“Shall we say merely because the public changes? I am constant.”
“Yes, you are very wonderful.... And if it’s to-morrow already, my fate will be settled to-day. Drink to my destiny.”
“I drink to our destiny,” he said, raising his glass.
“No. Only to mine. It will be decided this afternoon.”
“You will give me your answer this afternoon?” he cried joyfully.
“I don’t say that. It’s my answer I shall know this afternoon. Yours you shall have to-morrow afternoon. You don’t mind giving me one day’s option of your hand?”
“One day’s! When you have had—”
She interrupted impatiently. “Let bygones be bygones. You shall have a letter by Monday afternoon. But, oh, Heavens! how could we marry? You believe in nothing!”
“There’s the Registrar.”
She pouted: “Dry legality. No flowers, no organ, no feeling sweet and virginal in a long veil. Oh, dear! Besides, there’s mother—”
“I don’t object to the church ceremony.”
“I’m glad. The law may end marriage. Marriage shouldn’t begin with law. It ought to look beautiful at the start, at least, though one may know it’s a shaky scraw.”
“A shaky what?”
“Oh, it’s an Irish term for a bit of black bog that looks like lovely green meadow. You step out so gaily on the glittering grass, and then squish! squash! down you go to choke in the ooze.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic. It would be much more sensible to think of marriage as solid meadow-land after your present scramble over a shaky what-d’ye-call it.”
“True for you! I give you the stage as the shakiest of all scraws. But where is solid footing to be found? The world itself is only a vast bog that sucks in the generations.”
“I am sorry I asked you to be serious,” he said glumly. “You’re such a quick-change artiste.”
“I must quickly assume the governess or I’ll lose my character,” she said, rising resolutely.
He put her cloak tenderly round her.
“You know I’ll take you without a character,” he said lightly.
“If I had no character I might be tempted to take you,” she retorted dispiritingly. “Thank you so much for my first supper.”
Eileen slept little. The dramatic possibilities of the interview with Colonel Doherty were too agitating and too numerous. This time the marionette-play needed writing. Who should receive him when he called? Eileen O’Keeffe or Nelly O’Neill?
Either possibility offered exquisite comedy.
Eileen—as plain as possible—with a high, black dress, drooped lids, stiffly brushed hair, even eyeglasses perhaps, with a deportment redolent of bread-and-butter and five-finger exercises, could perhaps disenchant him sufficiently to make him moderate his matrimonial ardour, even to hurry off apologetically to his serio-comic Circe round the corner. What a triumph of acting if she could drive him to her rival! Then as he went through the door—to loosen her hair, throw off her glasses and whistle him back to Nelly O’Neill!