It was a quite idiotic performance. I set it down to the snares of Spring—to her insidious, delightful snares of scent and sound and colour that—for the moment, at least—had trapped these young people into loving life infinitely.
But I wonder who is responsible for that tatter of rhyme and melody that had come to them from nowhere in particular? Mr. Woods, as he sat up at the conclusion of the singing vigorously to applaud, would have shared his last possession, his ultimate crust, with that unknown benefactor of mankind. Indeed, though, the heart of Mr. Woods just now was full of loving kindness and capable of any freakish magnanimity.
For—will it be believed?—Mr. Woods, who four years ago had thrown over a fortune and exiled himself from his native land, rather than propose marriage to Margaret Hugonin, had no sooner come again into her presence and looked once into her perfectly fathomless eyes than he could no more have left her of his own accord than a moth can turn his back to a lighted candle. He had fancied himself entirely cured of that boy-and-girl nonsense; his broken heart, after the first few months, had not interfered in the least with a naturally healthy appetite; and, behold, here was the old malady raging again in his veins and with renewed fervour.
And all because the girl had a pretty face! I think you will agree with me that in the conversation I have recorded Margaret had not displayed any great wisdom or learning or tenderness or wit, nor, in fine, any of the qualities a man might naturally look for in a helpmate. Yet at the precise moment he handed his baggage-check to the groom, Mr. Woods had made up his mind to marry her. In an instant he had fallen head over ears in love; or to whittle accuracy to a point, he had discovered that he had never fallen out of love; and if you had offered him an empress or fetched Helen of Troy from the grave for his delectation he would have laughed you to scorn.
In his defense, I can only plead that Margaret was an unusually beautiful woman. It is all very well to flourish a death’s-head at the feast, and bid my lady go paint herself an inch thick, for to this favour she must come; and it is quite true that the reddest lips in the universe may give vent to slander and lies, and the brightest eyes be set in the dullest head, and the most roseate of complexions be purchased at the corner drug-store; but, say what you will, a pretty woman is a pretty woman, and while she continue so no amount of common-sense or experience will prevent a man, on provocation, from alluring, coaxing, even entreating her to make a fool of him. We like it. And I think they like it, too.
So Mr. Woods lost his heart on a fine spring morning and was unreasonably elated over the fact.
And Margaret? Margaret was content.
They talked for a matter of a half-hour in the fashion aforetime recorded—not very wise nor witty talk, if you will, but very pleasant to make. There were many pauses. There was much laughter over nothing in particular. There were any number of sentences ambitiously begun that ended nowhere. Altogether, it was just the sort of talk for a man and a maid.