“Now you must—buck up—and not let them see to-night. Mother will be cross at first. And—I must write Ponty before we tell.”
Her practical tone struck chill on Joyselle’s glowing young ear, but he followed her obediently to the house. As they reached the door the opening bar of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March rang out, played with a mastery of the pianola that, in that house, only Kingsmead was capable of.
On entering, Brigit’s face was scarlet. She knew that her brother was welcoming the wrong bridegroom. And it suddenly occurred to her that it was awkward to be engaged to two men at once.
“I say——” began Tommy as he saw Joyselle, and she interrupted him hastily. “Play something of Sinding’s, dear,” she said, and the boy complied. But his eye was horribly knowing, and hard to bear.
Lady Brigit leaned back in her corner and surveyed the otherwise empty compartment with a sigh of relief. She knew that her face still bore signs of the anger roused by her mother in their recent interview, and she felt the necessity of looking as savage as she felt.
And she felt very savage indeed. If an American Indian—an idealised, poeticised American Indian—could be invested with the beauty that does not belong to the red races and yet which, if perfected on the lines of beauty suggested by some of the nobler specimens of the nobler tribes, she might look like Brigit Mead. The girl had a clean-cutness of feature, a thin compactness of build, a stag-like carriage of her small head that, together with her almost bronze skin and coal-black hair, gave her an air remarkably and arrestingly un-English. The picture in the Luxembourg gallery, a typically French, subtle, secretive face, gives the expression of her face and the strange gleam in the long eyes. But it, the face in the picture, is overcivilised, whereas Brigit looked untamed and resentful.
She wore, for the weather had changed with the unpleasant capriciousness of an elderly coquette, a warm, close-fitting black coat and skirt and a small black toque. Round her neck clung to its own tail, as if in a despairing attempt to find out what had happened to its own anatomy, a little sable boa. She had a dressing-case and an umbrella, both of them characteristically uncumbersome and light, and several newspapers and a book.
Her journey was not to be a long one. She was going to change trains in London and go half an hour into Surrey to spend a few days with a friend. Lady Kingsmead, when told of the speedy jilting of the desirable Pontefract, and the subsequent acceptance of young Joyselle, had been disagreeable.
“It is ridiculous, and everyone will say you are cradle-snatching,” she had said. “When you are forty he will be thirty-seven—almost a boy still.”
“Dearest mamma,” returned the girl with a very unfilial lift of her upper lip, “forty is—youth!”