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[Illustration: "Margaret"]







Martha Louise Branch

_In trust that the enterprise may be judged less by the merits of its
factor than by those of its patron_





































Colonel Thomas Hugonin, formerly in the service of Her Majesty the
Empress of India, Margaret Hugonin's father.

Frederick R. Woods, the founder of Selwoode, Margaret's uncle by

Billy Woods, his nephew, Margaret's quondam fiancé.

Hugh Van Orden, a rather young young man, Margaret's adorer.

Martin Jeal, M.D., of Fairhaven, Margaret's family physician.

Cock-Eye Flinks, a gentleman of leisure, Margaret's chance

Petheridge Jukesbury, president of the Society for the Suppression of
Nicotine and the Nude, Margaret's almoner in furthering the cause of
education and temperance.

Felix Kennaston, a minor poet, Margaret's almoner in furthering the
cause of literature and art.

Sarah Ellen Haggage, Madame President of the Ladies' League for the
Edification of the Impecunious, Margaret's almoner in furthering the
cause of charity and philanthropy. Kathleen Eppes Saumarez, a lecturer
before women's clubs, Margaret's almoner in furthering the cause of
theosophy, nature study, and rational dress.

Adèle Haggage, Mrs. Haggage's daughter, Margaret's rival with Hugh Van

And Margaret Hugonin.

The other participants in the story are Wilkins, Célestine, The Spring
Moon and The Eagle.



"'Altogether,' says Colonel Hugonin, 'they strike me as being the
most ungodly menagerie ever gotten together under one roof since Noah
landed on Ararat'"

"Then, for no apparent reason, Margaret flushed, and Billy ... thought
it vastly becoming"

"Billy Woods"

"Billy unfolded it slowly, with a puzzled look growing in his

"'My lady,' he asked, very softly, 'haven't you any good news for me
on this wonderful morning?'"

"Miss Hugonin pouted. 'You needn't, be such a grandfather,' she
suggested helpfully."

"Regarded them with alert eyes"



This is the story of Margaret Hugonin and of the Eagle. And with your
permission, we will for the present defer all consideration of the
bird, and devote our unqualified attention to Margaret.

I have always esteemed Margaret the obvious, sensible, most
appropriate name that can be bestowed upon a girl-child, for it is a
name that fits a woman - any woman - as neatly as her proper size in

Yes, the first point I wish to make is that a woman-child, once
baptised Margaret, is thereby insured of a suitable name. Be she grave
or gay in after-life, wanton or pious or sullen, comely or otherwise,
there will be no possible chance of incongruity; whether she develop a
taste for winter-gardens or the higher mathematics, whether she take
to golf or clinging organdies, the event is provided for. One has only
to consider for a moment, and if among a choice of Madge, Marjorie,
Meta, Maggie, Margherita, Peggy, and Gretchen, and countless
others - if among all these he cannot find a name that suits her to a
T - why, then, the case is indeed desperate and he may permissibly
fall back upon Madam or - if the cat jump propitiously, and at his own
peril - on Darling or Sweetheart.

The second proof that this name must be the best of all possible names
is that Margaret Hugonin bore it. And so the murder is out. You may
suspect what you choose. I warn you in advance that I have no part
whatever in her story; and if my admiration for her given name appear
somewhat excessive, I can only protest that in this dissentient world
every one has a right to his own taste. I knew Margaret. I admired
her. And if in some unguarded moment I may have carried my admiration
to the point of indiscretion, her husband most assuredly knows all
about it, by this, and he and I are still the best of friends. So you
perceive that if I ever did so far forget myself it could scarcely
have amounted to a hanging matter.

I am doubly sure that Margaret Hugonin was beautiful, for the reason
that I have never found a woman under forty-five who shared my
opinion. If you clap a Testament into my hand, I cannot affirm that
women are eager to recognise beauty in one another; at the utmost they
concede that this or that particular feature is well enough. But when
a woman is clean-eyed and straight-limbed, and has a cheery heart,
she really cannot help being beautiful; and when Nature accords her
a sufficiency of dimples and an infectious laugh, I protest she is
well-nigh irresistible. And all these Margaret Hugonin had.

And surely that is enough.

I shall not endeavour, then, to picture her features to you in any
nicely picked words. Her chief charm was that she was Margaret.

