“No, no. He’s downstairs; wants to see you. There’s been some kind of a row in Golden Square. Petite mere and the Master have been talking for an hour, as hard as ever they can talk, and Theo is upset, and the Master has gone off in a tearing rage—do go down and find out, Brigit, and then come back and tell me.”
Lord Kingsmead’s pristine curiosity regarding everything with which he came into contact had by no means suffered eclipse since he had been living in London.
Devoted as he was to Joyselle and to his music, the little boy’s passion for knowledge of all kinds seemed to increase, and there was in his small, pale, pointed face a strained, overkeen look that troubled his sister at times. Now, however, she had no leisure to think of it, and hurried downstairs to the drawing-room, where she found Theo walking restlessly up and down.
“Brigit,” he burst out abruptly, as she came in, “when will you marry me?”
“Good gracious, Theo—what—what has put that into your head?” she parried ineffectively, sitting down, as he did not offer to give her any further greeting.
“Into my head? Has it ever been out of it? I am sorry to have startled you, dear,” he continued, more gently, sitting down by her and taking her hands in his, “but surely I have been patient. And—I am tired of waiting.”
She sat with bent head, looking at their joined hands. His hands were smaller and whiter than his father’s, but very like them in shape. If they had been Joyselle’s! If he had been able to come to her with that question: “When will you marry me?”
“You are very good,” she said slowly, after a long pause.
“Suppose you tell me why this sudden frenzy of haste?”
He hesitated. “Well—we have been engaged nearly eight months—and I love you, dear.”
But she remembered Tommy’s story and persisted.
“Surely, though, something must have happened to-day? You were quite content yesterday.”
He flushed. “Eh bien, oui. It is that my grandmother has written. In September is to be their Golden Wedding. They are very old, and—they want—me to bring my wife to them. Brigit,” he added, his boyish face flushing with anticipatory pink, “may I not do it?”
She rose and went to the window, her temples beating violently. For weeks Theo had played such a subordinate role in her mind, owing as much to his native modesty as to her absorption in his father, that his mood of to-day came to her as a shock. After all, put the thought away, forget the inevitable future in an almost hysterical enjoyment of the present, as she would, it must be faced some time. Could she possibly marry this boy whom her sentimental contemporaneousness with his father naturally seemed to relegate to a generation younger than herself?
It would be horrible, unnatural. A husband, be he ever so modern, and his wife ever so unruly, is in the nature of things more or less a master, whereas, she realised with a flash of very miserable amusement, she would, if displeased with him, feel less inclined to use wifely diplomacy than to box his ears. Emphatically, she had hopelessly outgrown him. Then, what should she do?