But her passion swept every other thought out of its way. With dim agony and rage she began to perceive that she had been duped.
“Mr. Delafield”—she tried for calm—“I don’t understand your attitude, but, so far as I do understand it, I find it intolerable. If you have deceived me—”
“I have not deceived you. Lord Lackington is dying.”
“But that is not why you were at the station,” she repeated, passionately. “Why did you meet the English train?”
Her eyes, clear now in the cold light, shone upon him imperiously.
Again the inner voice said: “Speak—get away from conventionalities. Speak—soul to soul!”
He sat down once more beside her. His gaze sought the ground. Then, with sharp suddenness, he looked her in the face.
“Miss Le Breton, you were going to Paris to meet Major Warkworth?”
She drew back.
“And if I was?” she said, with a wild defiance.
“I had to prevent it, that was all.”
His tone was calm and resolution itself.
“Who—who gave you authority over me?”
“One may save—even by violence. You were too precious to be allowed to destroy yourself.”
His look, so sad and strong, the look of a deep compassion, fastened itself upon her. He felt himself, indeed, possessed by a force not his own, that same force which in its supreme degree made of St. Francis “the great tamer of souls.”
“Who asked you to be our judge? Neither I nor Major Warkworth owe you anything.”
“No. But I owed you help—as a man—as your friend. The truth was somehow borne in upon me. You were risking your honor—I threw myself in the way.”
Every word seemed to madden her.
“What—what could you know of the circumstances?” cried her choked, laboring voice. “It is unpardonable—an outrage! You know nothing either of him or of me.”
She clasped her hands to her breast in a piteous, magnificent gesture, as though she were defending her lover and her love.
“I know that you have suffered much,” he said, dropping his eyes before her, “but you would suffer infinitely more if—”
“If you had not interfered.” Her veil had fallen over her face again. She flung it back in impatient despair. “Mr. Delafield, I can do without your anxieties.”
“But not”—he spoke slowly—“without your own self-respect.”
Julie’s face trembled. She hid it in her hands.
“Go!” she said. “Go!”
He went to the farther end of the ship and stood there motionless, looking towards the land but seeing nothing. On all sides the darkness was lifting, and in the distance there gleamed already the whiteness that was Dover. His whole being was shaken with that experience which comes so rarely to cumbered and superficial men—the intimate wrestle of one personality with another. It seemed to him he was not worthy of it.