And besides that, mere carnal vanities are trivial things; a gray
eye or so is not in the least to the purpose. Yet since it is the
immemorial custom of writer-folk to inventory such possessions of
their heroines, here you have a catalogue of her personal attractions.
Launce's method will serve our turn.

Imprimis, there was not very much of her - five feet three, at the
most; and hers was the well-groomed modern type that implies a
grandfather or two and is in every respect the antithesis of that
hulking Venus of the Louvre whom people pretend to admire. Item, she
had blue eyes; and when she talked with you, her head drooped forward
a little. The frank, intent gaze of these eyes was very flattering
and, in its ultimate effect, perilous, since it led you fatuously to
believe that she had forgotten there were any other trousered beings
extant. Later on you found this a decided error. Item, she had a quite
incredible amount of yellow hair, that was not in the least like gold
or copper or bronze - I scorn the hackneyed similes of metallurgical
poets - but a straightforward yellow, darkening at the roots; and she
wore it low down on her neck in great coils that were held in place
by a multitude of little golden hair-pins and divers corpulent
tortoise-shell ones. Item, her nose was a tiny miracle of perfection;
and this was noteworthy, for you will observe that Nature, who is an
adept at eyes and hair and mouths, very rarely achieves a creditable
nose. Item, she had a mouth; and if you are a Gradgrindian with a
taste for hairsplitting, I cannot swear that it was a particularly
small mouth. The lips were rather full than otherwise; one saw in them
potentialities of heroic passion, and tenderness, and generosity, and,
if you will, temper. No, her mouth was not in the least like the pink
shoe-button of romance and sugared portraiture; it was manifestly
designed less for simpering out of a gilt frame or the dribbling of
stock phrases over three hundred pages than for gibes and laughter
and cheery gossip and honest, unromantic eating, as well as another
purpose, which, as a highly dangerous topic, I decline even to

There you have the best description of Margaret Hugonin that I am
capable of giving you. No one realises its glaring inadequacy more
acutely than I.

Furthermore, I stipulate that if in the progress of our comedy she
appear to act with an utter lack of reason or even common-sense - as
every woman worth the winning must do once or twice in a
lifetime - that I be permitted to record the fact, to set it down in
all its ugliness, nay, even to exaggerate it a little - all to the end
that I may eventually exasperate you and goad you into crying out,
"Come, come, you are not treating the girl with common justice!"

For, if such a thing were possible, I should desire you to rival even
me in a liking for Margaret Hugonin. And speaking for myself, I can
assure you that I have come long ago to regard her faults with the
same leniency that I accord my own.


We begin on a fine May morning in Colonel Hugonin's rooms at Selwoode,
which is, as you may or may not know, the Hugonins' country-place.
And there we discover the Colonel dawdling over his breakfast, in an
intermediate stage of that careful toilet which enables him later in
the day to pass casual inspection as turning forty-nine.

At present the old gentleman is discussing the members of his
daughter's house-party. We will omit, by your leave, a number of
picturesque descriptive passages - for the Colonel is, on occasion, a
man of unfettered speech - and come hastily to the conclusion, to the
summing-up of the whole matter.

"Altogether," says Colonel Hugonin, "they strike me as being the most
ungodly menagerie ever gotten together under one roof since Noah
landed on Ararat."

Now, I am sorry that veracity compels me to present the Colonel
in this particular state of mind, for ordinarily he was as
pleasant-spoken a gentleman as you will be apt to meet on the
longest summer day.

[Illustration: "'Altogether,' says Colonel Hugonin, 'they strike me as
being the most ungodly menagerie ever gotten together under one roof
since Noah landed on Ararat.'"]

You must make allowances for the fact that, on this especial morning,
he was still suffering from a recent twinge of the gout, and that his
toast was somewhat dryer than he liked it; and, most potent of all,
that the foreign mail, just in, had caused him to rebel anew against
the proprieties and his daughter's inclinations, which chained him to
Selwoode, in the height of the full London season, to preside over a
house-party every member of which he cordially disliked. Therefore,
the Colonel having glanced through the well-known names of those at
Lady Pevensey's last cotillion, groaned and glared at his daughter,
who sat opposite him, and reviled his daughter's friends with point
and fluency, and characterised them as above, for the reason that he
was hungered at heart for the shady side of Pall Mall, and that their
presence at Selwoode prevented his attaining this Elysium. For, I am
sorry to say that the Colonel loathed all things American, saving his
daughter, whom he worshipped.

