“He wouldn’t dare,” says Margaret, to no one in particular. “Oh, no, he wouldn’t dare after what happened four years ago.”
And, Margaret-like, she has quite forgotten that what happened four years ago was all caused by her having flirted outrageously with Teddy Anstruther, in order to see what Billy would do.
The twelve forty-five, for a wonder, was on time; and there descended from it a big, blond young man, who did not look in the least like a fortune-hunter.
Miss Hugonin resented this. Manifestly, he looked clean and honest for the deliberate purpose of deceiving her. Very well! She’d show him!
He was quite unembarrassed. He shook hands cordially; then he shook hands with the groom, who, you may believe it, was grinning in a most unprofessional manner because Master Billy was back again at Selwoode. Subsequently, in his old decisive way, he announced they would walk to the house, as his legs needed stretching.
The insolence of it!—quite as if he had something to say to Margaret in private and couldn’t wait a minute. Beyond doubt, this was a young man who must be taken down a peg or two, and that at once. Of course, she wasn’t going to walk back with him!—a pretty figure they’d cut strolling through the fields, like a house-girl and the milkman on a Sunday afternoon! She would simply say she was too tired to walk, and that would end the matter.
So she said she thought the exercise would do them both good.
They came presently with desultory chat to a meadow bravely decked in all the gauds of Spring. About them the day was clear, the air bland. Spring had revamped her ageless fripperies of tender leaves and bird-cries and sweet, warm odours for the adornment of this meadow; above it she had set a turkis sky splashed here and there with little clouds that were like whipped cream; and upon it she had scattered largesse, a Danae’s shower of buttercups. Altogether, she had made of it a particularly dangerous meadow for a man and a maid to frequent.
Yet there Mr. Woods paused under a burgeoning maple—paused resolutely, with the lures of Spring thick about him, compassed with every snare of scent and sound and colour that the witch is mistress of.
Margaret hoped he had a pleasant passage over. Her father, thank you, was in the pink of condition. Oh, yes, she was quite well. She hoped Mr. Woods would not find America—
“Well, Peggy,” said Mr. Woods, “then, we’ll have it out right here.”
His insolence was so surprising that—in order to recover herself—Margaret actually sat down under the maple-tree. Peggy, indeed! Why, she hadn’t been called Peggy for—no, not for four whole years!
“Because I intend to be friends, you know,” said Mr. Woods.
And about them the maple-leaves made a little island of sombre green, around which more vivid grasses rippled and dimpled under the fitful spring breezes. And everywhere leaves lisped to one another, and birds shrilled insistently. It was a perilous locality.