered, at last.
She disengaged herself, and, seeing his face, she tried for composure.
“Come and sit down.”
She led him to the window, which he had thrown open as he entered the room, and they sat beside it, hand in hand. A mild April night shone outside. Gusts of moist air floated in upon them. There were dim lights and shadows in the garden and on the shuttered facade of the great house.
“Is it forever?” said Julie, in a low,
She felt his hand tremble, but she did not look at him. She seemed to be reciting words long since spoken in the mind.
“You will be away—perhaps a year? Then you go back to India, and then—”
Warkworth was physically conscious, as it were, of a letter he carried in his coat-pocket—a letter from Lady Blanche Moffatt which had reached him that morning, the letter of a grande dame, reduced to undignified remonstrance by sheer maternal terror—terror for the health and life of a child as fragile and ethereal as a wild rose in May. Reports had reached her; but no—they could not be true! She bade him be thankful that not a breath of suspicion had yet touched Aileen. As for herself, let him write and reassure her at once. Otherwise—
And the latter part of the letter conveyed a veiled menace that Warkworth perfectly understood.
No—in that direction, no escape; his own past actions closed him in. And henceforth, it was clear, he must walk more warily.
But how blame himself for these feelings of which he was now conscious towards Julie Le Breton—the strongest, probably, that a man not built for passion would ever know. His relation towards her had grown upon him unawares, and now their own hands were about to cut it at the root. What blame to either of them? Fate had been at work; and he felt himself glorified by a situation so tragically sincere, and by emotions of which a month before he would have secretly held himself incapable.