As she left the house her name was called by Juliet Galt from her window across the way. “Come over, Eugie,” she cried. “We’ve been watching you,” and as Eugenia ascended the steps the door was opened and she was clasped in Emma Carr’s arms. “We’ve shut our eyes and ground our teeth and put ourselves in your place,” she said. “Oh, Eugie, she’s worse than the dentist!”
“I went to the dentist’s first,” was Eugenia’s reply.
She followed Miss Carr into the drawing-room and sank into the window-seat beside Juliet, who was bending over her embroidery frame. Then she laughed—a full, frank laugh.
“You dear women,” she said, “if you knew the lot of a politician’s wife, you’d—marry a footman.”
“Provided he were Dudley Webb,” returned Emma Carr. She seized Eugenia’s hand and they smiled at each other in demonstrative intimacy. “You know, of course, that we are all in love with your husband—desperately, darkly in love—and you ought to be gray with jealousy. If I were married to the handsomest man in Virginia I’d get me to a nunnery.”
“That’s not Eugie’s way,” said Juliet, snapping off her silk. “If she went, she’d drag him after.”
“Oh, he’s just Dudley,” protested Eugenia. “I’d as soon be jealous of Aunt Chris—and he’s waiting at home this instant with his senators come to judgment on my dinner. If I were free, I’d spend the day with you. Juliet, but I’ve married into servitude.”
When Eugenia went upstairs that night she softly opened Lottie’s door and glanced into the room. By the sinking firelight she saw Lottie lying asleep, her hand upon the pillow of her younger child, who slept beside her. The pretty, nerveless hand, even in sleep, tremored like a caress, for whatever Lottie’s wifely failings, as a mother she was without reproach. Lottie—vain, hysterical, bewailing her wrongs—was the same Lottie now resting with a protecting arm thrown out—this Eugenia admitted thoughtfully as she looked into the darkened room where the thin blue flame cast a spectral light upon the sleepers. From this shallow rooted nature had bloomed the maternal ardour of the Southern woman, in whom motherhood is the abiding grace.
Eugenia closed the door and crossed the hall to Miss Chris, who was reading her Bible as she seeded raisins into a small yellow bowl. The leaves of the Bible were held open by her spectacle case which she had placed between them; for while her hands were busy with material matters her placid eyes followed the text.
“I thought I’d get these done to-night,” she remarked as Eugenia entered. “I’m going to make a plum pudding for Dudley to-morrow. Where is he now?”
“A political barbecue, I believe,” responded Eugenia indifferently as she knotted the cord of her flannel dressing-gown. She yawned and threw herself into a chair. “I wonder why everybody spoils Dudley so,” she added. “Even I do it. I am sitting up for him to-night simply because I know he’ll want to tell me about it all when he comes in.”