Meanwhile the younger brother had come out of the library to bid her farewell. She felt that she was under critical observation, though both pairs of gray eyes refrained from any appearance of scrutiny. Her pride came to her aid, and she did not shrink from the short conversation which the two brothers evidently desired. When it was over, and the brothers returned to the hall after putting her into the Duchess’s carriage, the younger said to the elder:
“She can behave herself, Johnnie.”
They looked at each other, with their hands in their pockets. A little nod passed between them—an augur-like acceptance of this new and irregular member of the family.
“Yes, she has excellent manners,” said Uredale. “And really, after the tales Lady Henry has been spreading—that’s something!”
“Oh, I always thought Lady Henry an old cat,” said Bill, tranquilly. “That don’t matter.”
The Chantrey brothers had not been among Lady Henry’s habitues. In her eyes, they were the dull sons of an agreeable father. They were humorously aware of it, and bore her little malice.
“No,” said Uredale, raising his eyebrows; “but the ‘affaire Warkworth’? If there’s any truth in what one hears, that’s deuced unpleasant.”
Bill Chantrey whistled.
“It’s hard luck on that poor child Aileen that it should be her own cousin interfering with her preserves. By-the-way”—he stooped to look at the letters on the hall table—“do you see there’s a letter for father from Blanche? And in a letter I got from her by the same post, she says that she has told him the whole story. According to her, Aileen’s too ill to be thwarted, and she wants the governor to see the guardians. I say, Johnnie”—he looked at his brother—“we’ll not trouble the father with it now?”
“Certainly not,” said Uredale, with a sigh. “I saw one of the trustees—Jack Underwood—yesterday. He told me Blanche and the child were more infatuated than ever. Very likely what one hears is a pack of lies. If not, I hope this woman will have the good taste to drop it. Father has charged me to write to Blanche and tell her the whole story of poor Rose, and of this girl’s revealing herself. Blanche, it appears, is just as much in the dark as we were.”
“If this gossip has got round to her, her feelings will be mixed. Oh, well, I’ve great faith in the money,” said Bill Chantrey, carelessly, as they began to mount the stairs again. “It sounds disgusting; but if the child wants him I suppose she must have him. And, anyway, the man’s off to Africa for a twelvemonth at least. Miss Le Breton will have time to forget him. One can’t say that either he or she has behaved with delicacy—unless, indeed, she knew nothing of Aileen, which is quite probable.”
“Well, don’t ask me to tackle her,” said Uredale. “She has the ways of an empress.”
Bill Chantrey shrugged his shoulders. “And, by George! she looks as if she could fall in love,” he said, slowly. “Magnificent eyes, Johnnie. I propose to make a study of our new niece.”