“Billy thinks I want the money—bless his boots! He thinks I’m a stuck-up, grasping, purse-proud little pig, and he has every right to think so after the way I talked to him, though he ought to have realised I was in a temper about Kathleen Saumarez and have paid no attention to what I said. And he actually attempted to reason with me! If he’d had any consideration for my feelings, he’d have simply smacked me and made me behave—however, he’s a man, and all men are selfish, and she’s a skinny old thing, and I never had any use for her. Bother her lectures! I never understood a word of them, and I don’t believe she does, either. Women’s clubs are all silly, and I think the women who belong to them are all bold-faced jigs! If they had any sense, they’d stay at home and take care of the babies, instead of messing with philanthropy, and education, and theosophy, and anything else that they can’t make head or tail of. And they call that being cultured! Culture!—I hate the word! I don’t want to be cultured—I want to be happy.”
This, you will observe, was, in effect, a sweeping recantation of every ideal Margaret had ever boasted. But Love is a canny pedagogue, and of late he had instructed Miss Hugonin in a variety of matters.
“Before God, loving you as I do, I wouldn’t marry you for all the wealth in the world,” she repeated, with a little shiver. “Even in his delirium he said that. But I know now that he loves me. And I know that I adore him. And if this were a sensible world, I’d walk right in there and explain things and ask him to marry me, and then it wouldn’t matter in the least who had the money. But I can’t, because it wouldn’t be proper. Bother propriety!—but bothering it doesn’t do any good. As long as I have the money, Billy will never come near me, because of the idiotic way I talked to him. And he’s bent on my taking the money simply because it happens to belong to me. I consider that a very silly reason. I’ll make Billy Woods take the money, and I’ll make him see that I’m not a little pig, and that I trust him implicitly. And I think I’m quite justified in using a little—we’ll call it diplomacy—because otherwise he’d go back to France or some other objectionable place, and we’d both be very unhappy.”
Margaret began to laugh softly. “I’ve given him my word that I’ll do nothing further in the matter till he gets well. And I won’t. But——”
Miss Hugonin rose from the divan with a gesture of sweeping back her hair. And then—oh, treachery of tortoise-shell! oh, the villainy of those little gold hair-pins!—the fat twisted coils tumbled loose and slowly unravelled themselves, and her pink-and-white face, half-eclipsed, showed a delectable wedge between big, odourful, crinkly, ponderous masses of hair. It clung about her, a heavy cloak, all shimmering gold like the path of sunset over the June sea. And Margaret, looking at herself in the mirror, laughed, and appeared perfectly content with what she saw there.