“This is getting worse and worse,” Forrest muttered. “He is suspicious. I am sure that he is. They say that young Engleton was his favourite brother, and that he is determined—”
“Hush!” the Princess said. “There are too many people about to talk of these things. I wonder why the Duke took Jeanne off.”
“An excuse for getting away from us,” Forrest said. “Did you see the way he looked at me? Ena, I cannot hang on like this any longer. I must have a few thousand pounds and get away.”
The Princess nodded.
“We will go and talk to De Brensault,” she said. “I should think he would be just in the frame of mind to consent to anything.”
The Duke, who was well acquainted with the house in which they were, led Jeanne into a small retiring room and found her an easy chair.
“My dear young lady,” he said, “I hope you will not be disappointed, but I have not danced for ten years. I brought you here because I wanted to say something to you.”
Jeanne looked up at him a little surprised.
“Something to me?” she repeated.
“Andrew de la Borne is one of my oldest and best friends,” he said, “and what I am going to say to you is a little for his sake, although I am sure that if I knew you better I should say it also for your own. You must not be annoyed or offended, because I am old enough to be your father, and what I say I say altogether for your own good. They tell me that you are a young lady with a great fortune, and you know that nowadays half the evil that is done in the world is done for the sake of money. Frankly, without wishing to say a word against your stepmother, I consider that for a young girl you are placed in a very difficult and dangerous position. The man Forrest—mind you must not be offended if he should be a friend of yours—but I am bound to tell you that I believe him to be an unscrupulous adventurer, and I am afraid that your stepmother is very much under his influence. You have no other relatives or friends in this country, and I hear that a man named De Brensault is a suitor for your hand.”
“I shall never marry him,” Jeanne said firmly. “I think that he is detestable.”
“I am glad to hear you say so,” the Duke continued, “because he is not a man whom I would allow any young lady for whom I had any shade of respect or affection, to become acquainted with. Now the fact that your stepmother deliberately encourages him makes me fear that you may find yourself at any moment in a very difficult position. I do not wish to say anything against your friends or your stepmother. I hope you will believe that. But nowadays people who are poor themselves, but who know the value and the use of money, are tempted to do things for the sake of it which are utterly unworthy and wrong. I want you to understand that if any time you should need a friend it will give me very great happiness indeed to be of any service to you I can. I am a bachelor, it is true, but I am old enough to be your father, and I can bring you into touch at once with friends more suitable for you and your station. Will you come to me, or send for me, if you find yourself in any sort of trouble?”