“You are handsomer than ever, Frank!” she exclaimed, as if in answer to the suggestion.
“You spoil me, mother,” he returned, with a smile.
“Women have always done that—” she began.
“And you more than any other,” Frank broke in, kissing her, with a deference of manner singularly his own.
“There may be truth in that,” Mrs. Ravenel admitted, a fine sense of humor marked by the grudging tone in which she spoke. “I remember that only yesterday I was in a rage because the roses were not further open to welcome you home.”
“Nature is unappreciative,” he returned; and the gray eyes with the level lids looked into the blue ones with the level lids, and both laughed.
For a space Mrs. Ravenel contemplated him, the ecstasy of motherhood illuminating the glance.
“You are quite the handsomest human being I ever saw, Frank—though I think I said something like that before.”
“You are, of course, unprejudiced, lady mother,” he laughed back from the lowest step.
“It’s natural I should be—being only a mother,” she explained, gayly.
“Ah,” she went on, “I am so happy to have you at home with me! Not happy at having asked those people down. They come on the twenty-seventh.”
“Whom have you asked?”
“The Porters and Sallie Maddox.”
“And Anne Lennox.”
There was a silence.
“Did I hear you say ’best’?” Mrs. Ravenel inquired.
“By some wanderment of mind, I forgot it,” Frank returned, lightly.
“I am always subtle in my methods,” his mother continued. “Note the adroitness now. Why don’t you marry her, Frank?”
“Do you think she would marry me?”
“Don’t be foolish. Anne is devoted to you, and you must marry someone. You are an only son. There is the family name to be thought of, and there must be a Francis eighth to inherit the good looks of Francis seventh, must there not? And how I shall hate it!” she added, truthfully.
Again a silence fell between them before Frank turned the talk with intention in word and tone.
“About this new overseer?” he asked. “Satisfactory?”
“When not drunk—very.”
“Does it”—he smiled—“I mean the drunkenness, not the satisfaction—occur frequently?”
“I am afraid it does.”
“What did McDermott say his name is?”
“French, I suppose?” he suggested.
“By all the laws of inference,” his mother returned, with an answering gleam in her eye.
“There seems to have been a Celtic invasion of the Carolinas during my absence. Has he a family?”
“Only a daughter.” And as Frank turned to leave her Mrs. Ravenel asked, lightly: “How long do you intend to stay here, Frank?”
“I have made no plans,” he answered; but going down the carriageway he said to himself, with a smile: “Mother shows her hand too plainly. The girl is evidently young and pretty.”