Then the door opened. Then, with Colonel Hugonin, came Martin Jeal—a wisp of a man like a November leaf—and regarded them from under his shaggy white hair with alert eyes.
“Hey, what’s this?” said Dr. Jeal. “Eh, yes! Eh—yes!” he meditated, slowly. “Most irregular. You must let us have the room, Miss Hugonin.”
In the hall she waited. Hope! ah, of course, there was no hope! the thin little whisper told her.
By and bye, though—after centuries of waiting—the three men came into the hall.
“Miss Hugonin,” said Dr. Jeal, with a strange kindness in his voice, “I don’t think we shall need you again. I am happy to tell you, though, that the patient is doing nicely—very nicely indeed.”
Margaret clutched his arm. “You—you mean——”
“I mean,” said Dr. Jeal, “that there is no fracture. A slight concussion of the brain, madam, and—so far as I can see—no signs of inflammation. Barring accidents, I think we’ll have that young man out of bed in a week. Thanks,” he added, “to Mr.—er—Jukesbury here whose prompt action was, under Heaven, undoubtedly the means of staving off meningitis and probably—indeed, more than probably—the means of saving Mr. Woods’s life. It was splendid, sir, splendid! No doctor—why, God bless my soul!”
For Miss Hugonin had thrown her arms about Petheridge Jukesbury’s neck and had kissed him vigorously.
“You beautiful child!” said Miss Hugonin.
“Er—Jukesbury,” said the Colonel, mysteriously, “there’s a little cognac in the cellar that—er—” The Colonel jerked his thumb across the hallway with the air of a conspirator. “Eh?” said the Colonel.
“Why—er—yes,” said Mr. Jukesbury. “Why—ah—yes, I think I might.”
They went across the hall together. The Colonel’s hand rested fraternally on Petheridge Jukesbury’s shoulder.
The next day there was a general exodus from Selwoode, and Margaret’s satellites dispersed upon their divers ways. Selwoode, as they understood it, was no longer hers; and they knew Billy Woods well enough to recognise that from Selwoode’s new master there were no desirable pickings to be had such as the philanthropic crew had fattened on these four years past. So there came to them, one and all, urgent telegrams or insistent letters or some equally unanswerable demand for their presence elsewhere, such as are usually prevalent among our guests in very dull or very troublous times.
Miss Hugonin smiled a little bitterly. She considered that the scales had fallen from her eyes, and flattered herself that she was by way of becoming a bit of a misanthrope; also, I believe, there was a note concerning the hollowness of life and the worthlessness of society in general. In a word, Margaret fell back upon the extreme cynicism and world-weariness of twenty-three, and assured herself that she despised everybody, whereas, as a matter of fact, she never in her life succeeded in disliking anything except mice and piano-practice, and, for a very little while, Billy Woods; and this for the very excellent reason that the gods had fashioned her solely to the end that she might love all mankind, and in return be loved by humanity in general and adored by that portion of it which inhabits trousers.