“Something queer along of all this,” he meditated; “that lean chap didn’t look quite right, an’ she ’adn’t no patience with ’im neither. Then in she goes to the old ‘ouse, an’ then along comes another ’ansom with the lean chap. Then I waits an hour, an’ out she comes with the little kids, kissin’ ’em, an’ the biggest little kid arsks ’er ’er nime! If she didn’t know ’im, why did she kiss ‘im? An’ before we’d got to the corner out comes the lean ‘un, lookin’ like a bloomin’ corpse. Something must ’ave ’appened in that old ‘ouse, an’ I’ll keep a lookout in the People and see wot it was. I’d like to ’ave been a fly on the wall during that there interview, I would. A fly on the wall with a tiste for short’and.”
Lady Kingsmead, who was going to the Newlyns’ ball later, was having dinner in her little sitting-room when Carron came rushing in, nearly treading on the heels of the afflicted Fledge, who did like to have a chance to announce visitors properly.
“Good Lord, Gerald!—what is the matter?”
“Matter enough. Brigit is Victor Joyselle’s mistress.”
He sank into a chair and pressed his thin hands together until the bones cracked.
“She is! she is! I have just come from his studio in Chelsea. Followed her there. She was alone with him for over an hour. And when she came out——”
Lady Kingsmead rose and went to him.
“Now listen to me,” she said firmly. “You have either been drinking or you are mad. I don’t care where you have been or where you saw Brigit. This story is—rot!”
Lady Kingsmead was not a clever woman, but this move on her part, the result not of a virtuous belief in virtue or of a sudden swing of her mental pendulum towards the effective, such as some women have—was amazing in its effect, because it was spontaneous and sincere.
“Will you have something to drink?” she asked.
It was a curious scene; the dainty little room with the swivel-table laid for one, the pretty, well-preserved woman, looking down with real pity but something very near scorn at the broken, haggard, untidy man sprawling in a rose-coloured chair.
“You are a fool, Tony,” he said roughly. “I tell you I know.”
“Bosh. You know perfectly well that I was never silly about my children. Well—I don’t care what you say about Brigit, I know she is all right. As yet, anyway,” she added.
“She loves that—that brute,” he stammered, wiping the perspiration from his face with a crumpled handkerchief. “I saw her face as she left his studio.”
Lady Kingsmead pursed her mouth thoughtfully.
“That may be,” she admitted. “I’ve thought for some time that something was in the air——”
Breaking off, she glanced hastily at him. The old habit of telling him her thoughts as they came to her was still strong, but this was not her Gerald Carron. This was a new man of whom she knew little. For this much wisdom she had learned: that every new love makes a new man of a man.