Putting on a dressing-gown she sat down by her fire and closed her eyes.
“Three months, a fortnight, and six days,” she thought. “It seems years. I wonder what he will say to me? Will he be glad to see me? And—how am I to do? Shall I tell Theo, and make him tell? Or shall I be brave—as Pam would—and tell him myself!”
Then, realising her absurdity in forgetting that after all it was more Theo’s affair than his father’s, she laughed aloud.
It was easy to laugh, for whatever happened she would see Victor Joyselle that evening, and beyond that she could not, would not, look. The world might end to-morrow, and it mattered nothing to her. That night he and she would be face to face.
She shuddered, for he would call her his daughter and kiss her forehead. Then the smile came back to her lips, and she rose. It didn’t matter; nothing mattered but the great, primary fact that in—how many hours?—four, she would see him. Let his mood be what it would—fatherly, aloof, impish—he would be himself, she would see him, and she loved him.
The Duchess of Wight had written to her, and going to her dressing-table she re-read the note.
It was short, simply telling her that her mother had told of her arrival, and asking her to dine at 8.30 in Charles Street. Not she, she would not lose one second of the glorious anticipations that were hers now. She would sit here close to her fire and gloat over her joy. Sitting down, she took a sheet of paper and began to write——
“Dear Duchess,—Thanks so much for asking me to dine, but——”
She broke off and sat staring at the wall. To-morrow at this time what would have become of her? The world would have run its course, come to its end, and yet she would be still alive! Could she bear it?
She would have told her story; made these people understand that she could never be one of them; broken (for the time) Theo’s young heart, and been reviled and cast out by Joyselle.
And she would have to return here, alone, broken with grief, hopeless. Drearily she looked round the room. It would all be the same; nothing would change; the very roses on her dressing-table would still be fresh and sweet, and—she?
Raising her head, she met her own eyes in a glass, and started. Her own beauty amazed her. “If he could see me now,” she said aloud, “he couldn’t call me ‘petite fille.’ He doesn’t know I am a woman; he has seen me—as if through spectacles. If I had never known Theo, and then met him somewhere by chance——”
She recalled his frank, wondering amazement as she raised her veil that evening in the train.
“He sees me always with Theo’s shadow between us. It is—unfair—and——”
She took a fresh sheet of paper and began her letter again:
“Dear Duchess.—Thanks so much for
asking me to dine to-night.
I shall be delighted to come.
Yours sincerely. “Brigit Mead.”