“Well—I just say all that, dear old thing, so you won’t think me sidey, you know.”
“I don’t, Tommy. In fact, I have sometimes observed in you symptoms of almost radical——”
“Don’t laugh, Brigit,” he broke in with a quaint wave of his hand. “What I mean to say is simply this. I am, although so young, and not very big—the Head of the Family.”
This magnificent declaration was so unlike his usual style of conversation that his sister with difficulty refrained from laughing.
“Well, Tommy—yes, there would be no use in my denying that you, not I, are the Earl of Kingsmead. But—your manner is somewhat solemn; surely you are not thinking of marrying?”
The earl’s mouth broadened spasmodically, and his eyes gleamed with amusement.
“I say, Bick, if you laugh at me, how on earth am I ever to get it said?”
“All right. Only take some jam and don’t terrify me with magnificence. This is the first time to my knowledge that an earl has ever shed the effulgence of his presence in these humble walls——”
Tommy’s grandeur gave up the ghost, and with a yell of delight he dived deep into one of the jars and heaped his plate with suspiciously crimson cherry jam.
“Good old Bick! I must have looked an awful little ass. But—well, will you chuck it all and come home?”
“Yes, ‘oho’ as much as you like, but it is all rot your living here, and she hates it, and it’s unpleasant all round. Besides the country is really lovely now, and I miss you.”
“Do you, Tommy dear?”
“Did mother send you?”
“No. She said you wouldn’t come if she did, but that you might if I—if I——”
“If you exerted your authority as Head of the Family!”
“Well, yes.” Tommy, now completely shamefaced, took more jam and handed back his cup.
“She is funny,” mused Brigit. “To have so little sense of humour.”
“That’s what I told her. But Aunt Emily says people are talking about your living alone, etc. And—besides, I think she is really rather fond of you, Bick.”
“Oh, no, she isn’t. However, M. l’Ambassadeur, you have fulfilled your mission, so be content.”
Tommy paused in his task of biting into a piece of cake and looked up at her. “Then—you will?”
“No, dear; I most certainly won’t. But don’t you bother about that. I like this very well, and after all it isn’t for long.”
“Oh. You mean you are going to marry Theo. When?”
“In October, probably. Nothing is settled. More jam?”
“No, thanks. I say, Bicky, what are you going to do in September?”
“I don’t know. Why?”
“Because they are all going to La-bas, to the Golden Wedding. They were talking about it the other day. Are you going, too?”
She shook her head. “Oh, no. But I daresay I shall be with the Lenskys then. I can’t go now, because one of the children is ill.”