It is curious what a trivial matter love makes of felony.
Margaret’s heart sank.
However, “Yes?” said she, encouragingly; “and what do you intend doing afterward?—”
“I—I shall probably live abroad,” said Billy. “Cheaper, you know.”
[Illustration: “Miss Hugonin pouted. ’You needn’t be such a grandfather,’ she suggested, helpfully”]
And here (he thought) was an excellent, an undreamed-of opportunity to inform her of his engagement. He had much better tell her now and have done. Mr. Woods opened his mouth and looked at Margaret, and closed it. Again she was pouting in a fashion that distracted one’s mind.
“That would be most unattractive,” said Miss Hugonin, calmly. “You’re very stupid, Billy, to think of living abroad. Billy, I think you’re almost as stupid as I am. I’ve been very stupid, Billy. I thought I liked Mr. Kennaston. I don’t, Billy—not that way. I’ve just told him so. I’m not—I’m not engaged to anybody now, Billy. But wasn’t it stupid of me to make such a mistake, Billy?”
That was a very interesting mosaic there in the summer-house.
“I don’t understand,” said Mr. Woods. His voice shook, and his hands lifted a little toward her and trembled.
Poor Billy dared not understand. Her eyes downcast, her foot tapping the floor gently, Margaret was all one blush. She, too, was trembling a little, and she was a little afraid and quite unutterably happy; and outwardly she was very much the tiny lady of Oberon’s court, very much the coquette quintessentialised.
It is pitiable that our proud Margaret should come to such a pass. Ah, the men that you have flouted and scorned and bedeviled and mocked at, Margaret—could they see you now, I think the basest of them could not but pity and worship you. This man is bound in honour to another woman; yet a little, and his lips will open—very dry, parched lips they are now—and he will tell you, and your pride will drive you mad, and your heart come near to breaking.
“Don’t you understand—oh, you silly Billy!” She was peeping at him meltingly from under her lashes.
“I—I’m imagining vain things,” said Mr. Woods. “I—oh, Peggy, Peggy, I think I must be going mad!”
He stared hungrily at the pink, startled face that lifted toward his. Ah, no, no, it could not be possible, this thing he had imagined for a moment. He had misunderstood.
And now just for a little (thought poor Billy) let my eyes drink in those dear felicities of colour and curve, and meet just for a little the splendour of those eyes that have the April in them, and rest just for a little upon that sanguine, close-grained, petulant mouth; and then I will tell her, and then I think that I must die.
“Peggy——” he began, in a flattish voice.
“They have evidently gone,” said the voice of Mr. Kennaston; “yes, those beautiful, happy young people have foolishly deserted the very prettiest spot in the gardens. Let us sit here, Kathleen.”