Then for a long time there was silence in the library.
The curtains at the French windows in the library at Crownlands stirred in the breeze of the warm summer night, the pendulum of the big clock behind Richard Carter moved to and fro, but for a long time there was no other sound in the library. Richard had dropped his eyes, was idly staring at the blank sheet of paper before him. Royal Blondin, who had folded his arms, for a moment studied Harriet between half-closed lids, but presently his eyes fell, too, and with a rather troubled expression he studied the pattern of the great Oriental rug.
Harriet stood motionless, turned to stone. If there was anything to be said in her behalf, she could not say it now. For the first time the full measure of her responsibility and the full measure of her deceit smote her, and in utter sickness of spirit she could advance no excuse. It was not that she had failed Blondin, or that she had failed Richard, but the extent of her failure toward herself appalled her. She was not the good, brave, cultivated woman she had liked to think herself; she was one more egotist, with Nina, and Isabelle, and Ida, unscrupulously playing her own game for her own ends.
“I’m extremely sorry,” Richard said, presently, in a somewhat lifeless tone. “I imagine that if my daughter had known this, she might have been spared some suffering and some humiliation. But we needn’t consider that now.” He was silent, frowning faintly. He put up a fine hand and adjusted his eyeglasses with a little impatient muscular twitching of his whole face that Harriet knew to be characteristic of his worried moods. “Mr. Blondin,” he said, wearily and politely, “I have had a great deal on my mind, lately, and have perhaps been hasty in my condemnation of you. However, this does not particularly help your cause with my daughter. There are a great many aspects to the matter, and I—I must take time to consider them. Nina must be my first consideration, poor child! Her mother failed her—we have all failed her! She has a right to know of this conversation—”
Harriet stirred, and his eyes moved to her. Without a word, and with a stricken look in her beautiful, ashen face, she turned, and went slowly toward the door. When she reached it, she steadied herself a second by pressing one fine hand against the dark wood, then she opened it and was gone.
“I’m very sorry—” Blondin said, hesitatingly, when the men were alone.
“Mrs. Carter,” Richard said, getting to his feet, and very definitely indicating an end to the conversation, “before she consented to the—arrangement into which we entered, of course took me into her confidence in this matter!”
“She—she did?” Royal stammered.