“And a wife,” put in Carron sharply.
She looked at him, her face stiffening into its old expression of surly hauteur.
“You have seen her?”
“No. But a friend of mine has. Charley Masterson, Tony. He says she looks like a clean old peasant.”
“That is exactly what she is—bravo, Charley Masterson! A clean old peasant. Joyselle, too, is a peasant. They come from near Falaise, and as a girl Madame Joyselle wore a cap. Is there no tea going?”
Lady Kingsmead, who hated rows unless she was one of the principals, rang the bell.
“How was Pam?” she asked hastily.
“As nice as ever. They both sent you their love, by the way. I had a heavenly week there, and they liked Theo so much. He came down for the week-end. Oh, mother,” she went on as the man who had answered the bell closed the door, “please ask them down soon, will you? The clean old peasant won’t come; she never leaves home, and he is—perfectly presentable.”
Lady Kingsmead watched her daughter in amazement. Tommy, as usual, was right; Brigit looked, and seemed, years younger than she had done a fortnight ago.
“Yes, my dear, I’ll write to-night,” she said with the graciousness she used at will, and that was so charming. Then she added, “I might ask him when the Duchess comes. He is sure to love duchesses; those kind of people always do.”
“Yes, and as to duchesses, those kind of people frequently like good music for nothing.”
But there was no bitterness in her tone, and mother and daughter smiled at each other.
The Duchess did like good music for nothing, and when, a week later, she was told on her arrival that Joyselle was to be of the party, she was much pleased. She was only an ancient dowager, full of aches and pains and sad and merry memories, but she was a great favourite nevertheless, for her aches and pains and sad memories were kept safely in the background, whereas her merry and sometimes somewhat shocking recollections made her the very best of good company.
“A great man, my dear,” she told Lady Kingsmead, “one of the finest artistes I ever heard. I remember once in Petersburg, heaven only knows how many centuries ago, hearing him play before the Czar. He was extraordinarily handsome then, a tall young fellow—he can’t be much over forty now—very broad and strong-looking, with beautiful wavy brown hair and gorgeous black eyes. The Grand Duchess Anastasia-Katherine was very much in love with him, and he with her. She gave him a rose before everybody—a red rose—and he kissed it quite boldly before he put it into his coat. A remarkably dashing young man!”
“You have heard, I suppose, that my girl is going to marry his son?”
“Bless me, no! Has the creature a son? Men of that type ought never to marry and have sons. What is he like, the boy?”