In fact, she was. Now that the meeting she had anticipated these twelve hours past was actually at hand, there woke in her breast an unreasoning panic. Miss Hugonin considered, and caught up her skirts, and whisked into the summer-house, and there sat down in the darkest corner and devoutly wished Mr. Woods in Crim Tartary, or Jericho, or, in a word, any region other than the gardens of Selwoode.
Billy came presently to the opening in the hedge and stared at the deserted bench. He was undeniably in a temper. But, then, how becoming it was! thought someone.
“Miss Hugonin!” he said, coldly.
Evidently (thought someone) he intends to be just as nasty as possible.
“Peggy!” said Mr. Woods, after a little.
Perhaps (thought someone) he won’t be very nasty.
“Dear Peggy!” said Mr. Woods, in his most conciliatory tone.
Someone rearranged her hair complacently.
But there was no answer, save the irresponsible chattering of the birds, and with a sigh Billy turned upon his heel.
Then, by the oddest chance in the world, Margaret coughed.
I dare say it was damp in the summer-house; or perhaps it was caused by some passing bronchial irritation; or perhaps, incredible as it may seem, she coughed to show him where she was. But I scarcely think so, because Margaret insisted afterward—very positively, too—that she didn’t cough at all.
“Well!” Mr. Woods observed, lengthening the word somewhat.
In the intimate half-light of the summer-house, he loomed prodigiously big. He was gazing downward in careful consideration of three fat tortoise-shell pins and a surprising quantity of gold hair, which was practically all that he could see of Miss Hugonin’s person; for that young lady had suddenly become a limp mass of abashed violet ruffles, and had discovered new and irresistible attractions in the mosaics about her feet.
Billy’s arms were crossed on his breast and his right hand caressed his chin meditatively. By and bye, “I wonder, now,” he reflected, aloud, “if you can give any reason—any possible reason—why you shouldn’t be locked up in the nearest sanatorium?”
“You needn’t be rude, you know,” a voice observed from the neighbourhood of the ruffles, “because there isn’t anything you can do about it.”
Mr. Woods ventured a series of inarticulate observations. “But why?” he concluded, desperately. “But why, Peggy?—in Heaven’s name, what’s the meaning of all this?”
She looked up. Billy was aware of two large blue stars; his heart leapt; and then he recalled a pair of gray-green eyes that had regarded him in much the same fashion not long ago, and he groaned.