The Princess and Jeanne drove homewards in a silence which remained unbroken until the last few minutes. The events of the evening had been somewhat perplexing to the former. She scarcely understood even now why a great personage like the Duke of Westerham had shown such interest in her charge.
“Tell me, Jeanne,” she asked at last, “why is the Duke of Westerham so friendly with your fisherman?”
Jeanne raised her eyebrows slightly.
“‘My fisherman,’ as you call him,” she answered, “is, after all, Andrew de la Borne! They were at school together.”
“That is all very well,” the Princess answered, “but I cannot see what possible sympathy there can be between them now. Their stations in life are altogether different. You talked with the Duke for some time, Jeanne?”
“He was very kind to me,” Jeanne answered.
“Did he give you any idea,” the Princess asked, “as to why he was staying down at Salthouse with Mr. Andrew?”
“None at all,” Jeanne answered.
“You know very well,” the Princess continued, “of what I am thinking. Did he speak to you at all of Major Forrest?”
“Not a word,” Jeanne answered.
“Of his brother, then?”
“He did not mention his name,” Jeanne declared.
“He asked you no questions at all about anything which may have happened at the Red Hall?”
Jeanne shook her head.
“You do not think, then,” the Princess persisted, “that it was for the sake of gaining information about his brother that he talked with you so much?”
“Why should I think so?” Jeanne asked. “He scarcely mentioned any of your names even. He talked to me simply out of kindness, and I think because he knew that Mr. Andrew and I were friends.”
The Princess smiled.
“You seem,” she remarked, “to have made quite a conquest. I congratulate you. The Duke has not the reputation of being an easy man to get on with.”
The carriage pulled up before their house in Berkeley Square, and the Princess did not pursue the subject, but as Jeanne left her for the night, her stepmother called her back.
“To-morrow morning,” she said, “I should be glad if you would come to my room at twelve o’clock, I have something to say to you.”
Jeanne slept well that night. For the first time she felt that she had lost the feeling of friendlessness which for the last few weeks had constantly oppressed her. Andrew de la Borne was back in London, and the Duke, who seemed to have some sort of understanding as to the troubles which were likely to beset her, had gone out of his way to offer her his help. She felt now that she would not have to fight her stepmother’s influence unaided. Yet when she sought her room at twelve o’clock the next morning she had very little idea of the sort of fight which she might indeed have to make.