Julie looked up gravely, her eyebrows lifting. The Duke found himself reddening as he went on.
“I have a little house near here—a little furnished house—Evelyn will explain to you. It happens to be vacant. If you will accept a loan of it, say for six months”—the Duchess frowned—“you will give me pleasure. I will explain my action to Lady Henry, and endeavor to soften her feelings.”
He paused. Miss Le Breton’s face was grateful, touched with emotion, but more than hesitating.
“You are very good. But I have no claim upon you at all. And I can support myself.”
A touch of haughtiness slipped into her manner as she gently rose to her feet. “Thank God, I did not offer her money!” thought the Duke, strangely perturbed.
“Julie, dear Julie,” implored the Duchess. “It’s such a tiny little place, and it is quite musty for want of living in. Nobody has set foot in it but the caretaker for two years, and it would be really a kindness to us to go and live there—wouldn’t it, Freddie? And there’s all the furniture just as it was, down to the bellows and the snuffers. If you’d only use it and take care of it; Freddie hasn’t liked to sell it, because it’s all old family stuff, and he was very fond of Cousin Mary Leicester. Oh, do say yes, Julie! They shall light the fires, and I’ll send in a few sheets and things, and you’ll feel as though you’d been there for years. Do, Julie!”
Julie shook her head.
“I came here,” she said, in a voice that was still unsteady, “to ask for advice, not favors. But it’s very good of you.”
And with trembling fingers she began to refasten her veil.
“Julie!—where are you going?” cried the Duchess “You’re staying here.”
“Staying here?” said Julie, turning round upon her. “Do you think I should be a burden upon you, or any one?”
“But, Julie, you told Jacob you would come.”
“I have come. I wanted your sympathy, and your counsel. I wished also to confess myself to the Duke, and to point out to him how matters could be made easier for Lady Henry.”
The penitent, yet dignified, sadness of her manner and voice completed the discomfiture—the temporary discomfiture—of the Duke.
“Miss Le Breton,” he said, abruptly, coming to stand beside her, “I remember your mother.”
Julie’s eyes filled. Her hand still held her veil, but it paused in its task.
“I was a small school-boy when she stayed with us,” resumed the Duke. “She was a beautiful girl. She let me go out hunting with her. She was very kind to me, and I thought her a kind of goddess. When I first heard her story, years afterwards, it shocked me awfully. For her sake, accept my offer. I don’t think lightly of such actions as your mother’s—not at all. But I can’t bear to think of her daughter alone and friendless in London.”
Yet even as he spoke he seemed to be listening to another person. He did not himself understand the feelings which animated him, nor the strength with which his recollections of Lady Rose had suddenly invaded him.