So her eyes never strayed toward him; and her attention never left him. At the end of luncheon she could have enumerated for you every morsel he had eaten, every glare he had directed toward Kennaston, every beseeching look he had turned to her. Of course, he had taken sherry—dry sherry. Hadn’t he told her four years ago—it was the first day she had ever worn the white organdie dotted with purple sprigs, and they sat by the lake so late that afternoon that Frederick R. Woods finally sent for them to come to dinner—hadn’t he told her then that only women and children cared for sweet wines? Of course he had—the villain!
[Illustration: “Billy Woods”]
Billy, too, had his emotions. To hear that paragon, that queen among women, descant of work done in the slums and of the mysteries of sweat-shops; to hear her state off-hand that there were seventeen hundred and fifty thousand children between the ages of ten and fifteen years employed in the mines and factories of the United States; to hear her discourse of foreign missions as glibly as though she had been born and nurtured in Zambesi Land: all these things filled him with an odd sense of alienation. He wasn’t worthy of her, and that was a fact. He was only a dumb idiot, and half the words that were falling thick and fast from philanthropic lips about him might as well have been hailstones, for all the benefit he was deriving from them. He couldn’t understand half she said.
In consequence, he very cordially detested the people who could—especially that grimacing ass, Kennaston.
Altogether, neither Mr. Woods nor Miss Hugonin got much comfort from their luncheon.
After luncheon Billy had a quiet half-hour with the Colonel in the smoking-room.
Said Billy, between puffs of a cigar:
“Peggy’s changed a bit.”
The Colonel grunted. Perhaps he dared not trust to words.
“Seems to have made some new friends.”
A more vigorous grunt.
“Cultured lot, they seem?” said Mr. Woods. “Anxious to do good in the world, too—philanthropic set, eh?”
A snort this time.
“Eh?” said Mr. Woods. There was dawning suspicion in his tone.
The Colonel looked about him. “My boy,” said he, “you thank your stars you didn’t get that money; and, depend upon it, there never was a gold-ship yet that wasn’t followed.”
“Pirates?” Billy Woods suggested, helpfully.
“Pirates are human beings,” said Colonel Hugonin, with dignity. “Sharks, my boy; sharks!”
That evening, after proper deliberation, “Celestine,” Miss Hugonin commanded, “get out that little yellow dress with the little red bandanna handkerchiefs on it; and for heaven’s sake, stop pulling my hair out by the roots, unless you want a raving maniac on your hands, Celestine!”