“Interesting! It is—romance, my dear, romance, of the most unusual. And you are so beautiful that I cannot look away from you. He told me you were beautiful—yes—but I had pictured to myself a pink and white miss with a head as big as a pumpkin—and, just Heaven—a ’drawing-room voice.’ Tell me, oh, tell me, fille adoree, that you do not sing!”
His anxiety was perfectly sincere, and she hastened to reassure him. “Indeed, I do not.”
“Nor play—not even ‘simple little things,’ and ’coon-songs’?”
“God be praised!” he returned with a sort of whimsical reverence, in French. “Then you are perfect.”
“Indeed I am not. Oh, I really am not!” Before she knew what he was about to do, he had kissed her forehead, and then, as the train stopped, he rushed at the window.
“But where are you going?” he cried, so rapidly that she hardly understood him. “Why are you—why are we both—going away from London? We must go home—to my house—to my wife.”
“I am going to make a visit——”
“Mais non, mais non, mais non—come, there is a train going to London—hurry, we will go back. You will telegraph your friends. This evening—the betrothal evening, you must spend with us. Come, hurry, or we shall be too late.”
“But I cannot, it is impossible,” she protested weakly, as, he took her dressing-case and umbrella from the seat, after scrambling into his furry coat. “My friend is expecting me!”
“Ta, ta, ta, ta, ta! Come, ma fille, bella signorina, the train is just there—I will telegraph your friend. Let me help you, comme ca, ca y est!”
And almost before she knew what had happened, they were in the other train speeding back to town.
“Theo is at home—he went to tell his mother,” Joyselle said, nearly braining an old lady with his violin-case as he swung round to speak. “And they will be sitting by the fire, and I—who was going to spend the night at the Duke of Cumberland’s—will appear, and after we have embraced, hey, presto—I produce you—Diana—his adoree—my daughter.”
The old lady, who was engaged to nobody (and who, what was much worse, never had been), resented his loud voice and his way of handling his violin-case as if it had been a baby. “Sir,” she said, “you are crowding me.”
“Sacre nom d’une pipe—I beg your pardon, madame, but you must not push that box. You must not touch it,” he returned, all his smiles gone and a ferocious frown joining his big black eyebrows. “It contains my violin, madame, my Amati!”
Brigit, convulsed with laughter, laid her hand on his arm as if she had known him for years, and he became like a lamb at her touch.
“I beg your pardon, madame,” he added, smiling angelically (and an angelic smile on a dark, middle-aged face is a very winning thing), “I will put it over here.”