“How old is she?” he asked himself. “About nine-and-twenty?... Jacob’s age—or a trifle older.”
After a time he lost sight of her, and in the amusement of his own evening forgot her. But as the rooms were beginning to thin he walked through them, looking for a famous collection of miniatures that belonged to Lady Hubert. English family history was one of his hobbies, and he was far better acquainted with the Delafield statesmen, and the Delafield beauties of the past, than were any of their modern descendants. Lady Hubert’s Cosways and Plimers had made a lively impression upon him in days gone by, and he meant to renew acquaintance with them.
But they had been moved from the room in which he remembered them, and he was led on through a series of drawing-rooms, now nearly empty, till on the threshold of the last he paused suddenly.
A lady and gentleman rose from a sofa on which they had been sitting. Captain Warkworth stood still. Mademoiselle Le Breton advanced to the new-comer.
“Is it very late?” she said, gathering up her fan and gloves. “We have been looking at Lady Hubert’s miniatures. That lady with the muff”—she pointed to the case which occupied a conspicuous position in the room—“is really wonderful. Can you tell me, Sir Wilfrid, where the Duchess is?”
“No, but I can help you find her,” said that gentleman, forgetting the miniatures and endeavoring to look at neither of his companions.
“And I must rush,” said Captain Warkworth, looking at his watch. “I told a man to come to my rooms at twelve. Heavens!”
He shook hands with Miss Le Breton and hurried away.
Sir Wilfrid and Julie moved on together. That he had disturbed a most intimate and critical conversation was somehow borne in upon Sir Wilfrid. But kind and even romantic as was the old man’s inmost nature, his feelings were not friendly.
“How does the biography get on?” he asked his companion, with a smile.
A bright flush appeared in Mademoiselle Le Breton’s cheek.
“I think Lady Henry has dropped it.”
“Ah, well, I don’t imagine she will regret it;” he said, dryly.
She made no reply. He mentally accused himself for a brute, and then shook off the charge. Surely a few pin-pricks were her desert! That she should defend her own secrets was, as Delafield had said, legitimate enough. But when a man offers you his services, you should not befool him beyond a certain point.