He raised her hand to his lips. “You are an angel,” Mr. Kennaston was pleased to say.
“No,” Mrs. Saumarez dissented, rather forlornly; “I’m simply a fool. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be about to marry you, knowing you as I do for what you are—knowing that I haven’t one chance in a hundred of any happiness.”
“My dear,” he said, and his voice was earnest, “you know at least that what there is of good in me is at its best with you.”
“Yes, yes!” Kathleen cried, quickly. “That is so, isn’t it, Felix? And you do care for me, don’t you? Felix, are you sure you care for me—quite sure? And are you quite certain, Felix, that you never cared so much for any one else?”
Mr. Kennaston was quite certain. He proceeded to explain his feelings toward her at some length.
Kathleen listened with downcast eyes and almost cheated herself into the belief that the man she loved was all that he should be. But at the bottom of her heart she knew he wasn’t.
I think we may fairly pity her.
Kennaston and Mrs. Saumarez chatted very amicably for some ten minutes. At the end of that period, the twelve forty-five express bellowing faintly in the distance recalled the fact that the morning mail was in, and thereupon, in the very best of humours, they set out for the house. I grieve to admit it, but Kathleen had utterly forgotten Billy by this, and was no more thinking of him than she was of the Man in the Iron Mask.
She was with Kennaston, you see; and her thoughts, and glances, and lips, and adoration were all given to his pleasuring, just as her life would have been if its loss could have saved him from a toothache. He strutted a little, and was a little grateful to her, and—to do him justice—received the tribute she accorded him with perfect satisfaction and equanimity.
Margaret came out of the summer-house, Billy Woods followed her, in a very moist state of perturbation.
“Peggy——” said Mr. Woods.
But Miss Hugonin was laughing. Clear as a bird-call, she poured forth her rippling mimicry of mirth. They train women well in these matters. To Margaret, just now, her heart seemed dead within her. Her lover was proved unworthy. Her pride was shattered. She had loved this clumsy liar yonder, had given up a fortune for him, dared all for him, had (as the phrase runs) flung herself at his head. The shame of it was a physical sickness, a nausea. But now, in this jumble of miseries, in this breaking-up of the earth and the void heavens that surged about her and would not be mastered, the girl laughed; and her laughter was care-free and half-languid like that of a child who is thinking of something else. Ah, yes, they train women well in these matters.
At length Margaret said, in high, crisp accents: “Pardon me, but I can’t help being amused, Mr. Woods, by the way in which hard luck dogs your footsteps. I think Fate must have some grudge against you, Mr. Woods.”