“Father was tired,” Theo added, as the hansom stopped.
Brigit dared not speak. Could it be that Joyselle had told her, after they had gone to their room? He would have had to tell her either then or the next day—to-day. He had not feared to tell her, for his delirium was such that he feared nothing, and besides, she was always very gentle.
“She will understand,” he had told Brigit, “that I cannot help it.”
Had he told her? Had the last beats of that gentle heart been unhappy ones, or had the Madonna, to whom she prayed with such simple confidence, spared her that supreme shock, and allowed her to die happy, with her man beside her?
“Father has not spoken since—since the first,” Theo whispered as they crept up the stairs. “I—he rather frightens me.”
The door of Felicite’s room was closed, and for several seconds Brigit dared not open it. Then, very softly, she turned the handle, and motioning Theo not to follow her, went in.
On the bed, the counterpane drawn smoothly over it, the little figure, with the rosary still between its fingers; and kneeling by the pillow, his silvery hair flowing forward, Joyselle.
He started on hearing the door open, and after a pause, rose.
“She is dead,” he said slowly. “My wife is dead.”
Brigit caught at a chair as she saw his face, for it was the face of an old man, blanched and wrinkled and hollow-eyed.
“My wife is dead,” he repeated.
Then he turned to the table, and seeing her shabby old red-lined work-basket, took it up and held it to his breast.
As he stood, his back to her, as to one who did not belong there, who was an intruder, he began to cry, great slow tears dropping into the basket, wetting the red lining, and, no doubt, rusting the very needle she had used yesterday.
Brigit saw his face in the glass.
“Oh, Victor,” she faltered, her hands clasped.
He turned and pointed to the bed.
“You will excuse me,” he said, with an evident effort to be polite, “but I cannot talk. My wife is dead.”
And the girl turned and crept from the room. She understood. And she left him as he wished, alone with his wife, who was dead.
Going quietly downstairs, she went to the nearest flower shop and bought a great mass of the yellow-crumple-leaved roses that Joyselle had once told her grew in Normandy.
Then she went back to Golden Square.
“He will not leave her, Brigitte,” Theo told her as he met her on the stairs, “and the doctor is troubled about him. He says—the shock has been almost too great for—for his mind. I—I knew he loved her—oh, petite mere cherie—but I never knew how much. Ah, my dear, they had grown together in the twenty-six years they were man and wife, and now she has left him——” The young man put his arm on the balustrade and wept quite simply and unrestrainedly.