He detained her. “You are an angel,” he insisted—“an angel with a large property. I love you, Margaret! Be mine!—be my blushing bride, I entreat you! Your property is far too large for an angel to look after. You need a man of affairs. I am a man of affairs. I am forty-five, and have no bad habits. My press-notices are, as a rule, favourable, my eloquence is accounted considerable, and my dearest aspiration is that you will comfort my declining years. I might add that I adore you, but I think I mentioned that before. Margaret, will you be my blushing bride?”
“No!” said Miss Hugonin emphatically. “No, you tipsy old beast—no!”
There was a rustle of skirts. The door slammed, and the philanthropist was left alone on the terrace.
In the living-hall Margaret came upon Hugh Van Orden, who was searching in one of the alcoves for a piece of music that Adele Haggage wanted and had misplaced.
The boy greeted her miserably.
“Miss Hugonin,” he lamented, “you’re awfully hard on me.”
“I am sorry,” said Margaret, “that you consider me discourteous to a guest in my own house.” Oh, I grant you Margaret was in a temper now.
“It isn’t that,” he protested; “but I never see you alone. And I’ve had something to tell you.”
“Yes?” said she, coldly.
He drew near to her. “Surely,” he breathed, “you must know what I have long wanted to tell you—”
“Yes, I should think I did!” said Margaret, “and if you dare tell me a word of it I’ll never speak to you again. It’s getting a little monotonous. Good-night, Mr. Van Orden.”
Half way up the stairs she paused and ran lightly back.
“Oh, Hugh, Hugh!” she said, contritely, “I was unpardonably rude. I’m sorry, dear, but it’s quite impossible. You are a dear, cute little boy, and I love you—but not that way. So let’s shake hands, Hugh, and be friends! And then you can go and play with Adele.” He raised her hand to his lips. He really was a nice boy.
“But, oh, dear!” said Margaret, when he had gone; “what horrid creatures men are, and what a temper I’m in, and what a vexatious place the world is! I wish I were a pauper! I wish I had never been born! And I wish—and I wish I had those League papers fixed! I’ll do it to-night! I’m sure I need something tranquillising, like assessments and decimal places and unpaid dues, to keep me from screaming. I hate them all—all three of them—as badly as I do him!”
Thereupon she blushed, for no apparent reason, and went to her own rooms in a frame of mind that was inexcusable, but very becoming. Her cheeks burned, her eyes flashed with a brighter glow that was gem-like and a little cruel, and her chin tilted up defiantly. Margaret had a resolute chin, a masculine chin. I fancy that it was only at the last moment that Nature found it a thought too boyish and modified it with a dimple—a very creditable dimple, by the way, that she must have been really proud of. That ridiculous little dint saved it, feminised it.