Whatever she believed he would do, the probability of his doing it seemed highly agreeable to Miss Hugonin. She smiled at the fire in the most friendly fashion, and held out one of the folded papers to it.
“Yes,” said Margaret, “I’m quite sure he will.”
There I think we may leave her. For I have dredged the dictionary, and I confess I have found no fitting words wherewith to picture this inconsistent, impulsive, adorable young woman, dreaming brave dreams in the firelight of her lover and of their united future. I should only bungle it. You must imagine it for yourself.
It is a pretty picture, is it not?—with its laughable side, perhaps; under the circumstances, whimsical, if you will; but very, very sacred. For she loved him with a clean heart, loved him infinitely.
Let us smile at it—tenderly—and pass on.
But upon my word, when I think of how unreasonably, how outrageously Margaret had behaved during the entire evening, I am tempted to depose her as our heroine. I begin to regret I had not selected Adele Haggage.
She would have done admirably. For, depend upon it, she, too, had her trepidations, her white nights, her occult battles over Hugh Van Orden. Also, she was a pretty girl—if you care for brunettes—and accomplished. She was versed in I forget how many foreign languages, both Continental and dead, and could discourse sensibly in any one of them. She was perfectly reasonable, perfectly consistent, perfectly unimpulsive, and never expressed an opinion that was not countenanced by at least two competent authorities. I don’t know a man living, prepared to dispute that Miss Haggage excelled Miss Hugonin in all these desirable qualities.
Yet with pleasing unanimity they went mad for Margaret and had the greatest possible respect for Adele.
And, my dear Mrs. Grundy, I grant you cheerfully that this was all wrong. A sensible man, as you very justly observe, will seek in a woman something more enduring than mere personal attractions; he will value her for some sensible reason—say, for her wit, or her learning, or her skill in cookery, or her proficiency in Greek. A sensible man will look for a sensible woman; he will not concern his sensible head over such trumperies as a pair of bright eyes, or a red lip or so, or a satisfactory suit of hair. These are fleeting vanities.
You have doubtless heard ere this, my dear madam, that had Cleopatra’s nose been an inch shorter the destiny of the world would have been changed; had she been the woman you describe—perfectly reasonable, perfectly consistent, perfectly sensible in all she said and did—confess, dear lady, wouldn’t Antony have taken to his heels and have fled from such a monster?
I regret to admit that Mr. Woods did not toss feverishly about his bed all through the silent watches of the night. He was very miserable, but he was also twenty-six. That is an age when the blind bow-god deals no fatal wounds. It is an age to suffer poignantly, if you will; an age wherein to aspire to the dearest woman on earth, to write her halting verses, to lose her, to affect the cliches of cynicism, to hear the chimes at midnight—and after it all, to sleep like a top.