Then he responded coolly to the general’s cool nod, and, rejoining Tom, they went on arm in arm. In his large-minded manhood it had not occurred to him to connect the girl with the wrong done upon him—he knew her to be more weak than wicked, and, in her soft, pretty sadness, she reminded him of a half-drowned kitten.
During the next few months he frequently passed Eugenia in the road. Sometimes he did not look at her, and again he met her wistful gaze and spoke without a smile. Once he checked an eager movement towards her because he had met Bernard just ahead—and he hated him; once he had seen the carriage in the distance and had waited in a passionate rush of remorse and love to hear her laughter as she talked with Dudley Webb. They had faced each other at last with resolute eyes and unswerving wills. On his side was the pride of an innocent man accused, the bitterness of a proud man on an inferior plane; on hers, the recollection of that wild evening in the road, and the belated recognition of the debt she owed her race.
In the winter she went up to Richmond and he slowly forced himself to renounce her. He began to see his old dream as it was—an emotional chimera; a mental madness. As the year grew on he watched his long hope wither root and branch, until, with the resurrection of the spring, it lay still because there was no life left that might put forth. And when his hope was dead he told himself that his unhappiness died with it, that he might throw himself single-hearted into the work of his life.
The year passed and was done with—leaves budded, expanded, fell again. Eugenia watched their growth, fulfilment, and decay as she had watched them other seasons, though with eyes a thought widened by experience, a shade darkened by tears. At first she had suffered wildly, then passively, at last resignedly. The colour rebloomed in her cheek, the gaiety rang back to her voice, for she was young, and youth is ever buoyant.
There was work for her to do on the place, and she did it cheerfully. She studied farming with her father and overhauled the methods of the overseer, to the man’s annoyance and the general’s delight. “She tells me Varly isn’t scientific,” roared the general with rapturous enjoyment. “A scientific overseer! She’ll be asking for an honest politician next.”
“I’m sure Varly is a very respectable man,” protested Miss Chris in her usual position of defence. “The servants were always devoted to him before the war—that says a good deal.”
“There’s not a better man in the county,” admitted the general, “or a worse farmer. Here I’ve let him go down hill at his own gait for more than thirty years, to be pulled up in the end by a chit of a girl. I wouldn’t, if I were you, Eugie. He’s old and he’s slow.”
“Oh! I’ll promise not to hurt him,” returned Eugenia. “I save him a lot of hard work, and he likes it.”