“But——” began the girl, and then stopped.
All things considered, there was remarkably little constraint in her feelings for this good woman, but somehow at that moment she wished to change the subject.
Madame Joyselle, however, gave a gentle chuckle, and continued: “He was his most terrific yesterday! Like a lion with no self-control; it was very ridiculous.”
Brigit started. Terrible, yes, but—it struck her as very unfitting for the great man’s plain little wife to find him ridiculous. And Felicite, as her husband always called her, saw her start, and understood.
“Ah, yes, to you he is the great artist as well as Theo’s father—hein? To me he is, of course, just—my husband. All men are, they say, different, but surely all husbands are much alike.”
“There are certainly very few men like—him.” Brigit took a sock out of the basket and looked at it absently. There was a short silence, during which Felicite did not speak, but she was watching her visitor in the glass. Then she said suddenly, with a certain briskness in her voice, “Shall I tell you about him? About my husband, you know, not about the great artist of—all you others.”
Brigit nodded. “Yes, please do. Tell me about—long ago, in Normandy.”
“Bien. It will interest you. You like him very much, don’t you?” she added, suddenly, looking up and fixing the girl with her bright eyes.
“Like him? Indeed I do. I think him simply glorious,” was the answer, given in a gushing voice, but for a moment the girl felt vaguely uneasy. During the last twelve weeks she had not, although seeing Joyselle’s wife every day, learned to regard her as a real factor in the game. Joyselle, always tender and considerate of her, yet seemed to regard her as a kind of cross between a mother and a nurse, and she, never precisely retiring, and almost always present during Brigit’s visits, appeared to be perfectly used to the role that he assigned her, and sat, usually silent, a kindly spectator of whatever might be going on.
This was the first time that Brigit had realised that she had a real personality, and the girl wondered at her own blindness, for every line in Madame Joyselle’s face meant, she now saw, an individuality stronger rather than weaker than the average woman’s, even in these days of clamorous individualism.
“Do tell me about him—when he was young,” Lady Brigit Mead continued, her thick-looking white eyelids, eyelids that the hapless Mr. Babington compared in his twenty-second sonnet to magnolia-petals, drooping till her lashes made shadows on her cheeks.
And Felicite Joyselle told her story.