“No, I believe in self-education. The intelligent child gleans more from the company and conversation of his elders——” Gravely he paused and gazed round the table at the meaningless faces of most of those present.
The Cassowary burst into a scream of laughter. “Oh, Tommy, you are such a quaint little being,” she cried; “isn’t he, Gerald?”
“Beastly child. Kingsmead always was an ass, but no one would have believed that even he could be such an imbecile as to leave that boy entirely in his wife’s hands.”
“So ducky, I always think him, though not pretty,” returned the Cassowary.
As they left the dining-room Kingsmead whispered to his sister, “I say, Bicky, look out for Ponty. He’s a bit boiled.”
“If I do, they will say that I am in love with some man who either won’t have me, or is already married, or that I am forced to, by my debts. If I don’t—then this will go on indefinitely, and some fine day I shall jump into the carp-pond and drown in four feet of nasty, slimy water.”
Brigit Mead stood behind the heavy curtains by an open window and whispered the above reflections to herself. It was a trick she had in moments of intense concentration, and the sharp, hissing sound of the last words was so distinct that she involuntarily turned to see that she had not been overheard.
No, it was all right, everyone was busy with the preparations for the evening’s work, except Joyselle, who sat at the piano and was playing, very softly, a little thing of Grieg’s.
The great hall looked almost empty in spite of its nine occupants, and the electric lamps threw little pools of light on the polished floor.
It might have been a cheerless place enough, for one unintelligent Georgian Kingsmead had added to its austerity of church-like painted windows a very awful row of glossy marble pillars, that stood as if aware of their own ugliness, holding up a quite unnecessary and appallingly hideous gallery.
Luckily, however, the late Lord Kingsmead, while not possessing enough initiative to do away with the horrors perpetuated by his ancestors, was a man of some taste, and had, by the means of gorgeous Eastern carpets, skilful overhead lighting, and some fine hangings, transformed the place into a very comfortable and livable one.
A huge fire burned under the splendid carved chimney-piece, and Brigit, turning from the cool moonlight to the interior, watched it with a certain sense of artistic pleasure. It was a dear old house, Kingsmead, and with money—oh, yes, oh, yes, money! When Tommy was grown, what kind of a man would he be? She shuddered.
And there, staring at her across a table on which he was leaning to perfect his not quite faultless balance, stood Pontefract, money, so far as she was concerned, personified.
He owned mines in Cornwall, a highly successful motor-factory, a big London newspaper, a house in Grosvenor Square, and Pomfret Abbey.