“What is wrong, Master?” she asked softly, using Tommy’s name for him. He started. “The matter? Nothing that bears talking about, Brigit. But I am in its clutches and I will go.”
A cold terror came over her. Was it—some woman? “Do not go,” she said, her cheeks burning. “I don’t mind your being silent.”
He looked at her inquiringly, raising his eyebrows. It was clear that he noticed something strange in her voice; also that he did not know what it meant. But he sat down and began rolling a fresh cigarette. The flat silver box in which he carried his tobacco lay on the table beside him, and she idly took it up. “Rose-Marie a Victor,” she saw engraved on it. “What a pretty name! The box is old, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Or pretends to be. I have had it for years.”
“I don’t know. It was twenty years ago—in Paris.”
Felicite’s story recurred to Brigit, the “bad time” in Paris; “how he loved them all for the time.”
He was smoking fitfully, and frowning to himself. She was again forgotten. It was very warm, and the curtains swayed in irregular puffs of wind; then came a rumble of thunder. Joyselle started nervously.
“Un orage,” he said; “I—I hate thunder.”
“Do you? I like it.” Together they went to the window and looked up at the threatening sky. A whirl of dust met them, and they drew quickly back, his sleeve brushing against her shoulders. “It will be bad,” he said, broodingly.
She felt breathless and welcomed the coming storm as suiting her mood.
“I—you asked me what is the matter,” Joyselle began, speaking very quickly. “I will tell you. It is this. There is in me a god, and I refuse to give him speech. I have genius and I waste it; I have a soul and I am crushing it. I am a most unworthy and miserable being!”
Absolutely sincere in every word he said, his dramatic temperament gave force and a kind of rhythm to his confession that made it very poignant, and his face very white, his big eyes glowed tragically as he stood looking over his hearer’s head.
“A most miserable being.”
He groaned, and throwing himself into a chair, buried his face in his hands.
Outside one or two carriages hurried past, and the darkness was streaked with quick recurring flashes of lightning.
Brigit looked long at Joyselle, and then, irresistibly drawn to him, laid her hand with great gentleness on his head. “You are tired, and the storm has got on your nerves.”
“No, no! I am not tired. There is for my great good-for-nothingness not that excuse. I am—a wastrel of my gifts.” It was, she saw, one of the crises of despair under which many artists suffer, but its intensity was most painful. “You are good to me, Brigitte,” he said, brokenly, taking her left hand and holding it to his forehead, which was cold and damp. “You are an angel!”