“Could you not have asked me to come with you?”
“No; I wanted to be alone. The streets were quite safe, and—I wanted to speak with Sir Percy Blakeney.”
“With Blakeney?” he exclaimed in boundless astonishment. “Why, what in the world did you want to say him?”
The girl, so unaccustomed to lying, had blurted out the truth, almost against her will.
“I thought he could help me, as I was much perturbed and restless.”
“You went to him sooner than to me?” said Deroulede in a tone of gentle reproach, and still puzzled at this extraordinary action on the part of the girl, usually so shy and reserved.
“My anxiety was about you, and you would have mocked me for it.”
“Indeed, I should never mock you, Anne Mie. But why should you be anxious about me?”
“Because I see you wandering blindly on the brink of a great danger, and because I see you confiding in those, whom you had best mistrust.”
He frowned a little, and bit his lip to check the rough word that was on the tip of his tongue.
“Is Sir Percy Blakeney one of those whom I had best mistrust?” he said lightly.
“No,” she answered curtly.
“Then, dear, there is no cause for unrest. He is the only one of my friends whom you have not known intimately. All those who are round me now, you know that you can trust and that you can love,” he added earnestly and significantly.
He took her hand; it was trembling with obvious suppressed agitation. She knew that he had guessed what was passing in her mind, and now was deeply ashamed of what she had done. She had been tortured with jealousy for the past three weeks, but at least she had suffered quite alone: on one had been allowed to touch that wound, which more often than not, excites derision rather than pity. Now, by her own actions, two men knew her secret. Both were kind and sympathetic; but Deroulede resented her imputations, and Blakeney had been unable to help her.
A wave of morbid introspection swept over her soul. She realised in a moment how petty and base had been her thoughts and how purposeless her actions. She would have given her life at this moment to eradicate from Deroulede’s mind the knowledge of her own jealousy; she hoped that at least he had not guessed her love.
She tried to read his thoughts, but in the dark passage, only dimly lighted by the candles in Deroulede’s room beyond, she could not see the expression of his face, but the hand which held hers was warm and tender. She felt herself pitied, and blushed at the thought. With a hasty good-night she fled down the passage, and locked herself in her room, alone with her own thoughts at last.
But what of Juliette?
What of this wild, passionate, romantic creature tortured by a Titanic conflict? She, but a girl, scarcely yet a woman, torn by the greatest antagonistic powers that ever fought for a human soul. On the one side duty, tradidion, her dead brother, her father—above all, her religion and the oath she had sworn before God; on the other justice and honour, a case of right and wrong, honesty and pity.