“Poor child!” Richard had said. “They naturally would. You were no more than Nina’s age!”
“So that’s my history,” Harriet had finished, simply. “I thought I had done with men. And there have been men, men like Ward, for instance, to whom I could have been married without feeling that I need make any mention of that old time. But I wanted to tell you.”
“Thank you very much,” Richard had said, gravely. “If the protection of my name and my house seems welcome to you, after some battling with the world, it will be an additional satisfaction to me.”
And then before another word was spoken Fox had come in, announcing the car, and they had begun the long, strange drive. And now, deep in the quiet winter night, she was back at Crownlands, alone beside her fire, able at last to rest, and to remember. It seemed to her that ever since Richard’s call on Linda’s Christmas household yesterday she had walked strangely detached and isolated, with odd booming noises in her ears, and a panicky thumping at her heart. Now she felt suddenly safe and secure again; none of the oppositions she had vaguely feared, from David, from Linda, from the family at Crownlands, had interrupted the mad plan; she was in a stronger position now than ever, and if the path before her was dangerous and difficult, she was not too weary to-night to feel confident of following it to the end.
She got into the luxurious bed, put out the bedside light, and lay with her hands clasped behind her head, thinking. The clock struck one; snow was still falling steadily outside, but in here the last pink glow of firelight flickered and sank—flickered and sank lazily. It touched the flowered basket chairs, the roses that filled a bowl on the bookshelf, the table with its shaded lamp and its magazines.
Some sudden thought made Harriet smile ruefully. She indicated that it was unwelcome by turning over to bury her bright head in the pillow, and resolutely composing herself for sleep.
Morning found them half-buried in a bright dazzle of snow, the midwinter miracle that sets the most jaded heart singing and the weariest blood to moving more quickly. The bare trees glittered in a glassy casing, and every twig carried its burden of soft fur. Half-a-dozen shovels were scraping and clinking about Crownlands when Nina and Harriet came downstairs, and Harriet saw the men laughing and talking as they worked. The telephone announced Francesca Jay, with an eager luncheon invitation for Nina and Ward; they were bob-sledding, and it was perfectly glorious!
“I wish I liked people as much as they like me,” Nina remarked over her breakfast. “Now I like the Jays—but this being invited everywhere—all the time!” Harriet, who suspected that Miss Jay’s hospitality was really directed at the engaging Ward, good-naturedly persuaded him to go with his sister, thus assuring a real welcome from Francesca. He looked pale, complained of a headache, and breakfasted on black coffee, but agreed with her that fresh air and exercise would be the one sure cure for him, and tramped off beside Nina at eleven o’clock willingly enough.