And then, thin, erect, light-footed, Pam went out from the house in which her strange childhood had been lived, and turning to her left passed down the dangerously mossy marble steps, and into the olive grove.
Lady Brigit Mead was sitting on the hummocky sparse grass under an ancient olive-tree, looking seawards. She wore a blue frock without any collar, and her face and long, round neck were very sunburnt. Her face had hardened in the last four months, and there was a tense look about her upper lip, yet an artist would have preferred her face as it now was to what it was before she had become engaged. For now the nervous strain she was living under had told on her more material beauties, leaving more room for expression, as it seemed, to the others.
It was not that her face was better, but the suffering in it was less petty than the resentment that had formerly stamped it.
The dominant characteristic in it had hitherto been disdainful bearing of small annoyances; now it showed a grim endurance of a great suffering.
“Bicky, dear,” Pam asked suddenly, coming up unheard, “what is it?”
She started. “What is what?”
“Your trouble. Oh, don’t tell me if you don’t want to, but I can see you are suffering, and—I used to tell the Duchess, long ago, and it always did me good.”
“Did you tell the Duchess about—Mr. Peele, Pam?”
The elder woman smiled and sighed. “No, my dear, I didn’t. But—he was her son-in-law.”
“That wasn’t why.” Brigit had not moved, and Pam had seen no more than her profile as she sat down.
“No, it wasn’t. But then I was particularly lonely, and literally had no one to tell. Whereas,” she added with brisk good sense, “you have me.”
For several minutes there was unbroken silence, and then Brigit said slowly, “I believe you’re right. And I’ll tell you. It’s about—myself, of course; nothing else could upset me to this extent! You know I’m engaged to Theo Joyselle. Well—I love his father.”
Her voice was defiant, as if deprecating in advance any cut-and-dried disapproval.
Pam did not answer for a moment. Then “Is his mother—I mean Theo’s mother—alive?” she then asked, drawing up her knees and clasping them comfortably.
“That—is a pity.”
“A pity! Aren’t you shocked and frightened?”
“I’m sure I’m not shocked, and I don’t think I am frightened. Brigit, does Theo know?”
Then Brigit turned, her face white under the sunburnt skin. “No. I am—afraid to tell him.”
“Yes, afraid. If I broke the engagement, Joyselle would be furious, and come and scold me.”
“Surely you aren’t afraid of being scolded?”
“By him, yes. If we had a row—the whole thing would come out.”