Warrington was up and about at six the next morning. He had never really outgrown the natural habit of waking at dawn, but he had fallen upon the evil way of turning over and sleeping till half after nine. He ate a light breakfast and went out to the stables and moved among the stalls, talking affectionate nonsense to the horses. A man can not talk baby-talk, that is the undisputed prerogative of the woman; but he has a fashion of his own which serves. “Aha, old boy! handsome beggar!” or—“How’s the little lady this morning, eh?” or yet again—“Rascal! you’ve been rubbing the hair off your tail!” In the boxstall Warrington’s thoroughbred Irish hunter nozzled his palm for loaf-sugar, and whinnied with pleasure when he found it. One of the first things Warrington had done, upon drawing his first big royalty check, was to buy a horse. As a boy on the farm he had hungered for the possession of one of those sleek, handsome animals which men call thoroughbreds. Then for a while he bought, sold and traded horses, for the mere pleasure it gave him to be near them. Finally he came to Herculaneum with two such saddle-horses as made every millionaire in town (and there were several in Herculaneum) offer fabulous sums whenever they ran across the owner. Next, he added two carriage-horses, in their way quite equal to the hunters. Men offered to buy these, too, but Warrington was a property owner now, and he wanted the horses for his own. In New York one of his wealthy friends had given him free use of his stables: so Warrington rode, at home and abroad. His income, ranging from twenty to thirty thousand the year, gave him that financial independence which neither the clerk nor the millionaire knew or understood. In the phraseology of the day, he carried his business under his hat: in other words, he had no business cares or responsibilities whatever.
Warrington made it a rule to saddle and bridle his own horses; grooms become careless. One or two men of his acquaintance had gone to their death for the want of care and a firm buckle. Besides, he enjoyed the work, and it accustomed the horses to his touch. He saddled his favorite hunter and led the eager animal into the open. He mounted and whistled for the dog; but Jove for once did not respond; doubtless he was out of hearing. Thereupon Warrington started for the Benningtons’ and found Patty already in the saddle. It was not that the dramatist was blase, but he had come into contact with so many beautiful women that his pulse rarely stirred out of its healthy, measured beat. But this morning he was conscious of a slight thrill. The girl was really beautiful; more than that, she was fresh with youth and gaiety, gaiety which older women find necessary to repress. She was dressed in a dark grey riding-habit and wore a beaver cocked-hat.
“Good morning,” he said, touching his cap with his crop. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”
“Only a moment.” The truth is, she wanted to prove to him that there was one woman who did not keep men waiting. “Shall I pick the going?”