But how could she decide until she knew what Victor—“Hansom!” Her own voice surprised her as a pistol shot might have done. “Tite Street, Chelsea, 16-1/2.”
The cabby, who was a romanticist and fed his brain on pabulum from the pen of Mr. Fergus Hume and other ingenious concocters of peripatetic mystery, wondered as he gave his horse a meaning lash with his whip—a tribute to the beauty of the fare—“Wot the dickens she was h’up to, with ’er big eyes and ’er ’ealthy pallor.”
It further excited the excellent man’s interest to be obliged, when he had arrived at his destination, to remind his fare that they had done so. “’Ere y’are, miss,” he murmured soothingly down the trap. “Shall I wait?”
The house was an old one with a broad, low front door and shallow, much-worn oak stairs. In answer to Brigit’s knock a Gamp-like person with a hare-lip appeared, and informing her curtly that Mr. Joyselle had come in only a few minutes before, added that she might go up—“To the top, miss, an’ there’s only one door when you’ve got up.”
Brigit almost ran up the four flights, and then, when opposite the door, sat down on the top step and hid her face in her hands.
What should she say? Why had she come? Would he be glad to see her—or shocked? Worse still, would he accept her coming as an act of filial devotion?
No. That she would not allow.
Her mind, boiling, as it were, with a thousand ingredients, she could hardly be said to be thinking. Realising perfectly that she had behaved outrageously, sincerely ashamed of herself and full of remorse, yet her own position and her own welfare had never for a second ceased to be her chief concern. Suffering was of a certainty in store for some of the actors in the drama, but she held the centre of the stage and meant to avoid as much pain as possible. For her love for Joyselle was, of course, a purely selfish one. For several minutes she sat crouching on the stairs, utterly undecided as to what her next step was to be. Then a sound from within the room behind her caused her to turn sharply. A sound of—not music, but of pitiless, furious scraping and grinding on a violin.
Could it be Joyselle? It was horrible, like the cries of some animal in agony. And it went on and on and on.
“It must be Victor,” she whispered; “it is his room. But—oh, how frightful! Has he gone mad? Oh, my God, my God!”
Rising, she stood for a horrible minute bending towards the door, and then with a quick movement opened it and went in.
The curtains were drawn, but a large window in the roof let in a square of cross daylight that looked like an island in a surrounding sea of dusky darkness; and in the light stood Joyselle, his back to her, his head bent over his violin in a way almost grotesque, as he groaned and tore at the hapless strings with venomous energy.