Her answer to Theo? What was it to be? Should she find it here, in Sloane Street? How could she decide, not having the remotest idea what effect her decision would have on Joyselle? Could she live without him? As things now stood, he might, on her announcement that she was willing to marry Theo in, say, three months’ time, fly to the ends of the earth that he might hide his own suffering, or—he might have the strength to endure it in silence for his son’s sake.
If on the other hand she said no, that she could not marry his son, would he look on her decision as perfidy, and refuse to see her ever again, or—A man in a hansom swore softly with relief as she just escaped being knocked down by his horse, and quite unconscious of her danger, hurried on, her head bent.
Or—would he then—allow himself to love her—to love her frankly, so far as she was concerned?
At the corner of Sloane Square a man coming towards her saw her trance-like condition, and stopping short, forced her almost to run into his arms. “I beg your pardon,” she began mechanically, and then her face changed. “You, Gerald! How d’ye do?”
She had not seen him for days, and then it had been in the evening, so that now in the strong afternoon sun she saw with a momentary shock that he looked very ill indeed.
“Seedy?” she asked, some unanalysed feeling of understanding urging her to an unusual gentleness of tone.
“Yes. What is wrong with you, Brigit?”
She had never forgiven him the affair of the evening when Tommy had walked in his sleep, but her mind was too full of her own trouble to have much room for resentment, and his value as an enemy had gone down. He looked too broken and ill to be dangerous.
“I—I’m all right,” she returned.
“Where are you walking so fast?”
“I’m just walking.”
“I see. A race with the demons,” he said in a curious, hurried voice. “I do it, too. Everyone does, it seems. I just met Joyselle tearing out Chelseaward—the father, I mean.”
She looked up at him, her face clearing. “Ah!”
“Yes. I like him. He is a great artist and—a whole man. No disrespect to your young man, my dear,” he added, with a dismal attempt of his old jaunty manner.
“Yes; he is ‘a whole man.’ Well, I must get on. Good-bye.” With a nod she left him and hurried on.
To Chelsea? Yes; No. 16-1/2 Tite Street—she knew. She had never seen the house, but she had heard the number. No one ever went there. Madame Joyselle had never been, and Theo only once. Why was he “tearing” there at that hour? Because, of course, he wanted to be alone. There had certainly been a row of some kind, of which Theo had not told her. The old woman in Normandy had written, oh, yes; but then there must have been a great pourparler, and even Felicite had grown angry. Poor Felicite! To-night—oh, yes; at a dance at the Newlyns; she must give Theo his answer. At a dance!