“It is a great age,” observed someone, and he laughed aloud. “Yes—for here. La-bas with us, she is not so old as she would be here. I am an old man here, but there, I am still jeune Joyselle! And my big boy, my betrothed boy, is still le petit du jeune Joyselle.”
It was not particularly interesting, but nevertheless everyone at the table listened with delight. The man’s vividness, his simple certainty of their sympathy, were irresistible.
“Next September,” he went on, draining his champagne glass and wiping his moustache upward, in a martial way, “is their golden wedding, mes vieux! It will be very fine. Very fine indeed, for all the children and grandchildren,” he glanced slily at Brigit, who clasped her hands lightly on her lap, “will be there, and we shall eat until we can eat no more, and tell each other old tales, and boast about our successes in life—ah, it will be very pleasant!”
“You will come too, my Brigit,” whispered Theo under his breath. “I can show them my wonderful—wife?”
She could not answer, and he took her distress for girlish confusion, and, manlike, rejoiced in it.
After dinner Joyselle came straight to her. “May I talk to you about Tommy?” he began, “I love Tommy very much.”
“Yes. Let us go into the library, Most Beautiful, where we can talk quietly.” Before she could protest he had turned to her mother and announced his intention. “I leave to-morrow, before she will be up,” he declared, “and there are things I must say. You allow me, Lady Kingsmead?”
Then he put his arm round the girl’s waist and marched her down the hall and up the stairs leading to the library.
“Isn’t he quaint?” giggled Lady Kingsmead to the Duchess, and the old woman assented with a laugh. “He is an amazing mixture of the boyish and the paternal. I thoroughly like him.”
Meantime Brigit had sat down in a tall-backed carved chair, and, her hands on its arms, waited for Joyselle to speak. He walked about the room for a few moments, looking up at the book-covered walls, opening one of the windows, examining an ivory dragon that grinned on the chimney-piece. Then he burst out, “Eh, bien, my dearest, and when is it to be?”
“When is what to be?”
A hot blush crept over her, leaving her cold.
“Theo wants his wife, and I want my daughter,” he continued, sitting down by her and taking her hand affectionately, “why waste time!”
She looked at him in hopeless dismay. He was so big, so strong, so overpowering, she felt that her strength to resist his will was as nothing.
“You think I ask too soon?” He looked at her, an anxious pucker in his eyelids, “But no. There is never too much time in which to be happy, ma Brigitte——”
For the first time in her recollection she was glad to see Gerald Carron, as he came up the stairs, and approached them slowly.