“I was, Victor. Surely you understand. He is so good, Theo—so very good. And I have promised to marry him, and he has been patient, and I have treated him horribly. The longer I know him the better—I like him. Surely you can’t mind that?”
Joyselle did not raise his hand. He was, she saw with a curious sensation of detachment, undergoing a severe struggle.
“Mind? I—the situation is—horrible,” he began, after a pause. “God knows I love my son, and I should hate you if you hurt him——”
“I know that,” she interrupted quickly, and he looked up.
“Perhaps that is why——”
“Why? No. Ah, Victor, you know that I love you. You must know that. And yet I have promised to marry him. What are we to do?”
Through the open windows came the sounds of laughter and loud talk, and someone was playing snatches of a waltz on a violin.
Brigit, feeling that things outside her own control had hastened an inevitable crisis, stood waiting with the immobility of one consciously in the hands of Fate.
At last Joyselle came to her and took her in his arms. “Tell me that you love me,” he whispered, “and then—I can bear anything.”
His unexpected resignation came, as so often is the case, rather as a shock to her. It was true that she had of late, during the reign of peace that had followed the last quarrel, been unusually happy, and that the thought of marrying Theo had become more bearable than she would have believed possible; the future had taken on an aspect of happy family life with Joyselle and Felicite, in which Theo’s part had been pleasantly subordinate; more or less, although her mind had not formulated it, that of a brother.
Yet now Joyselle’s resigned attitude did not please her.
“Then—you don’t mind my marrying—another man?” she retorted quickly, instinctively using words that would hurt him.
He wiped his forehead, which was covered with small drops of perspiration.
“Don’t mind! But, ma cherie, you must not torture me. The situation as it now is, is absolutely impossible. You don’t understand. I love my son, God knows! Yet I am not made of stone, and before the love paternal He created the love of man for woman. I believe, as He hears me, that you were meant for me; that you are my woman, and I your man; that you were meant for me and I for you. But—I was born too soon or you too late. I cannot, must not, have you, without outraging certain laws which must be respected. The only thing, then, is to bow to these laws. I belong to a generation older than yours, and before I knew that you existed my boy had chosen—and won—you. So you must be his. We have dreamed, my Brigit, through the last few months, and now we must awaken. You must marry Theo, and he will take you away for a few months, and when you come back as his—wife, I shall—I will have learned to love you in the only way I can love you without shame—as my daughter.”