Cromwell Mansions are a depressing pile of buildings not far from the Kensington High Street; they have lifts, uniformed hall-porters, house telephones and other modern inconveniences, and a restaurant.
The restaurant is, of course, the Mansions being inhabited chiefly by women, very bad indeed, but it obviates the necessity of cooks and kitchens in the, for the most part, diminutive flats into which the place is divided.
One day early in August Brigit Mead sat in the restaurant at a small table near an open window through which she caught an invigorating view of a brick court in the middle of which a woman was washing a cabbage at a pump.
It was a very warm day and the butter, more liquid than solid, seemed to be the last of a huge bundle of straws the weight of which threatened to break the girl’s back.
That the cold beef was hard and tasteless was a detail to be borne with, but the butter seemed particularly insulting as it melted before her eyes.
“Going to thunder, I believe,” observed a wan girl at the next table. “It would, of course, as I have tickets for Ranelagh!”
“Of course,” agreed Brigit, absently.
She hated being so late in town, but the Lenskys, to whom she had been going, had wired to put her off, as Pammy had come down with measles. And the wire having come only that morning, she had as yet made no other plan for the rest of the month.
“Give me some cream, please,” she said to the waiter, “without too much boracic acid powder in it.”
There was no irony in her remark and the waiter accepted it in good faith. “It’s the ’eat, my lady,” he explained serenely. “It all goes sour if they don’t put something in it.”
Brigit ate a piece of fruit tart, a bit of cheese, and rose languidly.
“I see your mother has gone to the country, Lady Brigit,” said a girl near the door, as she passed.
“Yes. She always goes on the 28th of July.”
“I saw it in some paper. Are you staying on long?”
The story of her leaving her mother’s house was, Brigit knew, common property, but this was the first time anyone had ventured to broach the matter to her.
“I suppose,” went on the unlucky questioner, “that you will soon be joining her?”
“Do you?” asked Brigit.
“Do I what?”
“Suppose so?” And Miss M’Caw was alone, staring after the tall figure in the plain white frock, that for all its plainness looked so out of place in Cromwell Mansions.
Unlocking her door, Brigit went into her sitting-room and lit a cigarette. She had taken the flat from a friend who had been sent abroad by her doctor, and the whole place was absurdly unsuited to its present owner.
Maidie Conyers was blonde and small, so the room was pale blue and “cosy.” There were embroidered pillows on the buttony Chesterfield, lace shades to the electric lights, and be-rosebudded liberty silk curtains.