Joyselle, too, was unusually silent for a long time. Then at last he turned to Brigit, his face grave as she had hitherto seen it only when he was playing.
“I will not intrude again, Brigitte,” he said, his deep voice very gentle; “but when—if—you ever care to come to me for help or advice—of any kind, I shall always be at your service.”
“Thank you,” she said, and could say no more, for fear of breaking down. Then her sense of humour, never very keen, did for once come to the rescue, and in an absurd mental flash-light she pictured his face if she should suddenly put her head down on his knees and wail out the truth: “Yes, dear Beau-papa, advise and help me, for I am to be your daughter, my children are to be your grandchildren, and—I love you!”
Something in her face hurt him, and for the rest of the drive he quite simply and frankly sulked.
Brigit went for a long walk that afternoon, as was her wont when she wished to think. As she started from the house she met Carron. “Look here, Brigit,” he said roughly, “you slept with your mother last night. Was it because you were afraid I might come back?”
She eyed him with great coolness from under the shadow of her felt hat. “No, I was afraid, when I left—my little brother—that you might have come back.” And she took her walking-stick from its place.
“I—I beg your pardon,” he returned sullenly, looking at her as she stood in the faint autumn sunshine, her well-cut coat and skirt somehow failing to take from her her curious Indian air. “I was a beast.”
“You always are, Gerald. Once when I was a child a spider bit me—or do spiders sting? Well, it made me a bit sick at first, and then I—forgot it. Good-bye.”
The man’s nerves were evidently in a bad state, for at her insult his face broke out into a cold perspiration and went very white. “Oh—I am a spider, am I? All right, I am glad I kissed you. Glad I held you close in my arms. You can’t undo that, whatever you may say.”
She stood quietly swinging her stick, a smile just touching her disdainful mouth. She was purposely being maddening, and she knew to the uttermost the value, as a means of torture to the trembling man before her, of the slight lift of her upper lip as she looked at him.
“Quite finished?” she asked, as he paused. “Then perhaps you’ll let me go? Good-bye.”
He watched her out of sight, and then wiping his face carefully with his handkerchief, returned to the house.
Crossing the park by a footpath that was now half-buried in fallen leaves, she came out on the high road, and turning to the left, took a steep path leading to the downs.
She walked with unusual rapidity for a woman, climbing the path without relaxing her gait or losing her breath. The sharp, damp air brought to her face colour that Carron had been unable to call up. He was, poor wretch, so utterly secondary to her, that he was as little important as the long-forgotten spider. It was Joyselle who occupied her thoughts, whom her mental eyes saw, as she walked steadily seawards, as plainly as if he had been with her.