And, I think, no one who could have seen her preparing his second cup
of tea would have disputed that in making this exception he acted with
a show of reason. For Margaret Hugonin - but, as you know, she is
our heroine, and, as I fear you have already learned, words are very
paltry makeshifts when it comes to describing her. Let us simply say,
then, that Margaret, his daughter, began to make him a cup of tea, and
add that she laughed.

Not unkindly; no, for at bottom she adored her father - a comely
Englishman of some sixty-odd, who had run through his wife's fortune
and his own, in the most gallant fashion - and she accorded his
opinions a conscientious, but at times, a sorely taxed, tolerance.
That very month she had reached twenty-three, the age of omniscience,
when the fallacies and general obtuseness of older people become
dishearteningly apparent.

"It's nonsense," pursued the old gentleman, "utter, bedlamite
nonsense, filling Selwoode up with writing people! Never heard of such
a thing. Gad, I do remember, as a young man, meeting Thackeray at a
garden-party at Orleans House - gentlemanly fellow with a broken nose -
and Browning went about a bit, too, now I think of it. People had 'em
one at a time to lend flavour to a dinner - like an olive; we didn't
dine on olives, though. You have 'em for breakfast, luncheon, dinner,
and everything! I'm sick of olives, I tell you, Margaret!" Margaret

"They ain't even good olives. I looked into one of that fellow
Charteris's books the other day - that chap you had here last week.
It was bally rot - proverbs standing on their heads and grinning
like dwarfs in a condemned street-fair! Who wants to be told that
impropriety is the spice of life and that a roving eye gathers
remorse? _You_ may call that sort of thing cleverness, if you like; I
call it damn' foolishness." And the emphasis with which he said this
left no doubt that the Colonel spoke his honest opinion.

"Attractive," said his daughter patiently, "Mr. Charteris is very,
very clever. Mr. Kennaston says literature suffered a considerable
loss when he began to write for the magazines."

And now that Margaret has spoken, permit me to call your attention to
her voice. Mellow and suave and of astonishing volume was Margaret's
voice; it came not from the back of her throat, as most of our women's
voices do, but from her chest; and I protest it had the timbre of a
violin. Men, hearing her voice for the first time, were wont to stare
at her a little and afterward to close their hands slowly, for always
its modulations had the tonic sadness of distant music, and it
thrilled you to much the same magnanimity and yearning, cloudily
conceived; and yet you could not but smile in spite of yourself at the
quaint emphasis fluttering through her speech and pouncing for the
most part on the unlikeliest word in the whole sentence.

But I fancy the Colonel must have been tone-deaf. "Don't you make
phrases for me!" he snorted; "you keep 'em for your menagerie Think!
By gad, the world never thinks. I believe the world deliberately
reads the six bestselling books in order to incapacitate itself for
thinking." Then, his wrath gathering emphasis as he went on: "The
longer I live the plainer I see Shakespeare was right - what
fools these mortals be, and all that. There's that Haggage
woman - speech-making through the country like a hiatused politician.
It may be philanthropic, but it ain't ladylike - no, begad! What has
she got to do with Juvenile Courts and child-labour in the South, I'd
like to know? Why ain't she at home attending to that crippled boy
of hers - poor little beggar! - instead of flaunting through America
meddling with other folk's children?"

Miss Hugonin put another lump of sugar into his cup and deigned no

"By gad," cried the Colonel fervently, "if you're so anxious to spend
that money of yours in charity, why don't you found a Day Nursery for
the Children of Philanthropists - a place where advanced men and women
can leave their offspring in capable hands when they're busied with
Mothers' Meetings and Educational Conferences? It would do a thousand
times more good, I can tell you, than that fresh kindergarten scheme
of yours for teaching the children of the labouring classes to make a
new sort of mud-pie."

"You don't understand these things, attractive," Margaret gently
pointed out. "You aren't in harmony with the trend of modern thought."

"No, thank God!" said the Colonel, heartily.

Ensued a silence during which he chipped at his egg-shell in an
absent-minded fashion.

"That fellow Kennaston said anything to you yet?" he presently

"I - I don't understand," she protested - oh, perfectly unconvincingly.
The tea-making, too, engrossed her at this point to an utterly
improbable extent.

