So Billy slept. And kind Hypnos loosed a dream through the gates of ivory that lifted him to a delectable land where Peggy was nineteen, and had never heard of Kennaston, and was unbelievably sweet and dear and beautiful. But presently they and the Colonel put forth to sea—on a great carved writing-desk—fishing for sharks, which the Colonel said were very plentiful in those waters; and Frederick R. Woods climbed up out of the sea, and said Billy was a fool and must go to college; and Peggy said that was impossible, as seventeen hundred and fifty thousand children had to be given an education apiece, and they couldn’t spare one for Billy; and a missionary from Zambesi Land came out of one of the secret drawers and said Billy must give him both of his feet as he needed them for his working-girls’ classes; and thereupon the sharks poked their heads out of the water and began, in a deafening chorus, to cry, “Feet, feet, feet!” And Billy then woke with a start, and found it was only the birds chattering in the dawn outside.
Then he was miserable.
He tossed, and groaned, and dozed, and smoked cigarettes until he could stand it no longer. He got up and dressed, in sheer desperation, and went for a walk in the gardens.
The day was clear as a new-minted coin. It was not yet wholly aired, not wholly free from the damp savour of night, but low in the east the sun was taking heart. A mile-long shadow footed it with Billy Woods in his pacings through the amber-chequered gardens. Actaeon-like, he surprised the world at its toilet, and its fleeting grace somewhat fortified his spirits.
But his thoughts pestered him like gnats. The things he said to the roses it is not necessary to set down.
After a vituperative half-hour or so Mr. Woods was hungry. He came back toward Selwoode; and upon the terrace in front of the house he found Kathleen Saumarez.
During the warm weather, one corner of the terrace had been converted, by means of gay red-and-white awnings, into a sort of living-room. There were chairs, tables, sofa-cushions, bowls of roses, and any number of bright-coloured rugs. Altogether, it was a cosy place, and the glowing hues of its furnishings were very becoming to Mrs. Saumarez, who sat there writing industriously.
It was a thought embarrassing. They had avoided one another yesterday—rather obviously—both striving to put off a necessarily awkward meeting. Now it had come. And now, somehow, their eyes met for a moment, and they laughed frankly, and the awkwardness was gone.
“Kathleen,” said Mr. Woods, with conviction, “you’re a dear.”
“You broke my heart,” said she, demurely, “but I’m going to forgive you.”