He had been at Monte Carlo with his father before the war, and realized the change.
“I only wish mother would move on,” Dorise exclaimed as they strolled slowly together.
She presented a dainty figure in cream gabardine and a broad-brimmed straw hat which suited her admirably. Her clothes were made by a certain famous couturiere in Hanover Square, for Lady Ranscomb had the art of dressing her daughter as well as she did herself. Gowns make the lady nowadays, or the fashionable dressmakers dare not make their exorbitant charges.
“Then you also are tired of the place?” asked Hugh, as he strolled slowly at her side in a dark-blue suit and straw hat. They made a handsome pair, and were indeed well suited to each other. Lady Ranscomb liked Hugh, but she had no idea that the young people had fallen so violently in love with each other.
“Yes,” said the girl. “Mother promised to spend Easter in Florence. I’ve never been there and am looking forward to it so much. The Marchesa Ruggeri, whom we met at Harrogate last summer, has a villa there, and has invited us for Easter. But mother said this morning that she preferred to remain here.”
“Oh! Somebody in the hotel has put her off. An old Englishwoman who lives in Florence told her that there’s nothing to see beyond the Galleries, and that the place is very catty.”
Hugh laughed and replied:
“All British colonies in Continental cities are catty, my dear Dorise. They say that for scandal Florence takes the palm. I went there for two seasons in succession before the war, and found the place delightful.”
“The Marchesa is a charming woman. Her husband was an attache at the Italian Embassy in Paris. But he has been transferred to Washington, so she has gone back to Florence. I like her immensely, and I do so want to visit her.”
“Oh, you must persuade your mother to take you,” he said. “She’ll be easily persuaded.”
“I don’t know. She doesn’t like travelling in Italy. She once had her dressing-case stolen from the train between Milan and Genoa, so she’s always horribly bitter against all Italians.”
“There are thieves also on English railways, Dorise,” Hugh remarked. “People are far too prone to exaggerate the shortcomings of foreigners, and close their eyes to the faults of the British.”
“But everybody is not so cosmopolitan as you are, Hugh,” the girl laughed, raising her eyes to those of her lover.
“No,” he replied with a sigh.
“Why do you sigh?” asked the girl, having noticed a change in her companion ever since they had met in the Rooms. He seemed strangely thoughtful and preoccupied.
“Did I?” he asked, suddenly pulling himself together. “I didn’t know,” he added with a forced laugh.
“You don’t look yourself to-day, Hugh,” she said.
“I’ve been told that once before,” he replied. “The weather—I think! Are you going over to the bal blanc at Nice to-night?”