Could anything more be done, and fresh threads set in motion?
They bandied names a little, Julie quite as subtly and minutely informed as the man with regard to all the sources of patronage. New devices, fresh modes of approach revealed themselves to the woman’s quick brain. Yet she did not chatter about them; still less parade her own resources. Only, in talking with her, dead walls seemed to give way; vistas of hope and possibility opened in the very heart of discouragement. She found the right word, the right jest, the right spur to invention or effort; while all the time she was caressing and appeasing her companion’s self-love—placing it like a hot-house plant in an atmosphere of expansion and content—with that art of hers, which, for the ambitious and irritable man, more conscious of the kicks than of the kisses of fortune, made conversation with her an active and delightful pleasure.
“I don’t know how it is,” Warkworth presently declared; “but after I have been talking to you for ten minutes the whole world seems changed. The sky was ink, and you have turned it rosy. But suppose it is all mirage, and you the enchanter?”
He smiled at her—consciously, superabundantly. It was not easy to keep quite cool with Julie Le Breton; the self-satisfaction she could excite in the man she wished to please recoiled upon the woman offering the incense. The flattered one was apt to be foolishly responsive.
“That is my risk,” she said, with a little shrug. “If I make you confident, and nothing comes of it—”
“I hope I shall know how to behave myself,” cried Warkworth. “You see, you hardly understand—forgive me!—your own personal effect. When people are face to face with you, they want to please you, to say what will please you, and then they go away, and—”
“Resolve not to be made fools of?” she said, smiling. “But isn’t that the whole art—when you’re guessing what will happen—to be able to strike the balance of half a dozen different attractions?”
“Montresor as the ocean,” said Warkworth, musing, “with half a dozen different forces tugging at him? Well, dear lady, be the moon to these tides, while this humble mortal looks on—and hopes.”
He bent forward, and across the glowing fire their eyes met. She looked so cool, so handsome, so little yielding at that moment, that, in addition to gratitude and nattered vanity, Warkworth was suddenly conscious of a new stir in the blood. It begat, however, instant recoil. Wariness!—let that be the word, both for her sake and his own. What had he to reproach himself with so far? Nothing. He had never offered himself as the lover, as the possible husband. They were both esprits faits—they understood each other. As for little Aileen, well, whatever had happened, or might happen, that was not his secret to give away. And a woman in Julie Le Breton’s position, and with her intelligence, knows very well