“My dear Kathleen, I assure you I am not angry. I am merely a little sorry for human nature. I could have sworn Woods was honest. But rogues all, rogues all, Kathleen! Money rules us in the end; and now the parable is fulfilled, and Love the prodigal returns to make merry over the calf of gold. Confess,” Mr. Kennaston queried, with a smile, “is it not strange an all-wise Creator should have been at pains to fashion this brave world about us for little men and women such as we to lie and pilfer in? Was it worth while, think you, to arch the firmament above our rogueries, and light the ageless stars as candles to display our antics? Let us be frank, Kathleen, and confess that life is but a trivial farce ignobly played in a very stately temple.” And Mr. Kennaston laughed again.
“Let us be frank!” Kathleen cried, with a little catch in her voice. “Why, it isn’t in you to be frank, Felix Kennaston! Your life is nothing but a succession of poses—shallow, foolish poses meant to hoodwink the world and at times yourself. For you do hoodwink yourself, don’t you, Felix?” she asked, eagerly, and gave him no time to answer. She feared, you see, lest his answer might dilapidate the one fortress she had been able to build about his honour.
“And now,” she went on, quickly, “you’re trying to make me think you a devil of a fellow, aren’t you? And you’re hinting that I’ve accepted Billy because of his money, aren’t you? Well, it is true that I wouldn’t marry him if he were poor. But he’s very far from being poor. And he cares for me. And I am fond of him. And so I shall marry him and make him as good a wife as I can. So there!”
Mrs. Saumarez faced him with an uneasy defiance. He was smiling oddly.
“I have heard it rumoured in many foolish tales and jingling verses,” said Kennaston, after a little, “that a thing called love exists in the world. And I have also heard, Kathleen, that it sometimes enters into the question of marriage. It appears that I was misinformed.”
“No,” she answered, slowly, “there is a thing called love. I think women are none the better for knowing it. To a woman, it means to take some man—some utterly commonplace man, perhaps—perhaps, only an idle poseur such as you are, Felix—and to set him up on a pedestal, and to bow down and worship him; and to protest loudly, both to the world and to herself, that in spite of all appearances her idol really hasn’t feet of clay, or that, at any rate, it is the very nicest clay in the world. For a time she deceives herself, Felix. Then the idol topples from the pedestal and is broken, and she sees that it is all clay, Felix—clay through and through—and her heart breaks with it.”
Kennaston bowed his head. “It is true,” said he; “that is the love of women.”
“To a man,” she went on, dully, “it means to take some woman—the nearest woman who isn’t actually deformed—and to make pretty speeches to her and to make her love him. And after a while—” Kathleen shrugged her shoulders drearily. “Why, after a while,” said she, “he grows tired and looks for some other woman.”