Lady Kingsmead flushed angrily, and was about to speak, when her daughter interrupted in a perfunctory voice: “Oh, don’t, Gerald, you know she loathes being teased. Besides, your praise doesn’t in the least interest me.”
His smile was not good to see. “I think, my dear Brigit, that you are about the handsomest woman I ever saw—that is, the handsomest dark woman; but you look so damned ill-tempered that you will be hideous in ten years’ time.”
The girl drew a deep sigh of indifference, and turning, walked slowly away. She wore a rather shabby frock of tomato-coloured chiffon, and as she went down the room one of her greatest charms appeared to striking advantage—the lazy, muscular grace of her movements. She walked like an American Indian youth of some superior tribe, and every curve of her body indicated remarkable physical strength and endurance.
Gerald Carron watched her, his face paling, and as Lady Kingsmead studied him, her own slowly reddened under its mask of paint and powder. The situation was an old one—a woman, too late reciprocating the passion which she had toyed with for many years, suddenly brought face to face with the realisation that this love had been transferred to a younger woman, and that woman her own daughter. The little scene enacted so quietly in the pretty, conventional drawing-room, with its pale walls and beflowered furniture, was of great tenseness.
Before anyone had spoken the door opened and the Newlyns and Pat Yelverton came in, Mrs. Newlyn hastily clasping the last of the myriad bracelets that were so peculiarly unbecoming to her thin red arms. She and her husband both were bird-like in eye and gesture, and their nicknames among their intimates were, though neither of them knew it, the Cassowary and the Sparrow, she being the Cassowary. Besides being bird-like, they were both bores of the deepest dye.
Pat Yelverton was a blond giant with a very bad reputation, a genius for Bridge, and the softest, most caressing voice that ever issued from a man’s throat.
Meeting the new-comers at the door, Brigit shook hands with them and returned, with an aimless air peculiar to her, to the fire.
She knew them all so well, and they all bored her to tears, except Carron, whom she strongly hated. Everybody bored her, and everything. With the utmost sincerity she wondered for the thousandth time why she had ever been born.
As the others chattered, she went to a window and stood looking out over the moonlit lawn.
She turned, and seeing the smile of delight on the boyish face before her, smiled back. “Monsieur Joyselle!”
Theo, who was twenty-two, and who adored her, flushed to the roots of his curly hair—and who was it who decided that blushes stop there, and do not continue up over the skull, down the back and out at one’s heels?
“Yes, yes,” he cried, holding her hand tightly in his. “Let us speak French, I—I love to speak my own tongue to you.”