She must be aware of what he was thinking. He glanced at her curiously; at the stately dress gleaming with jet, which no longer affected anything of the girl; at the fine but old-fashioned necklace of pearls and diamonds—no doubt her mother’s—which clasped her singularly slender throat. At any rate, she showed nothing. She began to talk again of the Delafield miniatures, using her fan the while with graceful deliberation; and presently they found the Duchess.
“Is she an adventuress, or is she not?” thought Bury, as his hansom carried him away from Rutland Gate. “If she marries Jacob, it will be a queer business.”
Meanwhile the Duchess had dropped Julie Le Breton at Lady Henry’s door. Julie groped her way up-stairs through the sleeping house. She found her room in darkness, and she turned on no light. There was still a last glimmer of fire, and she sank down by it, her long arms clasped round her knees, her head thrown back as though she listened still to words in her ears.
“Oh, such a child! Such a dear, simple-minded child! Report engaged her to at least ten different people at Simla. She had a crowd of cavaliers there—I was one of them. The whole place adored her. She is a very rare little creature, but well looked after, I can tell you—a long array of guardians in the background.”
How was it possible not to trust that aspect and that smile? Her mind travelled back to the autumn days when she had seen them first; reviewed the steps, so little noticed at first, so rapid lately and full of fate, by which she had come into this bondage wherein she stood. She saw the first appearance of the young soldier in Lady Henry’s drawing-room; her first conversation with him; and all the subtle development of that singular relation between them, into which so many elements had entered. The flattering sense of social power implied both in the homage of this young and successful man, and in the very services that she, on her side, was able to render him; impulsive gratitude for that homage, at a time when her very soul was smarting under Lady Henry’s contemptuous hostility; and then the sweet advances of a “friendship” that was to unite them in a bond, secret and unique, a bond that took no account of the commonplaces of love and marriage, the link of equal and kindred souls in a common struggle with hard and sordid circumstance.
“I have neither family nor powerful friends,” he had written to her a few weeks after their first meeting; “all that I have won, I have won for myself. Nobody ever made ‘interest’ for me but you. You, too, are alone in the world. You, too, have to struggle for yourself. Let us unite our forces—cheer each other, care for each other—and keep our friendship a sacred secret from the world that would misunderstand it. I will not fail you, I will give you all my confidence; and I will try and understand that