The poet laughed a little. “Beautiful child,” said he—and that, under similar circumstances, was his perfectly reasonable name for her—“I have been discourteous. To be frank, I have been sulking as irrationally as a baby who clamours for the moon yonder.”
“You aren’t really anything but a baby, you know.” Indeed, Margaret almost thought of him as such. He was so delightfully naif.
He bent toward her. A faint tremor woke in his speech. “And so,” said he, softly, “I cry for the moon—the unattainable, exquisite moon. It is very ridiculous, is it not?”
But he did not look at the moon. He looked toward Margaret—past Margaret, toward the gleaming windows of Selwoode, where the Eagle brooded:
“Oh, I really can’t say,” Margaret cried, in haste. “She was kind to Endymion, you know. We will hope for the best. I think we’d better go into the house now.”
“You bid me hope?” said he.
“Beautiful, if you really want the moon, I don’t see the least objection to your continuing to hope. They make so many little airships and things nowadays, you know, and you’ll probably find it only green cheese, after all. What is green cheese, I wonder?—it sounds horribly indigestible and unattractive, doesn’t it?” Miss Hugonin babbled, in a tumult of fear and disappointment. He was about to spoil their friendship now; men were so utterly inconsiderate. “I’m a little cold,” said she, mendaciously, “I really must go in.”
He detained her. “Surely,” he breathed, “you must know what I have so long wanted to tell you—”
“I haven’t the least idea,” she protested, promptly. “You can tell me all about it in the morning. I have some accounts to cast up to-night. Besides, I’m not a good person to tell secrets to. You—you’d much better not tell me. Oh, really, Mr. Kennaston,” she cried, earnestly, “you’d much better not tell me!”
“Ah, Margaret, Margaret,” he pleaded, “I am not adamant. I am only a man, with a man’s heart that hungers for you, cries for you, clamours for you day by day! I love you, beautiful child—love you with a poet’s love that is alien to these sordid days, with a love that is half worship. I love you as Leander loved his Hero, as Pyramus loved Thisbe. Ah, child, child, how beautiful you are! You are fairest of created women, child—fair as those long-dead queens for whose smiles old cities burned and kingdoms were lightly lost. I am mad for love of you! Ah, have pity upon me, Margaret, for I love you very tenderly!”
He delivered these observations with appropriate fervour.
“Mr. Kennaston,” said she, “I am sorry. We got along so nicely before, and I was so proud of your friendship. We’ve had such good times together, you and I, and I’ve liked your verses so, and I’ve liked you—Oh, please, please, let’s keep on being just friends!” Margaret wailed, piteously.