“Good-bye, Bicky, give him my love.” Tommy’s small eyes beamed with fanatical affection, and Brigit kissed him again.
Then she went downstairs, picked up a passing hansom, and sped to Paradise.
Felicie Louise Marie Joyselle was sitting in her bedroom, darning her husband’s socks.
She sat in a straight-backed chair near the dressing-table, and a huge basket of mending of different kinds stood on the floor by her side. The room was very simple, for she loved the well-polished black-walnut furniture among which she had lived all her married life, and nothing would have induced her to change it for new, however beautiful.
The walls were adorned with religious prints, but on the space over the dressing-table, with its array of ebony and silver hair-brushes, was a group of old, faded photographs, evidently all of the same person—Joyselle; and over the chimney-piece hung four large oval photographs, in varnished black frames, picked out with narrow red stripes; quite evidently four middle-aged peasants in their best attire. Near the door a coloured crayon of Theo at the age of five, in plaid trousers, a short jacket, and a wide collar of crochetted lace, smiled sheepishly down at the world. There was a table covered with books of the kind whose gilt edges invariably stick together, because they are never opened, and on the little table on the left of the broad bed, with its scarlet counterpane and huge, soft-looking pillows, were an old black crucifix and two shabby prayer-books.
It was a plain, inartistic room, and the middle-aged woman whose holy of holies it had been for fifteen years was as old-fashioned and unbeautiful as it; yet there was, somehow, about the place a certain atmosphere of goodness and peace that cannot be described in words.
When Brigit Mead came in that afternoon she kissed Madame Joyselle as usual, and then taking off her hat and coat, drew up another stiff-backed chair and sat down.
“How are you, petite mere?” she asked gently, in French.
“I am well, as I always am, thank God. And you? And Tommy?”
“Tommy has a bad throat, but it is nothing. He sent his love. I am very fit.”
Madame Joyselle cut her cotton, scrutinised her work closely, and laid the sock down and took up another.
“Such a man for wearing out socks. And always the heels,” she remarked. “It would try the patience of anyone!”
“Does it try even yours?” asked Brigit.
The little woman looked up, her shrewd black eyes twinkling under their well-defined brows. “You have observed, then, that I am patient? But yes, my dear, God help the wife of an artist if she is not! He is terrible, my man, at times, but luckily I was born long-suffering. He has, too, a way of wrenching at button-holes in collars that tears them to bits, and desolates me.”