Altogether, then, she swept down upon the papers of the Ladies’ League for the Edification of the Impecunious with very much the look of a diminutive Valkyrie—a Valkyrie of unusual personal attractions, you understand—en route for the battle-field and a little, a very little eager and expectant of the strife.
Subsequently, “Oh, dear, dear!” said she, amid a feverish rustling of papers; “the whole world is out of sorts to-night! I never did know how much seven times eight is, and I hate everybody, and I’ve left that list of unpaid dues in Uncle Fred’s room, and I’ve got to go after it, and I don’t want to! Bother those little suitors of mine!”
Miss Hugonin rose, and went out from her own rooms, carrying a bunch of keys, across the hallway to the room in which Frederick R. Woods had died. It was his study, you may remember. It had been little used since his death, but Margaret kept her less important papers there—the overflow, the flotsam of her vast philanthropic and educational correspondence.
And there she found Billy Woods.
His back was turned to the door as she entered. He was staring at a picture beside the mantel—a portrait of Frederick R. Woods—and his eyes when he wheeled about were wistful.
Then, on a sudden, they lighted up as if they had caught fire from hers, and his adoration flaunted crimson banners in his cheeks, and his heart, I dare say, was a great blaze of happiness. He loved her, you see; when she entered a room it really made a difference to this absurd young man. He saw a great many lights, for instance, and heard music. And accordingly, he laughed now in a very contented fashion.
“I wasn’t burglarising,” said he—“that is, not exactly. I ought to have asked your permission, I suppose, before coming here, but I couldn’t find you, and—and it was rather important. You see,” Mr. Woods continued, pointing to the great carved desk. “I happened to speak of this desk to the Colonel to-night. We—we were talking of Uncle Fred’s death, and I found out, quite by accident, that it hadn’t been searched since then—that is, not thoroughly. There are secret drawers, you see; one here,” and he touched the spring that threw it open, “and the other on this side. There is—there is nothing of importance in them; only receipted bills and such. The other drawer is inside that centre compartment, which is locked. The Colonel wouldn’t come. He said it was all foolishness, and that he had a book he wanted to read. So he sent me after what he called my mare’s nest. It isn’t, you see—no, not quite, not quite,” Mr. Woods murmured, with an odd smile, and then laughed and added, lamely: “I—I suppose I’m the only person who knew about it.”
Mr. Woods’s manner was a thought strange. He stammered a little in speaking; he laughed unnecessarily; and Margaret could see that his hands trembled. Taking him all in all, you would have sworn he was repressing some vital emotion. But he did not seem unhappy—no, not exactly unhappy. He was with Margaret, you see.