And, slipping his arm inside the young man’s, the speaker walked back with him, along a line of carriages, towards a house which showed a group of footmen at its open door. Jacob Delafield smiled.
“The business of a land agent seems to be to spend some one else’s—as far as I’ve yet gone.”
“Land agent! I thought you were at the bar?”
“I was, but the briefs didn’t come in. My cousin offered me the care of his Essex estates. I like the country—always have. So I thought I’d better accept.”
“What—the Duke? Lucky fellow! A regular income, and no anxieties. I expect you’re pretty well paid?”
“Oh, I’m not badly paid,” replied the young man, tranquilly. “Of course you’re going to Lady Henry’s?”
“Of course. Here we are.”
The older man paused outside the line of servants waiting at the door, and spoke in a lower tone. “How is she? Failing at all?”
Jacob Delafield hesitated. “She’s grown very blind—and perhaps rather more infirm, generally. But she is at home, as usual—every evening for a few people, and for a good many on Wednesdays.”
“Is she still alone—or is there any relation who looks after her?”
“Relation? No. She detests them all.”
Delafield raised his shoulders, without an answering smile. “Yes, she is good enough to except me. You’re one of her trustees, aren’t you?”
“At present, the only one. But while I have been in Persia the lawyers have done all that was necessary. Lady Henry herself never writes a letter she can help. I really have heard next to nothing about her for more than a year. This morning I arrived from Paris—sent round to ask if she would be at home—and here I am.”
“Ah!” said Delafield, looking down. “Well, there is a lady who has been with her, now, for more than two years—”
“Ah, yes, yes, I remember. Old Lady Seathwaite told me—last year. Mademoiselle Le Breton—isn’t that her name? What—she reads to her, and writes letters for her—that kind of thing?”
“Yes—that kind of thing,” said the other, after a moment’s hesitation. “Wasn’t that a spot of rain? Shall I charge these gentry?”
And he led the way through the line of footmen, which, however, was not of the usual Mayfair density. For the party within was not a “crush.” The hostess who had collected it was of opinion that the chief object of your house is not to entice the mob, but to keep it out. The two men mounted the stairs together.
“What a charming house!” said the elder, looking round him. “I remember when your uncle rebuilt it. And before that, I remember his mother, the old Duchess here, with her swarm of parsons. Upon my word, London tastes good—after Teheran!”
And the speaker threw back his fair, grizzled head, regarding the lights, the house, the guests, with the air of a sensitive dog on a familiar scent.