Marriage, then, in the autumn, when he would be twenty-four—two years of travel—then Parliament—
On this dream he fell asleep. A brisk wind sprang up with the sunrise, and rustled round his lightly-darkened room. One might have heard in it the low laughter of Fortune on the watch.
“You do have the oddest ways,” said Nora, perched at the foot of her cousin’s bed; “why do you stay in bed to breakfast?”
“Because I always have—and because it’s the proper and reasonable thing to do,” said Constance defiantly. “Your English custom of coming down at half past eight to eat poached eggs and bacon is perfectly detestable.”
She waved her teaspoon in Nora’s face, and Nora reflected—though her sunburnt countenance was still severe—that Connie was never so attractive as when, in the freshest of white dressing-gowns, propped among the lace and silk of her ridiculous pillows and bedspreads, she was toying with the coffee and roll which Annette brought her at eight o’clock, as she had been accustomed to bring it since Connie was a child. Mrs. Hooper had clearly expressed her disapproval of such habits, but neither Annette nor Connie had paid any attention. Annette had long since come to an understanding with the servants, and it was she who descended at half past seven, made the coffee herself, and brought up with it the nearest thing to the morning rolls of the Palazzo Barberini which Oxford could provide—with a copy of The Times specially ordered for Lady Constance. The household itself subsisted on a copy of the Morning Post, religiously reserved to Mrs. Hooper after Dr. Hooper had glanced through it—he, of course, saw The Times at the Union. But Connie regarded a newspaper at breakfast as a necessary part of life.
After her coffee, accordingly, she read The Times, and smoked a cigarette, proceedings which were a daily source of wonder to Nora and reprobation in the minds of Mrs. Hooper and Alice. Then she generally wrote her letters, and was downstairs after all by half past ten, dressed and ready for the day. Mrs. Hooper declared to Dr. Ewen that she would be ashamed for any of their Oxford friends to know that a niece of his kept such hours, and that it was a shocking example for the servants. But the maids took it with smiles, and were always ready to run up and down stairs for Lady Connie; while as for Oxford, the invitations which had descended upon the Hooper family, even during the few days since Connie’s arrival, had given Aunt Ellen some feverish pleasure, but perhaps more annoyance. So far from Ewen’s “position” being of any advantage to Connie, it was Connie who seemed likely to bring the Hoopers into circles of Oxford society where they had till now possessed but the slenderest footing. An invitation to dinner from the Provost of Winton and Mrs. Manson, to “Dr. and Mrs. Hooper, Miss Hooper and Lady Constance Bledlow,” to meet an archbishop, had fairly taken Mrs. Hooper’s breath away. But she declaimed to Alice none the less in private on the innate snobbishness of people.