Then, his beloved fiddle safe from profane touch, he again turned to Brigit.
Number 57 Golden Square was dark when Joyselle’s cab stopped in front of it, and he, after tenderly depositing his violin-case under the little portico, assisted Brigit to alight. “They are, of course, in the kitchen,” he remarked as he paid the cabby. “Come, ma belle.”
She followed him as if she were in a dream, watching him open the door with a latchkey, after a frantic search for that object in all his pockets, tiptoeing after him as, a finger to his lips, a delighted, boyish smile crinkling his eyelids, he led her down the narrow, oilclothed passage.
“Why are they in the kitchen?” she asked, as excited as he.
“It is nearly eight; she is busy with supper.”
Even in the dim light of the single gas burner Brigit caught at once the predominating note of the house: its intense and wonderful cleanliness. The walls, painted white, were snowy, the chequered oilcloth under her feet as spotless as if it had that moment come from the shop, and the slender handrail of the steep staircase glanced with polish, drawing an arrow of light through the dusk.
Putting his violin-case on the table, Joyselle took off his hat and with some difficulty pulled his arms out of his greatcoat sleeves. Then, taking his guest by the arm, he very softly opened the door leading to the basement, and started down the stairs, soft-footed as a great cat. Could it possibly be she, Brigit Mead, creeping stealthily down a basement staircase, her arm firmly held by a man to whom she had never spoken until that afternoon?
The stairs turned sharply to the left half-way down, and at the turning a flood of warm light met them, together with a smell of cooking.
“Ah, little mother, little mother,” Theo’s voice was saying, “just wait till you see her.”
Joyselle’s delight in the artistic timeliness of the speech found vent in his putting his arm round his companion’s slim waist and giving her a hearty, paternal hug. Her whole face, in the darkness, quivered with amusement. She had never in her whole life been so thoroughly and satisfactorily amused. Then, having gone forward as far as his now simply restraining hold would let her, she looked down into the kitchen.
It was a large room, snowy with whitewash as to walls and ceiling, spotless as to floor. At the far end of it, opposite a pagoda-like and beautiful but apparently unlighted modern English stove, was a huge, deep, cavernous fireplace, unlike any the girl had ever seen. It was, in fact, a perfect copy of a Norman fireplace, with stone seats at the sides, an old-fashioned spit, and the fire burning lustily on the floor of it, unhemmed by dogs or grate. On a long, sand-scoured table in the middle of the room sat Theo, in his shirt-sleeves, deftly breaking