Joyselle held out his big, strong hand and Tommy’s disappeared in it. Thus, sometimes, are friendships made.
“I say—you can play,” stammered the boy. “I—it is glorious.”
“You love music, Brigitte says.”
“Don’t I just! She says you’ll play for me some time.”
Tommy’s small, greenish eyes were wet with irrepressible tears of adoration.
Joyselle rose. “Come with me to my room now, Tommy, and I will play for you. Vous permettez, madame?”
Lady Kingsmead bowed graciously, but when the door closed, frowned with disgust, and putting Maeterlinck on the table, drew Claudine from under an embroidered pillow and began to read.
Tommy, treading on air, accompanied Joyselle to his room, and sitting on the floor as the easiest place in which to contain almost unbearable rapture, listened.
Joyselle as he played recalled another little boy who, years before, had listened in much the same way to another man playing the violin, and the comparison is not so far-fetched as it seems, for although the blind fiddler of the sunny day in Normandy had been only a third-rate scraper of the bow, and Joyselle one of the world’s very greatest artists, yet in one thing they joined issue. Each of them gave to the listening child before him his very best.
Dinner that night was a very grand affair. Fledge inspired awe by his majestic mien—Fledge liked duchesses—and Burton and William, the recently promoted, with their heads striped with grease and powder, looked to the enraptured eyes of the female servants their very best.
There were crimson roses in beautiful silver vases on the table, and in the centre stood a particularly hideous but very valuable silver ship—“given,” as Tommy once gravely explained to a guest, “by somebody or other—a king, or an admiral, I think—to one of my ancestors, in the seventeenth century, who did something or other rather well.”
Lady Kingsmead, under the Duchess’ influence, was suffering from one of her attacks of thinking Tommy “quaint,” so, by the old lady’s suggestion, the boy was allowed to sit at the foot of his own table, pretending, as he had told his sister he should find it necessary to do, to be as young as his mother’s guests.
The Duchess, greatly diverted by his demeanour, and reinforced on her other side by an amusing, sad dog of thirty, who wrote wicked novels, thoroughly enjoyed her dinner. There are so many reasons for enjoying one’s dinner; some people do because they like to meet their fellow-creatures; some because they like being seen at certain houses; some because they have beauty to display or stories to tell; and some because they enjoy eating and drinking simply as eating and drinking. The Duchess, in that she enjoyed dining for all the reasons above cited, except that of bothering her ancient head about whose house she was seen at, was extremely pleased with her entertainment. She wagged her old head—white now, quite frankly, after many years of essays in difficult tints—whispered to her novelist, and made love to Tommy quite shamelessly.