So Felix Kennaston had his hour. Now Margaret has gone into Selwoode, flame-faced and quite unconscious that she is humming under her breath the words of a certain inane old song:
“Oh, she sat for me a chair;
She has ringlets in her hair;
She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother”—
Only she sang it “father.” And afterward, she suddenly frowned and stamped her foot, did Margaret.
“I hate him!” said she; but she looked very guilty.
In the living-hall of Selwoode Miss Hugonin paused. Undeniably there were the accounts of the Ladies’ League for the Edification of the Impecunious to be put in order; her monthly report as treasurer was due in a few days, and Margaret was in such matters a careful, painstaking body, and not wholly dependent upon her secretary; but she was entirely too much out of temper to attend to that now.
It was really all Mr. Kennaston’s fault, she assured a pricking conscience, as she went out on the terrace before Selwoode. He had bothered her dreadfully.
There she found Petheridge Jukesbury smoking placidly in the effulgence of the moonlight; and the rotund, pasty countenance he turned toward her was ludicrously like the moon’s counterfeit in muddy water. I am sorry to admit it, but Mr. Jukesbury had dined somewhat injudiciously. You are not to stretch the phrase; he was merely prepared to accord the universe his approval, to pat Destiny upon the head, and his thoughts ran clear enough, but with Aprilian counter-changes of the jovial and the lachrymose.
“Ah, Miss Hugonin,” he greeted her, with a genial smile, “I am indeed fortunate. You find me deep in meditation, and also, I am sorry to say, in the practise of a most pernicious habit. You do not object? Ah, that is so like you. You are always kind, Miss Hugonin. Your kindness, which falls, if I may so express myself, as the gentle rain from Heaven upon all deserving charitable institutions, and daily comforts the destitute with good advice and consoles the sorrowing with blankets, would now induce you to tolerate an odour which I am sure is personally distasteful to you.”
“But really I don’t mind,” was Margaret’s protest.
“I cannot permit it,” Mr. Jukesbury insisted, and waved a pudgy hand in the moonlight. “No, really, I cannot permit it. We will throw it away, if you please, and say no more about it,” and his glance followed the glowing flight of his cigar-end somewhat wistfully. “Your father’s cigars are such as it is seldom my privilege to encounter; but, then, my personal habits are not luxurious, nor my private income precisely what my childish imaginings had pictured it at this comparatively advanced period of life. Ah, youth, youth!—as the poet admirably says, Miss Hugonin, the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts, but its visions of existence are rose-tinged and free from care, and its conception of the responsibilities of manhood—such as taxes and the water-rate—I may safely characterise as extremely sketchy. But pray be seated, Miss Hugonin,” Petheridge Jukesbury blandly urged.