She glanced up in disapproval as Ruth’s laugh sounded in the hall.
“Rachel, tell her that lunch is waiting,” she said to the colored girl at her side.
Carter looked up as Ruth came breezily into the room. She wore her riding-habit, and her hair was tossed by her brisk morning canter.
“You don’t look as if you had danced all night,” he said. “Did the mare behave herself?”
“She’s a perfect beauty, Carter. I rode her round the old mill-dam, ‘cross the ford, and back by the Hollises’. Now I’m perfectly famished. Some hot rolls, Rachel, and another croquette, and—and everything you have.”
Mrs. Nelson picked several crumbs from the cloth and laid them carefully on her plate. “When I was a young lady I always slept after being out in the evening. I had a half-cup of coffee and one roll brought to me in bed, and I never rose until noon.”
“But I hate to stay in bed,” said Ruth; “and, besides, I hate to miss a half-day.”
“Is there anything on for this afternoon?” asked Carter.
“Why, yes—” Ruth began, but her aunt finished for her:
“Now, Carter, it’s too warm to be proposing anything more. You aren’t well, and Ruth ought to stay at home and put cold cream on her face. It is getting so burned that her pink evening-dresses will be worse than useless. Besides, there is absolutely nothing to do in this stupid place. I feel as if I couldn’t stand it all summer.”
This being a familiar opening to a disagreeable subject, the two young people lapsed into silence, and Mrs. Nelson was constrained to address her communications to the tea-pot. She glanced about the big, old-fashioned room and sighed.
“It’s nothing short of criminal to keep all this old mahogany buried here in the country, and the cut-glass and silver. And to think that the house cannot be sold for two more years! Not until Ruth is of age! What do you suppose your dear grandfather could have been thinking of?”
This question, eliciting no reply from the tea-pot, remained suspended in the air until it attracted Ruth’s wandering attention.
“I beg your pardon, aunt. What grandfather was thinking of? About the place? Why, I guess he hoped that Carter and I would keep it.”
Carter looked over his paper. “Keep this old cemetery? Not I! The day it is sold I start for Europe. If one lung is gone and the other going, I intend to enjoy myself while it goes.”
“Carter!” begged Ruth, appealingly.
He laughed. “You ought to be glad to get rid of me, Ruth. You’ve bothered your head about me ever since you were born.”
She slipped her hand into his as it lay on the table, and looked at him wistfully.
“The idea of the old governor thinking we’d want to stay here!” he said, with a curl of the lip.
“Perfectly ridiculous!” echoed Mrs. Nelson.
“I don’t know,” said Ruth; “it’s more like home than any place else. I don’t think I could ever bear to sell it.”