All she could realise was her hideous misery and sense of desolation. She was utterly alone, she was hungry, she was cold, she was hopeless.
Presently someone touched her shoulder very gently. It was Felicite.
“What is it, my dear?” the elder woman asked. “What has happened?”
And Brigit, too unstrung to tell the usual conventional lies, simply sobbed on, her whole body shaking with agony.
Madame Joyselle sat patiently by her, stroking her shoulders with a kind hand, murmuring little broken phrases in French, patting her hair.
“Oui, oui, ma mie—Pauvre petite, ca te soulagera—Pleures, ma cocotte, pleures!”
And at last the girl was quiet, and reached for her handkerchief.
“I—I am sorry to have been so idiotic, I don’t know why I am such a fool——”
Felicite smoothed back her wet hair and smiled at her.
“Poor child,” she answered quietly. “I am so sorry. I have seen it for some time——”
Brigit stared at her.
“That you have fallen in love with Victor. It is really too bad of him, the old rascal.”
Her gentle face was so undisturbed, so calmly acceptant of the heinous fact that Brigit could do nothing but stare. “I am glad poor Theo does not suspect,” went on Felicite, untying the strings of her old-fashioned bonnet, “we must not let him know, n’est ce pas?”
“I—I don’t see——” stammered the girl, blankly.
“No, he must not know. Nor Victor either, if we can help it. Though he is very vain, and vain men always see. On the whole,” she added with a kind of gentle amusement, “you have all been absurdly blind but me. And I did not like to warn you.”
“This is—very extraordinary,” began Brigit, rising. “I don’t quite see——”
But Felicite drew her down to her chair again. “That is just it, ma pauvre petite. I did see. I saw his little fancy for you, too. It began the evening of the dragon-skin frock, and it lasted, oh—about a month. And you never noticed it, poor child. And now you are miserable about him. I am so sorry.”
There was such convincing sincerity in her every tone that Brigit could not even pretend to be angry.
“You must think me very silly,” she murmured.
But the little woman shook her head, “Non, non, it is not silly to love. It is unwise, or wrong, or heavenly, or mad, but silly, non. And he is very attractive, mon homme.” This tribute she added reluctantly, as if from a sense of fairness. “And many have loved him.”
Suddenly Brigit’s anger flamed up.
“And—I am so insignificant that you are not afraid of me,” she cried. “What if he had not got over it? What if he loved me as much—more than I love him?”
Felicite smiled serenely and sweetly.
“No, I know him. I saw it come—and go. But do not be angry and proud, my dear. I wish only to help you.”