Poor Nina! Harriet found her sobbing on her bed, half an hour later, and took it for a sign that the wound would cure, that Nina did not resent her sympathy and comfort. Nina was still heaving with deep sobs, albeit taking steps toward a hot bath and a becoming gown, when Ida went away. Her farewells were made only to the composed interloper, who went with her pleasantly to the hall door, and turned back with some remark for Bottomley that was in the perfect tone of the mistress. Ida’s heart was hot within her as she looked her last at Crownlands, in the mellow light of the summer twilight.
Royal Blondin presently came to pay his respects to Harriet in her changed position. Nina had told her that he had been forbidden the house, in December; they had seen him only two or three times since their return from Bermuda, and then accidentally. Harriet was thankful to believe the affair between him and Nina well over. The girl was growing up now, there were other men in her world, and for the list for her eighteenth birthday party she had merely mentioned his name among others.
“You’ll see that Royal gets a card, Harriet?” she had said.
“Well—yes, if you want him, but somehow one doesn’t see the mysterious and artistic Royal in so juvenile a party,” Harriet had answered. Nina might have disquieted her with her serene: “Oh, he’ll come!” But Harriet knew Nina was often over-sure of her own powers.
Three days before the garden party that was to mark the girl’s anniversary Royal drifted in with the assurance that was quite characteristic of him. He rarely accepted an invitation, or waited for one. Perhaps he was clever enough to know that half his acquaintances detested him theoretically, but were glad to have him about. Nina and Harriet came in from an afternoon at the club to find him playing with languid hands at the piano, and he lazily rose to greet them. While Nina was there, his attitude toward both was pleasantly impersonal, but his suggestion, which was more like a command, that she run upstairs and dress early, so that they might have a talk before dinner, sent the girl flying, and he and Harriet could speak more freely.
“Well, Harriet, I congratulate you! How does it feel to be a married woman? I was with Lenox, in his camp—we went up there to look it over,” Royal went on, in his musical voice. “It’s a beautiful place, in the Adirondacks. I saw your name in an evening paper; of course I was delighted for you.”
“Money and position don’t really mean much to me,” Harriet said, unencouragingly.
“They don’t?” he asked, with an upward glance.
“Not lately. Not as much as they always seemed to!” the girl added, uncertainly.
“Perhaps because your dream is captured,” Blondin suggested. “It’s no longer a myth! I wonder if it isn’t always so?”
“I remember his taking that dreamy, silly tone years ago,” Harriet thought.