“I’ll run down, I think, pretty often this winter,” he went on easily. “It’s a nice old town, after all—isn’t it?”
“It’s the dearest old town in the world,” said Eugenia.
“Well, I believe it is—strange, I used to find it dull, don’t you think? By the way, will you let me ride with you sometimes? I hear you are as great a horsewoman as ever.”
Eugenia looked up calmly.
“I go very early,” she answered. “Can you get up at daybreak?”
He laughed his pleasant laugh.
“Oh, I might manage it,” he rejoined. “I’m not much of an early riser, I never knew before what charms the sunrise held.”
But Eugenia went on potting plants.
During the following week Sally Burwell came to spend the night with Eugenia, and the girls sat before the log fire in Eugenia’s room until they heard the cocks crow shrilly from the hen-house. The room was a large, old-fashioned chamber, full of dark corners and unsuspected alcoves; and the lamp on the bureau served only to intensify the shadows that lay beyond its faint illumination.
Sally, her pretty hair in a tumble on her shoulders and the light of the logs on her bare arms, was stretched upon the hearth-rug, looking up at Eugenia, who lay in an easy-chair, her feet almost touching the embers. A waiter of russet apples was on the floor beside them.
“This is my idea of comfort,” murmured Sally sleepily as she munched an apple. “No men and no manners.”
“If you liked it, you’d come often, chick,” returned Eugenia.
“Bless you! I’m too busy. I made over two dresses this week, trimmed mamma a bonnet, and covered a sofa with cretonne. One of the dresses is a love. I wore it yesterday, and Dudley said it reminded him of one he’d seen on the stage.”
“He says a good deal,” observed Eugenia unsympathetically.
“Doesn’t he?” laughed Sally. “At any rate, he said that he found you reading Plato under the trees, and that any woman who read Plato ought to be ostracised—unless she happens to be handsome enough to make you overlook it. Is that your Plato? What is he like?”
Eugenia savagely shook her head.
“It’s no affair of his,” she retorted promptly, meaning not Plato, but Dudley.
“Oh! he said he knew it wasn’t. I think he even wished it were. You’re too unconventional for him—he frankly admits it—but he admits also that you’re good-looking enough to warrant the unconventionality of a Hottentot—and you are, you dear, bad thing, though your forehead’s too high and your chin’s too long and your nose isn’t all that a nose should be.”
“Thanks,” drawled Eugenia amicably. “But Dudley’s a nice fellow, all the same. He gets on splendidly with papa—and I bless him for it.”
“He gets on well with everybody—even his mother—which makes me suspect that he’s a Job masquerading as an Apollo. By the way, Mrs. Webb wants you to join some society she’s getting up called the ’Daughters of Duty.’”