“He is quite mad about his music,” the young man mourned. “I never could get him to take the least interest in anything else, and as he always worked as little as possible for me, I could not understand his looking so tired, until, finding that he had heard the stable clock strike four, and knowing that one cannot hear the clock from his room, I pinned him down and he told me.”
Brigit’s eyes filled with tears.
The chapel, disused for many years, had evolved into a sort of lumber-room, and she could see, in her imagination, the pathetic picture of her little brother fiddling away among the piled-up boxes and old furniture, trying to hasten the moment when his beloved master would find him worthy of personal instruction.
It was all clear to his sister. Left alone, the child’s whole strength—far more strength than he should have been allowed to expend—had gone to his passion for his violin, and now, unless a change for the better should come very soon, he must die, burnt with fever. And the fault would be hers. For the first time she felt the meaning of the word “duty.” Tommy had been her duty, and she had neglected him.
At length one day she made a further discovery.
She was sitting by the bed, and for over an hour the child had lain still, his eyes half shut. It was five o’clock and a dark afternoon, so that the room was full of shadows.
Suddenly Tommy turned and looked at her.
“Brigit,” he asked, recognising her for the first time, “are you in love with Joyselle?”
For a full minute she could not answer, and then said very gently, “Darling Tommy—you know me?”
“Yes, yes, of course I know you. But—are you? Carron and mother think so.”
“Do they, Tommy? Well—I love him dearly—and so do you, don’t you?”
“I don’t mean that,” he returned, with a gesture of impatience; “I mean the way people are who are going to marry each other.”
His eyes, so huge in his wasted face, looked eagerly at her.
“Carron and mother think you do,” he repeated, “and it makes me sorry.”
She did not answer for a long time, and then she said humbly, not knowing how far he understood that whereof he spoke, and therefore obliged to feel her way, “Tommy dear—you forget petite mere.”
“No, I don’t—but she is old.”
“She is younger than he.”
But ill though he was, Tommy’s sense of humour was still alive. “That doesn’t matter! Oh, Bick, darling, I am so tired! And I do hope you aren’t—I mean, that.”
So, of course, she lied, and the little boy went to sleep, his hand in hers.
When, an hour later, she went to her room, she found a wire from Theo, announcing their arrival in London, and in spite of herself her spirits rose. Things must be better now that he was near her.
But things were not better, and the doctor, the next morning, looked very grave. “I think it bad to allow him to have his violin,” he said; “it excites him and increases the fever. And—I think I should like a consultation.”