“Well, of course, I shouldn’t get on at all. But really we might give away a lot of these clothes! I shall never want them.”
The speaker looked frowning at the stacks of dresses and lingerie. Annette made no reply; but went on busily with her unpacking. If the clothes were to be got rid of, they were her perquisites. She was devoted to Constance, but she stood on her rights.
Presently a little space was cleared on the floor, and Constance, seeing that it was nearly seven o’clock, and the Hoopers supped at half past, took off her black dress with its crape, and put on a white one, high to the throat and long-sleeved; a French demi-toilette, plain, and even severe in make, but cut by the best dressmaker in Nice. She looked extraordinarily tall and slim in it and very foreign. Her maid clasped a long string of opals, which was her only ornament, about her neck. She gave one look at herself in the glass, holding herself proudly, one might have said arrogantly. But as she turned away, and so that Annette could not see her, she raised the opals, and held them a moment softly to her lips. Her mother had habitually worn them. Then she moved to the window, and looked out over the Hoopers’ private garden, to the spreading college lawns, and the grey front beyond.
“Am I really going to stay here a whole year—nearly?” she asked herself, half laughing, half rebellious.
Then her eye fell upon a medley of photographs; snaps from her own camera, which had tumbled out of her bag in unpacking. The topmost one represented a group of young men and maidens standing under a group of stone pines in a Riviera landscape. She herself was in front, with a tall youth beside her. She bent down to look at it.
“I shall come across him I suppose—before long.” And raising herself, she stood awhile, thinking; her face alive with an excitement that was half expectation, and half angry recollection.
“My dear Ellen, I beg you will not interfere any more with Connie’s riding. I have given leave, and that really must settle it. She tells me that her father always allowed her to ride alone—with a groom—in London and the Campagna; she will of course pay all the expenses of it out of her own income, and I see no object whatever in thwarting her. She is sure to find our life dull enough anyway, after the life she has been living.”
“I don’t know why you should call Oxford dull, Ewen!” said Mrs. Hooper resentfully. “I consider the society here much better than anything Connie was likely to see on the Riviera—much more respectable anyway. Well, of course, everybody will call her fast—but that’s your affair. I can see already she won’t be easily restrained. She’s got an uncommonly strong will of her own.”
“Well, don’t try and restrain her, dear, too much,” laughed her husband. “After all she’s twenty, she’ll be twenty-one directly. She may not be more than a twelvemonth with us. She need not be, as far as my functions are concerned. Let’s make friends with her and make her happy.”