“My plans have changed since yesterday, Nat,” returned Mrs. Evringham dismally. “Yes. We shall not be able to go to your mother’s, as I had hoped. Some time during the season I shall try to look in on her of course. You tell her so, Nat, when you write.”
“Nonsense, nonsense, Mrs. Evringham. You don’t in the least mean it,” he returned cheerfully, with the smile and manner which she could not and would not endure.
“I do mean it, Nat. I tell you my plans are changed. Eloise and I may go to Europe.”
Naturally she had never thought of Europe until that moment, but that laughing, caressing light in Nat Bonnell’s eyes was insufferable.
“Ah, in that case, of course,” he returned, “we couldn’t say a word,” and then he moved to go.
Mr. Evringham urged the visitor to stay to dinner, but he declined and once more shook hands.
“Good-by, Jewel,” he said to the child. “Sunday, you know.”
“Yes indeed, I know,” she returned, an irresistible tendency to hop moving her feet. On nearer acquaintance she had found Mr. Bonnell exhilarating.
“Good-by, Nat,” said Eloise.
He looked into the face on which rested a cloud. “I think you might be a degree more attentive,” he suggested.
“Oh—take me to the gate, for instance.”
Eloise smiled and went with him. He turned with a slight bow that included the group, and they strolled down the path.
“It’s all up, Madge,” remarked Mr. Evringham, half smiling. “No use wriggling, no use staying away from the mother. Might as well yield gracefully. I think Ballard might have been told, that’s all.”
“There was nothing to tell, father! How can you be so unkind? That’s just Nat’s manner. He is used to everybody liking him, and always having his own way; but Eloise never—she never”—the speaker saw that if she continued, in a moment more she would be weeping, and she certainly was not going to weep in this company. So she contented herself by glaring toward the gate, where could be seen two figures in earnest conversation.
“I had counted so much on Mrs. Bonnell’s influence,” Eloise was saying. “What does mother mean? She knows my mind is made up as to Christian Science. What is she afraid of?”
Bonnell caught his thumbs in his coat pockets and lifted himself slightly on his toes. “She is afraid of me.”
“Of you?” The girl lifted surprised eyes to his and let them fall again, her grave face coloring.
“She has always been more or less afraid of me. I’m ineligible, you know.”
“Yes, you are, awfully, Nat,” returned Eloise earnestly. “That’s what makes you so nice. Didn’t we always have a good time together?”
“Yes, on those rare occasions when we had a chance, but Mrs. Evringham always suspected me. She never felt certain that I wasn’t waiting for your skirts to be lengthened and your hair to go up in order to steal you.”