“Go back?” said Julie, staring at him helplessly. “Go back to-night?”
“The evening train starts in little more than an hour. You would be just in time, I think, to see the old man alive.”
She still looked at him in bewilderment, at the blue eyes under the heavily moulded brows, and the mouth with its imperative, and yet eager—or tremulous?—expression. She perceived that he hung upon her answer.
She drew her hand piteously across her eyes as though to shut out the crowds, the station, and the urgency of this personality beside her. Despair was in her heart. How to consent? How to refuse?
“But my friends,” she stammered—“the friends with whom I was going to stay—they will be alarmed.”
“Could you not telegraph to them? They would understand, surely. The office is close by.”
She let herself be hurried along, not knowing what to do. Delafield walked beside her. If she had been able to observe him, she must have been struck afresh by the pale intensity, the controlled agitation of his face.
“Is it really so serious?” she asked, pausing a moment, as though in resistance.
“It is the end. Of that there can be no question. You have touched his heart very deeply. He longs to see her, Evelyn says. And his daughter and granddaughter are still abroad—Miss Moffatt, indeed, is ill at Florence with a touch of diphtheria. He is alone with his two sons. You will go?”
Even in her confusion, the strangeness of it all was borne in upon her—his insistence, the extraordinary chance of their meeting, his grave, commanding manner.
“How could you know I was here?” she said, in bewilderment.
“I didn’t know,” he said, slowly. “But, thank God, I have met you. I dread to think of your fatigue, but you will be glad just to see him again—just to give him his last wish—won’t you?” he said, pleadingly. “Here is the telegraph-office. Shall I do it for you?”
“No, thank you. I—I must think how to word it. Please wait.”
She went in alone. As she took the pencil into her hands a low groan burst from her lips. The man writing in the next compartment turned round in astonishment. She controlled herself and began to write. There was no escape. She must submit; and all was over.
She telegraphed to Warkworth, care of the Chef de Gare, at the Sceaux Station, and also to the country inn.
“Have met Mr. Delafield by chance at Nord Station. Lord Lackington dying. Must return to-night. Where shall I write? Good-bye.”
When it was done she could hardly totter out of the office. Delafield made her take his arm.
“You must have some food. Then I will go and get a sleeping-car for you to Calais. There will be no crowd to-night. At Calais I will look after you if you will allow me.”
“You are crossing to-night?” she said, vaguely. Her lips framed the words with difficulty.