And this Carron, with his wild eyes, was no person to confide in.
“Come, buck up, old thing,” she said, with an affectation of brusque good-humour: “you haven’t been sleeping. Isn’t that it?”
“Yes. I’ll never sleep any more.”
“And you’re taking—Veronal?”
“Yes, sometimes. Oh, don’t bully me, Tony! I’m—done.”
“I should think you were, to come and tell a woman beastly stories about her own daughter! You’ll be sorry to-morrow. Did you tell her this beautiful idea by way of making yourself engaging?”
“I told her—yes.”
“And she didn’t knock you down? Upon my word, I am surprised. Now look here, Gerald; you must go. I’m going to dress. We are going to the Cassowary’s ball. You’d better go to bed and try to sleep without any Veronal. Will you? Will you, Gerry, poor old boy?”
His nerves were in such a condition that this unmerited and unexpected kindness broke him down utterly. Suddenly, to her horror, the poor wretch burst into tears, sobbing like a child.
“Gerry, don’t—oh, for Heaven’s sake, don’t!” she cried, laying her hand on his head. “You—you mustn’t. Gerry, Gerry dear——”
“Yes, pat his head and call him dear!” cried Brigit furiously from the open door. “He insults me in the most abominable way, the vile little beast, and then you pet him. Bah! mother, you do really make me ill!”
Lady Kingsmead turned, amazed. “You are off your head, too! Can’t you see he is ill?”
But Brigit’s anger, nursed all during the drive home, burst out afresh. All her life she and her mother had quarrelled; there had never been implanted in her even an idea of the common decency of filial respect, or of its semblance. Her mother’s gusty, fitful temper had always, when roused, been given instant vent in a torrent of vituperation, and the girl, while too sulky to be so spontaneous even in the unpleasant sense of the word, had early acquired the habit of speaking to her mother as she would have to a greatly disliked sister.
So now, when her rage with Carron burst its bounds, and she found, as she thought, her mother taking his part, she gave free rein to her temper, and its eloquent bitterness struck Lady Kingsmead for the moment dumb.
Carron sat still, his face hidden in his hands. When at last Brigit’s arraignment ceased, Lady Kingsmead’s turn came, and more feebly, less effectively, but to the best of her powers, she gave back abuse for abuse.
It was not a pleasant sight. Unbridled rage never is, even when in a good cause, and these two undisciplined women had lost all dignity and said very bad things to each other.
Brigit’s one excuse was her mistaken assumption that her mother had believed Carron’s story, and when Lady Kingsmead had shrieked out everything else that she thought might hurt her daughter, she added, “I believed in you, you little brute, though he said he saw you there. I might have known he wouldn’t have dared to make up such a tale.”