Yet some twenty minutes later, Mr. Woods, preparing for luncheon in the privacy of his chamber, gave a sudden exclamation. Then he sat down and rumpled his hair thoroughly.
“Good Lord!” he groaned; “I’d forgotten all about that damned money! Oh, you ass!—you abject ass! Why, she’s one of the richest women in America, and you’re only a fifth-rate painter with a paltry thousand or so a year! You marry her!—why, I dare say she’s refused a hundred better men than you! She’d think you were mad! Why, she’d think you were after her money! She—oh, she’d only think you a precious cheeky ass, she would, and she’d be quite right. You are an ass, Billy Woods! You ought to be locked up in some nice quiet stable, where your heehawing wouldn’t disturb people. You need a keeper, you do!”
He sat for some ten minutes, aghast. Afterward he rose and threw back his shoulders and drew a deep breath.
“No, we aren’t an ass,” he addressed his reflection in the mirror, as he carefully knotted his tie. “We’re only a poor chuckle-headed moth who’s been looking at a star too long. It’s a bright star, Billy, but it isn’t for you. So we’re going to be sensible now. We’re going to get a telegram to-morrow that will call us away from Selwoode. We aren’t coming back any more, either. We’re simply going to continue painting fifth-rate pictures, and hoping that some day she’ll find the right man and be very, very happy.”
Nevertheless, he decided that a blue tie would look better, and was very particular in arranging it.
At the same moment Margaret stood before her mirror and tidied her hair for luncheon and assured her image in the glass that she was a weak-minded fool. She pointed out to herself the undeniable fact that Billy, having formerly refused to marry her—oh, ignominy!—seemed pleasant-spoken enough, now that she had become an heiress. His refusal to accept part of her fortune was a very flimsy device; it simply meant he hoped to get all of it. Oh, he did, did he!
Margaret powdered her nose viciously.
She saw through him! His honest bearing she very plainly perceived to be the result of consummate hypocrisy. In his laughter her keen ear detected a hollow ring; and his courteous manner she found, at bottom, mere servility. And finally she demonstrated—to her own satisfaction, at least—that his charm of manner was of exactly the, same sort that had been possessed by many other eminently distinguished criminals.
How did she do this? My dear sir, you had best inquire of your mother or your sister or your wife, or any other lady that your fancy dictates. They know. I am sure I don’t.
And after it all—
“Oh, dear, dear!” said Margaret; “I do wish he didn’t have such nice eyes!”
On the way to luncheon Mr. Woods came upon Adele Haggage and Hugh Van Orden, both of whom he knew, very much engrossed in one another, in a nook under the stairway. To Billy it seemed just now quite proper that every one should be in love; wasn’t it—after all—the most pleasant condition in the world? So he greeted them with a semi-paternal smile that caused Adele to flush a little.