“He’s very nice,” said Linda. “Poor fellow, he probably would have had an entirely different moral code, if his life had been different!” Harriet inwardly writhed, but she did not stir in the sisterly embrace of Linda’s arm. “Now if he would marry this Mrs. Tabor, whoever she is,” Linda resumed, comfortably, “that would be quite suitable! Then you could go back with perfect propriety—”
“Oh, hush, for Heaven’s sake!” Harriet said, in the deeps of her being. But she said nothing aloud as they turned back into the warm house.
Fred’s face was radiant; for no apparent purpose he caught his sister-in-law in his arms as she passed him, and kissed the top of her hair
“Here—here—here—what’s all this!” Linda laughed.
“Nothing at all!” Fred said, evidently in boisterous spirits. Harriet looked sharply at David, but he was innocently laying train tracks for little Nammy. But she suspected at once that the elder brother had had a hint that matters were at least under consideration, and the rather aimless laugh with which Linda presently embraced her, and the air of suppressed excitement that marked the Christmas dinner, all confirmed the suspicion. She felt a prickling sensation of the skin; a flush of helpless annoyance.
At three o’clock the next afternoon, Nina Carter, leaving the Hawkes’ mansion in New York City, with a great many laughing farewells, descended to her father’s waiting car, and discovered, sitting therein, an extremely handsome young woman, furred and trimly veiled, and deep in pleasant conversation with Hansen.
“Miss Harriet!” Nina ejaculated, in a tone that betrayed a vague resentment as well as a definite surprise.
“Nina, dear!” Harriet accepted Nina’s kiss warmly. “Are you glad to see me?” And as Nina stumbled in, and established herself, Harriet continued easily, “Your father and I had a talk, my dear, and he suggested that I come back for awhile. So Hansen picked me up at the office, and here I am! He tried to telephone you, I know, but you were out. And now,” said Harriet, glancing at her wrist watch, “I think we will go right home, please, Hansen!”
Nina had been her own mistress for several delicious weeks, and to have any sort of restriction again was very unpalatable to her. Harriet could almost have laughed at her discomfiture, although she was sorry for her, too. Nina smiled and listened with notable effort; Harriet knew she was chagrined.
She sulked all the way home, and Madame Carter, meeting them at Crownlands, gazed rather stonily at the newcomer, granting her only the briefest greeting. But oh, how homelike and welcoming the beautiful place, mantled in snow, looked to Harriet’s eyes. The snapping fires, the warmth and fragrance of the big rooms, and the very obvious welcome of the maids, all were enchanting to her. Her first duty was to make a brief tour below stairs, after which she went up to her own room.