“Oh, Peggy, I wish Monsieur Reece Zhone could but hear what you say. Do teach me some of your clever ridicule. It must be that I take suitors too seriously.”
“Thank you,” said Peggy dryly, “I need it all for my second-hand lot. He is the worst fool of any of them.”
“Take care, Peggy, you rouse me. Why is a man a fool for loving me?”
“He said he loved you, then?”
The Saucier negroes were gathering on doorsteps, excited by the day and the bustle of crowds which still hummed in the streets. Now a line of song was roared from the farthest cabin, and old and young voices all poured themselves into a chorus. A slender young moon showed itself under foliage, dipping almost as low as the horizon. Under all other sounds of life, but steadily and with sweet monotony, the world of little living things in grass and thicket made itself heard. The dewy darkness was a pleasure to Angelique, but Peggy moved restlessly, and finally clasped her hands behind her neck and leaned against the window side, watching as well as she could the queen of hearts opposite. She could herself feel Angelique’s charm of beautiful health and outreaching sympathy. Peggy was a candid girl, and had no self-deceptions. But she did have that foreknowledge of herself which lives a germ in some unformed girls whose development surprises everybody. She knew she could become a woman of strength and influence, the best wife in the Territory for an ambitious man who had the wisdom to choose her. Her sharp fairness would round out, moreover, and her red head, melting the snows which fell in middle age on a Morrison, become a softly golden and glorious crown. At an age when Angelique would be faded, Peggy’s richest bloom would appear. She was like the wild grapes under the bluffs; it required frost to ripen her. But women whom nature thus obliges to wait for beauty seldom do it graciously; transition is not repose.
“Well, which is it to be, Rice Jones or Pierre Menard? Be candid with me, Angelique, as I would be with you. You know you will have to decide some time.”
“I do not think Monsieur Reece Zhone is for me,” said Angelique, with intuitive avoidance of Colonel Menard’s name; Peggy cared nothing for the fate of Colonel Menard. “Indeed, I believe his mind dwells more on his sister now than on any one else.”
“I hate people’s relations!” cried Peggy brutally; “especially their sick relations. I couldn’t run every evening to pet Maria Jones and feed her pap.”
“I do not pet her nor feed her pap,” declared Angelique, put on the defensive. “Don’t be a little beast, Peggy,” she added in French.
“I see how it is: you are going to take him. The man who needs a bug in his ear worse than any other man in the Territory will never be handed over to me to get it. But let me tell you, you will have your hands full with Rice Jones. This Welsh-English stock is not soft stuff to manage. When he makes that line with his lips that looks like a red-hot razor edge, his poor wife will wish to leave this earth and take to the bluffs.”