So she had escaped from the Rue Victor Hugo under pretext of a headache, and, bidding Felicite and Theo good-night, hastened back here, not allowing the young man to accompany her, as he desired.
“I am very seedy,” she told him, “and my head aches; I shall be better alone.”
So Theo, with the biddableness that was an integral and to her rather annoying quality of his character, had said no more, and returned to the other guests. The gaily attired chambermaid, bearing a small jug destined to strike dismay to some British admirers of the Conqueror, met the girl on the stairs.
“Bon soir, mademoiselle,” she said; “there’s a telegram for you in your salon.”
Brigit stood still. A telegram! Bad news probably. And such was her mental turmoil that at the thought she shrugged her shoulders. Almost anything that would change the nature of her trouble would be welcome.
But the contents of the telegram were bad.
“Tommy very ill. Diphtheria. Wants
Tommy ill! Poor little boy, with all his joy of life and enthusiasms, struck down by diphtheria! Why could it not be she instead?
But it was not the girl’s nature to waste time in useless reflections when any possible course of action lay before her.
Ringing, she sent for M. Berton, the proprietor, and finding that a train left in half an hour, threw her belongings into her box and a few minutes later was in a ramshackle cab clattering stationwards. She left a note for Theo, but she was sincerely glad that time was too short for her to make any attempt to see either him or Joyselle. They had faded into the background of her mind, and in the foreground stood, piteous and appealing, poor little Tommy.
It was a gruesome journey, never to be forgotten, and made more bearable by several little acts of kindness on the part of her fellow-travellers, as such journeys are apt to be.
Brigit never again saw the fat Jewish commercial traveller who rushed from the train at some station, and nearly missed the train in his efforts, successful at last, to get her some tea; but she never forgot him. Neither did she ever forget a woman in shabby mourning who insisted on giving her a packet of somebody’s incomparable milk chocolate.
And for hours and hours and hours the trains (for she had to change twice) rushed on through the slow-dying autumn evening and night, and part of the next day. Then at last London—a rush in a hansom to Victoria from Charing Cross, and the familiar little journey homewards. It was about three o’clock when she reached Kingsmead, and raining hard.
“’Is lordship is—still alive, my lady,” Jarvis told her, choking a little, “but—pretty bad, my lady.” Tommy had always laughed at Jarvis’ manner, but Brigit liked it now.
The drive seemed endless, but at length there was the lodge, and the carp-pond, and the tennis-court, and—the beautiful old house, all blurred in the driving rain.