They came presently through a trim, yew-hedged walkway to a summer-house covered with vines, into which Margaret peeped and declined to enter, on the ground that it was entirely too chilly and gloomy and exactly like a mausoleum; but nearby they found a semi-circular marble bench about which a group of elm-trees made a pleasant shadow splashed at just the proper intervals with sunlight.
On this Margaret seated herself; and then pensively moved to the other end of the bench, because a slanting sunbeam fell there. Since it was absolutely necessary to blast Mr. Kennaston’s dearest hopes, she thoughtfully endeavoured to distract his attention from his own miseries—as far as might be possible—by showing him how exactly like an aureole her hair was in the sunlight. Margaret always had a kind heart.
Kennaston stood before her, smiling a little. He was the sort of man to appreciate the manoeuver.
“My lady,” he asked, very softly, “haven’t you any good news for me on this wonderful morning?”
“Excellent news,” Margaret assented, with a cheerfulness that was not utterly free from trepidation. “I’ve decided not to marry you, beautiful, and I trust you’re properly grateful. You see, you’re very nice, of course, but I’m going to marry somebody else, and bigamy is a crime, you know; and, anyhow, I’m only a pauper, and you’d never be able to put up with my temper—now, beautiful, I’m quite sure you couldn’t, so there’s not a bit of use in arguing it. Some day you’d end by strangling me, which would be horribly disagreeable for me, and then they’d hang you for it, you know, and that would be equally disagreeable for you. Fancy, though, what a good advertisement it would be for your poems!”
[Illustration: “‘My lady,’ he asked, very softly, ’haven’t you any good news for me on this wonderful morning?’”]
She was not looking at him now—oh, no, Margaret was far too busily employed getting the will (which she had carried all this time) into an absurd little silver chain-bag hanging at her waist. She had no time to look at Felix Kennaston. There was such scant room in the bag; her purse took up so much space there was scarcely any left for the folded paper; the affair really required her closest, undivided attention. Besides, she had not the least desire to look at Kennaston just now.
“Beautiful child,” he pleaded, “look at me!”
But she didn’t.
She felt that at that moment she could have looked at a gorgon, say, or a cockatrice, or any other trifle of that nature with infinitely greater composure. The pause that followed Margaret accordingly devoted to a scrutiny of his shoes and sincere regret that their owner was not a mercenary man who would be glad to be rid of her.
“Beautiful child,” spoke the poet’s voice, sadly, “you aren’t—surely, you aren’t saying this in mistaken kindness to me? Surely, you aren’t saying this because of what has happened in regard to your money affairs? Believe me, my dear, that makes no difference to me. It is you I love—you, the woman of my heart—and not a certain, and doubtless desirable, amount of metal disks and dirty paper.”