But Theo only laughed and shrugged his shoulders. His father was his father, and except in little matters, such as satin and too flamboyant ties, not to be even mentally criticised.
“But it is true, my dear,” continued Joyselle, the mischief suddenly gone from his face, a shrewd look of inquiry taking its place. “You are going to marry into a peasant family, you know.” Another change of mood! He was severe now and disapproving.
She held up her head. “No one could call Theo a peasant, could they, Duchess?”
Joyselle understood, and with bewildering rapidity again changed. “Bravo!” he cried, laughing heartily. “You are marrying the son, you mean, not the father. C’est vrai, c’est vrai!”
His utter unconsciousness was a great blessing, no doubt, but at that moment it nearly maddened her. Was he blind?
Apparently he was, as he drank some mineral water and talked to the Duchess.
The arrival of Lady Brinsley’s poor dear Mr. Smith, the vicar, was the next mild event of the day, and as his head too was filled with coals and blankets, the story of the abominable coal-dealer had again to be listened to and lamented over.
“The very worst coals I ever saw in my life, positively, are they not, Lady Brinsley?”
“Eh, yes, Mr. Smith, quite too shocking. Nothing but dust, Duchess, positively.”
“We are all dust,” returned the Duchess, who was whispering to Joyselle about the Grand Duchess Anastasia-Katherine, dans le temps. “Oh, no, we are all worms, aren’t we?”
“Positively, I never saw such very inferior coals,” went on the Vicar, wondering what on earth she was talking about.
Brigit looked at him as he babbled on. He was a very thin man, who always reminded her of a plucked bird. Soon he would ask her why he had not had the pleasure of seeing her in church for so long. He would hope that she had not had a cold.
He did both these things, poor man, for it was his role in life always to say and do the perniciously obvious.
It was a very trying hour, but at last, under the dutiful pretext of going to look after her mother, Brigit escaped and flew to Tommy’s room.
It was a strange apartment for a little boy, for it had been assigned to him once when he was ill, as being sunny, and beyond his brass bedstead and small boy hoards, contained nothing whatever that looked as if it belonged to one of few years.
For it was hung in faded plum-coloured satin, the eighteenth-century furniture was quaint and beautiful, and the narrow oval mirrors, set in tarnished gilded frames like a frieze about its walls, presented to Brigit’s eye as she opened the door an infinite and bewildering number of Tommies, bending studiously over a large sheet of writing-paper, that he held on a book on his knees.
“Hello, Tommy, what are you up to?”
The boy looked up, his face full of ecstasy. “I say, Bick, he will! He will help me learn to be a violinist! He’s going to find a good teacher for me, and then, when I have got over the first grind, you know, he’s going—oh, Bicky, darling—he’s going to teach me himself, at the same time. Isn’t he an angel!”