And in consequence, Billy Woods ate absolutely no dinner that evening.
It was an hour or two later when the moon, drifting tardily up from the south, found Miss Hugonin and Mr. Kennaston chatting amicably together in the court at Selwoode. They were discussing the deplorable tendencies of the modern drama.
The court at Selwoode lies in the angle of the building, the ground plan of which is L-shaped. Its two outer sides are formed by covered cloisters leading to the palm-garden, and by moonlight—the night bland and sweet with the odour of growing things, vocal with plashing fountains, spangled with fire-flies that flicker indolently among a glimmering concourse of nymphs and fauns eternally postured in flight or in pursuit—by moonlight, I say, the court at Selwoode is perhaps as satisfactory a spot for a tete-a-tete as this transitory world affords.
Mr. Kennaston was in vein to-night; he scintillated; he was also a little nervous. This was probably owing to the fact that Margaret, leaning against the back of the stone bench on which they both sat, her chin propped by her hand, was gazing at him in that peculiar, intent fashion of hers which—as I think I have mentioned—caused you fatuously to believe she had forgotten there were any other trousered beings extant.
Mr. Kennaston, however, stuck to apt phrases and nice distinctions. The moon found it edifying, but rather dull.
After a little Mr. Kennaston paused in his boyish, ebullient speech, and they sat in silence. The lisping of the fountains was very audible. In the heavens, the moon climbed a little further and registered a manifestly impossible hour on the sun-dial. It also brightened.
It was a companionable sort of a moon. It invited talk of a confidential nature.
“Bless my soul,” it was signalling to any number of gentlemen at that moment, “there’s only you and I and the girl here. Speak out, man! She’ll have you now, if she ever will. You’ll never have a chance like this again, I can tell you. Come, now, my dear boy, I’m shining full in your face, and you’ve no idea how becoming it is. I’m not like that garish, blundering sun, who doesn’t know any better than to let her see how red and fidgetty you get when you’re excited; I’m an old hand at such matters. I’ve presided over these little affairs since Babylon was a paltry village. I’ll never tell. And—and if anything should happen, I’m always ready to go behind a cloud, you know. So, speak out!—speak out, man, if you’ve the heart of a mouse!”
Thus far the conscienceless spring moon.
Mr. Kennaston sighed. The moon took this as a promising sign and brightened over it perceptibly, and thereby afforded him an excellent gambit.
“Yes?” said Margaret. “What is it, beautiful?”
That, in privacy, was her fantastic name for him.