On a stand near the fire lay two or three yellow volumes—some recent French essays, a volume of memoirs, a tale of Bourget’s, and so forth. These were flanked by Sir Henry Maine’s Popular Government, and a recent brilliant study of English policy in Egypt—both of them with the name “Richard J. Montresor” on the title-page. The last number of Dr. Meredith’s paper, The New Rambler, was there also; and, with the paper-knife still in its leaves, the journal of the latest French traveller in Mokembe, a small “H.W.” inscribed in the top right-hand corner of its gray cover.
Julie finished her Stores order with a sigh of relief. Then she wrote half a dozen business notes, and prepared a few checks for Lady Henry’s signature. When this was done the two dachshunds, who had been lying on the rug spying out her every movement, began to jump upon her.
But Julie laughed in their faces. “It’s raining,” she said, pointing to the window—“raining! So there! Either you won’t go out at all, or you’ll go with John.”
John was the second footman, whom the dogs hated. They returned crestfallen to the rug and to a hungry waiting on Providence. Julie took up a letter on foreign paper which had reached her that morning, glanced at the door, and began to reread its closely written sheets. It was from an English diplomat on a visit to Egypt, a man on whom the eyes of Europe were at that moment fixed. That he should write to a woman at all, on the subjects of the letter, involved a compliment hors ligne; that he should write with this ease, this abandonment, was indeed remarkable. Julie flushed a little as she read. But when she came to the end she put it aside with a look of worry. “I wish he’d write to Lady Henry,” was her thought. “She hasn’t had a line from him for weeks. I shouldn’t wonder if she suspects already. When any one talks of Egypt, I daren’t open my lips.”
For fear of betraying the very minute and first-hand information that was possessed by Lady Henry’s companion? With a smile and a shrug she locked the letter away in one of the drawers of her writing-table, and took up an envelope which had lain beneath it. From this—again with a look round her—she half drew out a photograph. The grizzled head and spectacled eyes of Dr. Meredith emerged. Julie’s expression softened; her eyebrows went up a little; then she slightly shook her head, like one who protests that if something has gone wrong, it isn’t—isn’t—their fault. Unwillingly she looked at the last words of the letter:
“So, remember, I can give you work if you want it, and paying work. I would rather give you my life and my all. But these, it seems, are commodities for which you have no use. So be it. But if you refuse to let me serve you, when the time comes, in such ways as I have suggested in this letter, then, indeed, you would be unkind—I would almost dare to say ungrateful! Yours always