Julie hesitated. She had grown very white. Suddenly her face settled and steadied.
“No,” she said, calmly. “I meant to have done all your commissions. But I was persuaded by Evelyn to spend a couple of hours with her, and her maid undertook them.”
Lady Henry flushed deeply.
“So, mademoiselle, unknown to me, you spent two hours of my time amusing yourself at Crowborough House. May I ask what you were doing there?”
“I was trying to help the Duchess in her plans for the bazaar.”
“Indeed? Was any one else there? Answer me, mademoiselle.”
Julie hesitated again, and again spoke with a kind of passionate composure.
“Yes. Mr. Delafield was there.”
“So I supposed. Allow me to assure you, mademoiselle”—Lady Henry rose from her seat, leaning on her stick; surely no old face was ever more formidable, more withering—“that whatever ambitions you may cherish, Jacob Delafield is not altogether the simpleton you imagine. I know him better than you. He will take some time before he really makes up his mind to marry a woman of your disposition—and your history.”
Julie Le Breton also rose.
“I am afraid, Lady Henry, that here, too, you are in the dark,” she said, quietly, though her thin arm shook against her dress. “I shall not marry Mr. Delafield. But it is because—I have refused him twice.”
Lady Henry gasped. She fell back into her chair, staring at her companion.
“You have—refused him?”
“A month ago, and last year. It is horrid of me to say a word. But you forced me.”
Julie was now leaning, to support herself, on the back of an old French chair. Feeling and excitement had blanched her no less than Lady Henry, but her fine head and delicate form breathed a will so proud, a dignity so passionate, that Lady Henry shrank before her.
“Why did you refuse him?”
Julie shrugged her shoulders.
“That, I think, is my affair. But if—I had loved him—I should not have consulted your scruples, Lady Henry.”
“That’s frank,” said Lady Henry. “I like that better than anything you’ve said yet. You are aware that he may inherit the dukedom of Chudleigh?”
“I have several times heard you say so,” said the other, coldly.
Lady Henry looked at her long and keenly. Various things that Wilfrid Bury had said recurred to her. She thought of Captain Warkworth. She wondered.
Suddenly she held out her hand.
“I dare say you won’t take it, mademoiselle. I suppose I’ve been insulting you. But—you have been playing tricks with me. In a good many ways, we’re quits. Still, I confess, I admire you a good deal. Anyway, I offer you my hand. I apologize for my recent remarks. Shall we bury the hatchet, and try and go on as before?”
Julie Le Breton turned slowly and took the hand—without unction.