“Buon giorno, Beppino. Oh, what lovely flowers! Tell Giovanni to bring them to me in the salone, will you?” Crossing the hall she went into the dining-room, and there, as she had expected, sat Pammy.
Years before, when she had, half out of kindness, half out of loneliness, adopted the little new-born girl, she had never meant to marry. And when she did marry, neither she nor her husband wished to get rid of the child. But the result had not been particularly satisfactory, for Pammy had grown to be a very fat, very stolid person, with no nose to speak of and no sense of humour at all, and every day that passed seemed to leave her a little more unattractive than she had been the day before.
Now, at seven, she was as tall as most children of ten, immensely fat, with pendulous red cheeks that in spite of cold cream and soft water always looked as though they had just been rubbed with a grater. Her hair, long and fair, was dank, hanging in two emaciated pig-tails nearly to her waist, and her nails—another ineradicable trick—bitten to the deepest depths possible.
“Pammy, dear, what have you been doing?” inquired Pam, gently.
“Looking out the window—and I ate some more plaster.” Stolidly, with lack-lustre eyes, the culprit gazed at her benefactor.
Pam sighed, but her mouth twitched. “I asked you not to.”
“I know. I didn’t mean to, but—it looked so good.”
“‘Tous les gouts sont dans la nature,’ my dear,” quoted Lensky, coming in at the open window, “there are even people who like German bands!” Looking down at Pammy through his eyeglass, the sun fell full on his head, betraying an incipient bald patch. Otherwise Lensky had aged not at all since his marriage.
“I saw Lady Brigit just now,” he said, suddenly, “down in the olive grove. I think something has happened. She looked—queer.”
Pam started. “Poor dear—I’ll go and speak to her—only, you know, she never says a word to me about her trouble, whatever it is. I wonder——”
“Love story, of course,” returned Lensky, briefly. “When a woman looks like that it always is a love story.”
“Yes, but—Theo is such a dear! And I know he writes to her.”
“Then it isn’t Theo. He’s not the only man she knows.”
Pam frowned thoughtfully. “That’s true, but—she is so beautiful.”
Lensky smiled at her, and on his strangely white, shrewd, worldly-wise face the smile looked like a sudden flash of sunlight. “Yes, she is without a doubt very beautiful, but——”
“I think she is taking her trouble the wrong way. She is bearing it without grinning, and the grinning is to my mind the greater half.”
“But remember what her surroundings at home are, Jack. She had had no discipline whatever; her mother is horrid——”
Lensky did not answer. Somehow he never cared to hold forth on the subject of mothers to his wife.