The next morning would begin a respite for her, in one sense, for he was going away. His old mother was ill in Falaise, and he was going to see her. “Then,” he had added, “I must visit a friend in Paris. I shall not be back before the last of November.”
This information he had volunteered to her immediately after lunch, having quite forgotten his resentment at her lack of response to his offers of advice. His quick changes of humour were very puzzling, and continually made her doubt whether she or anyone else knew him at all, though she had too much discrimination to doubt the sincerity of any one of his moods.
She had left him on the point of going to his room to play for Tommy, and knew that her brother would probably unfold to him during the afternoon his plan of becoming a violinist.
If the child had talent, Joyselle would, she believed, do his utmost to help him, and this was another reason why she could not make up her mind how to manage her own affairs.
Even if she wished to break her engagement and never see Joyselle again, had she the right thus to take from her brother the chance of great happiness and protection that seemed to have come to him?
“Joyselle would never speak to me again if I threw Theo over,” she told herself. “First, he would scold me violently, and then he’d lop us all off, trunk and branch. And—he might be the making of Tommy. Theo is so gentle and good, and he so splendid—I could have Tommy a lot with—us——”
On the other hand, however, what if she went from bad to worse regarding Joyselle? Would she be able to bear it?
Her thoughts turning the matter relentlessly over and over, as a squirrel does his wheel, she came home, getting there just at tea-time.
Lady Kingsmead, very much bored with her guests, had her useful headache, and the girl had to hurry into dry clothes, for the rain had come on, and play hostess.
“Tea, M. Joyselle?”
He made a wry and very ludicrous face. “Merci, Lady Brigit!”
“French people always loathe tea, my dear,” laughed the Duchess; “they take it when they have colds, as we take quinine.”
Miss Letchworth, who had been three times to Paris for a week at a time, looked up from her embroidery. “Oh, Duchess! People of our class often drink it,” she protested, the only tea she had ever consumed in Paris being that of her hotel or of Columbins, “don’t they, mossoo?”
Joyselle’s eyes drew down at the corners and he gave his big moustache a martial, upward twist. “Ask others, mademoiselle,” he retorted wickedly. “I am not of your class!”
It was brutal, and there was a short silence. Brigit was annoyed. Last night she had hoped for one of his outbursts, but now that it had come she was ashamed for him. And she shivered as she realised that this shame was a serious sign.
“Horrid speech,” she remarked, looking into the teapot she had forgotten to fill with water, “isn’t it, Theo?”