“Pauvre petit, tell him not that, Victor, my man. What would the poor angel desire but the impossible?”
Theo stood silently looking at them. He was evidently in no mood for farce, but as evidently he adored this noisy big father who towered above his slender height like a giant, and tried to force himself to his father’s humour. “Dear papa,” he murmured, “it is good that you have come. I am so happy.”
Joyselle seized the opportunity, such as it was, and turning to the open door, called out in a voice trembling with pleasure and mischief, “Fairy Princess, come forth.”
And the disdainful, bored, too often frankly ill-humoured Lady Brigit stepped out of the darkness into the homely light of the simple scene.
For a moment Theo plainly did not believe his eyes, and then as she advanced, scarlet with a quite unusual embarrassment and sense of intrusion, he gathered himself together and met her, his hands held out, his face glowing.
“Victor—oh, Victor—this is terrible,” Madame Joyselle burst out, scarlet with shyness, all her serenity gone. “You should not have brought her to the kitchen! Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, a countess’ daughter!”
But Theo led his fiancee straight to his mother, and his instinctive good taste saved the situation. “Mamma—here she is. Lady Brigit, this is my mother—the best mother in the world.”
The little roundabout woman wiped her hand on her apron, and taking the girl’s in hers, looked mutely up at her with eyes so full of timid sweetness that Brigit, touched and pleased, bent and kissed her.
“Voyons, voyons,” cried Joyselle, rubbing his hands and executing a few steps by the fire, “here we are all one family. Felicite, my old woman, is she not wonderful?”
Madame Joyselle, the flush dying from her fresh cheeks, bowed. “She is indeed. And now—Theo, call Toinon—we must go to the dining-room.” Nobody else, even Brigit, who had never beheld that cheerless apartment, wished to leave the kitchen, but Madame Joyselle’s will was in such matters law, and the little party was soon seated round the table upstairs. And the omelet was delicious.
* * * * *
An hour later Brigit found herself sitting in a big red-leather armchair, in a highly modern and comfortable, if slightly gaudy apartment—Joyselle’s study. There was a small grate-fire with a red club-fender, a red, patternless carpet, soft, well-draped curtains, and tables covered with books and smoking materials.
There was also a baby-grand piano, covered with music, and a huge grey parrot in a gilded and palatial cage.
It was Joyselle’s translation of an English gentleman’s room, even to the engravings and etchings on the wall. One thing, however, the girl had never before seen. One end of the room was glassed in as if in a huge oak frame, and the wall behind it was literally covered with signed photographs.