“Your hair is very charming,” he was saying as she came to the above conclusion; “it seems to love being yours—as what would not? The hair of many women looks as though it were trying hard—oh, so hard!—to get away from them; but yours clings and—what is the word?—tendrils round your head as if it loved you.”
“Ordinary curly hair,” she answered in French.
“But no—black hair is usually dry and like something burnt, or of an oiliness to disgust. Is it not so, Felicite—is her hair not adorable?”
“Oui, oui, Victor; oui, mon homme. But we must go, for Lady Brigit will be wishing to rise. Theo, too, awaits her downstairs.”
The big man, who was crouching on the floor playing with the dog, rose hastily. “Good God!” he cried in English words, but obviously in the innocent French sense, “I quite forgot that unhappy child! Come, Felicite; come Papillon, m’ami—let us disturb Belle-Ange no longer.”
As if he had long been struggling with their reluctance to go, he shepherded them out of the room, singing as he went downstairs, “Salut, demeure chaste et pure.”
The parrot, whose name was Guillaume le Conquerant, was a magnificent, fluffy, grey bird picked out with green. His eye was knowing, and swift and deep his infrequent but never-to-be-forgotten bite.
“He is studying you—dear,” explained Joyselle, as he stood before the huge gilt cage with Brigit shortly after her appearance downstairs that morning. “It is a severe test that everyone who comes here has to undergo. He is writing his memoirs, too.”
“It will be a sad day for you, papa, when his memoirs appear,” put in Theo, who was smoking a pipe and walking up and down the room just because he was much too happy to sit still. “You have yet to see the real Victor Joyselle, Brigit. This polite being is the one we keep for company.”
Brigit laughed. “Is it true?” she asked the violinist.
“Yes,” he returned unexpectedly, “you see now the happy Joyselle; the Joyselle pere de famille, domestic; the artist Joyselle, alas! is an irritable, nervous, unpleasant person, who forgets to eat, and then abuses his wife for giving him no dinner; an absent-minded idiot who leaves his own old coat at the club and goes off wrapped in the Marquis of St. Ive’s sables; a swearing, smoking, wild-headed person, who adores, nevertheless, his little Theo, and that little Theo’s beautiful fiancee.”
At the end of this long speech his face, which had in the middle of it been sombre with a sense of his own iniquity, suddenly cleared, until a radiant smile transfigured it.
“My little brother adores you, M. Joyselle,” said Brigit suddenly; “he will be so pleased. He calls your hair a halo!”
“A sad sinner’s halo, then. The beautiful saints have others. And your little brother, what is his name? And how old is he?”