She shook her head. “No, show it to me.”
Leaving the room they crossed to the oilclothed passage and went into the dining-room, a small apartment enlivened by an oleograph of Leo XIII., and some gay chromos.
The windows opened to the ground, and opening one the young people went out into the moonlight. Brigit was feeling very happy, and therefore very kind. When Theo put his arm round her and drew her to him she did not protest.
“Brigitte,” he whispered, “I do so love you.”
“Dear Theo——” Suddenly she remembered that other moonlight night, nearly a year before, when she had accepted him. She recalled the look of the beautiful old house, the sound of Tommy at the pianola, the splashing of the fountain, the sun-dial at which, in his boyish grief, he had knelt.
And she had accepted his love, not because she loved him but because she hated her home and because, besides being sufficiently rich to satisfy her needs, he was nice and straight and kind. She had taken everything he had, and what had she given him? Nothing.
In the moonlight she saw as if with new eyes that he had changed. The young contours of his cheek were less round, his eyes had a deeper expression. He had suffered, and he had not complained.
“Theo,” she said suddenly, smitten with pity, “I—have been horrid to you. I—I am so frightfully selfish. Will you forgive me?”
His eyes glistened as he looked at her.
“Forgive you? You angel!”
“No, no. I have been horrid. But—I will be nicer. And—you are so good to me.”
He was silent for a moment, then he said slowly:
“Brigitte—you are never horrid. But—if you do not—care for me at all—will you tell me now?”
She was abashed and then shivered. Here was the chance she had longed for. He would, she knew, give her up without a word if she asked him to; and she had also learned to know that whatever Joyselle might have done in like case a few months before, he would not refuse to see her now if she told him that she and Theo had agreed to separate.
Here was freedom to go her own way, unrebuked by her own conscience or the conscience of the man she loved.
Theo had turned away and stood with folded arms, awaiting her answer.
And she let her chance go by, for she could not bear to say the words that should hurt him, and in the quiet night under the shadow of the old house, it seemed to her that, after all, her happiness lay in this boy’s hands. Not the wild rapture she had once or twice felt with Joyselle, but the kind of happiness that builds homes, and—she wanted a home.
Inexplicably tangled with her feelings for Theo, too, was that anything binding her to him bound her to his father. They were more than father and son, these two, they belonged together.
“I—do care for you,” she said quietly. “I am not in love with you, but I will marry you.”