“So the sad tale goes. Ignorance—beautiful, divine Ignorance—is forsaken by a generation that clamours for the truth. The earnest-minded person has plucked Zeus out of Heaven, and driven the Maenad from the wood, and dragged Poseidon out of his deep-sea palace. The conclaves of Olympus, it appears, are merely nature-myths; the stately legends clustering about them turn out to be a rather elaborate method of expressing the fact that it occasionally rains. The heroes who endured their angers and jests and tragic loves are delicately veiled allusions to the sun—surely, a very harmless topic of conversation, even in Greece; and the monsters, ’Gorgons and Hydras and Chimaeras dire,’ their grisly offspring, their futile opponents, are but personified frosts. Mythology—the poet’s necessity, the fertile mother of his inventions—has become a series of atmospheric phenomena, and the labours of Hercules prove to be a dozen weather bulletins.
“Is it any cause for wonder, that under this cheerless influence our poetry is either silent or unsold? The true poet must be ignorant, for information is the thief of rhyme. And it is only in dealing with—”
Kennaston paused. Margaret had appeared in the vestibule, and behind her stood her father, looking very grave.
“We have made a most interesting discovery,” Miss Hugonin airily announced to the world at large. “It appears that Uncle Fred left all his property to Mr. Woods here. We found the will only last night. I’m sure you’ll all be interested to learn I’m a pauper now, and intend to support myself by plain sewing. Any work of this nature you may choose to favour me with, ladies and gentlemen, will receive my most earnest attention.”
She dropped a courtesy. The scene appealed to her taste for the dramatic.
Billy came toward her quickly.
“Peggy,” he demanded of her, in the semi-privacy of the vestibule, “will you kindly elucidate the meaning of this da—this idiotic foolishness?”
“Why, this,” she explained, easily, and exhibited a folded paper. “I found it in the grate last night.”
He inspected it with large eyes. “That’s absurd,” he said, at length. “You know perfectly well this will isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”
“My dear sir,” she informed him, coldly, “you are vastly mistaken. You see, I’ve burned the other one.” She pushed by him. “Mr. Kennaston, are you ready for our walk? We’ll finish the paper some other time. Wasn’t it the strangest thing in the world—?” Her dear, deep, mellow voice died away as she and Kennaston disappeared in the gardens.
But meanwhile, Colonel Hugonin had given the members of his daughter’s house-party some inkling as to the present posture of affairs. They were gazing at Billy Woods rather curiously. He stood in the vestibule of Selwoode, staring after Margaret Hugonin; but they stared at him, and over his curly head, sculptured above the door-way, they saw the Eagle—the symbol of the crude, incalculable power of wealth.