Thus it shortly befell that the Colonel, still regarding her under
intent brows, cleared his throat and made bold to question her
generosity in the matter of sugar; five lumps being, as he suggested,
a rather unusual allowance for one cup.

Then, "Mr. Kennaston and I are very good friends," said she, with
dignity. And having spoiled the first cup in the making, she began on

"Glad to hear it," growled the old gentleman. "I hope you value his
friendship sufficiently not to marry him. The man's a fraud - a flimsy,
sickening fraud, like his poetry, begad, and that's made up of botany
and wide margins and indecency in about equal proportions. It ain't
fit for a woman to read - in fact, a woman ought not to read anything;
a comprehension of the Decalogue and the cookery-book is enough
learning for the best of 'em. Your mother never - never - "

Colonel Hugonin paused and stared at the open window for a little. He
seemed to be interested in something a great way off.

"We used to read Ouida's books together," he said, somewhat wistfully.
"Lord, Lord, how she revelled in Chandos and Bertie Cecil and those
dashing Life Guardsmen! And she used to toss that little head of hers
and say I was a finer figure of a man than any of 'em - thirty
years ago, good Lord! And I was then, but I ain't now. I'm only a
broken-down, cantankerous old fool," declared the Colonel, blowing
his nose violently, "and that's why I'm quarrelling with the dearest,
foolishest daughter man ever had. Ah, my dear, don't mind me - run your
menagerie as you like, and I'll stand it."

Margaret adopted her usual tactics; she perched herself on the arm
of his chair and began to stroke his cheek very gently. She
often wondered as to what dear sort of a woman that tender-eyed,
pink-cheeked mother of the old miniature had been - the mother who had
died when she was two years old. She loved the idea of her, vague as
it was. And, just now, somehow, the notion of two grown people reading
Ouida did not strike her as being especially ridiculous.

"Was she very beautiful?" she asked, softly.

"My dear," said her father, "you are the picture of her."

"You dangerous old man!" said she, laughing and rubbing her cheek
against his in a manner that must have been highly agreeable. "Dear,
do you know that is the nicest little compliment I've had for a long

Thereupon the Colonel chuckled. "Pay me for it, then," said he, "by
driving the dog-cart over to meet Billy's train to-day. Eh?"

"I - I can't," said Miss Hugonin, promptly.

"Why?" demanded her father.

"Because - - " said Miss Hugonin; and after giving this really
excellent reason, reflected for a moment and strengthened it by
adding, "Because - - "

"See here," her father questioned, "what did you two quarrel about,

"I - I really don't remember," said she, reflectively; then continued,
with hauteur and some inconsistency, "I am not aware that Mr. Woods
and I have ever quarrelled."

"By gad, then," said the Colonel, "you may as well prepare to, for
I intend to marry you to Billy some day. Dear, dear, child," he
interpolated, with malice aforethought, "have you a fever? - your
cheek's like a coal. Billy's a man, I tell you - worth a dozen of your
Kennastons and Charterises. I like Billy. And besides, it's only right
he should have Selwoode - wasn't he brought up to expect it? It
ain't right he should lose it simply because he had a quarrel with
Frederick, for, by gad - not to speak unkindly of the dead, my
dear - Frederick quarrelled with every one he ever knew, from the woman
who nursed him to the doctor who gave him his last pill. He may have
gotten his genius for money-making from Heaven, but he certainly
got his temper from the devil. I really believe," said the Colonel,
reflectively, "it was worse than mine. Yes, not a doubt of it - I'm a
lamb in comparison. But he had his way, after all; and even now poor
Billy can't get Selwoode without taking you with it," and he caught
his daughter's face between his hands and turned it toward his for a
moment. "I wonder now," said he, in meditative wise, "if Billy will
consider that a drawback?"

It seemed very improbable. Any number of marriageable males would have
sworn it was unthinkable.

However, "Of course," Margaret began, in a crisp voice, "if you advise
Mr. Woods to marry me as a good speculation - "

But her father caught her up, with a whistle. "Eh?" said he. "Love in
a cottage? - is it thus the poet turns his lay? That's damn' nonsense!
I tell you, even in a cottage the plumber's bill has to be paid, and
the grocer's little account settled every month. Yes, by gad, and
even if you elect to live on bread and cheese and kisses, you'll find
Camembert a bit more to your taste than Sweitzer."

