I fancy Billy Woods was out of his head when he suggested being friends in such a place. Friends, indeed!—you would have thought from the airy confidence with which he spoke that Margaret had come safely to forty year and wore steel-rimmed spectacles!
But Miss Hugonin merely cast down her eyes and was aware of no reason why they shouldn’t be. She was sure he must be hungry, and she thought luncheon must be ready by now.
In his soul, Mr. Woods observed that her lashes were long—long beyond all reason. Lacking the numbers that Petrarch flowed in, he did not venture, even to himself, to characterise them further. But oh, how queer it was they should be pure gold at the roots!—she must have dipped them in the ink-pot. And oh, the strong, sudden, bewildering curve of ’em! He could not recall at the present moment ever noticing quite such lashes anywhere else. No, it was highly improbable that there were such lashes anywhere else. Perhaps a few of the superior angels might have such lashes. He resolved for the future to attend church more regularly.
Aloud, Mr. Woods observed that in that case they had better shake hands.
It would have been ridiculous to contest the point. The dignified course was to shake hands, since he insisted on it, and then to return at once to Selwoode.
Margaret Hugonin had a pretty hand, and Mr. Woods, as an artist, could not well fail to admire it. Still, he needn’t have looked at it as though he had never before seen anything quite like it; he needn’t have neglected to return it; and when Miss Hugonin reclaimed it, after a decent interval, he needn’t have laughed in a manner that compelled her to laugh, too. These things were unnecessary and annoying, as they caused Margaret to forget that she despised him.
[Illustration: “Then, for no apparent reason, Margaret flushed, and Billy ... thought it vastly becoming”]
For the time being—will you believe it?—she actually thought he was rather nice.
“I acted like an ass,” said Mr. Woods, tragically. “Oh, yes, I did, you know. But if you’ll forgive me for having been an ass I’ll forgive you for throwing me over for Teddy Anstruther, and at the wedding I’ll dance through any number of pairs of patent-leathers you choose to mention.”
So that was the way he looked at it. Teddy Anstruther, indeed! Why, Teddy was a dark little man with brown eyes—just the sort of man she most objected to. How could any one ever possibly fancy a brown-eyed man? Then, for no apparent reason, Margaret flushed, and Billy, who had stretched his great length of limb on the grass beside her, noted it with a pair of the bluest eyes in the world and thought it vastly becoming.
“Billy,” said she, impulsively—and the name having slipped out once by accident, it would have been absurd to call him anything else afterward—“it was horrid of you to refuse to take any of that money.”