“Why were you miserable, petite mere?” Brigit’s voice was very gentle; she seemed to see the young violinist, handsome and, as his wife put it, driven half-mad by his music, the centre of attraction at the German castle, and his little plain wife sitting forlorn by herself, looking on.
“It was a Lady Crefinne Cranewitz,”—this name at least, she remembered! “This Crefinne (it means countess) was very beautiful, but too big; large all over like a statue, and blond. She used to wear one flower in her bosom at dinner, and then give it to him afterwards. Also she gave him a lock of her hair.”
“And what did he give her?”
Felicite smiled placidly. “He gave her—his love. Ah, yes, he loved her, his Crefinne Gigantesque.”
The teller of the tale drew a blue silk sock over her hand and poked at the hole in its heel with a thoughtful needle. “He always loves them—for the time, my dear. He is of a sincerity, my man!”
Since the evening of the dragon-skin frock Brigit had done nothing to charm Joyselle; he saw her through his own eyes now, and she, knowing that the game was in her own hands, could afford to wait; when the day came when she wanted to hurt him or to further gratify her own love, she could make him love her almost in a moment. So, so far as she knew, he still enjoyed her beauty without arriere pensee, although he saw her through his own eyes, not Theo’s. Yet now, at this phrase of his wife’s, “He always loves them—for the time,” she started, half angrily. When—if—the day came when he loved her, would this “clean old peasant,” as Carron had called her, sit and darn his socks and say to herself—“for the time”?
“You are very—placid about it.”
“Yes. In the beginning—no. Then I was jealous, and angry. But a jealous woman is always ridiculous, my child, and men are so vain that the implied homage upsets them. Many a woman has lost a man’s love through showing jealousy. So—in time I got used to it, and tout passe,” she continued comfortably.
“And you wouldn’t mind now, if——” asked Brigit, her elbows on her knees, her chin on her hands.
Madame Joyselle laughed. “Wouldn’t mind? Oh, ma chere! Just before you came, he had a very bad turn—it was an Italian actress—a pantomimiste, with the most beautiful arms in the world, and the face of a vicious little boy. And he? Epate. His ties wouldn’t tie, he got new shoes—fresh gloves every time he went to see her—scent, a new kind, very expensive—he sent her flowers by the cartload, and went every evening to see her act. Every day little mauve letters and wires from her (he always forgot to burn them, and I was afraid Toinon might see them), etc., etc., etc.”
“And how did it end?” asked Brigit, her throat dry and hot. She hated the pantomimiste.
“End? My faith, my dear, it is of a simplicity, the end. You came.”