"But I don't want to marry anybody, you ridiculous old dear," said

"Oh, very well," said the old gentleman; "don't. Be an old maid, and
lecture before the Mothers' Club, if you like. I don't care. Anyhow,
you meet Billy to-day at twelve-forty-five. You will? - that's a good
child. Now run along and tell the menagerie I'll be down-stairs as
soon as I've finished dressing."

And the Colonel rang for his man and proceeded to finish his toilet.
He seemed a thought absent-minded this morning.

"I say, Wilkins," he questioned, after a little. "Ever read any of
Ouida's books?"

"Ho, yes, sir," said Wilkins; "Miss 'Enderson - Mrs. 'Aggage's maid,
that his, sir - was reading haloud hout hof 'Hunder Two Flags' honly
last hevening, sir."

"H'm - Wilkins - if you can run across one of them in the servants'
quarters - you might leave it - by my bed - to-night."

"Yes, sir."

"And - h'm, Wilkins - you can put it under that book of Herbert
Spencer's my daughter gave me yesterday. _Under_ it, Wilkins - and,
h'm, Wilkins - you needn't mention it to anybody. Ouida ain't cultured,
Wilkins, but she's damn' good reading. I suppose that's why she ain't
cultured, Wilkins."


And now let us go back a little. In a word, let us utilise the next
twenty minutes - during which Miss Hugonin drives to the neighbouring
railway station, in, if you press me, not the most pleasant state of
mind conceivable - by explaining a thought more fully the posture of
affairs at Selwoode on the May morning that starts our story.

And to do this I must commence with the nature of the man who founded

It was when the nineteenth century was still a hearty octogenarian
that Frederick R. Woods caused Selwoode to be builded. I give you the
name by which he was known on "the Street." A mythology has grown
about the name since, and strange legends of its owner are still
narrated where brokers congregate. But with the lambs he sheared, and
the bulls he dragged to earth, and the bears he gored to financial
death, we have nothing to do; suffice it, that he performed these
operations with almost uniform success and in an unimpeachably
respectable manner.

And if, in his time, he added materially to the lists of inmates in
various asylums and almshouses, it must be acknowledged that he bore
his victims no malice, and that on every Sunday morning he confessed
himself to be a miserable sinner, in a voice that was perfectly
audible three pews off. At bottom, I think he considered his relations
with Heaven on a purely business basis; he kept a species of running
account with Providence; and if on occasions he overdrew it somewhat,
he saw no incongruity in evening matters with a cheque for the church

So that at his death it was said of him that he had, in his day, sent
more men into bankruptcy and more missionaries into Africa than any
other man in the country.

In his sixty-fifth year, he caught Alfred Van Orden short in Lard,
erected a memorial window to his wife and became a country gentleman.
He never set foot in Wall Street again. He builded Selwoode - a
handsome Tudor manor which stands some seven miles from the village of
Fairhaven - where he dwelt in state, by turns affable and domineering
to the neighbouring farmers, and evincing a grave interest in the
condition of their crops. He no longer turned to the financial reports
in the papers; and the pedigree of the Woodses hung in the living-hall
for all men to see, beginning gloriously with Woden, the Scandinavian
god, and attaining a respectable culmination in the names of Frederick
R. Woods and of William, his brother.

It is not to be supposed that he omitted to supply himself with a
coat-of-arms. Frederick R. Woods evinced an almost childlike pride in
his heraldic blazonings.

"The Woods arms," he would inform you, with a relishing gusto, "are
vert, an eagle displayed, barry argent and gules. And the crest is
out of a ducal coronet, or, a demi-eagle proper. We have no motto,
sir - none of your ancient coats have mottoes."

The Woods Eagle he gloried in. The bird was perched in every available
nook at Selwoode; it was carved in the woodwork, was set in the
mosaics, was chased in the tableware, was woven in the napery, was
glazed in the very china. Turn where you would, an eagle or two
confronted you; and Hunston Wyke, who is accounted something of a
wit, swore that Frederick R. Woods at Selwoode reminded him of "a
sore-headed bear who had taken up permanent quarters in an aviary."

There was one, however, who found the bear no very untractable
monster. This was the son of his brother, dead now, who dwelt at
Selwoode as heir presumptive. Frederick R. Woods's wife had died long

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