“You mean that I am not so disagreeable?”
“I know. And you are right, Mr. Yelverton. I was very horrid, and now I am—nicer—because I am very happy. It’s a selfish reason, but I hope I can use it as—as a kind of means to a good end.”
Yelverton held his breath. Was it possible that the mere fact of being engaged to a sweet-natured youth like Theo Joyselle could cause such a miracle as this before his eyes? What was the boy to change Brigit from a sullen, caustic woman into a charming, lovely young girl?
“I am very glad for you,” he said presently, “and for him. I’m a sorry old stager, Lady Brigit, but it is good to see two young things like you and Joyselle find each other—in time.”
As so often happens, his mood was answering hers, and she remembered some story she had heard long ago about him and some girl who had drowned herself.
“Thank you,” she said very gently, and turned to Theo, for she had a manlike fear of intruding on people’s secrets. But Yelverton was one of those unfortunate beings who, when they turn to their sentimental past, must turn not to the memory of one face, but to a kind of romantic mosaic of many faces that in time takes on the horrid semblance of a composite photograph. So it is to be feared that the sad little story of the girl who drowned herself because he who loved her, made casual and, so to speak, duty-love to a married woman, had not occurred to him, as Brigit in her new-found kindliness of supposition, took for granted.
It was a wonderful dinner to the girl; wonderful in the indulgence that had come over her regarding her convives, and in the interesting things she found it possible to glean from the snatches of talk she caught from time to time. Alert, bright-eyed, an unwonted smile ever hovering on her mouth, she listened, and young Joyselle watched her in a fearful ecstasy of joy.
He felt, in his innocent youth, so old, so wicked, so world-worn for this radiant angel who had given, herself to him. It was too good to be true, and he trembled at the thought. But after dinner, when he had at last been able to fly to the drawing-room, the Duchess had a beautiful word to say to him. “Mr. Joyselle,” the old woman began abruptly, beckoning to him, “come here for a second, I want to congratulate you.”
“Thank you, Duchess. I—I am indeed to be congratulated, for she is the most perfect——”
“Ta, ta, ta, I don’t mean that at all! I mean I want to congratulate you on what you have been able to do for her in so short a time.”
“I? To do for her?” He was honestly puzzled.
“Yes, you. Do you suppose she has always been what she is now? Not a bit of it. The last time I saw Brigit Mead—it was at Ascot—she was a very good-looking, of course—oh, unbelievably beautiful, if you prefer it, but an ill-tempered, black-faced young minx, who should have been put on bread and water for a month to correct her manner.”