“All the same, Evelyn,” said Delafield, uncomfortable apparently for the second time, “I really think it would be best to let Lady Henry know.”
“Well, then, we may as well give it up,” said the Duchess, pettishly, turning aside.
Delafield, who was still pacing the carpet, suddenly raised his hand in a gesture of warning. Mademoiselle Le Breton was crossing the outer drawing-room.
“Julie, come here!” cried the Duchess, springing up and running towards her. “Jacob is making himself so disagreeable. He thinks we ought to tell Lady Henry about the 16th.”
The speaker put her arm through Julie Le Breton’s, looking up at her with a frowning brow. The contrast between her restless prettiness, the profusion of her dress and hair, and Julie’s dark, lissome strength, gowned and gloved in neat, close black, was marked enough.
As the Duchess spoke, Julie looked smiling at Jacob Delafield.
“I am in your hands,” she said, gently. “Of course I don’t want to keep anything from Lady Henry. Please decide for me.”
Sir Wilfrid’s mouth showed a satirical line. He turned aside and began to play with a copy of the Spectator.
“Julie,” said the Duchess, hesitating, “I hope you won’t mind, but we have been discussing things a little with Sir Wilfrid. I felt sure Aunt Flora had been talking to him.”
“Of course,” said Julie, “I knew she would.” She looked towards Sir Wilfrid, slightly drawing herself up. Her manner was quiet, but all her movements were somehow charged with a peculiar and interesting significance. The force of the character made itself felt through all disguises.
In spite of himself, Sir Wilfrid began to murmur apologetic things.
“It was natural, mademoiselle, that Lady Henry should confide in me. She has perhaps told you that for many years I have been one of the trustees of her property. That has led to her consulting me on a good many matters. And evidently, from what she says and what the Duchess says, nothing could be of more importance to her happiness, now, in her helpless state, than her relations to you.”
He spoke with a serious kindness in which the tinge of mocking habitual to his sleek and well-groomed visage was wholly lost. Julie Le Breton met him with dignity.
“Yes, they are important. But, I fear they cannot go on as they are.”
There was a pause. Then Sir Wilfrid approached her:
“I hear you are returning to Bruton Street immediately. Might I be your escort?”
The Duchess, a little sobered by the turn events had taken and the darkened prospects of her bazaar, protested in vain against this sudden departure. Julie resumed her furs, which, as Sir Wilfrid, who was curious in such things; happened to notice, were of great beauty, and made her farewells. Did her hand linger in Jacob Delafield’s? Did the look with which that young man received it express more than the steadfast support which justice offers to the oppressed? Sir Wilfrid could not be sure.