“Mon pere—la voici,” announced Joyselle, with a kind of simple pomposity eminently fitted to the occasion.
Old Joyselle finished his act of adding a domino to the long line before him and then looked up. He was a rather small, bent old man, with quantities of rough, curly grey hair and a petulant expression.
“Ugh!” he said rudely.
“Shake hands with him, Brigit,” suggested Victor pulling his moustache to suppress a smile. Brigit held out her hand.
“I am very glad to meet you,” she said in French.
The old man stared. Then he smiled, showing one snow-white tooth. “Tu parles,” he murmured. Then he went back to his game.
The old woman, more polite, had risen, and was waiting her turn. She was very tall and had a heavy moustache.
“They told me you were beautiful,” she began courteously, whereupon the old man interrupted, repeating her words but, by a change in emphasis, casting derisive doubts on whoever “they” might be. “They told me you were beautiful.”
Brigit burst out laughing, and leaning forward smiled at the speaker.
“Well—am I not beautiful?” she asked with an infectious chuckle of sincere amusement.
But old Joyselle was a man of character, apparently, and not to be beguiled.
“Belle? Non, non. Pas ca. Mais—Victor, petit, surely you can’t be going to marry a real lady?”
Joyselle flushed, and she knew his flush had to do only with his father’s lapse of memory, not his reference to her ladyhood.
“Not I, mon pere. I married Felicite, you know. It is our boy who is going to marry this—ugly lady.”
His father shook his head. “Not ugly, mon fils.” he declared solemnly, “not ugly. Only plain.”
This time Brigit did not laugh. Something in the old man’s half-vacant face touched her. He was Victor’s father; he had held, as a little baby, the man she loved; he had worked for him and helped to make him what he was. Laying her hand on his, she smiled down at him.
“You are quite right,” she said gently, “only plain. Will you show me how to play dominoes?”
“He can’t,” retorted Madame Joyselle, eagerly, “he has forgotten, and, besides, he cheats.”
Joyselle walked to the window, his shoulders shaking, and before the old man could retort, Theo came into the room carrying a lacquered tin tray with a jug of cider and some glasses on it.
“Ah, you have come? Grand-pere, grand-mere, what do you think of my fiancee?”
But Brigit drew him away and sat down on the ingeniously uncomfortable sofa with him.
“Fighting again, are they? Poor old dears, it really is quite dreadful. You see, grandfather used to be a fearful tyrant, though he is so little, and grandmother was deathly afraid of him until his health began to fail. So now she is getting even with him. They adore each other, however. Isn’t the house quaint? Have you seen the garden?”