When they returned from Huntington in the fall, she and Nina at Richard’s suggestion had taken Isabelle’s handsome rooms, turning both into bedrooms, and sharing the dressing rooms and bath that joined them. It was here that Harriet found Nina awaiting her, still with her hat on, and loitering with obvious discomfiture. There had been no actual changes in her room except that the personal touch was gone. Bottomley had put her bags here, and Nina spoke first of them.
“You’ve got a new suitcase?”
“Yes, I got that this morning; isn’t it stunning?” Harriet eyed its shiny blackness with satisfaction. “I had to get a gown or two,” she added, “and some little things! We’ve been so quiet at Mrs. Davenport’s that I hadn’t any new clothes. Pip was ill, you know.”
“Miss Harriet!” Nina said with a rush. “You’re so sweet about things like this, I wonder if you will mind taking the yellow guest room—it’s really much larger—and leaving this room? You see when I have friends—”
Harriet, at the dressing table, had raised her hands to remove her hat. Like any general, she realized the crisis of the apparently unimportant moment, and met it by instinct.
“But you have an extra bed, besides the couch, in your room, Nina!”
Nina cleared her throat, threw back her head, regarded Harriet between half-closed eyelids in a manner Harriet realized was new, and drawled:
“I know. But if you would be so very kind—–?”
“Do you know, I’m afraid I shan’t be so very kind!” Harriet said, briskly. “You’re one of my duties here, you know, little girl, and I think Daddy would prefer to have me near you! Now, if you like to ask him, perhaps he’ll not agree with me; in which case I shall move immediately! But meanwhile—” She picked up a thick book from the table, read the title idly: “’Secret Memoirs of the Favourites of the French Courts!’ Where on earth did you get this?” she asked, surprised. ‘"Five Dollars Net,’” she mused, glancing through it. “How well I know this sort of rubbish! There are thousands of them on the market, exquisitely printed, beautifully bound, and just so much—rot! Secret memoirs of the favourites of the French Courts indeed! Most of them hadn’t the brains to write a decent note!” scoffed Harriet, cheerfully.
Nina’s face was scarlet; she left the room abruptly. A moment or two later Harriet sauntered into the adjoining room, and found her again. The younger girl was assuming a ruffled and beribboned negligee, and tossing her wraps and street dress about carelessly. Harriet noted this with disapproving eyes, but said nothing. There was an immense picture of Mrs. Tabor on the dressing table, and she found in that a sudden solution of the strange change in Nina.
“‘With Ladybird’s unending devotion, to Ninette,’” read Harriet, from the inky scrawl across the picture. “Do you call her Ladybird, Nina? You and she have formed a pretty strong friendship, haven’t you?”