He laughed aloud as he gave her some money and then got into the hansom.
“Hampstead Heath, cabby. At Falaise there are millions of these roses—see, with the outside leaves wrinkled and red. Oh, Brigit, Brigit, what a day!”
If it be true that everything is in the eye of the beholder, then Joyselle’s and Brigit Mead’s eyes must have been full of beauties that day.
For to them Hampstead Heath was the most marvellously lovely place on earth.
His light-heartedness, chiefly due to his faculty for ignoring side-issues and enjoying the present, was of course magnified as well by the fact that it followed close on the heels of one of his despairing black fits. Yesterday he had been, because of an unsatisfactory morning’s work in Chelsea, in the very depths, honestly despising himself as an artist, sincerely loathing his incorrigible love of amusement and consequent wasting of time.
So this sunny, rather windy morning, Brigit by his side, and his newly awakened conscience stilled for the moment, was to him as near Paradise as anything he could imagine.
They lunched somewhere—neither of them could ever remember where—on very tough cold ham and insufficiently cooled beer, but they were both too happy to mind, or even to observe the faults of the menu. And as neither of them had ever before set eyes on the Heath, it was full of surprises, as well as of beauties. Yielding to some unexplained instinct, they both took off their hats (what is it that induces people to uncover their heads in high places?), and the warm sun shone down on their hair.
“Your hair must be very long, Brigitte?” observed Joyselle once, as he looked at her silky plaits that covered her crown in disregard of the laws of fashion.
“It is. Comes to my knees. Oh, look!”
Two people, a man and a girl, sat in the shade of an isolated tree only a few yards below the place where they stood. They were evidently enjoying an unlawful holiday, for they were workers—factory hands, probably, and they were as palpably rejoicing in their freedom.
The girl, whose brilliant red hair was pulled out at the sides until her head was as big as a bushel basket, wore a pink blouse and a green skirt. The youth, stunted and pale, was gorgeous only as to tie, but quite evidently she considered him her complement. For they were busy drinking beer from a bottle, turn about, and kissing each other delightedly between swallows. Joyselle started, drawing a deep breath, and Brigit, without moving her head, looked at him sideways, as the so-called Fornarina looks in the Uffizi, in Florence.
“They are cheery, aren’t they?” she asked hastily, and he, nodding, turned away. For a few moments he was silent, and then he began to talk rather loudly about nothing in particular, and in a few moments was himself—the Joyselle of that particular day. Brigit realised that their stronghold of reserves and lies had been dangerously threatened by his mounting emotion. If he had broken down in his role—and she knew that the playing of any kind of a role was foreign to his nature, and therefore perilous—she would have lost him.