Indeed, I believe Mr. Woods came very near doing so. She loved Peggy, you see; and he loved every one who loved her.
But he compromised by shaking hands energetically, for a matter of five minutes, and entreating to be allowed to subscribe to some of her deserving charitable enterprises—any one she might mention—and so left the old lady a little bewildered, but very much pleased.
She decided that for the future Adele must not see so much of Mr. Van Orden. She began to fear that gentleman’s views of life were not sufficiently serious.
Billy went into the gardens in pursuit of Margaret. He was almost happy now and felt vaguely ashamed of himself. Then he came upon Kathleen Saumarez, who, indeed, was waiting for him there; and his heart went down into his boots.
He realised on a sudden that he was one of the richest men in America. It was a staggering thought. Also, Mr. Woods’s views, at this moment, as to the advantages of wealth, might have been interesting.
Kathleen stood silent for an instant, eyes downcast, face flushed. She was trembling.
Then, “Billy,” she asked, almost inaudibly, “do—do you still want—your answer?”
The birds sang about them. Spring triumphed in the gardens. She looked very womanly and very pretty.
To all appearances, it might easily have been a lover and his lass met in the springtide, shamefaced after last night’s kissing. But Billy, somehow, lacked much of the elation and the perfect content and the disposition to burst into melody that is currently supposed to seize upon rustic swains at such moments. He merely wanted to know if at any time in the remote future his heart would be likely to resume the discharge of its proper functions. It was standing still now.
However, “Can you ask—dear?” His words, at least, lied gallantly.
The poor woman looked up into Billy’s face. After years of battling with the world, here for the asking was peace and luxury and wealth incalculable, and—as Kathleen thought—a love that had endured since they were boy and girl together. Yet she shrunk from him a little and clinched her hands before she spoke.
“Yes,” Kathleen faltered, and afterward she shuddered.
And here, if for the moment I may prefigure the Eagle as a sentient being, I can imagine his chuckle.