“Humph! Tired, are you? You look it. Tommy is going to Margate to-morrow. You had better go too.”
“Is my mother going?”
“No. Nurse is taking him. It will do him good—and you. Is anything specific the matter?”
She looked at him and shook her head. “I am tired,” she repeated.
“Very well. I’ll give you some phosphites—and you had better go for a walk. You need air.”
The old man bustled away, and Brigit, after a few minutes’ reflection, went to her mother’s room.
“I am going to town, mother,” she began, without preamble, “and in a day or so I shall join Tommy at Margate. Dr. Long says I had better go, but—I have some things to see to first.”
Lady Kingsmead, who was blackening her eyebrows before her glass, turned, one eye made up, the other very undressed-looking in its natural condition.
“But—you’ll come back, Brigit? You aren’t angry any more?”
“I—I don’t know, mother. I—am so tired, I can’t think.”
Lady Kingsmead took up a letter that lay beside her and handed it to her daughter. “Read this—dear,” she said rather humbly. And Brigit read:
“Dear Tony,” it ran, in a curious irregular, downward-trending hand, “I’ve been awfully bad again, or I should have written before. I was at the Joyselles’ yesterday, and they told me that the danger is over. I am so glad, poor old girl. How are you? And how is Brigit? I hope she will believe you when you tell her about that day after I saw her in Tite Street. I told her that you did not believe me and went for me, but she wouldn’t listen to me, and I don’t blame her. I’m pretty bad. I shan’t last long, I think. Heart’s getting bad, too. May I come down and see you some time? Joyselle tells me the wedding is to be next month——”
Brigit crushed the letter violently in her hand and threw it down, her face distorted with anger.
“Poor old Gerald,” commented her mother absently. After a pause she turned. “Brigit—I give you my sacred word of honour that I did not believe him that day. I never doubted you for a second. But he was so queer—so ill—that I was alarmed, and was trying to comfort him when you came in.
“Do you believe me?” she added, after a long pause.
Brigit, who stood by the window, nodded without turning.
“Oh, yes, I believe you,” she said indifferently.
Then, before her mother could again speak, the girl left the room.
On her own table she found another letter, and to her surprise recognised Carron’s writing in the address. With a sudden foreboding of evil, she sat down and opened the letter.
It was very long, written in pencil, and began:
“Before God, I swear you wronged your mother in thinking she believed what I said about you that day in Pont Street. Before God, I give you my word. Brigit, I am going to die; I cannot live. I don’t like to live. The world is abominable. I hate everybody. I hate you. I hate God. The only way I can forget is to take morphine, and it is beginning to go back on me. Sometimes I don’t feel it at all. And it is only the last of many friends to desert me——”