Mrs. Saumarez was not striving to be clever now. And, heavens (thought Billy), how much nicer she was like this! It wasn’t the same woman: her thin cheeks flushed arbutus-like, and her rather metallic voice was grown low and gentle. Billy brought memories with him, you see; and for the moment, she was Kathleen Eppes again—Kathleen Eppes in the first flush of youth, eager, trustful, and joyous-hearted, as he had known her long ago. Since then, the poor woman had eaten of the bread of dependence and had found it salt enough; she had paid for it daily, enduring a thousand petty slights, a thousand petty insults, and smiling under them as only women can. But she had forgotten now that shrewd Kathleen Saumarez who must earn her livelihood as best she might. She smiled frankly—a purely unprofessional smile.
“I was sorry when I heard you were coming,” she said, irrelevantly, “but I’m glad now.”
Mr. Woods—I grieve to relate—was still holding her hand in his. There stirred in his pulses the thrill Kathleen Eppes had always wakened—a thrill of memory now, a mere wraith of emotion. He was thinking of a certain pink-cheeked girl with crinkly black-brown hair and eyes that he had likened to chrysoberyls—and he wondered whimsically what had become of her. This was not she. This was assuredly not Kathleen, for this woman had a large mouth—a humorous and kindly mouth it was true, but undeniably a large one—whereas, Kathleen’s mouth had been quite perfect and rather diminutive than otherwise. Hadn’t he rhymed of it often enough to know?
They stood gazing at one another for a long time; and in the back of Billy’s brain lines of his old verses sang themselves to a sad little tune—the verses that reproved the idiocy of all other poets, who had very foolishly written their sonnets to other women: and yet, as the jingle pointed out,
Had these poets ever strayed
In thy path, they had not made
Random rhymes of Arabella,
Songs of Dolly, hymns of Stella,
Lays of Lalage or Chloris—
Not of Daphne nor of Doris,
Florimel nor Amaryllis,
Nor of Phyllida nor Phyllis,
Were their wanton melodies:
But all of these—
All their melodies had been
Of thee, Kathleen.
Would they have been? Billy thought it improbable. The verses were very silly; and, recalling the big, blundering boy who had written them, Billy began to wonder—somewhat forlornly—whither he, too, had vanished. He and the girl he had gone mad for both seemed rather mythical—legendary as King Pepin.
“Yes,” said Mrs. Saumarez—and oh, she startled him; “I fancy they’re both quite dead by now. Billy,” she cried, earnestly, “don’t laugh at them!—don’t laugh at those dear, foolish children! I—somehow, I couldn’t bear that, Billy.”
“Kathleen,” said Mr. Woods, in admiration, “you’re a witch. I wasn’t laughing, though, my dear. I was developing quite a twilight mood over them—a plaintive, old-lettery sort of mood, you know.”