“A little later on in the year the apples make a splendid colour-effect,” commented Theo, breaking off to add in surprise, “Why, here is father!”
It was indeed Joyselle hurrying towards them, a soft hat jammed down over his eyes, so that he did not see them till his son accosted him.
“Is anything wrong?” asked the young man rising.
Joyselle shook his head with a frown. “Wrong? What should be wrong?” he returned harshly.
“But you look——”
“Hungry, probably. Bonjour, Brigitte. Yes, I am hungry. I have been walking for hours, and I am perished with hunger.”
“Will you join us? Madame Malaumain is getting us some coffee——”
Theo obviously expected a refusal to this invitation, but Joyselle accepted it without hesitation, and drawing up a chair, sat down.
“Where have you two been?” he asked.
While Theo gave him a description of their walk, Brigit watched the violinist.
He had pushed back his hat and from under it his hair hung in curly disorder over his brow. He was very pale and his eyes were circled by violet rings. He looked very ill indeed, but Brigit knew that it was no physical pain that was tormenting him.
“Very pleasant,” he murmured to his son with a visible effort, “delightful.” Madame Malaumain arriving with a tablecloth announced the cheerful fact that the water was boiling, recognised him with delight, and told him in all innocence that he as well as she had grown no younger since their last meeting.
“M. Malaumain will be delighted to see you,” she added; “it is not often that he meets one as cultivated as himself.”
Joyselle bowed gravely. “Can you give me some coffee, too, Madame Malaumain?” he asked. “I am very—hungry.”
But when the coffee and eggs arrived, he did not eat; instead, he sat moodily playing with his spoon and staring at the tablecloth.
Brigit’s appetite had fled, and she was most uneasy as she watched him, for she did not dare risk an explosion by putting the smallest question to him.
Something was very wrong, and she was alarmed. Suddenly, as a clock struck half-past six, he rose. “Au revoir, my children,” he said, “I must get back home. Theo will call for you at ten minutes to ten, Brigitte, my—my daughter!”
And he was gone, leaving Theo staring after him.
“What can be the matter?” the young man mused. “He looks very bad, doesn’t he? It is too early for letters to have come. He can’t——” He paused and a quick smile stirred his moustache and showed his white teeth.
“Can’t what?” queried Brigit, vaguely annoyed by his smile.
“He can’t have fallen in love——”
“Of course he can’t!”
“No. But only because he hasn’t seen anyone since the night before last. He is amazing about his love-affairs, dear, in and out before you can get your breath, and always madly sincere!”